Attention Royce: New Thomas Covenant novels

Stephen Donaldson’s website has a blurb up you might be interested in.

Coming Fall 2004!

The Runes of the Earth

the first of four books in …

The Last Chronicles of

Thomas Covenant

There’s also a .pdf of “chapter one of the prologue” up for download.

I still need to read the first Thomas Covenant novels. Yes, the ones you’ve been telling me to read since we met in 4th grade (or whenever you read them, I suppose). I’ll get around to it one of these days, I swear…

iTunes: “Desire” by Yello from the album Essential (1985, 3:43).


Neal Stephenson: Confusion

I so need to get to the bookstore soon — Confusion, the second book in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle (which began with Quicksilver) is out. Salon has an interview with Stephenson and a review of Confusion up which both look good, though I don’t have time to read them right now. Argh! :)

(via Boing Boing and /.)

iTunes: “.^.^.^%^%\^%” by The User from the album Symphony #2 for Dot Matrix Printers (2002, 6:38).


Eats shoots and leaves

Another book I need to add to my collection: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.

“Eats, Shoots & Leaves” takes its title from a mispunctuated phrase about a panda. In Britain, where this rib-tickling little book has been a huge success and its panda joke apparently recited in the House of Lords, Ms. Truss has proved to be anything but a lone voice. Despite her assertion that “being burned as a witch is not safely enough off the agenda” for the punctuation-minded stickler, Ms. Truss obviously hit a raw nerve. For those who are tired of seeing signs like “Bobs’ Motors” and think an “Eight Items or Less” checkout sign should read “Eight Items or Fewer,” boy, is this book for you.

Ms. Truss has not succeeded solely on the basis of her punctuation acumen (though that is considerable — and by the way, she finds dashes and parentheses annoying). Her mission to “engage in some direct-action argy-bargy” has helped the book, too.

Dashes and parentheses annoy her? Ah, such a shame — given that I’m quite prone to using dashes (as I did earlier in this sentence) and parentheses (like this, for the second time in a single sentence — and another dash, too, just for good measure), I suppose she won’t be much of a fan of my writing style. ;)

(via Mickey)

iTunes: “Mile End” by Pulp from the album Trainspotting (1995, 4:31).

books tv and films

Exploring Hitchcock

About three weeks ago, a reader of my site surprised me with the gift of a new biography of Alfred Hitchcock. I didn’t start it immediately, as I was in the middle of another book, but when I lost that book along with my bookbag I started reading the Hitchcock biography.

So far, it’s fascinating, and I’m only about a third of the way through (up to Hitch moving to America and working on Rebecca, his first American-made film). I did, however, realize that while I’ve certainly enjoyed what I’ve seen of Hitchcock’s films, I’ve actually seen very few: Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds are the only ones!

So, in an attempt to rectify that situation, I’ve gone through and added every single Hitchcock DVD available to my NetFlix queue. In chronological order, no less.

Admittedly, I added them to the end of my queue, so I won’t actually start going through them unless I take the time to rearrange my queue, but still, they’re there, so at some point in the future, I’ll be able to drastically increase my Hitchcock knowledge.

iTunes: “Wandering Minstrel, The/Jackson’s Morning Brush” by Ennis, Séamus from the album Wandering Minstrel, The (1974, 5:34).

books tv and films

New I, Robot trailer out

There’s a new trailer for the movie I, Robot, based on Isaac Asimov‘s writing. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, but, as with all movie properties based on works that I’m a fan of, there was some definite trepidation.

On the one hand, not only were they adapting the stories of one of my favorite authors, but they also tapped one of my favorite directors, Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City). On the other hand…Will Smith stars. Nothing against Will Smith personally, as I generally enjoy the films I see him in, but I’ve never seen him do much serious work — his strengths seem to have been in comedic and action vehicles. Asimov, on the other hand, while often extremely funny, has more of a cerebral, often punnish sense of humor to his writing, and his works are generally far stronger on dialog and concepts than they are on action.

I, Robot screencapture

Now that I’ve seen the new trailer, I have to say, I’m more than a little worried. I was hoping for more strong, “thinking-person’s” science fiction along the lines of A.I., Contact, Gattaca, or Dark City (four of the best sci-fi films in recent years, in my opinion). Instead, what I got was…well, a Will Smith action-comedy, from the looks of it.

Admittedly, I’m basing this solely on a two-minute trailer, but I don’t think I’m entirely unjustified in being worried. Opening with shots of Smith’s Detective Spooner riding his motorcycle through the city streets of Chicago, we follow him into the offices of “the richest man in the world” as a murder investigation starts. The businessman offers Spooner coffee, then asks if there’s anything he can to do help.



“For the coffee.”


“Oh, you thought I was calling you ‘Sugar’? Hey, you’re not that rich.”

From there, we move to quick shots of the investigation, as Spooner interviews the robot suspected of killing a human. Interspersed with the clips are Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics — kind of.

Asimov himself often said that his Three Laws were probably the most famous lines he had ever written, out of his entire body of work, and have served as inspiration for many of today’s top robotics theorizers and designers as our technology progresses to the point where humanoid robotic creations are becoming more and more possible. The laws, as Asimov originally wrote them, are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The laws as given to us in the I, Robot trailer, are now:

  1. They cannot hurt us.
  2. They must do what we say.
  3. They can protect themselves.

Okay, the essence is still there, and it’s entirely possible (and I’m hoping that) the original laws are quoted and expounded on in the film, and that these are merely the two-second screentime trailer versions. It was still enough to make me cringe.

I, Robot screencapture

From there, we move to quick action clips interspersed with dialog. In one, a robot jumps out of a window, flips over a couple times, and falls to the pavement, landing with a pavement-cracking jolt in a pose that could have been lifted straight from either of the trailers for the recent two Matrix movies or from the trailer for Underworld. Okay, it’s a cool shot and a good pose, but do we need to see it in every action movie trailer to hit the screen?

A few more clips later, we’re treated to an apparent robot mob in full attack mode, complete with smashing through doors, Aliens-style scuttling across walls and ceilings, robots backhanding and attacking people, and general mayhem, with all the robots suddenly sporting glowing red eyes and torsos (which gave them an amusingly ET-like look to me).

I will freely admit that the trailer looks good visually, and the effects look like they’ll be quite good. I just wish I wasn’t as worried about what had been done to the work of one of my favorite science-fiction authors.

I guess I’ll be able to form my final opinion July 16th, when the film opens. Until then, I’ll just be keeping my fingers crossed.

iTunes: “Darkness III” by In Absentia from the album Blood and Computers II (1994, 3:25).

books personal

I should probably be worried about this…

Kirsten pointed out the Book Quiz — another of the many online personality tests, this one purporting to link your psyche to a novel.

My results?


blockquote>Vladimir Nabokov's 'Lolita'

You’re Lolita!

by Vladimir Nabokov

Considered by most to be depraved and immoral, you are obsessed with sex. What really tantalizes you is that which deviates from societal standards in every way, though you admit that this probably isn’t the best and you’re not sure what causes this desire. Nonetheless, you’ve done some pretty nefarious things in your life, and probably gotten caught for them. The names have been changed, but the problems are real. Please stay away from children.

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Oh my.



Random presents

I got a nice surprise in the mail today: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, by Patrick McGilligan, from someone (a reader, I’m guessing?) in Italy.

Many thanks, Giovanni!

iTunes: “Always Something There to Remind Me” by Naked Eyes from the album Living in Oblivion Vol. 1 (1983, 3:41).


Romeo! Hey, doll! Where you at?

This makes me cringe just thinking about it…Shakespeare re-written in modern prose, as today’s kids can’t seem to comprehend it as it was originally written.

“Et tu, Brute?”

Not anymore.

“And you too, Brutus?” is what students read in a new genre of study guides that modernize the Elizabethan English found in “Julius Caesar” and other plays by William Shakespeare.

These guides move beyond the plot summaries found in other study aides by providing line-by-line translations in modern-day English.

Once barred from school, the new translations now are being used in classes across metro Atlanta.


Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Or, more appropriately, in the words of Isabella in Measure for Measure — “Thy sin’s not accidental, but a trade.”

Or even better, Falstaff, in Henry the Fourth, Part II — “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!”

Admittedly, I may be an odd case — after reading the abridged version of Les Misérables in high school, I fell so in love with the story that I went out and bought the full, unabridged version, and it’s remained one of my favorites ever since. So for me, hacking something up is bad enough…but re-writing it like this?

Truly a travesty.

The one possible good point I can see is if the kids are captivated enough by the stories that they may someday go out and find the original versions — but I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath on that count.

(via Ben Hammersley, with help from the Shakespearean Insult Generator)

iTunes: “I Hold a Prince” by Poems for Laila from the album La Fillette Triste (1991, 3:07).


Literary Macs

Two books to add to my future reading list: Bird of Prey by Tom Grace, and Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. Both sound interesting, and both feature Mac computers in the plot.

Okay, yeah, I’m a geek.

(via Mike Wedland)



Oooohhh — a new book by Dan Simmons! Being a big fan of his Hyperion series (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion), this is very good news in my universe.

On Earth, a post-technological group of humans, pampered by servant machines and easy travel via “faxing,” begins to question its beginnings. Meanwhile, a team of sentient and Shakespeare-quoting robots from Jupiter’s lunar system embark on a mission to Mars to investigate an increase in dangerous quantum fluctuations. On the Red Planet, they’ll find a race of metahumans living out existence as the pantheon of classic Greek gods. These “gods” have recreated the Trojan War with reconstituted Greeks and Trojans and staffed it with scholars from throughout Earth’s history who observe the events and report on the accuracy of Homer’s Iliad. One of these scholars, Thomas Hockenberry, finds himself tangled in the midst of interplay between the gods and their playthings and sends the war reeling in a direction the blind poet could have never imagined.

Simmons creates an exciting and thrilling tale set in the thick of the Trojan War as seen through Hockenberry’s 20th-century eyes. At the same time, Simmons’s robots study Shakespeare and Proust and the origin-seeking Earthlings find themselves caught in a murderous retelling of The Tempest. Reading this highly literate novel does take more than a passing familiarity with at least The Iliad but readers who can dive into these heady waters and swim with the current will be amply rewarded.

(via John Ludwig)

iTunes: “Feurio! (Remix)” by Einstürzende Neubauten from the album Industrial Revolution, 2nd Edition (1989, 4:49).