Monday, June 27, 2005

The Traveler & Batman Begins

I posted my review of The Traveler last night. A gripping, frightening novel that eerily mirrors our own society. This book is going to be big. The Web sites associated with the book are receiving continual updates, too:

I saw Batman Begins yesterday and the movie lived up to the hype. At the time, I thought Michael Keaton was a pretty good Batman, but Christian Bale IS Bruce Wayne/Batman. A lot has been said of how well the character of Bruce Wayne was built up before he donned the cape and cowl and it's true. I really think the little early scenes with Bruce and Thomas (Bruce's dad) Wayne were great and showed how good a relationship there was between father and son, which lent greater impact to Bruce's loss. Bruce's frustration with where his life was or wasn't going and his world travels and training in the League of Shadows all helped to build up Bruce Wayne as he grew into the role of Batman. This film did a lot of things right in capturing what makes Batman such a mythic icon.

The early instances of Batman on screen are handled superbly well, he is in the shadows and you don't get a complete image of him. As the film moves on, the image of Batman becomes more clear, a nice parallel between Bruce's vision of himself and what the audience sees. The strongest influence on this story, from the comics, is without a doubt, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's definitive origin story, Batman: Year One. Nolan and screenwriter Goyer lifted scenes directly from the pages and as in BYO, Batman is not perfect, he bounces around walls and gets banged up. The scene with the bats in Arkham was just about lifted from BYO as well, it was effective on the comic page and even more so on the screen. The feel of parts of the story of this movie also had a lot in common with Loeb/Sale's The Long Halloween.

The animated series did much to capture the essence of Batman, and in the series, Kevin Conroy voiced Wayne/Batman for many years, and still does on Justice League Unlimited. Before seeing Batman Begins, his was the voice I heard in my head when reading the comics, now it will be Bale's voice. Bale was delightfully insane in American Psycho, and the intensity he showed in that role carried through here, though there were no scenes of him runing nude with a chainsaw.

The remaining cast members were absolutely perfect and like a lot have already said, Gary Oldman is Comissioner Gordon. Morgan Freeman seemed like he had a lot of fun playing Lucius Fox, he had the best one liners. Michael Caine was very good as Alfred. The people who played Bruce's Parents, especially his father were very good, Liam Neeson was excellent as well and the Ra's al Ghul scenes were great. Katie Holmes looked good and I thought the relationship between her and Bruce was handled very well, especially the end.

If I can raise any complaint it was that the film was a bit too long, but I find that to be the case with most films nowadays. Comparing this to other recent comic-book films is almost like comparing apples and oranges. The Spider-Man films were excellent, but a bit more bright. As much as loved the Spider-Man films, I have to say Batman Begins topped them. This is probably the best movie I've seen since The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

As did Spider-Man 1 & 2, Batman Begins ended on an almost perfect note with Batman leaping from a top a building. As in BYO, the foundation for Gordon and Batman's relationship is set and I cannot wait until the sequel. Additionally, a lot of groundwork was laid for future sequels and the last exchange between Gordon and Batman hit me with a huge amount of fanboy glee, though to be honest the whole film really did. This wasn't just a great superhero/comic adaptation, it was a great film period. Dramatic tension, superbly acted characters, great action and overall, a wildly entertaining film. I want to go and see it again, something I haven't done in theaters since Empire Strikes Back.

I think Lou Anders agrees, too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Links and musings

Very interesting blog post about America in Science Fiction, via Tobias Buckell.

Grant Morrison is taking over the DC Universe, with some help from Geoff Johns. This is a good thing, not only because both guys have the fanboy knowledge of the DCU necessary for the takeover, but because, more importantly, they also write good stories. A sense of cohesion throughout the DCU will be a good thing, and in many ways, was one of the appealing factors of Marvel's early days. With the whole Infinite Crisis thing looming, having these two guys act as "consultants" or whatever the Hell DC is calling them is something I'm looking forward to.

On the reading front, I'm halfway through Jeffrey Ford's wonderful collection, The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories, I may post up an official review of this one when I finish it. Over the weekend I read Batman: The Long Halloween by Loeb and Sale. This came out during one of my comic-book hiatuses and I finally caught up with it. Sale's art is very good, though I admit to being surprised at the amount of splash pages he used. On the whole, at least in collected format, the story was very enjoyable and I'll eventually get my hands on some of the other Loeb/Sale collaborations. I saw a lot of storytelling elements in Halloween reappear in Loeb's Hush storyline, I hope this doesn't bode for a recycling act for Loeb's other stories..

I'm still trying to put together my review of The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks, I really liked the book and I want to write a review that will, in some part I hope, do justice to the book and its effect on me. I've got another few days before I need to post it, so I hope to have something finished up by the weekend.

On the life front, Mrs. Blog o' Stuff and I are getting ready for the big move. We are in the process of buying a house and selling our townhouse, so life has been and will continue to be quite hectic over the next few weeks. We are both very excited about the new house. Within a couple of weeks, we should be all moved into the new digs, I just hope getting the internet connection won't be too problematic.

This weekend my wife and I are celebrating 5 years of marriage and we are heading down to Washington DC to catch a Nationals game, in our quest to hit all the ballparks in the US. Hopefully, we'll be able to make a trip to the Smithsonian on Saturday.

Back to life and books for now.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Tale of the Thunderbolt

Posted my review of E.E. Knight's Tale of the Thunderbolt today, another fine addition to Mr. Knight's highly entertaining Vampire Earth saga.

In sports news, the Yankees actually won three in a row! and 4 out of the last 5! Could be they finally grabbed their balls and started playing what their worth. Still, baseball is a long season and there are just under 100 games left, so almost anything can happen. I think Lee Mazzilli is doing a great job with the Orioles, but I don't see their pitching holding up the whole year.

Not much else going right now. I doubt I will get a chance to see Batman Begins this weekend, probably catch it next Sunday. In the meantime, I'll probably re-read Year One, The Killing Joke, and The Dark Knight Returns to whet my Bat-apetite for now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

SFFWorld Short Story Contest

This may be old news to some but we at SFFWorld are running a short story contest:

Entry is open to anyone. We don’t care if we’ve never met you before, or if we can’t get away from you for a second - we want to see what you can do!

We’re looking for all and any previously unpublished short stories on a speculative fiction theme. To help preserve the sight of the poor souls who have ‘volunteered’ to read all your fab entries, we ask that you keep to a maximum of 3000 words. In order to help preserve their souls, we ask that you steer away from gratuitous violence, or too much erotic content.

Our favourite three stories will be published on the site, with big shiny links letting everyone know where to find them, and telling everyone how great you are. The overall winner will also be sent a signed copy of ‘The Twins’, the first book in the fantastic new GemQuest series by Gary Wassner, kindly donated by Gary himself.

Closing date is August 31, 2005
Winners announced September 30, 2005.

The Full release and rules are here

Last week I finished my ARC of John Twelve Hawks's The Traveler, a fascinating novel that, like the best FSF, begged me to look at the world around me and question the reality I live in. Good stuff here, it kept me awake beyond my normal sleep time when I finished it on Thursday night. This is not to say the book was perfect, but still a very engaging novel. The book will be publishing on June 28th and I'll post a formal review closer to that date. Until then, check out the book's Web site: or my previous blog entry about the book.

I read C.L. Moore's pulp classic Jirel of Joiry over the past weekend and, for the most part enjoyed them. Moore has a descriptive style that doesn't ramble too much and pits her heroine against seemingly insurmountable odds. Jirel braves depths of hellish caverns and tunnels, confronts demons and sorceresses, in attempts to avenge past wrongings by evil wizards and generals. Fun stuff I have to say.

Right now I'm reading Tale of the Thunderbolt, the third of EE Knight's Vampire Earth novels. I'm really enjoying this one at about 2/3 of the way through. Knight has managed to weave enough of the backstory of the previous two novels into the story so new readers will not be put off by the fact that this is the third book in the saga - new readers can pick this up without having read the other two. It has been a year since I read the previous book, Choice of the Cat, so it works pretty well as a refresher, too. I think the earlier two were a tad bit stronger on the whole, but this is still an entertaining read. A good sign is that it is a book I don't like putting down when my lunch break ends and when I need to retire for the night. My interview from last month with Mr. Knight is over on my sidebar.

Monday, June 13, 2005

I'm sleuthing

I saw Judas Priest on Friday, with Queensrÿche as the opening band. I've been a fan of both bands for a while, though I was never as die-hard a Priest fan as I was for Maiden and Metallica. Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime still holds up as one of my favorite Metal albums. As a young metal-geek in middle-school and High school, I listened to my tape so much, I wore it out. When I upgraded from tapes to CDs, Mindcrime was one of the first I purchased. So, that leads me to Queensrÿche's performance on Friday. Geoff Tate still has an amazing voice and on the whole, the band sounded great. Unfortunately, they only played Needle Lies from Mindcrime, though they did play a bunch of their older pre-Mindcrime stuff like Take Hold of the Flame and Queen of the Reich. Thankfully they DIDN'T play Silent Lucidity. The best news from them, though I admit I'm a bit nervous, is the news of Operation: Mindcrime II.

On to the Metal Gods. At one point during the show, Halford mentioned that Priest has been playing their form of metal for 40 years. Holy Shit. His voice was amazing even though he wasn't exactly spry going around the stage. He didn't need to be, his pipes made everything work. They opened with Electric Eye, after that, Halford changed his jacket for the first of about 10 times. The second song was Touch of Evil from the Painkiller album. Amazing and powerful. For my money, Painkiller is one of the very best metal albums from the 90s one of those rare albums without a bad song. Priest went through a bunch of their classics, Diamonds and Rust, Turbo Lover, with an encore of Hell Bent for Leather. The two best songs, I thought, were Painkiller and Exciter. Like I said, I love the album Painkiller and the title song is great. On the whole, a very good concert.

I went with my brother-in-law and there were only two problems with the whoe concert experience in general. (1) The group of people next to us kept bitching and complaining about Priest and almost making fun of the band. (2) A really fat guy, I'd say at least 280 pounds decided he was going to enjoy the concert without a shirt. Don't worry, though he didn't have a shirt, he made sure he had a beach ball.

Family Guy was, again, very, very funny last night with a couple of OH MY GOD moments. From Brian propositioning Meg, to the AIDS song, to Stewie wanting to touch Cleveland's hair, the line between offensiveness and humor was straddled very well. However, the two instances where I couldn't stop laughing, and thinking about it again as I type this I'm laughing, was when Peter put on the Quagmire mask and put the Loretta mask on Brian and they kept rolling around on floor simulating sex. Right after that, Popeye music cued up and Clevelend popped open the can of spinach and I was done.

I beat God of War last weekend. Even though I was on the Easy level (Mortal) It was still not the easiest game in the world, but it was a helluva lot of fun. The storyline was great and the graphics were probably the best I've seen on a PS2 game. This game is a great combination of hack'n'slash action with enough puzzle-solving quagmires to keep things.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Words, Music & Verse

Here's an interesting post/rant about series books. Sounds like a minor case of idiocy on the part of publishers, but they know best, right? The point Wen Spencer raises is confounding, to both writers of these books and potential readers of these books. Readers of Fantasy and Science fiction often like their books in series, and when a writer publishes book 3 in a series, new readers who are considering trying the writer would naturally like to start with book 1, logical right? Speaking from my limited publishing experience and with print-on-demand technology, I don't think it would be too difficult to reprint, say 1 or 2 copies of book 1 for every 5 to 7 copies of book three, when the proverbial book three publishes. Then again, what the hell do I really know. This is something I've bitched about before.

As for Wen Spencer herself, I know of her books, and I've seen some relatively favorable things about them. I think she won the John W. Campbell award a couple of years ago. Her books look interesting, aside from the somewhat garish cover for Tinker. I keep meaning to give her writing a shot. I should really keep a running list of books and writers I want to try in my wallet.

On musical related note, I know I'm one of the few people in New Jersey that doesn't really care for Springsteen and his newest song is just painful to my ears. I actually prefer Bon Jovi, at least their more recent music. Again, I think I'm in the minority on this one, too, but why is everybody loving Green Day's latest musical effort? I never cared for them very much, but every song I've heard from this new album is really, really annoying and is like an ice pick in my ears. Not to mention the fact that the local rock station seems to play them at least once an hour. Ugh. At least, musically speaking, I have Friday to look forward to, I will be seeing Judas Priest.

Yet again, production on a movie of Watchmen ceases, which is a good thing.

The Flash movie looks to be based on the Golden Age character. I don't know if this is a good thing, though I suppose if successful, the Flash is a very generational character with several men as the Flash, and could be a franchise. This also makes some sense since script-writer David Goyer wrote the early issues of the relaunch of JSA a few years ago, so he does have a familiarity with the character.

More good press for Pal Scott.

Lastly, a little dark bit of verse I conjured up today:

Life in Darkness
We create fictions
To assuage the reality that bombards us
A veil of unreality
More comforting than the harsh truth
Below the surface
A life simmers unsuspected
Shadows belie the truth of darkness
Amorphous and oblong
Are the shapes of reality
Not the clear lines of fiction
We seek truth and understanding
Of something we can never completely comprehend
Lives and understanding are placed in clean lines of context
The lies we convince ourselves are the truth
These are the realities we choose to live in
Who do we seek for the real truth?
What is the real truth?
Belief is subjective
Faith is powerful
Absolutes though sought
Are ultimately are unwanted
The best of both worlds
Is the amalgamation we create
To live in solace everyday
- (c) 2005 R.H. Bedford

Friday, June 03, 2005


Imagery in Fantasy and Science Fiction fascinates me almost as much as reading the stuff. Some artists capture the sense of wonder or wow-ness very nicely, and some of these folks' art adorns the covers of some of my favorite FSF books. Michael Whelan is a master, his depiction of Roland of Gilead is the finest of any of the artists who have brought the Gunslinger to life. Whelan also provided covers for some of my favorite writers like Tad Williams and CS Friedman, his style is instantly recognizable, at least to me, and captures the moments of the book very well. Whelan also provided many of the most iconic images of Michael Moorcock's most famous creation, Elric of Melnibone.

A guy who has been getting some flack for his US covers of Erikson's novels is Stephen Youll. However, his mix of techniques often conjures up nearly photo-realistic images, he provided many covers for Robin Hobb, the first covers for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, and the covers for what I consider one of the best of the unfinished fantasy sagas, The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone by Greg Keyes. His brother Paul Youll is very good, too.

I also like Matt Stawicki's art, whose art adorns the covers of Karin Lowachee's novels, as well as the omnibus edition of R.A. Salvatore's Icewind Dale Trilogy is pretty impressive, too.

Speaking of R.A. Salvatore, specifically his most famous creation, Drizzt Do'Urden. A number of artists have created images of the Dark Elf, but I think Todd Lockwood's is the defining vision of this iconic character. Mr. Lockwood also created a stunning piece for Tobias Buckel's debut novel, Crystal Rain, a book I'm really looking forward to reading.

Keith Parkinson is another good artist, though I haven't seen much from him, in terms of book covers lately. For a while there, he did the covers for a lot of writers, Terry Brooks, Terry NoGoodkind, Orson Scott Card (Homecoming), David Eddings. Something about his cover for Brooks's Talisman's of Shannara really catches my fancy, even though I think Parkinson’s covers are a clear case of the art/cover being better than what's inside.

John Picacio is creating some great, eye-catching covers for PYR books, he's done a good number of the recent Gemmell books, and did a great cover for Jeffrey Ford's first collection, The Fantasy Writer's Assistant.

Dave McKean is amazingly talented, his cover of Stover's Blade of Tyshalle, for me, captures the spirit of protagonist Caine perfectly. Of course, McKean also illustrated a volume of King's Dark Tower and is probably besst known for his Sandman covers.

Of course there are legends like Frazetta, the Brothers Hildebrant, whose images of Conan and Tolkien's work, respectively, go hand in hand with each other.

I know there are some artist I am neglecting, so if any of my millions...and millions of visitors have any additional artist, I'd be happt to take a look.

A book meme from Karen Traviss...

1. Total number of books I own:
An ass-load.* Hundreds in boxes, a couple hundred piled about. Plus a growing collection of Graphic Novels.

2. The last book I bought:
Matthew Stover's Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and E.E. Knight's Tale of the Thunderbolt, picked them up on the same day.

3. The last book I read:
Hammerjack by Marc D. Giller and The Final Prophecy by Greg Keyes, the 2nd to last book in the Star Wars: New Jedi Order saga.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me:
1984 - George Orwell. Read it a few times in college and the more I read it, the more I realize how scary and perfect a novel it is.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain. THE great American Novel.

The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay - Michael Chabon - Read it in one sitting on the train from Pittsburgh to NJ. For my money, the Great American novel of the 20/21st Centuries.

The Talisman - by Stephen King & Peter Straub - Read it a handful of times growing up, and remains one of my fondest reading memories.

The Coldfire Trilogy - CS Friedman. Very well written and enjoyable books, but the primary reason they mean so much to me is because I read these books on the plane to and from Hawaii and on the beach in Hawaii, during my Honeymoon.

5. Tag three people and have them do this on their blogs:
Mastage, the banzai cat, & Scott Lynch.

* in this case an ass load is defined as more than Rob has time to count, so much that they’ve taken over a room in his soon to be moved out of townhouse.