I spent most of a recent Friday crawling around the Nine Oh Nine, a B-17 Flying Fortress, with Ken Mitchroney, my writing partner on Fata Morgana. Besides being a ton o' fun, it was invaluable for the novel, and educational in some unexpected ways.
I've often mentioned that I'm a fiend for research, I think because I usually write about impossible things. The advantage is that it lends credence to what's essentially an unbelievable idea. The disadvantage is that gritty realism also shines a harsher light on the impossible elements, forcing you to work harder to make them believable and dovetail them into your depictions of the familiar.
Ironically, often the more specific you are, the more you open yourself up to argument. It's not difficult to believe the line, "He rode the horse across the desert." But if I write in detail about riding a horse across a desert, and get one of those specifics wrong, the whole thing falls apart. (I wonder if that's why fantasy fiction has traditionally been so flowery and general: it's trying to lull you into acceptance, to make you focus on the ornate icing because in truth there's not much cake. Hmm.) I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, because when it works, you don't just accept that someone rode a horse across the desert, you rode it yourself.
In my case, I have be careful not to over- compensate. It's easy to belabor the concrete details as courtroom evidence that these impossible events did in fact take place. It's something I look for when I revise.
By now I've read a ton of books and watched a ton of video related to B-17s. the Eight Air Force, and the European Theater in 1943. Yet no amount of research is a substitute for experience. To crawl around inside that bomber, smell the grease and 108 octane, feel first-hand how crammed together those young men were, is to come away with a handful of One True Things that we wouldn't have found without being there. Things that give the authenticity we're looking for.
Still -- I've promised Ken there won't be a pilot's manual in the novel. I think I've learned the difference between making a reader believe someone can fly a bomber, and teaching the reader to fly the damn thing himself.
Fata Morgana is about halfway done, and we're hugely happy with it. Even better, our agent is hugely happy with it.
My friend Adrian Smith is a wreck diver and videographer who has started a Kickstarter campaign to fund an expedition to Bikini Atoll in the Pacific in order to document the warships sunk by a U.S. atomic blast in 1946. These WW2-era ships are the only ones ever to be exposed to close-range atomic blast (click the pic for a mind-blowing sense of how close).
To give you an idea of what these ships were exposed to, take a look at the water column of the mushroom cloud in this picture (or, even better, in this one). See the dark blotch on its lower right? That's an aircraft carrier, lifted by the blast and standing on end.
Let me say that again. That's an aircraft carrier. Lifted by the blast. And standing on end.
Among the sunken wrecks are the carrier Saratoga, the battleship Yamamoto (the flagship from which the Pearl Harbor attack was launched), the German battleship Prinz Eugen (which assisted the Bismark in sinking the USS Hood), and the U.S. submarine Apogon.
No comprehensive documentary exists of these historic vessels, and in recent years their erosion has accelerated. I think it's very cool that Adrian is trying to get this documentary made. Here's the Atomic Armada website. Fingers crossed for the expedition!
My favorite drink these days is a variation on a pre-Prohibition-era drink called a Whiskey Cocktail. It's based on Jennifer Colliau's recipe from Small Hand Foods.
The cocktail's supposed to be made with bourbon (Buffalo Trace is recommended), but I use Bulleit small-batch rye. The Buffalo Trace has a lot of body, the Bulleit has a lot of character. It's a preference thang.
Here's the recipe, if you're curious. Ingredients are listed in their pictured order, left to right.
- 1/4 oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar-to-water ratio)
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 2 oz. Bulleit rye (green label) or Buffalo Trace bourbon
- 1 lemon peel
- Add simple syrup and bitters to an old-fashioned glass.
- Add lemon peel and muddle moderately to release the oils.
- Add rye (or bourbon).
- Add large ice cubes (I use either the Tovolo King cube mold or the amazingly cool Tovolo sphere ice balls).
- Stir for 15-20 seconds.
It's a tasty, sipping drink. They do sneak up on you, though.
How do we know that Steve's working on a novel?
Because his red pens are running out of ink.
I knew when I said, "Hey, Ken, let's write a book together!" that I should have had the foresight to say, "Hey, Ken, let's write and edit a book together!"
The sad, perverted truth, though, is that I like this part.
(And yah, it's clickable if you're morbidly curious about my editorial self-evisceration. Good luck reading my handwriting, though -- I could write prescriptions, I tell ya.)
My music podcasts, Podrunner and Groovelectric, turn seven in a week. No way I would have believed I'd keep doing them this long, much less that they would have remained so popular.
Groovelectric remains my favorite simply because, being a straight-up music mix series, it represents what I do, and love, and attempt, as an electronic music DJ. Since it debuted in February 2006, it's usually been in iTunes' Top 100 music podcasts.
Podrunner has been hugely popular. The workout-music series has been a top iTunes podcast for seven years in a row, and a pacemaker literally and figuratively. There was nothing like it out there when it debuted, and I am enormously proud of its popularity and positive influence.
I had to change the theme music for Podrunner, so I took the opportunity to dig out my old MIDI keyboard and brush up on my music production software before getting to work on new theme music. I'm pretty sure it's the first thing I've composed in a decade.
Even with guitar-rig sampler kits, I couldn't get a lead guitar sound I wanted for the opening notes. So I dug out my Univox imitation Les Paul guitar and played it myself. It's the first time I've recorded guitar in at least 20 years. I had an absolute blast doing it.
The new Podrunner theme is below if you want to give it a listen or download it.
[UPDATE] I tweaked the track a bit, making it shorter & chunkier, and I EQ'd & mastered it to make it sound better overall. That's now the file below.
I've set aside Avalon Burning for a while to work on a novel with my friend Ken Mitchroney.
I've known Ken for nearly 30 years (ulp!), and we've worked on a ton of projects together -- from comic books, to screenplays, to Toy Story 2 and much more -- but this is the first time we've set out on a novel together.
I don't want to give too many details, though I will say that I now know more about the care and feeding of B-17 bombers than I ever imagined I would.
The novel's called Fata Morgana, and so far it is going pretty quickly. I am having an absolute blast.
Subterranean Magazine editor Bill Schafer has made the Winter 2013 issue available as a free download in ePUB and Mobi format (that covers Nook, Kindle, & most other e-book readers). You can also download the Fall 2012 issue here. This is a bodaciously cool thing for Bill to do!
Even more bodacious (and more cool), the Winter 2013 issue contains my dark fantasy/western novella "Hard Silver," so I'm even more stoked.
Go thou and do likewise.
A supercut is a video remix that compiles similar scenes from several films. For instance, here is a supercut of scenes of Claire Danes crying:
Supercuts can also reference a single movie, as with this supercut of every utterance the word "dude" in The Big Lebowski:
One of the things I like about supercuts is that they can point out cliches that are everywhere in films (endess instances of "I've got a bad feeling about this," "I'm too old for this shit," etc.), weird quirks or consistencies of actors or directors (every Schwarzenegger scream, Bruce Willis looking confused, Michael Bay's circling cameras), or crass stupidities (too many to note here).
There are several supercuts I'd love to see someone put together. (I know I could do it myself, but I'm too damn
lazy busy to acquire all the scenes for supercuts I'd like to see, much less learn whatever video software I'd need to edit them together).
First up is Supercuts of Scenes of Women Treating Injured Men (Especially When Followed by Kissing). One such scene in the utterly predictable Christian Bale/Mark Wahlberg vehicle The Fighter made me think this supercut needs to be done. I don't think it takes a lot of effort for most of us to come up with an embarrassing number of such scenes. One of the more famous (and one of the best) is from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I'd suggest more, but thinking of them is half the fun.
Feel free to offer up supercuts you'd like to see, or links to existing supercuts you like.
I saw one of these parked on the side of the road today. At first I couldn't account for it, at least not in any rational way.
But then I realized that the latest monster SUVs -- maybe the Ford Excretion, or the Cadillac Escalate -- are now equipped with escape pods.
Think of it! In the event of accident or catastrophic failure, the sophisticated computer brain of the SUV seals the driver super-snug in this little emergency capsule, and then huffs him out of its injured behemoth body like last night's burrito.
Imagine the relief of the driver! Having escaped some vehicular calamity, he may now cautiously navigate amid traffic in relative safety, until help or an actual vehicle can be summoned.
There must be a built-in GPS transponder for search & rescue. Maybe even a remote control in case the driver is incapacitated. Flares and MRE packets and even a signal mirror.
A disposable vehicle! Truly we live in an age of marvels.
So how's your 2013 so far?
HEREWITH, the following Words and Phrases are ordered Banish'd from the common speech as Damning Evidence of groupthink, known to be detrimental to the Rever'd Gift of Free Will:
- Drill down
- Double down
- Low-hanging fruit
- I'm just saying (a perennial Banishment entry, alas)
- Awesome sauce (or anything-sauce)
- Douche (in an Adjectival state)
- I think I threw up in my mouth a little (this Devil has resisted many previous Proclamations)
- Threw him under the bus
- Sustainable (most especially in reference to the marketing of Productes)
- Man cave
- Epic fail
- Not so much
- Skin in the game
Special consideration is being given to explanatory sentences beginning with the word "So," as there seems to be a highly infectious plague of them among talk-show guests.
The gentle quality of Mercy suggests that users of such Banish'd Words and Phrases be treated not with Scorn or Derision but with heartfelt Pity, and generally Punish'd subsequent to their thoughtless usage by a downward Gaze and a small shake of the Head.