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The Lone Ranger

I heard so much about this one, everybody did.  It was the Waterworld or Heaven's Gate of our times, with a pile of bad publicity before it even opened.  The reviews were awful, the box office was a black hole, and almost everybody was agreed that they hated it.  I did read some very spirited defenses of it, however, so I was curious.  After all, everybody hates on SuckerPunch and I love that movie so much I will fight people who talk shit about it.  So I was not prepared to take anyone's word for it.

So here we have it, and the major crime the movie has is that it's just not very good.  I mean, the production values are stellar, the action is well-staged, and the performances are workmanlike if not brilliant.  But you are constantly being jerked around by changes in tone that seem the result of too many rewrites.  Some parts are quite grim (A dude cuts out a guy's heart and eats it, and a lot of dudes get shot to death) and then you have silly slapstick like the titular character being dragged through horse crap and a guy shot in the ass and falling down to cry "My Gluteus!".  You also get Helena Bonham Carter with a fake leg that she hides a shotgun in, but that's neither here nor there.

Mostly you are just aware of highly cliched Western elements being played out more slowly and more expensively than has been previously done.  Much like he did with the Pirates movies, Verbinski is hitting all the iconic moments.  The problem is they have all been done a lot more.  Pirates had been out of cinema for close to fifty years when the franchise came along and thus there was a lot of half-remembered pirate bits to play with in new ways, but Westerns have been done more, and more recently.  You can't start with an opening right out of Brisco County Junior, segue into an ambush right out of 3:10 to Yuma, and then go all Wild Wild West for the climax.  Well, I suppose you can, but then you're going to end up with a mess like this.

It was entertaining enough, but it's like Frankenstein's movie, all stitched together from different parts that don't match.  Plus, Depp's character is a pretty egregious racist stereotype.  They try to weasel out of it by having the other Comanches tell the Ranger that Tonto is crazy and not to listen to his bullshit, but it doesn't really work.  There's not really any attempt to treat the Native Americans or their cosmology in any way respectfully, pretty much turning them into more sympathetic versions of the cartoons they have always been made into.

So the story is cliche, and drags.  None of the writing is really snappy, none of the acting is great (Depp is phoning it in) and at 2 and a half hours it goes on an hour longer than it needs to.  But despite the hype, it is not really terrible.  I mean, Jonah Hex was much worse, and the public has taken far, far stupider movies to heart and made them huge hits.  I could not be induced to watch Hex again by any means, but I would watch The Lone Ranger another time if someone else wanted to see it.  It was okay.  But I don't know how you can take all that talent and $260 million and just manage "okay".  That's some kind of feat in itself.

off to Readercon

I'll be heading for Readercon tomorrow morning. Bracing myself to get up at stupid o'clock for my flight. At least it's a direct flight! I look forward to the con and to seeing my friends there.

Pitfalls along the path

Much like the roller coaster at Six Flags, I found myself a bit derailed this past week.  It was my summer vacation, but it turned out that I had to fix a several things around that house that wouldn't wait (you can't function easily without a refrigerator). Didn't succeed at all of them (the aforementioned fridge), but they occupied a big chunk of time and mental space. And I hit a wall with plotting the middle of the novel. That roadblock was a pretty big one -- I was really stuck. I think I was trying to figure out the scenes in the middle of the novel in isolation, rather than letting them flow out of the characters and scenes that came before. It only took me a week to work that out, and so now I'm back on track. As I said before, plotting my novel was feeling stuck this week. I think I've figured out why -- I think I was trying too hard to figure out the scenes in the middle of the novel in isolation, rather than letting them flow out of the characters and scenes that came before.  So it only took me a week to work that out, and so now I'm back on track.

Rather than go on about the plot, I find myself puzzling over how to deal with two topics. The novel takes place in Germany, between 1936 and 1945, so one of the big problems is how not to show the average Germans in a negative light, seeing as most supported Hitler and knew about the concentration camps.

Two things occurred to me:

  • First, it's important to remember that in 1933 (when Herr Adolf came to power), Germany little real tradition of democracy. The German Empire lasted until the end of WWI, and then out of the ashes you have the Weimar Republic, which is the only experience they had.  And frankly, it was a disaster. It was wildly unpopular with a large section of the population because it canted pretty far to the left, it was often wildly eratic and unstable, it took the country from being very socially conservative to being very socially liberal, which wasn't comfortable for many people,  and worst of all, it presided over a horrifically bad economic period. Not all of these things were the Weimar Republic's fault, not all of them actually bad (just uncomfortable), and many were in fact, simply the growing pains of a young republic. But after the stability of long years of monarchy, it said to the German people that a democracy didn't work for them. Hitler promised economic recovery (successfully), restoration of national pride (viz. the ignominy of the Treaty of Versailles), repudiation of that same treaty, restoration of law and order (successfully, although not in the way expected), and restoration of traditional morals.  The fact that he did it the way he did and that he was so obviously anti-Semitic, was a corollary to most people. If you think that's outlandish, think about how the US gutted a number of long-standing ideas of personal liberty, created extrajudicial courts and police powers, and created secret and/or extrajudicial prison, all in the name of safety and redressing what we felt (both correctly and not so much) were wrongs done the American people. And the American people reelected the president responsible for this and allow most of these measures to remain, even under 5 1/2 years of a Democratic president. I'm not arguing about those actions, only demonstrating that what a fearful or desparate population can so easily do.

  • Second are the concentration camps. We have to remember that we're biased when we hear the phrase.  To us, it's almost synonymous with extermination camp.  We instantly think Auchwitz or Buchenwald. But in the 1930s, extermination camps in that sense were still in the future.  Think internment camps, such as those used to intern citizens of Japanese extraction along the West Coast during WW2.  The US used them in the Phillipines and during WW2, the British used them in South Africa during the Boer War, Canada used in WW2, the Spanish used in Cuba, etc. Not trying to justify them, or excuse their sometimes appalling conditions, but their use was much more acceptable to most people, especially if the internees were somehow viewed as dangerous. And while the German people knew about the concentration camps, in most cases, they didn't know about the conditions.  Add to this that the Nazis used the Potempkin village strategy to make everything seem better than it was. As a comparison, think about how most Americans accept (even if they disagree with) the imprisonment without recourse of "enemies" at Guantanamo. And how most people would rather not know the specifics of how the prisoners are treated. And as a bonus, how people are misled (I'm being nice) about conditions there by shows like NCIS, which portray them largely as barracks of men, not unlike at a military base. (Now I'm not professing to know the actual conditions, but some of the information that has come out recently about forcefeeding and such


Other things to go on about, but I've pretty much filled my quota for today. Need to get back to the outlining.

EXILECover_Large

So the announcement on the Apocalypse Ink blog has made it all official: I’ve got me a book dropping on July 14th. That’s July 14th on the American West Coast, though, which means it’ll be July 15th for those of us here in Australia. Blame the international time zones at work.

What this means is that there’s just four or five days, depending on your location, before Exile is available for sale and the Flotsam trilogy is underway. I have that, oh, shit, new book feeling deep in my stomach where I’m all eager for things to go live and people to start reading it.

And, at the same time, I’m totally not.P

It’s a weird feeling, those days before a book comes out. Even weirder when it’s four years since the last time you had something out on the shelves. Still, I’ve been here before, and I recognise the familiar terrain, thus I’ve put together short list of things you should expect to be feeling a few days before your book goes live.

I’m sure some other author will come along and correct me if I’ve left out a step or two,but this seems pattern seems to match my own experience and the experiences of friends as they release novellas/collections/novels.

ONE: YOU GET PARANOID THAT YOU HAVEN’T MENTIONED THE BOOK ENOUGH

Or that you’ve mentioned the book enough, but haven’t been clear enough about its contents. Or that you’ve been clear about its contents, but somehow managed to make them sound like the least interesting book on earth. Authors are responsible for their own publicity these days and what if…what if…what if…

This is one of the curses of being a writer: when faced with the unknown, we fill the emptiness with narrative and those narratives are very rarely positive. Writers just aren’t positive people. It comes from having a job where you create imaginary friends, then spend hours figuring out how you can fuck with their lives until a reader winces in sympathy.

For the record, this is what you need to know about Exile:

Keith Murphy is a hit-man who eliminates things that go bump I the night, and his last hit just went very, very wrong. He’s on the run, trying to escape the cult of the sorcerer he just killed, and the safest place to hide is the last place he wants to go: The Gold Coast. Australia. AKA: Home.

It’s been sixteen years since Keith last saw the Gold Coast. Sixteen years of exile after he walked out on the demons he used to work for and left behind the girl he loved without an explanation. He’s almost certain that one of the two will try to kill him now he’s back, but death is almost preferable to the trouble he’s got coming after him…

If you’ve got any other questions, fire away in the comments. I’m more than happy to talk about the book at this point.

TWO: THE IMPOSTER SYNDROME KICKS IN AND MAKES YOUR LIFE HELL

“This time,” you think to yourself, “this time they’re bound to discover that I’m hack, and they’ll finally come along and tell me my writing career is done. This is the book where I’m finally exposed.”

And even though you know how the Imposter Syndrome works, weaselling its way into your thoughts and making you paranoid, you keep on thinking it. Even though the book you’ve got coming out is the first book in a trilogy and work’s already started on getting the second book ready for publication.

THREE: YOU WORRY THAT PEOPLE WON’T BUY THE BOOK

To be fair, this is something you will continue to worry about long after the book has come out. You will worry about this even if your publisher informs you, somewhat delighted, that people are buying the book. You will worry about this even if your publisher emails you and declares the book a spectacular success.

FOUR: YOU WORRY THAT PEOPLE WILL BUY THE BOOK, BUT BOTH YOU AND YOUR EDITOR MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE BY RELEASING IT INTO THE WILD

If you’re particularly dumb, you’ll go and read a copy of the submission manuscript. You will sit there, on the floor of your apartment, wondering where the story you had so much fun writing went, and why someone seems to have slipped this god-awful pile of shit in its place.

You will curse your hubris for letting things go this far.

You will spot the inevitable typo that you missed when you were doing your final proof of the manuscript.

FIVE: YOU WILL CONSOLE YOURSELF WITH THE THOUGHT, “EH, I HAD A GOOD RUN.”

You will do this even though it is a blatant lie. Your ambition will not be satisfied by releasing a handful of novellas. You still have stories you want to tell. Some of those stories will be really fucking good. In fact, some of those stories will be outstanding. They’ll involve giant robots and psychotic otters and…well, shit, there’s the third novella in the trilogy that needs to be written yet, and that’s when you finally deliver on the premise of what happens when the apocalypse gets started on the Gold Coast?

“Screw it,” you think, “I’m not done yet.”

SIX: YOU GET ON WITH THE NEXT PROJECT, ‘CAUSE THAT’S WHAT A PROFESSIONAL DOES

And you are a professional, even if it doesn’t feel like it when you’re sitting there, waiting for book to drop.

And so I go back to working on the next manuscript that needs finishing. See you all tomorrow

Originally published at Man Versus Bear. Please leave any comments there.

Sun

The tyranny of the sun has begun in earnest up here in the Pacific Northwest. Known for its cloudy skies and cool weather, the Seattle area is perfect for me. Except for summer. This is the time of year when Seattlites dash from shade to shade like every step in the sun is akin to walking on lava. It feels like that, too.

Home AC is fairly rare because, most of the time, the weather is cool, chill even, perfect. So, businesses that have AC do good business as those of us without AC seek out cool places to stay and buy a little something, renting their seat so to speak. It’s only polite.

I hate this part of the year. The relentless sun. The hot weather that makes me sticky, sweaty, and uncomfortable. The sky gets that washed out blue color that some people actually like. I can’t walk out of the house without getting bright red, burning, or slathering myself with sunscreen—or all three at once.

Worse? All the non-natives saying, “Oh, how wonderful. Finally, sun!” and then look at you funny when you growl at them. Then they feel compelled to try and convert you to their Church of the Sun Worshipper. Bug off. You want sun, go elsewhere. I want my cloudy days and decent temperatures.

Bah. The sun makes me cranky.

Silver Shadows Round-up

You guys, it's July! Do you know what that means? It means Silver Shadows is coming out in English-speaking countries THIS MONTH! That's right. The US, Australia, Canada, and the UK will see the fifth installment in the Bloodlines series hitting shelves on July 29. Here's the latest news surrounding its release.

SS-image


First Three Chapters are Live
Can't handle the suspense? Want a sneak peek of what's going to happen to Sydney and Adrian in Silver Shadows? You're in luck! Chapters 1-3 are now online for your viewing pleasure. Read them here.

TOURING!
I will be signing books and meeting fans in-person in Seattle and Portland to celebrate the book's release! And if you live in Chicago, Miami, or Lansing, PLEASE come out and meet me via Skype for our first-ever set of virtual events! Basically, you come to the bookstore at the designated time, and they'll have me live on a big screen, so that you can ask all your burning questions, and I'll do my best to answer. Those stores will also have autographed copies of Silver Shadows on sale (you can also pre-order from the store to make sure they don't run out) and will be doing all sorts of giveaways for copies of the VA movie DVD. These are going to be awesome events, so seriously...check them out! Dates and more details are here.

Book Trailers
If the first three chapters didn't cause you enough emotional angst, well, good news! Penguin Australia has just started releasing Silver Shadows book trailers, and they're awesome as usual. Go to their YouTube channel to see what's out so far.

Ordering Signed Books
Not going to be in Portland or Seattle for a book signing? Not near a store hosting a virtual event and selling signed copies of Silver Shadows? It's all good because you can still get a copy of SS or any of of my other titles autographed. My local bookstore is taking orders again, and they'll ship out at the end of this month. And yes, they ship internationally! See this page for all the details and deadlines.

More to Come
That's a lot of stuff, but believe it or not, there'll still be more stuff announced this month! More contests, more chances to talk to me, and maybe even more chapters! So stay tuned here, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever way you prefer for updates.

The periodic welcome post.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to my journal. I'm pretty sure you know who I am, my name being in the URL and all, but just in case, I'm Seanan McGuire (also known as Mira Grant), and you're probably not on Candid Camera. This post exists to answer a few of the questions I get asked on a semi-hemi-demi-regular basis. It may look familiar; that's because it gets updated and re-posted roughly every two months, to let folks who've just wandered in know how things work around here. Also, sometimes I change the questions. Because I can.

If you've read this before, feel free to skip, although there may be interesting new things to discover and know beyond the cut.

Anyway, here you go:

This way lies a lot of information you may or may not need about the person whose LJ you may or may not be reading right at this moment. Also, I may or may not be the King of Rain, which may or may not explain why it's drizzling right now. Essentially, this is Schrodinger's cut-tag.Collapse )