New Music: "Fight’em ‘Til You Can’t" by Anthrax

ANTHRAX – Fight’em ’til You Can’t by NuclearBlastRecords

From their forthcoming 10th studio album Worship Music, street date September 13, 2011.

Bang that head that doesn’t bang.

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Book: Galilee – by Clive Barker

GalileeGalilee by Clive Barker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Galilee, for me, is Clive Barker at his storytelling best. It may not be as inventive as Cabal (Nightbreed), Imajica & Everville, or as mind-bending as The Hellbound Heart (Hellraiser), nor as imaginative as Weaveworld, but it’s the best written, the best ‘told’ story of all of his with elegant, seductive, magnetic prose that’s as smooth as butter. His prose in this book can make even the most boring, mundane things seem worthy of your attention.

It should be stated right up front Galilee is not a horror novel, at least nowhere in the singular sense (though it has parts that may certainly exist on the periphery of that description). It’s a bit of a wonderful, odd beast. It’s my favorite kind of tome, running the gamut of several flavors from epic saga, historical suspense, myth-making, inter-familial drama, forbidden romance, light metaphysics, a teasing amount of the supernatural (almost maddeningly understated) and, being a Barker story, a touch of the dark fantastic, naturally.

It’s truly the hardest novel to nail down with a description that I’ve ever encountered, and I am honestly and thoroughly bummed that I have yet to encounter something of its ilk since. That’s over a decade of let down. Thankfully it’s so invitingly re-readable and continuously rewarding when you do so.

I love all the extraordinary elements . . . everything about the Barbarossa family, whom I did not ever think of as fantastical creations, but more supernatural. However, Barker wrote that Cesaria, the matriarch, was essentially a goddess-like being, more or less a demigoddess (in other words, she’s a direct descendant of, well, God) than a typical fantastical invention Barker is typically known for creating. Certainly a more metaphysical approach than his norm at the time. Like urban fantasy it’s a great merging of the mundane with the extraordinary.

As a writer, this book was such a defining, eye opening read for me. It was an “Ah, so THAT’S how you do it!” revelation. Part of that is due to the character-driven literary device he uses (kind of as a cheat) that allows him to tell a birds-eye view kind of sprawling epic story without sacrificing an ounce of the first-person intimacy since it comes from the MC’s near-omniscient point of view. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cheat, but damned effective. But I won’t get more into that because it’s a real treat of reading the novel and I’ve probably teased enough details.

After the book came out Barker mentioned a sequel one day that would essentially focus more on the Barbarossas instead of the Gearys, who get the bulk of the focus in this book. I so hope he gets around to it before he retires.

Note: I’m giving this book 5 stars because there is no option for 4 & 1/2 stars.

View all my reviews

Book: Thirst No. 1 – by Christopher Pike

Thirst No. 1: The Last Vampire, Black Blood, Red Dice (Thirst, #1)Thirst No. 1: The Last Vampire, Black Blood, Red Dice by Christopher Pike

Even though I have my own YA novel in development, I’m not much for reading what the market has to offer in that category (98% aimed at teenaged girls). However, I found this repackaging of 3 Christopher Pike novels from 1994/95 for $3.99 on clearance at Borders and I must say the opening chapter was one of the best I’ve read in a while. Sets up character, mystery, intrigue, suspense and plot beautifully in about a dozen pages. It’s a very well-rounded opening chapter with a great balance of backstory setup, character development and plot setup. I was hooked immediately. I told my wife who reads YA novels almost exclusively that “THIS is how you start off a novel!” I exclaimed. THIS is how you write in first-person! Put down the book you’re reading now and give this first chapter a shot.” She did and agreed.

The lead character, though female (a 5000 yr old vampire masquerading dangerously as a teen girl) has a voice that is immediately magnetic and captivating. She’s devious, yes, and certainly a badass to be reckoned with if what she narrates and does in the opening chapter is any indication. If more of the YA speculative fiction novels were less blatantly screaming “written exclusively for a (very big) niche and gender-specific audience”, and more about just telling a good story with a general appeal, I would be reading a lot more of them.

I’ll expand this initial review after I’ve read more.

View all my reviews

Interview: Chris Claremont, the Legendary – Part 2 (of 2)

Part two of that great interview with legendary scribe of Marvel Comics’ The Uncanny X-Men fame, Chris Claremont is up over at NYC Graphic.

Posted last week, Part One covered from his first job as an intern at Marvel on down to his early days a the revolutionary chronicler of the adventures of the X-Men. The second part picks up in 1982 when he and (also legendary) cartoonist Frank Miller (also a screenwriter and director now) teamed up on the first ever Wolverine mini-series. The great thing about interviews with Claremont is they’re always frank, honest and revelatory.

Excerpt: My approach to the X-Men had always been that you could start the book with issue #100, and if you then later picked it up with #200, you’d see some changes. If you come back with #300, you’ll see a lot of changes from #100. Cyclops will be married, and he and his wife will have a kid; as a function of that, he’s going to go back to Alaska with his parents and start a life. He’s going to grow up. They are all going to grow up. New Mutants would evolve to a point where one or two of them might become X-Men, or not. It’s the same way with Kitty: it would be a slow evolution of age, but it would happen.”

Claremont’s direction as writer was more akin to the Gasoline Alley template, where characters aged and moved on through the evolution of the strip.
 
Check it out.

New Music: "Staircase" by Radiohead

From an upcoming episode of the concert series “From the Basement” (Radiohead‘s second appearance, actually). Per Pitchfork, the show will be broadcast in its entirety on July 1st when they will play their entire new album The King of Limbs live.

I think I like this song better than most of the tracks that are actually on their new album (this one is not). But once again it looks like Ed O’Brien has absolutely nothing to do in yet another song. As a fellow guitarist I feel awful for the guy. It’s been like this for eleven years now, since Kid A.

The King of Limbs



Update: A Change o’ Plans; A Regrouping of Sorts

In my last update a couple of weeks back, I revealed that I was working on a short story collection for a fall release…18 or so stories that fit a common thread or an overall thematic mood. It was more or less to put my writing past behind me as pretty much all those stories were written as far back as the late 90s which was my golden age period. I wrote fiction for years before really attempting to share it with an audience outside of writer workshops. So I have quite the vault of stories in varying lengths, genres, styles and all that.

Well, inxay the collection, at least how I originally envisioned it, and perhaps not as soon as this fall or the foreseeable future. Because of that aforementioned versatility, I’ve come to the decision to launch a handful of pen names and assign appropriate stories and future projects under them. It just makes sense, really, and it’s so liberating, say, for instance, writing and presenting a very female-centric story under a blatantly female pen name.

It’s a long road getting back to this position (a 360 really). When I first started writing prose in 1993, I had studied the career of one Dean Koontz who had used a dozen pen names because, like me right out of the gate, he also wrote in multiple different genres (often cross-genre) using multiple different styles and whatnot. Long story short, though reluctant, it was necessary for him in those times of the 1970s and 80s because publishers (and readers) not keen to pigeonhole a prolific writer, especially one who changed up styles and genres often. It was simply too hard for a prolific, versatile writer to get any traction under one name (especially when a struggling author was putting out five novels a year to put food on the table).

Well, even today, when you’re not yet a brand name, it’s hard to establish a brand with such diversity. The last several years I had been of the mind that it was “to hell with it all, accept me and my diversity as we are”, but that ego-centric approach puts the name/ the persona first instead of allowing the stories to get the fair shake they deserve. Flash-forward to today, in studying certain markets I’ve come to understand that I would face certain gender bias in certain cases. It’s a silly game to be played, but with today’s publishing options (and in some cases lack thereof), it makes more sense to approach it this way, cover all bases and attack from various angles.

Also in my research I was reminded that back in the day (18th & 19th centuries) many women writers had to adopt male pen names because of publisher and reader bias. Everyone knows that women really used to have it bad all over, and I’ve always been real sensitive to their plight in society to a balanced extent. And so the ugly truth of the business of publishing is that readers are discriminate when it comes to associating certain works with a particular genre. No sense in fighting against that with my ego saying “Well, they’re going to accept me as the writer I am regardless.” Yeah, I’m proud of my versatility and my wide-ranging interests in fiction and stoytelling. But if I want the work to get the due attention it deserves without arbitrary interference, then the pen name option will help achieve that.

So the pen names will be launched next month across the web and digitally (though perhaps not in print for a while). I will not be exposing them here or abroad; only editors and publishers will know when I sign their contracts. So there will not be any cross-association of the four (or so) pen names with my true name in any public sense. Of course, there will still be plenty under the usual Brandon L. Rucker byline. I associate with and cross-promote so many other writers across the web that it will be a seamless process to include my ‘secret aliases’ (muhahahahah!) in my promotional efforts.

I have more news, but I gotta scoot to the day job. So, until later…