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End of the Season

The NFL wrapped up its regular season over the weekend, with victories for both of my teams.

The Jets defeated the Buffalo Bills 30-10. Last year, when facing the Bills on the final weekend, Gang Green could have clinched a playoff spot with a win... so, of course, they choked and played the worst game of the reason. This year, when the game meant absolutely nothing, they romped. The Bills fired Rex Ryan after last week's loss, so you couldn't even pitch the contest as "Hot Seat Bowl," with Buffalo playing under an interim coach.

The highlight of the game came after the Jets kicked a field goal and kicked off to Buffalo. The ball bounced into the endzone, while a Bills player stood over it looking at it curiously, as if to say, "What is that? Is that the ball? Was I supposed to catch it? I forget. Maybe I should pick it up?" While he was pondering, one of the Jets rushed past him and fell on the ball for a touchdown. Maybe it was good Rex was not on the sideline, his head might have exploded.

FWIW, I think Buffalo made a mistake in letting go of Rex. They did not even give him two years, and they are not likely to find anyone better. The Bills are a deeply dysfunctional franchise; they keep hiring new coaches, but never give them time to build a winner. No wonder they have been out of the playoffs longer than any other team in the NFL.

The Jets are not much better, however. The win left them with a record of 5-11 on the season, and the sixth overall draft slot. But they still have no quarterback. Christian Hackenberg, their second round draft pick last year, finally dressed for a game, but still did not play. Ryan Fitzpatrick started and finished and played... well, okay, but everyone seems certain that he will not be back next year. Neither will Geno. Which leaves Gang Green with the broken Bryce Petty and the totally untested Hackenberg and that draft pick. Do they use that on yet another young qb? So they try to address one of their many other needs? Do they pick up a quarterback in free agency or trade for one? If so, who? I hear talk of Romo, Cutler, and Kaepernick, which seems to me just a choice of poison. Arsenic, cyanide, or strychnine, what would you like?

Meanwhile, the Jets did keep their head coach... but fired a whole bunch of assistant coaches. So I don't know if they really have much more continuity than the Bills, when you get down to it. Sigh. Sometimes it's hard to be green...

So let's go blue, and talk about the Giants. They won too, and much more impressively, defeating the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous People 19-10. (Would have been 13-10, except for a freak defensive touchdown on Washington's last desperation play). The game was not really as close as the score, since Big Blue's defense dominated throughout, pretty well shutting down one of the league's highest scoring offenses. What made the win even more impressive was that the Giants were already locked into the #5 seed in the playoffs, win or lose, and had nothing to play for, while the Redskins had everything to play for. I was glad to see that Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning played to win regardless; I hate it when teams lie down on the last day of the season. (I am looking at you, Cowboys).

The Giants ended up with an 11-5 record on the season, and their first playoff appearance since they won the SuperBowl in 2011. Can they do it again? Odds are against them, but you never know. The G-Men do have a great defense, and it is often said that defense wins championships. We'll see. The road starts at Green Bay. That should be a great game. In Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have the best QB in the game, but their potent offense will be facing the Giants' tough defense. On the other side of the ball, however, a weak Green Bay defense with a porous secondary and no pass rush will be matched against a New York offense that has no running game, an offensive line that gives Eli no protection, and only one downfield threat in Odell Beckham. So it will be strength against strength, and weakness against weakness.

The Packers are favored, and rightly so. Mr. Discount Doublecheck is red hot. On the other hand, in the past Eli Manning has played his best ball in the playoffs, the O-line has gotten a little better since Justin Pugh returned, and even the running game showed some signs of life, at least when Perkins has the ball in place of Jennings. We shall see.

Go G-MEN!

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A Bad Year Gets Worse

Death, death, and more death... this year just keeps getting worse and worse.

There is not much I can say about the death of Carrie Fisher that a thousand other people have not said already. She was way too young. A bright, beautiful, talented actress, and a strong, witty, outspoken woman. Princess Leia will live as long as STAR WARS does... probably forever...

And the world lost one of its great fantasists today as well: Richard Adams, the author of WATERSHIP DOWN. Gardner Dozois ranks WATERSHIP DOWN as one of the three great fantasy novels of the twentienth century, right up there with LORD OF THE RINGS and THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, and I agree. A truly amazing book... and one that somehow always seems to get forgotten when fans discuss the great fantasies. Maybe because of the talking rabbits? No idea...

Adams was a wonderful writer. Yes, WATERSHIP DOWN was his masterpiece, but it was by no means his only great book. He wrote two terrific epic fantasies with human characters, SHARDIK and MAIA, both of which are criminally underrated, as well as an erotic ghost story, THE GIRL ON A SWING. His other "animal book," THE PLAGUE DOGS, also has some wonderful sections... though it is such a dark, depressing, angry, gut-punch of a novel that I can't say I 'enjoyed' it.

Adams was not 'one of us,' in the sense that he was never a convention-goer or part of our genre fantasy community, which may be why he was never honored with a life achievement award by the World Fantasy Convention. Nonetheless, he deserved one. I've been suggesting him for that honor for at least twenty years... in part because I wanted to meet him. Now I never will. That's sad (though not as sad as PLAGUE DOGS).

A wonderful actress, a great writer. The world is poorer tonight.

Please, let this wretched year come to an end.

Survived Another Xmas

Another Christmas has come and gone.

I have to admit, Halloween and Thanksgiving are my favorite holidays. Christmas has always been too stressful, at least since I became an adult (a long long time ago). But this year's was relatively mellow. I spent it at home with Parris, friends, and cats, and a good time was had by all.

There are things I like about Christmas, though. Watching Christmas movies, especially. A CHRISTMAS STORY is a favorite, and I also like to binge watch all the various versions of the Dickens classic CHRISTMAS CAROL. Alastair Sim, George C. Scott, Reginald Owen, Mickey Mouse, Albert Finney, Bill Murray... they all have their points, and it's fun to compare and contrast. On balance, I still think the Sim is the best of the adaptations. And when you cross over to the parody side of the ledger, there's nothing but nothing comes close to the Blackadder version.

This year we also watched FOOTLIGHT PARADE, which has nothing to do with Christmas but is a fun film. One of the last of the great pre-Code films, it's amazing to see how risque it is compared to what Hollywood would be making a year later and for decades to follow. And the musical numbers are unforgettable, especially Cagney in "Looking for My Shanghai Lil."

Anyway... merry merry to all my friends, fans, and readers out there. I hope Santa was good to you. At least those of you who were nice. As for those of you who were naughty.. come sit here next to me.

A Damned Good Read

Let me get the taste of this week's football out of my mouth and turn to a more pleasant subject -- the latest volume in the Expanse series, BABYLON'S ASHES, which I just finished reading a few days ago.

You know, for a voracious reader like myself, life has few pleasures that compare to finding a really good book, the sort that grabs you from page one and won't let go, so you find yourself late at night, wanting to sleep but thinking, "Just one more chapter, just one more chapter," until dawn breaks and you've read the whole damned thing.

That's BABYLON'S ASHES. The Expanse series has been terrific from the beginning, but it went to a new level with the last volume, NEMESIS GAMES, which should have been a Hugo finalist last year. This new one is just as good. It will definitely be one of the books on my own nominating ballot. Jimmy Corey (who is really Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham in a two-man pantomime horse costume) just keeps getting better.

It also occurs to me that BABYLON'S ASHES would make a very worthy nominee for the new awards that Atlanta's Dragoncon has started, the Dragon Awards. The Dragons, given for the first time last year, aspire to be the People's Choice Awards of SF and fantasy... and could well achieve that if they can get sufficient participation from all sectors of fandom. Unlike the Hugo Awards, the Dragons have no short fiction categories, but they do give a number of awards for novel: best sf, best fantasy, best horror, best military SF, etc. "Military SF" has become popular enough to be regarded as its own category these days, it would seem. (Which was not formerly the case. Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS and Haldeman's FOREVER WAR both won Hugo Awards simply as Best Novel back in the day, and -- together perhaps with Gordy Dickson's Dorsai series -- pretty much defined what is known as 'Milsf' today).

One of the joys of the Expanse series is the way Jimmy Corey dances between subgenres. The series is certainly science fiction, no doubt of that, but assigning it to any particular sub-genre is more more difficult. Some parts read like space opera, some parts strike me as hard SF. The first book, LEVIATHAN WAKES, had some pretty strong horror elements with its vomit zombies, and also a real noir-ish mystery feel in the Miller chapters. With BABYLON'S ASHES, however, the war comes center stage, and we are definitely in the realm of Military SF. Lots of action, lots of tension, lots of battle... with some great world-building and characters you really care about. So I'm thinking, if we are going to have special awards for Mil-SF, I cannot think of a more worthy contender than the new Corey. So... Hugo, Dragon, or whatever, I commend BABYLON'S ASHES to your consideration. I think you'll like it. I sure did.



Oh, and speaking of THE EXPANSE... there's a second season of the TV show coming at us as well. Here's a trailer for it.

I Hate Football

The Giants lost a heartbreaker of a game to the Iggles down Philly way. With the playoffs in sight, suddenly Eli starts throwing INTs right and left and the wideouts start dropping every other pass.

And then today the Jets got totally crushed, eviscerated, and humiliated by Evil Little Bill, Tom the Deflator, and the Patriots (and their newest wideout, straight from an Arizona jail). It was not just a loss, it was an embarassment. The coach made the game, after being hospitalized yesterday, but the team did not show up.

I hates me some football.

Life is meaningless and full of pain.

Christmas, you say? Santa, you say? No, no, that's Nackles you hear.

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Rikki, Beastie, and Carrie

We've got a cool Christmas treat today for Wild Cards fans.

There's a brand new Wild Cards story up today on Tor.com. The title is "The Thing About Growing Up in Jokertown." It's from Carrie Vaughn, and it features two of your favorite Fort Freak beat cops, Rikki Michaelson and Beastie Bester, back when they were teenagers, long before they joined the force.

The cover is another cool one from John Picacio.



You can find it here:

http://www.tor.com/2016/12/21/the-thing-about-growing-up-in-jokertown/

Like all the fiction on Tor.com, you can read it for FREE. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

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Giants Win Again

Hot damn, the Giants won again... and over a good team, the Detroit Lions, who are presently leading their division, and had a hot streak going, pulling out eight games this season in the fourth quarter.

But not today.

Eli Manning had a solid game, but the heroes of the day were once again Odell Beckham Junior and the defense. Odell's catch on the winning touchdown was a thing of beauty, another one-handed grab that no other wideout could possibly have snared. The pass was seriously off target. Victor Cruz had a nice catch as well, and the running game showed signs of life, at least when Perkins was in (having Pugh back on the O line made a huge difference).

The day really belonged to the D, though. Game by game, quarter by quarter, they have been getting better and better, and now, I think, have to rank as one of the NFL's best. Which delights me no end. I love good defense, and the New York Giants as a franchise have always prided themselves on tough D. It's part of Big Blue's heritage. Having the worse D in the league last year was a disgrace. So all hail to Spags, and Snacks, and T'Other Eli, and DRC, and Olivier Vernon. Oh, and our punter, who kept pinning the Lions back inside their ten.

Worrisome, however, was Jackrabbit Jenkins going out with a back injury in the first half. He's been playing great, so I hope he comes back soon.

As for the Jets, they played last night, and improved their position in next year's draft. Nuff said.

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Here Comes The Mystery Knight

The long-awaited... and much requested... graphic novel of THE MYSTERY KNIGHT, the third of my Dunk & Egg novellas, is on its way at last.

The good folks at Random House have assembled the same great creative team who gave us the comic book adaptations of THE HEDGE KNIGHT and THE SWORN SWORD -- Ben Avery on script, and Mike S. Miller for the artwork.

Here's the cover:


THE MYSTERY KNIGHT will be released in hardcover on July 4. (No, sorry, no individual issues this time around). It's 148 graphic pages, and from what I've seen so far, it's gorgeous!

Adopt a Wolf for Xmas

Down in Candy Kitchen, New Mexico is the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, a refuge for wolves and wolf-dogs and other canids (dingos, New Guinea singing dogs, coyotes, even a fox called Romeo) that Parris and I have been helping out for years.

We've just helped them put together a new fund-raising film, and I thought that some of you might like a look. The film is by Elias Gallegos and Andy Atkins.



If you're still looking for the perfect gift for the guy on your list who has everything, why not make a donation to Wild Spirit in his name? Or better yet, adopt a wolf for him... or her. Our own association with Wild SPirit began many years ago when our friends in the Brotherhood Without Banners made Parris a wolf mother.

You can learn more at their website: https://www.wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org/
*This post has been brought to you by the Minions of Fevre River #GRRMinion*

A newly enhanced edition of "A Storm of Swords" is available on iBooks
today December 15th!



The new, unique features available in all the enhanced editions from Apple are:
• Gorgeous new covers
• Interactive character maps
• Author annotations
• Character journeys and timelines
• Family trees/House histories
• House/sigil summaries
• Stunning illustrations
• Audio clips

Click link and watch George’s interview for A Storm of Swords – Enhanced Edition:

https://youtu.be/q0V_4KGnHIQ

Click link to purchase the edition:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-storm-of-swords/id1155737622?mt=11

Click link to browse all iBook editions:

apple.co/gameofthrones

*This post has been brought to you by the Minions of Fevre River #GRRMinion*

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