Numfar, do the dance of grief.

Sad news: Andy Hallet, Lorne the green karaoke demon from Angel, has died from heart disease. He was 33.

I didn’t know him except through his work, but his work was so wonderful that I find myself missing him. He was incredibly talented, and by all accounts a very sweet guy.

For years, whenever I heard “Its Not Easy Being Green” I felt a touch of melancholy because it made me think of the loss of Jim Henson. Now it will be doubly sad.

The Sting of The Scorpion: A Book Review

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I had my eye on this book on Amazon for ages before I decided to take a chance on it. I’m a bit skittish, having bought small press and self-published books before that turned out to be utter crap…heck, I recently bought a very popular YA adventure novel by a writer whose books sell millions of copies and it was one of the worst written tomes I’ve cracked open in years.

So, yeah. Skittish.

But I finally bought Warren Stockholm’s The Sting of The Scorpion, allegedly the first issue of Scorpion Magazine, though this was published in 2006 and there’s still no sign of a second issue. But things happen, and it is the product of a small press.

The Scorpion is a pulp hero in the tradition of The Shadow, but even more in the tradition of The Spider (both of whom I wrote about here). He’s dark and deadly and armed and dangerous, clad in a black-veiled fedora and a black leather trench coat, brutally taking the fight to the criminals that plague his city, Steeltown.

While the hero is fashioned from a very readily recognizable pulp archetype, Stockholm does some interesting things with The Scorpion and the world he inhabits.

For one thing, the tale takes place in an alternate history in which Germany won the second world war and occupied America for sixty years. America has only recently booted their wretched asses out and is rebuilding itself. The milieu is an intriguing amalgam of the thirties and the late twentieth century, as if the culture sort of froze in place under Nazi rule, but technology moved forward.

As for the hero, in classic pulp fashion, The Scorpion by day is a wealthy paragon, living in the tallest building in the city, assisted by a mysterious Asian woman, dedicated to his mission against evil…but he’s not just a hero with a dark past, he’s a hero with a really dark past. And he’s not really human, in some very interesting and dangerous ways. Richard Wentworth dressed as The Spider to scare criminals into thinking he was a monster; Kurt Reinhardt becomes The Scorpion because he is a monster.

Reinhardt is a compelling protagonist, the action frequent and brutal, the city a violent and noirish place, and the plot interesting. Not only that, but Stockholm can actually write very well (though this is possibly the worst copy-edited book I’ve ever read all the way through). I do have to warn readers of delicate tastes away, however, because this is a very grim and blood-splashed work.

I enjoyed the hell out of this story. I wish there was a Scorpion Magazine #2, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Unlike some other attempts at modern pulp I’ve read (or tried to read), this one’s going on the shelf with my Doc Savages, Shadows, and, of course, that other arachnid, The Spider.

The New Telepathy of Social Networking

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In his excellent book On Writing, Stephen King sets out to define “What Writing Is.” His answer?

Telepathy.

It’s a mode of transmitting thoughts from one brain to another, through space, through time. As King writes in Maine in 1997:

We’ll have to perform our mentalist routine not just over distance but over time as well, yet that presents no real problem; if we can still read Dickens, Shakespeare, and (with the help of a footnote or two) Herodotus, I think we can manage the gap between 1997 and 2000.

As well as the gap between Georgia and Maine, as I read those words now, and 1997 and 2009. And whatever spacetime gap there is between him, there in 1997, me here in 2009, and you where and when you’re reading this now. We’ve got a telepathic chain goin’ on. That’s pretty wonderful.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I’ve tried to grok the whole social networking thing. I was one of the cynics, originally, proud and determined not to get caught up in MySpace or Facebook or Twitter, not to hoard countless “friends” I didn’t know like I might collect marbles, not to sublimate my social life (such as it is) to the virtual gulfs of skinless cyberspace. Continue reading

Catching Up With Dollhouse

eliza1Earlier, I was pretty hard on Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse, which airs on Fox, the network too stupid to make Firefly a hit.

My basic problem with the show was that, while it had a great premise with huge potential, the active structure of the show shoved the things that were interesting about it into the corners and filled the space with bland stories that had little permanent importance to the history the show was building. In other words, the intriguing people running the dolls, and the intriguing things starting to happen to the dolls (especially Echo), were serving as a framing device for stories that were a hell of a lot less interesting.

I wasn’t alone in my response. Many other Whedon fans (and I am, very very much, a Whedon fan) were finding themselves really not liking a show they’re preconditioned to root for. The ratings started weakly, and dropped. Messages came forth from Whedon headquarters, implying that Fox had been too heavy-handed and interfering at first (easy to believe, all things considered), but had loosened up after a while and allowed Joss and his team to start doing things the way they really wanted to.

Give us till the sixth episode, they pleaded. It’ll start to get good.

Well, the sixth and seventh episodes have aired at this point. Major things happened, game-changers. Echo went off-task a few times, which seems to be her hobby. The banal storylines that were unrelated to the main story arc went away, and the stories that replaced them had significant impact on the characters and the arc.

Know what? It’s getting good. It’s getting real good. It’s not quite Joss good, just yet, but I do see that coming, and I’m now enjoying the journey.

Unfortunately, the show probably won’t get to explore its full potential. It is on Fox, where shit thrives and great shows die young, and the slow crawl out the gate and low ratings won’t help. I read that Fox is committed to showing the full thirteen episode season, then won’t rerun the show during the summer. I’m thinking that also means they won’t be picking it up for the next season.

That’s a shame, as I think it has the makings of a great show. But at least we’ll have the thirteen episode story arc to enjoy…or the latter half of it, at least, since the first half kinda blew. And Joss can move on to other things, and those things will hopefully be Joss good. Maybe someday we’ll get to enjoy one of his creations for a bunch of years again. But it probably won’t be on Fox.

Optimism, Action, and How To Be The Neighborhood Pulp Hero

You never know where you’re going to find a nugget of crystalline wisdom, something that gives you pause because of its brightness and clarity, that makes you think about how you’re living your life, and how you should be living it.

I found one of these nuggets recently. The unlikely place I found it? Continue reading

Let The Right Subs In, aka Power to the People

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Last week, I watched the Swedish independent horror film Let The Right One In. It’s an unusually smart little film, particularly for the horror genre these days, and it’s probably the best vampire film I’ve seen since Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993). Or maybe Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987). Its approach to horror is to come at us through character rather than through gore or trickery (which is not to say it doesn’t have some of those too), and in ways it reminds me of the works of Val Lewton in the 1940s.

I recommend it highly. But that’s not the point of this entry.

No, the point of it is, turns out I was fortunate to see the movie on the original Swedish screener DVD. The US release of the film on DVD/Blu-Ray last week turns out to have been something even more scary than the movie itself: a dumbed down version of the movie itself. Continue reading

Doc Wilde to debut at Little Shop of Stories!

UPDATE: This event has been rescheduled from Friday, May 15th to Saturday, May 16th.

It’s official: Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom will debut May 14, and two days later I’ll have my first ever signing:

The Day: Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Time: 7 pm

The Place: Little Shop of Stories in beautiful downtown Decatur, GA.

Little Shop is one of the finest bookstores in the Atlanta area. It lives next to the Starbucks in Decatur, GA., and is mostly dedicated to books for young people, but also has a smart selection of grown-up fare for grown up kids.

It’s one of those small bookstores that springs from a place of obvious vision and love, with a warm, knowledgeable staff and comfy couches. They’re very active in the community, working with schools and literacy programs as well as helping organize the famous Decatur Book Festival. And so much stellar talent has passed through that the wall behind the counter is like a museum, covered with wonderful sketches and notes from writers and artists who have visited.

I’m thrilled and proud to be officially debuting the Wilde’s adventures at Little Shop, and hope to see you there!

Kirkus LOVES the Wildes!!!

Order Now!

Order Now!

I just received my first HUGE review for Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, from Kirkus Reviews (Wikipedia: “Kirkus has long been a respected, authoritative pre-publication review source within the literary and film industries”). And it’s, quite frankly, a rave:

When their scientist grandfather disappears again, 12-year-old Brian, his ten-year-old sister, Wren, and their world-renowned father, Dr. Spartacus Wilde, are off on an adventure to kick off Byrd’s debut novel and the first volume in a new series. The high-tech Indiana Jones-type tale takes the adventurers to the uncharted South American jungles of Hidalgo to find Grandpa Wilde, who had researched dark matter and the possibility of traveling to other universes. The problem is that Frogon, a dark god from another universe, wants to take over ours. Besides finding Grandpa, the Wildes must face a glut of frogs-spy frogs, man-frogs, saber-toothed frogs and the dark elder god frog-and save the universe.

Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures. A tale “terrifying and dark, of indescribable horrors and eldritch mysteries,” this is sure to be Wilde-ly popular, and readers will anxiously await future installments.

So far, everybody likes it. The Wildes are off to a good start.

Just a reminder: the book comes out May 14th, but can be ordered already at this link. If you plan on getting it, please pre-order, because a book’s initial sales are crucially important in building its success.

Feeling Mortal

Today’s my birthday.

I’m 45, if I’m figuring correctly. Something like that. And I’m feeling my mortality, not because I really care how many years I’ve been alive, or even how many more I have left. I’m feeling mortal because my world is bashed in like an old box that holds some of your favorite things but fell off the moving truck on the highway.

The overwhelmingly most important thing about my birthday is this: I’m not spending it with my son.

This is, literally, my own fault, because my ex offered to swap days this week to accommodate my birthday, and I declined. I’m planning to celebrate with him when he’s back in a few days, and I really don’t care much when the day is celebrated, just that I get to celebrate with him.

So, then why is the fact that he’s not here today the “overwhelmingly most important thing?”

Simply because life has brought me to this point, at all. There used to be no question about whether I’d get to be with my kid on my birthday, or his, or Christmas, or Saturday. Now, it’s an issue to be decided, to be bartered with, to dwell on.

So, really, the important thing isn’t that he’s not here on my birthday…it’s that he’s not here.

Add to that the Damoclesean blade hanging overhead that is the custody fight, and my ex’s stance that she should have him 75% of the time, and the dreary fact that instead of doing something enjoyable today, on my birthday, which I’m not going to spend with my son, I’m being forced to do legal discovery paperwork to defend the time I do still have with him (and defend his desire and right to have equal relationships with his parents)…and I sort of feel too soul weary to give much of a damn that I was born on any particular day a lifetime ago.

The Shadow Over Comcast Town

aka  A Tale of Too Shitty.

This is a great commercial:

Sure, it’s sort of creepy in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of way. But it’s catchy and clever, and it works.

Unlike, say, Comcast.

I’ve been a resident of Comcast Town since last May, when I moved to my current apartment, where the management won’t allow anything but Comcast. And Comcast Town is nothing like the place in that commercial.

No, Comcast Town is a dark place. Its infrastructure is old and out-of-date, prone to breakdown, and its workers are slow to respond and incompetent when they do. The power flickers in and out, the windows of its HD are bleary and indistinct, and the city managers are known to filter opposing political ideas (even in people’s personal email)and punish those who speak out.

As I’ve written before, I’ve been planning to phase out Comcast’s cable TV in favor of other options, like Netflix’s streaming and rental of TV series DVDs, watching new episodes of shows on Hulu and network sites, or in a pinch using P2P to find something. But I hadn’t gotten around to actually canceling the service, as I’ve been embroiled in divorce BS and trying to write a new book and promote the one coming out, and other things.

Today, though, the picture went out. Full screen of fluorescent green. Still had sound, could still change the channel, could still access menus and play recorded stuff…but I couldn’t see any of it. Rebooted all the electronics several times, waited an hour, rebooted everything again…still no picture. Called Comcast, and they tried to confirm the signal to my DVR, but couldn’t find it (even though it was still receiving, because I could hear it).

I also heard another sound, that of a camel’s back breaking. This was it, this was the sign from the gods that the day was here, and here I was on the phone with a Comcast representative, so I bit the bullet and canceled. This cuts my monthly Comcast bill pretty much in half, which is a jubilating thing. I’m still stuck with their Internet service (which has been getting spotty again the past few weeks), but I feel I’ve scored a victory here.

It’s like I put up burglar bars and got my house painted, here in scary ol’ Comcast Town.

A Short Doc Wilde Review…by KENNETH ROBESON!

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Author Will Murray just gave a short review of my upcoming novel:

Over the weekend I read Tim Byrd’s young adult Doc Savage pastiche novel. Let me say that DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM is a pulp-pounding ribbiting croaker of a tale! It mixes a 21st century version of the Man of Bronze and his extended family of adventurers with evil Lovecraftian frogazoids infiltrating our reality via the South American republic of Hidalgo.

This particular review is significant. Murray is one of the most renowned and knowledgeable pulp scholars in the world, so he knows good pulp adventure when he sees it. But more importantly, among the fifty-plus novels he has written are seven official Doc Savage novels, published under Lester Dent’s pseudonym “Kenneth Robeson,” and he is the chosen executor to Dent’s literary estate.

Doc Wilde is my tribute to the Doc Savage stories I loved as a kid, and Will’s comments are basically official validation by Lester Dent’s direct literary descendant. That’s pretty cool.

Will Murray's PYTHON ISLE

Will Murray's PYTHON ISLE

Saturday Night With Cthulhu

Do you know Cthulhu?

If you knew Cthulhu as we know Cthulhu, oh, oh, oh what a god…

cthulhuI’ve always loved scary stories. One of the few positive memories I have from my childhood was staying up with my father and watching classic Universal monster movies in a rocking chair. I loved scary comics like Creepy and Eerie and monster comics like Marvel’s Werewolf By Night (I remember, when I was about 9 or so, scrambling around the desolation of our suburban neighborhood by moonlight in a torn shirt pretending I was the werewolf). I could quote Edgar Allen Poe, and read all the horror I could get hands on, from Dracula to “The Monkey’s Paw” to Something Wicked This Way Comes. Well, I read most things I could get my hands on. But horror was among my favorites. Continue reading

The Dark Muse of Karl Edward Wagner

I’ve written about my old friend Karl Edward Wagner before. Back in the day, I caroused through various conventions with the brilliant red-bearded wildman, having a hell of a great time.

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In my youthful naiveté, I didn’t realize the booze that was fueling his fun was symptomatic of a deep self-destructive streak which would lead to his death at the age of 49. Continue reading

Jon Stewart Kicks Ass

Jon Stewart Kicking Jim Cramer's Ass

Jon Stewart Kicks Jim Cramer's Ass

Every so often, Jon Stewart puts down his coffee mug and picks up a BIG DAMN STICK. This week he picked the stick up and beat CNBC’s Jim Cramer metaphorically black and blue, at the same time launching a very aggressive, solidly reasoned, well-researched indictment of CNBC for the network’s blanket functioning as cheerleader and enabler to the Wall Street crooks who sank our economy, instead of acting like a news channel with real journalists and reporting the truth.

If you haven’t seen this footage, you should. If you only saw the parts of the interview shown on The Daily Show, you should watch the full unedited interview online. Every huckster and jackass and quisling in the media is talking about the economy, but I haven’t seen anyone address our economic problems, and their causes, with the clarity and smarts that Stewart has.

Click the image above to go watch. Really. You have to see this.

Catwoman Purrchance?

While looking around for images to go with my review of the latest Mummy flick, I came across a great shot of Rachel Weisz that got me thinking that she’d be a great Catwoman for the next Christopher Nolan Batman film:

rachel59catwoman

Of course, countless actresses could fill out the catsuit well, and some of them could actually carry off the role (Angelina Jolie and Kate Beckinsale spring to mind). Weisz, though, has an earthy, playful carnality about her, and a sense of deep intelligence, that I think would be ideal.

Design-wise, I think a kevlar-ed up take on the Darwyn Cooke-designed costume Selina Kyle’s worn the past few years would be great:

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Gotta have the goggles.

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Memory Lane

Back in 2004, I started the first iteration of this blog on LiveJournal, but it didn’t last long because I felt like I was talking to myself and was disheartened.

This version has gone much better, and more readers visit all the time, but that earlier stuff has been languishing over there, orphaned and sad.

Recently, LiveJournal has been having serious problems, and WordPress established a simple tool for LJ bloggers to import all their entries to blogs over here. I just used it, then went through and deleted all the posts I felt were uninteresting even in a historical context, posts with dead links, that sort of thing.

So, if you’re interested in knowing where my head was back in February and March 2004, now you can find out.

Pretty exciting, huh?

The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Mummy Franchise

I’m in a pulpy mood this week (like most weeks, but even moreso) so over the weekend my son and I rewatched The Mummy Returns. It’s a film that gets a lot of flack for some reason, but I loved it (and the first in the series). As I wrote in a mailing list thread back in 2001:

Put me in the love-it camp.

I think it may actually be the best pulp flick since Raiders, and probably the best PURE pulp flick ever.

It’s nowhere near as good a movie as Raiders, and it IS derivative as hell…but it’s so conscious and playful in its stealing that I can’t fault it. The writer/director clearly loves this sort of material and runs with it.

It’s also flawed in a lot of ways that have to be deliberate attempts to capture the shoddy (yet lovable) consistency of the pulps. For example, Frasier’s character now has a tattoo he’s apparently had since he was a kid. Did they put this tattoo somewhere where we couldn’t have seen it in the first film, like on his calf (to be seen when he’s pulling on his boots) or his shoulder (to be seen when his shirt rips in Doc Savage-style)? No. They put it on top of his wrist, which was plainly seen NOT to have a tattoo in the first film. Such an easy “flaw” was an easy one to address without problem, yet the tattoo is right there in all its glory, screaming INCONSISTENCY!

Or, rather, pulp-like inconsistency. The pulps are full of this sort of thing, as writers reached and dug for any new nugget to twist a story on. I’m a stickler for consistency — I’m the guy who watched carefully in each LETHAL WEAPON sequel to make sure Riggs’s tattoo (plot device in the first film) was still in place. It was. But this stuff is clear and playful homage to the source material, and I loved it.

The first two Mummy flicks were both obvious labors of love by Stephen Sommers, their writer/director. They were amazing showcases for CGI effects, but beyond that they had engaging stories full of pulp action, lots of comedy that did not descend into camp, and wonderful characters performed by perfectly cast actors. Brendan Fraser, as American soldier-of-fortune Rick O’Connell, was a perfect pulp hero, brash and cocky and capable. Rachel Weisz as Evelyn “Evy” O’Connell (né Carnahan) was the brilliant and (extraordinarily) sexy librarian who could hold her own in a scrap. Together they had incredible chemistry, crack comic timing, and the charm and natural repartee of a classic  Hollywood couple (like Gable and Lombard, or Loy and Powell).

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Throw in John Hannah as Evy’s sleazy but lovable brother, Arnold Vosloo as great villain Imhotep (whose ultimate fate, at the end of the second film, possesses pathos and tragedy), and a host of great supporting roles, and you have some flicks with great characters on the screen at all times. Even the kid who plays the O’Connell’s son, Alex, in the second film is brash and bratty without being annoying, a rare thing in a character like his.

The O’Connell’s adventures continued in a short-lived cartoon that was fairly good, and I remember it fondly as one of the few sources of pulp goodness I could share with my then five-year-old son.

He and I watched The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor last night. When I say it’s incredible, well, you’d darn well better believe that I am lying. Flat out full of shit. On a George W. Bush scale. Because it’s terrible. Continue reading

Doc Wilde Newsletter

Just a quick note to let you know there’s now a spot to sign up for the Doc Wilde newsletter at the Doc Wilde site.

For the moment, this just gets you on the mailing list for any news that pops up, like upcoming signings or licensing deals or whatever. But in the works is an actual monthly newsletter that will include both the latest news and things like “Doc Wilde’s Cliffhanger Survival Tips.”

If you sign up, don’t fret about getting virtual tons of email from us. We know how annoying it is when people spam you over and over and fill your Inbox. We want this to be a way for you to get your Doc Wilde news while it’s fresh and to enjoy some new content, not a way for us to badger you till you hate the sight of our emails appearing on your screen.

To sign up, jump over to www.DocWilde.com.