Here are the nominees:
THE MEMORY OF SKY (Robert Reed) Paperback, 624 pages.
Diamond is an odd little boy, a seemingly fragile child—who proves to be anything but. An epic story begins when he steps into the world his parents have so carefully kept him from, a world where gigantic trees each house thousands of humans and another human species, the papio, rule its far edges. Does Diamond hold the promise to remake one species and, perhaps, change all of the Creation?
THE INTERESTINGS (Meg Wolitzer) Paperback, 400 pages.
The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.
THE WEIRDNESS (Jeremy P. Bushnell) Paperback, 288 pages.
Along the way, Billy learns about courage, friendship, and love, while considering some important questions: Why do people have pets? Who would store seafood in a warehouse in Chelsea? And where do those bananas in bodegas come from, anyway?
THE RICH AND THE DEAD (Liv Spector) Paperback, 320 pages.
Welcome to Star Island, where Miami’s wealthiest residents lead private lives behind the tall gates of their sprawling mansions. It’s a blissful escape from the hot and dirty city—or it was, until New Year’s Day 2015, when twelve of the most powerful people in the world were found murdered in the basement of a Star Island mansion.
The massacre shocked the nation and destroyed the life of investigator Lila Day. Her hunt for the Star Island killer consumed her. But the case went unsolved, resulting in her dismissal from the Miami PD.
Now, three years later, life hands Lila an unexpected second chance: reclusive billionaire Teddy Hawkins approaches Lila and asks her to solve the case. But how do you investigate a crime when all the leads have long ago gone cold? The answer, Teddy tells her, is to solve the case before it happens. He’s going to send Lila back in time.
With nothing left to lose, an incredulous Lila travels back to 2014, determined to find the Star Island killer once and for all. But as she goes undercover among the members of Miami’s high society, she finds herself caring for—and falling for—people who are destined to die that fateful night. Now she must either say good-bye or risk altering the future forever.
BLACK MOON (Kenneth Calhoun) Paperback, 290 pages.
Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs knows. Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed to the telltale red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech and cloudy mind before disappearing into the quickly collapsing world. Yet Biggs can still sleep, and dream, so he sets out to find her.
He ventures out into a world ransacked by mass confusion and desperation, where he meets others struggling against the tide of sleeplessness. Chase and his buddy Jordan are devising a scheme to live off their drug-store lootings; Lila is a high school student wandering the streets in an owl mask, no longer safe with her insomniac parents; Felicia abandons the sanctuary of a sleep research center to try to protect her family and perhaps reunite with Chase, an ex-boyfriend. All around, sleep has become an infinitely precious commodity. Money can’t buy it, no drug can touch it, and there are those who would kill to have it. However, Biggs persists in his quest for Carolyn, finding a resolve and inner strength that he never knew he had.
Cast your vote! The poll closes next Saturday.
This morning, on the drive back home from the farmers market, the conversation turned to eyes. According to Akemi, one of the instructors at her English language school: “Has eyes like Husky!”. Clearly, them’s some lovely eyes. But, apparently, they don’t hold a candle to those of my writing partner. ”Munyu Munyu’s eyes [her nickname for Paul] have more power.” Yeah, he gets that a lot. Akemi likes his eyes. He wins the male category. When it comes to the female category, Robert Cooper’s wife, Hillary, is the big winner: “She has beautiful eyes. Like flowers inside!” Like flowers!
In addition to her unique turns of phrase, Akemi has produced some equally inspired creations in the kitchen. Check out these Stargate cookies:
Cacio e pepe…
And this homemade eggnog for yours truly:
And roasted chicken meatballs (hiding melted cheese centers)…
Akemi flexes her culinary muscles…
Continuing our Book of the Month Club discussion of Terms of Enlistment…
Kathode writes: “And did anyone else get annoyed that we never learn Halley’s first name? WTF? She calls him Andrew, and he refers to her exclusively by her last name, even in his thoughts? That’s kinda fucked up, no?”
Answer: Wait, I thought Halley WAS her first name. No? Then that is mighty strange. We made this a gag in the SG-1 episode 200 when Jack calls Sam “Carter” on their wedding day!
Katholde writes: “I only brought it up because Grayson himself felt the weight of what he’d done when he saw the floors above the grenade impact site pancake one on top of the other. He told us he felt bad that he’d been responsible for the deaths of so many innocent people. If he’d really felt entirely blameless in his actions, he’d have had no problem telling Halley about it via email.”
Answer: Well that’s what I found so strange. He expresses that initial regret, clearly doesn’t want to discuss it in the email, but we delve no deeper into his conflicted feelings. Sure, he feels justified for his actions, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t still feel conflicted or somewhat guilty.
Line Noise writes: “Re: Andrew being at the right place at the right time. I think that’s a limitation of first person narrative. Because you only have the point of view of one person in the story the author needs to contrive situations that gets that person to where the next part of the story goes. If the story was third person and following several characters then I think it would have been structured differently (Andrew staying on Earth and Halley encountering the aliens, for example).”
Answer: The need for something to happen is not an acceptable excuse for coincidental or contrived development. There are other, albeit trickier, ways to get there. They just require more thought and effort.
Line Noise writes: “Re: soul searching and self- torture. One of my least favourite book series that I read was The Seafort Saga by David Feintuch. The hero starts off as a Midshipman in the space Navy and through a series of events over many books makes lots of hard decisions that kills a lot of people in order to save many, many more. He is so consumed with guilt that I ended up hating him because of his self-pity.”
Answer: I’d argue there’s a fairly wide-ranging middle ground between feeling guiltless and consumed by self-pity
Bad news for my writing partner. Apparently, an intimate knowledge of the Home and Garden network line-up and/or those various storage locker reality shows ISN’T going to offer much traction in our upcoming L.A. meetings. According to my agent, one of the first things an executive will ask us will be: “So, what do you watch?”. Me? Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, True Detective, The Walking Dead, Les Revenants, Sherlock, Downton Abbey. My writing partner? Those shows where people redecorate your house. Also, almost all of the tattoo parlour-related offerings. Hmmm. The answer is supposed to offer insight into our personal t.v. tastes and philosophies, in addition to giving those in attendance the opportunity to bond over shared interests. It can also, presumably, as was the case when I was talking to my agent this morning, have just the opposite effect. Hey, don’t get me wrong. I thought Broadchurch was a fine series – but “great”? He didn’t use his powers of deductive reasoning to solve anything! The murderer simply gave himself up! How is that dramatically satisfying?!
Okay, granted, I do tend to get worked up over such trifles as story and logic – which makes for great party debates but perhaps, in the long run, far less successful meetings with the network executives whose favorite show you happen to be eviscerating. Even more awkward if it happens to be a show on his/her network. I’ll never forget the time I met the then President of MGM Television who was visiting the Stargate offices for the day. After chatting with me for a few minutes, he checked his watch and informed me he had to catch a cab back to the hotel so he could watch the premiere of the rebooted musical series Fame. I laughed out loud. Heh. Good one. Fame. It turned out he was serious. Shiiiiiooooot. So I did the only thing any level-headed person in my position would have done. I said it was nice meeting him and reminded him who I was, dropping my writing partner’s name instead.
It looks like we have our work cut out for us in the lead-up to our L.A. tour-de-force. He has brush up on some non-reality t.v. while I have to practice self-restraint. There are going to be a tough few weeks ahead for both of us.
Of course all this prep could be for naught if one of our standing projects gets the green light. A decision on A.K.A. will be made sometime this month. Dark Matter is still a possibility as are two other projects we’re in contention on. But in the event none of these pan out, then we have to start thinking about L.A., either staffing on a network show in April, or going down to pitch May/June with an eye to landing on a cable series. Ideally, I want to run my own show, but I’m not willing to sacrifice another year to make it happen. So, in addition to practicing self-restraint and making travel plans, I’ve got to come up with some new material. We’ve got three original pilots completed – Dark Matter, Damnation, and A.K.A. – and I’m about to put the finishing touches on the Southern Gothic script I co-write with the delightfully acerbic Tara Yelland. I’ve started work on an over-the-top SF actioneer and just started thinking about a DARK drama to round things off. I figure that if things don’t pan out, I’ll just go ahead and program my own network with my stack of scripts.
So, out of curiosity, what is the one show out there that everyone you know LOVES that you absolutely HATE? And why?
The other day, a friend of mine floated the idea of a group trip to Las Vegas. With the proposed dates over two months away, I thought I’d try to book my flight and/or hotel on points. After all, I’ve amassed an impressive amount on my Aeroplan program, a loyalty program that “THEORETICALLY” allows people to exchange their hard-earned reward points for things like airplane tickets, hotel stays, or a Broil King professional barbecue tool set featuring a durable design tough enough for even the most demanding griller! Yes, I’m sitting on a healthy balance, not so much because of my spending habits, but due to the fact that it’s been almost two years since I’ve actually been able to redeem points for any sort of travel rewards. Drawing on my experience, and the experience of friends, I believe your chances of successfully booking a flight on Aeroplan is roughly equivalent to your odds of catching a home run ball at a major league baseball game.
Having said that, I’m sure you’re wondering how I fared this time. After all, how does the saying go? Thirty-sixth time’s the charm?
The first thing I did was look into a flight to Vegas in mid to late May. The good people at Aeroplan offered me exactly ONE, a United Airlines flight that leaves Vancouver at before-the-crack-of-dawn 6:30 a.m. and touches down in Vegas at 8:49 p.m. Yes, that’s right. A 14+ hour flight with what I can only assume is a stopover in New Delhi. If, on the other hand, I want the basic comforts of a direct 2 hour and 40 minute route, it’ll cost me.
I then looked into hotels, hopefully something on or close to the strip. Again, no dice. I was offered a grand total of three choices. Two were approximately an hour drive from the strip and the third, while closer, is apparently located by some railway tracks. On the bright side, complimentary earplugs come with the room. And I wish I was kidding, but no.
In hindsight, I figured, maybe two months is a little tight. If you’re going to redeem your points for travel rewards, maybe you should look to book well in advance of your trip. How well in advance? Six months? Eight months? How about TEN MONTHS? Surely Aeroplan would be able to accommodate my late January of 2015 Tokyo trip?
Alas, no. After checking the “My Dates Are Flexible” box, how many non-stop flights to Tokyo was I offerED some TEN MONTHS in advance of my trip?
Exactly zero. None. Zilch.
Our of curiosity, I tried to book as far in advance as Aeroplan would allow, almost a full year before my planned travel date. So, how many non-stops flights to Tokyo was Aerogold offering some TWELVE MONTHS in advance of my trip?
Exactly zero. None. Zilch.
I remember a time when I used to actually be able to redeem my Aeroplan points for travel rewards. Granted, it was two years ago but still, there was a time. So what’s happened between then and now? Are there that many more people snatching up the available seats – up to a year in advance? Have, as I suspect, the actual number of seats allotted to Aeroplan been decreased? I’ve tried to contact Aerogold for answers but haven’t had much luck getting through despite multiple attempts.
Apparently, the odds of your actually talking to someone to their call center? Only slightly better than your odds of successfully booking a flight on their rewards program.
After an all-too lengthy hiatus, our Book of the Month Club is back. Let me get the ball rolling by offering up my thoughts on this month’s title…
The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day:
You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service.
With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.
Military SF in the vein of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War but minus Scalzi’s trademark humor and colorful characters. To be fair, Scalzi is in a class all his own and the comparison is perhaps unfair, but Terms of Enlistment invites it on the similarities of its narrative elements and the strength of its highly detailed, wholly involving extended action sequences. In the case of the latter, it brings to mind another stylistically similar, equally engaging military SF series: David Weber’s Honor Harrington books. Kloos is at his very best in the heat of battle. Whether its street-level urban combat, engagements against aliens on off-world terrain, or space-based skirmishes, he does a masterful job immersing the reader in the various conflicts. And the fact that these varied conflicts comprise fully the last two-thirds of the novel makes for some very compelling reading. However -
Getting there is a bit of a chore because the first (battle-free) third of the book, from our hero’s introduction through his military training, is frustratingly deficient in characterization. We are introduced to our protagonist, Andrew Grayson, his motivations for enlisting (to escape a life of Earth-bound poverty), his relationship with mother (he loves her) and father (he hates him), but aren’t offered much beyond these fairly broad strokes. He undergoes intense training, meets a fellow cadet, tries his best not to fall in love, misses her when she’s assigned to a different branch – but it’s a lot of surface with little depth. And consistently serious. Just a touch of humor would have gone a long way towards humanizing these characters and making them more appealing. The same goes for the supporting players, cadets and veterans mostly distinguished by their physical traits, who come and go with no real consequence. It’s hard to grieve for someone you never really knew, and just as hard to root for someone you fail to connect with. As a result, the horrors of war depicted later in the book don’t resonate as strongly, landing more on the side of viscerally alarming than emotionally impactful, while the chapters dedicated to Andrew’s time in training feel like a long rev in low gear. But -
When Andrew is finally stationed Earthside, things really pick up, and not just in terms of the action. Beyond the life or death stakes are the moral implications of urban warfare against one’s fellow citizens and the ethical grey zone of collateral damage. I say “ethical grey zone” because, at one point in the novel, Andrew uses lethal – it could be argued excessive – force to take out an enemy sniper, killing many innocents in the process. In his mind, he was justified. His superiors, however, are somewhat less inclined to forgive his actions slide because of the optics are so bad. It’s an interesting issue that gets resolved all too quickly and Andrew is shipped off into space to continue his service. It feels like a missed opportunity and emblematic of the book as a whole. Kloos is a terrific writer and the pieces are there for a riveting, deeply resonating masterpiece of military SF, but Terms of Enlistment never rises to its full potential. Once we’re into the meat of the story, it’s fast-paced and absorbing, but never poignant or thought-provoking.
Overall, an enjoyable read but not one that stayed with me.
So, what did you all think? Let’s discuss.
G’head! Take it! Click on the cloud to take the quiz.
I got Mario Batali’s Apron!
What’d YOU get?
No word yet on the test results, but Jelly is feeling much better, post-surgery, as you can see -
As always, she thanks you for your support.
The Oscars 2014 – Best Picture Nominees (pug version):
Two competing offal feasts on tap for March – and on the same night no less! Over at Wildebeest, they’re doing something called Meditations on a Tamworth Pig. The menu:
Nose-to-tail dining at its best, Quinto Quarto offers a rare opportunity to enjoy the odd bits. Expect crispy pig’s ears with preserved green tomatoes, Fraser Valley duck cooked three ways including duck heart tartare, Pacific octopus, lamb neck, bone marrow, white chocolate with caramelized crackling, and of course, soft serve ice creamand more.
On the SAME NIGHT!
Crispy pig’s ear vs brain beignets! Duck heart tartare vs chicken and pork tongue mousse! Lamb neck and bone marrows vs pork belly and headcheese! How could I possibly choose?
My buddy Ivon alerted me this story about a woman who’s fulfilling a bucket list for her dying dog:
Earlier this month, Subway announced that its bread would no longer contain a chemical foaming agent (presumably as part of their “Now with 100% less azodicarbonamide!” campaign). Well, 1 down, approximately 500 to go. Consults this handy list of foods containing the industrial chemical: http://www.ewg.org/research/nearly-500-ways-make-yoga-mat-sandwich#brandtable
Alarming news for all you whisky enthusiasts. The Shortage Worth Worrying About: Great Whiskey Time to start stocking up on Pappy Van Winkle 15 while it’s still going for $982 a bottle!
Kite-Man! Polka-Dot Man! The King of Cats! Presenting 2o Laughably Terrible Batman Villains: http://io9.com/batmans-20-least-formidable-foes-1533476013
Big day today for my gal Jelly. She’s in for surgery – and a possible teeth cleaning while she’s under. Last month, I noticed a curious lump on her belly and made an appointment to have it checked out. Of course, by the time I brought her in, the mysterious lump had mysteriously disappeared. I dismissed it and didn’t think anything of it until a couple of weeks ago when it reappeared. And so, I brought her in again last week and, this time, tests confirmed it was a tumour. I instantly thought of my handsome pug Maximus who went through a similar ordeal. But, unlike Maximus, Jelly is in great spirits. Her appetite is unaffected and I take this as a good sign. The doctor won’t know the seriousness of the cancer (apparently, there are three stages) until they’ve removed the entire tumour and had it tested. But, first things first.
Jelly is an impressive 15. Despite her bad hips, she’s able to manage a half block walk every day. And then, when Bubba and Lulu go for a walk, she sits it out – but still comes along for the ride.
Anyway, as I await word, I leave you with a couple of doggy videos. You’re going to want to turn up the sound for this one…
And the gang eating peanut butter…
Will report back with an update once I hear word!
Jelly thanks you for your support.
THIS guy -
- is, of course, former Stargate Executive Producer and writer Carl Binder who called me this morning to catch up. Coincidentally, I was just thinking about him the other day and was meaning to give HIM a call after Akemi inquired: “How’s Binder-san?”. Well, Binder-san is doing great and keeping busy with several projects on the go. Like Paul and I, he’ll be hearing back on his various irons in the fire shortly. Yep, very soon we’re all going to finally get word. Rob, Carl, Paul and myself. With a half dozen projects between us, you’d figure the chances are good, right? How good?
I’d love to get back into production sooner than later if, for no other reason, than the opportunity to once again work with THIS guy -
And now, following yesterday’s entry on some of the March movie releases that caught my eye, here are some of the under-the-radar releases to look forward to next month. Or not.
Release Date: March 5, 2014
What it’s about: The launch of the Large Hadron Collider
What it’s got working for it: An inside look at one of history’s biggest and most expensive experiments.
What’s it’s got going against it: Science can be fun. But, sometimes, it can be boring.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Release Date: March 7, 2014
What it’s about: A concierge and lobby boy contend with some coloful guests at the Grand Budapest Hotel.
What it’s got working for it: If you like Wes Anderson’s quirky sensibilities, this movie looks promising.
What’s it’s got going against it: On the other hand, if you find his sense of humor annoying, you might want to give this movie a pass.
THE GRAND PIANO
Release Date: March 7, 2014
What it’s about: A concert pianist performs under the watchful eye of a sniper, burdened by the treat scribbled on his sheet music: “Play one wrong note and you die.”.
What it’s got working for it: The premise sounds like Speed at a piano concerto.
What’s it’s got going against it: Actually, it sounds like an SNL parody of Speed – at a a piano concerto. When was Brian DePalma’s last good movie?
Release Date: March 7, 2014
What it’s about: A university lecturer tracks down his doppelgänger.
What it’s got working for it: Could be creepy.
What’s it’s got going against it: Or unintetionally silly.
Release Date: March 14, 2014
What it’s about: Two teenagers seek revenge against a murderer.
What it’s got working for it: Based on a true story.
What’s it’s got going against it: As always, there’s the danger of dramatic license trumping a satisfyingly straightforward dramatization of fact.
Release Date: March 14, 2014
What it’s about: Veronica Mars is back on the case when her ex-boyfriend is accused of murder.
What it’s got working for it: Three seasons of t.v. history and a rabid fan base.
What’s it’s got going against it: Television shows rarely make the successful leap to the big screen.
Release Date: March 21, 2014
What it’s about: In New York of the 1970′s, a cop must deal with the problems engendered by his ex-con brother.
What it’s got working for it: A solid cast.
What’s it’s got going against it: Ho hum, it feels like we’ve seen it all before.
Release Date: March 21, 2014
What it’s about: A mysterious couple engages two hard-luck friends in a series of increasingly dares for cash.
What it’s got working for it: Possibly a cutting social satire.
What’s it’s got going against it: Or, on the other hand, just a nasty piece of filmmaking.