Wednesday, April 30, 2008

O Hugo Voters

Daniel Abraham's story, "The Cambist and Lord Iron," is up for a Hugo award.

It's a really good story. Y'all should read it. And right now y'all can read it online for free.

Here's the link.

And if you are so moved, you can vote for it. I won't stop you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wonder's Child

It's Jack Williamson's 100th birthday today.

I quote his niece Betty: "In his honor, I suggest we all pause sometime today with a glass filled with the liquid of our choice (Jack would probably either have a gin and tonic or a tall buttermilk...) and drink a toast to Wonder's Child. What an amazing century . . . "

For a literary appreciation of Jack's journey, take a look at this article by John Clute.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I'm off to the Nebula Awards in Austin.

(And no, I'm not nominated for anything. Thank you for asking.)

Check you when I get back.

Reviews Too Late: Kamikaze Girls

So having finished This is Not a Game, and having finished--- I think--- the Big Mystery Project I Still Can't Talk About, I sat down with relief and pleasure to view Kamikaze Girls (2004), which on one hand is a coming-of-age story set in Japan and on the other hand is about aliens, or at any rate alien cultures not suitable for export.

The movie is based on a novel by Novala Takemoto ("Wild Rose"), who is pretty eccentric himself, being a pot-smoking, heterosexual designer of lolita fashion described as having "a young lady's charisma." (Needless to say, he's also a science fiction fan.)

The Japanese title of the film and novel is Shimotsuma Monogatari, "Shimotsuma Story," and has nothing to do with kamikazes one way or another.

The film opens with Momoko, the heroine, zooming across the rural Japanese countryside on her motor scooter. She's hit by a truck carrying a load of cabbages and flies through the air, mentally saying goodbye to her grandmother and useless father. At which point she remarks, "This is a pretty short movie. Maybe I'd better start earlier," and she does.

Momoko (Kyoko Fukada) is the product of a broken home who opts to live with her father, because he's less conventional and more entertaining. He's also a failed yakuza and a forger of Versace and Universal Studio products. When the legitimate owners of these copyrights come looking, he has to relocate to rural Shimotsuma.

This is a problem for Momoko, because she's a "sweet lolita." Japanese lolitas have nothing to do with the novel, or with leering Humberts, but are a subculture who dress up in elaborate lacy costumes inspired by Victorian baby dolls. Momoko eats mainly sweets, or at any rate pink things, while dreaming of living at the rococo court of Louix XV.

At any rate Momoko, prancing with her parasol down rural roads while avoiding the buffalo flop, does not find a lot of support for her lifestyle in Shimotsuma, where everyone gets their clothing from the Japanese equivalent of Wal-Mart. She doesn't seem to mind this. Despite the frills, she's a surprisingly strong character, with a rather depressed but realistic view of humanity. She doesn't expect much from people: she prefers a world of fantasy.

Enter Ichiko, played by bad-girl rocker Anna Tsuchiya. Ichiko wants to buy up all Momoko's stash of fake Versace. Ichiko is a "yanki," which seems to have little to do with actual Yankees, but appears to refer to people devoted to extremely individualistic behavior. Ichiko is also a member of an all-girl biker gang, "bikes" in this cases being scooters, because this is still rural Japan after all.

What being an individualistic yanki has to do with bikers who all act and dress alike is one of those contradictions that the movie is destined to explore.

In any case Tsuchiya's performance as Ichiko is remarkable. Swearing, swaggering, spitting, and talking Japanese like a guy while dressing like a schoolgirl from Hell, Ichiko is about as genuine a biker as Momoko is a genuine Versailles courtier. The artificiality of their behavior is highlighted by the scenes of Shimotsuma, with its rice paddies and water buffalo, against which their stances are played out.

As the movie progresses, we find out who these kids really are. And it's Ichiko's machismo that proves fragile, while Momoko's individuality is shown to be based on true inner strength. It's Momoko, in the end, who ends up taking on a girl gang with a baseball bat. (Which I mention just to show you that the film isn't entirely about dressing up.)

Despite a complete lack of interest in either frilly fashion or biker gangs, I found myself liking this film a lot. Part of this is the extremely witty way in which the movie is assembled: lots of cross-cutting, ironic visual commentary on the action, satire on consumerism, burlesque, parody, and clever use of music. The plotting is quite keen. The teen angst is real but we're not forced to take it any more seriously than it deserves, and the two principals are attractive.
I'm sure the jokes didn't all translate, but there were plenty left over.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reviews Too Late

My life of late has sort of sucked. I got really sick. I spent vast amount of time trying to get my taxes done on time. I went to the Jack Williamson lecture in Portales and hung out with Patrice Caldwell and Connie Willis and Steve Gould. (That was the part that didn't suck.) Then I came home and got sick again, this time with a totally different virus.

Still, I seem able to put words together in a semi-coherent fashion, so I thought I'd inaugurate a new feature, Reviews Too Late.

Since I live in the country, it's a 75-mile round trip to see a movie. Which means that I usually don't see them till they come out on DVD, six months or so after they've hit the theaters.

Still, I watched a bunch of movies while I was doing my taxes, mostly action films where I only had to look up when explosions were going on. And I have opinions. So why not share them, now that it's too late to make any difference in your life?

So call me quixotic.

Shoot 'Em Up

Okay, so the title pretty much tell you all you need to know.

This movie opens with the seedy Mr. Smith, played by Clive Owen, eating a carrot at a bus stop. A hugely pregnant woman staggers by in a state of terror. She is followed by a nasty man uttering threats against her life. Mr. Smith intervenes, kills the nasty man, and saves the woman. Good on him.

But then it turns out the nasty man has about fifty friends, all in black leather trench coats, all heavily armed.

Mr. Smith, by contrast, has a pregnant woman and a carrot. He soon finds himself delivering a baby in the middle of a firefight in which he kills all fifty assailants. (I don't think I'm giving away much here, since this all happens in the first ten minutes.)

The fifty assailants each turn out to have fifty friends. The mother is killed. Mr. Smith is left with a baby and a lot of lead flying his way. So he finds a lactating hooker and . . .

Well, stuff ensues. Chase scenes alternate with firefights, unless of course the firefights and chase scenes happen at the same time. Points for Paul Giamatti as the unconventional bad guy ("Do we really suck or is this guy really that good?"). Points for imaginative use of a carrot. ("Eat your vegetables!") Points for the cinema's only chase scene featuring skydivers, guys zooming around the sky shooting automatic weapons at each other. Mr. Smith kills people while sliding on grease, while watching TV, while operating shotguns by remote control, and while having sex ("Talk about shooting your wad.").

If you don't mind movies in which the entire sountrack is gunfire and heavy metal music--- and apparently I don't--- then this is a lot of fun. The movie isn't meant at all to be taken seriously (Steven Seagal, take note), and that's all to the good.

And check out the bonus features on the DVD. which shows how writer/director Michael Davis animated the entire film, shot for shot, on his Apple before he so much as shot a single live-action frame. He got the studios to finance the movie by showing them the movie on his computer!
This, my friends, is a major paradigm shift.


Wow. Gay fascist porn.

And it's bad gay fascist porn. Watch humorless Aryan bodybuilders chop their way through swarms of mixed-race and Negroid subhumans in an orgy of computer-generated blood spatter! And even with all the CGI available, and the three hundred promised by the title, there never seem to be more than a couple dozen of our heroes.

There are only two women in the movie, and both get raped. (Thank you, Frank Miller.)

I'd make relentless savage fun of this movie, but Robot Chicken already made the perfect parody.
The thing that really offends me about this film, however, is that the success of this movie means it will be at least a generation until Steven Pressfield's superb Gates of Fire is made into a movie.

Kiss Me, Deadly

I have related elsewhere my singular history with Mickey Spillane. Now I've seen what is doubtless the best movie made from his work.

This film is so crazed, so demented, so weirdly psychotically paranoid, so totally far out there, that it took unanimous raves from French film directors to save it from obscurity.

We have Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer--- not as Spillane portrayed him, a brutal New York psycho obsessed with justice--- but a seedy, brutal L.A. gumshoe who makes his living by getting his secretary, Velda, to sleep with rich husbands, then blackmailing them. The Hammer-of-the-film truly enjoys violence, enjoys inflicting pain, and enjoys his hideous, creepy misogyny.

Meeker's not terribly sympathetic in the role, but the rest of the cast is pretty good. We've got the young Cloris Leachman in her first role, the excellent Maxine Cooper as Velda, and the young Jack Elam as a thug. (There is something very desperately wrong about the very idea of a young Jack Elam, isn't there?) We've also got Hollywood stalwarts like Juano Hernandez, Paul Stewart, and Jack Lambert.

Directing is Robert Aldrich, later responsible for such macho fare as The Flight of the Phoenix, Ten Seconds to Hell, The Choirboys, and Ulzana's Raid, plus the Gothic kink of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Killing of Sister George. This movie shows that he's learned all the lessons that German Expressionism had to offer--- we've got all the weird camera angles, the shadows, the looming doom. (All ways to make a low-budget film seem interesting.)

We start with a naked woman running down the road in a trenchcoat, and end with nuclear annihilation by way of treachery, torture, bombings, and beatings. Even today, the utter nihilism of it all is breathtaking. I can't but wonder how a Fifties audience would have reacted.

Kiss Me, Deadly is the film that created the trope of the Glowing Thing in the Box that was later used to such effect in Repo Man and Pulp Fiction. This is, I have to say, its best use.
Spillane supposedly hated the movie. He was wrong.

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The Starry Rift

After a rather long time in production--- something like four years--- The Starry Rift is finally available in this country!
This is an anthology to which I'd contributed ages ago. Now you can finally read my story "Pinocchio."
If chasing down a story by me doesn't appeal to you, consider that you're also chasing stories by Kelly Link, Cory Doctorow, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Ken McLeod, Neil Gaiman, Ann Halan (Gwyneth Jones) and other fine writers.
The Starry Rift is intended as a YA anthology, but there aren't any stories that grownups won't enjoy. I don' t think any of us are writing down to our audience.
Editor Jonathan Strahan has set up a web site full of interviews, promotions and other items of interest.
I'll leave the last word to Booklist:
"Booklist, May 15
*The Starry Rift: Tales of New Tomorrows. Ed. by Jonathan Strahan. (Viking

"Veteran science fiction editor Strahan brings together an exemplary
collection of sixteen science fiction stories from a group of well-known and
undeniably talented writers. The first story, Scott Westerfeld's "Ass-Hat
Magic Spider," is accompanied by one original and engrossing story after
another, written by authors from both the teen and adult markets, including
Ann Halam, Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Iain McDonald,
Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, and Walter Jon Williams. Each story is followed by
a brief biographical sketch and an author's note that shares something about
the story, such as its inspiration. The diverse collection's subjects range
from full-immersion gaming to the quantum physics expression of time; from
clan wars in a high-tech India to cyborg space pirates and lobotomized
slaves. Some stories address real-world matters such as love, loss, and
abuse. Westerfeld's asks the question: "What possession would it be worth
diminishing your own body to keep?" Gaiman's story is told exclusively in
answers. A real winner with no weak links, this will delightfully engage the
minds of older teen readers, and not just those who already read the genre."

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Flu, Taxes, Reviews

Pardon my intermittent appearances here: I've been attempting to fight off a virus (and losing), while trying to get my taxes in sufficient order that my accountant can make sense of them. Both tasks being pretty dreary, as I'm sure you know.

Another lovely review from has crossed my path.

And I've just now heard from Night Shade that the book has not actually shipped yet, which explains why no one's seen it. "Shortly," I am told.

Have patience, everyone. You should have a lovely reading experience coming soon, and in the meantime you can buckle down and fill out those tax returns.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Raves Keep on Coming

Here I am, blowing the trumpets for Implied Spaces yet again.

Though that isn't quite the right metaphor. I'm just guiding you to places where other people are blowing the trumpets.

Here's a lovely starred review from Kirkus.

"From Williams (Conventions of War, 2005, etc.), a far-future science-fiction yarn that employs sword-and-sorcery trappings to investigate philosophical questions. Thanks to native ingenuity and the computing power of an array of several planet-sized artificial intelligences orbiting Earth, humanity has consciously avoided a technological singularity; instead, wormhole engineering offers access to limitless artificial worlds, and nobody dies permanently-you simply resurrect your last memory back-up in a cloned body. Aristide, a computer scientist turned swordsman, perpetually amused both at himself and the universe's ability to astonish, studies implied spaces, disregarded regions not specified but suggested by the subtleties of architecture and geometry. While exploring the artificial world Midgarth, carrying his wormhole-tipped sword and accompanied by the talking cat Bitsy-she's actually an avatar of the AI, Endora-Aristide stumbles across a warrior-cult led by needle-toothed alien priests armed with tiny wormhole weapons. Recognizing the signs of a vast and deadly plot, Aristide returns to his home in the orbiting habitat Topaz to discuss the matter with persons he can trust. The allies must act before a bad situation deteriorates into another Seraphim Plague or a full-blown Existential Crisis . . . and that isn't even the half of it. An intelligent, delicate and precise novel of real depth: a pleasure to read, an undertaking to savor."

A somewhat lengthier review by Andrew Wheeler may be found at Hornswoggler. I'll just quote the last bit:

"From an opening that reads like epic fantasy through a threat to the human race reminiscent of mid-90s John Barnes, Walter Jon Williams is back with a SF novel as full of adventure and ideas as his Aristoi or Metropolitan. Implied Spaces is a great new novel from one of the best SF writers out there today -- go and read it already!"

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Implied Spaces Reviews

If I can't brag about my reviews here, where can I?
From GreenManReview: "Implied Spaces is an action-packed story written in an elegant and wryly-humorous prose style. If Dumas was alive and writing science fiction, he might well have produced a novel like Implied Spaces."
Can I just say, Like, Wow? And there's more!
" . . . If you're looking for a story that takes some of the best ideas in cutting edge science fiction and then weaves those ideas together into a fast-paced story with stylish prose and witty dialogue along with some introspection concerning what we as humans want from our technologies, Implied Spaces should suit to a T."
From Fantasy Book: "From Walter Jon Williams—the celebrated & influential author of “Hardwired”, “Voice of the Whirlwind” and “Angel Station”—comes “Implied Spaces”, a new novel of post-singularity action, pyrotechnics, and intrigue. Williams, whose name has long been synonymous with state-of-the-art SF, builds on the prophetic futurism of Vernor Vinge and Charles Stross, while adding his own brand of poetic prose, masterful plotting and engaging storytelling… "
If I weren't up to my neck in receipts and tax forms, I'd open another bottle of champagne!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Implied Spaces Watch

Today is the official release date for Implied Spaces.
I haven't actually seen a copy, and Amazon seems not yet to have it, though of course that could change at any second.
So let's have a contest!
Post your Implied Spaces sightings here! Winners will receive a personalized autograph at any time I and your book have a spacetime coincidence, plus a slug of Cliquot if I happen to have a bottle open.
Let the contest begin!