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Three Thoughts

Just a grab bag of thoughts and opinions I've been meaning to share...

I never had the honor of meeting John Glenn, but his death saddened me. The last of the Mercury Seven. I am old enough to remember when NASA first introduced them to the world... and incidentally coined the term "astronaut" (before that, we called them "spacemen"). The dawn of the space age! An age, sadly, that now seems to be passing, at least insofar as manned exploration is concerned. If you had asked me in 1961, I would have said by 2017 we would certainly have a base on the moon, and maybe one on Mars. Hard to believe all seven are gone. They were all heroes to me.

Now that WESTWORLD has finished its first season, I see that HBO is going to be rerunning its crime and courtroom drama, THE NIGHT OF. If you missed it last time, don't make that mistake again. Yes, it's very dark, but damn, this is brilliant television, with a bravura performance by John Turturro at its heart that ought to win him a whole shelf full of awards, if there is any justice.

Emily St. John Mandel appeared at the Jean Cocteau Cinema last month (you can find my post about her downstream), and I had the honor of interviewing her. I had long been an admirer of her SF novel, STATION ELEVEN, which I thought deserving of a Hugo nod... but at the time of her appearance, I had not read any of her three earlier novels. She was such a charming and fascinating guest, however, that I made up for that lack afterward, and now I am even more impressed with her talent than I was before. LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL, THE SINGER'S GUN, and THE LOLA QUARTET are not science fiction or fantasy -- don't know how to characterize them, "literary noir" is about the best I can do -- but damned, they are good. Fascinating characters, original stories, and such gorgeous prose. Rich, evocative, beautiful writing, but never intrusive. She makes her people and her places come alive in a way that draws you in and will not let you go. I can't wait to read what she does next.

Sunday, Sunday


Life is magical and full of joy!

(At least where NFL football is concerned. Admittedly, as this crappy year comes to an end, life in general continues to have its warts, carbuncles, and weeping sores).

Never mind about that, however... the Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys last night on Sunday Night Football, breaking their eleven-game winning streak. And for the first time since 2011, the G-Men have swept the season series from Jerry's Boys.

It was, in truth, a helluva game if you like defense, which as it happens I do. Big Blue's D was flying all around the field, smacking the hell out of the Dallas runners and wideouts and turning the heralded Cowboy MVP duo of Zeke and Zak back into rookies. The Giants defense has been getting better every game, but last night they played their best sixty minutes of the season... quite something when you remember that last season New York had the worst defense in the entire NFL. The free agent signings that Jerry Reese made in the off-season are looking like real genius right now; both Janoris Jenkins and Olivier Vernon came up aces last night. And so did the kid that stepped in to take the place of the injured Jason Pierre-Paul. I've already forgotten his name, I blush to confess, but if he continues to play at the same level, the whole NFL will know it soon enough.

Dallas converted only one third down the entire game, I believe... which you'd think would mean the game was a rout, but, alas, the Giants were not much better. The final score was only 10-7, and the game was in doubt until the final seconds. As good as Big Blue's defense was, the offense was almost equally bad. Eli fumbled twice and threw a terrible interception, the offensive line never gave him any time to throw, the running game was still missing in action, there were costly penalties at the worst times. The defense actually had to win the game like three times in the final quarter, since the offense was unable to get even one first down to put the win on ice and run out of the clock. As it was, the difference in the final score was a single electrifying catch-and-run from Odell Beckham, and a field goal made by the Giant kicker... whereas his Dallas counterpart doinked one off the crossbar.

So... THAT close, yes it was. But beating the Cowboys is always sweet, no matter the score. Mind you, Dallas still has a two-game lead and will probably win the NFC East, and unless the Giants offense gets a lot better in the weeks to come, it's hard to see them going far in the playoffs. But I was sure proud of them last night. They played their hearts out.

Oh, and the Jets won too. Coming back from a 14-0 deficit to beat a truly woeful 49ers team in overtime. Just like I predicted last week, now that the season is effectively over, the Jets will win a few meaningless games and thereby weaken their draft position. I expect they will win one, and maybe two, of their remaining contests.

Bryce Petty threw an INT on his first pass, but after that played pretty well, leading Gang Green's comeback when the team could easily have packed it in. That's sonmething, anyway. One has to root for Petty. Elsewise I have no idea what the Jets will do for a quarterback next season. Fitz and Geno will both be gone; their contracts are up, and unlikely to be renewed. The draft class looks especially weak at the QB position, and veterans likely to be available as free agents -- Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick -- are all poison of one sort of another. Maybe the Jets can talk Brett Favre into another comeback. Failing that, Bryce Petty is what we've got.


Wild Cards Take Chicago

New York City has been the center of the Wild Cards universe since 1946, when Dr. Tod met Jetboy in the skies over Broadway, and the Takisian xerovirus was unleashed upon the world. It's past time the Second City got its due. So I am thrilled to report that I've just turned in the latest Wild Cards mosaic novel: LOW CHICAGO, set entirely in the city on the lake.

This is the second book in what we're calling our 'American Triad' (MISSISSIPPI ROLL was delivered in October, and we're still hard at work on TEXAS HOLD'EM), and the twenty-fifth volume of the overall series... but no, it's not necessary to have read the first twenty-four to enjoy this one.

And it's a helluva ride, I think. The cast includes old fan favorites like Mr. Nobody, Double Helix, Abigail the Understudy, Golden Boy, Natya, John Fortune, John Nighthawk, Hardhat, and the Sleeper, but some exciting new characters will be on hand as well. Wait till you meet Meathooks, Birdbrain, and Khan.

The table of contents:
John Jos. Miller "A Long Night at the Palmer House"
Kevin Andrew Murphy "Down the Rabbit Hole"
Christopher Rowe "The Motherfucking Apotheosis of Todd Motherfucking Taszycki"
Paul Cornell "A Bit of a Dinosaur"
Marko Kloos "Stripes"
Melinda M. Snodgrass "The Sister in the Streets"
Mary Anne Mohanraj "A Beautiful Facade"
Saladin Ahmed "Meathooks on Ice"

I had a great time editing this one. Hope you'll all like it as much as I do.

And if you've yet to try Wild Cards, the world's longest-running shared world anthology series (thirty years and counting!)... hey, what are you waiting for!

No publication date for LOW CHICAGO yet, but you'll know as soon as Tor tells me.

Two Weeks Till Xmas

Only two weeks left till Christmas.

Plenty of shopping days left... unless you were planning to snag some autographed books from the Jean Cocteau Cinema bookshop. To get the books there in time for the holiday, you'll either need to order soon, or else (less desirable) pay extra for overnight shipping.

We still have plenty of great signed books available as gifts. My own books, and those by many of the other writers who have appeared at the JCC. The WILD CARDS books and many of the other anthologies have multiple signatures.

Lots more titles to be found at http://www.jeancocteaubooks.com/

Happy reading. Happy giving.

Rock On

So we were watching Dennis Leary's rock comedy SEX&DRUGS&ROCK&ROLL t'other night. The plot of this episode involved Gigi firing her band, the Assassins, and bringing on a new band of younger musicians to take their place.

The name of new young (fictional) band was... wait for it... Red Wedding.

Sooner or later, everything comes around in a big circle, doesn't it?

In 1983, when I wrote my rock novel THE ARMAGEDDON RAG, the name of my own (fictional) band was... wait for it... the Nazgul.

Rock on, friends.

More Wild Cards Coming Your Way!

John Picacio never disappoints, and neither does Tor.com and their amazing art director, Irene Gallo. We have a couple of brand new original Wild Cards story coming up on Tor.com, with John providing the illustrations, and Irene has just shared his cover for the latest, a Drummer Boy novelette from Stephen Leigh.

Here 'tis. Enjoy.

"The Atonement Tango" will be available -- for free -- on Tor.com on January 18 of the new year.

You don't need to wait quite that long for your Wild Cards fix, however. On December 21, Tor.com will upload another WC story, Carrie Vaughn's "The Thing About Growing Up in Jokertown."

And don't forget to check out the older WC offerings on Tor.com, some amazing original fiction by David D. Levine, Daniel Abraham, Cherie Priest, Carrie Vaughn, Paul Cornell, and Walter Jon Williams. You can find them all with a simple search, and read them all for free. The Recycler, Jonathan Hive, the Button Man, Earth Witch, the Understudy and Elephant Girl and the Sleeper, Pop Tart and Golden Boy... they are all waiting for you on Tor.com.


Jets Game?

Jets Game? What Jets game?

Did the Jets play a game? On Monday Night Football, you say?

Surely not.

Those were not the Jets. That was the Weehawken High School Junior Varsity dressed up in Jets uniforms, surely.

The hardest hit of the night was the one the security guys put on the streaker.

Oh, well. Bryce Petty came in and showed flashes. That was something. One nice long TD pass... and a lot of misses. We'll see him the rest of the way, I am told. Good. Maybe with some reps in practice, he can improve.

An APB has been put out for Gang Green's once heralded D.

(The Jets being the Jets, now that they have been officially eliminated from the playoffs, they will probably win a few meaningless end-of-season games, just to mess up their draft position).

Life is meaningless and full of pain.


Speaking of Awards...

As I was saying, 2016 was not a great year. It was not even a good year.

But that is not to say that some good things did not happen.

Worldcon is always one of the highlights of the year for me, and has been since I attended my very first in 1971. One of my favorite worldcons of all time was MidAmericon, the Kansas City worldcon in 1976 (you know how up to date they are in Kansas City, they've gone about as far as they can go). This year's worldcon, MidAmericon II, was alas, not even close to that legendary innovative gathering in '76... but we saw friends, ate barbeque, signed books, enjoyed panels and readings, and had fun in all the ways fans always do when they gather.

In 1976, I lost two Hugo Awards, and held the first Hugo Losers Party in my room (with the help of Gardner Dozois, my fellow loser). That was one of the highlights of the con, beyond a doubt.

As it happens, I reclaimed the Hugo Losers Party last year in Spokane, so I held one once again at Big Mac II. Since my old room in the Muehlebach was no longer available (that whole wing having been demolished in the interim), I rented the Midland Theatre instead and had the bash there. And once again, it was one of my favorite parts of the con.

In 1976, Hugo losers got nothing at the party but a lusty cheer, some cheap booze, and maybe a few cheez puffs. In 2016, however, at least a few of the lucky losers got Alfie Awards. (Which of course did not exist in 1976, since I just made them up last year). They're made of old hood ornaments (as some early Hugos were), polished and replated by Tyler Eugene Smith.

Turns out most of the 2016 Alfie presentation was recorded, and has now been uploaded to YouTube. So for all of you who were not able to attend the Hugo Losers Party, here 'tis.

(Do note that the early part of my talk, where I explain the awards and talk about Alfie Bester and the first Hugo, is missing).

Congrats once more to all the Alfie winners... and to losers everywhere.

Some Hugo Picks

December has come, and the end of 2016 (thank god, what a bloody awful year) will be upon us in a few more weeks. Which means, inevitably, that people will soon be drawing up lists of the year's best books, stories, television shows, and movies... for the Hugo Awards, the Emmys, the Oscars, the Dragons, the Tiptrees, the Nebulas, the World Fantasy Awards... or just for the fun of it.

For my part, I already know what two of my Hugo nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form will be.

ARRIVAL, to start with. Terrific adaptation of a classic story by Ted Chiang. Brilliant performance from Amy Adams. (She is always great, I think, but this was her best role to date). A real science fiction story, not a western in space. Intelligent, thought-provoking, with some wonderfully alien aliens.

And WESTWORLD, season one, from HBO. Of course, as with GAME OF THRONES, one can nominate individual episodes of this one in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form... but for me it makes more sense to nominate the entire season in Long Form. (GAME OF THRONES season one was nominated in this fashion at Chicago, and won). It really is one very long, complex, wonderfully rich story, with great acting, writing, and directing, and the usual spectacular HBO production values. Like ARRIVAL, this is one that bears repeated re-viewing, and requires some thought. The Academy will likely nominate WESTWORLD for a shelf full of Emmys. I hope fandom recognizes its brilliance as well. This is a story about the nature of sentience and the cost of being human, a commentary on our society and (especially) on the ways we choose to entertain ourselves, full of twists and turns and gut punches and reveals and surprises, all masterfully delivered by Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy.

(GAME OF THRONES is also eligible for Hugo nomination this year, of course. The entire sixth season in Long Form, or individual episodes of same in Short Form. However, because of the air dates and eligibility periods, GOT will not be in the running for the Emmy Awards this year, so WESTWORLD will have a clear run at those... contending, of course, with BETTER CALL SAUL, OUTLANDER, and all of the other terrific dramas out there).

There were other good movies and television shows released in 2016, and I have no doubt that some of them will find places on my own personal Hugo ballot as well... but honestly, I cannot imagine that I will like any of them as well as I liked ARRIVAL and WESTWORLD.

Giants Lose

I returned from Mexico last night just in time to watch the amazing WESTWORLD finale, and the Giants - Steelers game, which Parris had TIVO'd for me.

WESTWORLD won, but the G-Men lost. Can't say I was surprised, but I was disappointed. My fears were confirmed: the six game Giants win streak was more an artifact of weak opposition than it was an indication of the strength of Big Blue.

Against a strong team like Pittsburgh, New York's weaknesses were exposed. There's still no run game -- second worst in the league, at present -- and the offensive line is a turnstile. Eli gets no time to throw, they can't open holes for the RBs, and Flowers is still holding on every other play and getting beat on the others. Injuries have not helped. Justin Pugh was a huge loss. That being said, it would help if Eli threw the ball to someone besides Odell from time to time. Victor Cruz was not targeted once.

The defense still looks stout, but injuries there hurt as well. JPP going out was very worrisome. He's desperately needed.

It should also be said that Odell was not wrong in his postgame comments: the officiating was terrible, and very one-sided. The Steeler DBs got away with mugging ODB repeatedly, but that was far from all. The Pittsburgh O-line was holding flagrantly on several big plays from Big Ben, but was never called on it.

Honest officiating would not have made a difference, however. The Steelers would have won anyway. They were the better team yesterday.

These next four games are all tough ones. The Giants need to step it up, or they could very well lose all four.



George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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