Archive for all posts in 2012

The 10th Level Dept.

Spontaneous creativity is a grail for creators, but what precisely is in that particular cup?

This Is The Show That Never Ends Dept.

Some things can go on forever without becoming interminable. Some can't. Hard to tell which, sometimes.

All Beings Shall Make Merry...

... Under Pain Of Death

Radio Silence Dept.

See you next year.

Closing The Mind's Eye Dept.

Is "reality" in entertainment overrated?

To The Wonder Dept.

About the wide-eyed artists in my life, and a few shut-eyed ones.

Antisocial Networking Dept.

FaceLinkTwitBookFeedSite ... Plus!

Not Fade Away Dept.

Looks like I wasn't alone in feeling that SF is losing its luster, but that just makes my job as a creator of same all the tougher.

Flight of the Flight Dept.

Website Sokoban time.

10,000 B.C.


John Carter

Not a disaster or a game-changer, but well worth a look.

Ungrinding the Gears Dept.

Facebook users, I'm not snubbing you. Honest.

On Not Blaming The Sandbox Dept.

SF is hard to write. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be so rewarding to write well.

I Will Fear No Criticism Dept.

An iconoclastic critical take on Heinlein has some truth to it, but only some.

Non SF&F Writing For SF&F Authors

SF&F authors shouldn't read just SF&F. Here's some other things to broaden your mind.

Ordinary - Feh! Dept.

Is my love of a particular kind of (non-gimmicky) storytelling better than someone else's love of a particular kind of (gimmicky) storytelling?

Off the Page Dept.

On filming the "unfilmable", or when writing becomes a multi-media enterprise.


A look at making Cameron's blockbuster a little more thoughtful (and a little less annoying and predictable).

For The Girls (And The Boys, Too) Dept.

Let's see some live-action anime projects in the West that are shojo stories.

Four-Quadrant Moneyball Dept.

Why the commercial engineering of formula storytelling is killing storytelling.

Big Eyes Small Market Dept.

Five issues facing live-action adaptations of anime, dissected.

Daddy, Tell Me A Story For The 17-24 Demographic Dept.

Why is robust storytelling in movies now being conflated with risk-taking storytelling?

The Empty Ballot Box Blues Dept.

Why some people don't vote has always baffled me. Here are a few of my educated guesses.

Civic Duty Dept.

Vote. Updated: Thank you. Even if things had turned out differently, I would have said that....

Cowboys & Aliens

How I would have fixed Jon Favreau's cross-genre dud.

Flowers of Evil, Vol. 3 (Shuzo Oshimi)

A further tightening of the screws, and maybe the first step in the next direction for this story.

Highly Illogical Dept.

Why we worry about the wrong kinds of plot holes in storytelling, and to the wrong ends.

Uncovered Dept.

A peek into the future: the first version of the cover for my novel "Flight of the Vajra".

Jedi Mouseketeers Dept.

And the lamb opened the sixth seal ...

First Round Draft Choice Dept.

The first draft has ended. The rewrite approaches.

Radio Silence Dept.

With a hurricane barrelling up the coast, there's a good chance I could be offline for days on end. Between then and now, I have the first draft of a book to finish (I hope). See you on the other...

Heroman Vol. 1 (Tamon Ohta)

Enjoyable if not-impressively-drawn manga take on Western-style kid's action comics. (Stan Lee had a hand in it, and it shows.)

Calling Me Names Dept.

Labels, like "Buddhist" or "science fiction", are both a boon and a bane. We know this, but what do we really do about it?

Possessive Plural Dept.

It's not enough for some of us to be fans; we also have to know we're justified. But why?

The Winter Of Our Discontempt Dept.

Write for the world you have, not the world you wish for.

Smoothly Drafted Dept.

The technology of writing makes it easier to reach for the stars -- but it can't make up for the will to do the reaching.

NopeNoWriMo Dept.

Sorry, no-Vember sprint for me. (And some notes on those who flip up their noses at the NNWM sprinters.)

Roughly Drafted Dept.

The peculiar difficulties of the second draft, especially for a writer in the 21st century.

Deep In It Dept.

The hazards of making a story long for its own sake are not always obvious.

Best Original Screenplay Dept.

Is SF better when written directly for the screen, instead of adapted from another source?

No Blu For You Dept.

UK versions, French versions, but no US versions?

No Quantum of Solace Dept. (Updated)

The Possibilities of Quantum Information - Classical computers use “bits” of information that can be either 0 or 1. But quantum-information technologies let scientists consider “qubits,” quantum bits of information that are both 0 and 1 at the same...

Paradise Kiss, Part One (Ai Yazawa)

What makes a story that's nominally a romance into something a little deeper and more insightful? The idea that the characters want to be more than overgrown children, for one.

The Other Side Of The Fence Dept.

What will it take for SF&F and mainlit criticism to appreciate each other? New critics, I suppose.

The Unplaylist Dept.

What I listen to when I should be working, and what I listen to when I am actually working.

Tools of the Trade Dept.

Who's up for swapping their PC for a typewriter and a looseleaf binder?

Nothing Personal, Everything Personal Dept.

Why I'm not really an MST3K fan anymore, among other things.

Cruel To Be Kind Or Vice Versa Dept.

What should SF criticism really be doing? Just catering to fans' tastes, or expanding our understanding of the genre? Why not both?

Silver Screen Has No Silver Lining Dept.

Why mainstream moviemaking has become a race to the bottom: everything but the blockbuster has been blotted out.

Express Yourself, Impress Yourself Dept.

SF&F are always best when they're the voice of an individual observer's insight, not simply a reflection of market demands.

Silence (John Cage)

John Cage's first book (and perhaps the only one of his you need) continues to stimulate, infuriate, and amuse over fifty years later.

Roughing It Dept.

We just upgraded to the new version of Movable Type, so things might be a little bumpy for a bit. Comments in particular are acting a tot strange. Bear with us. Update 9/27/2012 10:35: Looks like the comments problems are...

Limit Vol. 1 (Keiko Suenobu)

The cost of conformity, explored in a ''Lord of the Flies''-style manga scenario.

Some Difference That Makes Some Difference Is Some Difference Dept.

Fantasy, science fiction, or other? (Or multiple choice?)

Sol Y Sombra Dept.

How do we get out from under the shadow of our own idols?

The (In)Human Agenda Dept.

The last thing we need with SF is a "humanism" that doesn't have any actual humans in it.

Operation Lunchmeat Dept.

Spam. Burp.

Tra-Di-Shuuun Dept.

Creative innovation vs. audience alienation.

Re-Kindled: "Summerworld"


Distrust That Particular Favorite Dept.

The difference between "best" and "favorite" is often unconsciously blurred.

Hard Wear Dept.

Back to the build-it-yourself PC, after years away.

Hey, I Just Had A Great Idea Dept.

The "liteature of ideas" doesn't just contain ideas; it embodies them.

The Newness of the New Dept.

Please, no more "instant classics".

Nuclear War (Sun Ra)

A "lost" Sun Ra session from the early '80s may be one of the best places to start with him and the Arkestra.

Super 8

All things Spielberg, but not enough things J.J. Abrams.

Inspiration Information 3 (Mulatu Astatke / The Heliocentrics)

Afrobeat made accessible without becoming anodyne.

Yakety Yack, Do Talk Back Dept.

On dialogue in fiction, which is less about forensics than selectivity.

Talked To Death Dept.

On long-form work in a short-form culture.

The Budget Is Too Damn High Dept.

You paid $200 million for WHAT kind of movie?

Badmouthing and Goodmouthing Dept.

Writers should do more for each other than just supply cover blurbs; they should be honest critics, too.

Canon, Fandom and Random Dept.

On the idea that a canon is a spectrum of interpretation and interactivity rather than a fixed artifact.

The Stainless Steel Rat Moves On Dept.

Harry Harrison, 87.

Under the New Sun Dept.

Nothing new? Depends on how you see "new".

Surface Tension Dept.

A complex surface doesn't always mean complex depths. Sometimes it just means ostentation.

Against The Grain, Pt. The Last For Now

This last slew of posts sparked some comments, some locally and some elsewhere. I wanted to touch on a few of these, and conclude my discussion of masscult in SF&F with some directional suggestions....

Against the Grain, Pt. 3

In my previous posts about Dwight Macdonald's concept of "masscult" and how it affects SF&F (part one; part two), I wrote about how the creation and marketing systems in place for SF&F have been affected deeply by the assumptions masscult...

Against the Grain, Pt. 2

More on how masscult has made SF&F into its lackey.

Against The Grain, Pt. 1

How a literary critic from the 1960s casts light on the dilemma of SF&F publishing today.

Pro Bono (Seicho Matsumoto)

It all starts when near-penniless Kiriko makes the trip to Tokyo to enlist the help of lawyer Kinzo Otsuka. Kiriko is a hapless woman trying to scrape together a legal defense for her brother; he stands accused of a murder...

Future Tense Dept.

On looking forward (in SF) while at the same time looking around -- because that's all you really can do.

Sakuran: Blossoms Wild (Moyoco Anno)

The anti-"Memoirs of a Geisha". Moyoco Anno's manga, source for the film of the same name, is a brassy and sassy tribute to a milieu that often only gets the sleeve-wringing weepie treatment.

What We Talk About When We Talk About SF&F Dept.

On why good SF&F should be concerned with details, not trivia.

Witness for the Defense Dept.

Why it's sometimes hard to speak up for your own work, even if you're clearly supposed to do so.

A Guru Is Born (Takeshi Kitano)

"Beat" Takeshi Kitano's novel about religion and hypocrisy is a quiet little masterwork that invites multiple readings and interpretations.

The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 2 (Shuzo Oshimi)

Further adventures in antisocial dating, in this sharp little psych-thriller series.

A Word To The Unwise Dept.

Word's custom dictionary feature falls short. Bullheaded resolve to the rescue.

Imagine How It Would Be Dept.

On "escapism" vs. what's really often meant by that word: imagination.

Those Pesky Fans! Dept.

When the biggest obstacle to a cultural phenomenon is the fans.

Other Paths Dept.

SF has its Jack Londons and Joseph Conrads, but where are its Virginia Woolfs or Thomas Manns, among others?

Elite Type Dept.

A manual typewriter from my younger days poses no threat to my copy of Word. Sadly.

Do It Yourself Dept.

"If you don't like it, make one yourself" is not a valid argument.

Wrestling Match Dept.

The classics aren't things to put on pillars. But neither is popular culture.

How To Cheat Dept.

Why SF&F make things up as they go along, for better or worse.

Radio Silence

I'm likely to be mum for the rest of the month due to a big workload and my attention span getting yanked in too many directions for my own good. You might see the occasional vault post from me, but...

No Humans Allowed, Pt. 2 Dept.

SF's big weakness: worlds without much in the way of people.

Nose In The Air Dept.

Snobbism: the great defense against brain-rotting popular culture. Except that it isn't.

Imperfect Dept.

The myth of perfection, as misleading as ever.

The Style And The Substance Dept.

The skin of a story, and what lies under it, in SF and elsewhere.

научная фантастика Dept.

Russian SF revisited.

Only Connect Dept.

"... real talent manifests itself not in a writer's affectation but 'in the exactness of his observation [and] the justice of his situations.'"

Genre-ic Dept.

Lev Grossman on why genres aren't evil.

The Pearl (Harold Budd / Brian Eno)

Ambient music, before it became a joke.

Enma the Immortal (Fumi Nakamura)

What seems at first glance like a "Blade of the Immortal" clone is anything but.

No Humans Allowed Dept.

In the end, SF is always about the humans -- especially the humans reading your work.

All There On The Page Dept.

What is it that a book does better than a movie? Especially when it's SF?

To Have Ambition Was My Ambition Dept.

What's "ambitious" about a work of fiction? Hint: it isn't the length or the size of the dramatis personae.

Soft For Digging Dept.

The creative process: it's about discovery as much as creation.

Pure Fiction For Now People Dept.

On the "relevance" question in fiction, especially SF.

Avenged Dept.

Why the success of "The Avengers" is a mixed blessing.

The Flowers of Evil, Vol. #1 (Shuzo Oshimi)

First installment in this diabolical manga series about a high schooler's psychological torment at the hands of a female classmate.

Open Mouth Already A Mistake Dept.

Just enough is more, especially when showing as opposed to telling.

Dream Big Or Die Dept.

Why philosophical fiction doesn't have to be boring -- and why SF&F provides an ideal field for such work.

Best Smeller Dept.

The tension between "bestseller" and "literary": still a red herring.

Music for Films (Brian Eno)

Decades after its release, Brian Eno's first collection of ambient mini-masterworks is still a jewel box full of gems.

Rebel Buddha (Dzogchen Ponlop)

We are, I think, finally beginning to see the full flowering of a literature of true native Western Buddhism. By this I mean works written by Buddhists who are Westerners first and foremost, and whose understanding of both Western life...

White Noise And Its Discontents Dept.

Laster Bangs and racism, 30+ years on. Or, how not to be another brick in the wall.

Covering All The Bases Dept.

A four-quadrant approach to writing: making it both fun and deep.

Faster, Cinematographer! Kill! Kill! Dept.

When just enough is more.

Human Wave: To Sum Up

What SF&F and literary fiction have to teach each other -- and what to do about them talking past each other, or learning the wrong lessons. A first attempt at stating the problem.

Human Wave 9: To Let Your Work Speak For Itself

"Your work should speak for itself."

Human Wave 8: To Not Be Boring

"You will not be boring. Or at least you’ll do your best not to be boring." What, then, does it mean to be boring?

The Really Real Thing Dept.

On reality hunger an its abuses.

Human Wave 7: To Be Internally Consistent

"Be consistent with your own aims." If your world falls apart, it had better be for a good reason.

Human Wave 6: To Be Read

"Write to be read." So what makes some writers willfully defy such a convention?

Human Wave 5: Cheat And Run

"Don't leave the reader feeling cheated," and how it's possible to do that as both an SF&F writer and a "straight" fiction writer.

Human Wave 4: No Grey Goo

"No grey goo" -- don't strand us in a landscape of emptiness and nothingness unless you have a really, really good reason for it. Here are what some of those reasons might be.

You'll Pay To Know What You Really Think Dept.

The love of money, the root of all evil? Well, maybe the root of a fair amount of heads-in-the-sand ignorance.

Ignorance, Bliss, You Know The Drill Dept.

The idea that adults reading YA fiction is embarrassing or silly is itself embarrassing and silly.

Human Wave 3: To Not Write Agitprop

"Don't write agitprop" - but first, know what it is and what stands in contrast to it.

Human Wave 2: To Not Inspire Loathing

On Human Wave SF's 2nd conceit: "Do not inspire loathing." But how can we point the way to the future without being a Pollyanna?

Human Wave 1: To Entertain

On Human Wave SF's first conceit: "Be entertaining!" Pitfall or paradigm?

Royale Hunger Dept.

How dystopia is just our way of saying "if you seek a monument..."

The Human Wave

For a while I've been struggling with a sort-of manifesto that I was going to use as a banner for Genji Press (and especially Fight of the Vajra). Then Sarah Hoyt came along and beat me to it, at least...

Yes, It Really Is All In Your Head Dept.

The reason reading gives us a thrill like nothing else: it sticks its graphics where the sun don't shine.

Isn't Branding For Cattle? Dept.

How to market yourself without feeling like a creep.

Think Once Dept.

Is it wrong to want to improve yourself?

Always In Touch Dept.

Being plugged in has already become a way of life. Does it just get worse from here?

Just Now Getting Caught Up, I Guess Dept.

Why is it only innovation when mainstream literature does it?

Jean "Moebius" Giraud

Vision, ended.

Yesterday's Tomorrow, Today! Dept.

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. Or could be. Or something.

Acting Up Dept.

When is writing most like acting? When you're getting out of your own way.

And Now You Find Yourself In '82 Dept.

What it was about 1982's explosion of moviemaking that is making so many of us misty-eyed.

The Future Is Right Here At Home Dept.

Why SF forgets that the way we do our laundry is just as important as the way we travel between the stars.

Making It Up As We Go Dept.

Fiction isn't just about making stuff up. SF is even less about such things.

GTO: The Early Years, Vol. #11 (Toru Fujisawa)

Picking up where Tokyopop left off, it's Onizuka before he was the Great Teacher.

Scraping Off The Labels Redux Dept.

Is it OK to cheer if someone you hate dies?

Minus Two Princes And Amber Dept.

It's harder than you think to recognize your own biases.

Japan (Buronson / Kentaro Miura)

Kentaro Miura and Buronson team up for a collaboration that's if anything even worse than the last one I saw from them.

Hell (Yasutaka Tsutsui)

Yasutaka Tsutsui ("Paprika")'s satire on the afterlife remains stuck on the level of an interesting idea rather than a fully-developed work.

MM9: Monster Magnitude 9 (Hiroshi Yamamoto)

A love letter to Japanese monster movies, with some clever mythology of its own that could support a more ambitious story.


If No Longer Human somehow managed to take Osamu Dazai's furious little novel and make a bloated bore of a movie out of it, Picaresque ends up doing the same thing with Dazai himself. It's a biopic that touches on...

Sign O' The Times Dept.

If SF is really about "now" rather than the future, does that make it also about contrasting the literature of "now"?

No Longer Human / Ningen Shikkaku (2010)

A glitzy and hollow adaptation of a book that was anything but those two things.

Unplugged Dept.

No cellphones in the future, and no computers either. Just connectivity and computation, for better or worse.

Unimedia Dept.

I like to think that maybe someday there will no longer be such things as sculptors and composers and film-makers and playwrights and poets. There will only be artists.-- Tom JohnsonJohnson, a longtime music critic for the Village Voice, wrote...

Big Damn Heroes Dept.

From authoritarian heroes to egalitarian ones.

Small In Japan Dept.

Why Foreign Bestsellers Often Fail in Japan | Publishing PerspectivesAn interesting piece on the mechanics of publishing in that country. One of the oddities about bookstores there -- this I can confirm from my own experiences with Japanese bookstores here,...

No Longer Human Vol. #3 (Usamaru Furuya, Osamu Dazai)

The manga adaptation of Japan's "Requiem for a Dream" comes to an unforgiving close, just as it should.

Black Jack. Vol. #17 (Osamu Tezuka)

The end. And it’s a fitting end to a manga series that’s always stood poised on the knife-edge between sweet fairy-tale simplicity and the tougher sensibilities of stories for mature audiences. Black Jack might well have been Osamu Tezuka’s finest...


Yoshihiro Nishimura paints the camera lens red yet again with his retake on "28 Days Later" and "Doomsday". Sorta-kinda.

Baking the Bread of Yearning Dept.

Sometimes wanting to be a writer is the worst way to be a writer.

Almost Famous Dept.

Why Should Libraries Focus on Popular Books? « Annoyed LibrarianLibraries should concentrate on collecting books that people might want to read, might even enjoy and benefit from, but don’t know about, and then promote them like crazy. The bestsellers are...

United Red Army

Painfully long-winded (three hours and change), this docudrama about one of Japan's most notorious and violent political factions wouldn't be worth the attention if it wasn't for the fact that longtime director / agent provocateur Kōji Wakamatsu was at the helm. The...

GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, Vol. #1 (Tohru Fujisawa)

The further (and ever the more over the top) adventures of Great Teacher Onizuka, as he tries to turn around a whole special school full of kids abandoned by their own parents.

Kind of Blue (Miles Davis / John Coltrane)

One kind of perfect.

Until The 12th Of Never Dept.

Living forever: human aspiration or cosmic crock?

One Of A Kind Dept.

My rationale for why I don't plan to write sequels. (I could be wrong.)

Matter Synthesizer (Or Maybe Sampler) Dept.

On giving the gift that you made, and on what "making" means.

What the Buddha Thought (Richard Gombrich)

Ambitious attempt to place the Buddha in, and outside of, his historical context as a thinker and philosopher.

So Little Time, So Much To Do Dept.

More choices in entertainment means more competition, all against all.

Princess Knight: Vols. #1-2 (Osamu Tezuka)

Osamu Tezuka's gender-bending fairy tale, now in English, was worth the wait.

In Character Dept.

On character in SF, especially bad character.

Belief System Dept.

When SF addresses religion.

Not Selling Out, But Buying In Dept.

Write genre fiction, not just "fiction". We'll be better off for it.

Money Is Not Our God (But All The Same, I'm Still Cashing My Paycheck) Dept.

Will they abolish money in the future? Don't bank on it (ho ho).

Opening Salvo Dept.

It's the beginning of a new project, and a new way of talking about it.

Scriveners Dept.

Writer's advice that doesn't stink.

Back and Forth Dept.

I've added category-specific navigation to the "Next" and "Previous" links at the top of every article. This way you can easily browse back and forth between movie reviews, books, etc. Turns out there was a very easy way to do...

More Trouble In Mind Dept.

Sexual violence misused in the arts, continued.

The Cult of Nothingness: The Philosophers and the Buddha (Roger-Pol Droit)

Intriguing look at how Buddhism was equated with nihilism in 19th-century philosophy, for reasons more to do with politics than the intellect.

Technostalgia Dept.

The first program I ever used for word processing was WordStar 3.3, which came with the PC clone my father brought home from work one day. For perspective, this machine -- the Panasonic Senior Partner, it was called -- was...

Dead Letter Office Dept.

Between bouts of work, work, work and work, I've been straightening up both the house and the PC. Over the years, one's user documents directory becomes a stupefying toxic waste dump of digital effluvia. I've been unearthing half-started projects that...

Pride Before A Fall Dept.

While grousing elsewhere about the Akira live-action adaptation -- which now mercifully seems to be off the table -- I used the term "insider's hubris". This was a phrase I coined a while back to describe the kind of disconnect...

Trouble in Mind Dept.

I have had an essay in the works for some time where the core thesis is that most SF (and fantasy, but I see more of this in SF than fantasy) is written by and for people who read mainly...

So Little Time, So Much To Do Dept.

Deadline has a nice piece in the "what the hell happened to the movies?" category, with the telling headline "Brands, Budgets, & Bankability Still Don’t Explain Why Studios Are In Crisis." One issue that comes more to mind when I...

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This page contains an archive of posts for the year 2012.

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