Scottish Cyrano

by wjw on February 22, 2020

Last night I thought I’d see what’s up with Britain’s National Theater, so I nipped up to Albuquerque to see James McAvoy in a new adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac.

This was a performance of the play, allegedly live, broadcast to select theaters in North America.  I’m not sure about the live part, because that would have meant the curtain went up at 1 or 2 in the morning in London, but at least it was a recording of a live play, which you could tell because the actors’ mistakes weren’t edited out.

The dialogue is delivered as a form of rap, which makes more sense than you think it might.  Rostand’s original play was written in rhyming couplets, so all you have to add to the mix are some beats.  A rap Cyrano at least makes more superficial sense than a rap production of the life of America’s first Secretary of the Treasury.

McAvoy is known partly by following his fellow Scot, Patrick Stewart, in a number of roles.  McAvoy’s Macbeth followed Stewart’s, and he also followed Stewart as Professor Xavier in the X-Men franchise.  I wondered a little about a Scottish rapping Cyrano, as I hadn’t heard anything about McAvoy rolling in his cherry six-four to the cipher down 40 Side, rhyming to the ambient beats while drinking beat juice and smokin’ cheeba.  (Surely I would have heard.)

Everyone wore modern dress.  The stage was a bare, empty box, with only mic stands and a few cheap stackable chairs.  Some chances taken, there.  Another chance was the utter absence of Cyrano’s famous nose, leaving nothing to impede our admiration of McAvoy’s movie-star-handsome face.

On the other hand, if you can imagine an empty box being Paris in 1640, and people in hoodies and tees being swashbuckling cavaliers, you can imagine a large beezer on Cyrano’s face.  Am I right?

The whole play’s about objectification, if you haven’t noticed.  Christian and Roxane fall in love with each other because they’re beautiful, and Cyrano can’t get anyone to love him because he’s ugly, no matter how many poems he writes or thugs he cuts down.  Most of the rest of the cast are pretty damn superficial, too.

By the end of the play I didn’t care about the empty box or the non-nose or the hoodies, because everyone was just too good.  The play reminded me why I care about theater.

Eben Figueiredo and Anita-Joy Uwajeh were excellent in the parts of Christian and Roxane, but McAvoy’s performance was stunning.  You could believe this handsome guy thought he was ugly, you could believe he was the victor in a hundred rap battles, and you were breathless when he faced the audience and said his lines.

The final dialogue between Roxane and Cyrano went on for maybe twenty minutes, with both of them facing downstage and reacting as if the audience was the other actor.  Which is why I love theater, because you can watch people talk for twenty minutes at a go and have your heart in your throat the whole time.

That never happens in movies or TV.  You can’t have people recite rhyming couplets for that long, you have to interrupt it with a gunfight or a sex scene or have a CGI planet blow up.

This will turn up on a streaming service one of these days, and you need to see it.  Because that Rostand dude coined some phat beats.

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I Am Invaded

by wjw on February 18, 2020

I’m in a general state of non-compliance with the universe right now, a result of a full schedule of panels, meals, malt beverages, and fun at Boskone, plus jet lag following yesterday’s ten hours in a steel tube crossing the country while battling a 120-knot headwind, which turned the aircraft into a kind of hard-sided bouncy castle of the air.

But I don’t want you to go without entertainment, so here’s an interview with me on the Invaders From Planet 3 podcast.

It should be up on iTunes, Spotify, and other podcatching platforms, but they’ll upload when they upload, so it may not be there yet.

This interview dates from Worldcon last year, so you may hear Irish voices somewhere in the background.



Boskone Schedule

by wjw on February 12, 2020

This weekend I will be at Boskone 57, which I imagine is the longest-lasting Boston SF convention.

And guess what!  Unlike some conventions— I’m looking at you, Worldcon— I’m actually on the schedule!

So if you want to see me at any point, here’s where to look.

Memorable Minor Characters

Format: Panel
14 Feb 2020, Friday 15:00 – 15:50, Burroughs (Westin)

Genre literature is full of striking minor characters — from Jaqen H’ghar (A Song of Ice and Fire) to Wedge Antilles (Star Wars) to Agrajag (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) — that can have a dramatic and lasting effect on the reader. What purposes do they play? How can they shape or influence the heart of a story? Let’s discuss some of speculative fiction’s most memorable minor characters, and the true power they hold.

Reading; Walter Jon Williams

Format: Reading
14 Feb 2020, Friday 18:00 – 18:25, Griffin (Westin)

Walter Jon Williams

Autographing: Diana Rowland, Cat Scully, Walter Jon Williams, Gene Doucette

Format: Autographing
15 Feb 2020, Saturday 12:00 – 12:50, Galleria – Autographing (Westin)

Futuristic Societies in Science Fiction

Format: Panel
15 Feb 2020, Saturday 14:00 – 14:50, Marina 3 (Westin)

Creatures that are part human and part machine. Sentient alien species. People living on ships and across time itself. The future is full of people. So what does it mean to be a person in the future? How might futuristic societies evolve based upon their surroundings and histories? How can we escape the perils and pitfalls of contemporary social norms in order to create societies that feel completely fresh and new?

Slightly Subversive Fantasy

Format: Panel
15 Feb 2020, Saturday 16:00 – 16:50, Harbor I (Westin)

In the words of Ursula Le Guin, “Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art — the art of words.” Arguably, science fiction and fantasy are at their very hearts genres of subversion, challenging the status quo. Let’s talk about the art of subversion, and how we as artists and readers support and promote social change through the creation of ideas and the power of imagination.

Fantastic Female Villains

Format: Panel
16 Feb 2020, Sunday 12:00 – 12:50, Harbor II (Westin)

Where are the female villains in today’s stories? Although we often speak of female characters, how about strong female villains? Let’s look beyond the popular revenge-seeking rape victim … sometimes women are just plain mean!

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Getting Serious About the Toolbox

by wjw on February 10, 2020

taos-logosmallThere are still places available at Taos Toolbox, master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, taught this year by Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams, with George RR Martin and indiepub guru EM Tippetts.

Taos Toolbox has a proven record of helping writers develop into full-fledged professionals.  If you’re serious about writing for a living, you’ll want to get serious about Toolbox.

Also, the Terran Award, sponsored by George RR Martin, is still available to any writer hailing from a non-English-speaking country.

There’s a hard deadline of 1 April, so get those manuscripts in the mail!


Miss Shelley Presents

by wjw on February 9, 2020

440px-RothwellMaryShelleyI’ve had an interest in Mary Shelley and her circle for something like ever, an interest that resulted in my novella “Wall, Stone, Craft.” (Which I recommend to you all.)

But I also recommend to you this intriguing Kickstarter project, a graphic novel series called Mary Shelley Presents.

Each of the four volumes will feature Mary Shelley and her monster introducing a horror story by a Victorian woman writer, a writer celebrated in her time but (mostly) forgotten now.

The adaptations will be by multiple Bram Stoker-winning author Nancy Holder, with covers by Bobby Breed, Gwyn Tavares, Leonie O’Moore and Anna Giovannini, and interior art by Amelia Woo.

The adapted stories were originally by Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Strickland, Edith Nesbit, and Amanda Edwards.  (Ms. Edwards is completely new to me, and seems so obscure now that I can find nothing about her.)

The original prose stories will be printed in the back of each volume.

I like finding out about new writers, even if they’ve been dead for over 100 years.  And I also like rediscovering writers, as I hope myself to be one day rediscovered.

Looks like this one’s worth supporting.



February 7, 2020

Some notes on what I’ve been viewing. The Feed, on Amazon, is about a phone-free future in which practically everyone has social media implanted in their heads.  Not only are they online all the time, but the Feed records their lives continually on “mundles” (which I’m guessing is a portmanteau of “memory bundles”) so that […]

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Reviews Too Late: Witcher

February 2, 2020

This is probably the most gratuitous review ever, because if you gave a damn about Witcher you’ve already seen it and formed your own opinion.  Probably a lot of you never got past the first episode, which had by far the worst writing of any episode of the series, and made no attempt to clarify […]

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Your Ears, Forever Feasting

January 31, 2020

Much though I hope you’ll all go out and buy audio books of Quillifer the Knight, I feel I should remind you that 2019 was a big year for me, audio book-wise. I can personally recommend the audio versions of Metropolitan and City on Fire, both read by the terrific Emily Woo Zeller.  She’s absolutely great at bringing […]

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P/r/e/o/r/d/e/r Now!

January 25, 2020

The audio book of Quillifer the Knight is no longer available for pre-order, because it’s just plain available! It’s narrated by the wonderful Ralph Lister, who narrated the first book in the series.  Give yourself a treat, and have a listen. (Also, I note that they’ve got my names in the wrong order.  Ignore that. You […]

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Reviews Too Late: 1917

January 25, 2020

I’ve been wanting to see 1917 and various other recent movies, but life has been too hectic to see any entertainment that’s running on a theater’s schedule and not my own.  But today was the first day in ages I haven’t been dashing from Pillar A to Post Z, so I decided to celebrate by […]

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