Filed Under conventions
Safe in Chicago. Tomorrow I’ll have pictures and a report, though it may be at the Newsarama blog if my editor there wants it to be. I’ll let you know either way.
For now though, I’m completely exhausted. It’s been a long couple of weeks and I got about three hours of sleep last night.
See you tomorrow.
Filed Under apocalyptic, bond, comics, harry potter, iron man, peter pan, predator, star trek, talking animals, three musketeers, vin diesel
The Monday post date on this one is a lie. I actually started it late last week and didn’t wrap it up until Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the extra time I spent on it does not mean a corresponding increase in quality. It just means that I’m getting ready for Chicago and am falling behind.
Guardians of Ga’Hoole
They’re making an animated movie from Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’hoole series of Young Adult books. I haven’t read the series, but I’m down with a Watership Down/Secret of Nimh-esque fantasy quest movie about talking owls.
No drunken Tony Stark?
This is pretty old, but just in case you missed it: Jon Favreau on why Iron Man 2 probably won’t feature the “Demon in a Bottle” storyline about Tony Stark’s struggle with alcoholism. Hint: it’s Will Smith’s fault.
Welcome back, Vin.
Three Musketeers prequel
A new movie featuring Athos, Aramis, and Porthos? I’m all for one. (Sorry.)
Stan Winston RIP
See how far behind I am? Stan Winston’s passing deserves its own post, but by now everyone’s already said everything that needs saying about how awesome and influential a designer he was. Robert Hood has my favorite tribute with a huge, excellent gallery of Winston’s work. I’m gonna miss him.
Why Star Trek sucked
Ronald D. Moore has done mostly wonderful things with Battlestar Galactica. It’s hard to believe he was one of the guys under whose watch the Star Trek franchise started sucking so hard. He explains why in this interview, mainly blaming in on an over-abundance of continuity and in the process predicting why he thinks JJ Abrams’ version will rule.
We’ll see. Voyager needn’t have been continuity-laden, but they chose to go that direction and more or less repeat Next Generation. Yes, continuity was undoubtedly a problem, but it was a problem they seemed to bring on themselves. I’m all for starting over; I’m just skeptical about anyone’s being as awesome as this guy.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Construction of the Harry Potter theme park is progressing nicely, including a new, park-exclusive mini-movie written by JK Rowling and starring the film series’ cast.
The Saint Paul library rules
Sorry for the regional news, but if you live in the Twin Cities there are a couple of reasons to visit the Saint Paul Public Library this summer. One is their outdoor film festival featuring movies based on books (including comics) and movies about politics. The other is a continuing discussion of graphic novels by Jewish creators.
A friend emailed to tell me about a couple of fantasy books I need to read. I’ll tell you about the other one later, but the first one is Tigerheart by Peter David. I like David’s comics work pretty well, but I’m not such a huge fan that I pay attention to absolutely everything he does. He’s way too prolific for that anyway. But he’s got a wicked sense of humor that I enjoy and the thought of him writing a Peter Pan sequel is irresistible. Read more about his take on it in this interview.
Devil May Care not so hot
Speaking of pastiches, Double O Section has the only review of the new Bond book that I need to read. It doesn’t make me completely uninterested, but it sure pushes the novel further down my reading list.
Filed Under duma key, horror, mystery, stephen king
I’m not a Stephen King fan per se. I used to think I was back in high school when I first read Night Shift. Up until then I only knew King through his movies, but that short story collection convinced me he was a genius. I followed that up with Pet Sematary and though it wasn’t as awe-inspiring as the short stories, it was still creepy as hell and my opinion of King went unchanged.
For whatever reason, I didn’t immediately go back to check out King’s early stuff. The next novel of his I remember reading was The Tommyknockers. It still had it’s moments, but it felt overly long. I also remember being disappointed in it for reasons similar to my disappointment about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I went back and checked out Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot and was much more satisfied, but the disappointment of Tommyknockers stuck with me and King had become one of those hit-or-miss authors in my head. Weird how one book will do that for you.
I kept watching the movies though and it always seemed like the best ones weren’t horror films. I mean Carrie and The Shining are classics, but the truly great movies were Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and Misery. Okay Misery is a horror film, but not in the same way that King’s supernatural stuff is. I got the uninformed notion that King had literary aspirations (and good for him if he did), but I wasn’t that interested in following him there. I’d gladly stick with the movies.
If you remember my mentioning Disney’s Marketing Rules, I said that Duma Key fails to follow one of them. That one is, “You don’t sell products, you sell an experience.” Figure out what the experience is that you want readers to have and then figure out how to give them a taste of it before they buy. The marketing for Duma Key doesn’t do that. It relies on your familiarity with (and supposed attraction to) King, but otherwise doesn’t try to prepare you for how freaking scary and cool the book is.
The front cover flap calls the book “terrifying,” but only after spending much more time discussing “a terrible construction site accident,” an ending marriage, “two lovely daughters,” “rehabilitation,” “a rented house on Duma Key,” “movement out of solitude,” “a kindred spirit,” and finally hints at “a sick old woman” and “the ghosts of her childhood.” It wraps up by telling us that the book’s about “the tenacity of love, the perils of creativity, the mysteries of memory and the nature of the supernatural.” It sounds a lot more like The Green Mile or Hearts in Atlantis than ‘Salem’s Lot, but it’s not. Because King definitely hits those other two Disney rules. Hard.
“It’s not what you see, it’s what you don’t see.” “Learn to turn work into play.” In other words, good writing isn’t something where you have to stop and think about the choices the writer made, but it is something where every page has something on it that not only makes it worth reading, but makes you excited about moving on to the next one as well.
The writing on Duma Key is very, very good, but King makes it look easy. His style isn’t distracting. I found myself admiring it, but I was never pulled out of the story by it.
More importantly though, Duma Key is really, really long, but every page is a joy to read. Rather than construct an entire community of people you have to get to know – most of whom die as soon as their four-page introduction is done – King sticks to a small cast of really likable characters. Every page is spent either showing you why you hope everything turns out okay for them, or deepens the mystery that makes you think it probably won’t.
Edgar Freemantle is the main guy. He’s the wealthy contractor from Minnesota’s Twin Cities who nearly loses his life in an on-site accident and does lose his marriage thanks to the rage he struggles with afterwards. His therapist suggests a change of scenery, so Edgar finds a rental house off the west coast of Florida. Edgar used to get some enjoyment from drawing a little, so his therapist recommends he spend some time doing that. It was this Minnesota-Florida connection that made me buy the book when I was needing something to read in Florida back in April.
The book’s told from Edgar’s perspective and King builds instant empathy for him, not only with the tragic accident, but with a sense of humor that – though occasionally, and understandably, perverse – gives Edgar a noble resiliency that you can’t help but root for.
In Florida, Edgar hires a good-natured college student named Jack to run errands for him. Jack doesn’t know the pre-accident Edgar, so he accepts him exactly as he is now without comparing him to – as Edgar calls it – his “previous life.” Jack’s easy-going affection for Edgar shows him that there’s still a lot to like about him. In spite of the rejection of his wife and one of his daughters, he still has value and realizing this encourages Edgar and brings out his better qualities even more. Jack’s a heroic character.
Down the beach from Edgar’s rental place is a sprawling mansion owned by the elderly Elizabeth Eastlake. Elizabeth suffers from Alzheimer’s and is cared for by a man named Wireman who’s recovering from injuries of his own. Elizabeth is a sweet woman who takes an instant liking to Edgar whenever she can remember who he is. Wireman likes Edgar too and the two men form a fast friendship built on the similarity of their experiences.
Wireman is an annoying character with the habits of referring to himself in the third person, spouting Spanish phrases for no reason, and following up quotes of movies and songs with the source of the quotation. But he’s a kind-hearted man and he’s exactly who Edgar needs in his life. As great and genuine as Jack is, he’s still Edgar’s employee. Wireman is Edgar’s friend just because.
The last character I want to mention is Ilse, Edgar’s younger daughter. She’s really a supporting character, but because she’s the only person in his family who still seems to care about him, she’s a joy. I should clarify that King doesn’t make villains out of Edgar’s wife and older daughter. He paints them as real people who simply can’t cope with how Edgar has – not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally – changed. And in the older daughter’s defense, Edgar freely admits that he was always partial to Ilse and did a lousy job of hiding it.
As we get to know these people, we also discover that there’s something of a mystery to Edgar’s new home on Duma Key. He begins to paint and is much, much better than he remembered being. But sometimes his right arm – lost in the construction accident – begins to twitch and he feels the urge to get out the art supplies. When he does, strange things end up on his canvasses. It’s like he’s channeling images from somewhere else. Eventually he starts to wonder if he can control the process and use it to see the future or keep tabs on his wife back in Minnesota. And if he can do that, maybe he can control it even more and use his painting to shape events too.
It’s a frightening power and Edgar is careful with it, but he’s also curious and he begins trying to figure out where it comes from. And the more he uncovers, the more horrifying the mystery becomes until you’re looking up from the book every once in a while because you thought you heard a noise. Or you’re not sure you want to go to bed because you know that when you close your eyes you’re going to replay the scene you just read and you don’t want to do that in bed with the lights out.
Except of course that you sort of do, because it’s really fun being this creeped out.
I haven’t followed King’s career closely enough to announce that He’s Back, but Duma Key certainly deserves to be on the shelf next to Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot and that’s not at all what I expected out of it.
Five out of five Girl and Ship paintings.
Filed Under conventions
Like I said, I’m going to be at Wizard World Chicago next weekend. I’m even listed on the Who Is Coming page of the website under Artists Alley right after David Mack.
I don’t really have my own table and I won’t be selling anything, but when I’m not out collecting blog-material for Newsarama I’ll be hanging out with Jessica Hickman and Darla Ecklund at their table. So if you’re going to the show, please stop by and say hello.