Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Year is 2005, The Place Is http://www.babylon5scripts.com, or The Babylon Project Was Our Last, Best Hope For Good TV

Allow me the comfortable cushion of believing that just about everybody here has seen Babylon 5. If I'm wrong, you might as well stop reading now, hie thee to your TV, and start watching. Everything's on DVD now[1], so you really have no excuse. Watch the show.

Anyway. Now that we've disposed of those poor uneducated souls, I'm spreading the word about what may be the coolest post-B5 project ever: J. Michael Straczynski is releasing his scripts. All ninety-two JMS-written Babylon 5 episodes, plus the scripts for The Gathering and In The Beginning. Plus bonus material. Fourteen books in all, two released per month, not counting the special fifteenth book...

Go to http://www.babylon5scripts.com/ for details. But as a confirmed Babyloniac, you can bet I'll be buying.

[1] Well, except for "To Live And Die In Starlight," but that's not that much of a loss...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Look Again: A Re-View, or I Couldn't Wait Until The Midnight Hour

Well, it looks like the SFB has been a little quiet of late. Maybe this will jolt it back to life: the first SFB Book Review.

Kitty And The Midnight Hour
Written by Carrie Vaughn
Published by Warner Aspect

Carrie Vaughn is going to get compared to Laurell K. Hamilton. This is inevitable. Hell, even the promo quotation on the cover calls Kitty And The Midnight Hour "vintage Anita Blake meets The Howling." Talk about a blessing and a curse: on the one hand this will probably get a number of the Anita Blake readers to pick up the book, but on the other I know any number of people who have gotten sick and tired of the Anita Blake series. Besides, Vaughn is funnier.

I've identified the exact moment when I knew we needed some new vampire/werewolf cliches: when White Wolf sued Universal for making Underworld. But Vaughn, in this novel, shows that there is still some life in the Gothic-Punk[1] universe.

The basic plot is as follows, lifted from the back cover: "Kitty Norville is a midnight-shift DJ for a Denver radio station--and a werewolf in the closet. Her new late-night advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged is a raging success, but it's Kitty who can use some help. With one sexy werewolf-hunter and a few homicidal undead on her tail, Kitty may have bitten off more than she can chew..."

Now, this punches up some of the Anita Blake-comparison bits (especially "sexy werewolf-hunter"), and doesn't talk about some of the more interesting and creative parts, such as the werewolf sense of community and the reactions of the rest of the world. Unlike Blake's world, you see, here vampirism and lycanthropy and the like aren't so public yet; the discussion of who knows what and how much and the governmental response is a little more interesting than Hamilton's "Vampirism is legal, and that's that" opener.

Vaughn's style is new and clean, easy to read, and it kept me interested. Scenes written from the perspective of the werewolf as opposed to the human were done creatively, shifting from first person to a close third, which gives the right feel of Kitty being outside herself. The take on the pack dynamic makes sense and, more importantly, works in context, so I can't complain.

She's also funny. I liked her humor, her jokes and backhand lines, and especially the occasional swipe at those good old cliches. The advantage of setting Kitty as a talk-show host is that the callers can ask the dumb questions. The vampire who wonders where the "vampire orgies" are and the "werewolf trapped in a human's body" were probably my favorites. Then there are the normal humans in the story, like Kitty's mother and father and the staff at the radio station, who provide the right sense of outsiders looking in.

I'm not saying the book is perfect. This is a first novel, and it has some of the hallmarks. Vaughn feels to be still developing both her style and her world. For example, she'd already written a couple of stories about Kitty, and then found she had to put them into the novel as scenes. As a result, those scenes--even though they're rewritten to not reintroduce concepts--stick out. The plot is predictable in spots; not a huge deal, but typical for a first novel. In addition, the narrative has a few places where it hiccups; new characters get introduced less-than-smoothly, the prose stutters a few places, and then there's the question of sex.

Ah, yes, sex. Now's where the Blake comparisons are hitting their stride. Don't worry, the book isn't like what I'm told later Blake books become, but when you're talking about the pack/wolf mentality of werewolves--alpha males, alpha females, et cetera--you're guaranteed to get some sex scenes. I didn't find that the sex or near-sex in this book were too much, and I even thought her take on the werewolf's sexual reactions were interesting, but it's worth mentioning as a possible source of negative commentary.

In all, I'd say this book is a good first novel; if I'd bought it, I would have felt my enjoyment was worth the money for a mass market paperback. It's not an incredible, change-the-paradigm novel--we're not looking at the next J. K. Rowling--but it's solid and entertaining, and I want to keep an eye on Vaughn.

If you want to, check out Vaughn's web site, http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/CLVaughn/. It also happens to have a Kitty Norville short story on it, so you can gauge her style for yourself.

[1] Yes, I'm calling it by the White Wolf name. I just like the term, that's all; I'm not passing judgement on whose universe it is.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Best Week Ever

While we're on the subject of Neil Gaiman, his glad tidings and large headlines are not limited to the Joss Whedon co-interview and the opening of MirrorMask; there's much more.

For one, The Onion's "AV Club" has two very detailed parallel interviews with Gaiman and his longtime friend and MirrorMask collaborator, Dave McKean; if that weren't enough, the interviewer's LiveJournal has outtakes and deleted scenes from the interview, for even more Gaimany goodness. In addition, the Los Angeles Times has a pretty good piece on the making of MirrorMask.

But that's not all! Gaimania continues with the news that, after many long delays, the version of Beowulf that he and Roger Avary wrote finally began filming last week, with a cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Ray Winstone as Beowulf, and Crispin Glover as The BeaverGrendel. Neil has relayed reports that Glover is already speaking exclusively in Old English (which would be, actually, one of the least unusual things he's ever done).

Oh, and what better way for Neil to wrap up the week than with the discovery that his brand new novel, Anansi Boys, will debut at #1 on the New York Times' Bestseller List next week?

One movie opening; one movie filming; and the #1 book in the country.


Best. Week. Ever.