Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

July 2008 Archives

Readercon, Sarah Monette and other pleasures.

I love that blessed and beautiful feeling when you discover something that's been missing for all too long. For me, lately, that feeling has been coming in waves with the discovery of an entire collection of my peers that are working in the slipstream / interstitial / contemporary reinvention-of-genre spaces. I blogged about this before in the beginning of June (the first post was "Where to begin?" and the second was "A magnificent deskful of guilty pleasures"), but this exploration has unearthed an entire treasure trove of brilliant new writers. It started with Kelly Link and a collection of anthologies I mentioned in those earlier posts, and exploded when I attended Readercon 19 earlier this month.

Holy cats, Readercon.

Not only did I make some excellent new friends (hi, Erin) and ran into some old friends (hi, Ellen and friends-of-Kasi), but I also got to meet some of my old favorite writers and discover even more brilliant new ones. I shook the hands of Jonathan Lethem and James Morrow, happily listened to Ekaterina Sedia, John Crowley and Kelly Link hold forth on their works, had some brilliant conversations with James Patrick Kelly and Gregory Frost, and met a whole host of other brilliant up-and-coming authors. I also developed a serious hetero-geek-crush on literary critic John Clute, whose work I had admired before but after actually listening to the fellow on multiple panels, I have added to the small list of personal influences whom I would happily sit and listen to even if they were only reading their laundry lists. The fellow is brilliant.

Another major score of the weekend was in the bookstore, a massive bonanza of vendors all peddling a myriad of tomes, most of whom I struggled not to acquire. (What with the trip to Greece and other splurges this month, July has been easily one of the most expensive months in recent memory. Seriously. Ouch.) I whimpered and passed up a $100 hardcover edition of Jonathan Carroll's first book, Land of Laughs, which I'd been hunting for over a decade, and instead spent way too much money on a whole bagful of bargains. By the time the dust settled I was the proud owner of a hardcover edition of Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners and whole host of fantastic paperbacks from Prime Books.

There's been a bit of a recent kerfuffle in the blogosphere lately about writers' experiences with Prime, but everything I've read so far sounds like exactly the kind of issues that plague all small independent presses (and I say this as a man who for the longest time was a small, independent press). Given the quality of the books and the authors Prime publishes, they're definitely on my short-list of publishers to query once Bones of the Angel is well and truly finished. Not only do they publish Ekaterina Sedia, Theodora Goss and Jeff VanderMeer, but they're also responsible for Cabinet des Fees and the beautiful new paperback editions of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's Black Thorn, White Rose, Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, and Black Swan, White Raven. I got to meet Sean Wallace at the con and he cut me a great deal on a whole stack of books, and he certainly seemed to have his heart in the right place, and I do happen to think Prime is in exactly the right position for a small niche publisher to be these days. So much so, in fact, that one of these days I hope to interview him for some of my academic work.

Anyway. My latest discovery from that pile of Prime books was The Bone Key by Sarah Monette, which is a brilliant example of experimental publishing models in this day and age. Monette has pulled off (brilliantly, I might add) an experiment I was considering for my Winter Children series – she introduced her character Kyle Murchison Booth in a short story, and then proceeded to write an entire series of short stories featuring Booth and publishing them in various magazines, thus building an entire network of introductory points to her character and his world. It's an old model, to be sure, but seeing it done now – and done so well – makes it a terrific case study in contemporary serialized narratives. It's not quite a serialized narrative, insofar as each short story stands on its own, but seeing them all collected together in The Bone Key makes me suspect that just such an experiment conducted with chapters of a larger story could work very well indeed.

Mwa ha ha.

As I said, The Bone Key is brilliant – I finished reading the second short story in the collection, "The Venebretti Necklance", on my way to work this morning and when I set it down I burst out laughing out of sheer delight. Charlaine Harris' quote at the top of the cover, "Sarah Monette can write like a dream," is entirely accurate. Monette takes an old horror trope straight out of Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, modernizes it and makes it her own. It's by turns funny, creepy and altogether excellent, with enough character quirks and nuances that Booth could definitely carry a novel all of his own – and I'm sure Monette's working on it. I haven't read any of her other stuff – her website suggests that the majority of the rest of her work is pitched more at the fantasy / supernatural romance set – but she's now definitely on my list of Folks To Watch. I would suggest that you dear readers do the same.


SDCC '08 and Dead Space: "What Order Transmedia Storytelling?"

Transmedia narratives are really hot right now, especially if the San Diego Comic-Con is any barometer. DC Comics' Wildstorm is leading the charge, as the imprint announced Resident Evil and Devil May Cry comics, which may or may not be considered canonical; the Wildstorm Gears of War comic is definitely a transmedia extension; Prototype may or may not be; Mirror's Edge may or may not be; the Dead Space comic prequel definitely is...

From the yes-it's-canon-we-think department: Dark Horse announced the continuation and then conclusion of Buffy Season 8; another Firefly miniseries that will explain the backstory of Reverend Book; and a comics expansion of the backstory behind the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Unleashed videogame. Meanwhile, Boom! Comics announced a comics continuation of the Jim Henson Company's Farscape, which is right in line with the JHC's continuation of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal in manga already.

From the unsure-if-it's-canon-or-not department: IDW announced a comic book prequel to the upcoming Terminator: Salvation as well as an immediate comic follow-up to Ghostbusters II, a prequel to next year's G.I. Joe feature film, and a prequel comic to the upcoming Transformers 2: The Revenge of the Fallen.

Add to this the massive amount of new media experiments such as direct-to-video transmedia extensions like Batman: Gotham Knight; the Watchmen video game prequels; "motion comics" like Stephen King's N and the Warner Premiere Motion Comics; and the art-inspires-art cross-media cross-pollination of Tori Amos' Comic Book Tattoo and this year's SDCC was probably the biggest, murkiest, most cross-media and transmedia-centric con ever.


As we all know by now, anytime anything gets this big this fast, we're in danger of having another bubble burst. I can already predict the wailing and rending of expensive Armani garments that will follow when – not if, but when – some of these transmedia franchises fail. When I was writing my master's thesis on transmedia narratives last year, one section I really wanted to dive into but would have required a lot more field research (and a lot more pages) was the idea of how to best deploy a transmedia narrative – and in what order a story should use different media elements. Should a narrative show up in a TV show first? A film? How about a book? Or a comic? Or a game? Right now we're seeing a massive number of new case studies explode onto the scene, and believe you me, I'm watching all this like a hawk.

If I had to put money on which franchises are the most likely to tank, however, I'd say that the easy bet are those franchises that are exploding onto the scene all at once. Dead Space is the one I'm really watching keenly because there's so much already tied into it – the comic, the video game (which is the central component to the franchise) an animated comic, and even a (possibly ill-conceived, if Kotaku is to be believed) straight-to-DVD animated prequel. Personally, I think Kotaku's Luke Plunkett sums up the two strikes this franchise has against it already pretty dang nicely:

Back in the day, a licensed property got itself a comic book series or a cartoon because the fans wanted it, and the property deserved it. Now? Why am I supposed to care about the back-story of a game I haven't even played yet? Especially when it's as boring as this?

That's what worries me: that instead of following up a successful primary component like The Matrix with transmedia expansions (a practice I chucklingly referred to as "soft" or "crunchy" in my thesis), Dead Space is a "hard" transmedia franchise, by which I mean it was apparently conceived as transmedia from the get-go. I think something like this can work very well, if it's already attached to some existing big name to draw the crowds. If it were Stephen King's Dead Space, Clive Barker's Dead Space, Stephen Spielberg's Dead Space or even, Heaven forfend, George Lucas' Dead Space then I think this kind of a sweeping launch might work. As it is, it's just Dead Space with no major reason why a brand-new audience should invest the intense amount of attention (and money) on engaging with it. A transmedia franchise needs a good, solid hook – and so far Dead Space doesn't seem to really have it. If there's no single primary entry point to the series, which so far there doesn't seem to be (both the comic and the animated movie seem to be prequels, so which one comes first?), and at least one of the possible entry points proves to be, as Plunkett says, "boring", the franchise is in trouble – and the main game hasn't even launched yet!

Me, I think a transmedia franchise should build up a core audience in a manner appropriate to the context in which it's being created: if you have a big name or a big budget, go for a wide-audience open in a media form like film or television. If you don't have a big name or a big budget, I think the best way is to start small and build up a rabid fanbase in a more niche media like comics or novels (of course, the notion that novels are a niche media is a fun one to bat around, but we can debate that in the comments or in another post). Dead Space has apparently invested a lot of money in what is essentially a shotgun-blast marketing effort, doing all the media forms more or less at the same time, and I'm concerned that all the transmedia extensions may simply be perceived as little more than marketing fluff for the central video game instead of quality narrative components. (Worse, I'm afraid they may be little more than marketing fluff.)

I've said it over and over, and I'm sure I'll keep on saying it: Rule One: Don't Suck. I haven't seen the animated Dead Space prequel yet, but it seems like it's teetering on the edge of sucking. The prequel comics so far have been okay, but I don't know how fragile a from-scratch transmedia franchise might actually be. Dead Space is one to watch for all kinds of reasons, but the big thing that the industry has to remember is that all of this stuff right now is experimental – don't wring your hands and cry that transmedia storytelling as an entire form fails when one or two (or twenty) of these early experiments crash and burn. It's a learning process – the best thing we can do is take careful notes, keep experimenting and keep trying out hypotheses.

Me? I've been investing some time learning how to write comics. :)

A pricey summer for culture vultures.

First it was the buy-one-get-one-free sale on Criterion Collection DVDs at DeepDiscount (which concluded as of midnight last night, thank God), but now Apple has launched a $6.99 and $7.99 sale on Classical and Jazz albums. My wallet! My poor, innocent, empty wallet!

I mean, seriously – Hilary Hahn! Yo-Yo Ma and Ennio Morricone! Joshua Bell! Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jamie Cullum and Thelonious Monk! Damn you, Jobs!

Luckily, I already own most of these classics, but there's a couple I'm eyeing cautiously. If those of you in my reading audience pick up nothing else, the Yo-Yo Ma playing Ennio Morricone is a must-have – it's one of my favorite go-to albums whenever I need some great background music for work or writing or whatever.

Oh, well. Think of the money you'll save on gas at $4+ per gallon by staying in and watching movies or listening to MP3s. Yeah, that's the ticket...


Greece 2008 Part II: ITRA World Congress.

While a big motivator for our trip to Greece was the desire to actually see Greece and its islands, the real catalyst for the trip was the 5th World Congress of the International Toy Researchers' Association (ITRA), a group of which I am now a proud member. If you'd told me that such an organization had existed back when I was an undergrad, my mind would have been blown – academics? Conducting research on toys? Really?

Really. And they're awesome.

I found out about the conference from my friend Barry Kudrowitz, who runs the MIT Toy Lab and is all kinds of awesome on many fronts. Barry's a kindred spirit, as crazily prolific and artsy as I used to be: he's an author, a musician, a programmer, a toy designer, and a lecturer. The guy constantly reminds me of what all's possible when you attack life with a crazy can-do attitude, which is incredibly inspiring. Here's to you, Barry. Anyway, I occasionally guest-lecture in Barry's class on toys, transmedia and narratives in toy design, and so Barry e-mailed me when the CFP for the conference came across his desk. Since I already had an essay on toys and transmedia narratives all ready to go (and had actually helped me get into the Comparative Media Studies program), I sent it in... And in the spring, I received an email to let me know that my paper had been accepted – and I found out soon afterward that Matt, Clara and Philip had a paper on GAMBIT's methodologies accepted as well, and Barry had one accepted for his Play Pyramid concept. We were off!

I wasn't sure what to expect from the conference, to be honest. What kind of academics researched toys? Would this be a huge conference or a small one? Would it be primarily professionals in the toy industry or mostly cultural theorists? As it turned out, the conference was a pretty good size, consisting of several solid days of interesting programming including everything from researchers looking into the impact of different types of toys at different stages of development to, yes, cultural theorists. Some of my favorites were as follows.

Gilles Brougère, from Université Paris Nord, France. Brougère presented the first keynote address, "Toys, Games and Play in the Circle Dance of Children's Mass Culture". This paper talked about the complexity of new toy franchises, which was remarkably similar to my own research into transmedia storytelling and Henry Jenkins' work; it was fantastic because Brougère seems to have come to similar conclusions from a different direction, so comparing his notes to my own was a lot of fun and should be really useful. I have a copy of his paper on file now and will probably wind up citing it in future book projects.

Jaz Hee-jeong Choi, from Queensland University of Technology, Australia. QUT is considered a sort of sister program to CMS, and is where C3's ex-research manager Dr. Joshua Green earned his doctorate. Jaz is one of the new friends I made at the conference, and is someone I hope to work with in the future – her research into consumption patterns of portable media and reactive environments is some really great stuff. She's worked with friend, fellow SXSW alum and all-around brilliant guy Adam Greenfield on similar stuff, and if I ever continue the research into mobile media storytelling that I started with C3, she's definitely at the top of my go-to list. Her blog can be found at

Mathieu Gielen, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. Mathieu was the one who assembled the panel where both Philip and Barry and our new friends Greg and Rémi (see next description) appeared, and conducts his research into design for children. I didn't get the chance to catch much in-depth information about his own research, but it's clear that there's a large amount of overlap between our interests.

Yiu-Cheung (Greg) Shiu, Hong Kong Design Institute, China, and Rémi Leclerc, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China. Both Greg and Rémi are teaching real-world practices to the next generation of makers and designers in Hong Kong, the capital of the toymaking world. Greg showed off the really high-quality designs being created by his students, and Rémi's demoed his practice of short, intense 'hackshops' wherein students disassemble existing toys and rebuild them from the ground up (with extra parts from a collective junk pile) into all-new stuff. These hackshops reminded me of a mash-up of Junkyard Wars and the Enrichment Academy inventors' workshops I attended in grade school. Really fantastic stuff.

Hyun-Jung Oh, Doctoral student, University College London, UK. Hyun-Jung won the student researchers' award from the ITRA this time around for her research on "The Phenomenon of Dolls' Houses: Putting Together Memories and Fantasies", which was especially interesting because of her examination of the practices and reasonings behind adults building dollhouses, as well as just girls. I didn't get to speak with her for very long, but she seems to be another up-and-comer to watch.

Wijnand Ijsselstein, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands. Wijnand's Game Experience Lab is doing some stuff that is significantly interesting to GAMBIT – building quantitative measurement systems for play patterns in video games through hardware systems and surveys. He also seemed to be a pretty great guy from our small number of conversations – again, another character to watch. You can find his website at

Maria Velioti-Georgopoulos, University of the Peloponnese, Greece. Her presentation on "Playing with Puppets: Greek Discourses on Children's Toy Puppet Theatre 1870-1950" left me rapt for the whole time. She had a great presentation, but then again I'm a huge sucker for puppeteering history and culture, so I was an easy mark.

Giorgos Papaconstantinou, University of Thessaly, Greece. His "Early Animation Toys: From Science to Spectacle" was another presentation that kept me happily enthralled for the whole run. Thaumatropes! Zoetropes! I've loved these kinds of optical toys for years, and the history of animation has fascinated me ever since I was a kid. Papaconstantinou's talk was really top-notch, a brilliant show. I wanted to ask him for a copy of his paper, but unfortunately I didn't get a chance.

Yehudit Inbar, Museums Division, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. Inbar's was one of the most haunting presentations of the entire time, centering around a museum of toys from the Holocaust. The toys that the children had brought with them into the prisons were fascinating, and the ones they brought back were even more so, but the best ones were the toys that were made on the inside. Makeshift doll parts were beautifully sad, but the best was a Monopoly board made as a secret map of the camp. 'Tragic' doesn't begin to describe it.

These were only a few of the great presentations I caught during my time there. There was a really interesting breakdown of little subgroups inside the whole collective; there were the obvious aggregations along interest lines, of course, but there was also a sense of generations, perhaps. It's the group of us younger folks (me, Barry, Philip, Jaz, Rémi and so on) conducting some really cool, adventurous experimental work with new technologies and new media that makes me curious about where the ITRA will be headed in the next 5, 10, 20 years.

Which is why I'm now a member of the ITRA. Hmmm. I wonder what I could pitch to the next World Congress?


Things that don't live up to expectations: Delicious Library 2.

Maybe it's because I'm just getting back into it after letting it lie dormant for so long, or maybe it's because it had been gathering hype for a ridiculous amount of time (approximately 3.5 years) before shipping, or maybe it's because my imagination almost always outstrips what reality finally serves up on a chipped, faded platter... But Delicious Library 2 isn't delivering on its hype yet.

I still love the premise of Delicious Library, which is part of the problem – a gorgeous app that packs amazing potential, such as the ability to not only catalog my vast collection of media but make it available online to help me find out whether or not I already own a hardcover copy of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum (I don't) or Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (I do), and enable my friends peruse that collection to see if there's anything they'd like to borrow (and, honestly, hopefully gape at the wide array of awesome that I've managed to accumulate over the years) AND help me track which of those friends have borrowed what, so I can remember whose fingers I need to break for never giving me back that copy of The Arabian Nights that my grandfather gave me before he died (I'm looking at you, Yvonne).

Delicious Library 1 suggested that these features were coming, but Delicious Library 2 only delivered a half-baked (and incredibly download-heavy) web publishing system that, as near as I can tell, won't let me sort or search my published library from my iPhone, nor does it include any component of social networking whatsoever. What would be awesome is if I could search my library for a book and have it give three tiers of results: first, whether or not I own a copy; second, whether or not any of my friends own a copy that I could borrow; and third, what the going price for that book is currently on Amazon, Powell's, eBay or wherever. I cannot, as near as I can tell, use the camera on my iPhone to scan a barcode in the store and have the software give me any of that data, which is ludicrous. Granted, the iPhone camera is notoriously bad, but similar services have existed in other phones for years now and not having it in what is supposed to be the flagship library management software for the Mac (it even has an entire "Delicious Generation" named after it, for crying out loud!) is frustrating in the extreme. It doesn't even have a custom iPhone icon included in the published pages. This is amateur hour.

Yo! Wil Shipley! What gives? Is all this stuff still coming down the pike, or is Library doomed to remain a half-baked shadow of the glorious golden exemplar that its potential suggests it could be?

Update: well, I guess Shipley warned us:

Mike and I have talked a lot about Delicious Library 2.0 on and, respectively. I'd like to weasel a bit here and point out that although we have a ton of lofty goals that we're calling "2.0," not all of them will actually be in "2.0" the product. We'd love it if they were, but PLEASE don't buy the app based how cool you think 2.0 might be. If you like what 1.0 does, buy it now, and if you think 2.0 sounds like the first version that will be useful to you, then go ahead and wait.

Weasel, indeed. If you check out the original Wired interview, you find this:

Matas and Shipley have big plans. Delicious Library is now a cataloging program, appealing to those with an obsessive, Nick Hornby-esque desire to catalog every song, book and movie on their living room shelves.

But from the start, the software was planned to be social, allowing friends, neighbors and colleagues to see what's in each others' media libraries, and turn collections into personal lending libraries.

Version two, due later this year, will allow users to browse each other's libraries. It will be location-aware, letting users know who has what in their neighborhood or city.
It will also work on local networks (using Apple Computer's Rendezvous), so people can browse their colleagues' or fellow students' collections, just as Apple's iTunes exposes other users' playlists.

The current version already has a checkout manager for keeping track of loans.

As well as running personal lending libraries, the software can set up social connections: What better barometer of someone's personality than their taste in books and film?

"If you look at my movie collection, you can learn a ton about me," said Matas. "It's like a personal profile on Friendster listing interests and hobbies, but it's much more natural. It's not done consciously. It's a natural profile of yourself."

The software also includes a recommendation engine built on's recommendation system.

Matas said the company talked to Amazon about a partnership, but the retailer didn't like the lending feature. Why would people buy when they could borrow?

Matas said he convinced Amazon that people buy movies expressly to lend them out. They watch a movie two or three times, but want to own it so they can lend it to family or friends.

"I love the movie Baraka," he said. "I've seen it three times but I've lent it out a million times. And my friends have bought it also because they also want to spread the word."
Matas said cataloging books is just a first step in the grand scheme.

"The bigger picture is social idea sharing," he said. "Right now it's for obsessive-compulsive collectors, but we're going to flip a switch in the next version and it will turn into social software."

I bought both versions of this software, and so far I don't see any switch having been thrown. There's an ability to mark what books you've loaned people, and you can e-mail a book to your friends, and you can email your friends the URL of where you've posted your stuff (my work-in-progress library is up at but is woefully incomplete) but all of this does not social software make. I could do much the same thing with simple cut-and-paste in Safari, Excel and -- so what gives, Shipley? What happened to the Delicious Library 2 we were promised?


Housecleaning, part II!

Another annoyance fixed: the Archives page is now (mostly) fixed. The Archives had been publishing to the wrong page for the last little while (.html as opposed to .php) but now it's back in the right place. The only thing still missing is the Search function, but one thing at a time.


I'm tidying up some loose bits around here, starting with this blog's RSS feed. It had been inexplicably busted since I migrated to Movable Type 4, but now it's up and running again. You can find it at feed://


Of poets and wabbits.

A few weeks ago, none other than former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins published an essay in The Wall Street Journal called "Inspired by a Bunny Wabbit", wherein he extolls the virtues of Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes cartoons. He outlines their influence on his work, and even includes four poems from his first published collection written about the four pillars of Looney ("Bugs", "Daffy", "Porky" and "Elmer"). I love this highbrow-meets-lowbrow mentality, discussing the pleasures that can be derived from these works that most English professors would probably publicly deride – and it's not just knee-slapping humor that Collins advocates, but also the bizarre takes on sexuality and cosmopolitanism that run rampant in these classic animations. I've long believed that there's plenty of rich material to be found in classic popular culture, and hearing a poet laureate share that opinion is wonderfully vindicating. Now to write my epic poem based on Terry and the Pirates...

My favorite grade card.

Ho. Lee. Cats.

Some of you might remember that I TA'ed the Interactive Narrative course in the 2008-2009 academic year for Professor Ed Barrett. This was a huge amount of fun and I enjoyed every moment of it, as I usually do with teaching. It was massively educational, even though I didn't get paid and I didn't receive any kind of grading... Until now.

I was on my way back into the office from a writing session in the nearby Starbucks this morning when I ran into Philip in the elevator. "Hey," he said, "did you know you got a seven on your student evaluations from the Interactive Narrative course?"

"No, I didn't! That's great," I said. "Out of what?"

Philip blinked. "Seven," he replied.

Philip and I went up to our office on the third floor. My jaw, however, went to the basement.

You like me! You really like me!


Greece 2008 Part I: To Santorini.

I've been meaning to write up my thoughts on this month's trip to Greece for weeks now, but things immediately became so hectic upon my return that it's kept slip-sliding down the to-do list. (Case in point: I'm writing this over my lunch hour, which is falling at 2:30.) Things are good, mind you – just busy.

I'm also having difficulty summing up the entirety of such an amazing experience in only a few paragraphs. Where to begin? What to leave out? How much time to spend on what? Even the flight there was remarkable due to a layover in the Dublin airport, with its Celtic glasswork, its library-themed bar and its enormous glass Oscar Wilde. After arriving in Athens, we spent the night at a really nice little hotel just off the Placa, which is the main boulevard in Athens with all the shopping and puppet-wielding street performers that entails. The next morning we took a big, BIG high-speed boat (like this one but not) to the beautiful slumbering volcano of Santorini.

Ah, Santorini.

Seriously, I'm sort of at a loss to describe Santorini. Our hotel was on the inside slope of the caldera of the volcano, the center of which was a vast stretch of ocean dotted with other islands. Our villa was amazing, with doors that opened out onto the views and a quiet that's unlike anything I'd ever heard before. The food was incredible (I have to find a recipe for grilled feta now), the weather was amazing, but the views! Good Lord in heaven, the views! The views, the views! It wasn't just the sunsets and ocean vistas, either – even the little things were absolutely exquisite – and we even found one of my new favorite bookstores on the planet.

Go, check out the pictures on Flickr. Leave your questions and comments there, and I'll respond as quickly as I can. I know I'm meant to be a writer, but sometimes pictures really are worth a thousand words. In Part II I'll fill you all in on the ITRA conference in Nafplio, and in Part III I'll tell you about our adventures in Athens on the way home. And yes, pictures of the Acropolis will be included. Stay tuned!


On The Dark Knight.

I'll come back to this subject in a week or so, because all the things I really want to talk about in Nolan's The Dark Knight are going to require a decent number of spoilers, and trust me – this is not a movie you want spoiled. It has nothing (well, almost nothing) to do with the ending, but all the little things Heath Ledger's Joker does throughout the course of the film.

That said, I can sum up the basics of my thoughts like so: Batman Begins was an amazing film because it showed how a superhero might plausibly be created in real life. The Dark Knight, however, shows us what a real-life supervillain might be like. We hold up Seven and Silence of the Lambs as deeply disturbing, but they have nothing on this. I'm honestly having a difficult time thinking about the Joker's character in comics or cartoons now, because Ledger's Joker is that damned unsettling.

Go. Hie thee to a theater. Now. Hie, dammit, hie. We'll come back and talk this over later.


A beautiful pain: Criterion Collection sale.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out to all my media-loving friends out there the buy one get one free sale currently going on over at My picks:

Box Sets
Monsters and Madmen (4 films)
Olivier's Shakespeare (3 films)

Akira Kurosawa
Seven Samurai

Frederico Fellini
La Strada
8 1/2

Ingmar Bergman
The Magic Flute
Fanny and Alexander
Sawdust and Tinsel

Mr. Arkadin
Carnival of Souls
Thief of Bagdad

These aren't on the AFI list I've been plowing through in my sort of Film Studies 101 "independent study" but many are classics nonetheless – and I'm also always interested in the artful depiction of magic and wonder, and a number of these are known for doing that really, really well. There are all kinds of other finds on the list – such as The Threepenny Opera, The Third Man, Sullivan's Travels, The 39 Steps, Beauty and the Beast, Brazil, M, Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal, all of which I own; Charade, Withnail and I and Yojimbo, which I don't own but have seen recently enough to postpone their purchase, and Bowie's The Man Who Fell to Earth, which Criterion is putting out on Blu-Ray this fall.

More blog posts are pending – I have all kinds of things I want to write about, including the ITRA Conference and our trip to Greece, as well as my thoughts on a number of recent events in the media universe. Right now, though, I must run off to the lab for a meeting.

One last parting thought: likeminded souls in the Boston area should check out Readercon this weekend, where I'm hoping to meet up with some old acquaintances (like Ellen Kushner and Nick Mamatas) and meet a few of my favorite authors (like John Clute, Kelly Link, and James Morrow). It'll be the first time in the three years I've been here when Readercon falls on a weekend where I'm actually in town, so I'm thoroughly excited to go.

Oh, and one last thing: other likeminded souls in the Boston area should check out the midnight showing tonight of The Dark Knight at The Somerville Theater in Davis Square. That's where all the cool kids will be (namely myself, Laura, Matt and Clara).

Stay tuned!


Interviewed by the State Department.

The interview I did for the State Department's has just gone up with the somewhat dubious title Beachgoers' Portable Movies May Distract Them from the Waves, which I find highly amusing and somehow fitting given that I'm leaving for vacation tomorrow evening. I myself plan to be distracted from the waves by Conrad, Pynchon and maybe a little Butcher rather than by my iPhone, but hey, I'm old-school. :)