Not a Blog

Bring Me My Pipe

November 18, 2019 at 9:42 am
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I try to get to New York City once or twice a year.  It’s one of my favorite cities in the world, and my visits there are always half business, half pleasure.

On the business side, I check in with all my publishers (I have several), my agents (I have several), with my editors (past and present), with my friends and colleagues at HBO (past and present).   I often do a signing, an interview, or some other sort of public event.  On this most recent visit, Raya Golden and I did a signing down at Midtown Comics for her wonderful graphic novel of my unproduced pilot, STARPORT.   We scribbled in hundreds of books, and afterwards sat down for a short interview.

Autographed copies of STARPORT may still be available from Midtown Comics in Manhattan.  Or not.  We signed a lot of stock, but I am not sure how long they will last.   In any case, copies are certainly available from Santa Fe: https://jeancocteaucinema.com/product/starport-graphic-novel-pre-orders/

On the pleasure side… well, we often try to get to a Broadway show or two, but I was too busy this year.  I did find time to get together with my friends Ellen Datlow and Mr & Mrs X for a pizza crawl through the wilds of Jersey in search of bar pies.   This year we managed to hit the Landmark Tavern in Livingstone and the Star Tavern in Orange, both of which were amazing.

((And if you don’t know what a bar pie is, you don’t know pizza)).

I also combined business and pleasure with a dinner at the historic Keens Steakhouse with Kay McCauley, queen of agents, and my friends from Tor, publisher Tom Doherty and our Wild Cards editor, Diana Pho.   http://www.keens.com/

Keens has been a Manhattan mainstay since 1885, famous for their fabulous steaks and mutton chops… and for the hundreds of clay pipes that adorn their ceilings and walls.   In ye older times, no meal was considered complete without a bowl at its conclusion, and the regulars at Keens traditionally left their long, fragile “churchwarden” pipes at the restaurant, to be called for at need.

Keens still displays the pipes belonging to Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Will Rogers,, Albert Einstein, George M. Cohan, J.P. Morgan, Stanford White, John Barrymore, David Belasco, Adlai Stevenson, Douglas MacArthur, “Buffalo Bill” Cody… and now me.

At the conclusion of the meal, Keens presented me with my own pipe and had me sign it.

My pipe will now join the other celebrity pipes in Keens display cases.   And presumably I can call for it at need, the next time I visit New York City and have a hankering for a mutton chop and a bowl.   Not that it’s likely to happen, since I don’t smoke.   Never have.

And for that matter, Keens Steakhouse does not allow smoking these days, no more than any other Manhattan restaurant.

But it’s still a cool, and unique,  honor.  My thanks to Tom Doherty and Kay McCauley, who arranged it.

Current Mood: calm calm

Raya Rocks Starport

March 24, 2019 at 10:20 pm
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My friend, minion, and collaborator Raya Golden has been blitzing the Pacific Northwest this week, promoting her graphic novel STARPORT, based upon an unproduced pilot of mine from 1994.  Raya did the adaptation and the art.

She started out at the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, where she was joined by a couple of buds of the Lobh.

After the con, she headed down to Portland, to sign copies at Powell’s, surely one of the great bookstores.  (I have signed at Powell’s myself in years past.  My name is scrawled on one of their pillars, amongst all the other writers who have had signings there).

STARPORT is now available from your favorite bookstore or on-line bookseller.   It’s one of my favorites of my unproduced pilots, and Raya did an amazing job with the adaptation.   If you like SF, give it a try.

Oh, and where was I, you ask?  Why wasn’t I with her?   Well, I’ve been busy at home.

Who loves the infants??

 

Current Mood: pleased pleased

The Starport Is Open

March 12, 2019 at 6:29 am
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Hey, hey, hey.   It’s March 12… publication day!

STARPORT is now available for order from your favorite online bookseller, and it should be on the racks at your local comics shop or brick ‘n mortar bookstore.   Buddy Lohb, the Topman, Staako Nihi, and children of the endless night  await you in Starport Chicago.

(For those who missed my earlier blog post, I am of course talking about the new graphic novel from Bantam (in the US) and HarperCollins Voyager (in the UK), adapted and illustrated by Raya Golden from my teleplay).

 

Current Mood: excited excited

Yay for Captain Marvel

March 11, 2019 at 10:25 am
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The newest Marvel movie, CAPTAIN MARVEL, is a lot of fun.

As an old (very very old) Marvel fanboy, I am a little saddened that they dropped the original Captain Marvel (not counting Fawcett’s Big Red Cheese), the Kree warrior Mar-Vell, from the continuity.   THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL was one of Marvel’s classics, way back when.   Maybe that’s just me, though.   I am kind of a purist when it comes to adaptations.

Considered just on its own terms, the movie is hugely entertaining.   I look forward to seeing how the Marvel teams uses the captain in the forthcoming Avengers movie.  Once she comes fully into her powers, she is far and away the most powerful character in the MCU.   She could eat Iron Man for lunch and have Thor for dessert, with a side of Dr. Strange.   Thanos is in trouble now.

Be sure to stay to the very very end of the credits.   The film has TWO Easter Eggs at the end, not just one.   In the theatre where I saw the movie, most of the audience left after the first of those, and missed the second.

Current Mood: cheerful cheerful

STARPORT Is Coming

March 4, 2019 at 6:37 pm
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A million years ago when the world was young and dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I spent the best part of a decade working in Hollywood.   In television, mostly, though I did a few feature scripts as well, for films that never got made.   My television career began on the CBS revival of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, along about 1985-1986.   After that I wrote a couple of MAX HEADROOM scripts, but they never got made either.  The show was cancelled when one of them was still in pre-production.   Then I spent three years on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.   Not the recent one, of course, the first one, the good one, with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton and Roy Dotrice and Jo Anderson and Jay Acovone.

By the time B&B wrapped up I had climbed the television ladder from freelancer to staff writer to story editor to executive story editor to co-producer to producer to co-supervising producer to supervising producer, and was in line to be showrunner.   But B&B got the axe too before that could happen.   But I’d now accumulated enough credentials and credit to take the next step, and I moved into development, pitching ideas for shows of my own and writing pilots.

In Hollywood they call it “development hell,” and for good reasons.   You work just as hard, you make even more money, you pour your sweat and blood and tears into your creations… but most of what you create never gets aired.   I stuck it out for five years, pitched more series concepts than I can count, and wrote a half-dozen pilots, everything from a medical show about the CDC (BLACK CLUSTER) to an alternate world adventure called DOORWAYS, the only one of my pilots that was actually filmed.   We did that one for ABC and they loved it, enough to order six back-up scripts in anticipation of a series order.   The scripts were written, but the series order never came, and DOORWAYS died unborn, like the rest of my pilots.

Not long after that I left television.   I had an overall deal at Columbia, I was making good money, but I’d had enough of development hell.   There were things about working in television I liked a lot, but spending a year or more developing a world and creating characters and writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting a pilot for four guys in a room (sometimes three guys and a gal) that the world never got to see… that was not for me.   I wanted an audience.  Needed an audience.   Writing scripts for TZ and B&B, that was one thing.   Hard, challenging, stressful, demanding work, but at the end of the road the cameras rolled and a few weeks later millions of people were watching what I’d written.  The audience might like it or hate it, but at least they got to watch it.   Writing for the screen, be it the small screen or the big one, that’s fun.  Writing for a desk drawer, not so much.    So I put Hollywood behind me and returned to an unfinished novel I’d begun in 1991 and shelved for a few years because of film and tv deadlines, a book called A GAME OF THRONES, and… well, you all know how that turned out.

Which brings me back to STARPORT.

STARPORT was one of those pilots I wrote during my years in development hell.   In some ways it was my favorite.   When pitching a television series, there is a certain shorthand where you describe your new show by comparing it to existing shows (preferably successful ones).   Gene Roddenberry sold STAR TREK as “Wagon Train to the stars.”  HBO bought GAME OF THRONES as “the Sopranos in Middle Earth.”   I knew how to play that game too, so I pitched STARPORT as “HILL STREET BLUES with aliens.”   The idea was that, in the very near future (that would have been the late 90s, since I wrote the script around 1993-94), a great interstellar civilization called the Harmony of Worlds decides that humanity has finally advanced sufficiently to be admitted to the ranks of civilized races, and reveals themselves to us.   After first contact, they build three great starports for purposes of trade and diplomacy: one in Singapore, one in Copenhagen, and one in Chicago… out in the lake, where Mayor Daley always wanted to build an airport.   But the focus of the show was smaller than that: our viewpoint characters would be the cops and detectives of the police division closest to the Starport, who suddenly had to deal with all sorts of strange aliens coming and going, and with the sorts of problems they had never previously imagined.

It was a fun show to write.  Fox wanted a 90-minute pilot, which was all the rage back then.   My first draft came out closer to two hours, so of course I had to go back in and cut a lot of stuff, but that was pretty much par for the course for me.   My first drafts were always too long and too expensive.   The development process was pretty much the old Hollywood cliche: they loved it, they loved it, they loved it, they decided to pass.   We shipped it around to other networks, but there were only four back then, so finding a second buyer was a long shot.   No dice.   STARPORT went in the drawer.   Years later, I included one version of the script in QUARTET, a small press collection from NESFA Press to mark my being GOH at a Boskone.   But aside from that, the story remained untold.

Until now.

Enter RAYA GOLDEN.   My friend, my minion, the art director for my Fevre River Packet Company, and a very talented comic artist in her own right.   A few years ago she adapted “Meathouse Man,” one of my darker and more twisted short stories, as a comic.  It earned a Hugo nomination in the Best Graphic Novel category (did not win, alas).   But she was only warming up with that.   Afterward I gave her a much bigger challenge: STARPORT, both drafts.   And she’s been hard at work at it for the past two years, adapting the teleplay to comics format, fixing all my dated 90s references (the jokes about VHS tapes did not work so well any more), and penciling and inking it.

 

It’s huge fun.   And now, at long last, it’s almost here.

Random House and Harper Collins will be releasing the graphic novel of STARPORT next week, on MARCH 12. 

You can order a copy by Clicking HERE

(I am amused to note that “Hill Street Blues with aliens” is now too dated, and has been replaced by “Law & Order meets Men in Black.”   The more things change, the more they stay the same).

Eventually, we will also have signed copies available for sale from the bookshop at my Jean Cocteau Cinema.

I hope you all enjoy it.   For my part, I am thrilled that one of my orphan children has finally escaped the desk drawer to wander out into the wide world.   If the book does well enough, I can see the possibility of further issues of STARPORT down the road.

And who knows?  Maybe someone will even want to turn it into a television series.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Farewell to a Marvel

November 16, 2018 at 9:49 am
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Unless you have been hiding in a cave somewhere… or down with the Mole Man in the bowels of the Earth… by now you will have read that Stan Lee has died, at the age of 95.

A good age, that.   Stan Lee lived a long life, and leaves a grand and glorious legacy behind him.   He has been part of my world for so long that it seems impossible that he is gone.

Not that I can claim to have been a friend.   I never had that honor.  Oh, yes, I met Stan a dozen times or so, at various San Diego Comic-Cons over the years.   Every time I did, it was like meeting him for the first time; he never remembered our previous meetings, and I don’t think he had any idea who I was.   It made no matter.   He was always genial and generous to me, as he was to all the fanboys who surrounded him at those cons.  And when I was in Stan’s presence, that’s just what I was: a fanboy, slightly tongue-tied and more than a little in awe.

I owe so much to Stan Lee.   He was, in a sense, my first publisher, my first editor.   “Dear Stan and Jack.”  Those were the first words of mine ever to see print.  In the letter column of FANTASTIC FOUR #20, as it happens.   My first published loc, a commentary on FF#17, compared Stan to… ah… Shakespeare.  A little overblown, you say?  Well, okay.  I was thirteen…

And yet, and yet… the comparison, when you think about it, is not entirely without merit.   There were plays before Shakespeare, but the Bard’s work revolutionized the theatre, left it profoundly different from what it had been before.   And Stan Lee did the same for comic books.  I had been reading comics all through my childhood, but by the late 50s I had started to drift away from them.   I was buying fewer and fewer “funny books” (as we called them back then), and more SF and fantasy paperbacks.   The DC comics that dominated the racks had become so formulaic and tired, they were no longer holding my interest as they had when I was younger.   I was “outgrowing” comics.

And then Stan Lee came along, and pulled me back in.   The first issue of FANTASTIC FOUR that I chanced on (#4, it was, the one where the FF met Prince Namor) caught my interest as nothing had for years.  A short while later, along came Spider-Man.   And then the rest, one by one, in an astonishingly short period of time.   The Hulk.  Thor.  Iron Man.   Ant-Man (and the Wonderful Wasp).  The X-Men.  The Avengers.   Wonder Man (who died in the same issue he was introduced).  Black Panther.   The Inhumans.  Galactus and the Silver Surfer.   And the villains… Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, the Vulture, the Sandman, Mysterio, Loki… and on and on.   (We will not talk about Paste-Pot Pete.   This is a tribute).

These characters had personalities.    Quirks, flaws, tempers.  The heroes were not all good, the villains were not all bad.  The stories had twists and turns, I could not tell where they were going.  Sometimes good guys fought other good guys.   The characters grew and changed… over at DC, Superman and Lois Lane had been locked into the same relationship for decades, but Peter Parker went through girlfriends like a real teenager, he graduated high school and went to college, people could and did die.

You had to be there to understand how revolutionary all this was.  Comics as we know them today would not exist except for Stan Lee.   They might not exist at all, if truth be told.

No, of course, he did not do it all  alone.   The genius of Marvel’s artists, especially Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, should never be minimized.   They were a huge part of Marvel as well.   But Lee was at the center of it all.

That letter in FF#20 was only the first of many I sent to Stan and Jack, and Stan and Steve, and Stan and… whoever the artist was on the book I was writing to.  A number were published, with my full address attached.   Other comics fans around the country saw the letters, and began sending me fanzines and letters of their own.  My friendship with Howard Waldrop began thanks to those letters… him in Texas, me in Jersey.   And after reading some of those early ditto’d fanzines, I began to write for them as well.  My first published stories.  Heroes of my own creation.  Manta Ray.  Garizan the Mechanical Warrior.  The White Raider (who, like Wonder Man, died in his first story).  And, then, a little later, heroes created for STAR-STUDDED COMICS by my friends from the Texas Trio, Powerman and Dr. Weird.   I could not draw so I wrote “text stories,” superhero stories in prose.   Which people liked.   Which encouraged me to keep writing.   And as I wrote, I did my best to write like Stan Lee.

These days, in interviews, I am often asked which writers influenced me most when I started out.   There were a lot of them.   For SF there were Heinlein and Andre Norton and Eric Frank Russell, for fantasy Robert E. Howard and JRRT and Fritz Leiber, for horror the inimitable H.P Lovecraft.   Later on, when I was older, there was Jack Vance and Ursula K. Le Guin and Roger Zelazny and Samuel R. Delany and Alfred Bester, and later still William Goldman and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But the greatest influences are the earliest influences, I think, and at the beginning there was only Stan Lee.

Comics have had a lot of great writers in the half century since the Marvel Age began.   Neil Gaiman, Len Wein, Alan Moore, and more and more and more… the list goes on and on.   But if not for Stan Lee and the worlds and characters and style he created, their own careers and accomplishments would have been very different, if not impossible.

Let me close with one last letter of comment.

Dear Stan,

You did good work.   As long as people still read comic books and believe in heroes, your characters will be remembered.  Thanks so much.   Make Mine Marvel.

George R. Martin
35 East First Street
Bayonne, New Jersey

 

 

 

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Another Sadness

September 14, 2017 at 6:40 pm
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I’ve been trying for several days to write something about the death of Len Wein.

It’s been hard. The words stick in my throat. Len was not just a professional colleague, as Jerry Pournelle was. Len was a friend. An old, dear friend. He lived in LA and I lived in Santa Fe, so we never saw each other more than a few times a year, but I cherished all the time I spent with him and his wife, Chris Valada. I don’t have a bad memory of Len, and I doubt that anyone does. He was a sweet, kind, funny man, and a joy to be around, to share a meal with (even though he always refused to “eat anything that looked like itself”).

Len and I went way way back. We were both there when comics fandom was being born, and we met for the first time in a place called the Workingman’s Circle, at the 1964 New York Comicon. The first comicon… and Len Wein was one of the kids who made it happen, one of the organizers, while I was the first fan to send in $1.50 for a membership. We were both in high school at the time. Many years later, at a San Diego Comicon with its 150,000 members, I turned to Len and sad, “See what you did?” He just laughed and replied, “Who knew?”

You don’t need me to tell you about his career, his professional accomplishments, his creations. If you don’t know who Len Wein is, you’ve never read a comic book. He created Wolverine, the New X-Men, Swamp Thing, the Human Target, Lucius Fox, and, oh, about five hundred other characters. Maybe a thousand. Most of those were created under the old work-made-for-hire contracts so common in the comics industry when Len stared out, so he had no ownership of any of them, and made very little, if anything, from all the movies and TV shows that featured them. (Lucius Fox was the exception to that, since he was created later, under a contract that gave the creator more rights, In one of the little ironies of life in the comics biz, Len made more money from Lucius Fox than he ever saw from Wolverine). If it had been me, it would have made me incredibly bitter to see my creations making billions while I got some loose change, but Len never bitched about it. He knew the rules when he signed the contracts, he would always say. And he loved seeing his creations on the big and little screens. There was no bitterness in the man, and no anger that I ever saw.

He loved comics, and he loved life, and I’m just one of the many who loved him.

((Comments allowed, but only about Len)).

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Talking Over Thai

July 21, 2017 at 6:09 pm
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So a couple of months ago, while I was out at Stokercon in Long Beach, on the mighty Queen Mary, I went out with Scott Edelman for Thai food (yum), and he recorded our conversation for his EATING THE FANTASTIC podcast.

The food was great, and the talk was fun. You can check it out at:

http://www.scottedelman.com/2017/07/21/down-drunken-noodles-with-george-r-r-martin-in-episode-43-of-eating-the-fantastic/

Scott and I both emerged from comics fandom of the 60s, so be forewarned, there’s a lot of talk about the Good Old Days.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Here Comes The Mystery Knight

December 16, 2016 at 3:50 pm
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The long-awaited… and much requested… graphic novel of THE MYSTERY KNIGHT, the third of my Dunk & Egg novellas, is on its way at last.

The good folks at Random House have assembled the same great creative team who gave us the comic book adaptations of THE HEDGE KNIGHT and THE SWORN SWORD — Ben Avery on script, and Mike S. Miller for the artwork.

Here’s the cover:

THE MYSTERY KNIGHT will be released in hardcover on July 4. (No, sorry, no individual issues this time around). It’s 148 graphic pages, and from what I’ve seen so far, it’s gorgeous!

This, That, and t’Other Thing

November 6, 2016 at 6:10 pm
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Another football Sunday has come and gone, with mixed results for yours truly.

The Giants won, hanging on by the skin of their teeth to defeat the Iggles of Brotherly Luv. Gifted with an early 14-0 lead by two Carson Wentz INTs, they still almost managed to blow it. Eli threw his own INT just when it looked as if Big Blue was about to put the game away, but fortunately the defense saved him. Biggest worry coming out of the game was an injury to Victor Cruz, which I hated to see. He’s one of my favorite players. I hope he’s back next week.

The Jets, meanwhile, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. After trailing for most of the game, they seemed poised to take the lead in the fourth quarter, only to have Fitz throw a devastating pick in the end zone. Yet somehow they managed to get the ball back, and this time Fitz redeemed himself, tossing the go-ahead touchdown. But the joy did not last for long. On the ensuing kickoff, the Dolphins ran the ball all the way back for a TD, and that was that. Gang Green now has as many losses as they did all last year. The season is effectively over. Bryce Petty looked pretty good in the short stretch they had him in after Fitz got clocked. I hope we get to see more of him in the game to come. Much as I like Fitz, we have to start thinking about the future.

On other fronts…

The election still has me in a state of high anxiety. I am not sleeping well, and I think I check 538 about three dozen times a day, hoping for some good news. Tuesday cannot come fast enough for me. I think I speak for a lot of Americans when I say that I desperately want this thing to be over. It has been SO ugly. Come Tuesday night, I will either be relieved or suicidal. I think I speak for a lot of Americans about that as well.

Oh, and speaking of that: the Trump PACs have rolled out two new television ads in New Mexico this weekend. Both attack ads, natch. One is a cartoon with animated Bill and Hillary characters rolling up to the White House unpacking boxes of scandals. The other features an actress badly made up to be Hillary, in wig and pants suit, destroying phones and hard drives with hammers, drills, chain saws, and the like. Both ads are stupid and offensive, and both confirm and underline the main point I made in my “Simple Observation” post. Hillary’s ads feature real footage of the real Donald J. Trump saying the things he really said. These Trumps ads, on the other hand, have to resort to cartoons and over-the-top impersonators because they can’t actually find any real footage of Hillary saying or doing anything reprehensible, comparable to the stuff Trump has said.

I cannot possible imagine that any actual voters will be swayed by this stuff. “Hell, damn, I’m going to vote for Trump, did you see what Cartoon Hillary was doing?” But what the hell. Even Honest Abe admitted that you could fool some of the people all of the time…

I’m still excited about Emily St. John Mandel coming to the Jean Cocteau tomorrow. If you’re in the neighborhood, come join us.

The crowds at Meow Wolf of late have been astounding. Since we first opened in late March, more than 300,000 people have visited the House of Eternal Return. It’s become one of Santa Fe’s premiere attractions, and I am so pleased to have played my small part in creating it.

Oh, and last night Parris and I went to see DOCTOR STRANGE at the Violet Crown (in part to escape the crowds seeing TRUMPLAND at the JCC). ’twas fun. As many of you know, I’m a Marvel fanboy from way back, and Doctor Strange was probably my favorite single character… well, him or Spider-Man, both drawn by Steve Ditko, whose art I loved. (I say single character because I always loved the group books as well, the FF and Avengers and X-Men). How much did I love Doctor Strange? Well, let me just say, one of the characters I wrote for the comic book fanzines of the 60s was called Doctor Weird, so…

The movie is NOT the best Marvel superhero movie, as I was hoping it would be… it’s more middle of the pack, I’d say… but it looked great, did justice to the character, and had some scenes that were downright Ditko-esque. Of course, they had the obligatory Stan Lee cameo. Now, if they had managed to include a Steve Ditko cameo, that would really have been something. (Yes, I know, I know). I do hope that Ditko saw at least a little money out of this. He was a genius in his own way, and Doc would never have been half as interesting without Ditko’s unique and idiosyncratic vision.