Kicking And Screaming

Writing

I managed a whole 1000 words of new fiction today. I’ve been doing so much editing over the last six months that I’ve started to feel invisible, working as a silent partner with other writers. Today, working on some fresh stuff, I found it hard to remember my own voice. Well, the voice I needed for the content. It came back eventually, but man, those writing muscles do atrophy quickly. Need to keep up a proper regime, after all.

On the e-publishing front, I stumbled upon Jeff and Ann Vandermeer’s new e-book imprint, Cheeky Frawg. Slightly silly name aside, they seem to have nailed the basic fundamentals of the new publishing frontier: lots of content, new and reprinted work; ace design that is both arresting and simplistic–very necessary when your storefront is the web; and a certain amount of irreverence.

Check out their 2011 publishing schedule.

Trust the Vandermeers to be at the forefront of the new paradigm.

I’m watching the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tonight. The film makes it abundantly clear that Larsson’s novel has at least three major storylines running through it. The film ditches a couple of the interesting side-notes (Mikael’s relationship with Erika, the cover story of him writing a book about the Vangers) in an effort to streamline things, but the film still blows through a lot of the subtlety of the novel. It’s a film that will probably seem even more archly foreign if you haven’t read the books, as you will keep wondering what it is that you’re missing (at lot, as it turns out). It’ll be interesting to see how Steven Zaillian adapts the novel. He’s got an impressive track record, so I’m pretty confident he’ll reduce it to something watchable. Which isn’t to say that the Swedish version isn’t; having read the novel, the film makes sense. I’m not sure it would if I hadn’t.

Writing Pulp

Writing

In crawling the Internet over the last few days, I’ve stumbled upon Michael Moorcocks’s discussion on how to write a book in three days as well as Lester Dent’s Master Plot Outline.

I have a soft spot for the pulps. I read a metric ton of them when I was a kid, and I still get distracted in the used bookstores when I stumble across a stack of them (especially some of those lurid covers). They were (and still are, really) throw-away fiction. The sort of thing that was meant to be read in an afternoon, and written in a not much longer span of time. They tend to either be tightly tied to their structure (Dent’s outline), or go off into the weeds (ala Moorcock’s model). I think you have a lot of opportunity in the pulps to come up with really weird shit. You’re not trying to change the world; you’re trying to entertain someone for an afternoon. And pay your bills.

I know the romance market shows no sign of slowing down, and they’ve got their own rigid structure that works for them. I suppose it can be argued that boys don’t read much anymore. They’re all off playing video games (like Three Rings’ Spiral Knights, for example).

But after a few years of playing video games, I find they lack the energy of the pulps. Of course, if I could figure out a way to put the pulps into video games, I’d be able to change the world, but that would require people wanting to read, wouldn’t it?

It’s always something.

Still, I’m thinking about pulps.

Two-thirds of the way through The Mongoliad

Writing

Chapter 34: “Munokhoi’s Folly” of The Monogliad came out this week. I think we’re a bit beyond thirty-four weeks into this project, and we’ve got just under twenty more chapters to go, according to projections that are probably very out of date. I ran the statistics today and we’ve clocked in just over 300K on this serial project so far.

In about nine months.

No wonder my brain hurts.

David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Film

I stumbled upon the trailer to David Fincher’s upcoming version of Steig Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and have been somewhat distracted by it. More than a little, really. Go watch the trailer if you haven’t seen it. I’ll wait.

  • Much like the boat racing scene in The Social Network, the pacing of the images is tied to the music. In this case, it’s a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” with vocals by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Each image changes with the beat of the music. Motion in the trailer is either up or to the right, directions consistent with what I’ve heard about the subliminal aspects of movement in media (moving to the right is considered forward motion–looking to the future).
  • You’re in constant motion, and the climax of the trailer is an approach to the house as the tagline starts to flash. Do you find yourself dreading ever reaching the house? I do. It’s a fairly unassuming house, but it is bound with snow and the image has that creepy sort of white light (which isn’t in many of the other scenes, mind you, even though much of the book takes place during winter). If you’ve read the book, you might fear that house, but even if you haven’t, you’re thinking, “Creepy fucking house.” You might even be flashing to the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. But the music–which we all know as love, even though it’s a new version of “Immigrant Song,”–is starting break down. It’s the sort of aberrant noise that I don’t mind, but I know that it interrupts rhythm and forces us to either engage more fully or to switch off.
  • It’s been a while since I’ve read the Millennium Trilogy, but I seem to remember The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo being somewhat of the least action-oriented of the three (courtroom drama of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest notwithstanding), and yet, at first pass, you think the film is going to leave you breathless. Watching it again, it becomes more clear that it is a series of shots of people being very British (Eddie Izzard style) with each other, but all of the expressions are filled with fear, angst, or sadness, leaving you with no idea why everyone is so overwrought, but OMG! you want to find out.
  • I’ve already tried to find the song. It’s not available, as far as I can tell. Which means if I want to talk about the song or share it with friends, I have to tell them to go watch the trailer. That’s a bit of brilliant marketing right there.

Anyway, I know it is just a teaser trailer, and I’m sure we’ll be bludgeoned by lots and lots of variants that spoil a great deal of the story, but I do like the teasers. They have to be visceral. They have to grab you. They have to do their job without words, and as my job is all about using words, I like figuring out how to do more with less.

Things To Like In Immortel

Film

The interesting experiment about Immortel is the mix of high-end industrial CGI, mo-cap rendered CGI (the people), lots of green screen work, model work, and various ambient flourishes. Oh, and old school monster effects. It’s all mixed together without breaking the fourth wall, lending everything an I meant to do that feel. Very much a combination of The Fifth Element and Amélie with lots of Egyptian symbolism and no dearth of near-apocalyptic texturing.

So many little things to like about the film.

  • The texturing on the doctor’s face who is observing Jill with Dr. Turner in the beginning. You’re never quite sure if he’s CGI or not.
  • The outside lighting is over-saturated enough than John’s dark mask and clothes make him appear to be a hole in space more than a man in black.
  • Thomas Kretschmann plays Nikopol, and his voice is deliciously ragged and English is just alien enough to him that playing a man dislocated in time comes so very naturally. Also, are all the live-action actors speaking English while all the CGI characters dubbed in English (from French, I would assume)?
  • One of Dr. Turner’s patients is wearing a skin-tight shirt that is a amalgamation of several panels from one of Bilal’s graphic novels. Awesome awesome costume.
  • The shadow overlay of Horus on Nikopol. Never over-used. Always effective.
  • Nikopol: “I’m no carpenter.” Heh.
  • The scene where the Dayak takes the black box from the cop’s head. He’s a rubber monster; the cop is CGI; and a cut-away to the cop’s gun is a flesh and blood guy. Which makes you wonder if every shot is composed with a specific mix of compositional elements in mind in order to create a very stylized story.
  • Jill, sitting in the tub and and crying blue tears until the tub is full.

It’s a different version of the graphic novel, cherry picking elements and creating new ones altogether. As Bilal wrote and directed the film, it’s not an adaptation so much as a re-envisioning. Always interesting to see an artist re-examine their work. Ha. Bilal even says “loosely based” in the end credits.

Thinking about it more, I realize it isn’t an adaptation. It’s almost a Rashamon-style exploration of some of the events of The Nikopol Trilogy. For one, Immortel is Horus’s story (right down to the ad vitam parenthetical of the title), and Nikopol and Jill are players in that story, ones who never quite find their places (tools of the god, after all). Nikopol’s immortality is explored in the graphic novel and is, in my mind, a more bittersweet and poignant resolution than what is offered in the film.

Which leads to an on-going discussion that we’re having at Subutai about media properties and this new shiny thing called transmedia. Not every story translates well to different mediums. Immortel is a perfectly fine film narrative; The Nikopol Trilogy is well suited to being a graphic novel. Both complement the other, but are not required. But to engage with Enki Bilal on this content is to partake of both and be cognizant of the differences.

Recent Records

Music

Boris – Heavy Rocks & Attention Please

Heavy Rocks is more the prototypical Boris sound, and “Riot Sugar” should give you metal-stylee whiplash. Whether you want it or not.

Attention Please is surprising, in that it is Boris going all trip-hop on us. With some fabulous results. They have a bandcamp page where you can hear and purchase the records.

UlverWar of the Roses

The exciting thing about a new Ulver record is that I have no idea what it is going to sound like, but I know that it will be interesting. While I don’t mind a certain amount of consistency in my creative consumption, I do like being challenged and I do like it when an artist tries something new. Ulver has been steering away from their black metal roots for some time, and War of the Roses is a continuation of the sonic style of Shadows of the Sun, though with more spoken word ambience. A LOT more. Other than the fifteen minute “Stone Angels,” which goes on for about ten minutes too long in my estimation, it’s a record that is going to unpack nicely over time.

FredrickFlora

A surprising little gem that rotating through quite a lot recently. Swedish dream-pop with a bit of Cocteau Twins, some delicate percussion, creepy but not stabby synths, and lots of airy ambience.

Kate BushDirector’s Cut

A decade after The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, Kate returns to both of these earlier records and redoes the vocals, drum tracks, and does other fiddling with some of the songs. The result is a record that sounds, well, more Kate. Director’s Cut goes a long way to reminding me why I fell in love with her work in the first place.

Bilal’s Immortel

Film

We started watching Immortel last night. I found a Blu-Ray edition in the cheap bins the other day, and as the old DVD I had was a somewhat suspect Russian-made all-region DVD, I snapped it up. I’m glad I did. Blu-Ray makes for much better viewing, and a lot of the animation is more seamless than I remember. Unfortunately, we were tired enough that we didn’t make it far into the film, but it is a film that tried–rather faithfully–to translate the graphic novel to the screen while still leveraging some of the aspects of film that you can’t do well with a graphic novel.

Plus it’s Enik Bilal. The Nikopol Trilogy was one of the first book reviews I ever had published.

Blogging Again

Ruminations

At least it is easier to set up a blog this time. I remember the lengthy process of setting up and admining a blog package back in the day. This time, the installation was quicker than downloading the files. Of course, monkeying with the layout will take much, much longer, but getting the framework in place is a snap now. Which strikes me as somewhat funny, as my part of my trepidation about starting to blog again is the underlying suspicion that blogging is still dead. Well, in that sense of a lone voice shouting into the endless emptiness of the Web.

Or is it? In watching the rapid change that is sweeping over traditional publishing, I find myself thinking that we’re about to enter an age where the lone voice can be heard again, when it should be heard. Suddenly, a lot of the stigma of self-publishing has been swept aside by the fact that there is real money in it. Again, the basic rule applies: ninety percent of it will sink over night and vanish, but those with real talent–the sort of talent that traditional publishing would eventually deign to notice–no longer have suffer through an abysmal apprenticeship in the salt mines of MMPB releases that disappear almost as soon as they are printed. If it takes two years for a book that is paid a $5,000 advance to come out, why wouldn’t the writer self-release it, write two more, and do the same with them during that same period? If New York is going to offer crappy terms and crappy money and take forever to pay you, why wouldn’t you do it yourself? And if the boom is good enough for New York to have bought it, then ostensibly, the market would love it to the same amount through the new digital distribution channels. Frankly, they could love it less, but you’d see that return sooner as the payment percentages are better.

Night Shade Books is running a promotion this week on my first two books. $0.99 for the Kindle editions. It’s only been a few days, but already I’ve seen a tremendous spike in the ebook numbers. Yes, I know it is a temporary thing, but if my greater problem right now is obscurity, then this is the best thing. Also, the print sales (through Amazon, at least) have tanked, worse than they’ve been in the last six months. It’s too early to really draw any conclusion from all this, but my gut sense is that the tide is shifting. The cost of doing marketing and PR for a print book is too arduous for a starting writer to manage, but takes a lot fewer resources when you’re working on the Internet. More importantly, they are resources that YOU have access to versus the inaccessible PR wizardry that your old school publisher (might) have.

It still comes down to writing, and writing a lot. That hasn’t changed. And writing something of reasonable quality. But your ability to realize some financial gain from that writing more immediately–and probably more effectively in the area of audience building–is starting to become attainable.