Thursday, November 29, 2007

Teddy Bears and the Planet of the Apes

Just when you think radical Muslims must surely have sunk as low into primitive savagery as they possibly could...guess what.

I don't usually wax political here, but nothing inflames the old temper more than the idiocy of radical Muslims. I'm sure you've heard about the British schoolteacher in Sudan whose class had a teddy bear named Mohammad (ostensibly named for a child in the class, not the Lawgiver). And thus—much as when Salman Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses, and Danish newspapers printed cartoons depicting the Lawgiver—the fine apes of the world threw a temper tantrum and demanded that she be jailed, fined, and bequeathed forty lashes. Well, today, she was convicted and sentenced to 15 days in jail (five already served), followed by expulsion from the country.

The latter is probably the best thing that could happen. I am greatly relieved that she was not sentenced to the lashes, as that might well have been fatal for her.

I have to admire someone who willingly sojourns in the planet of the apes with the hope of building bridges between us and them. It's a noble thing, but I swear to God, Charlton Heston had a better chance of ironing out his issues with Dr. Zaius than any rational human being does with Islamists. They are kindergarten bullies who, sadly, are not confined to their own little sandbox, and who use the tools of civilized society to spread their unique brand of hatred and intolerance. Ironically, they charge Ms. Gibbons, said schoolteacher, with being "another ring in the circles of plotting against Islam."

No, Ms. Gibbons was trying to do right by her young charges and in the community where she worked. The only force fueling intolerance of Islam in the world is the radical Islamist mindset. And saddest of all, while there are still dissenting and reasonable voices in the Muslim world (a good example may be found here), the smoke is thick and the fire is spreading. At this point, I don't know whether those who were calling for the most extreme punishment for Ms. Gibbons have yet incited riots, but they sure as hell wouldn't surprise me.

What else can we expect from the planet of the apes?

A late addendum: Sure enough, the protests have begun.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Something in THE MIST...

I may be the last one on the block seeing The Mist, but I got to it this evening, and—hoooey—I'm thinking that in terms of intensity it may rival Alien and Carpenter's The Thing, which have for years been my standards for monster-movie intensity.

There be spoilers here, so if that makes you unhappy, vacate the premises with all possible haste.

The novella is my favorite of all King's work, at least that I've read to date. The movie stays very true to its source, and where it does diverge, it's mainly in elaborating the characters. The creatures are quite chilling in appearance and execution; on occasion, the CGI is a wee tad less-than-perfect, but never poor enough to spoil the effectiveness of the imagery. The acting is first-rate across the board, and I was very happy to see Frances Sternhagen and Jeffrey DeMunn, who are a couple of my favorite character actors. DeMunn in particular has had a good run in several King-based films, such as Storm of the Century, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile.

Among horror fans—and non-fans, for that matter—the grim (some say cruel) ending is a point of some contention.

To me, the end felt a too-obvious exercise in irony; I saw it coming as soon as they got past the big critter of the novella's ending. Still, I didn't get the feeling that it was necessarily continuous narrative at the end—that the military was literally just a mile away. We're focused on Drayton, whose perspective by this point is probably skewed as all get-out. The moments shown in the last minutes of the film might have been minutes...or hours. Or more. Not that it particularly matters—just an idea that occurred to me as I was watching it.

I didn't hate the ending by any means, and it certainly didn't ruin the whole thing (as the ending of The Stand does for me). I didn't think it stretched credibility to think the military could have gotten as far as they did cleaning up the situation; the critters were quite mortal, after all. Still, I think I'd have been just as happy to see it end ambiguously, as the novella did. That was pretty damn grim in and of itself.

Some have said that moviegoers have ended up laughing at the ending. Where I saw it, no one was laughing. The only thing I did hear was from a group of folks going out who were shaking their heads and muttering, "He cowarded out. He just cowarded out."

Maybe. Easy to say when you're sitting in a movie theater that's not under assault by the unearthly (and you're not terribly fussy about proper English usage). Putting myself into that character, it's quite conceivable I might have done the same thing. Had I been there with my child, and I truly believed that the alternative was one of those things getting hold of her, well...I think I could. I've always believed there are worse things than death, particularly having lived through the long, lingering demise of my father. To spare someone such a horror... I think I could.

All in all, I'm very happy with director Darabont's rendering of The Mist. I'm certain I'll be hitting the theater to see it at least once more, and it'll be a keeper once it's released on DVD.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Monster Turkey Day

I've always loved great big old monster turkeys on Thanksgiving. I hope you do too.

Nothing like spending time with the family at the old homestead in Virginia. It's a little gray today, but otherwise quite pleasant and probably good for a big old walk in the spooky woods this afternoon.

Making great progress on my upcoming scary project. Met with the cover artist on Monday to yak about graphic details.

Hope that whets your appetites....

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Telling the World to Shut the Hell Up

That's kind of been me this week. In recent days, I've been pulled in too many directions by too many things (mostly by my own choice, too much of it online), so I spent most of this week keeping my online time to a minimum and getting lots of ducks in a row, writing-wise and home life–wise. It was a terribly busy workweek, which has left the old guy feeling a touch of the fatigue. But it's been very productive.

I've managed to get several writing projects lined up for the coming year—although I'd hoped a couple of them would be farther along by now. Alas, no, so I still can't announce them. However, at least one, which involves a new book, looks to be shaping up nicely, so that one, at least, I'll scream and holler about in the near future, gods and monsters willing.

We're in the midst of my favorite time of year—the period from Halloween till Christmas—and Thanksgiving is shaping up to be a fine time with family. Here's hoping, and hoping for good things for all of y'all too.

Yes, I do say "y'all". Don't like it? Lump it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Sojourn at Stately Wilson Manor

Spent a couple of very pleasant days in Hertford, NC, at Stately Wilson Manor, home of my longtime friend and fellow writer, Dave Wilson; his wife Trish Macomber; and their wild and woolly family. Yesterday, we had a booksigning in Elizabeth City at Page After Page Bookstore, though it might more rightly be described as a booksitting, since downtown Elizabeth City appeared bereft of human beings. There was supposed to be a Veterans' Day parade, but it was canceled due to inclement weather, and the frigid winds for the rest of the day made for a most uncomfortable out-of-doors experience, so we mostly entertained ourselves by watching trash blow down the all-but-empty street. Regardless, no time spent with Dave is wasted time, and we did enjoy a nice lunch from a deli down the street.

Last night, we watched 1408, which I generally enjoyed. Not at all a bad adaptation of King, though at times it did venture somewhat farther over the top than I could appreciate. Still, it did inspire me to dream about being in a haunted hotel, though the one I visited struck me as more annoying than traumatic.

Got back home this afternoon to find that two of the cats had managed to lock themselves in the bathroom overnight, and there was poop in the sink. Yeah, it was a stinky treat. At least their hearts were in the right place. Maybe next time they'll experiment with using the toilet.

I leave you with a shot of Dave and I making the best of it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Unproductive...Perhaps. Fat and Happy...Definitely

Didn't manage a lick of writing tonight, which ordinarily would bring me no joy; however, I did enjoy a fine dinner of boiled dead crustacean at Red Lobster with my good friend Gina Farago, author of Ivy Cole and the Moon and its upcoming sequel Luna.
Ivy is currently in release by Berkley, and it's a damn fine read. Go out and get it right now. Luna is soon to appear in hardback from NeDeo Press. When it comes out, get it, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Sale, a Check, and Mo*Con III in the works

It's been a nice couple of days on the writing front. Earlier today, I sold a reprint tale ("Now I Lay Me Down to Dream," which originally appeared in the Terminal Frights anthology) to Shroud magazine; even received contract and payment within hours of the story's acceptance. The Web site makes it look like a very promising market, so here's hoping. I believe my story will be appearing in the January 2008 premier issue. Cool beans.
Received word today from Sarob Press (sadly, now defunct) that a nice royalty check for The Nightmare Frontier is winging its way to me. Money is never a bad thing, but it's a shame they had to close up shop. Sarob produced beautiful books.
Also—I've accepted a very kind invitation to be a Guest of Honor at Mo*Con in June 2008, which Maurice Broaddus hosts at his church in Indianapolis; don't have much in the way of details yet, but Maurice's intro for last year's event, which starred authors Wrath James White, Gary Braunbeck and Brian Keene, may be viewed here: Mo*Con II

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Booksigning in Elizabeth City, NC, next weekend

Just a reminder: I'll be signing books at Page After Page bookstore, Saturday, Nov. 10 from 12:00–3:00 p.m., so if you're in traveling distance of Elizabeth City and would like to stop by, it'd be great to meet you. I'll have copies of Blue Devil Island, The Last Trumpet, Balak, The Lebo Coven, and others.

Authors David Niall Wilson and Bill Ferguson will also be signing.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Trail of the Dead

Okay, so it's not really the trail of the dead, but being the day after Halloween, it's only fitting, right? I've taken a couple of days off from work to spend some time at the old homestead in Virginia. Today, I went hiking on the Doe Run Trail, outside of Martinsville. A beautiful, warm day; not like November at all. I did some searching around for the geocache (referenced October 14), but without a GPS, it's pretty much a needle in a haystack. Will try again next time—and perhaps leave one out there myself.

I did run up on a big old copperhead while going along the creek. Fortunately, it had the sense to slip into the water and swim away, and I had the good sense not to follow it.

Now, coming up here last night was deliciously spooky. After the trick-or-treaters were pretty much done (about 8:30-ish), I got in the car, headed up north of the border (yes, the NC/VA border, about an hour's drive), and decided to visit the old "Secret Place" that my brother and I used to frequent back in the late 80s/early 90s. It's an old dead-end road in the county where one used to be able to find the spooky ruins of some old houses, which we explored in depth. The way back to them is blocked off anymore, but the road itself is still pretty much the definition of creepy. Drove back there with the soundtrack to Night of Dark Shadows playing, got out, had a smoke, and savored the atmosphere for a while. It's pitch dark back there except for one opening in the trees where, many miles in the distance, you can see the lights of Martinsville. It was just the place to spend a little quiet time on Halloween night.

Perhaps I shall make a tradition of it.