Where Do You Get Your Ideas Redux

Metro I was working on an introduction to my latest Book View Cafe story, “Cakewalk,” pointing out that it came from a real life sighting of a woman with a cake on her head, and suddenly I realized something important: I get a lot of my story ideas while commuting.

And not, mind you, while commuting by car. When I commute by car, I listen to the news and scream at the other drivers. Long distance driving is conducive to creative thinking, but rush hour traffic is not.

I get story ideas when I commute via subway. Continue reading


Copan, Tikal, Uxmal, Palenque

“Heart of Jade,” which originally appeared in Black Gate Magazine, was one of the first thoughtful fantasy stories I ever wrote.  At some point around about those days (2000) or so, I had realized that there was a very different “feel” between SF and horror – certainly.  I had realized that even among all the common elements of the various forms of the fantastic, when writing them, it was a different form of music.  Like the difference between swing and bebop.

Writing “Heart of Jade” was like taking a trip to Campeche or Yucatan (a link to a tour of the Mayan nation – called “Expedition of Jade”) in more ways than one.  I recently re-prepared the story for Book View Cafe, and it has been enough time that it read completely “fresh” to me.  I remembered that the main character’s name was Two Frog and the general setup and some of the language.  But of the details of the story – well.  That was a very different matter. Continue reading


FABLES #80: A Very Short Review

fables80Comics fans complain of the decompressed narrative, slow-moving plots that seem to be going nowhere. (The fashion equivalent would be side fat.)  Comics could be silly, they could be unlikely — and we are talking about a genre in which tall buildings are leapt in a single bound — and they could turn on a dime, but at least they always moved briskly along. This is no longer industry standard, so every time an issue comes along that hits the old mark, we must celebrate. And here you are, the latest FABLES. Continue reading


More on Movies

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)This is a followup to Nancy Jane Moore’s well-said blog post about movie budgets, about sf movies in general, and about The Day the Earth Stood Still in particular.

The original The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of my favorite movies, without respect to genre. (I have no opinion of the remake, as I haven’t seen it; its trailers didn’t make me want to rush right out to the theater, alas.)

It is possible to make a good SF movie without a huge budget. Continue reading


Okay, I’ve tried to be a good sport about this.

I’ve tried to say cheerfully we need a good, cold snowy winter to replenish the lake levels.

I’ve tried to be poetic about it, you can read the results in Thursday’s entries.

But I’ve been stuck in the house for two days now with a bored six year old and I’m losing my sense of humor.

I’m not asking for much.  Really.  I’m not even asking for double digits at this point.  Just a degree or two in the positive and a wind slightly less sharp than a straight razor.  That’s all, really.


Lace For Your Life

Lace For Your Life
by Phyllis Irene Radford

Ribbons and lace adorn little girl clothing and big girl finery. For centuries, lace has defined elegance.

When I was in grade school, I watched a film strip about Spain for social studies. The only thing I remember about that film strip – indeed for much of that entire year – was the image of a little girl making lace. She used about a dozen threads wound onto cards and she wove those threads rapidly into a pattern unique to her family that had been passed from generation to generation.

I was fascinated. The images stayed with me to this day, several decades later. The idea of creating beautiful fabric from air and thread remains a passion.

Without realizing it, I embarked upon a life long quest to make lace within a year of watching that film strip. Embroidery, knitting, crocheting, and sewing became a part of my everyday life. Continue reading


Science Fiction on the Big Screen

Brent Staples recently had a brilliant essay on the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still in The New York Times: “Klaatu Had Better Rent the Video.”

Klaatu and Gort depart
Klaatu and Gort depart

He not only compared the movie unfavorably to its predecessor — though he was gentler than most of the reviewers — he got at the heart of what’s wrong with science fiction movies in general:

Digital effects have revolutionized the monster, science-fiction and superhero genres, making the films larger than ever visually. But the same effects have whittled away at the acting space, making the movies smaller in the dramatic sense.

Exactly. The original of The Day the Earth Stood Still has very cheesy special effects. In my story “The English Major’s Revenge” (still available here on BVC), a respectful homage to the movie, I describe the aliens’ ship like this:

It looked like one of those aluminum covers they use in Chinese restaurants. Silver colored, with slanted sides and a large flat top.

But it’s still one of the best science fiction movies ever made. Continue reading