Monday, June 29, 2009

Upcoming Interview: Karl Johanson

My next interview will be with Karl Johanson, editor of Neo-Opsis Magazine.
Got any burning questions for him? Email me.

My new Fantasy Magazine Article posted

It's a reprint of my previous blog post "Wizard vs. Witch: Who's the Real Villain?"


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cat Rambo interview

My guest today is Cat Rambo, fantasy and science fiction writer and editor of Fantasy Magazine, a market recognized as being professional by SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). Check out her website at and check out Fantasy Magazine's website at

David Steffen: Cat, thanks for coming. I really appreciate you taking the time for this interview.

Cat, what plots or types of stories are you tired of seeing?

Cat Rambo: I am tired of seeing retold fairy tales that don't do anything new with the fairy tale, where they just kind of say, okay I'm going to retell Cinderella but it's going to be a shopping sale at the mall and don't do anything new with that.

I have a great fondness for sword and sorcery. I grew up reading sword and sorcery. I read Fritz Lieber and C.L. Moore and a lot of Michael Moorcock, but I think there again you have to do something new for me to be interested. I get a lot of stories that are sort of Conan the Barbarian revisited but they're not as good as Robert E. Howard. Unless you are as good as Robert E. Howard it's probably best for writers to steer their way away from that.

David: Do you prefer certain subgenres of fantasy such as urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, high fantasy, etc?

Cat: I love urban fantasy. Paradoxically enough, given how much of it is out there, I don't get a lot of good urban fantasy. I like stories that tend to work on more than one level. We have, for example, a story that was very popular with our readers last year, Elena Gleason's Erased, which I was just looking at again. That story on one level is about someone's boyfriend who is invisible and what do you do when you're confronted with an invisible boyfriend. But on the other hand, at a deeper level, it's about what do you do in a relationship when the other person is vanishing. So I like the stories that work on more than one level. The stories where you go away and you find yourself thinking about later and think "Oh, yeah, okay, it works like this too."

David: Are there any big changes on the horizon for Fantasy Magazine?

Cat: Oh, onward and upward for Fantasy Magazine. We have a web comic that will be appearing soon. We have been reorganizing and getting a lot of people in to drive individual areas like TV or books, and comics. So there's going to be a lot. We're hoping to up the amount of content to put out something interesting at least two or three times a day.

David: Can you elaborate about the web comic?

Cat: It's a fantasy comic based on a setting that will be familiar to a lot of our readers, which is inside a fantasy role-playing game.

David: Are there any features coming up in Fantasy Magazine that you're particularly looking forward to?

Cat: Right now we're running a series called "Game-mastering NPCs". The first of the five part series was just posted last week, talking about the importance of NPCs (non-player characters) to a roleplaying game campaign. Also, I'm particularly looking forward to some articles by Genevieve Valentine.

David: Which were you first, a writer or an editor?

Cat: First and foremost, always a writer.

David: Do you think that being an editor has changed the way you write?

Cat: Not really. It's one more thing nibbling at my writing time. I think every writer experiences that in some form or another.

David: Has being an editor provided you with extra skills that have been useful as a writer?

Cat: Yes. One thing about reading slush is that it gives you greater confidence in your own writing. It has really driven home the importance of making the first paragraphs of a story draw the reader in.

David: Has the economic crisis impacted the magazine at all?

Cat: Not really. Previously we hadn't been drawing in as much advertising revenue as we could have. We're making an effort to do better in that respect, so we may actually be doing better now than before.

David: SFWA added Fantasy Magazine to their list of professional markets earlier this year. Has this sparked any change in submissions, either quantity or quality?

Cat: Yes, in both respects. We're getting 500-600 submissions a month now, as well as seeing submissions from some pro writers we hadn't seen before. It's been a good thing we have the new online submission process, which speeds things up significantly.

David: I have noticed in my submissions a large reduction in turnaround time since the new online submissions system was set up. How exactly does that system make things faster?

Cat: We were just using Gmail before, so every couple weeks we had to check the junk folder just to make sure that things weren't getting lost there. And there was stuff bouncing every once in a while. Someone's spam filter would eat our stuff. So it just makes it a lot easier to track what's going on and you've got a system also where we can see which slushreader is reading and who is slacking and go prod them. *laughs*

David: What are your personal pet peeves when reading stories?

Cat: Personal pet peeves? In terms of the stories or in terms of the way they're presented?

David: Like little grammar mistakes that you see too often, things like that.

Cat: Oh, "its" and "it's" drives me nuts. I taught composition a few times and I always tell students that is the one error that will get under my skin. Its/it's and they're/their/there. Nowadays we have spellchecker, so there's really no excuse for having too many actual misspellings but we still see alot of the it's/its.

David: How about other things that bother you. For instance, some editors really dislike reading stories that begin with the character waking up.

Cat: I don't like the beginnings that start out with kind of two heads talking in space where there's no sense of location and you don't know what's going on. I don't like beginnings that aren't well-grounded and give us a sense of the story world.

I don't like the endings, not so much the beginnings, where someone wakes up as the endings and is "Oh my God it was all a dream." And it's like "Oh, come on!"

David: It sort of makes you wonder "Why did I spend my time reading this?"

Cat: That's it, it insults the reader: "Ha ha I tricked you and you wasted all your time." I don't like stories that take the "I'm cleverer than you approach" to the reader.

David: I've heard that some editors like a little humor, but so many people have different views on what's funny. How do you judge a humorous piece in submission to Fantasy or do you generally steer clear of humor pieces?

Cat: I like humor. I love a good funny story. I love, for example, the Terry Pratchett books which I think are just wonderful, or the Jasper Ford Tuesday Next stories. I like humorous pieces that don't depend on cliches. If it's a joke that's been told before, I've heard it before, so I don't really want those. Good humor is very hard to write and it's far too scarce in the submission pile.

David: What was the last book you read?

Cat: It was a really cool Japanese murder-myster that Ann Vandermeer turned me onto. I just did a workshop with her and she recommended it. It's titled "Out", written by Natsuo Kirino.

David: Your favorite book?

Cat: I will go with a classic and say Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur which is one of my desert island books.

David: Who is your favorite author?

Cat: I will be slightly pretentious and say James Joyce because I do love what James Joyce does with language.

David: What was the last movie you saw?

Cat: We went and saw The Hangover which I thought was a lot of fun. We love Zach Galifianakis. We'd seen him in a documentary called the Comedians of Comedy and he was so hysterical in that.

David: I saw that last week as well. There are a few moments in that movie that are sure to be nominated for the MTV Movie Awards' WTF award.

Cat: *laughs*. It just had so many moments like that where you were just like "Oh my god where are they going to go with this"

I kind of want to go so Land of the Lost simply because I loved it when I was a kid. I like Will Ferrell but I"m just not sure the combination is going to work. I like Will Ferrell. I have liked him in a great many things, and then I have seen him in many things where I've said "Well okay that's not as interesting as it could be."

David: What is your favorite movie?

Cat: I really love the Wizard of Oz.

David: I just wrote a story specifically for a Wizard of Oz horror anthology called Shadows of the Emerald City.

Cat: Oh cool, what a neat idea. I had just been reading John Kessel's The Baum Plan for Financial Independence. Which I think kind of pokes gentle fun at the economics of Oz which is kind of a funny way to do it.

Who's putting out the horror anthology?

David: Horror writer JW Schnarr:

David: Do you have any upcoming publications that you'd like to tell us about?

Cat: Indeed I do. I have a collection coming out with Paper Golem Press. The title is "Eyes like Sky and Coal and Moonlight."

David: That's a catchy title.

Cat Rambo: That's the title story.

David: Is it a collection of reprinted stories or all-new writing?

Cat: I think It's about half and half, there is about 50 percent new stuff, and a couple Strange Horizons stories, and the Weird
Tales stories. Kind of the best stuff that's appeared in publication. I'm really happy about that, because somethings appears in small magazines then sort of vanishes like a leaf on the wind. It's nice to get a chance to put stories I'm really pleased with out in front of folks.

David: If you could give only one piece of advice to aspiring writers trying to get published, what would it be?

Cat: Be persistent. More than anything else you have to cultivate the hide of a rhinoceros, put your head down and keep plugging away.

David: Do you have any works in progress you'd like to tell us about?

Cat: I am finishing up a young adult novel called Phat Fairy. It is my reaction in some ways to reading the Twilight series.

David: What did you think of the Twilight series?

Cat: I thought that they were decently written but I thought they were just an appalling message for young women. You have this utterly passive heroine whose main motivation is nailing her man. I really didn't think they were a good message for young women at all. I have a goddaughter who will at some point be reading YA fiction, so I wanted to make sure there was at least one book out there with a healthier message. Though I am not trying to write a message-driven book either.

David: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions, Cat, and letting us get a glimpse into Cat's world of writing and editing. Also, thanks to Frank Dutkiewicz, Brad Torgerson, and Gary Cuba for your contributions to this interview.

Stay tuned for more interviews! I've got a full schedule, at two interviews a month, lined up through mid-October!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Upcoming: Reprints in Fantasy Magazine

I'm excited to say that reprints of a few of my blog posts are slated to be published in Fantasy Magazine! Some interviews, and some analysis of books/movies. Needless to say, I'm very excited. :) More details soon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cat Rambo is not a robot

I called Cat Rambo yesterday for a very pleasant phone interview and conversation. She's a very nice person and fun to talk to, and I hope I have an excuse to talk to her again in the future. I'll be transcribing the interview into text, and I hope to post it some time next week.

And, most importantly, Cat Rambo is not a robot.

Humans unite!

Most of my writing friends and contacts are entirely online contacts. Sometimes, like right now, the philosophical center of my brain takes over, and I start to wonder if these online contacts are really real flesh and blood people. The only evidence of their existence is lines of text on my computer screen, which are composed of small changes in voltages sent through my Ethernet cable.

For those of you who are flesh and blood people, I apologize in advance for when I meet you in person. I may stare. Don't worry, it will be nothing you said, and you don't have a booger hanging out of your nose. It's sort of like when you listen to your own voice on a recording and it sounds nothing like what you hear in your own head. Just grab a soda or a cup of coffee and wait for a few minutes. Eventually I'll sort it out and will return to my usual charming self.

But until I meet you, the most important and immediate question here is, "How do I know you aren't robots?" Perhaps the robotic uprising is nigh. Perhaps my banter and exchanging of writing ideas are all just contributing to the robots' understanding of human abstract thought so they can better learn how to manipulate and eventually destroy us.

The answer to this question seems particularly obvious when reading form rejection letters from certain publications which are so badly worded as to be entirely inhuman. The robots think so little of me, they sent their crudest AIs to smite me. For instance, the oft-used "Your story does not suit our needs at this time"--I'm always tempted to reply and ask at what time my story WOULD suit their needs. (The topic of form letter dissection has sparked a new post idea--will post more on that soon).

So beware--when you send communications to people you only know on the Internet, you are contributing to the accelerated downfall of humanity. Be warned! Your knee-jerk reaction to this blog-post may be to laugh. "He's contradicting his own warning by putting it in a blog post!" you say. But I'm craftier than you realize. By lacing my own message with this major logical fallacy, I've rendered this post invisible to modern artifical intelligence. They'll disregard it as nonsense. So if you've made it this far, you must be a human. Either that, or the robots are more intelligent than anyone thought, and all is lost!

Humans unite!

Email address

I've now updated my profile with an actual email address:

Replace the <> with an at sign, and the <> with a period.

Feel free to email me!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Alethea Kontis Interview

My guest today is New York Times bestselling author Alethea Kontis. She co-wrote the Dark Hunter Companion with fellow New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon. Her short fiction has appeared in multiple professional publications, such as Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Realms of Fantasy. Not only that, but she's published a children's book titled AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First, with a sequel upcoming. Besides her fiction, her essays can be seen at several professional magazines and have been collected in book form, the first volume of which is called Beauty & Dynamite.

Check out her website at

DS: I'm sure you answer this question all the time, but I have to ask: your name is so unique. Is there a story behind it?

AK: "Alethea" is the Greek word for "truth." As all Greeks know, words have power. My name is as much of a curse as it is a blessing, especially when my grandmother continually reminds me to lie to her friends about my age. (Sorry, Nana!)

My mother discovered the name as the family settled down to watch "Kung-Fu" on March 15, 1973 -- my older brother's 9th birthday. (West is currently a 4th-degree black belt in Taekwondo.) In that particular episode, Jodie Foster played a precocious girl named Alethea Patricia Ingram.

I discovered the details of this event only a few years ago...after I had already been a buyer at Ingram Book Company for over six years. Oh, yes. Words have power, my friend.

DS: You've written so many essays, and I've enjoyed the ones I've read. They flow so naturally that they're effortless to read, yet at the same time are very focused on each particular topic. Do essay ideas just slap you across the face, demanding to be written or does it take a more concerted effort? How does essay-writing compare to fiction-writing?

AK: I was raised in a family of storytellers. And when I say that, I mean that we put most voice actors and stand-up comedians to shame. You only have as much time as everyone plans on sitting around the dinner table, and you only have the floor for as long as your voice carries over everyone else' whatever you choose to impart to the group, it better be GOOD. Every time I sit down to write an essay, I imagine myself around that table. As long as I have the floor I've got to have a great beginning, I've got to keep my audience engaged, and I can't take forever to get to the point.

Someone asked me once if one needed a diverse and interesting background to be a writer. I think everyone has a diverse and interesting background; writers just exploit theirs. Everyone has stories to tell; you step in them like puddles every single day. For whatever reason I seem to have this abnormally remarkable life -- these are just the stories I step in.

DS: Do you prefer to write by yourself or with another writer (like the Dark Hunter Companion). What sort of unique challenges or benefits arise when working together?

AK: The Dark-Hunter Companion is the only collaboration I've done to date. Sherri and I had a unique arrangement with the Companion that could have been as much a disaster as it was a triumph. I started out with a stack of novels, a notebook, a glorified outline, and an anticipated word count. I re-read the whole series (many for the 3rd or 4th time), took notes, and then wrote the entire encyclopedia as if I was just another smart-mouthed character in the Dark-Hunter universe. I handed the manuscript over to Sherri, who then pulled out some spoilers, put in some teasers, and altered a few things that could only be altered by She Who Keeps Entire Worlds in her Head.

When I got the manuscript back for copyedits, our writing style blended so perfectly I honestly couldn't tell where my words left off and hers began. Everyone was pleased with the end result -- the fans most of all. It was a fascinating experience.

DS: What do you think has been the most significant event to advance your career?

AK: My life suddenly flashes before my eyes: My parents telling me I couldn't major in English. My English teacher telling me no child would want to read my fairy tales. My friend Gail telling me to just write my picture book idea "so you can read it." Orson Scott Card telling me to just write the novel. Tom Piccirilli taking me to task when he found out I hadn't submitted a finished manuscript. Kevin J. Anderson slapping me in the face when I denigrated my own writing.

If I had to pick only one event, it would be the Baen dinner in the fall of 2003, where David Drake found out I lived only a couple of miles from Andre Norton and ordered me to go visit her. "She has no idea what she means to this industry," he told me, and he was right. My correspondence and friendship with Miss Andre is something I'll treasure forever.

DS: What is your favorite thing about writing?

AK: Making my mother cry.

When I wrote stories as a kid, making my mother cry was a mark of excellence -- I knew then that I had something powerful. My mother was always my first reader and ("get a real job" major aside) my biggest advocate -- up to and including calling a particular university and bullying them to accept my application essay despite the fact that I was a few hundred words over the limit. (I was accepted to said particular university, but ultimately could not afford to attend.)

While at Boot Camp in 2003, I called Mom from the campus of UNCG and yelled into the phone, "ORSON SCOTT CARD SAID I'M A GREAT WRITER!!!" I could not have offended her more. There was silence on the other end, and then a very cold, "Alethea, we've been telling you that for years. So now you're going to believe some guy just because he's some big fat best-seller?" It was then that I officially realized my mother hadn't actually been spoon-feeding me a load of crap, as most mothers are wont to do.

She forgave me. Six years later, she's still my first reader. And she still tells me every time I make her cry.

DS: Do you have a particular writing process you go through for every story, from story conception to drafting?

AK: Because I was raised a storyteller, I'm what they call an "Athena writer" -- the stories all but spring fully-formed from my head. I mentally work through my plot points and dialogue and edit as I write. The words need to be in order, and they need to be the right words.

As a result, when writing fiction I average only about 500 words an hour and only a few thousand a day at my most productive. But I rarely go back and rewrite, and my first drafts are very, very clean drafts.

DS: If you could only give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

AK: Do the thing that scares you.

DS: What's the last book you read? Your favorite book? Your favorite author?

The last book I read (all the way through): The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, by Leanna Renee Hieber. (For the record, I loved it.) Favorite book and author -- ha! I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the sky.

DS: What was the last movie you saw?

AK: Last movie I saw: UP. I think I only cried more after seeing Big Fish.

DS: I know you're very active on the convention circuit. What upcoming convention appearances do you have planned?

AK: I've just finished six weeks of the heaviest schedule I've ever had (including Penguicon, Mo*Con, Hypericon, and BEA). The rest of 2009 is fairly light -- I'll be at Necon in July and, of course, Dragon*Con on Labor Day weekend.

DS: What do you like best about conventions? Do you suffer from stage fright--if so, how do you get up there in front of all those people?

AK: I'm a raging introvert, but I have no problem with stage fright. My Aunt Ernestine (actress Ernestine Mercer) taught me how to say "TA-DA!" when I was a baby -- a feat I had turned into a lucrative acting career by he time I was eight. I was on stage all through high school...which trickled down to only helping out on student films in college...and then after I graduated, the hermit took over and I slipped into borderline agoraphobia.

All it took was one panic attack in the grocery store for me to say, "NONE OF THIS NONSENSE, PLEASE!" From that point on, I concentrated on consciously participating in a healthy amount of social activity and pulling myself back out of my shell. I am definitely not the mealy-mouthed frump I was five years ago. Five years from now, people will have to put on sunglasses just to look at me.

DS: Any convention stories to share? Strange people you've met?

AK: Ha! Plenty. There than ten in Beauty & Dynamite alone. My very first convention was Dragon*Con in 1996. From the minute I showed up on the front steps, it felt like I had come home. And all those misfits I've met? They're all as close as family now. I love every single one of them. Some of them even dubbed me their Princess, an honor I have accepted with all the appropriate grace and aplomb. I now have a collection of tiaras...but that I blame on Jill Conner Browne.

DS: Do you have any newly published stories or soon-to-be-published stories that we should watch out for? If so, what can you tell us about them?

AK: This year, keep an eye out for "The Giant and the Unicorn" in Shimmer Magazine's steampunk Clockwork Jungle issue. I've got "The Witch of Black Mountain" coming out in Apex's Harlan County Horrors anthology and "The God of Last Moments" in Maurice Broaddus's Mo*Con anthology. I'm also working on a piece for Doug Warrick and Kyle Johnson's Nick Cave anthology...which I really need to get home and finish. And, as always, keep watching the blog for the next humorous installment in the Adventures of Lee.

DS: Any exciting works-in-progress in the pipeline right now? What can you tell us about them? Can you give us any sneak peeks at any of them to pique our interest.

AK: I've just finished the unabridged, novel version of "Sunday", my fairytale novelette that appeared in Realms of Fantasy in October 2006. If you'd like a sneak peek, the story is available on the Anthology Builder website.

DS: I'm keeping a running "wish list" of guests for interviews. Is
there anyone in the speculative fiction industry you would love to see

AK: Ha! I've been interviewing folks for the Ingram Genre Chicks column for over five years now, so every time I think of the answer to that question, I just hunt down the prospective victim and interview them. Neil Gaiman? Charles Vess? Anne McCaffrey? Easy-peasy. What I love best are the interviews that surprise me. I go back and re-read Naomi Neale's (aka Vance Briceland) or Joe Hill's answers whenever I need a pick-me-up. Heck, Edmund Shubert's still makes me laugh so hard I cry. I know I'll never look at penguins the same way again.

Good times.

DS: Alethea, thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions. It's been fun. I've been meaning to make it to some cons this year. If I end up making it to Dragon*Con I'll be sure to look you up on the event list. I would love to meet you in person!

Questions for Cat Rambo

Coming soon: my interview with Cat Rambo, writer and co-editor of Fantasy Magazine.

Any questions you'd like to add to the interview? Drop a comment here and I'll try to work them into the interview.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Year in Rejections

It was 1 year ago that I sent out my very first submission, my first novel to Tor. And what a year!

1 novel finished before the year started.
19 short stories written to completion within that year.
31 venues received my submissions.
91 rejections on those stories.

Almost to the century mark for rejections. Lately the trend seems slightly more positive--I've actually gotten a few "almost" replies, and one that's being held for consideration for an anthology. I'm hoping that's a continuing trend and not just a shallow peak. Here's hoping! Who knows what the next year will bring.

I am a little bit curious what the big 3 digit rejection will be, the big one oh oh!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

When is a writer a writer?

This was inspired by a Facebook post where someone said "not everyone who calls themselves a writer is a writer".

When is a writer a writer?
To write: to form (as words) by inscribing the characters or symbols on a surface.
So whoever puts symbols surfaces is a writer? No. Writing does not make you a writer, or anyone who is literate would be a writer. A person would become a writer when they pay with a check or write a grocery list. That's writing, not Writing.

When most people speak of a writer, they are speaking of someone who has written something in particular, especially a book. But does one become a writer simply by writing a book? I've written a book. Does that make me a writer? It's sitting in submission at a publisher at the moment. I've written more than a dozen short stories, does that make me a writer if none of them are published? What about a writer who's been too afraid to show his work to any other person? Are they still a writer, or does their fear of rejection take away that title?

Does someone have to like your writing to make you a writer? What if you've shown your writing to some people, but none of them have enjoyed it in the slightest. Must we seek a seal of approval to call ourselves writers, or should this writer declare his title regardless if anyone cares for his work?

Are you a writer once published? Most people would agree that people who make their primary income from writing are writers. But what if you've published a single short story? What if you've been published only at semi-pro markets? Token markets paying a half cent a word? No pay at all? Does that make you any less of a writer? Many of history's greatest artists were not appreciate in their time, does that mean they only became artists post-mortem? Until then they were just losers with paintbrushes, and somehow became artists as a side effect of decomposition?

When the subject comes up, I tend to call myself an "aspiring writer". Not because I really think there's much difference, but because that one word avoids the inevitable and awkward follow-up question: Where can I see your work? But once I publish a short story, is that the time to call myself a writer or do I need a longer bibliography? Perhaps there should be stages of writership, novice, apprentice, journeyman, master, grand master. I could try using these as my writing career develops, but unless these terms go into wide usage, people will just think me a weirdo. Which is fine, I am a weirdo and proud of it, but the terms don't provide clarity if no one knows what they mean.

Once a writer, always a writer? What if I won a short story contest in grade school and never write again? Does that mean I can always carry the title? If people ask, I can show them the story collection with the byline "David Steffen, age 7". Does that entitle me to call myself a writer? What of J.D. Salinger, who has not published an original work since 1965? Most people would call him a writer because his wild success of "Catcher in the Rye", but what if the book had been less successful? What if it had been a single short story? Would he still be considered a writer today?

Many similar questions apply to painters. Monkeys can manipulate paints on a canvas, but does that mean that monkeys are artists? I suspect that painters would be insulted by the idea--no lower species could be capable of art. Yet I've seen some abstract art that looks remarkably similar to monkeys fingerpainting. Does that mean that that artist is not an artist because a monkey could do the same?

Movie Review of X-Men origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine was an okay movie. It had its moments, in particular I liked some of the casting choices, but overall it left enough continuity questions and major plot holes that it really just bothered me.

One of my favorite scenes in the whole movie happened in just the first few minutes, where it shows Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting in every American war since the mid-19th century, each of them of course in period uniforms and with grainy photography of each era.

Overall it was okay, but some of the character motivations were thin at best, there were several characters that were clearly only included so they could be part of merchandising later on. That aspect wasn't as bad as X-Men 3 (thank God) which included dozens of characters that were only on camera for seconds, just long enough to say their name and show their powers.

The movie follows James ( who we know in later movies as Wolverine or Logan) played by Hugh Jackman and his brother Viktor (who later becomes Sabretooth) played by Liev Schreiber. Never mind that Liev Schreiber looks nothing like the Sabretooth of the first X-Men movie. You would think that they could have at least died Liev's hair the sandy brown color, but apparently that was too much to ask. On the other hand, Liev did make a good Sabretooth, albeit one who didn't look right. And apparently mutton chops are a genetic trait--their dad had them in the opening scene, and both of them have them as adults also.

Anyway, it follows their lives as brothers, and how Wolverine became Weapon X with the adamantium laced skeleton that makes him nearly indestructible. Together they join a strike force led by William Stryker, who you might remember from X-2. You might also remember Stryker having a southern accent which is oddly absent from this movie. Despite that, I did like the casting choice for Stryker. He had a very smooth convincing voice which is perfect for the character.

The action was good, but there was just too much of it sometimes. A movie about Wolverine has to have lots of action, but he pretty much ended up fighting every character he meets, even if they are on the same side. Granted, this is a tried-and-true comic book tradition, throwing two "good" characters together and making them think they're enemies for an episode, and then they're shown to be friends at the end at which point they apologize and unite against the enemy they both came to fight. But just because comic books use that device doesn't mean that movies should.

I really liked Ryan Reynolds character, but he wasn't in enough of the movie to make it worthwhile. He had some good wisecracks while he was on screen though. And it was good to see Dominic Monaghan, though his role wasn't a huge one.

Keep reading if you've already seen it or you don't mind some spoilers


But there were some MAJOR problems. First and foremost--the final scenes take place on Three Mile Island, and the action actually ends up causing the meltdown. That's a bit contrived but not the worst plot device I've ever seen. But the thing that bothers me is that NONE of the characters suffer from radiation poisoning whatsoever. Wolverine has some excuse for this, because of his healing factor, perhaps he's immune to radiation sickness. Stryker, however, is entirely human, he was on the site, and not only does he survive the movie, he's alive for X-2 that happens maybe twenty years later with no apparent ill side effects. Explain that to me! Did the makers of the movie really not realize that a nuclear meltdown is not a healthy thing to be around.

Another MAJOR problem--they didn't do their chemical research. At one point in the movie, someone uses a drug to fake a death, to supposedly slow their heartbeat down so it's unnoticeable. That's fine, but the drug they used was hydrochlorothiazide, which is not a heart medication, it's a diuretic. That's right, all it does is make you pee. (Thanks to my wife the pharmacist for pointing this out). The only way it could affect your heart, and even this is a stretch, is if you peed so much that you lost too many electrolytes and your heart went into arrhythmia, which is not what happened here. Two minutes with Google could have given them a medicine that at least slowed down heart rate--that's just lazy!

Another big one--the use of adamantium is inconsistent. In X-2 I believe it was an alloy, not a pure metal, and once it hardened it was impossible to melt again. But in this movie Stryker finds it in it's hardened form and yet is somehow able to use it as if it wasn't--continuity error! Then Stryker creates a gun that shoots adamantium bullets, and assumes they will be able to puncture Wolverine's skull--but you need something harder than adamantium if you want to puncture it!!

Another big continuity error--in this movie Stryker has the ability to steal powers from one mutant and give them to another mutant. If he knows how to do this now, he should know how to do it later in his life, but somehow he doesn't in X-2. He's the sort of man that would use any weapon in his arsenal whenever he can--I doubt he would have held back in X-2 if he knew how to do it.

Well that's all, I just had to rant about it, and I was cataloguing all these little problems as I watched the movie. We're trying to get back into the habit of watching a weekly movie, so I hope to do these reviews more often again!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My next guest!

The next guest to be interviewed right here is Alethea Kontis, writer extraordinare! She's a great writer whose fiction and essays have been featured at several major speculative magazine as well as having published multiple books.
Check out her website at

Do you have any questions you're dying to ask her? Drop a comment here and I'll try to work them in!

RIP David Eddings

I've read and enjoyed a few of his books and have been reading to read more of them.

Interview Schedule

Tentatively I'd like to do two interviews a month, one near the beginning of each month and one near the middle. I have a list of folks who've expressed interest in being interviewed, including some editors, some writers, slushreaders, and illustrators.

Within the next week I'll try to announce the next guest to give you guys some time to send me any burning questions you may have for him or her. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rough weekend

Between Friday and Monday I received SEVEN rejections. 2 on Friday, 3 on Saturday, 2 on Monday. Ouch, my ego!

On the bright side, a story I have posted to the Baen's Bar forum (a critique forum that doubles as a submission route for Jim Baen's Universe) is getting some positive comments, even from Edith Maor, one of the slush readers who is notoriously hard to please.

Lately I have noticed that, in my writing submissions, when I get particularly bad news it seems to come paired with some measure of good news on the same day. Maybe it's just a fluke, but maybe something really good is just around the corner. I can hope, right?

Google Precedence

Just for fun, I did a Google search for my name to see where I rank these days. I've now moved up to #4, and even passed up one of my unsavory name-doppelgangers that has thwarted me for a long time--the web page is titled "Is David Steffen and elitist bigot?"

1. President, Biomedical Computing in Texas
2. convicted murderer from a case back in 1983
-I think I can safely say that I am absolved of all guilt in this case--I was less than 2 years old.
3. Generic search for my name
4. Internet Broadway Database (IBDB)-- a fellow who works in marketing
5. Me!
6. Is David Steffen and elitist bigot?

Gary's Tiny Timmy's Tweets

Tiny Timmy Tweets: Tub Travails

Tiny Timmy loved his bath toys. Except for the whirring one, the hairdryer that Mommy would sometimes toss into the tub. See Timmy splash!

Tiny Timmy hated taking baths. Especially when Mommy held his head underwater to teach him how to count. How much is a gazillion, Timmy?

"Dive, dive!" Tiny Timmy said in the tub, making like a submarine. "You need more ballast," his mom replied. "How about this cinderblock?"