Preorder Now!

by wjw on January 25, 2020

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The audio book of Quillifer the Knight is available on pre-order from Audible, which is to say Amazon.

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 know who I am.)

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Reviews Too Late: 1917

by wjw on January 25, 2020

urgleburgleI’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 spending a couple quiet hours in the cinema, entranced by someone else’s problems.

Since the movie’s been out for weeks I’ve had ample time to read the reviews, and I knew that it was based on First World War stories told to director Sam Mendes by his veteran grandfather, and that for some reason the movie was filmed as one two-hour-long take.  The only other single-take feature I know of was Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, after which even Hitchcock was forced to admit that filming in a single take surrenders much of the filmmaker’s vocabulary, and after viewing Rope I was inclined to agree with the sentiment.

So off I went.  The plot concerns a pair of soldiers sent across no-man’s-land to find a colonel and tell him to call off a scheduled attack, because he’ll be leading his troops straight into an ambush.  And then everything goes wrong.  The two deal with booby traps, snipers, artillery fire, raging rapids, and a burning airplane dropping on their heads, which might seem a little excessive.

The first half of the film I found the single-take narration frustrating.  Much of the action consisted of walk-and-talk scenes, in which the two soldiers advanced side-by-side while delivering exposition or trying to figure out how to avoid some deadly situation or other, or saving each other from a deadly situation they can’t avoid.  Walk-and-talk scenes are delightful when delivering sparkling Aaron Sorkin dialogue on The West Wing, but on the Western Front, not so much.

During the dialogue scenes I kept longing for the standard establishing two-shot, closeup with dialogue, close-up reaction shot, which are tools for conveying drama in an effective way.  Because all the walk-and-talks didn’t use the best tools available for dialogue, I felt alienated from the action.

But during the second half of the film, because of Plot, we are down to a single soldier desperately trying to finish the mission, and here Mendes’ single take really works, because we’re in only one soldier’s point of view, there’s very little dialogue happening, and there’s insane, vivid action taking place all the time.  By the end of the film, my alienation had vanished and I was really caught up in the action.

There’s a good deal of teeth-grinding suspense as our heroes deal with one situation after another, but Mendes has learned that you can’t have a movie that’s nonstop action because the viewers will run out of energy before the movie does, and so there are some lovely quiet moments in the film, particularly near the end, as when the soldier finds himself in a forest, listening to another soldier singing “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.”  That moment will break your heart.

And because long takes can lead to some surprising moments, when something unexpected happens and the camera just keeps running, you can have moments of complete serendipity, as when the soldier is running through a pack of charging Tommies and keeps accidentally bowling them, and himself, over.  But the camera is running and so the soldier has to keep running too.

So 1917 is more than a great technical achievement, it’s a big movie with a lot of heart, for all that the contents are not always displayed to best advantage.

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Another Fine and Splendid Review

by wjw on January 19, 2020

51gj25pb9SL._SY300_Gary K. Wolfe has reviewed Quillifer the Knight.  Nice analysis here, if I say so myself.

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Speaking at Length

by wjw on January 13, 2020

The latest issue of Clarkesworld magazine features an interview with me, conducted by Arley Sorg.

(I seem to come off as a sort of punch-drunk, heavily scarred boxer staggering around the ring saying, “ME WIN?  ME WIN?”  Which may be close to the truth, I suppose.)

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Consider the Evidence

by wjw on January 8, 2020

taos-logosmallOver the last month, I’ve posted ten novel-length (or longer) reasons why, if you want to write SF or fantasy, you should apply to this year’s Taos Toolbox workshop.  Our veterans are writing and publishing, being nominated for awards, and building their careers.

I’ve mentioned ten novels (or series), but these are only the novels I know about.  Others may have escaped my attention.

And I haven’t even begun to mention the short stories, by steady sellers like Evey Brett and Larry Hodges.

There are still places available, so if you want to make your writing dreams come true, it’s high time to apply.

UPDATE: One book that previously escaped my attention was Autumn Kalquist’s 2019 novel Atlantis Academy.   But it doesn’t have to escape yours!

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Gifts for R/e/a/d/e/r/s/ Gamers #10: Slaughter in a Box

January 3, 2020

Taos Toolbox veteran Eric Kelley has spent a lot of time in the gaming field.  In 2019 three of his games saw the light of day, Munchkin Dungeon, Trudvang Legends, and Zombicide. In Munchkin Dungeon, you delve into the dungeon, vanquish the monsters, backstab your buddies, and grab the loot!  (Can’t miss with that, now can you?) In Trudvang Legends, you […]

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2020

January 2, 2020

2019 is over.  While on balance it was a good year for me, it seems to have been a crapshow for the world in general.  So happy 2020!  (which will be worse) None of our friends were throwing New Year parties this year, so we decided to try something new and go to a party […]

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Gifts for Readers #9: Buffalo Dogs

December 29, 2019

The prolific Lawrence M. Schoen has been nominated for the Hugo Award, the John W. Campbell, and six times for the Nebula Award.  He is also a veteran of Taos Toolbox. In 2019 Lawrence published Buffalo Dogs, a prequel to his popular humorous adventure series about his interplanetary hypnotist, the Amazing Conroy. He’s the greatest hypnotist […]

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Gifts for Readers #8: Boss Fight

December 28, 2019

Taos Toolbox veteran Josh Roseman published his story collection Boss Fight in 2019. We all have battles to fight. Some of us rebel against the parasites in our heads; some of us face a choice between life and certain doom; some of us do magic when our parents say no; and some of us have to […]

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Gifts for Readers #7: Miles Morales and Ms Marvel

December 27, 2019

Just because Xmas is over doesn’t mean you can’t still buy your favorite reader a gift or two, right? Saladin Ahmed’s novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, workshopped at Taos Toolbox, was nominated for just about every award in the field.  Since then he’s made a lateral move  into comics, and in 2019 started two series […]

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