I finally got around to seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 today. I only just happened to discover there’s a relatively new theater that’s a few miles closer to home than the ones I usually go to, although I wasn’t thrilled with the sound system there.
Anyway, I thought the movie was better than a lot of the reviews are saying, though it has some major flaws. The main problems are with the characterization of the villains. Max Dillon, before his transformation into Electro, is a very off-putting and cartoony caricature, reminding me of Gus Gorman from Superman III in a way. And the doctor (Marton Csokas) who examined him in Ravenscroft, named Ashley Kafka but bearing no resemblance to the sympathetic female character of that name in the comics, was an even more cartoony stereotype of a German mad scientist. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn, who was played up as a major threat in the first movie (and of course has been that and then some in the comics), had just one scene that tried to abruptly establish a whole history with his son Harry in retrospect before he dropped dead. It was an awkward infodump scene, and it felt too dependent on the viewers already knowing about Norman and Harry’s history from the comics, cartoons, or previous movies, rather than something that could really stand on its own. Harry himself was okay, but given a rather abrupt turn to the dark side.
But what worked marvelously well was Spider-Man. This is the most perfect live-action depiction of Spider-Man in action I’ve ever seen. They totally nailed it. Well, not totally — some of the action choreography was implausible, like the way Spidey just ignored the dozens of cars being smashed in the opening truck chase in order to save one pedestrian. I think the conceit the filmmakers were following was that anyone inside a car or bus was immune from being killed in a wreck, which would be really great if it were true, but since it isn’t, that didn’t work so well. Aside from that, though, Spidey was note-perfect — his methods, his attitude, his banter, his compassion for the little guy. And the costume looked great too. Not only that, but they actually let him keep the mask on for most of his scenes, really let him perform as Spider-Man, let him be Spider-Man, even in dramatic scenes. That embrace of his iconic design and silhouette, of Spider-Man as a character rather than just a disguise for Peter Parker, gave it an extra bit of authenticity. This is the real deal. It’s the best Spidey action ever, not because of the special effects, but because of Spidey himself.
The way Peter is portrayed out of costume is almost as good, although the thread about his search for answers about his parents doesn’t really feel that connected to the rest of the story. But his relationship with Gwen Stacy is really great, and Gwen is really great. Spidey here is basically like he is in the comics (at last), but Gwen is so much better a character in these movies than she ever was in the comics. I mean, sure, we all revere the memory of Gwen Stacy, but the most significant thing she really did in the comics was dying. Before that happened, she was just another superhero love interest, the Betty to Mary Jane Watson’s Veronica. Emma Stone’s Gwen is a hero in her own right, every bit as impressive as Spidey himself — probably more so, because she gets by on sheer brains and chutzpah. These films have their detractors, and not without reason, but I think their (and Stone’s) portrayal of Gwen Stacy will be remembered as one of the high points of superhero cinema.
But of course, what defines Gwen is the ending of her story, and even this more heroic Gwen couldn’t escape that, although I kind of wish she had. The film telegraphed it rather blatantly, first with Gwen’s graduation speech which was a valedictory in more ways than one, and then with Harry and Peter talking about Peter’s girlfriend with the Brooklyn Bridge looming ominously in the background. Of course, the bridge isn’t where her death scene happens in this version (though the fictional power station where the climax occurs is right next to it), but every comics fan in the audience probably knew at that moment that Gwen wouldn’t make it out of the movie alive. Still, I’ve been expecting all along that she’d die in the movie — as soon as I saw a shot in one of the commercials with a falling Gwen reflected in Spidey’s eyepiece, I knew. Mainly I’ve just been hoping that they’d get it right. Gwen’s death scene as scripted by Gerry Conway in Amazing Spider-Man #121 (the key pages of which are reproduced here) is very powerful and poignant to me, and what really hit me was the way Spidey initially believed he’d saved Gwen, boasting to himself of his prowess, and then was confused when she wouldn’t wake up because “I saved you, honey — don’t you see?” That was such beautiful writing, and it’s the key thing I always wanted to see preserved if the scene was ever adapted to the screen. (Which is something I wasn’t sure would ever happen, since every prior cartoon and movie that adapted it substituted MJ for Gwen and let her live — or in the case of the ’90s animated series, dropped her into an alternate dimension so Peter only thought she was dead.) Unfortunately, though, this movie left it out completely. More, the mechanism of her death is changed — rather than her neck snapping from the sudden deceleration, her head hits the ground just as the webbing snags her. I think that changes it, because it gives the impression that Spidey was just too late, rather than it being a case where he couldn’t have saved her because she was just falling too fast. (Oh, and the slow-motion shot of the webbing strands literally reaching for her like a hand was pretty silly.) So I feel they didn’t get it right, or at least they didn’t preserve the part that matters most to me.
Also, I’m not sure it was needed. Gwen Stacy is a classic example of a female character killed to motivate a male lead, but this Gwen was so strong and heroic in her own right that it feels wrong to force her back into the fridge, so to speak.
Let’s see, what else? The 3D wasn’t as impressive as it looked to me in the trailer. Not sure if that’s because of the different theater, or if it’s just that I’ve gotten more used to 3D movies since I saw that trailer. Still, there were some good moments, especially of Spidey’s webslinging and high-flying antics. As for the music, I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve found Hans Zimmer to be an occasionally excellent composer, doing interesting things in movies like the Sherlock Holmes duology, but his superhero work (with Batman and Superman) has been little more than atonal droning and blaring, so I wasn’t expecting to like the score here. But it was actually a really impressive score, very imaginative and rich, with an actual melodic theme for Spidey that was very heroic and satisfying. The most fascinating part, though, was the scoring for Max/Electro, the way his music included a relentless whispering voice part, almost subliminal at first, that represented the unstable Dillon’s internal monologue, or maybe the voices whispering in his head. I’m generally not a fan of anything in the vicinity of rap music, but this was subtle and intriguing and really helped make the character unsettling in a way the script failed to do. In the excellently done confrontation between Spidey and Electro in Times Square, the whispering gets louder as Dillon gets angrier, and you can finally make out the lyrics as it builds toward a rasping crescendo. It’s startlingly effective. I wouldn’t want to hear it done all the time, but I really admire the creativity of it.
So, in sum, it’s a more uneven movie than its predecessor, and where it fails, it fails badly (or at least isn’t what I wanted), but where it succeeds, it’s nearly perfect. The parts of this movie that work best are better than almost anything in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. I just wish those parts were a larger percentage of the whole.
(And don’t worry, fans of my Godzilla reviews. I’ll be seeing that movie before much longer. I just prefer to avoid the crowds of opening weekend.)
Here I am at the Cincinnati Library Comic Con 2014 this afternoon:
As you can see, I brought a variety of my books with me, but I still had most of them by the end of the event. Still, I sold a bit over a quarter of my stock and earned a decent chunk of change, with 20% donated to the library. Not shown in the photo: the one copy I had left of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder. Since this was mainly a comics event, my Spidey novel and Only Superhuman sold significantly better than the Trek titles, a change of pace from what I’m used to. It makes me think I should’ve tried harder to market OS at comics events back when it first came out.
The library had snacks available for the guests, including mini-quiches from Panera. I’m not usually a quiche eater, but I was hungry and I saw that they had a spinach-artichoke variety, so I decided to give it a try, and it was quite good, as one would expect from Panera.
Another thing that really impressed me was the material covering the table, that gold sheeting you see there. The texture had a good firm grip to it and it nicely held my books in that upright position. I usually have trouble keeping them from falling over when they’re like that, but they were all very well-behaved today, so I can only conclude it’s because of the tablecloth material. If I knew what it were called, I’d recommend it to all my conventions.
The folks at GraphicAudio just sent me some excellent news: AudioFile Magazine listed their audiobook adaptation of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder as one of their Best Audiobooks of 2013 in the “Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Audio Theater” category.
The list is here:
It may take a few moments to load, but the entry is on page 11. And here it is at GraphicAudio’s Facebook page.
I’m really pleased by this. I’ve always been proud of Drowned in Thunder, but the paperback didn’t get as much attention as I’d hoped. I’m glad to see the story getting a new lease on life thanks to GraphicAudio, and I hope this attention may eventually lead to Marvel reissuing the book (since Pocket’s license has lapsed by now).
The Trek Mate Family Network in the UK has just released a podcast of an interview I did for their “Captain’s Table” feature in which they interview Star Trek prose authors. The discussion covers my Trek work, my Marvel novels and their audio adaptations, and Only Superhuman. You can find it here:
I really ought to post something about New York Comic-Con, but I’ve been too busy or too tired. I’ll try to keep it concise.
I ended up driving after all due to the cost of plane fare after waiting so long to buy tickets. I planned out my route carefully this time, so it went fairly smoothly — but I set out too early on the second day and had a hard time staying alert. I didn’t really feel recovered until after lunch. So on the way back, I think I’ll spend the morning of the second day in the motel just resting, then get a good lunch, then drive the rest of the way home.
I’ve been staying with friend and fellow author Keith R.A. DeCandido, his fiancee, a family friend, several cats, and a large Golden Retriever. I was nervous about the latter, but he’s a friendly dog and I’ve been getting used to having him around. Indeed, there’s something reassuring about knowing a dog that big is sleeping outside your bedroom door, on sentry duty as it were.
The two days I spent at the con are kind of a blur right now, so to sum up: both my signings on Friday went pretty well. The GraphicAudio booth is in a good location and drew a lot of attention from passersby, and we got to sell a number of copies of my audiobooks, along with free copies of the prose books as a bonus — courtesy of Tor in the case of Only Superhuman, plus a few Spider-Man; Drowned in Thunder copies which I provided myself. I was expecting Tor to be offering the paperback, but their giveaway copies (half of which I took over to GA, the rest of which I signed for them to give out at Tor’s booth) were hardcovers instead. I guess that makes sense — they want to use up the stock now that people will mostly be buying the MMPB. But it made it more of a slog to carry them over to the GA booth through the Comic-Con crowd. Anyway, the giveaway copies moved pretty well, I was told. My A Choice of Futures signing at the SImon & Schuster booth went well too; this time people actually came to see me specifically rather than just happening to pass by.
I got to talk with a number of colleagues — Keith, of course, and the GA people, and fellow Trek author Kevin Dilmore, who works for Hallmark and was manning their display. It was nice to catch up with him. Unfortunately my former Trek editor Marco Palmieri, now at Tor, was too busy to talk much. I also had fun meeting Lilly, a friend of Keith’s who’s a professional balloon artist, and who performed at his booth to attract passersby. It’s an interesting craft, improvisational yet requiring a lot of meticulous manual control and precision.
Today I just stayed in and rested while Keith et al. went in to the con. I needed a day of quiet to recover before undertaking the drive home tomorrow. I did go down to the local pizza place for lunch, though, and had an excellent slice of white pizza with spinach.
That’s all for now. Maybe I’ll mention more details later, if any come to mind.
Sci-Fi Bulletin, a British genre site edited by my former Star Trek Magazine editor Paul Simpson, has just published an essay I wrote for them comparing the writing of Only Superhuman and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, timed to coincide with the release of the OS paperback in the UK. You can read it here:
Oddly enough, it’s indexed on the site under “Fantasy.” I guess that’s because superheroes are generally treated as a subset of fantasy; my hard-SF approach to the subject seems to be pretty unusual, though as the article points out, sometimes there was more science in Stan Lee and his Marvel cohorts’ creations than you might think.
Well, it’s been a bit of a mess trying to make arrangements for New York Comic-Con, since apparently they didn’t have enough tickets or something. They actually sold out of professional passes prematurely, before I could get one, so I had to buy regular tickets, and all they had left were Thursday and Friday tickets. So I’ll only be in attendance at NYCC on those two days — well, assuming my tickets ever arrive. The paperwork said they’d begin mailing them in mid-September, but I haven’t gotten mine yet. But there’s still two weeks to go, so I’m hopeful.
Anyway, I have two signings tentatively scheduled, both on Friday, October 11.
11 AM, Booth 838: GraphicAudio hosts a combined signing for the Only Superhuman audiobook, which will be on sale at the booth, and the mass-market paperback. which will be a free giveaway. There might be copies of the Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder audiobook on hand too, though I’m not sure.
4 PM, Booth 1828: Simon & Schuster’s booth hosts a Star Trek signing, which was hoped to be a group signing but so far is just me. I assume I’ll be signing copies of Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures.
There won’t be any scheduled event for me at the Tor booth (2223), which is why I’ll be doubling up on the MMPB and audiobook at the GraphicAudio event (and I’m very grateful to the GA folks for accommodating me). But I’ll surely be hanging around the Tor booth for a fair amount of time on Thursday and Friday, and there will be signed copies of Only Superhuman there as giveaways. No doubt I’ll drop by the S&S and GA booths on Thursday as well. Ticket gods willing, that is.
If there are any changes to the schedule, I will of course announce them promptly.
I’ve just recently finished listening to my copy of GraphicAudio’s adaptation of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, which was really well-done. Tim Getman did an excellent job as Peter/Spidey, with a voice reminiscent of ’90s animated Spidey Christopher Daniel Barnes and The Spectacular Spider-Man‘s Josh Keaton, and with a good grasp of both Spidey’s wisecracking side and his more angsty, bitter side. Terence Aselford’s Stan Lee-esque J. Jonah Jameson is very different from what I imagined when I wrote the book, but I quickly got used to it and it worked very well. Alyssa Wilmoth, who starred as Emerald Blair in Only Superhuman‘s audio adaptation, played Mary Jane Watson-Parker (the book is set before their marriage was erased from Marvel continuity), and it was interesting to hear how her characterization differed, painting MJ in lighter, subtler strokes than Emry. Lily Beacon was a fantastic Aunt May, reminding me at times of Nichelle Nichols’s voice. The rest of the cast, which has only a few overlaps with the Only Superhuman cast, was effective as well. Here’s the full cast list I was given:
Tim Getman as Spider-Man
Terence Aselford as J. Jonah Jameson
Alyssa Wilmoth as Mary Jane Watson
Lily Beacon as Aunt May
David Jourdan as Electro
KenYatta Rogers as Robbie Robertson
Regen Wilson as Ben Urich and Phineas Mason
Steven Carpenter as Alistaire Smythe
Jeff Allin as Reed Richards
Kimberly Gilbert as Dawn Lukens
Nora Achrati as Marla Jameson and Jill Stacy
Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey as Betty Brant
Mark Halpern as Blush Barrass and Bobby Ribeiro
Ren Kasey as Liz Allan
with Bradley Smith, Joe Brack, Casie Platt, Joel David Santner,
David Harris, Patrick Bussink, Thomas Penny, Christopher Scheeren,
Scott McCormick, Thomas Keegan, and Tim Pabon
Further credits are at the link above.
Anyway, I took notes while I listened so I could update my novel annotations to include the audio edition as well, as I recently did with Only Superhuman. I’ll have to listen again sometime so I can experience it with fewer interruptions. The annotations can be accessed from my Marvel Fiction page here:
I’m going to be doing a signing at GraphicAudio’s booth at New York Comic-Con next month, probably on Friday Oct. 11, although we’re still sorting out the schedule. I’ll post the info when I can.
By the way, while listening to the DiT audiobook so soon after my most recent listen to the OS audiobook, I realized something. Both Only Superhuman and Drowned in Thunder have scenes where an elderly female relative of the protagonist gives a speech that explains the thematic significance behind the novel’s title and contains a paraphrase thereof. I didn’t realize I was repeating that trope. Well, it’s surely not the only trope I’ve repeated in my career.
The interview I did for GraphicAudio’s “All in Your Mind” newsletter/podcast is now available. I had a nice chat with directors Richard Rohan and Nanette Savard about Only Superhuman, Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, my work in general, and other stuff, running a bit under 40 minutes.
Here’s the direct link:
And if that doesn’t work, there’s also an MP3 link:
Like a streak of light, he arrives just in time! GraphicAudio’s fully dramatized adaptation of my 2008 novel Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder is releasing at midnight tonight, August 25 (or technically the very start of Monday, August 26).
Just to be clear, this is coming out in Blu-Ray format which will ship in late September, but buyers can download a free digital copy starting at midnight. At least, that’s what it says on the site. I’m a little unclear on what formats it’ll be available in; I’m sure that more information will be available at the link above come midnight.
EDIT: Ahh, now that it’s out, I see it’s available in multiple options, including a 5-CD box set, the Blu-Ray disc, and direct download in various formats, just like Only Superhuman (except that doesn’t have the Blu-Ray option).
Here’s the very exciting trailer for the book:
And here’s a sample from the opening scene:
I’d expected the podcast interview I did with the GraphicAudio folks to be available by now, but nothing yet. I’ll keep you posted.
Here’s to Drowned in Thunder‘s new lease on life!
Here I am visiting GraphicAudio’s studio in Bethesda, Maryland on Monday, August 5th:
As I’ve mentioned, I was able to arrange this visit because I was staying with cousins half an hour’s drive from the GA studio. Based on their recommendations, I decided to take the Beltway route out there and the more direct East-West Highway back — but cousin Barb loaned me their GPS, and it kept trying to direct me to East-West on the way out and the Beltway on the way back! So I relied more on Google Maps printouts.
When I arrived, I also got a bit lost, since I went in by the stairs and the signs there only directed me to the upper floor where the processing and packaging is done. I needed to find someone to escort me down to the studios the floor below. There I was met by producer Richard Rohan, who turned out to have played Hanuman Kwan in Only Superhuman. He was aware I’d imagined Roddy MacDowall when writing the character, but said he didn’t have that voice in his repertoire. When I mentioned his performance reminded me of Tony Randall (which worked almost as well), he said he’d have to think about developing a Randall impression. I also met Nanette Savard, the audiobook’s director and narrator, and when I mentioned that I’d felt Greg Tai and Sally Knox had been perfectly cast, Nanette revealed that she had played Sally! I also briefly met Colleen Delany, who played Psyche Thorne, and who turns out to have a rather Psyche-like smile, very wide and bright. But I just missed a chance to meet Zephyr’s portrayer Thomas Keegan, with whom Nanette had just been finishing up a session when I arrived.
I was shown into the editing room where the above photo was taken, and I got to hear the opening scene of the Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder audiobook, plus a couple of other scenes later on. It was pretty well-done. The actor they’ve got playing Spider-Man (I don’t know his name yet) sounds not unlike Christopher Daniel Barnes, who played the role in the ’90s series that made me a Spidey fan, and whose voice I imagined when writing the book. Their version of J. Jonah Jameson isn’t anything like what I imagined (which was Ed Asner from the ’90s show), since they based their version on the fact that Stan Lee always wanted to play the role himself. No, they didn’t hire Stan, but their actor gives JJJ a very Stan-like quality. I also learned that Mary Jane Watson-Parker will be played by Alyssa Wilmoth, the same actress who played Emerald Blair — appropriate, since they’re both redheads.
I learned a lot of this from the trailer they played during the podcast interview, which made the story sound really exciting. I was listening in awe and thinking, “I wrote that?!” Anyway, Richard and Nanette interviewed me inside a cozy recording booth and we had a nice talk about both books. The podcast should be out within the week, and I’ll link to it when it’s available. They even let me go back in and do a retake when I belatedly remembered I’d forgotten to plug the upcoming Only Superhuman paperback. After the interview, they showed me the rest of their facility — mostly one big room where the directors and engineers work at a bunch of computers around the walls, but with some private offices for the producers and a couple of secondary recording booths. They had me sign a couple of copies of the audiobook as well as the OS poster in their lobby, and they gave me a green coffee mug with the company logo on it (though more lime green than emerald green).
Unfortunately they didn’t have any copies of DiT ready to give me, since Marvel hasn’t given final approval yet and they haven’t even printed any CDs. The box I’m holding in the above photo is a mockup they finished just moments before. But it sounds like it’ll be really cool, and I hope it’s a big seller. As I’ve mentioned before, I won’t get any more money from this, but I’m proud of the story and I want it to get more exposure. Plus it could attract more interest for Only Superhuman, and that could benefit me financially.
Speaking of which, I asked if I could have a fuller cast list than the one given on the audiobook, crediting who played what for more than just the lead roles. Nanette provided a list for me, so now I can give a fuller cast list for Only Superhuman, the audio:
- Nanette Savard: Narrator, Sally Knox
- Alyssa Wilmoth: Emerald Blair/Green Blaze
- Colleen Delany: Psyche Thorne
- Thomas Keegan: Zephyr, Taurean
- Elliot Dash: Eliot Thorne
- Ken Jackson: Javon Moremba
- Evan Casey: Gregor Tai
- Yasmin Tuazon: Koyama Hikari/Tenshi
- Tracy Lynn Olivera: Bast, Lydia Muchangi/Lodestar, Detective Barbour
- Barbara Pinolini: Rachel Kincaid-Shannon
- Richard Rohan: Jahnu Kwan/Hanuman, Erich Krieger/Wulf
- Christopher Scheeren: Yukio Villareal/Sensei
- Michael Glenn: Richard Shannon
- Kimberly Gilbert: Bimala Sarkar, Elise Pasteris/Tin Lizzy, Ruki Shimoda/Hikkaku
- David Coyne: Sanjay Bhattacharyya/Cowboy
- Eric Messner: Vijay Pandalai/Arjun
- James Konicek: Arkady Nazarbayev/Medvyed
- Elizabeth Jernigan: Lyra Blair, “Banshee” Starlet
- Nora Achrati: Maryam Khalid/Hijab, Dr. Monica Railey
- Joe Brack: Juan Lopez/Jackknife, Aaron Donner/Blitz, Daniel Weiss/Overload
- Nick Depinto: Marut Pandalai/Bhima
- Terence Aselford: Ken Auster/Paladin, Jorge Santiago
- Additional voices by Thomas Penny, Michael John Casey, James Lewis, Joel David Santner, and Steven Carpenter
Hopefully I’ll have a cast list for Drowned in Thunder as well once that comes out.
By the way, here’s the list of GA’s DC Comics cast members. Turns out Richard Rohan plays Batman — and the Joker! (That must make for some interesting recording sessions.) Nanette Savard is Lois Lane, Colleen Delany is Wonder Woman, and James Konicek, who played Arkady, is their Superman.
Before I left, they let me know that they had plans to attend the New York Comic-Con in October. I plan to be there to promote the OS paperback, so I’ll be sure to visit their booth and maybe do some promotion of their adaptations. I’ll be sure to post information about my appearance schedule once it’s arranged.
Well, it’s been an eventful few days, with little time to post anything. The drive to Baltimore was agreeably uneventful, except for the night I spent in a very cheap motel with no amenities and spiders in the tub and corners. (Could’ve been worse. Spiders are basically harmless and keep other pests at bay.) And except for the sore shoulder I’m dealing with in the wake of my marathon writing session to finish Tower of Babel.
I got into the hotel around noon on Friday and promptly ran into Greg Cox, who, like me, was waiting for his room to be ready. We spent a while catching up, having a good long chat. Later that afternoon, he and I went to dinner with Marco Palmieri, Klingon language expert Lawrence M. Schoen (who just signed a book contract with Tor), and fellow Tor novelist (and one-time Star Trek: Strange New Worlds contributor) Rod Belcher, and we talked Tor for a while. I had a really nice hummus-and-pita appetizer followed by a pretty good spaghetti with tomato-and-basil sauce. Then we went to my first panel, announcing Tor’s recent and upcoming schedule — basically the same thing Marco and his fellow editor Margaret Clark used to do for Star Trek books, but now for Tor’s much broader line of books, including the upcoming mass-market paperback of Only Superhuman. David Mack helped run the slide show, and in return he was granted the opportunity to announce the exciting new Trek project reuniting him with his Vanguard collaborators Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, Star Trek: Seekers, which you can read about here.
After that came the annual Meet the Pros book-signing event, which was pretty well attended this year, since William Shatner was at the con and thus it drew a larger crowd. I got to catch up with several of my fellow authors/friends. I only managed to sell one copy of OS that night, though, but I also managed to sell one of the copies of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder that I brought with me.
Saturday, after having breakfast in my room and finally figuring out how to get onto the Internet from the hotel, the first thing I did publicly was to visit the book dealers’ table, where I did the traditional one-hour shift in what Marco Palmieri (IIRC) has now dubbed the Author Chimney — a narrow space between two brick pillars, just wide enough for one person to sit and sign books for passersby. It’s right near the concession stand where they sell burgers and hot dogs (the only relatively inexpensive place to eat in the hotel now, since the cafe closed when the hotel changed owners recently), so I had my lunch there. I think I moved two copies of OS and convinced a couple of others to check out the e-book.
Then I had my marathon of panels, the topics of which I covered in my previous post. That’s all kind of a blur, but it went pretty well. As a bonus, for the panel “Did Man of Steel Tarnish Superman?”, Dave Mack and I had the privilege of being joined by a surprise guest, Paul Kupperberg, who’s written and edited many Superman comics and was more qualified than either of us to discuss the topic. The consensus: No, Superman’s untarnished since he still exists in many media, but the movie rather screwed up his depiction. I was glad to move from there to the Legend of Korra panel, which was a lot of fun. But by the time the final panel rolled around, I was feeling pretty worn out and punchy. Before it, I’d tried to get a granola bar from the vending machine in what was left of the cafe, but I misread “E5″ as “F5″ and got animal crackers instead, which I didn’t want. Then, after the panel, I got a microwave entree out of the carousel vending machine, but the microwaves in the cafe were too low-power to heat it adequately, as I found out when I got it back to my room. After another couple of tries, I just gave up on it and threw it away, and went out to try to find some other place to eat. A fellow guest, Steve Wilson (writer of a couple of my favorite DC Trek comic issues) reminded me that the grocery store across the road had a good deli, so I drove over, got a pasta salad, and finally, finally got to retire to my room for the evening.
Sunday began with the traditional authors’ brunch, and then I attended a talk that NASA scientist Paul Abell — husband of Trek author Amy Sisson — held about the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion last year. Turns out he’s one of the team members involved with detecting potential Earth-threatening asteroids, a division called “planetary defense.” But he tells me their offices do not particularly resemble the Hall of Justice.
Speaking of which…
EDIT: Here’s that scan:
Oh, here’s a funny sign I saw at the con and had to photograph:
After getting a hot dog and chatting with Greg and Keith DeCandido during the latter’s stint in the Author Chimney, I joined Paul for a panel on the science and fiction of asteroids, comparing what I did in OS with his real-life knowledge of the field — although, since this is me, there was nearly as much science on my side as his. The next panel in the same room, which mistakenly got left off the schedule grid, was on writing Star Trek: TOS and the challenge of finding something new to say. I ended up joining the panelists for that one and talking about my post-TMP work. Finally came my solo Q&A panel, which was rather poorly attended, since people were going home by that point. But the few people who were there got to be the first to whom I showed the cover for the upcoming Drowned in Thunder audiobook (which I’d downloaded onto my laptop just minutes before):
Which I think is a panel from the same comics scene that Marco wanted the novel’s cover artist to use for inspiration. (It’s not the exact same page, but it’s clearly by the same artist (John Romita, Jr.) and looks like an earlier panel in the same sequence.) I also got to talk for a while about my upcoming Analog novella “Make Hub, Not War,” which should be out in a month or so.
After that, I left the con and drove to the DC suburbs to stay with cousins Barb and Mark, and I’m typing from their guest room. I’ve just gotten back from my visit to GraphicAudio’s studio, which was very cool and which I think deserves its own post. To be continued…
Okay, first the good news: I turned in the manuscript for Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel on time yesterday. Honestly, it was a close one. Even though I gave myself plenty of time, I had difficulty getting a handle on this one. I was sick when I put the outline together and it was very rough, so it was hard to get a grip on the story. I also made the story rather complicated, covering a lot of different places and events, which slowed me down because I had to create a lot of separate worlds and situations, and beginnings are the slowest parts because I have to take time to figure everything out first. Kind of like in film/TV — every new set needs to be designed and constructed, so the more sets you have, the more time and effort you have to expend. Anyway, I finally got a handle on it, refined and fleshed out the story, and made the deadline, but there may still be some polishing to do. And I drove myself so hard toward the end there that the stress and heavy typing have left me with a very sore and inflamed shoulder, so as soon as I turned in the MS I went to see the doctor and got a prescription for the pain. But last night I got the best, most relaxing night’s sleep I’ve had in months. (I even had a dream about my beloved old cat Tasha! Awwww.)
So hopefully my shoulder will be better in time to drive to Shore Leave in a couple of days. To that end, I should go easy on the typing and get on to the schedule that’s just been posted. Not sure if this is completely final, but here are the panels/appearances I’m scheduled for at the moment:
Tor Books: New and Upcoming — 9 PM, Hunt Ballroom
This will mostly be Tor editors Marco Palmieri and Greg Cox talking about the new books they have coming out over the next year, but I’ll be there to shill the upcoming mass-market paperback of Only Superhuman.
Meet the Pros — 10 PM, Hunt/Valley Corridor
The annual 2-hour mass signing event where all the author guests will be available to autograph whatever you bring or buy.
The Future History of Star Trek’s Past in Prose — 1 PM, Chase Ballroom
A panel about explorations of the Trek universe’s history in prose. Mainly an excuse for me to talk about Rise of the Federation, but it’ll also feature Michael Jan Friedman (author of Starfleet: Year One, the previous attempt to cover the beginnings of the Federation, which was overwritten by Enterprise) and David Mack (who dealt with the ENT era memorably in Destiny). I was hoping we could also get Greg Cox, who’s done so much with Gary Seven, Khan, and the like in his books, but he’s got a Superheroes on Film panel at the same time.
From Tie-in to Original — 2 PM, Chase Ballroom
The third annual panel letting us tie-in authors shill our original work, this time with me, Ann C. Crispin, Peter David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, and Jo Wymick.
Did Man of Steel Tarnish Superman? — 3 PM, Chase Ballroom
My third consecutive hour in Chase, and I was hesitant to sign up for this one, but yeah, I have some unusually strong opinions about Man of Steel and I guess this’ll be me and Dave Mack and the audience talking about it for an hour.
The Legend of Korra: Let’s Review — 4 PM, Salon F
Yayy, I finally get out of Chase! And I get to chat with Marco Palmieri and the audience about the glory that is Korra. (Good thing I just DVRed the whole series. I can spend the day catching up on the show and resting my shoulder.) Although I expect a very small audience since William Shatner will be in the big ballroom at the same time.
Writing Alien Aliens! — 5 PM, Belmont Room
My Saturday marathon wraps up as Rigel Ailur, Mary Louise Davie, and I talk about the science of creating interestingly exotic alien species and characters.
Science Fiction of Asteroids — 1 PM, Belmont Room
A rare crossover of the SF and science guests. I wrote a book set in the asteroid belt, and science guest Paul Abell is an asteroid expert, so I thought, let’s get together and talk ‘stroids! We’re joined by author Melissa Scott as well.
Christopher Bennett — 4 PM, Salon A
Yup, just me for an hour. I’ll be there to talk and answer fan questions about Rise of the Federation, Only Superhuman, the upcoming audiobook of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, my upcoming “Make Hub, Not War” in Analog, and anything else I’ve done.
FYI — there will be a replica of the ’66 Batmobile — aka the only true Batmobile — at the con. I will definitely be there at some point and will probably want to be photographed in it. (I hope someone gets a photo of Shatner sitting in the Batmobile. That might cause a critical mass of geek nostalgia and tear a hole in the space-time continuum, but it will be worth it.)
Good news! GraphicAudio, the company that produced the well-regarded, fully dramatized audiobook adaptation of Only Superhuman, is doing the same for another of my books, Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, scheduled for August 2013. GA has adapted a number of DC Comics superhero novels before, both novelizations of comics series (many by Only Superhuman‘s editor Greg Cox) and original DC-based novels, but this is apparently only their second Marvel production and their first based on a prose novel (their previous one was a Civil War adaptation). I’m privileged that they chose my book to adapt. It suggests they were pleased with OS.
I’m glad to see Drowned in Thunder getting a second shot at life, because it’s one of my favorite things that I’ve written, and yet it’s my lowest-selling paperback novel to date. To be honest, Pocket Star’s Marvel novels probably didn’t get the kind of promotion they needed, and their cover designs (using a generic font rather than the familiar character/series logos) may have made them harder to spot on the shelves — though the striking cover art for DiT is one of the best covers any of my books has ever had:
So I’m hopeful the audiobook will bring renewed attention to DiT, and encourage more people to track down copies of the paperback, though those may be hard to find. There’s actually no financial profit for me in this; I wrote my Marvel novels (this and X-Men: Watchers on the Walls) for a flat fee with no royalties. But I just want more people to experience the story, because I’m really proud of it. And it should be interesting to hear it brought to life (although the voices I hear in my head when I read the book — and when I wrote it — are those from the ’90s animated series).
It should be noted that this book came out before the One More Day/Brand New Day reboot in the Spider-Man comics. It’s set during the era when Peter Parker was still married to Mary Jane Watson, and before he joined the Avengers. I assume the audiobook will also be set in that era; I don’t see any way to update its story to fit the current status quo. Anyway, there’s more information about the novel on my website here.
Today was the Books by the Banks festival for authors from the Cincinnati region, and I spent six hours at the convention center downtown hawking my wares. In addition to a big pile of Only Superhuman, the bookstore providing merchandise for the event also had a bunch of copies of Forgotten History, a small supply of Watching the Clock, three copies of the Mere Anarchy trade paperback, and one lonely copy of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder — which wasn’t lonely for long, since it was the first book I sold. By the end of the event, I’d sold out of Mere Anarchy as well and was down to one WtC, and I’d moved seven copies of OS and at least a few of FH. Plus a few people who didn’t buy OS then and there nonetheless indicated they intended to buy it online or as an e-book. All in all, while I could’ve wished for better, it was a pretty decent performance considering that this was a general book festival, not specifically SF-oriented. I seem to recall that at my first BbtB, where they only had Titan: Over a Torrent Sea for sale, I didn’t sell that many copies. So I’m satisfied with how this event turned out. Plus I made a couple of new contacts and set things in motion for a book signing event that will hopefully materialize fairly soon.
I recently signed on to the Simon & Schuster Author Portal, which among other things (that I haven’t gotten around to investigating yet), allows us authors to see sales figures on our books and e-books published by S&S and its imprints. The specific sales figures are confidential, of course, but I’m noticing an interesting trend. While the overall sales figures of my books are much higher in print form than in e-book form (since all my Trek novels are available in e-editions as well), in recent weeks the e-book sales numbers are generally competitive with and often higher than the print-book numbers. In fact, I didn’t really count them precisely, but the impression I get from the latest week’s figures is that the majority of my backlist titles sold more electronic copies than print copies. Which would seem to confirm that e-reader use is significantly on the rise, at least for older books that might not be readily available on store shelves (though would still be available for purchase online or through special order at bookstores). It’ll be interesting to see how the print and electronic sales figures for next year’s DTI: Forgotten History compare to one another.
The unfortunate thing, though, is that my two Marvel Comics novels, X-Men: Watchers on the Walls and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, apparently aren’t available in e-book form. I’m quite proud of both of those novels, but they’re not selling very actively these days, and maybe they’d be doing better if there were e-editions available. (Although of course I’m hoping that by mentioning them here and posting purchasing links I’ll prompt a few more sales.)
I’m dropping prices once again, but I feel this is as low as I can reasonably go and still get any decent return on this.
You can buy these books from me through PayPal (via the “Send Money” tag with payments to email@example.com, or simply use the PayPal button on my homepage) for the prices listed below. Please use the PayPal “instructions to merchant” option (or e-mail me) to let me know which book(s) you’re ordering, provide your shipping address, and let me know if you want the book(s) inscribed to anyone in particular (or not autographed at all, as the case may be).
Mass-market paperback novels: All now $5 each
- Star Trek: Ex Machina (15 12 copies)
- Star Trek The Next Generation: Greater Than the Sum (13 copies)
- Star Trek Titan: Over a Torrent Sea (13 12 copies)
- Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder (20 17 copies)
Trade paperback collections: All now $10 each
- Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Prophecy and Change (5 4 copies)
- Star Trek Voyager: Distant Shores (8 7 copies)
- Star Trek: Constellations (6 copies)
- Star Trek The Next Generation: The Sky’s the Limit (8 7 copies)
- Star Trek Myriad Universes: Infinity’s Prism (contains Places of Exile) (4 3 copies)
- Star Trek Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows (7 copies)
- Star Trek: Mere Anarchy (contains “The Darkness Drops Again” (6 4 copies)
I’ll try to keep this list updated with regard to availability, but if you have doubts, query first. For buyers in the US, postage is $2 if you buy only one mass-market paperback, free for trade paperbacks or larger orders. For buyers outside the US, pay the book price and I’ll bill you for postage separately once I determine the amount.
Note: Prices have been changed again. See new post.
The response to my book sale has been underwhelming (though I’m very grateful for what response I’ve gotten so far — you know who you are), and I really, really need to make some money, so I’m cutting prices on my books.
You can buy them from me through PayPal (via the “Send Money” tag with payments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply use the PayPal button on my homepage) for the prices listed below. Please use the PayPal “instructions to merchant” option (or e-mail me) to let me know which book(s) you’re ordering, provide your shipping address, and let me know if you want the book(s) inscribed to anyone in particular (or not autographed at all, as the case may be).
Here are the books I have available, their quantities, and the sale price per copy, which is 25% off the cover price (in US dollars) except where otherwise noted:
Mass-market paperback novels
- Star Trek: Ex Machina (15 13 copies): $5.25
- Star Trek The Next Generation: Greater Than the Sum (13 copies): $6
- Star Trek Titan: Over a Torrent Sea (13 copies): $6
- Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder (20 18 copies): $5.25 Over 1/3 off!
Trade paperback collections
- Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Prophecy and Change (5 copies): $10.50
- Star Trek Voyager: Distant Shores (8 7 copies): $10.50
- Star Trek: Constellations (6 copies): $11.25
- Star Trek The Next Generation: The Sky’s the Limit (8 7 copies): $12
- Star Trek Myriad Universes: Infinity’s Prism (4 3 copies): $12
- Star Trek Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows (7 copies): $12
- Star Trek: Mere Anarchy (6 5 copies): $12
I’ll try to keep this list updated with regard to availability, but if you have doubts, query first. For buyers in the US, postage is $2 if you buy only one mass-market paperback, free for trade paperbacks or larger orders. For buyers outside the US, pay the book price and I’ll bill you for postage separately once I determine the amount. I’m dropping the extra credit-card fee for PayPal payments, but I’d still appreciate it if you could pay through your own PayPal account, if applicable.
Note: Prices have been changed. See new post.
I have a significant number of leftover copies of many of my books taking up space in my closet, and I also have an urgent need for funds, so I’m offering autographed copies for sale. You can buy them from me through PayPal (via the “Send Money” tag with payments to email@example.com, or simply use the PayPal button on my homepage) for the prices listed below. Please use the PayPal “instructions to merchant” option (or e-mail me) to let me know which book(s) you’re ordering, provide your shipping address, and let me know if you want the book(s) inscribed to anyone in particular (or not autographed at all, as the case may be).
Here are the books I have available, their quantities, and the price per copy (in US dollars):
Mass-market paperback novels
- Star Trek: Ex Machina (15 14 copies): $7
- Star Trek The Next Generation: Greater Than the Sum (13 copies): $8
- Star Trek Titan: Over a Torrent Sea (13 copies): $8
- Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder (20 19 copies): $8
Trade paperback collections
- Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Prophecy and Change (5 copies): $14
- Star Trek Voyager: Distant Shores (8 7 copies): $14
- Star Trek: Constellations (6 copies): $15
- Star Trek The Next Generation: The Sky’s the Limit (8 7 copies): $16
- Star Trek Myriad Universes: Infinity’s Prism (4 copies): $16
- Star Trek Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows (7 copies): $16
- Star Trek: Mere Anarchy (6 copies): $16
I’ll try to keep this list updated with regard to availability, but if you have doubts, query first.For buyers in the US, postage is $2 if you buy only one mass-market paperback, free for trade paperbacks or larger orders. For buyers outside the US, pay the book price and I’ll bill you for postage separately once I determine the amount.
Oh, and if you have a PayPal account of your own, please pay through that instead of a credit card. PayPal charges a fee for credit card use, so if you do use a credit card, I have to ask for an additional $0.25 per mass-market paperback or an additional $0.40 per trade paperback. (That’s about half the fee, so we’d be splitting it.)
As far as shipping goes, be patient; I’m new at this, and it may take me a bit of time to get things up and running.
Basically, the title of this journal is meant to refer to the various universes of my written fiction. So far there aren’t too many of those that have actually seen print, but I’m hoping that number will increase over time. Let’s start with the licensed universes, since they’re what I’m currently most known for:
- Star Trek. Pretty much self-explanatory. But one could say it actually constitutes multiple “worlds.” Not only have I written fiction for many of the series set in Pocket’s main book continuity — The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Titan, SCE/Corps of Engineers — but I’ve also written in three alternate Trek timelines: one of the Myriad Universes (VGR: Places of Exile, an alternate-history short novel), the Mirror Universe (“Empathy” in Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows), and now the Abramsverse (Seek a Newer World). So technically that’s several realities right there.
- Marvel Comics. Only two entries here, X-Men: Watchers on the Walls and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder. Strictly speaking, these books could be counted as two separate universes. WotW is intentionally in a continuity slightly different from the comics canon, since it was the only way to get the mix of characters I wanted and avoid certain story complications from the comics (the mandate was to tell stories that worked as standalones, like movies). But DiT is as entirely faithful as I could make it to the Spidey comics continuity as it existed when the book was written (though that continuity has now been rendered moot in the comics). There’s actually a passing allusion to WotW in DiT, though, so that complicates the delineation of universes. DiT is also assumed to be in the same continuity as the prior two Marvel Spidey novels (see previous post), and contains passing allusions to both.
So far, that’s it for licensed universes. Now on to my original written worlds:
- The Default CLB-verse. Okay, I don’t have a good name for this yet. That’s because there’s no single thing unifying it. It’s just the continuity in which I’ve always chosen to set most of my original fiction, including the first two novelettes I sold to Analog: “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.” I have a couple of stories currently on the market that are also in this universe, and if I sell an original novel anytime soon, it will be as well. Over the years, I’ve thought of this continuity by various different names. The first was “Future Prime,” which had various meanings: it was the primary future in which I wrote, it was an optimistic future, and it was also “prime” in the sense that x and x’ (x-prime) are alternate values of a single variable; I wanted it to be plausible enough that it could count as a valid alternative to the real future. Look, I was younger then. Subsequently it’s been through various names that would only be meaningful if I’d gotten more of my fiction published by now, like Geminga Universe and Bardic Universe. But for now let’s just call it the Default-verse (a term I stumbled upon while writing this post). There are times when I’m tempted to split this continuity into two separate universes, since in recent years it’s kind of coalesced around two rather different series ideas, one set in the colonial age of the Solar System, the other a sweeping warp-era space opera with plenty of aliens. Splitting them might allow each one to have its own distinct “branding.” But I suppose different series can still have that even if they’re in the same overall reality, like Asimov’s Robot and Foundation sequences (before he merged them). Although it’s a moot point unless I get them published.
- The Hub. This is the universe of my upcoming Analog story “The Hub of the Matter.” I’m hoping to do a series of stories revolving (pun intended) around the Hub. This is a humorous universe, but a credibly constructed one. That is, the world itself is relatively believable, even hard-SF, but the focus is on humorous characters and situations within it. Unlike the Default-verse, this universe has a single strong core idea, the Hub, from which everything else springs. Not sure how much more I can say now, but Analog‘s January/February issue is now out, so the March issue containing THotM should be out in just a couple more months and I’ll have plenty to say then.
- To Be Announced. I can’t talk yet about my most recent sale, but it’s in a universe all its own. It was written to fit a particular set of guidelines, and though I would’ve liked to put it in the Default-verse, it didn’t quite fit. No telling if I’ll ever do more with this universe, but it’s always struck me as a waste to create a whole reality and only do one story in it. Which is why I have a Default-verse.
Beyond that, I have ideas for several other universes I hope to do something with someday. Which is kind of my problem; I’ve generally been better at worldbuilding, creating environments, than at coming up with specific stories within them. Perhaps it’s telling that, after years of failing to make a third sale in the Default-verse, I’ve sold two stories set in new universes just over six months apart. Maybe the Default-verse is too weighed down by worldbuilding baggage and I should focus more on fresher, more streamlined worlds.
Or maybe it’s just that, after years of gaining experience writing licensed fiction, I’m simply a better writer now and have a better chance of writing publishable work in whatever universe.
We’ll see. I’m just starting in on a new story set in the Default-verse. It’s actually a prequel to the unsold spec novel set in the colonial Solar System. I figure I might have a better chance of selling that one if I create some interest in the main character first.
(And please, if anyone is thinking of updating my Wikipedia entry or anything like that, please, please don’t treat “Default-verse” as anything like an official name for that continuity. For one thing, it’s silly and ugly, and for another, it’s really pretty much hypothetical. Most of the original fiction I’ve written has been set there, but only 50% of what I’ve sold — exactly two stories — goes there. Hopefully over the years to come I’ll sell enough fiction in that universe that a good name will become evident.)
And I suppose that there’s another written world I could count:
- The Real World. Or at least my interpretation of it. I majored in world history in my second college career, and many of my papers are available on the History Papers section of my website. So I guess you could say this world counts as part of my body of written work. And of course I’ll be discussing various aspects of real life here on my blog. (Yeah, I don’t care for “blog,” but “journal” sounds a bit pretentious.)