Friday, 19 February 2010

From Your Blogosphere Correspondent (19/02/10)

My my. Lots to get through today, so let's dispense with the usual introductory burble and get straight to the most interesting nuggets of news to have made waves across the interwebs since the last installment of From Your Blogosphere Correspondent.

First on the agenda has to be the truly shocking report by way of Best Served Cold author Joe Abercrombie's blog that cover artists... don't always read the books they design covers for. I know. *gasp*

Other revelations from Joe's interview with Chris McGrath - the unenviable artist tasked with the glamorous-before-gritty redesign of the new MMPB covers of each of three books of The First Law - include that books with handsome characters depicted on their covers are commercially more appealing, and thus more desirable to those with an eye on the bottom line, than those featuring ugly people; hence the prettification of the likes of Logen Ninefingers and the vile torturer Glotka.

Joe asks the right questions, and Chris answers them as honestly as his future prospects allow - ultimately, the interview is a fascinating insight into an aspect of publishing and marketing readers don't often see, and well worth reading.

Moving on, after years of talk I'd expected would come to nothing, it looks like Vin Diesel and David Twohy are finally moving on a third Riddick movie. Now I didn't hate The Chronicles of Riddick as much as the majority of its minuscule audience seemed to, but there's no denying that Riddick's second, decidedly more fantastical outing was a massive box-office disappointment.

If you'll allow me, dear readers, to use the Alien franchise as an analogue - and I think it's a fair one - Pitch Black was very much the equivalent of Ridley Scott's brilliant first film; tense, claustrophobic horror with a sci-fi backdrop. The Chronicles of Riddick, meanwhile, skipped the balls-out action of Aliens and the admirable, if unsatisfying weirdness of David Fincher's Alien 3 to emulate, instead, Alien: Resurrection, the series' weakest entry by a large margin.

So news that the third Riddick film will go back to the well is the best you could hope for. As per the Hollywood Reporter, "the script features... the most wanted man in the galaxy... left for dead on a barren alien planet," and though talk of jetcycles and three-legged bison leave me somewhat nervous, let's not give up hope so soon. If this second sequel means to jettison the misguided mythos of The Chronicles of Riddick in favour of something more akin to the thrilling first film, my ticket's sold already.

Next up is a story only tangentially related to the genre fiction that is the bread and butter of The Speculative Scotsman: the recent furor over Evelyn Evelyn, a musical act essentially invented by Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls and Jason Webley, who has supported her band in gigs past. Truly, I'm loathe to even bring this up; I mention it only because, well, Neil Gaiman is bumping uglies with Amanda Palmer - and we like Neil Gaiman, don't we?

But we don't like Amanda Palmer. (I've resorted to the royal "we", but of course I'm only stating my opinion.) She was once one half of a great band, and although her solo effort left me cold, I still hold a candle for The Dresden Dolls. Just because I appreciate someone's art, however, it doesn't necessarily follow that I must appreciate the artist, and Amanda fucking Palmer - as she likes to call herself - is exactly the sort of immature, attention-seeking swine that makes me wish for a bygone era where every detail of such a pseudo-celebrity's life wasn't documented to the nth degree on blogs and any number of other social networks.

Of course, no-one forced me read Amanda's blog, and largely, I don't, but in light of the Evelyn Evelyn ruckus, I had to. It's like driving past an accident on the motorway; perverse though it may be, it's hard to avert your eyes from the carnage of a too-close car crash. And a car crash is precisely what happened here. After a press release announced the release of Evelyn Evelyn's self-titled debut in late March, Amanda blogged about it. And what do you know? In one fell swoop, she managed to offend just about everyone. Because Evelyn Evelyn are, as she would have it, conjoined twins with a history of prolonged sexual abuse. 

My $0.02: that's fine. I mean, it's awful, of course, but awful things happen in the world, and art is right, or at the very least entitled, to reflect those awful things. I have no problem with dark and potentially controversial subject matter in any media - books, music, movies, whatever - so long as its represented in a balanced and respectful fashion. But when Amanda blogged about the difficult fiction behind the Evelyn Evelyn project, she did so flippantly, selfishly, thoughtlessly, offensively. In the end, however much backtracking she's done since, she was clearly courting controversy to drive sales of her new album.

Her defense? As outlined in her most recent blog post, at least she's not making corporate pop music. Brilliant, Amanda. Please, everyone: applause!

It's a sickening story that you can follow the fallout here and elsewhere, if you like, but I'm done with it. At least Neil Gaiman has had the good sense to steer mostly clear of it. As far as I'm concerned, though I've enjoyed some of Amanda Palmer's work in the past, I certainly won't be supporting Evelyn Evelyn in any way, shape or form.

On a happier note, the last of today's big hitters has to be Mark Charon Newton's iteration of an idea dreamed up by China Mieville during the SFX Weekender I discussed last time on From Your Blogosphere Correspondent: Mark wants us to remix literature. A novel idea, no?

Bad puns aside, Mark has posted a short story on his blog and invited anyone and everyone to do what they will with it. I think it's a fantastic concept, and I look forward to seeing what the community makes of  'Salam and Baseema', which you can read here and reimagine to your heart's content at your convenience.

I might even throw my hat into the ring with this one...

And now, before I'm off, some news in cycling shorts.

Joss Whedon and Morgan Spurlock are reportedly teaming up to produce a documentary on the vagaries of fan culture as seen through the lens of this year's Comic Con.

Is it news, I wonder, that Patrick Rothfuss says there will be news of The Wise Man's Fear soon? You decide!

James Cameron is writing a prequel novel to Avatar, which for all the backlash, I still maintain I had a brilliant time with. To hell with the haters. Don't you like fun? Did you really think Alien was particularly original? That no-one had dreamed up The Terminator before James Cameron? I mean, come on.

Aidan over at A Dribble of Ink has the story on Scott Lynch's oft-delayed next novel, The Republic of Thieves, which has, at last, apparently been submitted. It may yet see publication before the year is out - although I sincerely doubt it.

With the assistance of The Book Smugglers, the lovely Aidan has also conducted a brilliant interview up with N. K. Jemisin, author of the much ballyhooed-about fantasy debut The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Talking of interviews, are you all ready to join me in shining The Speculative Spotlight on Tome of the Undergates keeper Sam Sykes? Well, tough. With the sweary gentleman's first novel not due till mid-April, I'm afraid I won't be able to share our long, meandering conversation until shortly after I'm back from my holiday. But then, I promise you, there will be blood.

Well. That's it From Your Blogosphere Correspondent this week. I'll have another news round-up for you before I pack my bags full of books and nip over the sea to Skye, and there's a wealth of exciting content to come between now and then, so keep your RSS software tuned to TSS, readers, and I'll talk to you again tomorrow.


  1. You forgot to mention the unbelievably insulting remark about how the only people who are upset by the EE project are Neil fans, new to her and her work, who 'ran screaming' to Unca Neil to complain about the bad, bad lady who hurt them.

    Because of course, 'real' fans know she never meant to hurt anyone, and understand the joke. And everyone else are just art banning nazis. No, seriously.

    I am FURIOUS with her statement (and with the way she's handling the concerns in general) for a number of reasons, but to make such disparaging remarks about her OWN FIANCÉS FANS insults not only them but Neil himself - after all, if his fans are so stupid not to understand things like 'black humour' and ART, she must not think very highly of his writing at all.

    Grrrr. Arrghhhh. >:(

  2. @Neverwhere - As I said on the Twitter earler, I'm afraid to say I had to cut a great swathe of Amanda Palmer-related bile from this post before publishing it.

    Believe you me, I'm outraged, but I don't suppose I'm in a position to comment on whether or not there's anything more to Neil Gaiman's relationship with her than a mid-life crisis wrapped up in a reasonably attractive package - superficially speaking, of course.

    Sure, that's what I think, but it's really not for me to say, and God forbid the poor man gets dragged any deeper into this disgusting spectacle.

  3. I'm glad to hear a new Riddick movie is coming out. I completely agree with both of your Alien comparisons. Pitch Black was fairly original and fun/scary. Chronicles was...I dunno, I thought it was good, but I really don't know how such a crazy story evolved from a relatively simple creature feature. I did really like the world-building in that movie, though. Crematoria sticks out in my mind.

    I still think Riddick is a great character. I'd read books about him if they decided to write such a thing. So I hope the third movie centers more on him than a massive religious crusade.

    Also, I'm still annoyed that the series now has the subtitle "The Chronicles of Riddick" (i.e. The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black") but that's the name of the second movie! Is it "The Chronicles of Riddick: The Chronicles of Riddick?!"

    I'll stop now.

  4. @Knightfall1138 - Don't stop! You make a fine point. I didn't realise they'd ret-conned the name of the original film; didn't honestly realise that they could. Maybe they'll change them both to fit with whatever they call the third one. I can just see it now... Bison Bonanza: Pitch Black.

  5. You, my friend, are an amazing information gatherer. Do you have a time machine, or no day job?


    Keep up the great work. I'll keep reading.

  6. I remember reading this post a while ago and now that the album has come out I'm wondering if your position on Amanda Palmer has changed at all? I think she's brilliant and he solo album is one of the best albums of the last few years. Anyway, just curious as to why all the vitriol really...