Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Coincidences That Kill

Recently I had a chance to enter a short-story into a contest sponsored by NASA. The contest was to commemorate the moon landing of 1969, as well as the planned return trip to the moon in the near future. Problem is, I found out about the contest 2 weeks before the deadline, and I knew only the basic facts about our neighbor satellite. So not only did I have to do my research, I had to write and polish a short 5k-long story in under 14 days.

The first coincidence came a week before I received word of this contest. I had purchased The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, considered by some to be Robert A. Heinlein's best work. It certainly has been a perennial favorite of most "best of" sci-fi lists since the book's initial publication. Since I first got into sci-fi at the age of 14, I had been playing catch-up to all the classics in the field, and this was one I'd been meaning to read for almost as long. But once I decided to write a story about the moon, I knew I had to put off reading Heinlein's classic until I at least wrote the rough draft. You see, I didn't want the book--which takes place on the moon--to influence my writing style at all.

Having written the story (and ultimately deciding against submitting it to the contest), I'm now half-way through reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and I'm absolutely dumbfounded by how much of the book I "ripped off" inadvertently. I was at first angry, because there's no way I'll ever be able to explain such blatant similarities between the novel and my short. And the fact that my protagonists even mentions the novel in an off-hand manner probably doesn't help my case none. But I swear on a stack of holy Bibles, I did *not* write this story with any fore knowledge of Heinlein's novel. For whatever that's worth.

Over time, however, that initial anger and worry has given away to bemusement. I mean, my story is definitely nowhere near the level of sophistication or mastery of Heinlein's writing. So in that way, it's very much unlike his novel. But also, since I doubt the story will ever see the light of day beyond a couple of my close friends, I'm not really in danger of having the plagiarism police come kicking down my door any time soon. So who's to be the wiser?

Still, the similarities are sometimes eerie. I don't know how to explain how so many similar plot elements from TMIAHM ended up in my tale. I really can't. My friend, T, has offered the theory that, since I did research on the moon, there really is only but so many ways a writer can take that same info and spin it into a narrative. Since Heinlein knew most of the same "facts" about the moon as what I was able to dig up, perhaps it's only to be expected that there would be similarities. However, I countered with specific examples that I say are just *too* neatly coincidental.

Case in point:

  • The protagonist of TMIAHM is a handyman/technician. My protagonist is a handyman/technician.
  • The plot of TMIAHM consists of the lunar colonists revolting against Earth. My story is about an officer attempting to stop such a revolution from beginning.
  • In TMIAHM, the colonists are called "loonies." In my story, they are called "moonies."
  • In TMIAHM, the great nations of Earth have banded together to form the Federated Nations. In my story, the nations of Earth have unified to form the Federated Nations (no joke).
  • In TMIAHM, the protagonist heads "Earthside" to India. In my story, my protagonist is from India -- and I use the term "Earthside," too!
  • In TMIAHM, the linchpin of the revolt and the further economy of the free colonists is a space catapult for exporting goods from the moon. In my story, the linchpin of the terrorists attempts at sabotage is the space elevator, which the colonists use to import and export their goods from ships harbored in orbit.

As you can see, some of these "coincidences" are tenuous enough to not be worth mentioning. But taken as a whole, together with those elements that are uncannily similar (the professions of the protagonists, and the "Federated Nations" part in particular), there's no way anyone's going to believe me that I didn't read TMIAHM at some point before writing my story. Maybe I read it back when I was a teenager and forgot about it?

And I say without a doubt I never read that novel until after I had already finished writing my story. My only theory is that, since Heinlein's novel has been out since the 60s, it's possible that a lot of the sci-fi I've read was itself influenced from the novel, and that somehow that influence transferred to me during my reading of these works. But I think that's too much of a stretch. I don't buy that explanation.

So, unfortunately, although I actually *like* this moon story I've written, I won't be submitting it anywhere. I'll never be able to explain away the similarities. And even if an editor believed me, it wouldn't erase the fact that my story is too derivative of a well-known, cherished novel written by one of the fields most respected Grand Masters.

So, you see, sometimes it's the coincidences which can kill a story.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Book Review: Exceptions to Reality

Alan Dean Foster is the most important sci-fi writer--scratch that, the most important writer period--to me in terms of my development as a writer over the years. Since my best friend, T, introduced me to his works back in the 9th grade, I've been an ardent follower of everything this man has written. And he's written A LOT!

Exceptions to Reality is not Foster's first collection of short-stories (he's compiled six prior to this one), but it is perhaps his most mature. And what I mean by mature is that each story in this collection is succinct and masterfully composed, trimmed of almost all the fat that new writers struggle to excise from their own works. Here is a maestro at play, expertly weaving indelible tunes through the reader's consciousness, setting to print fourteen brief tales that run the gamut of far-future sci-fi to urban fantasy, and back!

Among my favorites:

  • Chauna -- One of the richest men in the known galaxy, Gibeon Bastrop lives in the very lap of luxury. But the one thing his money cannot buy is a chance to glimpse a legendary beauty unseen by an intelligent species for over a thousand years. The Chauna is rumored to be myth, a creature of legend like the fabled Phoenix, inhabiting only binary star systems. Delta Avinis is one such system, but Bastrop's crew is restless. They want to go home. Some are planning outright mutiny, until a chance encounter changes everything.

  • The Muffin Migration -- Jamie Bowman and Gerard LeCleur are planetary surveyors assigned to the bucolic, though boring, temperate world of Hedris. As the first humans on the planet, their job is to catalogue and scout out suitable locations for corporate investment. They befriend the local, friendly natives and are introduced to Hedris's most prolific lifeform -- hairy, short balls of harmless herbivores nicknamed "muffins" by the pair. The muffins are precocious, cuddly . . . and taste great broiled on the grill! But when the muffin migration begins, Bowman and LeCleur discover there is more bite than bark to these adorably tasty little pets.

  • Basted -- Ali Kedal is tired of his life as a second-rate baggage handler for a tour guide operator in the Egyptian city of Zagazig. He entertains loftier dreams that do not include his bothersome, overly plump wife. While riding his favorite (and only) camel through the desert one night, he stumbles across a chance encounter that will change his fortune forever -- if he can survive becoming the local wildlife's dinner.

  • The Last Akialoa -- The Alakai swamp, formed in the caldera of Kauai's highest volcanic peak, is the rainiest place on Earth. And also one of the most dangerous. Those who travel too far into its boggy center are rarely heard from again. To the ornithologist, Loftgren, such danger is inconsequential to the chance of the lifetime: spotting the elusive Akialoa, a native bird to Hawaii and possibly now extinct. No one has seen an Akialoa on record since 1973, but rumor has it that a flock of the birds has been living in the Alakai for years. Two of Loftgren's contemporaries, Kinkaid and Masaki, went in looking for the birds. They never made it out. Now's his turn. But Loftgren soon discovers that his field expertise and carefully chosen native guide will not be enough to deal with the Alakai's most fearsome obstacle -- the swamp itself.
These stories and many more display Foster's intricate imagination and knack for colorful description. While some of the offerings are perhaps a little too brief (the Pip & Flinx short, Growth, from his popular "Flinx of the Commonwealth" series comes to mind), ultimately the collection left me firmly in the belief that Foster writes the kind of stories I want to read. Moreover, he writes the kind of stories I aspire to write myself. Lean, quick-witted, and full of fun and adventure.

Longtime fans of Foster's will no doubt recognize some of these stories, as a few are reprints from previously published editor anthologies. But the tales are just as good, if not better, the second time around.

Rating: B+

Birthday Month Coming Up!!!

The only thing bad about being married to a fellow Virgo is that we're barely done eating the first birthday cake by the time the second one comes around. Okay, well on second thought . . . maybe that doesn't sound so bad after all. I mean, there's worst dilemmas one must face in life, right?

Luckily for me, my b-day comes first in the month (9/7), while hers is almost 2 weeks later (9/22). So this means I get to determine the coolness of her gift by what she gives me on my own b-day beforehand. (ha, ha -- just kidding)

But it does bring up something I hate the most about this month, and that is dealing with the anxiety of picking out just the right gift. Lisa is hard to shop for because she *NEVER* drops hints about anything. And I'm telling you, I keep my ears and eyes open for it all the time. Basically it boils down to me having to ask outright: TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT!!

In the above pictured b-day, I went all out for Lisa and surprised her with a yummy cake, flowers, stuffed animal, and various baked goodies in tins. And that wasn't even her present! It's funny, but as I get older I'm starting to enjoy more the giving of presents rather than receiving. Probably because I usually just go out and buy whatever I want whenever I see it, rather than waiting for the appropriate gift-giving holiday to roll around.

Is anyone else like this? Is it a pain trying to shop for the S.O., or do you have a secret knack for picking the right gift? Care to share your secret?

A Tale of Two Stadiums

This is the view of the two Yankee Stadiums from my 10th floor window. Few people realize just how close I live to the house of Yanks, or how I can hear every game broadcast live in real surround sound from my living room. It makes watching home games through my TiVO a pain, since I can hear the crowd react (favorably or, more recently, unfavorably) seconds before the DVR's buffer catches up. I didn't have a wide enough camera lens to fit both stadiums completely in the same frame, or to use zoom at all. But below are two separate pictures of first the old, then the new stadium:

The house that Ruth built is starting to fill up for today's game against the Blue Jays. At night, those large stadium lights on top come right into my bedroom. Good thing for window blinds!

The house that Steinbrenner built is still under construction, though the basic shell and main levels have been completed. As you can tell, I won't have as good a view when the Yanks move to their new location in April of 2009. Worse yet, the buildings between me and the new stadium won't block out the lights -- so it might actually be *brighter* in my apartment this time. Argh!!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Movie Review: Traitor

Just got back from watching Traitor, a new espionage flick starring Don Cheadle. Despite knowing almost nothing about this movie going into it (it kinda snuck up on us, didn't it?), Traitor already had two things going for it on the interesting meter: 1) The story concept was conceived (at least partly) by comedian/actor Steve Martin; and 2) Don Cheadle gets to carry the movie almost all by himself -- AND get his Bourne Identity on, to boot!

Anyway, despite a fairly obvious plotline that was easy to figure out in the first 5 minutes -- and even despite being a 2-hour long pale imitation of Fox's "24" -- I actually found the film enjoyable. What saves it is the absolutely great characterization of Cheadle's African muslim character, Samir Horn, and a truly exceptional performance handed in by Saïd Taghmaoui, who some may recognize from Showtime's hit show, "Sleeper Cell" (also about terrorists -- hmmm).

In fact, the character arc written for Taghmaoui's role, Omar, is perhaps some of the most impressive writing I've seen for an Arab muslim character in a hollywood movie. He's not some cookie-cutter terrorist, but neither is he neutered or apologetic. He goes from being someone you just despise at the start of the film, to being someone you sort of respect in the middle, and then someone you actually sympathize with by the final act. That's a tall order for a character who is a staunch Jihadist.

Ultimately, Traitor worked well despite the transparency of its "twist," which not only speaks to the tightness of the script, but more importantly to the performances of both Cheadle and Taghmaoui. The supporting cast also turns in nicely nuanced roles; most notably Guy Pearce as FBI agent Roy Clayton, and Jeff Daniels (say what?) as Horn's CIA handler, Carter.

A pretty decent post-blockbuster season offering.

Rating: 7/10

Da Vinci, Eat Your Heart Out!

At the recent nVision '08 technology showcase, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman (of Mythbusters fame) closed out the ceremony by demonstrating the vast processing superiority of a GPU over a CPU. They did so by attempting to paint the Mona Lisa in the fastest time possible using paintballs and a whole hell of a lot of compressed air.

You just got to click on the video to see for yourself. It's CRAZY!!!

OMG! Barack Obama is BLACK????

Over the past couple of days, I've been hearing rumors all across the news media that a certain Democratic presidential nominee is being compared -- favorably, no less -- to the slain civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

At first, I thought it was just more left-wing poppycock. Or even *gasp* some demented, nefarious ploy by a disturbed Republican. But as we neared Thursday, August 28, the rumors only intensified. Not only was Barack Obama being connected to the famous orator and marcher of a bygone era, but one misinformed newscaster even went so far as to say that Senator Obama was "making history" as the first BLACK candidate to win the Democratic Party ticket!!!

Now, I was busy making dinner in the kitchen, so I was sure I was hearing things. But then other news outlets began to pick up on the "historic" commentary and run with it. Turns out Barack Obama is really a BLACK man! He's not only BLACK, but he's doing something historic that only other BLACK people would care about.

Thankfully, the rest of us now know of Obama's not-so-secret plot to make history, and are quite aware of his blackity black blackness. Phew! Disaster avoided. Hopefully the good citizens of this country will do the right thing and keep history from being made a SECOND time in Washington this November.

Okay, all snarkiness aside, I think the media is making too big a deal about Barack Obama's historic nomination. Let's get this clear:

Yes, it *is* historic. Yes, it *is* a big deal. The fact that his acceptance of the nomination was given exactly 45 years to the day since Dr. King gave his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial is certainly being touted by the DNC to great effect.

However, why is it that I sense an ulterior motive to all this media attention to the same fact?

I don't know, maybe it's just the cynic in me, but it sounds like the news pundits don't want a certain large demographic of the U.S. voting population to forget an inescapable, sometimes foregone, conclusion: that Barack Obama is unquestionably, undeniably, BLACK!!!

Because, all throughout the day Wednesday, and then of course last night, this is all I've been hearing. The first BLACK man this, the first BLACK man that. Hey, let's ask this BLACK woman on the street what she thinks of this historic occasion. Is she happy that *her* candidate got nominated? Wait, you were hoping Hilary would get it? Oh, but you *are* still voting for Barack, right? *wink, wink*

Look, maybe I'm making a big deal out of this. Or maybe I'm not. Point is, Obama's campaign has never been about the race issue, although the media continues to try to paint him into that corner. His has always been the all-inclusive policy; we are ALL Americans, regardless of our skin color. His supporters run the full range of ethnic backgrounds: white, black, hispanic, etc. He knows that history is being made, but he does not want to belabor the point. His campaign is about moving forward and making change.

But it seems that the media wants you to never forget that he is first and foremost a BLACK man. They mention it every chance they get. And yes: Obama *is* black. Surprise, surprise.

But I never, ever hear John McCain being introduced as: "the white Republican nominee." I mean, that's just silly. What possible significance does the color of Senator McCain's skin have to do with his ability to run this country?

What indeed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I Love This Guy!

Check out this review of Braid, a game recently released for download to the Xbox 360 via its Live! marketplace. These episodes are brought to you by Zero Punctuation, a weekly webisode series done by a chap named Yahtzee -- a cynical, fast-talking Brit who's been relocated to Australia. He always has something entertaining to say about games, but best of all he does so in a breathless, biting sarcastic -- and quite often, foul-mouthed -- manner that is so much fun to listen to.

I've been a fan for almost a year now, and in that time he's ripped apart many an unsuspecting console and/or PC game. Check out the archive over at the host site, The Escapist, and find a game you cherish most. Then be prepared to have your feelings hurt! Mwaa-haaa-ha-ha-ha!!!

Do You Require Substances to Keep You Going Throughout the Day?

I hate mornings, don't you? Well, not everyone does, but I do. I once tried to structure my writing schedule (on my days off from work, of course) around a diurnal routine. It didn't stick. There's just something about the morning that does not inspire creativity in me. I have to write either in the afternoon (if I'm on a deadline) or preferably later in the evening. The closer to midnight the better.

And I guess that's the problem -- I stay up late! Even on weekdays when I have to wake up at 6:30 the next morning, I often stay up until midnight, if not a little later, the night before. And every morning, I kick myself for it. Yet, after I take a quick shower, I'm perfectly refreshed to take on the workday. Without coffee.

Yup, you heard me: I do not, and never will, drink coffee. I have a confession to make: I have NEVER purchased anything from a Starbucks. I went in once with a group of friends to watch them purchase drinks, but never actually had anything from the chain. I'm embarrassed to say I wouldn't even know how to order something from off their menu, let alone what. All those faux-Italian sounding names and strange sizing options just leave me perplexed.

But what's my deal against coffee? It's not that I have a vendetta against the roasted-bean beverage, just that it's very bitter and unpalatable to my, well, palate. Same courtesy extends to tea. Neither of these drinks appeal to me for their bitter aftertaste. And I refuse to drown my drinks in sugar and milk. If it takes that much accompaniment just to make a beverage taste better, then something's wrong.

I don't drink soda or any other caffeinated drinks, either. The only thing I imbibe during the day is pure water. Not because I'm a health freak, but because I can't stand all the high fructose corn syrup and sugar that goes into your average Coke or juice product.

So this means I go through my day without any sort of boost whatsoever. And this leaves me perplexed -- no fascinated -- by all the millions of people who are hopelessly addicted to these things. Wow, what's the deal with that? Why does it take another substance -- artificial or otherwise -- to keep you running throughout the day?

Personally I think it's an addiction. When I see how monstrously unhappy people are in the morning before their first cup o' joe, it makes me wonder if everyone has their heads screwed on correctly. It's probably not a good idea to be that dependent on something that makes you go into mild withdrawal symptoms if you go 1 hour without it.

Or maybe that's just me.

What do you think? Any hopeless coffee bean addicts out there? Or does the whole Starbucks culture just not appeal to you?

Btw, for those wondering, I keep up my energy levels through a lot of exercise. I do firmly believe that running three miles every day after work (five miles on Sundays) keeps me wired and wide awake all the next day. It's also probably why I write better late at night when I've already had my run. Also, I eat a well-balanced and hearty breakfast every morning before work. Doing this and not skipping meals, I think, is the prime way to maintain good energy levels throughout a stressful day at the job. It works better than you think.

Personality Quiz

Your result for The Perception Personality Image Test...

HFPS - The Humanitarian

Humanity, Foreground, Big Picture, and Shape

"You perceive the world with particular attention to humanity. You focus on what's in front of you (the foreground) and how that fits into the larger picture. You are also particularly drawn towards the shapes around you. Because of the value you place on humanity, you tend to seek out other people and get energized by being around others. You like to deal directly with whatever comes your way without dealing with speculating possibilities or outcomes you can't control. You are in tune with all that is around you and understand your life as part of a larger whole. You prefer a structured environment within which to live and you like things to be predictable."

Take The Perception Personality Image Test

For those of you who know me, this is about as far from the real me as you can get. I'm not much of a people person, and I think it's safe to say that I do nothing *but* speculate about future possibilities. Hey, isn't that the whole point of my writing? :-)

But anyway, why don't you click on the link above and give it a try yourself? The test will show you a series of 10 images. You're then asked two questions following each image -- but try not to think too hard! Afterwards, drop into the comments box here and let me know your results.

Thanks to Cindy over at A Little Sweet, A Little Sour for posting this.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Stork's Been Working Overtime

I'm 31, which means I'm in that prime time of my life where all my friends, co-workers and siblings are starting to get the urge to pass on their genetic code -- i.e., have little ones. Well, luckily none of *my* siblings have done so yet, as I'm the oldest and it's my prerogative -- no, my DUTY -- to be the first to have a kid. :-)

But Lisa's younger brothers and sister have been working big time to beat her to the punch. Her sister already had our cute little niece some time back, but just last year gave birth to an adorable baby boy whom we believe will turn into quite the rambunctious fellow in about T-minus 11 months (he just turned 1 last month). Right now he's at the cute phase where he can walk and pretend to carry on a conversation, but I can only imagine what he'll be like the day he discovers the word "no!"

Her brother's wife had a baby boy roughly three months before this, so for the past year I've been introduced to two new nephews out of the blue. Then her baby brother had a girl just a few months ago (talk about weird -- I first met him when he was still watching Sesame Street, fer crissakes!). So that's three (count em) new little boogers in the wife's family that seemed to have popped up out of nowhere. That's a lot of birthdays to suddenly have to remember. Lucky for them, they're all cute or I'd likely want nothing to do with the brats -- I kid, I kid.

Anyway, a good friend of mine, C, had her baby girl last year, too. And now my oldest friend in the world, B, is the proud father of twin girls as of this past week. Holy hell! What's going on here?

As anyone who's married and in their 30s knows, you very quickly start to feel the pressure from both family and friends to "get with the program" and start being fruitful and multiply and all that biblical goodness. Lisa and I have our own personal reasons for waiting a while before we create the clone(s), and the sometimes not so subtle hint from others doesn't sway us one bit (ha!)

But it makes me feel old, to think of all these friends I knew since I was a teenager suddenly becoming parents and all responsible and stuff. Wow, they are *so* brave! I feel like I barely got my own shit together, that the thought of introducing a baby into our lives now is like begging for chaos. Lisa feels the same, which is why we get along so well. But we have our days where even we discuss when the right time might be. Not now is all that we can agree upon.

Someday, though. Someday . . .

In the meantime, I have a whole gaggle of cute, drooling babies to play with and bribe with candy behind their parents' backs. It's not such a bad thing, being the cool "uncle," eh?

This Has Got To Be The Wackiest Game Coming Out This Year!

Seriously, it's odd as all hell. And I likes! It's called LittleBigPlanet, created by U.K. developer, Media Molecule, and exclusive to the PlayStation 3. The game is certainly a strange one, using realistic physics and intriguing puzzle elements to make this one of the most innovative platformers I've seen in a while (move over Mario Galaxy!)

But what's so unique about this game? In LBP, players can select between two customizable characters--dubbed "Sackboy" or "Sackgirl." As the names imply, these characters are basically thumb-sized sock puppets ala Fraggle Rock or the Muppets. And like Fraggle Rock, the diminutive figures get to act out their adventures in an adult-sized world, which is created from scratch by the player.

That's right, you heard correct: the player designs the levels! Or plays levels designed by other gamers. The option's up to you. The way this works is that LBP is connected to an online global community, where players from around the world create and submit their own levels to be ranked. The best, most innovative levels get bumped to the top of the online leaderboards, where they can be accessed, played-through, and rated by all. Players are given a wide-ranging toolkit of templates, shapes, and textures to manipulate in creating their sandbox world. Truly your imagination is your only limit.

The game allows for up to 4 players at one time, either sitting together in the same living room, or separately via the online option. It's possible to play LBP without an online connection, as the game comes pre-loaded with select stages already built-in. However, the real meat-and-potatoes of the title will come from its online global community, where the interactive possibilities are staggering.

In the above trailer from last year's Game Developers Conference, you get a 4-minute glimpse of what a typical stage in LBP can look like. Take note of the interesting ways in which the 4 players have to interact with the environment in order to progress through the various levels. You'll quickly pick up that this game's strength lies in the co-operative mode, where carefully executed assistance from your friends is necessary so that the whole team may advance together.

LittleBigPlanet is scheduled for release in Europe on Oct. 29, 2008, with the North American release set for close to, if not on, the same date.

The Black List: Vol. 1

Last night I watched this intriguing documentary, called "The Black List," which airs on HBO this week. The documentary is a series of short introspectives done in slide-show style and given by prominent black figures in America. The doc was conceived by well-known journalist and NPR radio host, Elvis Mitchell, and by photographer/filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Check out the trailer below:

An Official Selection at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Elvis Mitchell interviews (from off camera and off-mike) such high profile celebrities and professionals as: Toni Morrison, Vernon Jordan, Colin Powell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Serena Williams, Sean Combs, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Slash, and quite a few more. Each interviewee expresses in their own, unscripted words what it meant to them growing up black in this country, and in which unique--and often very subtle--ways they've experienced negativity towards the color of their skin. And, more specifically, how these experiences have shaped their professional lives. The most heartfelt and emotional stories, for me, came from Lou Gossett, Jr. and Chris Rock.

Lou Gossett talked about winning an Academy Award and expecting so many jobs to come knocking on his door, only to get ignored by an industry that did not know what to do with a prominent black American actor with the accolades to back up his serious acting presence.

Chris Rock offered a poignant example of the difference between the chuckling, side-shuffling "sidekick" type roles for black comedic actors before Eddie Murphy, and how Eddie was the first to change the paradigm in Hollywood with the depiction of confident, black men as action and comedy heroes in his movies.

The documentary is well-directed and beautifully shot, with the interviewees speaking humbly and unflinchingly candid about their experiences. It never delves into vicious, racist undertones or points fingers at any one person or establishment. Everyone is proud to be an American and believes in what this country stands for.

If you get the chance to catch this on HBO or any of its many mirror channels, please do so. It's 90-minutes long, but worth every minute.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Holy Crap! Another Riddick Movie(s)!!!

In an interview given to MTV News, Vin Diesel mentioned that the wheels have been set in motion to produce not just one, but TWO sequels to the much maligned Chronicles of Riddick franchise. According to Diesel:

"David Twowy right now is writing the scripts. The only question is whether we take a page from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ guys and try to shoot the two chapters at the same time. There are two more in mind."

Of course, the idea of a pair of sequels following the 2004 movie is no surprise to fans who can remember that this was originally planned as a trilogy all along. However, after the perceived dismal box office outing, many gave up hope of ever seeing a sequel (let alone two) being realized.

Looks like there's hope after all!

Now unlike most cynics, I actually *liked* the last movie. Yes, it took a huge departure from the style and feel of the original Pitch Black film which started the franchise, but I thought the hints were always there of a much larger, broader (in terms of scope) universe. Even the Pitch Black DVD hinted at this, with one of the special bonus features being a log of the bounty hunter, Johns, who tracks Riddick from one hell-hole world to another, always missing him at the last moment.

With Chronicles, what we got was an ambitious space opera of a sequel. Sure it had its bad moments (Thandie Newton was horribly misused, for one), but overall it was an interesting first attempt at an action sci-fi flick (Pitch Black, by comparison, was a horror sci-fi film in the same vein as the Aliens franchise).

People like to hate on Diesel and especially his Riddick bad-boy role, but I'm willing to give director David Twohy the benefit of the doubt. Both Diesel and Twohy have a strong vision of the franchise, and I get the feeling they'll be a lot more careful this time around translating that passion onto the big screen. I think the huge influx of money and studio pressure the last time left all parties involved a little flummoxed!

But that's okay, they'll get it right next time. Consider me there on opening day!

Absolutely Sweet Book Haul!

This all started when I won a hardcover edition of Crystal Rain (pictured above) at the recent KGB Fantastic Fiction raffle. Tobias Buckell autographed and shipped it himself, which is no small feat for a poor, struggling writer! Anyway, although I haven't read it yet, I was so overcome by the awesome kick-assery of the cover and inner flap description, that I had to rush online and order the next two books in his created universe: Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose. Are those not cool titles or what?

For those who don't know, Tobias S. Buckell is a young and exciting new writer who hails by way of the Caribbean (Grenada and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and is currently living it up in Ohio. He finds fun ways to incorporate his unique cultural upbringing into his stories, which I get a huge kick out of. It's not every day you see diverse, multi-ethnic protagonists in sci-fi--although this is slowly changing as the field entices newcomers beyond the purview of geeky, white males.

Anyway, I ordered the hardcover editions of Ragamuffin and Mongoose through my favorite online super bookstore (guess which one, there's only like 2) because for some dumb reason the Borders down the street from my job doesn't like sci-fi. Imagine that. And since I was ordering online, you know I just had to add a few more titles to the pot from my wishlist:

I swear I'm going to explode from all this awesome sci-fi goodness! I don't know where to begin. I'm currently reading Alan Dean Foster's collection Exceptions To Reality, and also Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (I know, right, what took me so long?) And after that I'll be taking on Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union -- all of which will be reviewed here shortly -- and then I shall plunder me booty!

Please allow me to introduce myself . . .

Argh, mateys!
Hello there, glad you could join me. This is the narcissist post, all about me. I promise not to do too many of these (if any) in the future.

Now, who the hell am I? Nobody, yet. I'm the original David Batista, and not at all related to that poser wrestler (who's real last name is spelled with a 'u' in there, btw). I'm just an average guy living in the big, bad city of New York. I was born and spent most of my life here, and it's not too bad of a place to call home.

I'm of mixed heritage (anglo-saxon mother, dominican father) with almost no hispanic identity. Which is a shame, as it would have been nice if my father had stuck around to teach me some spanish. Anyway, I was raised solely by my mother, and then her mother (my grandma) after the age of nine. I am who I am today thanks to being surrounded by strong-willed, independent women -- my mother, grandmother, and aunt.

In high school I learned Spanish for the first time. Some of it stuck, most of it didn't. I had far more success in college where I majored in Chinese Studies. As a result, I came away with a pretty solid mastery of Mandarin and an unwavering love of all things China. I enjoy learning languages, especially difficult ones.

Now I spend my days toiling in a high-profile legal publishing company located in the Financial District. But by night . . .oh, well that's where the fun begins!

You see, I'm trying to break into the fiction writing biz. Specifically, sci-fi. I got back into writing in the summer of 2006, focusing mainly on the short form. I've written nineteen short stories since then, ranging from 5k to 12k in length. I still have a lot to learn as none of my attempts are fit to be published. Well, that's not true; one of my stories will be published online in the Feb. 2009 issue of Afterburn SF. So hopefully I can keep the ball rolling!

This blog will just be me going off at the mouth on various subjects that fit my fancy, not necessarily sci-fi related. I have a wide range of interests: from comics to computers, to antelope herding and video games. Okay, I made up one of those (guess which one).

I can get very heated on certain subjects, but for the most part I'll keep this blog on an even keel. My main mission is to just have fun.

Hope you do, too!

Feel free to drop in on the comments section and leave an introduction of your own.


--David J. Batista

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