Jurassic World

This past Father’s Day, Fiona and David took me to a matinee of Jurassic World.  We’d shown David the first three films earlier this year, and he was pretty psyched to see it.  I wasn’t expecting that much, but hey, dinosaurs on the big screen, right?

I wound up being pleasantly surprised.  Like the original Jurassic Park, this film is a Frankenstein narrative, which is to say, a story of overreaching.  In order to boost attendance at the Jurassic World theme park, the park’s administrators commission the creation of a hybrid dinosaur, which turns out to be far beyond their ability to control.  It escapes, and sets tumbling the chain of dominoes that is the rest of the park.  In the process, we get references to the first three movies, as well as to other films such as Aliens and the original Godzilla films.  The film climaxes with a multi-dinosaur brawl that’s over the top ridiculous and thrilling, and that had my inner twelve year old cheering.

There are a few inconsistencies in the film’s narration that could have been taken care of with a couple of minutes’ dialogue; at the very least, I think the story would have benefited from an explanation of how the theme park was opened after the disasters shown in the earlier films.  The film also puts in place elements for a potential sequel; although that could wind up being a very different, and very interesting, movie, should it head in the direction I think it will.

David declared the film, “Awesome!”  We give it four raptors.

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(You may be cool, but you’ll never be Chris-Pratt-riding-his-motorcycle-in-the-midst-of-a-pack-of-velociraptors cool.)

The Wolfman (2010)

So the Honey Badger came over last night to watch a movie.  I had a copy of Joe Johnston’s 2010 remake of The Wolfman, which I’d picked up in the discount bin at Wal-Mart some time ago.  I’ve been meaning to give the film a look since I bought it, but it wasn’t until a passing comment online by the talented David Nickle the other week that I thought it might be time for settle down and watch it.  We popped it into the Blu Ray player, selected the unrated version, and off we went.

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What we were treated to was a highly entertaining, fairly-traditional re-vision of the Wolfman narrative first shown in the 1941 film with Lon Chaney (although there are nods to more recent werewolf narratives, too, such as An American Werewolf In London).  All of the leads–Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, and Anthony Hopkins–took a little while to win me over, but by the end of the film, they had. The movie does an especially good job at bringing to the fore and running with the Oedipal issues that swirl about the earlier film.  There are a number of wonderful set pieces, including a transformation from man to monster within a late nineteenth century medical amphitheater, and the werewolf running amok in a gypsy camp and in central London.  Most interestingly to me, the movie never forgets that the werewolf is a monster.  It’s not the emblem for Team Jacob; it’s an avatar of our worst, most violent tendencies.  It’s a real shame this movie didn’t do better at the box office:  it’s what an old-fashioned monster movie is supposed to be, I think.  If you’re willing to show a little patience, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Sefira and Other Betrayals

I’ve kind of announced this already, in a couple of recent interviews, but it seems a good idea to me to make it official:  I’ve recently signed the contract for my third collection of stories, whose working title is Sefira and Other Betrayals.  It’ll be forthcoming from Hippocampus Press in early 2016 (right now, we’re thinking February).  Paul Tremblay has agreed to write the introduction; I’m still working on the person for the afterword.  I’m also hoping to get Santiago Caruso back for the cover, his schedule permitting.  The table of contents will consist of:

“In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos”

“The Third Always Beside You”

“The Unbearable Proximity of Mr. Dunn’s Balloons”

“Renfrew’s Course”

“Bloom”

“Sefira”

This last will be an original novella which is looking to top out somewhere around 30,000 words.  It’s about a woman hunting a succubus.

My gratitude to my agent, Ginger Clark, for her usual diligence in handling the contract negotiations, and to Derrick Hussey of Hippocampus, for being willing to work with me again.  There’s no pre-order listing for the book, yet, but rest assured, I’ll let you know when there is.

Mad Max: Fury Road

So the Honey Badger’s been dying to see this movie since it came out, and I’ve been promising I would accompany him.  Well, today I finally honored that promise, and boy, was it worth it.  In a sense, there’s not much to Mad Max:  Fury Road.  It’s more or less a two hour chase-movie, with a couple of moments for you to catch your breath in.  What there is, though, is a world more fleshed out in its post-apocalyptic, wide-screen, operatic insanity than any of the previous Mad Max films, as well as a roster of incredibly well-acted parts.  About midway through the movie, I found myself thinking, “No matter how this film ends, it’s already brilliant.”  It’s to the film’s credit that it manages to arrive at an ending that’s satisfying because it’s earned.  A lot of the reviews of/commentary on the film have praised its heavy use of practical effects over cgi, but I’m more impressed with the attention paid to its characters.  I don’t know if I’ll make it back to the theater to see this again, but I’d really, really like to.

17) Tripod Max.

Seize the Night!

A couple of posts ago, when I was discussing forthcoming work, I mentioned that there was one thing I couldn’t yet talk about.  As of today, I can.  My novelette, “Shadow and Thirst,” will be part of Christopher Golden’s upcoming anthology of scary vampire stories, Seize the Night, which will be published in October of this year.  Here’s the press release and cover design:

SEIZE THE NIGHT

Gallery Books Trade Paperback

Print ISBN: 9781476783093

eBook ISBN: 9781476783130

$18.00 ($22.00 Can.)

On Sale 10/6/15

Before being transformed into romantic heroes and soft, emotional antiheroes, vampires were figures of overwhelming terror. Now, from some of the biggest names in horror and dark fiction, comes this stellar collection of short stories that make vampires frightening once again. Edited by New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden, Seize the Night is old-school vampire fiction at its finest.

Featuring all-new stories from:

Kelley Armstrong

John Ajvide Lindqvist

Laird Barron

Gary A. Braunbeck

Dana Cameron

Dan Chaon and Lynda Barry

Charlaine Harris

Brian Keene

Sherrilyn Kenyon

Michael Koryta

John Langan

Tim Lebbon

Seanan McGuire

Joe McKinney

Leigh Perry

Robert Shearman

Scott Smith

Lucy A. Snyder

David Wellington

Rio Youers

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I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be part of this book, alongside…well, pretty much everyone else that’s in it.  I gather it’s not available for pre-order, yet, but when it is, trust me, I’ll let you know.

Stephen King: A Top-Ten List

A few weeks ago, the Honey Badger put up a list of his top-ten works by Stephen King.  Since reading it, I’ve been thinking about compiling my own list of favorite King works.  The problem is, King is part of my writing DNA in a way distinct from almost any other writer.  It was because of reading his Christine during the fall semester of my freshman year of high school that I was set on the path to becoming a horror writer.  After I discovered his work, I read and re-read it over and over again, learning something new from it each time.  There are things he’s written that are engraved on my bones.  So no surprise:  once I sat down to puzzle the matter out, trying to limit my favorites to ten proved much more difficult than I had expected.  Not to mention, there are several of King’s more recent works that I still haven’t gotten to.  Here’s a list, then, that is both reasonably accurate and completely unsatisfying:

1.  Night Shift

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2.  Skeleton Crew

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3.  Different Seasons

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4.  Full Dark, No Stars

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5.  Just After Sunset

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6.  Hearts in Atlantis

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7.  The Stand

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8.  The Shining

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9.  Pet Sematary

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10.  The Dark Tower II:  The Drawing of the Three

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The list is accurate because these are works to which I’ve returned time and again, and which have stuck with me in the years (in some cases) since last I read them.  It’s unsatisfying because it might consist of another ten works with equal accuracy.  It’s interesting to me to note how many of my choices are books of King’s stories.  I think it was Harlan Ellison who said, some years ago, that it was in King’s stories that you found his greatest accomplishments.  I’m not sure I’d completely buy that, but there’s an awful lot of good stuff in a book like Night Shift or Skeleton Crew.

People’s mileage with King tends to vary, the way it seems to with Tolkien.  I love his stuff, and can’t wait to get back to it.

Boskone 52!

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In about a month, I’ll be driving east to participate in the 52nd annual Boskone.  It’s been a couple of years since my last Boskone, and I’m very much looking forward to it.  This is my schedule:

Great Horror for Teens and Tweens

Saturday 11:00 – 11:50, Burroughs (Westin)

Teen fiction is more than BFFs, family issues, and dystopias. A whole lot more. There is a world of dark and dangerous beings who walk the night and infest the pages of teen and tween horror. Panelists share the books that inspired them to love reading and writing horror. Does adult and teen horror differ? Is there a line that should or shouldn’t be crossed? What new stories are coming out that you should be reading?

John Langan (M), Christopher Golden, Jack M. Haringa, Sarah Langan, Paul G. Tremblay

Autographing: Jeffrey Carver, John Langan, Marjorie Liu, Michael Swanwick

Saturday 13:00 – 13:50, Galleria-Autographing (Westin)

Jeffrey A. Carver, John Langan, Michael Swanwick, Marjorie Liu

The Children of Metamorphosis

Saturday 16:00 – 16:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

A hundred years ago, Gregor Samsa awoke from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic dung beetle. Franz Kafka was a fairly obscure writer at the time, but his fiction has since helped to transform literature as it challenged preconceptions about what could be done and how it might be done. What other stories of personal “metamorphosis” have since been published that echo or reflect Kafka’s masterpieces? Panelists discuss “Metamorphosis” (1915), Franz Kafka as an author, and his literary legacy.

James Patrick Kelly (M), F. Brett Cox, Sarah Langan, John Langan, Darrell Schweitzer

Notes for Participant(s)

An interesting link in the Paris Review written by David Cronenberg http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2014/01/17/the-beetle-and-the-fly/

Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem

Saturday 20:00 – 20:50, Burroughs (Westin)

Dark fiction and suspense are natural bedfellows. What is it about their synergy that works so well? How do you walk the line between mystery and suspense when there are monsters tearing their way through the plot? And how do dark fiction and horror help generate or amplify those nail-biting moments that make readers blaze through a story to see how it ends?

Leigh Perry (M), Dana Cameron, John Langan, Paul G. Tremblay

Reading: John Langan

Saturday 21:00 – 21:25, Griffin (Westin)

John Langan

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

From comics to movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has succeeded in keeping comic book fans interested and engaging new ones. With the weekly television show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the reach extends. How does the show expand the storytelling toolkit of comics and/or the movies? Which elements have been successful and which could use some improvement?

Jack M. Haringa (M), LJ Cohen, Jim Mann, Marshall Ryan Maresca, John Langan

Kaffeeklatsch: John Langan

Sunday 12:00 – 12:50, Galleria-Kaffeeklatsch 1 (Westin)

John Langan

If you’re around and can afford it, think about dropping by, and if you do, please say hi.