R.I.P, Michael Jackson…

 

You know what the sad thing is? Daniel will never know him.

I’m sure he’ll hear a song on the radio. He may even surprise me by getting "Thriller" or "Off the Wall" for his own collection. But chances are, Daniel will know Michael Jackson as a past figure, a supposed superstar who got really, really weird as he grew older.

I grew up knowing Michael Jackson. His songs played on the radio. We used to watch the Jackson 5 cartoon show (remember that?) on channel 50, before it became UPN. My cousin and I sneaked  In seventh grade, our school had a "Michael Jackson" day. We all dressed up in leather and wore sequined gloves on our right hands. Well, I didn’t, but I remember getting out all the Michael Jackson buttons I owed (I think there were six) and wearing them proudly.

I was twelve years old when I watched Michael do the moonwalk live on Motown’s 25 anniversary. My cousin and I watched Thriller and got scared by it. But my absolute favorite at the time was "Can You Feel It" with his brothers. The video was psychedelic enough in the early 80s to be surreal. I’ll always associate "Let Me Show You" with driving to downtown Chicago, because it always seemed to be playing whenever my dad went to pick up my mother.

It’s always a little weird when a celebrity dies, but this is the first time where someone from my generation dies. I don’t mean Michael Jackson was part of our generation. He was 50, after all. But it was us, the MTV generation, whose lives he impacted the most. And I think that’s the Michael we’re kind of mourning the most. Not the Michael of the past Jackson 5, or the Michael of the last few years who appeared more like a living doll. But the Michael that got a grammar school to dedicate a day to him, that appeared to be made of liquid lightening when he danced.

In a sad way, all the tributes being done now seem to be a better fit than if Michael had been alive. The Michael Jackson of my youth and late teens had disappeared a long time ago. MTV don’t play videos anymore, and I don’t follow mainstream music like I used to.

Here’s to hoping he got that peace he was looking for.

LINKS…OF…INTEREST! (Interest…Interest…interest…)

This post is dedicated to Futurama, which just got a deal for 26 new episodes on Comedy Central. Sweet!

As you noticed, this blog’s got a spiffy new look, and I’ve been making small improvements (like the new Twitter feed). What spurred on these changes? I’m subscribed to the website "31 Days to Build a Better Blog." If you sign up on the email list, you get an email once a day that gives you great tips on how to improve your blog. Some of the tips deal with cosmetic issues and housekeeping, making sure your links are up to donate. But it also gives tips on making your presence known on other blogs and forums to bring more readers to your site. And best of all, if the emails get to be too much, you can always save the emails to do the tips at your own pace. There are also great tips shared in the comments section and in the forums. For those of you who want to become bloggers, or if you’ve hit a plateau and don’t know how to bring new readers to your site, this is a great email list to be on.

Having just attended Oddcon and Wiscon, I found this article in Strange Horizons called "Let’s Stop Conning Ourselves" by Patience Wieland which talk about cons that aren’t as successful, and what the con world in general can learn from these failures. I liked it because near the end it lists some good advice getting the most out of attending a con, and how to avoid being scammed.

If you’re a writer wondering how to boost your creativity, Writing World has an article called "Lateral Thinking for Writers" by Ahmed A. Khan. It lists three thinking techniques one can use to create a story. I’m sure there are other techniques out there, but for basics, it’s a good article.

Moving from writing to writers: K. Tempest Bradford is doing a Clarion West Write-a-thon to raise funds for both the Clarion West scholarship and the Octavia E. Butler scholarship. This is a great opportunity to support the fantasy/science fiction writing community in general. If you haven’t read any of Bradford’s work, Podcastle recently ran a short story of hers called "Change of Life". Hop on over and have a listen, then head to her website and donate!

Finally, if you want to read a good online comic that mixes African-American folk history with the stylings of, say, The MaXX, check out Bayou at Zudacomics. This is a wonderfully drawn tale of a little girl named Lee who travels to an alternate, creepy Jim Crow South to prove her father’s innocence. Her protector is a hulking green man named Bayou who appears meek and simple, but when pushed can fight like the devil. It’s a scary wonderful read that’s still in the works, so come back over and over for updates.

You read it. You can’t unread it. Tune in at a future date for…

TALES…

OF…

INTEREST! (interest! interest! interest!)

Book Review: "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini

Sighhhhh….

Not an encouraging way to start off a review, is it?

I fought real hard not to read this book. In fact, when I borrowed a copy of it, it sat on my bookshelf for months, then materialized to my nightstand, then migrated back to my bookshelf. I read the first two pages. Put it down. Weeks went by. Picked it up. Thought, Ugh!, and put it down.

Finally, I hauled it with me when we went to Cedar Campus last week. There, I knew I wouldn’t be able to escape reading it.

Well, actually, I did have two other books with me, so I could very easily escape reading the book. But I was determined to finish it, do or die, because there are other books that are clamoring for my time and doggoneit, the movie’s been covered at the Agony Booth. How can I enjoy its mocking sufficiently if I haven’t even read the book?

So.

Eragon.

Yeahhhhh.

You know what’s good this time of year? Morels. I just recently learned that the best way to find morels in the wild is to look under dead elm trees. Something about the dirt as they decompose somehow appeals to morel spores…I understand fresh morels are so much better than dried…

Look, what do you want me to say? I didn’t like the book. I didn’t unlike the book. It was just…there. Like coffee stains. Or long toenails. Sure, they’re a pain to cut, but once you do, they look so good. That reminds me, I should really get around to painting my toenails. All last summer, I didn’t do my toenails, even though I’ve had some rockin’ sandals. And it’s already June, though you really can’t tell it outside. Man, what’s the deal with this 60-degree weather? The only consolation is that Chicago’s going through the same–

No. Focus. Eragon. ERAGON, dammit!!!!

You know, maybe I’m just not the right person to review this. I’m not a teenage white boy who is just now getting into fantasy. I’ve read so much fantasy over the past thirty years of my life. Wait…when did I start reading fantasy? Maybe 7 or 8, perhaps? Yeah, that sounds about right. And I read sooooo many stories about soooo many ‘young men’ who sooooo became the "chosen one" that it all blurs in my mind sometimes, except for the ones who really stood out, because they did something different to challenge the general, blahblahblah stories.

You know what I also miss? Fanfics. Really good fanfics.

Because really, that’s what Eragon really is. Fanfic, and frankly, it’s the lamest fanfic done, with the author substituting himself (unconsciously) and…

Sigh. I don’t know what to say that hasn’t been said before.

I mean, come on. It’s right there on page 137. In italics. The entire epitome of the book. Quoth Eragon: "Somehow, I’ve become a sorcerer or wizard!"

It’s that key word, you see. Somehow. That’s the point that I realized, he’s going to lose his mentor, get into trouble, somehow save the day, and become handsome and stronger while doing it. And oh, the dragon’s not going to breath fire until the very end.

And that was the point I thought, screw it, and just started flipping pages to see if I was right. Flip, flip, flip. Flip, flip. Prophecy. Flip, gorgeous beautiful elf who of course Eragon has to save, flip, flip, flip, tanned muscles, flip, flip, orc-urakhai–urgals. urgals. Flip, flip. Oh look, Brom’s dead. Flip, flip. Damn, how long does it take for them to walk all the way to Gondo–Tronjheim. Flip, flip, hey look, black person! Flip, hey look, another black person, and it’s a girl–oh wait, they don’t appear again. Well, that was lame. Flip, flip. Major battle. Flip, dead guy gets killed by Eragon. And oh, look, Saphira’s coming to save him and she’s breathing fire for the first time…

Yeah.

You know? I’m not going to rate the book. Nope. Not gonna do it. This book was neither fire hot nor was it chilly cold, but lukewarm at best. Nothing stood out. Nothing really struck me as good. It was boring as all heck,  so I’m just going to toss it. And then, most likely, I’ll forget about it.

But I will go read the Eragon recap up at the Agony Booth. Because I’m pretty sure that if the book was bad, the movie would have somehow made it all the worst.

Thoughts on Wiscon 33

It’s been a pretty eventful couple of weeks for me. Last week, we took a vacation to Cedar Campus and it was the first time that I actually had fun with Daniel there.  I mean, I’ve enjoyed my time up there before, but for the most part, Daniel didn’t seem to care too much about it until this year. Perhaps there is something about when a child turns five years old that suddenly, they become more interested in the world around them, instead of it always being me, Me, ME! So we had a nice vacation.

But before that, I got a chance to spend a single day at Wiscon. Well, technically, I started the night before, when I went to a reading by Ellen Klages and Geoff Ryman. But from that one single day, I could tell something right away:

This is a con I need to go to. Permanently.

I got to sit in the same room with several other black female authors who all write speculative fiction. And they run the gamut too…from vampire stories to epic fantasy. Epic Fantasy!!! It was so nice to find peers who are like me.

I got to participate in a writer’s workshop moderated by Alaya Dawn Johnson, who gave me some great advice regarding Willow (and finally convinced me to ditch the prologue. Sigh…but it will be worth it). Plus, I got to hear her read the best kick-ass zombie story ever that will never make me look at macaroni and cheese the same way again.

I got to chat a bit with K. Tempest Bradford while she was at a dealer’s table, and I got her to sign her short story she did in Sybil’s Garage #8, "√Član Vital".

I got to have dinner with Tiptree Award winner Nisi Shawl and N.K. Jemisin. The former I had nearly embarrassed myself over by having a fangirlish conniption fit when I first met her Friday night.  The latter has a book, "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" coming out next year (yayyyy!!! black female epic fantasy writer!!!). She also wrote a wonderful essay on RaceFail I raved about on a post a few weeks ago…

I got to hang out with my book club, Beer and Marmalade, which was cool because I don’t get a chance to do that often outside our meetings. I was bummed, though, that I wasn’t able to go to their party on Sunday to see Geoff Ryman <>.

And finally, SHAPENOTE SINGING!!!

There was a distinct different feel to Wiscon than the Oddcon I attended last month. Oddcon was more laid back, more casual, more geared to science fiction and fantasy in general. With Wiscon, there were numerous deep topics being discussed that I would have loved to participate in. Not just feminist in nature, but some hard topics like discussing the whole RaceFail issue and religion in fiction. It was very cool to not be the only black person there–in fact, there were several black folk who seemed to show up just for the fun of it, rather than being on a panel or a writer or anything. I wished I had time to get to know them. But the same type of community that was present at Oddcon was also present at Wiscon. It was pretty easy to walk up and talk to anyone, and the authors I saw were very approachable and easy to talk to. I wish I had a chance to take Ellen Klages up on her offer to go out for a beer and talk about writing, but I just ran out of time. It will have to happen next year.

So sorry for the truncated report. I’ve only been able to scratch the surface of the deeply rooted tree that is Wiscon. But one thing is definite–I do plan to go next year. I may even find a way to finagle myself on a couple of panels.

Wiscon 34…ho!