The Guest Blogging Continues

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I’m still guest blogging over at Jeff Vandermeer’s place, and I’m done with the introductory bits and am now getting into the good stuff. The Crowley Argument today. A sneak peek at some POTEMKIN MOSAIC stuff tomorrow, and something akin to a Grand Unifying Theory on Friday. And then, yeah, new LIGHTBREAKER stuff.

So go give your Jeff some of your click-thru love. I appreciate it too. I know this is the week we all succumb to that thing that is in turkey–you know, the thing that makes us go back for a third helping–but I’ve got too many other things stacked up in my brain. Time to let some of them out.

A Bit of Bond

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After that bout of obsessiveness toward the centenary covers for the Bond books, I figured I should actually check if they’re something I’d like to have around the house as reading material versus just looking pretty on the shelf. So, I dredged up a copy of Casino Royale to read on the train-ride down to Portland over the weekend. Whereupon I got cold-cocked by this paragraph.

Bond liked to make a good breakfast. After a cold shower, he sat at the writing-table in front of the window. He looked out at the beautiful day and consumed half a pint of iced orange juice, three scrambled eggs and bacon and a double portion of coffee without sugar. He lit his first cigarette, a Balkan and Turkish mixture made for him by Morlands of Grosvenor Street, and watched the small waves lick the long seashore and the fishing-fleet from Dieppe string out towards the June heat-haze followed by a paper-chase of herring-gulls. (p. 26)

Fleming is very precise in his diction, and not given to bouts of florid language, and yet here he pauses long enough to build a scene that is transformed into a near traveloguesque vista with just one long phrase. And look at that alliteration! How it just stretches that sentence out. And then he marches on with the story. But, for a moment here, we’re suspended in space, and nothing is as important than watching the birds fly across the water.

[The Potemkin Mosaic]

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This has been under the radar news, but as Farrago’s Design Master has gleefully shared the cover art, I might as well jump up and down with excitement too.

This being the print version of The Oneiromantic Mosaic of Harry Potemkin. It’s being retitled to [The Potemkin Mosaic] for ease of discussing in public without spraining your tongue, and is a linear version of the hyptertext craziness of the original. Well, mostly linear. It will be interesting to see how this turns out. By forcing it into a standard book format, we are offering you a “version” of how it can be read, while still giving you some semblance of choice in the exact manner in which you process it.

Or something like that. Anyway, 2009. Potemkin goodness. It’s meant to tide you over until PSYCHOBABEL, which will also be a book, but will not be linear.

(And can we talk about how cool it is that I’m going to have a book out where the only thing on the cover is the magick sigil that represents Harry’s journey? If the whole argument of the opposition is that Harry is hiding in the Oneiroi and tweaking the dreams of others so as to save them from Bleak Zero, then the sheer existence of this cover is a validation of their fear. Zoing!)

The Sisters of Mercy

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We went to the Sisters of Mercy last night in Portland. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen them, and I actually never thought I’d see them once, much less twice. And it’s kind of still under discussion that we actually “saw” them last night. It was a show that was either very badly designed and managed or a very subtle bit of meta-commentary about rock and roll.

I’m opting for the latter, otherwise it was somewhat of a bummer of an experience.

Here’s the setup: bare stage, no markings, no banners, the band is about as faceless and anonymous as you can get, and there is a fog machine. A fog machine that starts right before the first song and DOESN’T STOP for an hour. It’s the sort of output necessary for a full stadium-sized venue where the wind is blowing in from the water at about 15 mph, but we’re inside a 1000 seat venue with little or no circulation. It becomes a John Carpenter film in about five minutes. For a little while, it is annoying and then I start to realize that Andrew Eldrich (Mr. Sister of Mercy) is prowling the stage in a way that takes advantage of the fog, and that the lights are cued to work with the fog. And about the time I realize the guitar player is only visible (and even then, only from the waist to the neck, and his guitar is ivory white) when he steps up for the guitar solo, I start to think this might all be planned. Coupled with the fact that the mix was very muddy (you honestly couldn’t make out his gutteral sing-speak for most of the songs; and one out of three songs I didn’t recognize AT ALL, and I’m a guy that has both Floodland and Vision Thing permanently grooved into my brain).

This wasn’t a rock and roll show, this was the ghost of a rock and roll show. It’s been close to twenty years since the Sisters of Mercy put out a new record, and this wasn’t a nostalgia tour where everyone pretended they were still young and gothic and misunderstood. This was a show about atmosphere and the memory of atmosphere (and, really, the whole gothic era was about instilling atmosphere), and this “vision” was more of the same, but instead of the black water / apocalyptic melancholy that drowned the listener in Floodland and the cataclysmic nihilism that infused the heartbreak of Vision Thing, this was the ghost of bombastic excess.

The Chorus of “Something Fast” goes:

You can stand all night
At a red light anywhere in town
Hailing maries left and right
But none of them slow down
I seen the best of men go past
I don’t want to be the last
Gimme something fast

And Eldrich left off the last line twice and only barely whispered it on the third pass. He wasn’t a man trying to come back from the brink of non-existence; he had already passed on. All that was left was a phantom of an impression, a stain in our brains from a time when we were all seized by the humors and vapors of gothic bleakness. He gave us enough to remember that time and space, but he was no longer a part of it. The Sisters of Mercy have spent a long time trying to get out from the label of “gothic,” and they have. They’re now just ghosts.

But Doktor Avalanche, the eternal drum machine, still plays on and on.

The Litany of Days

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Writing php code, wrestling with Oracle, writing java code, wrestling with Oracle, writing the novel, staring at the scenery wondering if I missed my stop, playing with the kids, wondering where the night went, sleeping (not enough), writing code, wrestling Oracle, writing the book, playing with kids, wondering, sleeping, writing, writing, writing, playing, wondering, sleeping (not enough!). Repeat.

That’s been my week. Off to Portland tomorrow for Orycon. I didn’t make the cut for programming so I’ll be haunting the bar through Sunday. Saturday night, though, me and the lovely wife are going to see The Sisters of Mercy.

I know. Who would have thunk it? Still not a goth band, apparently. I love the quote on the website: “We are a rock’n’roll band. And a pop band. And an industrial groove machine. And intellectual love gods in our spare time.” The “intellectual love god” part is, I’m sure, supplied by an upgraded Doktor Avalanche.

Anyway, that’s the end of the week. Next week, I’ll be guest blogging over at Jeff Vandermeer’s site, where I’ll attempt to find enough entertaining things to talk about so that I don’t have to resort to cheap theatrics with the rabbit suit.

Nothing Like A Bond Film to Get Me to Get Me Out of Hiding

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Things are slowly winding back up to speed around here. HEARTLAND is getting on track. I’ve finished the first section (which is clocking in at around 27K), and I’ve gotten a lot of the pieces in play. Still more to wrangle, but I’m starting to see how this is going to play out. The characters are showing me their ‘A’ game already, and there has been a few surprises. I’m trying to not get distracted by the entirety of the history of secret societies in France, as I don’t need ALL of them (nine will do nicely), but there’s such a fantastic history to mine. A couple of things have come to light that are extraordinarily perfect. So very nice of history to make my “fiction” easier.

We snuck out and saw Quantum of Solace over the weekend. I’d give it three stars out of five. My initial reaction was to give it only two, as the director apparently watched the Bourne films and a couple of Roger Moore Bond films to get in the “right frame of mind” for Quantum of Solace. It’s somewhat surprising that, after such a hugely successful reboot with Casino Royale, the producers would allow such a backslide to old-style Bond. Marc Forster, whose direction I’ve liked on other things, should not be allowed to direct another action picture again. At least, not until he’s learned a few things from John McTiernan and Richard Donner. Same writing team as Casino Royale and you can see glimpses of the magic that made Casino Royale very watchable, but they’re hidden amid bad, hand-held camera direction and an elevated emphasis on the sort of nudge-nudge wink-wink that Roger Moore was famous for.

Casino Royale, for the record, is an exercise in restraint. Both Daniel Craig and Judi Densch bring an extraordinary level of expressiveness to the characters which, in turn, really makes a lot of the psychological subtext of the film pop. That’s all gone in Quantum of Solace. Forster is just too damn busy trying to be the Guy Who Shot The Shortest Bond Film Evah. Moron.

Still, Daniel Craig warrants a star in my book just by showing up, so it wasn’t a complete waste. I see that Quantum of Solace has clocked the best weekend opening for a Bond film ever, and I really hope the studio doesn’t see that as a validation of Forster’s direction, but rather as a carryover of what Martin Campbell accomplished with Casino Royale. I hope.

Roger Ebert’s review sums things up nicely, I think. And the script, as written, may actually have believed the same thing (“Violence for him is an annoyance. He exists for the foreplay and the cigarette.”), but that got lost somewhere in the rush to get this film into the can.