I just got back from running some errands, starting with depositing the advance check I just received for my current Star Trek novel — which I’m still not cleared to reveal any specifics about, as far as I know. It’s the second book advance I’ve gotten in as many weeks, which is a nice state of affairs.
After that, I went to the local Joseph-Beth Booksellers store so I could see my book on the shelf:
And hey, I’m almost right next to a book by my NYCC co-panelist Amber Benson!
I also introduced myself to a store manager there and tried to get a sense of how the book was doing, but that was inconclusive. They had 10 copies in stock at that store, which I’m hoping is a good sign, since at Books by the Banks (which Joseph-Beth supplied the books for), there were dozens of copies on hand. But it’s hard to be sure.
On the way out of my parking space at Joseph-Beth, my car was almost bumped into by a minivan with a Romney-Ryan bumper sticker, because its driver wasn’t paying attention. Which seems very fitting to me.
Anyway, after that came the roughest part of my trip, which was trying to take my nonfunctioning vacuum cleaner in to the local warranty service center. I wasn’t sure whether the vacuum had broken or both batteries had simultaneously died, so I hoped to get some help figuring that out and maybe getting replacement batteries if that was the issue, as well as getting the old ones recycled. But first off, I found it hard to find a parking place near the store, and had to do some extra driving and turning around and stuff to find a place I could legally park, which was a bit of a walk from the store. Then the store clerk told me he basically couldn’t do anything for me where that particular model was concerned except sell me a new one, which was only about 10 bucks more than a replacement battery would’ve cost anyway, so he said. (I checked online, and if you take tax and shipping into account, I’d say he was just about right.) My floor wasn’t getting any cleaner, so I gave in and bought the new one (which, to my disappointment, came with only one battery instead of the two my previous one came with, so I hope there’s still some life left in the old batteries after all). I’m upset that I wasn’t able to recycle the old vacuum, but at least I have some spare pieces in case I need them.
So that wasn’t too satisfying, but at least I have a functional vacuum again (hopefully). And on the way home, I noticed I was approaching a Big Boy restaurant. I’d just been thinking, not long ago, that it had been too long since I’d been to Big Boy and had one of their Buddie Boy ham sandwiches, which I quite liked. So I went in and did that, and it was very good, as were the baked apples I had on the side. Plus I saw they were advertising their pumpkin pie, and I remembered that they had a wonderful pumpkin pie, so I had a piece of that for dessert, and it was wonderful. So that was a lovely bit of serendipity and I feel very satisfied now — though it didn’t help with my efforts to lose some weight and get back into shape.
UPDATE: I just tried the new vacuum’s battery in the old vacuum, and it worked. So I only needed a new battery after all, not a new vacuum. I wonder if it’s worth it to return the vacuum and just order a replacement battery. Or maybe it’s a good idea to keep the new vacuum on hand just in case the old one does break down.
I just discovered that Library Journal has named Only Superhuman its SF/Fantasy Debut of the Month. The money quote from the review by Jackie Cassada:
The sf debut and first original novel by the author of Star Trek: The Original Series: Ex Machina and other TV and comics tie-ins has created a world of believable supermen and women set against a complex world of rival factions not unlike those of Renaissance city-states. VERDICT: Bennett brings believability to the larger-than-life world of superheroes in a story that should appeal to sf and comics fans alike.
That last sentence is just about exactly what I hoped people would say about my book. Really great to hear. I admit, there are a couple of less flattering reviews out there, and I was starting to worry. I’ve long believed that anything with enough substance to evoke strong positive reactions in some people would inevitably evoke strong negative reactions in others, so I’d be okay with a mix of both. (I’ve gotten a similar reaction to the T’Ryssa Chen character I created for my Star Trek: TNG novels, a character who has a lot in common with Emerald Blair; some people strongly dislike her, while others are very fond of her.) But until now, the positive reactions have been a little sparse, and I’ve been getting a little neurotic about it. So this review is very reassuring. (Actually it’s dated 9 days ago, but somehow I’ve missed it until now.)
The comparison to Renaissance city-states is interesting. Insofar as I had a historical model in mind, I was probably thinking more in terms of ancient Greek city-states — and to a large extent of modern ethnic and religious nationalism and the ways it divides us and causes more problems than it solves.
(Edited to add the review link)
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.
Recently Turner Classic movies aired both the 1931 and 1941 film versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on consecutive days, giving me a good chance to compare the two. The ’31 version was directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starred Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, and Rose Hobart. It was a remarkable piece of filmmaking for its day, very technically innovative, with an impressive use of POV shots, including a brilliant opening sequence that’s shot almost entirely from Jekyll’s own point of view, which must’ve taken some very creative camera work. Our first view of Jekyll himself (here pronounced “Jee-kle,” a more correct pronunciation than the “Jeckle” version we use today) is from his own POV as he looks in a mirror, foreshadowing the later shot where we see Hyde for the first time also from his own POV — both no doubt achieved by building a duplicate set behind a clear piece of glass so that the “reflection” was actually March himself. There are also lots of clever scene transitions, particularly the recurring use of diagonal split screens to juxtapose characters and events and convey the theme of duality. I’d love to see a “making-of” featurette or article about the movie. Plus there were all the transformation effects, of course, and though the dissolves and jump cuts are familiar techniques today, there was one technique used that’s still impressive, and that only works in black-and-white. I read about it in The Twilight Zone Companion — they’d paint the first stage of the transformation makeup on the actor in red (say), then light him through a red filter so it was invisible, and then they’d switch to a green filter so it would fade into view, and he would visibly begin to transform right before our eyes, purely in camera. It was done quite effectively here.
I found Hyde’s makeup (by Wally Westmore) and his behavior more comical than frightening at first, but when it got into his ongoing abuse of Ivy (Hopkins), it became quite chilling and dark, and surprisingly modern in its frank portrayal of a sexually abusive relationship. The sexual content was pretty blatant for the era, even with a partial nude scene (plus some nude paintings/sculptures clearly visible at some points), though I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised since it came out before the Hays Code was enforced.
I also feel Hyde’s appearance was given away too soon. There should’ve been more mystery about what was going on in that first transformation, some suspense about what the results of Jekyll’s experiments were. Heck, in the original Robert Louis Stevenson story, we didn’t find out that Hyde and Jekyll were the same man until after he/they died! True, most of it was told in flashback, which was a very clumsy format for the story, but the movie could’ve tried to capture some of that sense of mystery.
Unfortunately, the 1941 version is a greatly inferior film. Despite being from a rather accomplished director, Victor Fleming, who’d done Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, it was a much less innovative, much more ordinary production than the previous film, with nothing really intriguing done with the direction, cinematography, or special effects. The casting was also pretty bad. Spencer Tracy was just too nice a guy to be effectively menacing, and as much as I like Ingrid Bergman, it was kind of painful to listen to her trying to pretend to be a Cockney. Though on the other hand, I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen a Lana Turner movie, and she was really lovely.
The movie also suffered greatly from the Hays Code. The hand of censorship was so heavy that the movie couldn’t really explore or depict what made Hyde so evil. It implied that he was sexually violating and abusing Ivy off-camera, but it was executed so sedately that what we saw onscreen made Hyde seem more just uncouth and annoying than cruel and terrifying, so it never really sold the sense of menace. Given the radical difference in censorship, I’m surprised the ’41 movie hewed so closely to the ’31 film’s storyline. I mean, that’s a movie that’s heavily dependent on the sexual nature of Hyde’s relationship with Ivy to demonstrate how brutal and abusive he is. Try to tell the same story with the sexuality swept under the rug and it’s rendered hollow. Maybe they should’ve told a different version of the story altogether, one where Hyde’s evil was demonstrated through crime and violence and stuff they could actually show, instead of nebulously implied sexual cruelty. After all, the original Stevenson work doesn’t include the Ivy character or Jekyll’s more wholesome fiancee, and avoids specific description of Hyde’s debaucheries aside from a murder or two.
Jack Dawn’s makeup for Hyde was also way too subtle, basically just a wig, a small appliance on the brows and nose, some wrinkles around the eyes, and bushy eyebrows, with the rest being just Tracy bugging his eyes and grinning. Fredric March’s Jekyll turned into an apelike brute, but Tracy essentially turned into Burgess Meredith as the Penguin. No, strike that; at least the Penguin was interesting to watch. Plus it was completely ridiculous that nobody could tell that Jekyll and Hyde were the same man. At least Clark Kent had glasses. The whole thing was kind of embarrassing, and greatly disappointing.
Although I guess it’s kind of appropriate that of two consecutive versions of DJ&MH, one would be good and the other would be bad.
It’s October 16, 2012, and that means Only Superhuman is now officially on sale! The major online bookseller sites all list it as “In Stock,” and the e-book editions are now available for download! I’ve updated my website’s ordering links from “preorder” to “buy.” But just for the heck of it, here are the main ones again:
In other news, I’ve been interviewed about Only Superhuman by the website My Bookish Ways.
My last day of Comic-Con was… largely unnecessary. I went in so I could give that Chronic Rift interview I promised, but other than that I didn’t need to be there at all; I was just waiting for David Mack to finish because we had plans to go to dinner and a movie with a group that was celebrating fellow author Aaron Rosenberg’s birthday. In retrospect, I wish I’d managed to give the interview Friday, then just stayed in Saturday, maybe gotten some writing done, until the time came to go out to dinner. NYCC on Saturday is insanely crowded and noisy, and with no reason to be there I was just wandering, inundated with noise and, err, crowdiness for hours, until I could barely take it anymore. I eventually retreated to the Rift booth and Keith DeCandido was kind enough to let me collapse in his chair. Then we walked through the equally noisy and crowded streets of Midtown Manhattan on a Saturday night, had dinner at an equally noisy restaurant in a group of over a dozen people, then watched Looper (a movie that has its share of noisy bits), then more crowded streets… I finally gave up and made my apologies to the group when they went to get dessert at a tavern where we were seated right next to the band, which for some reason had its performance amplified even though it was a small space. I was just too overwhelmed from over 10 hours of sensory overload, and it was past my bedtime anyway. The dinner and the movie were good, but cumulatively the whole day was too much for me and I would’ve been a drag on the group if I’d stayed any longer. If I’d skipped the con, I would’ve had a better day all around.
Anyway, one upside of being so exhausted was that I finally got a good night’s sleep. And my flight was in the early afternoon, so I had plenty of time to get ready and even pick up a sandwich at a neighborhood deli. I had a bit of a problem at the airport, though, since I foolishly packed my sunblock in my backpack instead of my suitcase. The TSA person had talked me into checking my backpack, but the bag clerk reminded me that would cost me another 25 bucks and it’d be cheaper just to let her toss out the sunblock and buy another bottle. I wish the TSA person had thought to suggest that, because it would’ve saved me a second trip through security. Also, because I made my flight reservations through the NYCC’s affiliated service rather than the one I’ve used before, I didn’t get to reserve my seats ahead of time, so I got stuck with a middle seat in a row of three and didn’t get a decent view.
Otherwise, my flight went smoothly, but there was a delay in baggage delivery, and then I had to wait nearly an hour for the shuttle bus to Cincinnati. And then, once I’d taken the local bus back to my neighborhood, climb the steep street between there and my building. Not easy when you’re totally exhausted. But I’m finally home now, and I’ve had a decent dinner, and my DVR actually recorded everything I told it to (not counting the DC Nation block that Cartoon Network inexplicably cancelled at the last minute).
Oh, and on the plane I read a trade paperback collection I bought of a Stargate miniseries focusing on Claudia Black’s character Vala Mal Doran, who’s one of my favorite cast members. But I found it very disappointing. Vala was handled pretty well, in character and looking reasonably like Black, but its portrayal of the Stargate universe as a whole was astonishingly inaccurate. It has flashbacks set a number of years before Vala joined SG-1, which would be during the Goa’uld’s reign, yet the Lucian Alliance already exists in them, and there’s no evidence of Goa’uld presence anywhere in the galaxy. There are too few human “aliens” depicted, and those that are shown include a man with a modern Western name and wardrobe, something which shouldn’t have existed on another world in that timeframe. Also, the creators confuse Goa’uld transport rings for Asgard technology and misunderstand how they work. When we get to the present, General O’Neill is still going on missions with SG-1, and looks not only nothing like Richard Dean Anderson, but about 20 years and 50 pounds short of how he looked by the time he made general. Oh, and Teal’c is still bald, uses contractions, and doesn’t address people by their full names. And the story as a whole just doesn’t feel like it belongs in the Stargate universe. It has too many discrepancies and too few connections to the mythology and continuity of the series. It’s like some random sci-fi story that got hastily rewritten for SG-1. I’m very disappointed, but unfortunately I can’t very well go back to the store in Manhattan for a refund. At least the other comics I got were worthwhile: a couple of IDW’s Star Trek miniseries and the long-awaited conclusion to the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics miniseries The Promise, which I’ve held off reading until I can reread parts 1 & 2, but which is bound to be good if it’s anywhere near on a par with the others.
So, a mixed trip overall. Some wonderful memories and some very frustrating ones. The balance comes out on the positive side, since some of the positives were among the best experiences of my life, but all in all it’s been the most intense few days I’ve experienced in a long time. I’m glad I can rest now.
Back from Comic-Con. It was kind of a mixed day for me, but one that turned out mostly positive. First, my Tor publicist and I found that the Barnes & Noble booth that was supposed to have copies of Only Superhuman on sale for the autograph table didn’t have them, 15-20 minutes before the session was to begin. Turned out they were still en route from the store, so an arrangement was made for the Tor folks to bring down some of the copies meant for my later signing at their booth, with an appropriate trade to be made later.
But it turned out we needn’t have bothered. Anyone who’d been interested in my book must’ve already gotten in the autograph line before the books actually got there, so all I got were a few people asking where the book was. At least I was able to sign my homemade flyer for them and let them know about the later signing. The signing was linked with the panel I was on yesterday, with the same group of writers, and most of the people in line were there for the more famous authors in the group, including Jacqueline Carey and former Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast member Amber Benson, who’s got her own series of fantasy novels. So aside from those three or so people, I had a very quiet hour.
I was feeling pretty bummed when the session broke off, but then I got a chance to talk to Amber Benson, who was really nice and approachable and had some complimentary things to say about my comments on yesterday’s panel. So we had a nice little chat, and then she actually tagged along with the publicists and me when we left. We walked past other people who were signing, including Lou Ferrigno and Adam West, and when I mentioned how I would’ve liked the chance to say hello, Amber encouraged me to just stop by for a moment and give them signed copies of my book as gifts. Unfortunately I couldn’t get past Adam West’s handlers even with my publicist’s help, but his people did accept the book. And then Amber led me over to Lou Ferrigno’s table and I got to thank him for his work as the Hulk and shake his hand. So I just felt great after that. I’d expected that Amber would be the busy celebrity and get swept away by her staff or whoever as soon as she was done with the signing, but she was really friendly and just one of the guys, and I was touched that she would go out of her way to help me with my little problem. So that was a definite high point. Wow.
I had a while before the Tor signing so I wandered the floor and talked to some folks I knew, mainly Keith DeCandido, who as usual was selling his books at the table for the Chronic Rift podcast (which will probably be interviewing me tomorrow). I also ended up giving a spur-of-the-moment video interview to another podcaster who dropped by, although I don’t currently have specifics about where to find it, if it’s even up yet.
The Tor signing went much better than the earlier event. That was a con-exclusive giveaway, a good way to drum up interest, so I’m told, and there was a nice-sized line already there when I arrived. We gave away all the books pretty quickly and that was very gratifying.
After that, I had a nice talk with fellow Trek author Kevin Dilmore over at the Hallmark booth (his day job is for them), and then I made my way back to where I’m staying, which was a long walk to and from the subway. But I’m back now, and the day is over, and on the whole it was a pretty great day.