Archive for August, 2013

Greased Lightning… Go Greased Lightning!

If you haven’t seen it (really, where the hell have you been – if you’re in the US – that you haven’t been at least exposed to it), there’s a scene in Grease where there’s a drag race. It appears that there’s a closed section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike – a tunnel, no less – that has been repurposed for (almost) that very thing: as a wind tunnel of sorts.

It’s the Laurel Hill Tunnel, in western Pennsylvania. As I looked into this one, I was surprised to notice how close it is to Greensburg. I’ve likely driven right past this spot without even seeing it (considering it went out of service in 1964, it’s not that surprising).

While it will be interesting to see how long it’s used this way, it’s at least found a new use, for now. Maybe, just maybe, it might also be able to be used in visual media productions (a la Revolution or Hunger Games styled stories).


Leave a comment

Eddie Murphy on MVM

Yes, you read that correctly. Eddie Murphy. For those that weren’t around then, back in the 80’s there was a trend of someone riding an acting wave crossing over and trying their hand at a music album. Bruce Willis tried it. Don Johnson. Michael Damien.

And even Eddie Murphy. As you watch, you’ll notice another 80’s icon, one “Superfreak” Rick James as the producer. As we are winding up the summer, this cries out to be one last party song that shouldn’t be dusted under a rug and left languishing in the past, as much as Eddie may want it to.

Leave a comment


It’s not something I normally do. By the time 2013 crosses the finish line, I will have reread as many books this year alone than I have in the previous five (combined). Go ahead, see for yourself. And all of those rereads have been due to reading requirements for various classes (between the MA and the MFA).

The reason I don’t normally reread, is that I like the mystery of discovering the story, of seeing how the events will unfold. I have a tendency to remember key plot points fairly well, so before when I’ve gone back to reread something, after a few pages I’m already remembering, “Oh, yeah… and a, b, and c happens” and I’m out of the book.

Two cases in point.

Earlier this year, I had to read The Hobbit. The experience itself was such a slog that I had to force myself to finish it, which is sad considering (at I may have mentioned before) it was a story that started me towards my life-long SF&F path [Discloser: In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I saw snippets of the first animated movie around 1981-82, as commercials. Several years later, when I got my first public library card, The Hobbit was the first book I checked out.]

I am also having a similar experience with my current reading of Fahrenheit 451. By page twenty I was already remembering most of the character arc, and the general vibe for the ending, and it’s been close to a decade since my first reading. While it’s not as painful of an experience as rereading The Hobbit was, there’s been a noticed lack of enthusiasm. That’s not to say the story is bad, but there’s not the same sense of wonder and discovery as with a first reading.

A few considerations that come to mind as to why these particular examples have been problematic:
I am not of their time, by which I am implying that narrative styles are different now than when these books were first published. This is more of a craft issue for me, stemming back to high school lit classes, where most of the stories that we were studying were decades old (for the youngest ones). Much of the “new/young” writer trappings come from getting so much of that in school, and those works being held up on a pedestal, that we think that’s how things should be written.
I am “beyond” the target audience, which is more an issue with Hobbit. It was pretty obvious that it was written for children – what in today’s market parlance might be considered Teen/YA on the high-side of the market, probably younger. Which is also where the shift in narrative styles come in to play. Hobbit very much reads like a transcription of someone sitting down to tell a story.

However, I understand that there are very good reasons for a writer to reread works. Craft related reasons. To break apart the text like a mechanic dismantling an engine to see how it works. I have a few books that I have multiple copies of for just that reason – study novels. [Yes, I am that way about books. I find something inherently wrong with marking them up, especially if someone else might read them after me. Plus, if I were to loan out the book, there go my notes!]

Which leads me to part of what inspired this post. F451, with the awe of the story already deflated,  is turning out to be a model novel, like a long straight stretch of highway, proving to be one that I can put the experience on cruise and see the details of the world passing by. Which, in case it came through a little muddled, is a euphemism for stopping and smelling the roses, as it were. For thinking about the mechanics of how a scene is structured, the dialogue, and any other odd ways that a writer might read something differently than a reader. Including being able to stop and savor the interesting turns of phrase. Like this one:

Do you know why books such as this are important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features… The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more ‘literary’ you are. That’s my definition, anyway. Telling detailFresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. – Fahrenheit 451

Which is to say, those are the moments that make a reread worthwhile. It’s rediscovering them, not as a reader but as a writer, that is proving key to my experience.

Leave a comment

All Aboard…?

I stumbled across this a couple of weeks ago, courtesy of the rabbit hole that is Facebook. In London, it looks like there’s going to be an Underground Station on the market soon. It’s a “Ghost Station” – one that has been out of service for over thirty years.

The pictures in the article are sparse, but it’s the notes accompanying them that are intriguiing. For instance, the facility has been owned by the Misintry of Defence since 1934.

There are three things that come to mind with this. First, with regards to the idea of a “ghost station,” Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere comes to mind. In a similar vein, with the idea of “secret” military facilities, I’m reminded of Charlie Stross’s Laundry Files. (The third, by the idea, is something like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – if they were in London, not New York.)

As a writing thing, it’s an awesome idea (again, see Neverwhere). This would be one of those places that I would live to be able to explore, just for the feel of it. (That’s one of the great things about so much of the UK, the juxtaposition of the modern and historical, that much of the US doesn’t have… at least, not to the same degree.)

It will be interesting to see how this site is developed once it changes hands…

Leave a comment

Toddler Travelling, the First

MC and I have generally been pretty easy-going when it comes to travelling. We like to explore, and have taken a few weekend excursions to celebrate events (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), or just to visit her folks.

That was before having the baby. Any thoughts for travelling easy, or at a moments notice go flying out the window faster than a speed limit on the interstate. A simple weekend getaway to visit in-laws now requires two to three days of advanced planning (which can still get tossed before setting off from the house).

Like last week. We took a three-and-a-half day trip to MC’s parents, which is the first time we drove there since Christmas, for… reasons. [Before you get snappy, they have come to us multiple times since, so there’s not a lack of socialization with the grandparents.]

Which is where we get to the best laid plans getting shot to hell.

MC had packed his clothes the night before we left. On the day of our departure, she worked a half-day while I kept him at home. During that morning, she talked to her mother and was informed of a cold front that had been squatting over them. Temps around 60, in August. So MC wanted to repack his clothes to adjust for the cooler (and rainy, it turned out) weather.

We made sure he was well fed and watered before we left the driveway, and he was asleep before we hit the city limits. Ah, the bliss of a sleeping baby in the car. So we thought, for the first hour of the trip. By the hour-and-a-half mark, he was awake, and starting to get cranky. We tried various means to stave off full toddler cranky-dom, before resorting to one of his favorite things: the iPad. For the last stretch of the journey, I sat in the back with him, and cycled through his routine of games or pushing on things, until we arrived.

Now, I tell you that to tell you this. That was our discovery run. When we drove home, we were better prepared for what to expect. We repeated our setup (well fed, and changed before leaving), and again he was out before we hit the interstate. This time, he slept longer, but still woke up well short of getting home. We stopped for food and ablutions, and MC rode in the back with him. Again, the iPad was the last resort. Not long after we got to that point, we got this:

Yes, he is well versed in how to swipe between screens, or to tap for apps (and no, we aren’t crazy enough to leave him with it, unsupervised), and if he is “done” with an app (for the moment), he knows how to press the button to exit – and he did that on his own. (There was one time we had started an app for him, and not long after he had quit the app, and got into the photo album and was scrolling through pictures.)

The pose itself, though, is the thing. He’s got the bored “been in the car too long” thing going on, but is channeling it into something that is at least some degree of  mentally stimulating (between that and interactions with MC). It will be interested to see how this plays out as he gets older, or when we try travelling more often…

Leave a comment

Saving the Princess… One book at a time…

I found this over at Tor, and it was too cool to not share.

Go here to see other pictures… and it’s worth looking at the details if you get a chance to zoom in on the originals (like the Cloud Koopa – the white blob in the almost-direct center of the picture above).

Leave a comment

Not Afraid on MVM

Yes, I am more of a rock guy. But anyone that knows me well knows that I’m actually more about the music. That’s why I have a little bit of everything in my library. Including some Eminem. While I’m not claiming to be a hardcore follower (for example, there are large chunks of his earlier albums that I’ve not played at all), he has enough strong singles that several of them find their way onto my regular playlists.

Like this one, which strikes me as an edgier Eye of the Tiger. (Think about it… if they were to try a Remake of Rocky, this could so work as a song for the required training montage that would be in the film… and if not their, then as the backing track as the final fight is getting ready to happen.)


Leave a comment

Olympic Afterthoughts…

I found some of these pictures a few years ago, of the Athens Olympic park as it stood in 2012, but I’m only going to put one here. You can likely Google for more pictures, but here are a couple of pictures that tell a pretty strong story by themselves.

One of the comments made in the linked article is the admission that there was poor planning for repurposing the facilities after the games, which is sad. Obviously, national economics plays a factor. It would be interesting to compare other venues – anything before last year’s London games (winter or summer) – to see how the facilities are holding up.



Leave a comment

Reading Lists, Fall 2013 edition

As mentioned before, one aspect of how the Seton Hill MFA program is structured is the “Readings in Genre” courses. Students in the program complete a minimum of three (the courses themselves are offered in cycle, the focus repeating every third semester). Entering my third semester, and presumably final Readings course, here’s what’s on tap for the term ahead.

Horror: Monsters
I am Legend (novella) – Richard Matheson
Snow – Ronald Malfi
Books of Blood (Vol. 1-3) – Clive Barker
Breeding Ground – Sarah Pinborough
The Wolfman – Jonathan Mayberry
Thirty Days of Night (Graphic Novel) – Steve Niles
Relic – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
World War Z – Max BrooksShort Stories
(in Books of Blood & I Am Legend)
The Yattering and Jack – Barker
Rawhead Rex – Barker
Human Remains – Barker
The Funeral – Matheson

ALIEN – Ridley Scott, Dir.
The Thing – John Carpenter, Dir.

Writer’s Workshop of Horror – Michael Knost (ed.)

SF/Fantasy: Science Fiction Classics

The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction – Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
Ubik – Philip K. Dick
Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein
The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula LeGuin
Dune – Frank Herbert
Other books considered, but outvoted, by the members of the class:
Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke
Downbelow Station – C. J. Cherryh
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Mystery: Contemporary

Stork Raving Mad – Donna Andrews
Still Life – Louise Penny
A Test of Wills – Charles Todd
Plum Island – Nelson DeMille
Dead Until Dark – Charlene Harris
The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo – Steig Larsson
Gone Baby Gone – Dennis LehaneHandbook of the Mystery Writer’s of America, 2nd ed. – Sue Grafton (ed.)

Romance (Contemporary/Women’s Fiction)

Where We Belong – Emily Griffin
Fire and Ice – Julie Garwood
Boomerang Bride – Fiona Lowe
Then Came You – Jennifer Weiner
The Witness – Nora Roberts
The Way Back Home – Barbara Freethy
Me, Myself,and Why? – Mary Janice Davidson*
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn** Members of the class to vote during the semester
YA (Contemporary & Genre)Happy Families – Tanita Davis (realistic)
Grave Mercy – Robin LaFevers (historical fantasy)
Pushing the Limits – Katie McGarry (romance)
Amelia is Dead and Gone – Kat Rosenfield (mystery)
Unwind – Neal Shusterman (futuristic/dystopian)
This is Not a Test – Courtney Summers (zombie)


The Farm – Emily McKay (vampire/survivalist)


The Fault in Our Stars – John Green (realistic)

*Members of the class voted during the summer.

In addition to the above, the “common novel” for the next Residency will be Joe Hill’s NOS4ATU. Everyone in the program also has an assigned “Craft” book for the semester… mine is James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, 2nd ed.

Leave a comment

Did he just say Spelljammer?

Yes, I said Spelljammer, and I bring it up because someone else said it. Specifically, said it like this:

The Daedalus Incident is, in part, a historical fantasy in which the Age of Sail plays out amongst the planets of the solar system instead of the seas of Earth… Someone described it as Master and Commander meets Spelljammer.

With a plug like that, how could my curiosity not be piqued? As a disclaimer, I first read about this from a piece over at Mary Robinette Kowal’s site, but the line above comes from something over at Scalzi’s.

The Spelljammer allusion alone is enough to make me check it out. Of the original six actual Spelljammer novels from the early 90’s, I’m missing only one. It’s still a setting/idea that I want to play with in fiction. Almost makes me want to break out the original box sets I have in storage.

(image from

Leave a comment