Not a Blog

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

Back to Westeros

November 8, 2020 at 9:18 am
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Sometimes I do get the feeling that most of you reading my posts here care more about what is happening in Westeros than what is happening in the United States.

So let me assure you that, when not sweating out election returns or brooding over other real world problems, I have continued to work on THE WINDS OF WINTER.

No, sorry, still not done, but I do inch closer.   It is a big big book.   I try not to dwell on that too much.    I write a chapter at a time, a page at a time, a sentence at a time, a word at a time.   It is the only way.   And sometimes I rewrite.

Of late I have been spending a lot of time with the Lannisters.  Cersei and Tyrion in particular.   I’ve also paid a visit to Dorne, and dropped in to Oldtown a time or three.   In addition to turning out new chapters, I’ve been revising some old ones (some very old)… including, yes, some stuff I read at cons ages ago, or even posted online as samples.   I tweak stuff constantly, and sometimes go beyond tweaking, moving things around, combining chapters, breaking chapters in two, reordering stuff.

None of this is even remotely new.   It is how the first five books were written.

I was really on a roll back in June and July.   Progress has continued since then, but more slowly… I suffered a gut punch in early August that really had me down for a time, and another, for different reasons, in early September.   But I slogged on, and of late I am picking up steam again.

On other fronts… well, aside from Covd-19 slowing everything down, we are making great progress on the HBO prequel HOUSE OF THE DRAGON.  Ryan and Miguel are in London, casting has begun, it is all looking very exciting.

I wish I could say that things are also going great on all the other television and film projects I am involved with, either as a producer or as the author of the original source material (i.e. novels and short stories).   I can’t.    Very little shooting is taking place, and almost nothing is being greenlit.  Of course, development continues… but there’s a reason they call it “development hell.”   Sigh.

So that’s where all that stands.   Or at least, that’s as much as I am allowed to tell you right now.

Hang in there, friends.

Current Mood: busy busy

IAIA Scholarships

August 19, 2020 at 10:33 am
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IAIA — the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe — recently had its annual fundraising event.

Virtually, of course.

It seemed to be a great success.

There’s a video of the event.   You can even catch a glimpse of yours truly at 1:58 minute mark, talking about the annual scholarships I sponsor there, through my foundation.   There are brief statements from this year’s scholarship winners as well.

 

2020 IAIA Virtual Scholarship Event—Scholarships Shape Futures

Though the annual fund-raising event is over, the need for funds is not.   IAIA does great work, so if any of you reading it have a few extra dollars, please do send them their way.   It would be much appreciated.

 

Current Mood: pleased pleased

This, That, and T’Other Thing

April 14, 2020 at 3:41 pm
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No big news here, but it has been a week or so since my last blog post, so I thought I would say hi.   I am still up in the mountains, doing the social distancing rag, and writing WINDS OF WINTER.   I have good days and bad days, but I am making progress.

Most of the world remains closed, including my theatre and bookshop, the Jean Cocteau Cinema and Beastly Books.   I had originally announced that we would re-examine the situation come April 15.   That date is now upon us, and it is obvious that I was wildly optimistic in hoping we might even consider re-opening then.  No.  Won’t work.   We’re going to remain shut until JUNE 1.  Then, once again, we will revisit the question, once we see what state the world is in.

I am continuing to pay my staff during this closure, something I wish more small businesses would do.   Beastly Books is still selling signed books by mailorder.  Every order helps keep us afloat, so please take a look at our offerings: https://jeancocteaucinema.com/product-category/signed-books/

Along the same lines, though we cannot of course open our theatre to the public while coronavirus still rages, the JCC has gone virtual, and is screening new and old movies that way.  For details on our Virtual Feature of the Week, go to https://jeancocteaucinema.com/

Hollywood has largely closed down as well, at least as far as actual production is concerned.  (If this pandemic goes on long enough, I wonder if the pipeline will go dry, and we will start to run out of new films and television shows.  If so, sheltering in place is going to get an order of magnitude harder.  Television right now is doing a lot to keep us all sane — and no, not the news, which has the opposite effect).   But while nothing is being filmed right now, development is continuing apace, since writers can still write at home.  The only thing I am writing myself is THE WINDS OF WINTER, as I have said many times… but with my producer’s hat on, I am still involved in a number of exciting new shows for HBO, and a few film projects as well.  When and if any of these make it to the screen, well, that’s always the question… but I do know that Ryan Condal and his team are roaring ahead on the scripts for HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, and that one has a full season’s order from HBO.  As for the other stuff I may or may not be involved in, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you all.

Oh, of course, I am doing a lot of reading these days.  Rereading too.  Some of my favorite writers are Robert A. Heinlein, Roger Zelazny, Tony Hillerman, Nnedi Okorafor, Howard Waldrop.  Oh, and that GRRM guy did some good stuff too, before he started that fantasy series.   Some of his old stories might even make good movies, donchaknow.  (No, seriously, you guys should check out DREAMSONGS.  Signed copies available from Beastly Books).

I have also been trading emails with my friends down in New Zealand.   CoNZealand, this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, has also gone virtual in response to the crisis.   A prudent move, but a challenging one.   As this year’s Virtual Toastmaster, I am still going to be hosting the Hugo Awards… virtually.  That should be… interesting.  Especially for me, since I am one of the least tech savvy guys in fandom.   I still write my novels with WordStar 4.0 on a DOS computer, after all, and when I interface with the internet it is mainly through this blog.  (Good thing Howard Waldrop isn’t going to be hosting.  He still works on a manual typewriter).

Anyway, the Kiwis have some smart guys working for them, and they assure me everything will go fine.   They are working out the tech now, and we hope to have several trial runs before The Big Night.   We are all certainly going to try to do our best.  I expect there will be glitches and mistakes, many of them doubtless mine, but I do hope all those looking in will be patient and understanding.  In any case, the rockets will be handed out one way or t’other, though the actual delivery may have to be entrusted to DHL or Federal Express.

Some cool stuff happening with WILD CARDS that I should mention.   Check out our Wild Cards website, if you haven’t seen it in a while.  Lots of great content there for you to explore, including a new blog post every two weeks by a rotating cast of our amazing Wild Cards writers.  You will find it at https://www.wildcardsworld.com/   

We also have a brand new Wild Cards original coming out at the end of this month from Harper Collins Voyager in the UK.   The title is THREE KINGS, and it’s a full mosaic,  was edited by Melinda M. Snodgrass (yours truly assisting), and features contributions from  Peter Newman, Peadar O’Guilin, Caroline Spector, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Melinda herself.  It’s a sequel to KNAVES OVER QUEENS, and like that volume it is set entirely in the British Isles and features an English and Irish cast.   (More on that one in a later post).

There’s more, of course.   There’s always more.   But this post has grown long enough, and Westeros is calling.

Current Mood: busy busy

See Ya Later, Kids

March 5, 2018 at 12:25 pm
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All’s good, boys and girls… lots of exciting things going on.

LOTS of exciting things.

Maybe too many. I am buried in work, so much that it is starting to overwhelm me. Even with my army of loyal minions.

So I am going to step back from blogging — okay, from NOT-a-blogging — for a while, till I get a few of these monkeys off my back.

In the near future, you’ll likely see fewer posts here. And some of those will be by my minions.

I’ll return eventually. Just don’t know when.

See ya later, alligators.

Current Mood: stressed stressed

City of the Angels

November 21, 2017 at 5:36 pm
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I have a love/ hate relationship with Los Angeles.

I spent a lot of time there back in the 80s and 90s, when I was on TWILIGHT ZONE and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and in the years that followed, when I was in development hell. A good decade, all told. At least three of those years were spent on the 405, I seem to recall… but in any case, I have lots of good memories of LA, and some bad memories as well. I made lots of friends out there. And even now, my work requires me to visit the City of Angels (which seems less angelic every day, if you’re reading the news) several times a year.

Those visits are usually mixed bags. I do business, which is necessary. Sometimes I come home with awards, which is great. I check in on old friends, always a pleasure (though all of us get older every year). From time to time I make new friends, always a joy. But I hate driving in LA even more than I did in the 90s, if that is possible, and the weather is usually beastly. So bloody hot and humid I don’t know how anyone can stand it. Then, of course, there are the meetings. Some are fun, some are not. Even the best meetings, it seems, seldom lead to anything real.

Last week, however, I had a great visit to LA. The weather, for once, was gorgeous. Not too hot, not too humid, beautiful blue skies, stunning sunsets.

When I wasn’t gazing out over the city from the balcony of my room at the Four Seasons, I was having meetings. HBO meetings, for the most part… exciting stuff, and they all went well… and meetings with some major film studios as well, about possible adaptions of some of my other work. All very exciting. Cross your fingers, cross your toes, I might have thrilling news down the line.

I also got to check in with some of those old friends I mentioned. One of the highlights was the dinner I shared with some of the folks I worked with on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

The whole gang could not be there, but we did gather (from left to right) Linda Campanelli (writer), Jay Acovone (Joe Maxwell), Ron Koslow (creator, showrunner), yours truly (writer/ producer), Ron Perlman (Vincent), and David Schwartz (producer). It was a grand gathering. We told some stories and shared some laughs, and of course we all lifted a glass to the memory of Roy Dotrice, our Father… who made it to 94, and still died way too young.

It was an honor to work on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and I’m proud of the work we did there.

((Comments permitted, if you STAY ON TOPIC))

Current Mood: calm calm

NIGHTFLYERS at the JCC

October 23, 2017 at 3:53 pm
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The SyFy channel will start filming their new NIGHTFLYERS series late this year or early next, I am informed. The series is based on my novella “Nightflyers,” first published in 1980.

“Nightflyers” was one of my Thousand Worlds stories, part of the future history that formed the background for most of the science fiction I wrote and published in the 1980s. The earliest version of it was a 23,000 word novella originally published in ANALOG, with a gorgeous cover by Paul Lehr.

That version of the story was a finalist for the Hugo Award at Denvention II (that’s me and Parris at Denvention in the pic). It lost our to a Dorsai story by Gordy Dickson, but as always it was great to be nominated… and it did get me back in the Hugo Losers Club, after I’d disgraced myself my winning two the year before. 😉

The story had a lot of fans, though. One of them was editor Jim Frenkel, who was doing a new series called ‘Binary Stars,’ a sort of revived Ace Double concept with two ‘short novels’ sharing a single book. He wanted to use “Nightflyers,” but needed it to be longer. I was thrilled to oblige, since I’d always felt the original needed a bit more room to breeze. I happily expanded the novella to 30,000 words, and in that form it was paired with Vernor Vinge’s “True Names” in a Binary Star, and later reprinted as the lead story in one of my collections from Bluejay Books.

((I kinda hate that cover. For various seasons, which I will explain at the JCC)).

I don’t know where screenwriter/ producer Robert Jaffe first encountered the story… in ANALOG, or via my collection… but somehow he did, and reached out to be in 1984 to option, and then purchase, film and television rights. The movie was filmed in 1986 and released in 1987.

NIGHFTLYERS… the movie… was not a huge hit. But it’s a film that I have very warm feelings toward. NIGHTFLYERS may not have saved my life, but in a very real sense it saved my career, and everything I have written since exists in no small part because of that 1987 film.

Tomorrow night we’ll be screening at the Jean Cocteau Cinema, with Robert Jaffe flying in from Los Angeles to talk about the making the film with me.

Come join us.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

The Swords Are Drawn

July 22, 2017 at 4:29 pm
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For all you fans of sword ‘n sorcery, and/ or my own ‘fake histories,’ the new anthology from Gardner Dozois, THE BOOK OF SWORDS, has been scheduled for release on October 10, and is now available for pre-order from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Book-Swords-Gardner-Dozois/dp/0399593764 and many other online booksellers. I imagine your favorite local bookseller is taking orders too.

This is NOT one I co-edited with Gargy (people keep getting that wrong), so I haven’t read any of the other stories yet, but it looks to have a helluva lineup, with originals by Lavie Tidhar, Daniel Abraham, Scott Lynch, C.J. Cherryh, Robin Hobb, Ken Liu, Cecelia Holland, Walter Jon Williams, and many more. And of course it also includes “Sons of the Dragon,” a chronicle of the reigns of Aegon the Conquerer’s two sons, Aenys I Targaryen and Maegor the Cruel, for those who cannot get enough of my entirely fake histories of Westeros. That one has never been published before in any form, though I did read it at a couple of cons.

Speaking of fake history… regulars here may recall our plan to assemble an entire book of my fake histories of the Targaryen kings, a volume we called (in jest) the GRRMarillion or (more seriously) FIRE AND BLOOD. We have so much material that it’s been decided to publish the book in two volumes. The first of those will cover the history of Westeros from Aegon’s Conquest up to and through the regency of the boy king Aegon III (the Dragonbane). That one is largely written, and will include (for the first time) a complete detailed history of the Targaryen civil war, the Dance of the Dragons. My stories in DANGEROUS WOMEN (“The Princess and the Queen”) and ROGUES (“The Rogue Prince”) were abridged versions of the same histories.

No publication date has been set yet, but it’s likely that we will get the first volume of FIRE AND BLOOD out in late 2018 or early 2019. The second volume, which will carry the history from Aegon III up to Robert’s Rebellion, is largely unwritten, so that one will be a few more years in coming.

And, yes, I know you all want to know about THE WINDS OF WINTER too. I’ve seen some truly weird reports about WOW on the internet of late, by ‘journalists’ who make their stories up out of whole cloth. I don’t know which story is more absurd, the one that says the book is finished and I’ve been sitting on it for some nefarious reason, or the one that says I have no pages. Both ‘reports’ are equally false and equally moronic. I am still working on it, I am still months away (how many? good question), I still have good days and bad days, and that’s all I care to say. Whether WINDS or the first volume of FIRE AND BLOOD will be the first to hit the bookstores is hard to say at this juncture, but I do think you will have a Westeros book from me in 2018… and who knows, maybe two. A boy can dream…

Meanwhile, you’ll have Gardner’s anthology to fill the time. Keep your swords sharp!

Current Mood: quixotic quixotic