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Posts Tagged ‘Unwelcome Bodies’

Before I turn this blog over to guest author Jennifer Pelland who has kindly taken time out of her busy writing/belly dancing schedule to spend time with us and field your questions about her dark SF collection, Unwelcome Bodies, I ‘d just like to remind everyone that –

Emmy award nominated Stargate: Atlantis Visual Effects Guru Mark Savela will be visiting with us next week and he’ll be bringing visual aids. Have some burning questions for the maestro? Start posting.

And – I hereby dedicate this blog entry to birthday girl Sheppynette.

Finally, if you’d like to get the update on all things Jennifer Pelland, check out: http://jenwrites.livejournal.com/ 

Over to Jennifer…

First off, I want to thank everyone who even attempted to get through my book. I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t know if I could have read “Big Sister/Little Sister” if I hadn’t written it myself. My ick threshold is higher for writing than it is for reading, and higher for reading than it is for viewing. I was recently reading Matt Wallace’s collection The Fix and had to give up on one of the stories early on because the ick was just too well-done for my delicate sensibilities.

I can hear you all laughing at the thought that I have delicate sensibilities.

Anyhow, since you slogged through my work, I’m going to pay you back by doing my best to answer all of your questions.

Joe writes: “Just wondering what you enjoy reading and whether you can pinpoint any influences in your writing.”

I would like to be able to say that Octavia Butler influenced my serious writing, but I’m afraid that would come off as pretentious. I hope to some day be able to write with a fraction of her intensity and clarity. She was one of the masters of our field, and we lost her way too soon. I want to be influenced by Neil Gaiman, but so far, my imagination hasn’t gotten nearly as free as his, nor have I learned how to write a lyrical description (every time I try, it just comes out purple). My terseness is probably thanks to Kurt Vonnegut. Since I read Vonnegut earlier than Gaiman by about a decade, I suspect it’s too late for Gaiman to override my Vonnegut programming. As for my silly stuff, it owes a lot to Douglas Adams and Monty Python, both of which I was exposed to in my early teens as my sense of humor was maturing. But there’s little evidence of that in the collection. I decided not to put any funny stories in there because I was afraid the juxtaposition of silly and icky could cause brain sprains.

KellyK writes: “My question is a bit of cliche and given the horror quotient of your book, I’m almost afraid to ask it but…Where DO YOU get your ideas?”

Ah, that infamous question. The traditional answer is something flippant like “Cleveland” or “mail-order,” but the real answer pretty much involves a writer throwing their hands in the air and gibbering.

It’s so varied. Sometimes a pair of words come together in my head and a story follows (“Clone Barbecue” – my story about a rich guy who clones himself so he can see what he tastes like). Sometimes, frustration with the weather does it (“Snow Day” – my silly sex, snow, and androids piece). Other times, the news is enough (“For the Plague Thereof Was Exceeding Great” – that was sparked by my frustration with a newspaper report on a global AIDS conference). And sometimes, it just involves hard work. I will occasionally sit down with a pen and paper and make notes on what kind of story I’d like to write (“set in space,” “body issues,” “feminism,” “want to make reader laugh *and* cry”) and then see what starts coming together in my brain.

And for the record, I no longer recall what inspired “Big Sister/Little Sister.” It’s probably for the best.

Sylvia writes: “You noted that there was one story that was the most “positive” of the bunch. How do you gage the intensity? What is your measure to “know” the width of that spectrum? I was fascinated in that each story took to the “darkness,” some more than others. So, can you share insight on this? […] What sets your mood to write? How do story lines surface for you?”
 

 

My stories tend to organically find their intensity levels. I just try to bring the story to the place that will best serve it. Often times, when I’m working on a piece and it feels off, it’s because I’ve misjudged where I need to take it. For instance, I struggled with “Brushstrokes” for months because my protagonist was a total wide-eyed naïf. Things happened to him — he didn’t make things happen. So once I fixed that, the story got darker and sexier and finally felt like it worked. Meanwhile, in “The Last Stand of the Elephant Man,” I had plenty of opportunities to make the piece extremely dark, but I didn’t want to do that to poor Joseph Merrick, and I suspect my readers wouldn’t want to read that either. After all, the whole point of writing it was so I could do something to save him even though he’d been dead for a century.

As for mood-setting, I just sit on the bed, put the laptop on my lap, and surf the web until I get bored. Then I write. It also helps to have a cat curled up at my hip. My first writing cat was Titania, who died four years ago. Her position has been taken over by Callisto. And sometimes Antiope will sit at my other hip, but she’s much less reliable, because she’d rather be sitting on my husband.

Christin writes: “Since you excel at writing dark fiction, is there any subject that’s off limits to you? Have you found something that you just can’t write because it’s too dark for you?”
 

 

I can’t do hard-core gore, because I can’t help but think about how it would feel if it happened to me or to someone I love. I can’t do awful things to cats in stories either, because it makes me cry. Actually, I prefer to stay away from as much violence to animals as I can. (Not surprisingly, I’m a vegetarian.) And this isn’t related to dark, but I won’t seriously lambaste religions that I’ve never been a part of. I may take light potshots at some of them, but I save my daggers for Catholicism (and by extension, other repressive Christian churches), which was the religion I was raised in, and earth religions/new agers (which I actually still feel warmly towards, but don’t believe in giving a free pass to), which is the religion I practiced in my twenties.

Thornyrose writes: “First, do you see yourself primarily as a short story author, or do you look to a future as a novelist? Which authors and what books do you look to as inspiration to become a writer? Do you intentially seek to produce such disturbing stories as Big Sister/Little Sister, or do the stories write themselves? What envirement do you like to write in? Certain times of the day, cloistered in a small room and silence, or in a more open setting with background music/noise? Do you set yourself a schedule when you will write, or do you write as the mood or the deadline dictates?”
 

 

I’m torn over the short story/novelist thing. I’ve actually written and tried to sell two novels already with no success, and I’m slowly writing a third novel right now. But there’s a strong temptation to stick to short stuff because I’ve proven that I can sell shorts. Plus, failure to sell a novel means failure of two years’ worth of effort, whereas short story failures represent much shorter chunks of wasted life.

As for authors, I’ve loved an eclectic mix over the years: Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Octavia Butler, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, Lyda Morehouse. And that’s just novelists. I’d start rattling off short story authors, but I know too many folks in that business and don’t want any of them to feel slighted. But I will mention James Patrick Kelly. I have very consciously tried to emulate him on occasion when writing really far-future stuff, because he’s got an incredible way of writing futures that skirt just at the edge of our comprehension, which is what I think the future should sound like.

Disturbing stuff…well, usually I just go with the ideas that come to me, which probably says rather unpleasant things about how my brain works. Sometimes I don’t know how nasty an idea will turn out, other times I do. I have a tendency to know two things about a story: the beginning and middle, or the beginning and ending. I never know all three. So sometimes when I don’t know the ending, I can be surprised by where I come realize the story needs to go. And sometimes I tailor my ending to the market I’m aiming for. Like when Jason Sizemore from Apex Digest requested a pair of stories from me — one for the magazine, one for an anthology. Those had to be dark. So I knew from the start that I had to do my best to steer down a particular icky path. (Neither story is in the collection, by the way. But “Blood Baby” is available in The Best of Apex Digest 2006 and “YY” is available in Aegri Somnia.) (Aside #2: Apex rocks!)

I answered some of the environment question above, but to answer the new bits, I generally like to write when the sun is up, and I need an environment without voices. My brain fixates on spoken words, so if the TV is on in the next room, or if the neighbors are being noisy, I’ll put on a CD I have of a brook in a forest (i.e. nature’s white noise) to drown it out. I should schedule writing, but I’m really bad about it. Since I’m generally writing on spec and not on contract, I write as the spirit moves me. On top of writing, I’ve got a full-time job, I’m taking belly dance (my teacher just talked me into my first public solo performance — eep!), plus I’ve got a spouse and a television that both need lovin’. So writing happens when it happens.

Brian Rice writes: “1) Why the fascination with body mutilation?
 

 

Body modification is just endlessly fascinating to me. I’m drawn to the extremes — from Pete Burns and Amanda Lepore’s deliberately freakish faces, to people who’ve used piercings, scarring, and implants to make their faces inhuman. I can’t look away, even when I’m looking between my fingers because I can’t stomach taking it all in at once. And then I can’t help but think what the future will bring as plastic surgery gets safer, cheaper, more extreme, and reversible. So I tend to play with that a lot in my work. (For the record, my body modifications are extremely mild — four tattoos and six ear piercings on my lobes.)

2) I really enjoyed the story notes. Okay, that’s not really a question.
 

 

Thank you! And remember, it makes a lovely gift 😉

3) How many stories have you had published? Plans for another collection sometime?
 

 

Let me go count the stories on my online bibliography…28 published stories. Well, 27 published, one coming out next year. Wait, no, 29. I’ve published one piece of smut under a pseudonym. If this collection sells well, I’ll happily entertain the idea of putting out another one if an editor asks me to. And this time, I’d probably do a collection of my wacky/lighter stuff. Seven of those published stories are humor.

4) I’d really be interested in seeing novel length work from you. Got anything in the works?”
 

 

See above for the answer on novel-length work. Some day, I hope to get lucky enough to con an agent into taking me on, but so far, they’ve all had the good sense to stay far, far away.

Terry writes: “To Jennifer I ask, do you worry that your style or subject matter may limit the range of your audience? How do you define success as a writer? Critical acclaim or monetary success or the satisfaction of having done something different and challenging? Something else?”
 

 

I do sometimes wonder if I there’s any way to learn how to write less icky stories. But I’m not going to force it. I’ve been told by many an editor that readers can tell when you’re writing something that you don’t love. Success? Guh, it seems to be a moving target for me. I’d hoped that the Nebula nomination would make me feel like a success, and it did for a little while, and then I realized that the movers and shakers in the industry cared more about long-term track records than they did about a lone award nomination. So that was sobering. I’d like to think that I’d feel successful if I managed to get a novel published, but I’m sure I’ll find some way to devalue that in my brain as well. Pessimism sucks sometimes, but it’s the way I’m wired, so I guess that only leaves me sweet, sweet liquor as my solace. Uh…did I say liquor? Oh, hell, guilty as charged. You can take the liquor away from the Irish girl, but you can’t stop her from whipping out a kitchen knife and demanding that you return it.

Mel writes: “Mel writes: “This is a question for Ms. Pelland. I loved Unwelcome Bodies, Captive Girl being my favorite in the collection. I wonder where you found the inspiration for writing such a heartwrenching love story?”
 

 

As I said in the note at the end of the story, it was a combination of seeing a painting in the art show at a convention and then going to a panel about writing what scares you. I also drew upon conversations I had with a couple of very large female friends about chubby chasers. One of them said that she’d be more than happy to date someone who found her body attractive, and the other said she would never in a million years want to be with someone who fetishized her body. And so I started thinking how that must apply to people whose bodies were even farther from the mythical norm — what if the only love you can get is from someone who gets off on the thing that makes your body unattractive to everyone else? So I played around with that idea. I’m very proud to say that I got a comment from a blind reader who said that I perfectly nailed the complexities of consent in caretaker/caretakee relationships. I didn’t do any research on that angle, so I simply lucked into getting it right.

Airelle writes: “Do you always carry paper/recorder with you, if an idea happens to strike?
Are there stories that you have never been able to finish for whatever reason?
What kind of cats do you have? male/female? longhair/shorthair?”
 

 

I generally have something I can write on on my person, be it my composition notebook or my Palm Pilot or some random receipt that I’ve stuffed in my giant pockebook. But at this point, I generally don’t have any trouble holding onto ideas when they strike. Early in my career, I did, but I’m convinced that’s because they weren’t very good ideas.

And yes, I have a stack of unfinished stories, woe and alas. Usually, I stop working on something because I come to realize it’s crap and that I’d rather put the effort into starting something new and potentially better than to try to figure out how to turn crap into gold. I suppose that’s a perk of being a short-story writer — if you give up on a story, you’re probably only giving up on a few weeks, or perhaps months of work. If you give up on a novel, that could be over a year of work down the drain.

I have three female shorthairs. Hippolyta, aka the Grumpy Old Bitch, is a 10-year-old tabby with a white belly and a bad attitude. She was pulled out of a home with 85 cats and one little old man when she was 7 months old and 2 weeks pregnant. We met her at a shelter post-abortion/spay, where she seemed nice enough. Then we brought her home and she’s distained us ever since. But we still love her (which she wishes we wouldn’t) and feed her (which she appreciates a little too much). Antiope is a 4-year-old calico with serious amounts of white in her coat. She was found in the woods as a kitten. The shelter believes coyotes got the rest of her family. She’s aggressively a lap cat — specifically, my husband’s lap. If she can’t sit on him, she’s miserable. We also think she’s part-Siamese due to the volume of her misery. And finally, we’ve got 4-year-old Callisto, aka Callie, the tortoiseshell, who is one of the sweetest cats we’ve ever shared a house with, although no one else knows this, because she’s terrified of people who aren’t me or my husband. Her most unusual trait is self-suckling. She went into heat very young, and stayed in heat until she was spayed, whereupon she discovered the joy of her own nipples. We were disturbed at first, especially given the fervor of her devotion, but then we realized that nothing could be more pure and innocent than the love of a kitten for her own body, so we let her be. And like all journeys of self-discovery, her fervor died down over time, and now she only slurps on herself a couple of times a day instead of near-constantly.

Pictures for the curious: http://www.jenniferpelland.com/cats.html

And yes, bonus points to the folks who noticed that they all have Amazon names. We love our little Amazon tribe. Hell, Hippolyta took it a little too literally. She had to have a double mastectomy five or so years back, so now she has a mere six breasts instead of eight. But she has very luxurious belly fur, so she doesn’t need falsies.

Antisocial Butterflie writes: “Do you prefer writing short stories? If you do, is it because you find yourself bouncing through a maze of vastly different ideas? Do you have characters that stick with you or is it the situations that drive your stories?
I also have one oddball question. Feel free to ignore it if it is too personal. Are you an active dreamer? I got the impression from your book that you are one of those people who has a very active subconscious and remembers all of their dreams upon waking. Just a hunch.”

 

 

I like short stories for several reasons. There’s the aforementioned reason of knowing that I can sell them. Also, the story ideas that tend to come to me are short-story or novelette length. I have to really work to find an idea that will sustain an entire novel. So yeah, I think short is my natural length. And while I bitch and moan about how annoying it is to have to create new worlds from scratch for every story, I clearly must be getting something out of it, because I’ve never written a story in the same universe twice. I actually feel like I’m cheating if I use a bit of invented lingo in more than one piece.

As for characters vs. ideas, I tend to come up with ideas first, characters second, but sometimes the characters come first. I have a much easier time populating an idea with characters than I do the other way around. This could explain why “Brushstrokes” took so damned long to come together. The characters definitely came first for that one. “Firebird” was one of the rare ones where I got both at the same time, although the character/plot that hit me was in the form of Kay. It took me a couple of months to figure out that Kay would not be the protagonist of the story. Thankfully, those were thinking months and not writing months.

And yes, I’m a fairly active dreamer, although I rarely get stuff out of my dreams that I can use in stories (with a few notable exceptions, like “Last Bus”). I’m really good at remembering my dreams if I wake up from them, but I never remember any that I have during other parts of the night. Oh, and you should be glad that I don’t generally tend to write what I dream about, because my dreams have a pretty strong fecal component. I won’t even tell you what I woke up from this morning (bleech!).

Fsmn writes:
1. I really appreciate the notes you wrote for each story. I felt it added greatly to the whole piece. What inspired you to do this? Was it at the editor’s encouragement or are you merely a person who loves to talk about your work and ideas?
 

 

Thanks! I wrote them at the suggestion of a friend of mine who asked if I’d be doing that. I thought it sounded like a neat idea, and ran it by my editor, who agreed. And yes, I’m someone who loves to talk (and talk and talk)…

2. Can you talk a bit about the publishing aspect of your stories? At what point did you decide to submit stories to the magazines? How was that process for you (what did it entail, was it enjoyable, easier than going straight to a some other format)? And how was this book released so quickly? Was it the format (short stories)? The publishing company? Or something else? I ask merely because I know a lot of authors have to wait at least two years after writing the book before it comes out, whereas your most recent story was only about a year ago.
 

 

I started trying to write for publication when I turned 30. I’d been writing fanfic before that, which was a lot of fun, but 30 was a kick in the pants in many respects, and I decided I was done playing in other people’s universes and wanted to play in my own. It took a while to make the transition, and I was greatly helped by attending the Viable Paradise writing workshop (www.viableparadise.com). My first sale came in 2002 to the online magazine Strange Horizons, and then I sold them a second story two months later. Each story was published only a few months after being bought, which has generally been my experience with my short story sales. Every so often, it’ll take a year between the sale and the publication, and I hear that that’s actually a pretty standard wait for the big magazines (Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF), but I haven’t sold to any of them yet.

You’re right — the book did come out very quickly, but that’s the beauty of a small press. Also, I suspect that collections are easier to toss together than novels and non-reprint anthologies. There’s less editorial work involved, since the bulk of the stories have already been published, so all the editor needs to do is line-edits. They’re not going to send rewrite suggestions for a reprint.

3. What was your favorite story of the bunch? Do you have a favorite? How do you feel about your stories once published? Do you wish you could tweak, do you refuse to reread them, etc.
 

 

I think my favorite is “Brushstrokes,” although “The Last Stand of the Elephant Man” comes close. I really like the emotional arcs at the hearts of both of them. But I also have a tendency to love my newer stories more than my older ones. (And if you didn’t notice, the stories in the book were in chronological order of publication, so the stuff at the end of the book was several years newer than the stuff at the beginning.)

Generally, I’m happy with my stories once they’re published, but there are a few that I look at and think, “What was the editor smoking when they bought this?” Thankfully, there aren’t many that fall in that camp.

As for urges to tweak the older stuff, yeah, I sometimes do have that urge, and every so often I get the opportunity to do so. I got rid of a few awkward bits in some of my older stories for this collection, and I’ve got another potential reprint in the works that I removed a forced bit from. But I don’t make major changes. I feel like it defeats the purpose of reprinting a piece.

4. As Joe mentioned in his review post…any plans for a novel? Pretty sure I’d be first in line to buy it (or at least, the first to preorder it online, lol). Any places I can expect a new story from you, actually?
 

 

If you can con a literary agent into taking me on as a client, then we can talk novels! I’ll be sure to let her/him know that I’ve already got one sale lined up 😉 As for new stories, the place to go is http://www.jenniferpelland.com. I’ve got a mailing list you can sign up for if you want news, or you can read my blog (jenwrites.livejournal.com) if you want news *and* whining! I had a couple of new pieces come out over the past few months, and I’ll have a story in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Three at the beginning of next year. That will be the first time I’ll be published in a book that you can expect to find at most major bookstores, plus they’re paying me in British pounds, which is pretty sweet right now. I just hope they pay me before the dollar recovers.

5. I think my favorite notes were those on “Brushstrokes”. Taking in that and your “Firebird” story…are you a big fan of anything? Do you have a passion for a certain TV show/book/movie universe(s)?
 

 

I have been in the past, but I’m more laid-back about stuff like that now. Of course, Star Wars ruled my childhood. I was seven when the first movie came out, and Han Solo in Jedi fueled my adolescent fantasies (I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with him, but I knew I wanted to do it really badly!). My first organized fandom was Doctor Who, which made it to my local PBS station in the early 1980s. Then TNG came out when I was in college, which got me back into Trek love (I used to watch the repeats with my dad when I was a kid — he’s also the guy who got me into reading science fiction). DS9 got me into reading fanfic, and Voyager got me into writing it, plus I started going to conventions to see as many Trek actors as I could. Babylon 5 was my introduction to more sophisticated science fiction television, plus its actors were so approachable at conventions, unlike the Trek principles, who tended to be very professional during their scheduled appearances and then vanish. I watched a ton of other shows after that, but didn’t really get into another fandom until The Phantom Menace came out, despite the movie’s flaws. And then…I don’t know. Organized fandom lost its appeal, and I simply became a consumer of media again. I suspect all the fandom wank I had to endure in my Voyager days didn’t help anything. And I got sick of convention wank as well. There seems to be less of it in lit cons than media cons, although some of that could simply be a perception issue on my part, because I haven’t been as involved in the backstage stuff at lit cons as I was with media cons.

Actually, I lie. I do have one new fandom activity. I am addicted to Doctor Who macros. I adore cat macros, I adore Doctor Who (both new and old), so http://ihasatardis.livejournal.com/ is probably funnier to me than it has any right to be.

And I think that’s it for the question answering. Thank you, everyone! I’ve had a blast writing up my answers, and reading the flattery hasn’t hurt any either. Now I’ve got to go practice reading “Captive Girl” out loud. I was invited to read it at the Boston Fetish Fair Flea Market on Saturday. I have to say, that’s the most unusual and entertaining offer I’ve ever gotten for a reading, and I couldn’t pass it up. Of course, Readercon is this weekend as well, so I’ll be splitting my time on Saturday between the two. I’d originally intended to head right back to Readercon when I was done at the Flea, but an hour after my reading is the pony demo. I can’t not stay for the ponies! (And no, not ponies the animals, but ponies the people whose fetish it is to pretend to be ponies with grooms.) I’ve also got a reading scheduled for Readercon on Sunday, where there will sadly be no ponies. I have no idea what I’ll be reading there, but I guarantee it’ll be less challenging than “Captive Girl.” I’m still not quite sure how I’m going to read Jayna’s vowel-less typing, but I’ll figure it out by Saturday. And then, it’s on to working out my belly dance performance for Thursday. Did I say eep? Eep!

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Today’s notes session on Remnants was long and involved but went very well. No requests to tone down or lose any of the key beats. Mainly requests for clarity and thematic reinforcement. We followed up with our final meetings of the week – 1) Stunts and SPFX in which we discussed squibs (What’s a squib? Look here: https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/04/20/april-20-2008-my-squibbiest-post-ever/), ratchets, and a plethora of punches, 2) Make-Up, and 3) Extras. I’m pleased to report that Carl enjoyed today’s sushi lunch much more than yesterday’s chicken cartilage. By the way, Carl took exception to my describing him as “bitter” in my last entry, so I’d like to amend my previous statement and go with “cranky” instead. Paul, Marty G., Alan and I remain respectively “aloof”, “impudent”, “brazen”, and “diabolical”.

One more casting session tomorrow afternoon in a bid to find our Kiang. Looks like I’ll be losing Lieberman and bringing back Parrish instead.

Some more thoughts on Unwelcome Bodies –

Ltcoljsheppard writes: “Anyway, the one that really caught me was The Last Bus, as it mirrored a dream I too once had…”

Answer: What did the egg sticker signify in your dream? Maybe you can field this one.

Ltcoljsheppard also writes: “. I felt so bad for her state of existence, but worse still was the fact that her love wouldnt come back to her unless she bound herself up again and pretended to be helpless so the other could feel important and needed. Not only did I feel that showed a great sense of low self-esteem on the caregivers part but teetered too much in the world of abuse.”

Answer: True, but you could also view it as an extreme version of a relationship dynamic I see way too much of – individuals drawn to emotionally needy people.

Ltcoljsheppard also writes: “The Last Stand of the Elephant Man was another that stands out for me. Also I didnt come away from that story feeling a happy tidy ending. I actually put it down feeling that Merrick was going to find himself back inside his own body and then being refused the surgery promised. He was jumping at the “grass could be greener” promises instead of waiting to let the body be healed before choosing to return to it. Unless I missed something there.”

Answer: Really? There was no indication I could see to suggest anything but a happy ending for Merrick.

Your questions to author Jennifer Pelland are now in her hands. Looking forward to her visit in the coming days.

Award-winning artist/illustrator/designer/hot dog-eating champion John Picacio has created covers for the works of many of scifi and fantasy’s top authors and publishers. AND he’ll be swinging by this weekend so if you have any questions for him, start posting…

More guest-blogger announcements to come including a couple Atlantis heavyweights (hint: ryhme with Ark Mavela and Malan ScCullough).

Today’s entry is dedicated to dyginc’s buddy Gus.

Today’s video: A typical Sunday afternoon.  Turn up the sound when you watch it!

Enzo Aquarius writes: “That backhoe you folks have. Do you guys have to rent that kind of heavy equipment or is it on hand at the studio?”

Answer: Big equipment like that would be a rental although, in this case, those services are provided on-site.

A Honshu writes: “Am I even close with the “translation” of the Episode Poem?”

Answer: Somewhat.

Sector24 writes: “1. Are you going to follow the two new much anticipated and talked about series “Dollhouse” and “Fringe”?

2. If asked, for which movie director and genre would you like to write a script?”

Answers: 1. Sure. Fondy and I will check out most of the pilots and then drop shows as our interest in them flags. 2. I’m a big fan of Guillermo del Toro.

Wonderingbrit writes: “In the case viewer statistics, does anyone record the number of internet downloads from sites?”

Answer: The studio certainly counts legal downloads but Sci Fi bases is far more interested in how many viewers tune in to their network.

JoJoB writes: “What happened to Kanaan? Where did Michael go?”

Answer: Tune in to this week’s episode and find out.

Rebekah writes: “A friend of mine is getting married, and they are doing this bit with romantic movie quotes – and they are looking for quotes from science fiction movies. Joe, do you have any favorite romatic sci fi movie quotes?”

Answer: Sure. How about – “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.” (Attack of the Clones).

Airelle writes: “ Is the McKay bathtub scene coming up soon?”

Answer: Episode 3.

Fran writes: “How does an enemy steal a Cloaked Jumper (Search and Rescue), you’d have to have the Gene to fly the thing don’t you?”

Answer: You most certainly would.

Trish writes: “I’m out of the hospital and on the mend.”

Answer: Great to hear!

Trish also writes: “On Search and Rescue, was Michael behind the planet Mars in the Milky Way Galaxy?”

Answer: No, he wasn’t.

Anais33 a ecrit: “Aimez vous le style du site ??”

Answer: Sure.

Amber Hooker writes: “So, what’s the difference between Project Terzo and Project Twilight?”

Answer: The two are completely different projects.

Dyginc writes: “So just heard…my cat has one to six months left. I am not sure what to do here…technically Gus is my sister’s cat so this is her decision but I don’t know if I can handle waking up one morning and finding her gone. For those pet lovers out there that your pet has become like your own kids…what do you think i should do? I mean if we treat her we could have more time with her but then aren’t we just prolonging the inevitable? I am really lost here.”

Answer: Despite the input you may receive, ultimately this is a very tough decision that you’ll have to make all on your own. The best advice I can think to give is not to let guilt dictate the terms. Regardless of what you choose to do, Gus will know that he’s loved.

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A short story anthology is not unlike a season of television. You’ll have your high points, your low points, and all else in between. More often than not, it’s the latter, those in-between entries making up the bulk of the assembly, that will determine whether a show or author warrants a repeat viewing. Take Jennifer Pelland’s Unwelcome Bodies for instance. It presents readers with a colorfully divergent mix of subject matter, from AIDS to self-immolation, climate change to fetishistic relationships. Sure, some of the tales work better than others but, as a whole, this is a tight and thought-provoking collection. Pelland‘s storytelling is lean yet fluid, devoid of tangential narrative meanderings and overly-detailed descriptions yet fully accomplished in its ability to touch, impress, and, occasionally, gut-shank. Each of the entries in the anthology are followed by a much-appreciated author commentary on the thought processes behind the various narratives.

The first story, “For the Plague Thereof Was Exceeding Great” focuses on a future in which an airborne strain of the AIDS virus fuels fear and paranoia in a society made up of increasingly isolated individuals. It’s an interesting premise and certainly well-written, but the SF extrapolation of existing contemporary misconceptions about the disease feels at times a little too on the nose.

“Big Sister/Little Sister”, on the other hand, is a creepy little story about sibling rivalry and revenge. No lessons to be learned here, just a straightforward and deeply unsettling tale of Siamese twins and tortured existence.

In “Immortal Sin”, a man’s inability to reconcile his Catholic beliefs with his sinning ways leads him to take extreme measures to avoid eternal damnation – but, in the end, his efforts confine him to his own private Hell. Of all the entries in this collection, this was my least favorite because of its all-too-convenient developments (ie. the man’s incredibly way-off-base assumptions about a waitress who barely knows his name, his good fortune in being able to access the various technologies he requires to extend his lifespan). Still, the passages in which our paranoid protagonist goes to extreme lengths to avoid any possibility of death by misadventure makes for some very entertaining reading.

In “Flood”, a lonely singer performs in a future where the oceans have dried up and water is the most precious of gift of all. A lot of nice little touches in this entry as Pelland paints a wholly believable picture of what the future may hold. Was I the only one who imagined the female protagonist as a parched and miserable Amy Winehouse?

“The Call” is an interesting little short that posits “What if..?” as it takes us through a potential first contact scenario gone awry. An engaging progression of events within the alien ship leads to an unexpected turn to conclude the proceedings.

“Captive Girl”, a recent Nebula Award nominee, is an intriguing tale about Alice, a severely disabled woman whose disabilities make her an ideal candidate for cosmic sentinel duty, tasked with the responsibility of searching the stars for potential threats to the planet. Alice’s sole refuge from her bleak existence comes in the form of Marika, the woman charged with her care. But when the project is discontinued, Alice faces rehabilitation and the heartbreaking prospect of life without her Marika. Your typical love story it aint. A troubling but thought-provoking tale. Equally fascinating was Pelland’s explanation of her decision to make the main players women. How differently would the story have played out had either one or both of the characters been male? I’d say “very”, perhaps not so much in terms of the narrative but certainly in terms of reader interpretation and response.

“Last Bus” is, in Pelland’s words: “the most positive piece I’ve ever written”. The fact that the origins of this whimsical story about an amnesiac traveler and a mysterious bus route have their roots in one of Pelland’s dreams is not at all surprising given the overall bizarreness of the entry. It’s a peculiar, mystifying little piece and yet strangely charming and satisfying.

“The Last Stand of the Elephant Man” sees Elephant Man John Merrick transported to the year 2304 where he has become the victim of a body swap. Someone has laid claim to his hideously deformed physique and, in exchange, transplanted him into a beautiful, unblemished form. Overjoyed at first, Merrick soon discovers that adjusting to life in this new world may prove as daunting as the one he left behind. Again, very interesting ideas at play here with Merrick conflicted over the treatment of the body he renounced and his discomfort with his wholly different celebrity status, although I did find the happy ending a little too tidy.

“Songs of Lament” offers us an all-too-brief glimpse of a not-too-distant future in which humanity finds itself on the brink of war against a most unlikely opponent: the whale population. The fate of the planet is at stake and it looks like we’re fighting on the wrong side. While the military powers prepare a response to the mounting threat, a woman lies in a hospital bed, driven to the point of madness by the sound of whale songs whose meaning she alone can decipher. Another great premise and a solid entry but one that had the potential for a much longer, more involved treatment.

“Firebird” is told through a series of diary entries. Our narrator is about to begin her first year at a woman’s college and she is thrilled to discover that her roommate will be Kay Myerson, a former pop star turned activist who made “international headlines by setting herself on fire to protest continued inaction on the issue of global climate change”. In the eyes of the narrator and the rest of the student body, Kay is someone to be admired for her dramatic stand. For her part, however, Kay regrets her actions, the effect it has had on her life and the lives of the dozens of copycats who killed themselves by following her lead. Kay wants nothing more than to be left alone but our narrator, consumed with a fangirl devotion, will not let her forget her past. Remember the high points I referred to when I kicked off this review? Well “Firebird” is one of them – disturbing, provocative, and soulful.

“Brushstrokes” is the last story in the collection and, in my opinion, the best of the bunch, an intra-gender cross-caste SF romance that reflects an author at the top of her game, incredibly self-assured and deeply creative.

Unwelcome Bodies is a deliciously dark collection. One of the things that struck me about Jennifer Pelland is her ability to come up with big, engaging ideas that could easily serve as springboards to lengthier works. Is there a novel in her future? I suppose that’s a question for the upcoming Author Q&A.

Okay, there’s plenty to discuss here. I’ve kept my initial thoughts succinct but will be weighing in as I the discussion gets rolling. Also, author Jennifer Pelland will be coming by later in the week so start posting your questions.

 

Well, I was back at work today and, despite a full slate of meetings, it wasn’t so bad. Assistant A.D. and official Stargate curmudgeon paid me a rare compliment by telling me he actually liked the script! The Concept Meeting went smoothly and we followed up with a brief Prosthetics Meeting, ultimately deciding to use a combination of visual effects and practical movie magic for the forest sequence. The Art Department Meeting went well – until we got to the scenes in Woolsey’s quarters. Well, the first and only other time we’ve seen his quarters was in episode #3, Broken Ties, and it was a night scene that offered up a magical view of the city outside his bay window. Alas, those magical views don’t look quite as magical in the day time and so, rather than go with a projected image, we’re talking about making the view a visual effect. That would, of course, assure its magical quality – but at potentially great expense. We decided to table the discussion until tomorrow’s visual effects meeting but, in the end, I have a feeling we’ll be going with a combination of visual effects and creative camera angling on the part of wiz director Will Waring. Evil Kenny took us through the Props Meeting. We talked guns, vests, knives, and nasty machetes. The Costumes Meeting was also a breeze. It was t-shirt over long-sleeves, blood and bullet holes over none, and a military look for our guest star over his admittedly suave civilian look. After lunch, we had our casting session and checked out Kiangs, Libermans, soldiers, and Luthor Dovelocks.

Which took me to about 3:30 p.m., just in time for a double note session on my final draft of Remnants (for those of you wondering how I can make changes to a draft that has already been marked a final, check out this post: THE ULTIMATE EXTREME EXTRA SUPERFANTASTIC BEST LUCKY ULTRA NUMBER ONE FINAL FINAL DRAFT

https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/march-10-2008/), and Marty G.’s first draft of Brain Storm.

 

It looks like a busy morning tomorrow. We’ll be kicking things off with a location scout (tentatively entitled A Production in Search of a Cliff), following up with the Visual Effects and Playback Meeting, the Stunts and SPFX Meeting and, finally, capping things off with the Extras Meeting. I’ll be sure to bring lots of chocolate.

Today’s mailbag:

David writes: “Joe, as much as your life is interesting with having book clubs, enjoying fine dining, and playing with your dogs, I hope you realize 99% of the people come on here to here about Stargate Atlantis. Why 2 days without a mail bag update?”

Answer: My apologies for not fielding your queries in a timely manner. It would serve me right if you elected to go elsewhere to have your questions answered.

P.S. Dovil, I’ll happily do without the Christmas Turkey and Hanukah Suckling Pig, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to draw the line at the Annual Arbor Day Pinecone.

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Jelly

Jelly

Jelly

Jelly

Lulu

Lulu

Toute la gang

Toute la gang

Jelly

Jelly

Jelly,Maximus, Bubba, and Lulu

Jelly,Maximus, Bubba, and Lulu

Bubba

Bubba

Lulu

Lulu

Maximus

Maximus

Fun time’s over. It’s back to work for me tomorrow. And, by the looks of the prep schedule, it’s going to be a long day:

0900: Concept Meeting for Ep. #515 “Remnants”

1030: Prosthetics Meeting for Ep. #515, “Remnants”

1100: Art Department Meeting for Ep. #515, “Remnants”

1145: Props Meeting for Ep. #515, “Remnants”

1330: Costumes Meeting for Ep. #515, “Remnants”

1430: Casting Session for Ep. #515, “Remnants”

The VFX/Playback, Sunts/SPFX, and Extras Meetings are mercifully scheduled for Tuesday. Once they’re done, I’ll have the rest of the week and weekend to address the studio/network notes and any input from the other producers, the department heads, and the actors. After that, I’ll hand things off to multi-talented director Will Waring and it’ll be smoooooooooth sailing…up until I start on Project Twilight. Whew! In retrospect, it’s a good thing I’m not going to Comic Con. All that fun – walking the floor, meeting various SF writers, checking out the booths, tracking down that Randy Bowen Juggernaut statue I‘ve been looking for, having dinner with my friends April and Monique, talking to the fans – would have just distracted me from my work.

Hey, Baron Destructo received an email the other day from Mrs. Estella Edwin and her son Joel who are looking to invest $12.8 million dollars. Says Estella:

I will like to invest part of the money into these three investment in your Country but, if there is any other business that is better than what I am suggestion, I will be very glad to follow your advice.
Real estate
transport industry
School.”

Any other business that is better than real estate, transport industry, and school? Hell, yeah.! Baron Destructo wrote back:

“Dearest human scum and son,

Judging from your suggested speculative ventures, it is safe to assume that you are either incredibly ill-informed on recent global developments or you possess the financial acumen of dry kindling. Whichever the case (and judging from your email, I suspect it is the latter) fear not! We at The League of Aliens and Mutants for Evil are perfectly positioned to help meet the needs of clients such as yourselves. Clients who may not necessarily know the difference between equity and bond funds. Clients who do not necessarily have the know-how to invest in an increasingly volatile market. Clients who possess the grammatical skills of a trained pirate monkey (note: one trained for pillaging over correspondence). All we require of you is your good faith, your willingness to dream, and your 12.8 million dollars.

I would like to get started by informing you of a few of the exclusive investment opportunities open to you through our partnership. Please review and then get back to me once you’ve decided which of the following you‘d like to go with:

1) Sea of Tranquility Condominium Timeshares: Here is your chance to co-own a deluxe moon condo complete with central heating, 24 hour concierge service, and state-of-the-art force shield/artificial gravity/life-support generator guaranteed for 10 full years or until your death, whichever comes first (they usually happen at about the same time). A great place to get away from it all, particularly if by “it all” you mean Earth justice. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the much sought-after west wing units offer an unobstructed view into whathisname’s Fortress of Bitter Loneliness. A once in a lifetime opportunity. Contact agent: Glaxnor the Miscreant

2) JingJang Juice: Deep in the heart of Edmonton’s famed rain forest basin grows the exotic JingJang berry, considered by many who desperately want to believe it to be one of the greatest superfoods in the history of the known universe. Chock full of xanthones, polysaccharides, and trace ammonia, its undocumented health benefits include increased energy, mental alertness, improved hand-eye coordination, intermittent flying ability, regeneration of lost limbs, stress reduction, bowel regularity, enhanced rapping skills, less stuttering, more stamina, an aptitude for foreign karaoke, better quality sleep, sporadic invisibility, sporadic cancer remission, sporadic communion with the restless spirits of The Little Rascals, increased strength, impervious cuticles, shinier eyeballs, firmer gripping, random telepathy, faster drying hair, denser eyelids, fluenter German, brighter foot soles, improved mood, more dynamic scissor kicks, increased fluidity, better sense of humor, more discernible murmuring, improved ability to recognize actors from old t.v. shows, smoother earlobes, slimmer ankles, frothier espressos, blacker blacks, whiter whites, greener blues, firmer quads, sharper hearing, stretchier ligaments, and limited telekinesis. With a little time and a lot of money, you too can join the winning JingJang Juice team. A once in a lifetime opportunity (provided you didn’t go with the moon condos). Contact agent: Glaxnor the Miscreant.

3) Co-own a Professional Sports Franchise: Plans are underway to relocate the Milwaukee Brewers from Miller Park to the new League of Aliens and Mutants for Evil and Microsoft and Taco Bell Inter-Galactic CosmoDome on Mars. Here is your chance to get in on the ground floor (a.k.a. the bottom) by investing in a storied sports franchise. Purchase your piece of the dream and then can cast your ballot on the new team name, choosing from among the following: The Mars Death Stars, The Red Giants, The Great Galactic Ghouls, The Martian Marvins, The Rust Craters, The Mysterions, The Rainbow Warriors. This is an opportunity that comes around once, maybe twice, on rare occasions three even four times…okay, at most five times in a lifetime, so don’t hold your breath waiting for the L.A. Clippers rumored move to Uranus. Act now!

4) Sponsor Princess Arcana’s son Rudy in his Bike-athon for a chance to win nifty door prizes. Contact: Princess Arcana, Glaxnor the Miscreant, or St. Banacek’s School for Wayward Mutants.

5) L.A.M.E. Productions: This is a once in a lifetime opportunity (assuming you didn’t purchase a moon condo or get involved in the JingJang Juice venture) to be a part of show business history. League of Aliens and Mutants for Evil Productions is presently seeking capital for its first feature-length motion picture, Lament of the Sad Clown, from a screenplay by Glaxnor the Miscreant based on his novel of the same name. Your investment gets you double desserts from the catering truck, an invitation to the wrap party, and half price tickets to the premiere. Invest before month’s end and you will also receive a producer credit of your choice (Take your pick. They are all pretty much interchangeable.), putting you in the exclusive company of only twenty-two other producers on this project.

Please review and get back to me your earliest convenience.

Contemptuously yours,

Executive Producer Baron Destructo

Cc: Executive Producer Calamitous Jane, Executive Producer Glaxnor the Miscreant, Co-Executive Producer Sinderella Washington, Co-Executive Producer Xxxaptak’qul, Co-Executive Producer Dr. Catastro, Supervising Producer Dr. Disastro, Supervising Producer Dr. Quinn Meddlesome Woman, Producer Ray Mephistopheles, Producer Archfiend Animus, Producer Brutus Badly, Producers the Plague Zombies, Co-Producer Vorzik the Planet Squisher, Co-Producer the Malevolater, Co-Producer Count Sinister, Co-Producer Kugal Baruth, Associate Producer Death Knell, Associate Producer Star Father Celestio, Associate Producer Shatterdam, Assisstant Producer Princess Arcana, Adherent Producer the Mystifier, Satellite Producer the Procrastinator, Votary Producer the Soul Emancipator, Consulting Producer Quickstrike, Immaterial Producer Professor Frosty, Negligible Producer Flamer the Flaming Man, Inconsequential Producer the Pummeler, Inutile Producer the Purple Lamprey, and Line Producer John Tesh.”

 

I’ll be posting my review of Jennifer Pelland’s Unwelcome Bodies tomorrow and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this very interesting anthology. Remember, the author will be joining us later in the week so start putting together those questions.

And speaking of putting together questions, illustrator/artist/designer/expert garotter John Picacio will be by next weekend to chat with us and field your queries about his work. Check him out here (http://www.johnpicacio.com/index2.html).

Today’s pics: The dogs enjoy their last day of fun in the sun for a while.

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I’d like to begin today’s blog entry by once again thanking K.J. Bishop for stopping by to spend time with us. As expected, her novel, The Etched City, engendered some fairly strong and wide-ranging opinions. According to Kirsten, she was “just amazed at the detail and thoughtfulness of the responses”. So, kudos to all those who took part in the discussion, offering up some very interesting thoughts and interpretations. Besides answering our questions, Kirsten also made it a point to throw a few questions our way…

“We’re all readers here, and I’m interested in what makes us readers,”she wrote. “What do we look for in books; why do we give them hours and days of our time?”

I already dedicated a blog entry to the reasoning behind my new-found passion for books so, to avoid repeating myself suffice it to say reading is one of my few non-guilty pleasures.

“Given the length of time it takes to read a book, is there something you as a reader expect in return that you wouldn’t expect from, say, a painting?”

Ideally, I would like to have my mind opened to new ideas, fresh ways of thinking, or arguments I’ve never considered. For the time I invest in reading a novel, all I ask for in return is a character or two I can care about and a story I can invest in.

“Do you read novels for insight into the human condition, to immerse yourself in another world, to live out fantasies vicariously?”

Both. In that respect, reading is not all that different from going to see a good movie or enjoying a well-written television series.

“Could you read a book that took abstract expressionism or cubism as its inspiration?”

Hey, like I said, if the characters are interesting and the story is engaging, why not?

“Is there anything you’d like to say about your relationship with these strange long lies called novels?”

Well, this is one relationship in which I strive to maintain an adventurous and promiscuous attitude.

Next, I’d like direct everyone’s attention to the image that accompanies today’s entry. It is award-winning illustrator John Picacio’s cover for Fast Forward 2, the follow-up to Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge. FF1 was, of course, our SF Book of the Month Club selection back in February and the week of its discussion saw a visit from editor Lou Anders, our very first guests from the literary world. According to my sources (a.k.a. the search function on Amazon.com), FF2 hits the shelves on October 21, 2008. Don’t worry. I’ll remind you. In the meantime, enjoy the cover art. According to Lou: “this iteration of Fast Forward was very much influenced by the wonderful discussion with your readers, as well as by a joint sense, on both John and my part, that SF is very relevant to today’s world and has a very important job to play in it. That being said, the opening story, by Doctor Who’s Paul Cornell, about a sort of alt. history James Bond in a weird British-dominated solar system, is just pure wacky goodness and one of the most fun stories I’ve read in ages.” BTW, Lou’s latest anthology, a collection of alternate history crime fiction titled Sideways in Crime, was just released. Check it out.

John, meanwhile, had this to say about his work on FF2: “Covers like Lou’s FAST FORWARD 2 are dream assignments. What’s fun about them is the stories respond to the evolving state of science fiction and therefore, the covers should do the same. It’s an amazing collection of stories, and I’m proud to be associated with it. I studied posters about revolution and protest when I was working on this cover and that was certainly a conscious influence. There’s an awesome quote by Paul McAuley that you’ll find in Lou’s FF2 introduction, and it stuck in my head while I was creating this cover, “(Science fiction) not only shows us what could happen if things carry on the way they are, but it pushes what’s going on to the extremes of absurdity. That’s not its job: that’s its nature. And what’s happened to science fiction lately, it isn’t natural. It’s pale and lank and kind of out of focus. It needs to straighten up and fly right. It needs to reconnect with the world’s weather, and get medieval on reality’s ass.”

I think that people tend to overlook the importance of cover art. In all honesty, I probably would not have discovered the works of some of my favorite authors (Abercrombie, Lynch, Banks to name a few) if it weren’t for how damn good their books looked. It’s amazing how an eye-catching cover can tip the balance in favor of picking up a title while a garish or hideous cover can pretty much deep-six a purchase. What are your thoughts? Have you ever picked up a book based solely on the cover art? On the other hand, have you been so turned off by the look of a book that it actually dissuaded you from buying it? In my opinion, this is a seriously underappreciated but very important part of publishing. Agree? Disagree? What do you think? What does an illustrator like John Picacio think? Well, why don’t we ask him ourselves since he has graciously agreed to swing by and do his own guest Q&A on this blog.

Mosey on over here to check out some of John’s work (http://www.johnpicacio.com/index2.html), then come up with some hard-hitting questions for our very first guest-artist/illustrator/designer .

Next, I’d like to thank everyone for weighing in with their thoughts on Search and Rescue, our fifth season premiere. Fab director Andy Mikita continues his winning ways while Golden Boy Marty G. did a great job writing and producing what was, in my opinion, our best opener to date. Congrats to cast and crew on a job well done.

Finally, I’d like to wrap up today’s entry with a book recommendation. Or, more accurately, a re-recommendation. I already mentioned Glasshouse by Charles Stross last week when I finished reading it, but I wanted to make it a point to INSIST you pick it up. What’s it about? Well, Publisher’s Weekly offers the following write-up:

“The censorship wars”during which the Curious Yellow virus devastated the network of wormhole gates connecting humanity across the cosmos”are finally over at the start of Hugo-winner Stross’s brilliant new novel, set in the same far-future universe as 2005’s Accelerando. Robin is one of millions who have had a mind wipe, to forget wartime memories that are too painful”or too dangerously inconvenient for someone else. To evade the enemies who don’t think his mind wipe was enough, Robin volunteers to live in the experimental Glasshouse, a former prison for deranged war criminals that will recreate Earth’s “dark ages” (c. 1950″2040). Entering the community as a female, Robin is initially appalled by life as a suburban housewife, then he realizes the other participants are all either retired spies or soldiers. Worse yet, fragments of old memories return”extremely dangerous in the Glasshouse, where the experimenters’ intentions are as murky as Robin’s grasp of his own identity. With nods to Kafka, James Tiptree and others, Stross’s wry SF thriller satisfies on all levels, with memorable characters and enough brain-twisting extrapolation for five novels.”

 

Yep. Brain-twistingly brilliant.

Oh, and quick reminder to finish up Unwelcome Bodies. Discussion on this unsettling and no doubt controversial collection of short fiction begins Monday and author Jennifer Pelland will be dropping by to field our questions.

Today’s video: Search and Rescue.  Rehearse and shoot.

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A little bit of early 20th century charm in early 21st century Vancouver.

The gang is cranky because I woke them up to look at some shots.

Salad days.

Breaking news on the bulletin board.

Bones is dubious.

The Mastermind Mark Savela

Hurray! Today, I received my $100 Climate Action Dividend from the government of British Columbia. According to the document that accompanied the check: “…this year’s Provincial budget is making it easier for British Columbians to choose a lower carbon lifestyle.” I suppose, for instance, the $100 could be put toward the purchase of a scooter or a hand lantern or one of those pedal-powered generators that the Professor built on Gilligan’s Island. As most of you know, I incorporated some major lifestyle changes last year to help reduce my carbon footprint (read all about them here: https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2007/07/07/july-7-2007/) so the prospect of having this extra one hundred dollars to spend on my green initiative is heartening. Of course, technically, it’s not really an extra $100. I mean, the government would like us to think it is and their use of the term “revenue neutral” to describe their new carbon tax would imply that, at the very least, we’d break even in the long run. And maybe if I didn’t partake in lavish excesses like driving a car or heating my home, I would break even. But, sadly, because of my unstinted addiction to things like food and water (which, incidentally, is trucked in to supermarkets by companies that will be hit with this new gas tax and inevitably pass the cost on to consumers), it looks like the government’s grand gesture will mean very little to me in the long run. Still, $100 is $100. I could use the money to create a new state-of-the-art compost heap. Or, follow Fondy’s suggestion and use it to purchase one hundred dollars worth of gas to fill my SUV which I would leave idling through most of Friday. I’m inclined to go with the latter.

Hey, a great response to yesterday’s announcement that actress Janina Gavankar (aka Dusty from the upcoming Stargate: Atlantis episode “Whispers”) will be swinging by to chat with us. I’m going to continue gathering questions until Friday night at which point I will send them Janina’s way and, hopefully, receive a response from her some time this weekend. Also, on the same topic…

I thought it might be fun to profile various of the behind-the-scenes players on Stargate: Atlantis by having them follow Janina’s lead. So, in the coming weeks, you’ll be able to query the likes of Visual Effects Supervisor Mark Savela, writer-producer Alan McCullough, and Production Designer James Robbins. It’ll be a real a real treat for a) those interested in television production and Stargate: Atlantis and b) a lazy blogger looking to fob off an entry on some poor unsuspecting soul. I’ll keep you posted on upcoming guests.

Speaking of which – Kage Baker will be answering your questions this coming week! Finish up In the Garden of Iden so that you can weigh in with your opinion once discussion begins. Then move on to K.J. Bishop’s The Etched City because K.J. will be joining us the following week. Then motor right into Jennifer Pelland’s Unwelcome Bodies as Jennifer will be joining us the week after that. It’s all there in the right sidebar, folk, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

As for next month’s BOTMC selections… Well, let’s face it. It’s not really a Book of the Month Club. It’s more of a Book of the Month and a Half Club as I want to give participants time to read all three books if they so choose. And, if you’re looking to get a jump on August’s picks, here ya go.

In the SF category, it’ll be Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor. Now this is an omnibus made up of two novels, Shards of Honor and Barrayar, so you have a choice of reading one or both.

From the publisher: “In her first trial by fire, Cordelia Naismith captained a throwaway ship of the Betan Expeditionary Force on a mission to destroy an enemy armada. Discovering deception within deception, treachery within treachery, she was forced into a separate peace with her chief opponent, Lord Aral Vorkosigan—he who was called “The Butcher of Komarr”—and would consequently become an outcast on her own planet and the Lady Vorkosigan on his.

Sick of combat and betrayal, she was ready to settle down to a quiet life, interrupted only by the occasional ceremonial appearances required of the Lady Vorkosigan. But when the Emperor died, Aral became guardian of the infant heir to the imperial throne of Barrayar—and the target of high-tech assassins in a dynastic civil war that was reminscent of Earth’s Middle Ages, but fought with up-to-the-minute biowar technology. Neither Aral nor Cordelia guessed the part that their cell-damaged unborn would play in Barrayari’s bloody legacy.”

Discussion on Cordelia’s Honor begins August 11th.

 

 

In the FANTASY category, it’ll be Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden.

From Publisher’s Weekly: “A lonely girl with a dark tattoo across her eyelids made up of words spelling out countless tales unfolds a fabulous, recursive Arabian Nights-style narrative of stories within stories in this first of a new fantasy series from Valente (The Grass-Cutting Sword). The fantastic tales involve creation myths, shape-changing creatures, true love sought and thwarted, theorems of princely behavior, patricide, sea monsters, kindness and cruelty. As a sainted priestess explains, stories “are like prayers. It does not matter when you begin, or when you end, only that you bend a knee and say the words,” and this volume does not so much arrive at a conclusion but stops abruptly, leaving room for endless sequels. Each descriptive phrase and story blossoms into another, creating a lush, hallucinogenic effect.”

Discussion on The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden begins August 18th

..

 

And, finally, in the HORROR category, it’ll be Stephen Dobyns’ The Church of Dead Girls.

From Library Journal: “Despite the lurid title, Dobyns’s latest novel (he is a poet and author of the “Saratoga” mystery series) is a compelling mystery that shows how the people in a small town change because of a series of murders. First, a promiscuous woman is murdered. Then three girls disappear in succession. The narrator reports how the symptoms of fear escalate into a raging disease consuming the community. Cloaking prejudice and fear with righteousness, certain citizens target individuals who are on the community’s fringe. By the story’s end, no one escapes suspicion. Many characters and the complexities of human interactions receive well-rounded treatment. This absorbing tale, fit for any general collection, is highly recommended.”

Discussion on The Church of Dead Girls begins August 25th

..

 

I was at The Bridge today to preview some of the Whispers visual effects shots with Mark Savela. While there, I made a point of snapping some pics of the VFX gang still hard at work (and eating the occasional salad). Check out their quaint red brick dwelling. Probably the last place you want to be when the big one hits, but charming nevertheless.

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