Not a Blog

At the Smodcastle

November 23, 2022 at 2:19 pm
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New Jersey is in my blood.   I was born in Bayonne in 1948, and hardly set foot outside the city until I finally went off to college in 1966, way way off to Northwestern in scenic Evanston, Illinois.   Most of my family still lives in the Garden State, and I like to get back to see them whenever I can… which has not been very often since the pandemic hit two years ago.   I need an occasional Jersey bar pie too, the best pizza in the world, and Judickes’ sprinkle donuts from old Bayonne.

Kevin Smith is a Jersey boy too, and a hard core nerd and fanboy.   He has had his own comic book shop in Red Bank for years; they even had their own TV show.   More recently, Kevin bought an old 1920s movie theatre, refurbushed it, rechristened it the Smodcastle, and reopened it.   I was delighted when he invited me down for a night of conversation.

It was a ton of fun.

And turnabout is fair play, so watch this space.   Kevin will be headed down to the Land of Enchantment next year, to speak at my own mini movie palace, the Jean Cocteau Cinema.

Woot!

Current Mood: dorky dorky

Random Musings

October 11, 2022 at 10:43 am
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I see that my mighty minions have posted about my upcoming events in New York City later in the month.   Yay, minions!

Those of you who enjoy my football posts (yes, I know that is not all of you)… I have been watching the games…  and enjoying them, since both the Giants and the Jets have been winning.   The Jets had another miracle last minute victory last week, and on Sunday they just crushed the Fins.   And the G-Men won a couple of nail biters, including a victory over the Packers in London that was as shocking to me as it must have been to Aaron Rodgers.   I had almost forgotten how good it feels to win.   So life is magical and full of joy… right now, at any rate.

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON has helped brighten my Sundays as well.   I mean, I cannot really review the show, that would be crazy, I am hardly objective… but I do want to commend Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik and the cast and crew for the work they’ve done.   Sunday’s episode, “Lord of the Tides,” was everything I hoped it should be.  Kudos to Eileen Shim, the scriptwriter, to Geeta Patel, the director, to our incredible cast… and particularly to Paddy Considine, for his portrayal of King Viserys, the First of His Name.   The character he created (with Ryan and Sara and Ti and the rest of our writers) for the show is so much more powerful and tragic and fully-fleshed than my own version in FIRE & BLOOD that I am half tempted to go back and rip up those chapters and rewrite the whole history of his reign.   Paddy deserves an Emmy for this episode alone.   If he doesn’t get one, hey, there’s no justice.   Meanwhile,  I  am going to give Archmaester Gyldayn a smack for leaving out so much good stuff.

(No, I am not really going to rewrite FIRE & BLOOD, that was a jape).  ((And no, I am not going to assault Archmaester Glydayn, who does not actually exist.  I made him up)).

There’s a lot more I would love to blog about, but I do not have the time…

There’s a website called THE WRAP that has a couple cool interviews with Ryan Condal, including one where he spoke about our supposed rivalry with RINGS OF POWER… which mostly exists in the media.   https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiI47jH99b6AhWVMDQIHeE0Cg4QFnoECA0QAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thewrap.com%2Fhouse-of-the-dragon-rings-of-power-rivalry-ryan-condal%2F&usg=AOvVaw2s5NQfsv28MZaXoSiQOsWU

Ryan says pretty much the same thing I said in that interview with THE INDEPENDENT a few months back.   Nothing would please him more than to see both shows succeed.    Me too.   I am a fantasy fan, and I want more fantasy on television, and nothing would accomplish that more than a couple of big hits.   THE WITCHER, SHADOW & BONE, WHEEL OF TIME… and THE SANDMAN, a glorious adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s groundbreaking comic series… those are a good start, but I want more.   I want Tad Williams, I want Joe Abercrombie, I want Patrick Rothfuss, I want a good adaptation of Le Guin’s Earthsea books, I want Alan Garner, I want Robin Hobb… oh, the list is long, I could go on and on… and would if I did not have a zillion other things to do.   Most of all, I want Roger Zelazny’s NINE PRINCES IN AMBER.   I will never understand why Corwin and his siblings are not starring in their own show.   And hey, if epic fantasy continues to do well, maybe we will finally get that.   A boy can dream.

I wanted to address the “time jumps” in the HOUSE OF THE DRAGON too.   Not with any kind of official “statement,” but with some musings on the subject.   There’s a lot to be said.   I do not have the time to say it now, though.   Maybe in my next blog, or the one after that… or maybe never, since work keeps piling up.

Very briefly, however, I think Ryan has handled  the “jumps” very well, and I love love love both the younger Alicent and Rhaenyra and the adult versions, and the actresses who play them.  (Truth be told, we have an incredible cast, and I love all of them).   Do I wish we’d had more time to explore the relationship between Rhaenyra and Ser Harwin, the marriage of Daemon and Laena and their time in Pentos, the birth of various and sundry children (and YES, Alicent gave Viserys four children, three sons and a daughter, their youngest son Daeron is down in Oldtown, we just did not have the time to work him in this season), and everything else we had to skip?   Sure.

But there are only so many minutes in an episode (more on HBO than on the network shows I once wrote for), and only so many episodes in a season.    Fewer and fewer as time goes by, it seems.   When I was a boy, shows had 39 episodes a season.   By the time I was writing for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, it was down to 22.   Cable shrunk that even further.  THE SOPRANOS had 13 episodes per season, but just a few years later, GAME OF THRONES had only 10  (and not even that, those last two seasons).   If HOUSE OF THE DRAGON had 13 episodes per season, maybe we could have shown all the things we had to “time jump” over… though that would have risked having some viewers complain that the show was too “slow,” that “nothing happened.”   As it is, I am thrilled that we still have 10 hours every season to tell our tale.  (RINGS OF POWER has only 8, as you may have noticed, and my AMC show DARK WINDS is doing 6 episode seasons).   I hope that will continue to be true.   It is going to take four full seasons of 10 episodes each to do justice to the Dance of the Dragons, from start to finish.

But right now, Ryan Condal’s focus is on HOT D season two, and mine is on THE WINDS OF WINTER.

 

 

Current Mood: busy busy

SNOW… and Other Stuff

June 23, 2022 at 1:59 pm
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These Not A Blog updates all seem to be turning into giant grab bags.   Things pile up, and I am way too busy to blog more often, so I find myself with a lot to cover every time I have a spare moment.

I don’t really have a spare moment today, truth be told, but I am making one, since the news has broken about the Jon Snow development and I am being deluged with requests for comment.   So….

Yes, there is a Jon Snow show in development.   The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER story was largely correct.   And I would expect no less from James Hibberd.   I have dealt with a lot of reporters over the past few years, and Hibberd is one of the very best, an actual journalist who does all the things journalists are supposed to do (getting the facts right, talking to sources, respecting requests for “background only” and “off the record,” etc) that most of the clickbait sites never bother with.

Our working title for the show is SNOW.

There are four live-action successor shows in development at HBO.   Word got out about three of them some time ago.   TEN THOUSAND SHIPS, the Nymeria show, helmed by Amanda Segel.   SEA SNAKE, aka NINE VOYAGES, with Bruno Heller.   And the Dunk & Egg show, THE HEDGE KNIGHT or KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS, with Steve Conrad writing.   I think some of these were officially announced; in other cases, news leaked out.   (These things always seem to leak.   There are so many people involved, writers, producers, agents, and everyone has assistants, and there is always the guy who runs the xerox machine, and reporters have sources, and people gossip, so… )  SNOW has been in development almost as long as the other three, but for whatever reason it was never announced and it never leaked… until now.

But, yes, it is true.   This was not an official announcement from HBO, so it seems there was another leak.   I did a long interview with James Hibberd last week, for the big HOUSE OF THE DRAGON story that HOLLYWOOD REPORTER is planning.   At the end of the call, he asked a few questions about the spinoffs.   “Is it possible one of the spinoffs is a sequel rather than a prequel?” he asked.   I answered “No comment.”   Then he asked “Is it possible a member of the original cast is attached?”  And again I answered “No comment.”   And that was all.   But plainly he found someone more forthcoming than me.   Who?   I don’t know, and suspect I never will.   A good journalist protects his sources.

There’s not much more I can tell you, not until HBO gives me a green light.

It seems as though Emilia Clarke has already mentioned that SNOW was Kit’s idea in a recent interview.   So that part is out.  Yes, it was Kit Harrington who brought the idea to us.   I cannot tell you the names of the writers/ showrunners, since that has not been cleared for release yet… but Kit brought them in too, his own team, and they are terrific.

Various rumors are floating around about my involvement, or lack of same.   I am involved, just as I am with THE HEDGE KNIGHT and THE SEA SNAKE and TEN THOUSAND SHIPS, and all the animated shows.   Kit’s team have visited me here in Santa Fe and worked with me and my own team of brilliant, talented writer/ consultants to hammer out the show.

All four of these successor shows are still in the script stage.   Outlines and treatments have been written and approved, scripts have been written, notes have been given, second and third drafts have been written.   So far, that’s all.   This is the way television works.   Please note: nothing has been green lit yet, and there is no guarantee when or if it will be… on any of these shows.   The likelihood of all four series getting on the air… well, I’d love it, but that’s not the way it works, usually.

There are all sorts of reasons pilots never get picked up to series, all sorts of reasons scripts never got shot as pilots, all sorts of reasons great treatments never get sent to script.  That’s the way the business works.    I learned that a long time ago, during my first go-round in television.   BLACK CLUSTER.   STARPORT.   THE SURVIVORS.  DOORWAYS.   FADEOUT.    Those were just a few of my stillborn children from those years.   I mourn them still.   This is a new day, though, so… here is hoping one or two or three or all four of the GOT spinoffs make it to air.

That’s all I can tell you about SNOW just now.   If HBO says I can tell you more, I will…

On other fronts…

If I may permitted a moment of snark, damn, but those clickbait websites and podcasts annoy me.   I did a long interview with THE INDEPENDENT in connection with the recent Santa Fe Literary Festival (which was a great success, by the way), in the course of which I remarked that the whole “battle of the fantasy giants” stories about HOUSE OF THE DRAGON and RINGS OF POWER being in competition was wrong, that there was plenty of room for both shows to succeed, plenty of room for more fantasy and SF on television.   Somehow three-quarters of the clickbait sites out there, ignoring the entire thrust of my comments, twisted my words on their head into headlines about how much I want to beat the Tolkien show.

Sigh.

Let me clarify.   I have a competitive nature, sure.   When I watch the Jets or the Giants or the Mets, I want them to win.   When I am nominated for a Hugo or a Nebula or an Emmy, I want to win that too… but I know that just being nominated is a huge honor.   Hey, I have won my share of awards, but I have lost a LOT more than I ever won.   It was your truly, back in 1976, who founded the Hugo Losers Party with my friend Gardner Dozois, and coined our slogan, “It is a proud and lonely thing to be a Hugo loser.”   I try to keep this all in proportion.    I expect I will be watching RINGS OF POWER when it premieres.   I want it to be great.   I want it to run for many years, to win Emmys and Golden Globes.   And I want the same for HOUSE OF THE DRAGON.   Regardless of awards, I want both shows to find an appreciative audience, and give them great television.   Great fantasy.   The more fantasy hits we have, the more great fantasy we are likely to get.    I want to see Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser on television.   I want someone to film that Conan pilot that Ryan Condal wrote.   I want a DYING EARTH show based on the works of the Jack Vance, I want Roger Zelazny’s NINE PRINCES IN AMBER to be faithfully adapted, I want Jirel of Joiry, I want MEMORY, SORROW, AND THORN, I want a Joe Abercrombie show.   I want lots more… and lots more science fiction too.

But we don’t get any of that unless some of the fantasy series now in development prove to be hits.

What else?   Hey, our wonderful Howard Waldrop short NIGHT OF THE COOTERS has been officially accepted into two film festivals.   Can’t tell you which yet, but I will soon, when they announce their slates.   And more to come.

And our second Waldrop short, FRIENDS FOREVER, has wrapped filming and is now in post.

And our third Waldrop short has just begun pre-production.

Meanwhile, over at AMC, DARK WINDS has been picked up for a second season.   The reviews were amazing, and the numbers were very strong; we hope to be bringing Tony Hillerman’s stories to television for many years to come.   My congratulations to our directors Chris Eyre and Sanford Bookstaver, to Graham Roland and the rest of our amazing writers, to Robert Redford and his decades of determination, to the incredible tireless Tina Elmo, and to Zahn McClarnon, Kiowa Gordon, Jessica Matten, Deanna Allison, and a supporting cast as good as any I have ever worked with.    If you have not seen DARK WINDS yet, check it out… on AMC, or streaming on AMC +.    I am proud to have helped this one going.

Yes, WINDS OF WINTER.   No, have not forgotten.   I was back with Tyrion this past week.

There’s more going on, but that’s all the time I have for today.

 

 

Current Mood: busy busy

Good Stuff, Bad Stuff, Strange Stuff

June 1, 2022 at 8:25 pm
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So much going on everywhere, it is hard to keep up.   Some random thoughts —

A week ago, Parris and I went down to Bernalillo for  a memorial gathering for our friend John Miller.   It was good to see so many old friends, and to share our memories of John… but profoundly sad at the same time, to realize once again that we would never see John again, that there would be no more memories.   John was one of the mainstays of Wild Cards, part of the series since the very beginning, the creator of Chrysalis, Yeoman, Carnifax, the Midnight Angel, Father Squid, and so many more.   He probably wrote more Wild Cards stories than any other author, with the possible exception of Melinda Snodgrass… I have not counted, but the two were neck and neck.  He was also a Mets fan, a baseball buff, a RPG player and gamemaster, and a fan of bad movies.   I wish he had written more.   He had been working on a novel called BLACK TRAIN COMING even longer than I have been working on THE WINDS OF WINTER.  It would be great if one of his writer friends finishes it for him.   Beyond all of this, however, John was a really good guy, very bright, always fun to spend time with.  And he and his wife Gail really loved animals.   More than I can ever tell you.   All of us at the memorial are missing him.   We will miss him for years to come, I do not doubt, until the day comes when we all go to join him.

These past few years have been rough.  I miss them all.   Ed Bryant, Michael Engelberg, Ben Bova, Phyllis Eisenstein, Victor Milan, Steve Perrin, Kay McCauley, Gardner Dozois… ah, Gargy… I know I am forgetting people.   They made the world a richer place, and we are poorer for their absence.

And the larger world is so ugly that I can hardly bear to watch the news.   What can I say about Russia’s attack on Ukraine that others have not already said?   I was GOH at a con in St. Petersburg a few years ago.  The con was fun, the city was gorgeous, and the Russian fans and writers — even the border security guards — were so warm and welcoming.   Putin is a malign thug.   That seems to be the story of the world, though.   Good people with hideous leaders.   Listening to reports of the fighting makes me feel so angry, so helpless…

And things are pretty ugly over here as well.   The latest school shooting, for instance, and the usual response of the GOP, a refusal to do anything to fix it.   Is baseball still the great American pastime, or is that school shooting now?   No other country seems to have much of an issue with it, only us.  And what answer do the Republicans propose?   Arm the teachers?  Lock the doors?  Toughen the security?

We are becoming more and more a police state.   I am, I am aware, very old and getting older.   Young people may not believe this, but… I remember a time when security was not omnipresent.   When I could get on an airplane without being x-rayed and searched and probed and made to give up my pocket knife.   When I could visit any publisher in New York by walking into their building, looking at the directory to see what floor they were on, taking the elevator up, and announcing my name to the receptionist.   When kids could go to schools that were not fortresses… we did learn to duck and cover under our desks in case the Russians dropped an A-bomb on us, but we did not need to fear being shot by our classmates.

It makes me want to scream.   What the hell happened to this country?   To this world?

I am depressing myself, and probably all of you as well.   Let me talk about some happier things.

DARK WINDS debuts on AMC on June 12, and we’re getting a lot of nice press about it.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-features/amc-series-dark-winds-tony-hillerman-1235156491/

https://www.emmys.com/video/under-cover/dark-winds

https://www.emmys.com/news/features/cover-2022-06

First season will run six episodes, based largely on Tony Hillerman’s novel LISTENING WOMAN.   Watch the show, read the book.   Then read the other books, they are great.   I am very proud of my association  with this one, and glad that I could help make it happen… though, truth be told, I did little enough.   The real credit should go to Robert Redford, Chris Eyre, Zahn McClarnon, and all the other folks mentioned in the articles… and one who was not.   Let me give a shout out here to TINA ELMO, Bob Redford’s right hand and an inexhaustible champion of Tony Hillerman and his work, who was present every day on the shoot and did so much to make our series one to be proud of.

Other good stuff.   NIGHT OF THE COOTERS, the short film we made based on the classic story by Howard Waldrop (the one and only) is complete.   Directed by and starring Vincent d’Onofrio, and a cast of dozens.  H’ard himself has seen it and pronounced it Good.  The film was shot entirely on greenscreen; the actors and horses are live, everything else was supplied by the wizards at Trioscope.   It clocks in at about thirty minutes.   At the moment we are entering it into film festivals all around the nation and the world.  We’ll let you know when and where it gets accepted.   Maybe you will be able to catch it at a filmfest near you.   If so, give it a look.   It’s a lot of fun.

Oh, and right now, this very moment, we have a second film crew down in White Sands National Monument, shooting another short film based on another Howard Waldrop masterwork.   I could tell you which, but then I might have to kill you.   So far, so great, but there’s still lots of work ahead.    Howard may have a new collection coming out this year as well.   Who knows, 2022 could be the Year of Waldrop.

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON?   Glad you asked.   I’ve now watched rough cuts of nine of the ten episodes, and I continue to be impressed.   I cannot speak to the SFX, many of which are not in yet, but the look of it is great, and the acting, the directing, and writing are first rate.   And yes, for all you book fans, it IS my story.   Sure, there are some changes from FIRE & BLOOD — we could not present three alternative versions of every major event, not and keep our sanity — but I think Ryan Condal and his writers made good choices.   Even some improvements.   (Heresy, I know, but being the author, I am allowed to say so).    For years, as some of you may recall, I have been saying the TV version of Shae, as portrayed by Sibel Kekilli, was a deeper, richer, and more nuanced characters than the Shae in my novels.   In a similar vein, I am vastly impressed by the show’s version of King Viserys, played by Paddy Considine, who gives the character a tragic majesty  that my book Viserys never quite achieved.   Kudos to Paddy, Ryan and his writers, and Miguel and the other directors.   (There are a lot of great performances in HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — or HOT D, as I hear some are calling it.   You may never have heard of some of our actors, but I think you will learn to love them, just as you did with the cast of GAME OF THRONES).

Back home in Santa Fe, Sky Railway is doing really well.   Many of our trains are selling out.   If you are visiting the Land of Enchantment, be sure to book your ride early.   Oh, and last weekend we re-opened the bar and cafe at the historic Santa Fe Southern Depot in Lamy.   Right now only open weekends, but we will be expanding the hours.

I should say a word about my appearances.    I have decided not to attend this year’s worldcon in Chicago, for a variety of reasons.   Chicago remains one of my favorite cities, though, and it looks as though I may be travelling there once or twice during the year to come… for reasons quite different, and much more exciting, than a con.    Instead of worldcon, it looks as though I will be attending this year’s San Diego Comicon… assuming they do not move to December or go virtual, as they did last year thanks to the pandemic.   I would rather not attend any more virtual conventions.   Guess I’m a boomer, not a zoomer.

(It will feel odd to travel again.   I have only left home once since January 2020).

WINDS, you say?   Yes, still working.   Finally finished a clutch of Cersei chapters that were giving me fits.   Now I am wrestling with Jaime and Brienne.   The work proceeds, though not as fast as many of you would like.

That’s all for now.

Bayonne Goes Hollywood

April 7, 2022 at 3:45 pm
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I have lived in Santa Fe since 1979, more or less, (I spent a lot of time in LA during the 80s and 90s, but Santa Fe always remained my primary residence), but I was born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey, just across New York Bay from Manhattan.   In fact, I hardly left Bayonne until I went off to college in 1966, and I still return whenever I can to see my sisters and their families, check in with a few old friends, grab a sprinkle donut from Judicke’s, and have a slice or three of the world’s best pizza, the Jersey bar pie.

There’s still a lot of Bayonne in me, and always will be.

So a few days ago, when my sister Darleen sent me a link about a major film studio being built in my old home town, I was very excited.

This is just so cool.

Bayonne Planning Board approves 1888 Studios at former Texaco site

The site they have picked, the old Texaco plant in the shadow of the Bayonne Bridge, is just a few blocks west of the federal housing projects where I lived from age four until I left for college, at First Street across from Brady’s Dock.   You can see the bridge from the park across the street from our apartment.   And if a film studio had been there when I was a kid… instead of Texaco… who knows what effect that might have had on my life and my dreams?   If they can actually get the 1888 Studio built, it will be an incredible thing for all the young dreamers in Bayonne, and the rest of Jersey.

It would be so so so cool if the studio gets built, and one day I return to shoot a film or television show there.   Probably not a Westeros show, as Bayonne has a notable lack of castles… but hey, maybe Wild Cards!   The Great and Powerful Turtle lived in the same apartment I did at 35 East First Street, and had his junkyard hideout on the Hook.

Bayonne, hard as it is to believe, was an early center of the infant film industry.

Congrats to all those who conceived of this project, and spearheaded the effort.   I hope you get it done!

 

Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

Random Updates and Bits o’ News

March 9, 2022 at 8:42 am
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I look around, and I don’t know where 2021 went.   I blinked and it was gone.   Not a year that I am going to mourn much, any more than 2020.  A global pandemic, so many deaths (including friends of mine, as well as celebrities of all sorts), politics grown increasingly toxic… it was a year best forgotten.   I did, however, get a lot of work done in 2021.  An enormous amount of work, in truth; I seem to have an enormous number of projects.

(I am not complaining.   I like working.   Writing, editing, producing.   There is nothing I like better than storytelling).

I know, I know, for many of you out there, only one of those projects matters.

I am sorry for you.   They ALL matter to me.

Yes, of course I am still working on THE WINDS OF WINTER.   I have stated that a hundred times in a hundred venues, having to restate it endlessly is just wearisome.      I made a lot of progress on WINDS in 2020, and less in 2021… but “less” is not “none.”

The world of Westeros, the world of A SONG OF ICE & FIRE, is my number one priority, and will remain so until the story is told.   But Westeros has become bigger than THE WINDS OF WINTER, or even A SONG OF ICE & FIRE.   In addition to WINDS, I also need to deliver the second volume of Archmaester Gyldayn’s history, FIRE & BLOOD.   (Thinking of calling that one BLOOD & FIRE, rather than just F&B, Vol 2).   Got a couple hundred pages of that one written, but there’s still a long way to go.   I need to write more of the Dunk & Egg novellas, tell the rest of their stories, especially since there’s a television series about them in development.   There’s a lavish coffee table book coming later this year, an illustrated, condensed version of FIRE & BLOOD done with Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson (my partners on THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE), and my Fevre River art director, Raya Golden.   And another book after that, a Who’s Who in Westeros.  And that’s just the books.

There are also the successor shows.   Those have taken a ton of my time and attention this year.    I have seen some comments out there questioning how much I am involved in these new series.   The answer is: a lot.   Deeply, heavily involved in every one of the new shows.  It’s my world, and while I have been working closely with some fantastic writers and showrunners, ultimately it is up to me to try to keep the canon… well, canonical… and to do all I can to help make the new shows great.  (And I love these stories too).

So far, I am very excited.   HOUSE OF THE DRAGON has wrapped in London and is now in post-production.   What I have seen, I have loved.    I am eager to see more.   I am excited about the other successor shows as well, however.   I am dying to tell you all about them, but I am not supposed to, so…

Well, maybe there a few things I can tell you.   Things that HBO has previously announced, or hinted at, or…

We are developing live action shows for HBO, and animated shows for HBO Max.   No, can’t tell you how many.   But it is my hope that a number of these shows will get on the air.  Not all, no, it is never all, but more than one.   I certainly hope so.  Some of the ideas we are working on are quite different in tone and approach than what has gone before, and that thrills me.   The world of Westeros (and Essos, etc) is huge, and there is room in it for many types of stories, about a wide range of characters.

What can I tell you?  Well, let’s see.   Bruno Heller, the creator and showrunner of ROME, is writing his pilot script for the Corlys Velaryon series.   That one started out as NINE VOYAGES, but now we’re calling it THE SEA SNAKE, since we wanted to avoid having two shows with numbers in the title.   The other one TEN THOUSAND SHIPS, the Nymeria series.   Amanda Segel, our showrunner, has delivered a couple drafts of that one, and we are forging ahead.   The third of the live action shows is the Dunk & Egg series, helmed by Steve Conrad.   My team and I have had some great sessions with Steve and his team, and we really hit it off.   He’s determined to do a faithful adaptation of the stories, which is exactly what I want; these characters and stories are very precious to me.   The first season will be an adaptation of the first novella, “The Hedge Knight.”   Contrary to what you may have read on line, the show will not be called DUNK & EGG, which could be mistaken for a sitcom by viewers unfamiliar with the stories.   We’re leaning toward A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS for the series title, though THE HEDGE KNIGHT has its partisans as well.

Over on the animated side… well, I am not allowed to talk about most of what’s happening, except to say that things are moving very fast, and I love love love some of the concept art I am seeing.   And.. wait, come to think of it, the news leaked several months ago that one of the animated shows would be set in Yi Ti.   That’s true.   Our working title is THE GOLDEN EMPIRE, and we have a great young writer on that one too, and I think the art and animation is just going to be beautiful.  I would tell you more if I could.   I don’t think I can say a word about the other animated shows.   Not yet.

So… there is lots going on.

And HOUSE OF THE DRAGON is coming soon.   That’s what you will see first.

And me?  I will continue to work with the writers and showrunners and directors and producers on all these shows.   Plus ROADMARKS for HBO, and DARK WINDS for AMC, and WILD CARDS for UCP and Peacock.   And NIGHT OF THE COOTERS should be finished this month.

And in addition to all that, let me say one again, yes, I am still working on WINDS OF WINTER.

 

 

 

Current Mood: tired tired

The Cooters Are Coming!

August 24, 2021 at 7:14 pm
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Howard Waldrop will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention in Montreal a few months hence. It’s well deserved. There has been no finer short story writer in all of science fiction and fantasy in the past half century than H’ard. No one else writes like Waldrop. And Howard never writes the same story twice.

His best story? Damned hard to say. So many classics.

But one of them, surely surely, is “Night of the Cooters,” a finalist for the Hugo Award and Locus Award (did not win either, alas), and the title story of his second short story collection. Inspired by H.G. Wells and WAR OF THE WORLDS, it is all about the time the Martians invaded Pachuco, Texas.

And now, I am thrilled to announce, the Cooters are coming to the big screen.

Or maybe the small screen. Or the medium-sized screen. But some kind of screen, anyway. Right here in Santa Fe, we have just wrapped principal photography for a brand new film version of the Waldrop classic. “Night of the Cooters” is a short story, and our version is going to be a short film. I’d guess it will come in somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes, shot with a combination of live action and state-of-the-art animation. If you loved the story, we think you will love our movie.

Howard has been part of the project since the start, of course. (The start being some five/six years ago).

The screenplay was written by JOE LANSDALE, and who better? The Sage of Nacogdoches, Texas is a major writer in his own right, author of the Hap & Leonard series and about a zillion other books and stories, writer of thrillers, horror stories, science fiction, westerns, historicals, and all manner of other cool stuff.

Directing, and starring as Sheriff Lindley, is the one and only VINCENT D’ONOFRIO.

If you have seen any television or film in the past thirty years or so, you know the work of Vincent D’Onofrio. He was Detective Goren in LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT. He was Private Pyle in FULL METAL JACKET. He was the young fisherman who gets jilted at the altar in MYSTIC PIZZA. He was the alien in MEN IN BLACK. He’s the Kingpin in Marvel’s DAREDEVIL series. And… probably my favorite of his roles… he was Robert E. Howard in THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (a wonderful film that deserved a LOT more attention than it got). And more and more. You can check out the full list of his credits on IMDB. He’s simply an extraordinary actor, with a range second to no one, and it was such an honor to work with him.

He’s also a terrific director.

The supporting cast includes Hopper Penn as Sweets, Harrison Page as Luther, Martin Sensmeier as Leo Smith, Cristin McCleary as Atkins, Elias Gallegos as DeSpain, Luce Rains as Skip, Jazzy Kim O’Brien as Lil’ Chisum, and Darius Eteeyan as Billy Strother.

And what about the Cooters, you may ask?

The cooters will be supplied for us by Trioscope Studios. Check out their website at https://www.trioscopestudios.com/ for a smaple of their work… or watch their WWII film THE LIBERATORS on Netflix.

The producers of NIGHT OF THE COOOTERS — in no particular order — are Vincent D’Onofrio, Justin Duval, Joe Dean, Taylor Church, Martin Sensmeier, L.C. Crowly, Greg Jonkajtys, Elias Gallegos, Lenore Gallegos, Amy Filbeck, Joe Lansdale, and Howard Waldrop His Own Self.

And me… though I rather think I may credit myself as The Big Cooter.

When and where will you be able to see NIGHT OF THE COOTERS?

Well, that’s hard to say. We shot everything on green screen, so the post production process is going to be a lengthy one. The ball has now been passed to our friends at Trioscope, who will supply the backgrounds and special effects. We are thinking the final cut won’t be ready until early next year. And once the film is complete… well, alas, I doubt it will be showing at a multiplex near you. It’s a short film, as I said, and shorts just don’t get the distribution of full-length features. They hardly get any distribution at all, sad to say. I expect we will enter COOTERS in some film festivals here and there. Maybe some streamer will pick it up. Maybe we can release it on DVD or Blu-Ray. Maybe we can make a few more Waldrop movies and assemble them all into an anthology of sorts, like CREEPSHOW or TWILIGHT ZONE. One thing I can promise: we will be having a premiere somewhere down the line at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe.

Howard never made much money off his stories. I expect his film won’t make much money either. But that’s not point.

Some stories just need to be told. Some movies just need to be made. Call it a labor of love.

Coming… Eventually… Maybe

March 11, 2021 at 9:39 am
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The story about the adaptation of IN THE LOST LANDS broke a week or so back.

And now, hard on the heels of that, comes the announcement  about another story of mine being developed as a movie.

“Sandkings” was the story I was best known for, before A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE came along.   Originally published in OMNI, it went on to win the Hugo,  Nebula, and Locus Awards (my only triple crown), and has been anthologized and reprinted more times than I can count.   It was filmed once before as well, as the two-hour premiere episode of the revived OUTER LIMITS.   Melinda Snodgrass did the adaptation; Beau Bridges starred, with his father and his son in supporting roles.

Now the story is in development once again… this time as a feature film rather than a television episode.

Gore Verbinski, the acclaimed director of RANGO, THE RING, PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN, and many other films, will helm the project.   Dennis Kelly, creator of UTOPIA, is writing the script, which promises to be a closer adaptation than the OUTER LIMITS version.   The new version will have a much bigger budget as well; the OUTER LIMITS simply did not have the money to do all the things that they wanted to do.

You can read all the details here:

https://collider.com/sandkings-movie-netflix-gore-verbinski-george-rr-martin/

or here:

Gore Verbinski to Direct Adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Sandkings

We are still in the early stages of development, to be sure.   Dennis Kelly is only now writing the script.   Many things are developed and only a few are ever filmed, so please remember that… it could be a year or two or three before this comes to Netflix, if indeed it ever does.   But we have a great team on it, so I am hopeful.   Cross your fingers and pray for Simon Kress.   (Or don’t).

I am not quite sure why all these stories seem to be breaking now.   The SANDKINGS project has been underway for more than a year (Covid obviously shut things down) and IN THE LOST LANDS for something like six years.   We also have an animated feature of THE ICE DRAGON in development at Warner’s (as it happens I wrote “Sandkings” and “The Ice Dragon” within a couple weeks of each other, during a Christmas break from my job teaching college in Dubuque, Iowa — that was a good break).

And that’s just in the feature sphere.   In television, as seen here, I am working with Kalinda Vazquez on a pilot for Roger Zelazny’s ROADMARKS, and I am part of the terrific team that is trying to bring Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH to series on HBO.   I think we’re finally getting close on that one; we’ve been interviewing possible directors lately, and the last one was VERY impressive.   Of course there’s HOUSE OF THE DRAGON at HBO, the GAME OF THRONES prequel series that Ryan and Miguel are helming, and maybe possibly some other stuff for HBO that I cannot tell you about (but it is very exciting), and also a new series for AMC that I also cannot tell you about… yet… (hint, hint).

Oh, and there’s FRIENDS FOREVER.   Just a short film, maybe twenty minutes long.   A labor of love, that I hope you’ll love as much as I do.  That one will happen, if the pandemic ever allows it.   If not for Covid, we would have shot it already.   It is the first of four shorts that I hope to film, based on classic short stories by one of the most idiosyncratic writers our field has ever produced.

That’s what’s on my plate in television and film.

You all know what is on my plate in prose.   I need to finish WINDS, and then maybe write another Dunk & Egg novella, and then get right into A DREAM OF SPRING, and in between edit some more Wild Cards books.

Once more into the breach, dear friends… Westeros beckons.

 

Current Mood: busy busy

Covid Claims Another Friend

March 5, 2021 at 3:23 pm
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The Grim Reaper just keeps on reaping, sad to say.

I have lost another friend.   Last night I got a phone call from Michael Cassutt in LA to tell me that our mutual friend Dr. Michael Engelberg had died.   He was a victim of Covid-19, one of the half million we have lost.

Dr. Michael was a physician himself, an oncologist at Cedar-Sinai in Los Angeles, and one of the leaders in his field, though he retired from active practice a few years ago.    Thankfully (knock wood) neither I nor anyone in my immediate circle ever needed to call upon his expertise in the treatment of cancer… but having a good friend who was also a doctor at one of the leading hospitals in the country was definitely something to be thankful for.   He was always the first person I turned to for a second opinion whenever Parris or I had a medical issue of any sort.   There was no one better.   Twenty years ago, asking him for that second opinion saved Parris from having an entirely unnecessary heart procedure, for which we will be eternally grateful.

Dr. Michael lived a double life, however.   By day he was a physician, one of the country’s leading oncologists.   But he was also a hardcore science fiction and fantasy fan, and a film producer… and it was in that capacity that I first met him, back in the early 90s.    I was doing a lot of screenwriting in those days, and Engelberg was looking for writers to script some of the projects he had in development at Disney, so my agent set up a breakfast for us… at Hugo’s, I believe.   (That was a big industry breakfast-and-lunch place in those days.   The food was great…. and, of course, with a name like that, there was no place better for two old fanboys to get together and talk SF).   We hit it off at once, and two decades of friendship ensued.

We also worked together.   Michael was a decade older than me and had been reading SF all his life.   He had an amazing collection, especially of Golden Age material.   He loved Asimov, Heinlein, Sturgeon, Simak, and his dream was to bring some of their classic works to the silver screen.

His favorite was Edgar Rice Burroughs and his Barsoom novels.   Michael was the producer who first brought A PRINCESS OF MARS to Disney, and got it optioned by Hollywood Pictures, a Disney subsidiary.   For more than a decade he fought to get it filmed.   Writer after writer took a crack at it, and at least once the project got a greenlight with a director attached… but then the director demanded another rewrite, and the studio did not like it much, and the green light turned to red.   The director left, and more writers came and went… the last team being me and Melinda Snodgrass.   We did a couple of passes ourselves, and for a while it seemed we were going to get a green light for our version… but then the Mouse changed his mind, decided PRINCESS needed to be animated instead of live action, and took it away from us and Hollywood Pictures and assigned it to Disney proper.  Where nothing happened.   In later years the Disney option expired, and the Burroughs estate sold the rights to Paramount.   Nothing happened there either, alas.   So Disney came back into the picture and bought back the rights to Barsoom, but the Hollywood Pictures division was defunct by then, so a whole new group of people took charge of the project.   I don’t think they ever even looked at the old scripts.   Instead they made JOHN CARTER.   Dr. Michael was not connected with that, and I think it broke his heart a little… but that’s development for you.

A PRINCESS OF MARS was his passion project, but by no means the only one he worked on.    There was a time back in the 90s when I had four — yes, count ’em, four — films in active development at Hollywood Pictures, and Dr. Michael Engelberg was the executive producer and guiding hand on all of them.   Besides PRINCESS, Melinda and I were also developing WILD CARDS as a feature film, collaborating on a screenplay built around our own most iconic characters, Dr. Tachyon and the Great and Powerful Turtle.   Michael also picked up the rights to FADEOUT, an original SF screenplay I had written for a small independent that had gone bust.    For a time there was talk of attaching Sharon Stone to that one, but when that fell through, so did the project.  And Hollywood also optioned my historical horror novel, FEVRE DREAM.  I was so busy with other work — the aforementioned PRINCESS, WILD CARDS, FADEOUT, as well as three television pilots, the Wild Cards books, and this fantasy novel I had started in 1991 — that I did not get around to writing the screenplay for FEVRE DREAM for a while, alas.   Big mistake.   By the time I turned in the script, Hollywood Pictures was on its last legs and had lost all interest in steamboats and vampires.   They put the script in turnaround the day after I turned it in.

None of that was Dr. Michael’s fault.   He was as frustrated as any of us by the vagaries of development hell.   Maybe more so.   I loved working with him, maybe because he had a trufan’s reverence for the original material.  Whether dealing with ERB, RAH, or GRRM, he always argued for staying with the book and doing faithful adaptations.

In the end, Dr. Michael only got one of his numerous projects filmed: the 1994 adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s THE PUPPET MASTERS.  That was another book he brought to Disney, and it gave him great joy when the cameras finally began to roll… although I know he would rather that one had stayed a bit closer to RAH’s novel as well.   If Hollywood had more sense, PUPPET MASTERS would have been the first of many Michael Engelberg productions.  Instead it proved to be the first and last.

My friendship with Michael lasted much longer than our working relationship.   Whenever I visited LA, I would make sure I made time to visit him, so we could catch up and talk about the books we’d loved and the movies we wanted to make.   Our favorite haunt was Hop Li, a Chinese restaurant in LA’s Chinatown, where we would gather around a big round table and share a feast with other writers, fans, and movie people.   Melinda Snodgrass, Michael Cassutt, Alan Brennert, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, David Goyer, Len Wein, Chris Valada were all regulars at our Hop Li gatherings.  And you never knew who else might turn up.   One time it was Deke Slayton, which was pretty damn exciting.

If Covid ever ends and I get to return to LA again, I hope those of us who are left can gather at Hop Li once more and raise a toast to Dr. Michael Engelberg over some tangerine beef, peking duck, and walnut shrimp.   He was one of the good ones.

 

Current Mood: depressed depressed

Ryan the Collector

November 14, 2020 at 8:58 am
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When Ryan Condal, the showrunner on HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, is not hunkered down in King’s Landing… er, London… casting roles and writing scripts, he likes to collect movie memorabilia.

And now he’s started a podcast about it, with his friend David Mandel of VEEP and SEINFELD fame.

Take a look at this interview with the two of them for a taste.   (Ryan talks a bit about HOTD as well). Then check out their podcast.

Myself, I collect toy soldiers and miniature heraldic knights, as long time readers of this Not A Blog will know.   Books too, though only by happenstance.  I am more a reader than a collector; I never seek out rarities or firsts myself, though I admire those who do.    So I understand the collecting passion, and movie (and television) props and costumes are a cool thing to collect.   Actually I have a few old TV props myself… though more from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST than from GAME OF THRONES.   A pity I never got that severed head… maybe on HOUSE, who knows…

 

Current Mood: geeky geeky