My first printing of Summerworld has arrived! And it looks great!
Most of these will probably vanish when I sell them at A-KON, but I'll keep people posted on how many I have left when I get back. If you wanted to buy a signed copy directly from me, you'll have to wait until I return and see how many are left.
Also, because of the pecularities of how this sort of thing works, the prices for a signed copy are probably going to be significantly higher than buying direct from the POD vendors. I have to buy it from them, which incurs shipping and sales tax, and then I have to re-ship it to the third party; I wind up losing money unless I buy in big, BIG lots.
I suspect the picture will be markedly different after I get an ISBN version of the book set up, which won't happen until later this year and a number of people have chimed in with possible further corrections and errata. (I'm stalling as much as I can on doing that because once I spend the cash to have the ISBN assigned, the book cannot be changed.)
If you're going to be there, look for some color flyers pinned up around the convention that advertise the "Summerworld Book Release Party". That'll tell you where to go.
Now to finish the rest of this work and pack and figure out how to wake up at 5AM without feeling like a zombie warmed over.
If ya want a copy now and don't want to wait, go on and buy one!
The first printing of Summerworld has been released to the public!
This first printing, which is only being made available through Lulu.com, does not yet have an ISBN or other retail-ready sales features; it's a direct-sales edition only. However, later in the year, I will be offering a barcoded / retail-ready version of the book available through companies like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. I'm just anxious to get this out into people's hands as soon as possible, so this first edition will be for the "early adopters" who want to read it and spread the word.
You can also read the first four chapters absolutely free. (That link will take you to a PDF, so if you don't want to open that in your browser, be sure to right-click on it and hit Save As.)
I've updated the FAQ with all of this information as well, but I imagine most people are getting their information directly from the site's front page.
If you want to get signed copies directly from me, I'm working out a way to do that, but for the time being it's just easier to buy directly from Lulu. (If you end up seeing me at A-KON [look for the "Summerworld Release Party" poster!], you can get copies right from me.)
Once again, a big thank you to everyone who helped ... and an even bigger thank you to everyone who's about to discover the book for the first time!
The second proof copy of Summerworld arrived. Everything's perfect!
The book goes out to the printers tomorrow night come hell of high water.
Look forward to seeing some kind of official availability announcement here befoe the end of the month.
Last time I posted here, the book was finished, and anticipation was running very high. Here's what's happened since.
The proof copies of the book have come back from the printers, but there are serious issues with the internal formatting. I strongly suspect this was due to a subtle production error on my side that went undetected in their preflight checking. I'm in touch with the printer's tech support people to find out exactly where things broke down.
That said, I'm still confident I will have the first press run of books available for the debut at A-KON 2007, and at conventions throughout the rest of the year. I'll post more news as I get it.
[The rest of this is crossposted from my main site, with some editing]
Even though I felt Children of Men was only okay as drama, it was incredible as cinema — so much so that it wound up influencing a dream I had the night after I watched it, one directly related to the book.
I was sitting at my computer, which I'd loaded up with a video-editing suite of some kind (it reminded me of Avid or maybe Final Cut Pro — something with a lot of slick-looking options). I was editing an HD proxy version of an animated film version of Summerworld. I can't deny the fact that a lot of what went into the book was anime-influenced, but actually seeing it turned back into animation was startling.
The animation itself looked like the kind of top-tier stuff you'd expect from a studio like Production I.G — very polished, very classy. But what really knocked me out was that the shots in the film were designed and executed a lot like the way Children of Men worked. They were long takes done in a POV, handheld-camera style, but as animation. I've seen this sort of thing attempted as animation in real life — but only for a moment at a time, never in these long, continuous shots that move through their environments. (If someone tried to pull off for real what I was seeing in that dream, it would probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars, easy.)
I only remember being really stunned by the whole thing after I woke up. While I was dreaming it, the one thing I remember feeling most was frustration that the scene I was cutting together (i.e., blending several short "takes" seamlessly into a single one) wasn't matching the music cue I had. The music cue itself, too, was wonderful stuff; it was like a take-off on the "temp score" I'd created for writing the book, which I assembled from various movie soundtracks.
If I take anything away from this, it's the notion that I need to step back and look at what I've done with an encompassing eye. I get too caught up in the details, and it robs me of the joy of what it's all really about.
Tags: Production I.G
Performance is much ado about too little. It engendered a massive scandal at the time it was made, due to a lot of onscreen decadence which is mostly tame today; Warner Brothers panicked when they saw it and more or less shelved it for a decade after it received an X rating. Now it’s been released on DVD in a relatively uncut version, but it’s again hard to tell if the resulting muddle is due to Comstockery or just that it’s not a very good movie, period. Allegedly half an hour or more of the film was scissored out to make it releasable, but sitting through that much more of a movie this unfocused and ultimately uninteresting isn’t my idea of a good time.
The movie purports to be a study of colliding underground lifestyles: a British mob enforcer, Chas (James Fox, very good), and Turner (Mick Jagger), a former rock star who hung it all up to go shack up with some girls and a whole bunch of drugs in a basement apartment in London. Chas feels vaguely unwelcome in his line of work, and strives a little too hard to impress his employers — so much so that he eventually incurs the wrath of a rival gang. When he kills one of their enforcers, he goes on the lam, and after some obscuring of his tracks he ends up bluffing his way into renting out a room in Turner’s place. Read more
Masuji Ibuse is not one of Japan’s better known writers in the West, which is another way of saying that a country’s greatest literary treasures often remain too long undiscovered and underappreciated from the outside. He was responsible for one novel which has achieved some modicum of domestic fame, Black Rain — no, not the source for the wretched Michael Douglas thriller, but it did inspire a movie of the same name courtesy of Shohei Imamura — an angry indictment not only of the use of atomic weapons but Japan’s largely unspoken stigmatization of its victims for decades after the fact. I read Black Rain shortly after seeing the film, and what struck me most about it was the same thing that makes the two novellas that comprise Waves stand out: Ibuse’s amazing command of life’s detail and local color. He knew more about Japan in particular than many people would ever forget, and that was something I wanted to catalyze a bit of if I could. Read more
The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai doesn’t seem to know when it has it good. It starts off promisingly, and then gets sidetracked in things that are so much less interesting than its original premise — and, worst of all, aren’t particularly funny. Quick, what’s more interesting, a story about a quirky and unpredictable character — or a dreary plot about a stolen piece of nuclear launch hardware and a bunch of easy cheap shots against the Bush administration? The only thing drearier than the movie’s sullen-supposed-to-be-stinging politics is the way people have lined up to bark about how great it is, but just because I don’t agree with our current administration doesn’t also mean I have to make nice on every movie that does. The vast majority of Sachiko Hanai is nowhere nearly as interesting as the press about it.
The Sachiko of the title works as a call-girl in one of those Tokyo role-playing clubs where various creepy perverts pay piles of money to have sex with school tutors and nurses. One night she goes to the wrong café for an assigned rendezvous and ends up getting shot in the face — but, amazingly, she doesn’t die. Instead, she wanders off into the night and continues to service customers with a bullet hole in her forehead. Then, after a mishap with a pencil while trying to pry it out (accompanied with a convenient animated diagram) she gives herself a quasi-lobotomy and acquires a super-genius I.Q. Read more
There’s something weirdly fascinating about seeing any manga set not in Japan or in some fantasyland, but in the United States. Granted,Gunsmith Cats isn’t meant to be remotely serious, of course. The story is half gun-happy action movie, half modern-day Western, but it’s still neat to see a story set in an environment that the creators might never have visited in person and only know about vicariously through movies and TV. The “cowboy culture” of the USA, authentic or not, takes on a life of its own through the eyes of others.
Burst's gun-slingery is a continuation of the adventures from the previous Gunsmith Cats comics by Kenichi Sonoda (all of which are also now being reprinted by Dark Horse), but enough is explained casually that you don’t need any previous experience with the series to understand it. It presents us with Rally Vincent, a bounty hunter / gun-shop owner and weapons expert, and her bomb-happy ex-prostitute partner Minnie-May Hopkins, both plying their trades in Chicago. When they’re not behind the counter of the gun store, they’re out rounding up convicts on the lam — and both of their lines of work tend to land them in tons of trouble. Again, not remotely realistic, but you won’t care: it’s two tons of fun all the way through. In this series, when one of the characters bites into a can of Spam, can and all, then spits it back out again (as a distraction), you’re not inclined to ask “Now how’d he pull that off without slicing up the roof of his mouth?”Read more
The second Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex book is actually a collection of three novellas, or maybe lengthy short stories. As with the other GITS:SAC novels (The Lost Memory and White Maze), any one of these could have been made into one or more episodes of their own — they were, after all, written by series co-scripter Junichi Fujisaku, who obviously knows theGITS:SAC canon from the inside out. They are not only entertaining and briskly-paced, but serve to fill in a great deal of background information about the show’s setting and character’s motives. Because these particular installments are that much smaller than the ones in the first and third books, they’re not as ambitious in their scope or execution, but still intriguing, and they each end with a solid little twist that’s right in line with the themes in GITS’s extended mythology: the larger questions of identity and self that the show constantly plugs back into.
“Double Targets” gives us Tanaka and Sasajima, two cybernetically enhanced down-and-outers who work dirty and dangerous jobs in one of Japan’s post-WWIII Refugee Zones. They’re actually ex-military men who were disavowed by their own country, and can’t afford to be picky about their work. One day they apply for a “dismantling” job, only to find out it’s a codename for an assassination. The target: Daisuke Aramaki, the white-haired chief of Section 9. The rest of the group springs into action, though it's not simply to protect Aramaki, since he’s been a target more times than he can count. What they want to know is who commissioned the kill and where they got their funding. When Section 9 follows the trail to its end there’s a nifty climax that calls to mind that deceptive editing trick in the movie The Silence of the Lambs.Read more
Dora-heita wastes two things, both hard to come by: a potentially great story and a truly great performance. The truly great performance is by Kōji Yakusho, one of Japan’s most dependable male actors, nominally called upon by director Kiyoshi Kurosawa to embody that country’s anonymous Everysalaryman. Here, he’s anything but anonymous: he’s a rakish, singing, dancing, swordfighting life-of-the-party samurai, quick with his wit and just as fast with his weapon when the moment demands it. He also happens to be a magistrate appointed with the very serious mission of cleaning up a deeply corrupt province, and is prepared to wade through who knows how much muck to do the job.
That’s the potentially great story, and what’s even more mind-boggling is the sheer level of pedigree behind it. Dora-heita was derived from a screenplay co-written by four of Japan’s greatest directors — Akira Kurosawa, Kon Ichikawa, Keisuke Kinoshita, and Masaki Kobayashi — and directed by Ichikawa himself decades after the script had been completed. I was primed to eat this movie up ever since I’d heard about it almost six years ago. Then I began watching it, and my heart started to sink and sink, and what should have been a resurrection of bracing, funny samurai-classic filmmaking like Yojimbo turned into a stunning bore. It’s the wrong story, told the wrong way, and to entirely the wrong effect. Read more
The second volume of Berserk does three things at once, all of them well. It pushes us farther into the plot that was tentatively established in the first volume; it establishes a key component of the Berserk mythology, and it continues to serve up the astonishing levels of violence and bloodshed that have become a major hallmark of the series. It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees with this series, though. Under all the spattering gore and over-the-top machismo (ironically enough, the very things that draw some people to Berserk in the first place) is an enormously smart, if deeply bleak, story. Once you start reading it and get over the initial shock of how dark it is, you’ll want to stay on for the whole ride and find out where it takes you. To paraphrase an old beer ad, it refreshes the parts other manga do not reach.
At the end of the first volume, Guts — the diabolically powerful Black Swordsman with one eye and a mechanical hand, an immovable object to everyone else’s irresistible force — had run afoul of the Count, a tyrannical ruler grinding his kingdom into fearful submission under his heel. Everyone who tries to contradict the Count is branded a “heretic” and summarily executed. It doesn’t take long for Guts — marked with the Brand that indicates he’s fodder for the demons of the world beyond — to become the Count’s next big target. Guts refuses to go quietly, of course, and a good portion of Volume 2 is taken up with Guts encountering one successively more bulked-out minion of the Count after another and somehow coming out on top, no matter what it costs him (or the people around him). The end of the volume’s an over-the-top cliffhanger, with the Count mutating into an obscenely huge wormlike beast, the better to devour Guts whole — as he has devoured so many others, a grotesquerie which we glimpse in one particularly ghastly flashback.Read more
With the English-language release of Mysterious Journey to the North Sea (originally written in 1988), the Vampire Hunter D series begins to get that much more ambitious. And, I have to admit, I had mixed feelings: the VHD series worked because it was light, fast, unpretentious fun, and didn’t get bogged down in the ponderousness that afflicts most written fantasy these days. On the other hand, I could also see how after a high point like Pilgrimage of the Sacred and Profane, the series might end up eating its own tail and repeating itself in the worst possible ways. The most likely scenario was an endless treadmill of: “D meets bad guy; D stands stock-still; bad guy attacks; D kills bad guy without mussing a hair; lather-rinse-repeat.”
Thankfully, Hideyuki Kikuchi did want to try to play that much farther over his head, as he admits in his postscript to the English-language edition of the book. With Sea, he started to expand both the length and scope of each individual story beyond the single-volume treatments he’d been giving them so far. And since he was already no stranger to multi-book epics, the time was probably more than ripe to try it out here.Read more
I’ve had this argument before, many times. I forgive a movie a great deal if it shows me something new, or shows me something rendered in such sharp and living detail that it’s impossible to look away. That’s what the movies are best at, and so perhaps trying to punch up Children of Men with tighter or more involved plotting would have been a mistake. At least one of my friends was not willing to give the film a pass for that alone, so I’m certain opinions will vary — but as a pure experience, there’s nothing like it. Read more
Here’s the kind of movie that’s meant to be goofy and charming, and would be more so if they hadn’t worked so hard to make it that way. It’s a movie adaptation of a novel, which was itself a “based on true events” story: nerdy Tokyoite steps in on a young woman’s behalf when a drunk salaryman harasses her on the train home, and when she thanks him profusely for his effort, he turns to his anonymous Internet friends for help on how to deal with women. Romance ensues — or, rather, ensued, and if the story is to be believed, “Train Man” and his girl “Hermès” are still happy together.
Did it really happen that way? Until proof of the contrary, I’d like to believe so, and the book is quite touching and funny, all the more so since it’s told in the style of the internet chatroom threads that allegedly spawned the whole thing. The movie version takes the basic events of the story and jazzes them up with two things: a funny, breezy visual style, which works; and a hammy, goofy performance by the lead (Takayuki Yamada, also of The Cat Returns), which does not. I’m by no means alien to the ways Japanese comedy deals in goofy exaggerations — I loved Geroppa!, for instance — but it’s hard to root for someone whom you constantly want to smack across the face and order to calm down.Read more
One of the things that always troubled me about the fascination with madness and the intertwined eroticism and death that always pervaded the Romantic and Surrealistic sensibilities was that they were almost always expressed by people who seemed to be celebrating those things without having known their cost in personal suffering. I’m not trying to apply some kind of politically-correct standard to the appreciation of such works, just pointing out that while some were idolizing the dark underbelly of the human psyche, others were helpless to it, and found nothing remotely romantic about the experience. Read more
As of today, Summerworld is complete! The draft has been edited all the way through twice by yours truly. I am happy to say that it is everything that I hoped it would be, and then some.
So what's next? Well, a few things:
I'll have more news for you shortly! Stick around — the excitement has barely started!