Not a Blog

New Wild Cards original on Tor.com

July 26, 2021 at 1:27 pm
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There’s a brand new Wild Cards original from a brand new Wild Cards author up on Tor.com.

“Skin Deep” is from Alan Brennert.   Who is not a new author at all, of course (( though he was back in the mid-70s, when he was a Campbell Award loser just a few years after me )) but he IS brand new to the world of aces and jokers.   I first had the honor of publishing Alan when I was doing NEW VOICES, the Campbell Award anthology that was my first foray into editing.  A decade or so later, he and I worked together when I got my first gig writing for television, and he helped teach me how to write a teleplay.   In more recent years he has been writing novels — his bestselling Hawaii series, and a really wonderful book about Palisades Park in New Jersey.

So go and check out “Skin Deep” on Tor.com.   It’s FREE.

Skin Deep

And after you’ve enjoyed “Skin Deep,” go check out the rest of the Wild Cards stories on Tor.com, and pick up a couple of Wild Cards books from your favorite bookseller.. along with a few of Alan’s novels.   They’re terrific.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Back to the Midwest

July 16, 2021 at 4:09 pm
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I am so far behind in my Not A Blogging.   This post should have been posted back in June,  but…  better late than never, right?

ANYWAY… I was on the road for ten days back in June, to Evanston (where I went to school, 1966-1971), Chicago (where I lived after school, 1971-1976), and Dubuque (where I taught school, 1976-1979).   It was the first time I’d left home and/or cabin in a year and a half, since the start of the pandemic and the quarantine.   I have to say, it was great to get away from my office chair, even if it was only for a few days.

First stop was Northwestern, and the convocation for the graduates of the Medill School of Journalism, where I was given an honorary doctorate.   Professor Emeritus Roger Boye gave me a very kind introduction, and presented me with my new hood as Doctor of Humane Letters.   And then it was my turn.

The Northwestern campus has changed a great deal since my days as a student, half a century ago.  So has the city of Evanston.   Old landmarks gone, new buildings everywhere… but still, enough remained to give me some vivid flashes of memory of years gone by and friends and lovers and teachers who changed my life and… for good or ill… helped make me the person I am today.

Thomas Wolfe said that you can’t go home again.   Maybe so, but you can visit.    Thank you, Northwestern.   It was nice to be back, however briefly.

After Evanston, I spent a few days in Chicago, accompanied by my loyal minion, Sid.   That was great as well.   Of course, we had to visit Greektown for some saganaki at the Greek Islands, where I first learned to love flaming cheese while still a student at Northwestern.  OPAA!  OPAA!   I also got to enjoy dinners with Mary Anne Mohanraj, one of my wonderful Wild Card writers, and Eve Ewing, who presented me with the Carl Sandburg Award on my last visit to Chicago, both of them amazing writers.   That was fun too.

While I was in Chicago, I did an interview with the local PBS station.

Next we took to the road, across Illinois and through the scenic and historic town of Galena (Abner Marsh’s home town) to Dubuque, where I once taught journalism at Clarke College and acted as advisor to the student newspaper, the COURIER.   The reason for my visit was… ah, well, no, can’t tell you that, not yet… but I got to see a few old friends, eat chili at Mulgrew’s in East Dubuque and pizza in Dubuque proper, and… take a ride on the riverboat TWILIGHT.   Okay, it’s not a real steamboat, not even a paddlewheeler, but it’s a cool boat all the same, and I loved sailing down the Mississippi for a few hours.   I even got to visit the pilot house and blow the whistle.

We got back home on June 23rd.   It’s always nice to be back in Santa Fe and the Land of Enchantment, but I have to admit, it was great to get away for a few days.

Of course, during my ten days on the road and away from the internet, the email piled up, and I found some eight hundred letters waiting for me on my return.   Which may help explain why I am weeks late in making this post, but…

That’s all for now.   The woods were lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and books to write before I sleep.

 

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

A DARK WIND Is Rising

July 9, 2021 at 9:22 pm
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I moved from Iowa to New Mexico in late 1979.   A few months later, Roger Zelazny took me down to Albuquerque to First Friday, the monthly writer’s luncheon at the Albuquerque Press Club, where I met the bestselling mystery writer Tony Hillerman, one of the founders of the group.  Tony was a delight, a great lunch companion and a born storyteller… and, as I soon learned, a marvelous writer.   Once I tried one of his Joe Leaphorn novels, I was hooked.   I read as many as I could get my hands on, and then found myself eagerly awaiting the next, like millions of other readers around the globe.

Now, I am thrilled to report, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are returning to television.

We just got word from AMC that they are greenlighting DARK WINDS, based on Tony’s novels about the two Navajo tribal policemen.   The first season will be six episodes long, adapted (largely) from LISTENING WOMAN, one of my favorite books in the series.   If we get the viewers. more seasons will follow, and more books will be adapted.

There’s lots more, but why should I rehash it all when the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER has all the details:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-news/robert-redford-george-r-r-martin-team-for-dark-winds-zahn-mcclarnon-1234979828/

DARK WINDS will be filmed in and around Santa Fe and Gallup, and on the Navajo reservation, and based out of the Native-owned Camel Rock Studios (the former Camel Rock Casino), right here in the Land of Enchantment.   Filming will begin in August, and continue — we hope — for many years.

Bob Redford and Chris Eyre have put together a great team (with a little help from yours truly), and we hope to make a great show, one that truly captures the magic of this very special place.   Look for DARK WINDS on AMC in 2022.

((Comments allowed, but ONLY about Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, DARK WINDS, and the works of Tony Hillerman.   Off topic comments will be deleted by my marvelous minions)).

Current Mood: excited excited

Comes A Swordsman

April 15, 2021 at 12:30 pm
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He is the common-born son of the steward to the Lord of Blackhaven.   He has no claim to lands or titles, all he has is his honor and his skill with sword and lance.

He is a challenger, a champion, cheered by the commons, beloved of the ladies.

He is a lover (or is he?), a seducer (or is he?), a betrayer (or is he?), a breaker of hearts and a maker of kings.

FIRE & BLOOD readers know him as Ser Criston Cole.

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON viewers will know him as FABIEN FRANKEL.

In some of his other roles, Frankel has been the son of Dennis Franz (NYPD BLUE) and the lover of Emilia Clarke (LAST CHRISTMAS).   And now he is getting tangled up with some more Targaryens.   We shall see how that goes.

Welcome to Westeros, Fabien.

And do keep that sword sharp.

 

 

 

Current Mood: pleased pleased

On the Road with Roger Z

February 24, 2021 at 9:02 am
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The story broke a few days ago, and is now all over the internet: I am developing a new series for HBO, a science fiction show based on ROADMARKS, a novel by the late great Roger Zelazny.   And what do you know — the story is actually true.   Which is more than can be said about most of the stories about me that I stumble over these days, boys and girls.  (I have said it before, and will say it again, but sometimes it seems no one listens.   Do not believe everything you read).

Anyway… YES!   We had not intended to announce anything yet, to be sure.   Development is a long and uncertain process.    Thousands of shows are pitched, hundreds of pilots are written, dozens of pilots are filmed, but only a very few of them ever get greenlit to series.   There is a reason that Hollywood insiders call it “development hell.”  And what’s the point of announcing projects that might never make it to air?   That’s why HBO — like most other networks and streamers — prefers to keep these things quiet.

Even so, even so… you cannot win the lottery unless you buy a ticket, so we all keep playing.

Which brings me back to ROADMARKS.

DEADLINE was the first to break the story, but the best and most complete account appeared on the WERTZONE, here:
https://thewertzone.blogspot.com/2021/02/hbo-developing-roger-zelaznys-roadmarks.html

My career in television started in 1985 when I adapted Roger Zelazny’s “The Last Defender of Camelot” for THE TWILIGHT ZONE.  It was the first script of mine ever to be filmed (starring Richard Kiley and Jenny Agutter and a stuntman whose nose got cut off during the swordfight).  Roger was a friend, a mentor, and one of the greatest science fiction writers who ever lived.   He died in 1995, but his work will live for so long as people read SF and fantasy. It was an honor to be able to bring one of his stories to television.   And now I am hoping we will be able to do it again.

I pitched ROADMARKS to HBO last year — along with four other SF and fantasy works (by various other writers) that I thought had the makings of great shows.   They all had (and have) lots of potential, but ROADMARKS was the one they responded to.  A great choice, I think.   ROADMARKS is not as well as known as some of Roger’s other work, like the Amber series or LORD OF LIGHT (one of the best SF novels ever written, imnsho), but at the core of it is a simply marvelous concept: the Road that extends through all of history and even into alternate timelines, ever growing, ever changing, a road that will take you anywhere if you know how to find it.  Roger’s own title for the novel was LAST EXIT TO BABYLON, which gives you a hint of the flavor of the book.   In Red Dorakeen, he gave us a fascinating protagonist as well, and of course there’s also Leaves and Flowers, and the Black Decade, and some wild supporting characters and bad guys.    Honestly, the concept is as big as Amber and could easily have sustained a whole series of books, though Roger only penned the one.  It’s our hope that it can also sustain a dozen great seasons on HBO.

But that’s a way down the… ahem… road.   Right now we just have a pilot order.

We found a great writer, though.  Her name is Kalinda Vazquez.   I first met her five or six years back, when we worked together on a different project, trying to turn my werewolf novella “The Skin Trade” into a series for Cinemax.   That was going great for a time, till it blew up for various complex legal reasons that annoy me to this day.   (See what I mean about development hell?)  Maybe one day we can return to it.  Afterwards, Kalinda went on to write for all sorts of other shows, including STAR TREK and THE WALKING DEAD, while I… well, most of you know what I have been doing.   But I am looking forward to working with her again.   Although, to be honest, it is Kalinda who will be doing most of the work from this point on.   I am only an executive producer.   Kalinda will be writing the pilot, and if indeed we get a series order, she will be the showrunner, presiding over the writer’s room and in charge of the whole shebang.    She had a great take on Willie and Randi back then, and I think she’ll do right by Red and the Road as well.

Of course, it will be a year or two before a ROADMARKS show could possibly get on the air.

While you are waiting, let me suggest you read ROADMARKS, the novel.   And then NINE PRINCES IN AMBER.   LORD OF LIGHT.   DOORWAYS IN THE SAND.   CREATURES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS.   THIS IMMORTAL.   THE DREAM MASTER.   Or any of the marvelous haunting evocative short stories.   There was only one Roger Zelazny.

 

 

Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

The Wedding Guest

October 26, 2020 at 8:26 am
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Here’s another peek at the past, and the original pilot for GAME OF THRONES.

We shot the wedding of Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo in Morocco.   Ian McNeice played Illyrio Mopatis, a magister of Pentos, and I played one of the wedding guests, presumably another magister.

Both of us, alas, were left on the cutting room floor when Dany was recast and the wedding was reshot.   Ian McNeice was terrific as Illyrio, by the way, but a scheduling conflict made him unavailable for the reshoot.

I never did find time to do another cameo, but I suspect the show was better for it.

If you really want to see me do a cameo, I did two for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST in the 80s, and more recently had my brilliant turns in SHARKNADO 3 and Z NATION.  I made a swell zombie…

Current Mood: silly silly

Scary Stuff

September 14, 2020 at 11:19 am
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Just watched a Netflix documentary about social media called THE SOCIAL DILEMMA that terrified me more than any horror movie I have seen in the past twenty years.

I have never been a fan of Twitter or Facebook or any of the other social apps out there.  My Not A Blog remains my main (and really my only) method of interfacing with the internet.   The accounts I have elsewhere largely just echo stuff I have already posted here.   I do think the social media is having terrible effects on our society… on political discourse, on journalism, on the fabric of our democracy itself.   But I do not think I ever realized how bad it was until I saw this doc.

I do hope we can find our way out.   But I am pessimistic.

But then, I am pessimistic about a lot of things these days.

 

Current Mood: scared scared

C-C-Claudius, aka I, CLAVDIVS

September 10, 2020 at 8:16 am
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The BBC made their adaptation of I, CLAUDIUS — based on the classic novels by Robert Graves (I, CLAUDIUS and CLAUDIUS THE GOD), which were in turn based on the histories of Suetonius — in 1976, but I did not encounter them until a few years later, when PBS picked them up and ran them (in a somewhat censored form, to shield Americans from seeing nipples) in the USA.  I remember, I was still living in Dubuque, Iowa at the time, teaching college.   I loved the series then, and I love it now.   I have probably watched it a dozen times in the years since.   When it was rerun on TV at first, then later on VHS tape, and most recently on DVD.

I just finished watching it again.  Up in my mountain cabin, I discovered that my assistant had never seen the series, so of course I had to break it out and show it to her.   It is just as brilliant as I recall.   I am pleased to say my assistant, seeing it for the first time, loved it just as I did, seeing it for the… I don’t know, the tenth time?  Twentieth?  I have not kept count.

This despite the fact that the budget for BBC drama in the 70s was… let us say… not large.   There are no special effects here.   No battles.   No exteriors, in fact.   It was all shot on a sound stage, and most of it takes place in one or two rooms, repeatedly redressed.   When these Romans go to the arena for a gladiatorial show, you do not so much as glimpse a gladiator, you just see the actors sitting watching carnage offstage.   This is not HBO’s ROME nor even SPARTACUS (both great shows in their own right).  I, CLAUDIUS is more akin to a filmed stage play.   I think the craft services budget on any HBO series is probably ten times what the BBC spent on the entire thirteen episodes.

And you know what?  IT DOES NOT MATTER.   If you have great writing and great acting, that is really all you need.   And I, CLAUDIUS had that in spades.  A single writer, Jack Pulman, scripted all thirteen episodes.   Pulman is long deceased, I fear, which I regret.  I would have considered it an honor to meet him and shake his hand.   His dialogue sparkles from beginning to end, with so many unforgettable lines… and throughout he remains true to the genius of Robert Graves and his great novels.

And the acting here is equal to the brilliance of the writing.   This was the series that made Derek Jacobi a star, and rightly so, but the supporting cast around him was sensational as well.   Sian Phillips as Livia, Brian Blessed as Augustus, John Hurt as Caligula, the criminally underappreciated George Baker as Tiberius, Patrick Stewart (with hair!) as Sejanus, and more, and more, and more…. there’s not a false note here.   They were all great.

And yes, from time to time a marble pillar ripples when someone passes, revealing itself to be painted canvas, but so what?   If you are like me, you are too deeply involved with the characters to notice or care.

If you have never seen I, CLAUDIUS, you owe it to yourself to have a look (though be warned, this a dark show, and there is lots of violence and sex, especially by the standards of 1976).  You should read the novels too, they are terrific.  And then give thanks you do not live in ancient Rome.

Even now, deep in the Second Golden Age of television, I would rank I, CLAUDIUS as one of the greatest television series ever made.   Certainly in the top ten.  Probably in the top five.

Current Mood: satisfied satisfied

Stuff to Watch

September 4, 2020 at 10:00 am
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I write most days, sometimes into the evenings.

At night, after supper, I read, watch television, or screen movies (I used to love going to the movies, since the best place to see a film is in a theatre with an audience around you, but the pandemic has put an end to that for the nonce).

A couple of things I have really enjoyed lately…

Parris and I binged on HBO’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS when I was back in Santa Fe, and loved it.   Gorgeous production, great cast (loved Lin-Manuel as the aeronaut), and SO much better than the feature film.   Plus armored bears.   Can’t go wrong with armored bears.  The world needs more armored bears.    All the daemons are cool too.   (Hate that damn monkey).   If you’re a Pullman fan, give this a look.  And if you’re not, watch it anyway, it may make you a Pullman fan.

And for something completely different, there’s BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, a lovely little feel-good film (based on a true story) about a Pakistani kid in Luton, England who becomes the world’s biggest Bruce Springsteen fan.   I think I’ve seen this one four times already.  Every time the shift changes and a new minion arrives at my fortress of solitude, I watch it again so they can see it.   When I am feeling down, this one brings me back up.   The Boss knows all the secrets of life… but, hey, he’s from Jersey!   The music canNOT be beat, and I like some of the choices the filmmakers made, like the lyrics coming up on screen.   With rare exceptions, I am not usually a big fan of musicals… but this one rocks.  (If it even counts as a musical).

 

Current Mood: geeky geeky

Virtual Drafts and Computer Football

April 28, 2020 at 2:47 pm
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I had a few nice days watching the NFL Draft.   Both the Giants and Jets did quite well, I think.   Not many exciting skill players drafted for either team, admittedly, but they both picked up building blocks to fortify their offensive lines, which I think is key.  Games are won and lost in the trenches.  Of course, even though the talking heads have all been busy “grading” each team’s picks, no one will really know anything for a year or two.   The history of the draft is littered with sexy “can’t miss” college stars who totally flamed out in the NFL.  See Vernon Gholston, Blair Thomas, Eric Flowers.   The list is long.   So… proof, meet pudding, let’s wait and see.   But I am hopeful.

What was really fascinating this year was the format.  Instead of thousands of screaming fans gathered together in New York City or Chicago or (as planned this year) Las Vegas, and the draftees parading up on stage to get a hug from the commissioner and a jersey, the NFL went virtual.   But that was fascinating in its own way.   We got to see the homes of the coaches, players, and talking heads, from Kliff Kingsbury’s palatial digs to the commish in his basement man cave to the very modest apartments of some of the young men being drafted, we got to see their families, their pets, the pictures on their walls…

… and their bookcases.   For whatever reason, a lot of the commentators  sat in front of bookcases.   I could not help peering at the titles on their shelves, being a writer and all.   Alas, I failed to spot any copies of my own books on anyone’s shelves.  But Marshall Faulk seems to be a big fan of Harlan Coben, and on other shelves I spotted Edgar Allen Poe and Philip Roth.   A lot of football books too.   Many ex-players and coaches had ONLY football books visible behind them.   Which still trumped the guys who owned bookcases, but (seemingly) no books.   Just pictures, trophies, footballs.

I hear that next year, if COVID-19 is no longer a factor, the NFL may combine elements of this year’s draft with the traditional format.   That would be cool.  This was the most viewed draft in history.   Maybe because the country is desperate for SOMETHING sport-ish to watch.

I was impressed at how well the virtual draft worked.  Very few technical glitches… though the time lapses were noticeable from time to time, as commentators waited to make sure the previous speaker had finished.   This bodes well for the forthcoming virtual worldcon, I think… hope… pray.   It proved it can be done.   Of course, ESPN and the NFL channel have considerably more resources and expertise than fandom, but still…

It still remains to be seen whether we will actually have an NFL season this year.  Which puts me in mind of a story I wrote back in 1971, called “The Last Super Bowl.”   Eventually it saw print in GALLERY magazine, surrounded by naked Girls Next Door  (none of them actually lived next door to me, I should hasten to add).   Computer sports were still a dream back then (PONG would not appear in my local bar for several more years), but they were coming, so I donned my prognosticator’s hat and predicted that by the far future year of 2014 computerized football would have become so much more exciting than the real thing that actual football would go extinct.

Well, that didn’t happen.   Turns out we were wrong about the flying cars, the household robots, the cities on the moon, and a whole lot of other things as well.   Never mind about that, though.

Maybe this is the year that my predictions come true.   If the virus does not relent, and we have to cancel the 2020 NFL season… why not go with an ALL VIRTUAL season instead?  We know who is on each team, we know who they drafted, we can MADDENify the entire league and play out the schedule week-by-week on television, with SFX and animation.   MADDEN has the player stats.   The actual coaches can sit by their own computers and call the plays and the defenses.   The play-by-play announcer and the color guy can sit by their screens and do the commentary, just as if they were talking about a real game.  And we can all watch our favorite (virtual) teams.

Hey, the networks need something to televise, after all.   And all us hopeless football addicts need something to watch, besides reruns of SuperBowls past.   And maybe, if we go all computer, the Jets will finally get back to the SuperBowl.   I wrote “The Last Super Bowl” only two years after their last (and only) appearance, as it happens… and I put them in that bowl, against the Green Bay Packers.

 

Current Mood: mischievous mischievous