Monday, May 31, 2010

Book Review - Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

When it comes to trying out new comic books, I'm always a little nervous. In a perfect world I'll get a copy from a friend or the library before I make a purchase, but every once in a while you see a title that demands immediate purchase. Last month this happened to me with the book Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.

For starters the artwork is simply beautiful. I don't think I can remember being this affected by comic artwork since the first time I saw Mike Mignola's Hellboy. Like Hellboy, Mouse Guard has a visual style all of its own and is also written and drawn by the same person, David Petersen.

A lot like the fantasy series Redwall, Mouse Guard follows little medieval mice as they try to survive and protect their own lands. We follow a small group of mice, members of the Mouse Guard whose job it is to protect their lands and cities. The first volume follows the actions of three specific mice Saxon, Kenzie and Lieam who discover a possible treasonous plot that may lead to war.

I've got to say that some of the most amazing things about this series for me are the action sequences. In perhaps the most striking one in the first volume two mice battle giant (to the mice anyway) crabs (pictured right).

If you like medieval fantasy, or simply amazing artwork and story, I would definitely try out Mouse Guard, it is simply amazing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Getting Out in the Genre Community

Last night Mike and I went to a book reading put on by my cities speculative fiction magazine, On Spec. This was the first book reading I had gone to that didn't feature the works of my BFF Mike, and although we could only stay for a while I had a pretty good time.

All the folks from On Spec magazine were quite friendly, and the audience was talkative in a good way. We watched Managing Editor Diane Walton give a reading of one the stories from the magazines latest issue - To Sleep in Peace, by Kate Riedel, a creepy story that mixed Greek vampirism with the theatre.

The entire event was very relaxed and comfortable, and I've got to say, meeting a number of writers and people interested in being writers who live in your city is a pretty fun way to spend the night. Also we got some cool notepads.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Genre Character of the Week: Thraxas

Although not actually a part of my standared Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction genres, I’ve always been a pretty big fan of the Detective novel. From the Encyclopedia Brown books I read as a kid to Sherlock Holmes and the Spenser novels of Robert B. Parker in the last couple of years I’ve always had a special place for a good detective story.

In 2009 I discovered two Detectives that crossed genres in clever and interesting ways – this week we’ll look at the first - Thraxas (pictured left), created by Martin Scott.

He’s a down on his luck, has-been wizard-in-traing/mercenary who lives above a local bar in a Middle-Earth style fantasy world, and best of all, he’s a Raymond Chandler-style detective. He tells his stories in first person, they involve all of my favourite elements of fantasy (Elves, Dragons, Magic, etc.), and all of my favourite elements of the hard-boiled detective story (dangerous thugs, beautiful dames, daring escapes, etc.) Thraxas is a private detective in the city of Turai, populated with Humans, Elves and the occasional Orc. He’s a gambler, and not a particularly good one. When he can drag his hungover butt out of bed he does his job very well.

In a way he’s not unlike some of the best TV detectives like Columbo or Jim Rockford. If you’re a Fantasy fan who has never tried detective stories, the Thraxas series is a great place to start.

Monday, May 24, 2010

TV Series Review: Lost

As a genre blogger I'm pretty sure there is a by-law somewhere that states I'm supposed to do a post giving my take on the Lost series finale. Personally I like to take a look at a whole series rather than simply one episode, so I figure I'll give you my overall impressions of the series.

Short Answer - I liked it.

Long answer - without going into too much detail or giving away spoilers I can basically say this. If you are a fan of a story with well developed characters and really good character arcs, this is a show you will enjoy. It's kind of funny, the original concept of the show is about a bunch of people trapped on a mysterious island, but eventually the mystery began to take a back seat to character development.

Structure-wise I was a huge fan of the flash backs, the playing around with timelines and the mysterious happenings throughout the show.

In the end i found that it kept my atttention, involved me with its characters and left me satisfied. Did it answer every question it asked? No, but it did enough for me. Is it a show for everyone - no, I honestly believe that if you watch the first season (heck, the first half of the first season) and are not enjoying yourself, you should go find another show - there are tonnes of good ones out there and maybe this show just isn't for you.

I'll definitely by buying the final season on DVD, and will be happy to have it displayed on my selves at home (that's about the best compliment I can give a TV show).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tomorrow I will live in a house of teenagers

On Friday May 21 my youngest daughter Kaia will be 13-years-old and both of my kids will officially be teenagers.

I've got her a bunch of presents, but it took a little bit of searching for me to find one that would work both as a present for her and a good post for my genre-based blog.

In the past she has complained that I don't have enough pictures of hunky guys on my blog.

So to start, here's a photo of her current genre crush, Zachary Qunto (pictured right). Happy Birthday Kaia

Next, I figured I should find her a new genre based show for us to check out this fall.

You see, Like her mother, my daughter Kaia has the bizarre ability to kill TV shows she likes. Two episodes after she started watching My Name is Earl, it died. Three episodes after she started watching the 2006 BBC series Robin Hood it was cancelled, and earlier this week she found out that her current favourite show on NBC, Heroes, will not be coming back.

Like her mother, Kaia has learned to be guarded in her praises of new shows, as she is pretty sure someone can hear her and cancels them immediately.

But I've always been a hopeful person and I think I may have found an upcomming show that might ease the parting blow from the loss of Heroes.

On Tuesday nights this Fall ABC will start airing the series No Ordinary Family - think of it kind of like a mix between Heroes and The Incredibles. A family survives a plane crash and then each gets super powers. You can check out the trailer here.

I know that a super powered Dad might not be as cool as Sylar, but what the heck, it looks like it has some pretty great potential.

Happy Birthday Kaia,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Woo Hoo - I am a paid author - Sort of.

Hi everyone,

A couple months ago I wrote an article about a software program I had recently received in my library and submitted it to my library technician association's newsletter. Today I was informed that the article made it into the quarterly newsletter and that everyone who submits an article is entered into a draw for a $25 gift card at our local book chain.

I won!

So, if you ignore the facts that:

1) I want to write genre fiction and this is a review of library software

2) only members of the association can read it for the next couple months

3) I wasn't paid so much as the winner of a draw

4) I wasn't paid so much as given a gift card

and if you squint your brain a little...

I just got something I wrote published, and I was paid for it!

(sound of Bookmonkey dancing the I just got published dance! - (pictured right)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Playing Genre Catch-up this summer

In just a few weeks most of my television viewing will be done for the 2009-10 season. I'll still have Breaking Bad for most of June and Mad Men will be back in July, but other than a few shows I watch with my kids, my night's are going to open pretty wide for the next few months.

Over the last few years I've spent the summer between seasons catching up on older shows I always meant to watch but never seem to get around to, and this summer will be no exception. At my public library I'll be checking out a number of BBC shows, both comedies and dramas, but for today's post I figured I would talk about the five top shows I'm hoping to catch up on in the next 12 weeks.

This HBO series pairs up two of the strangest story elements I could ever imagine - Magic and and the American Dustbowl during the Great Depression. I watched the first series of this show with a bunch of friends as a weekly event back when it was first released on DVD, but haven't got around to the second season yet. I know it ends on a frustrating cliff-hanger (no spoilers please), but I really enjoyed the first season and am looking forward to the second as a fun treat.

I was really into this show when it first came out, a little darker than it's parent show; The X-Files, and with a lot more horror elements. Due to unfortunate timing however, my youngest became a toddler when the shows third season originally aired and we just never seemed to have time for it. I'm looking forward to seeing how everything ended up for Frank Black in the third season.

This show was a huge favourite of my wife Kayla when she was growing up and as it came out on DVD we've bought every season. All we have left now is the final season, where a new doctor arrives in the small town of Cicely, Alaska. I've heard this is one of the weaker seasons, but what the heck, I'm a completist.

During a promo of Movie Central (Canada's answer to Showtime), my wife and I saw the first three episodes of this cool little series earlier this year. Basically it's a regular family drama, except the mom has multiple personality disorder, and she's trying to balance her life while attempting to wean herself off of her meds throughout the first season. I'm a big fan of Diablo Cody (if you haven't read her book Candy Girl - it is totally worth the effort!), so I'm really looking forward to this one.

Finally, this summer we'll be checking out the HBO series The Wire - a cop drama set in Baltimore. This is some of the densest written drama I have ever seen and I just loved the first two seasons, This summer I'm really hoping we'll be able to see how it all ends.

So there you go, a look at some of what I'll be checking out this summer, not counting movies or other shows that we get handed to us by friends (like House, which my BFF Mike just lent us and swears is really, really good - even if it breaks his own rule that any show without flying cars must be crap).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Darn it ABC!?! Why are you going all FOX on me?

I'm used to disappointment with FOX and genre shows... Firefly was one of my favourite shows and it seemed the network couldn't wait to get it off the air. Wonderfalls was one of most incredible fantasy shows I have ever seen, and my wife and I spent a season chasing the show from new night to new night, from 9:00pm showings to 2:15am showings. Even the grand-daddy of modern SF, The X-Files had to fight FOX season by season to stay on the air.

At first it hurt, then it started feeling like the network was singling my favourite shows out, but eventually I realized that if I wanted quality TV which would stick around, FOX was not going to be my best friend. So I moved to specialty networks like HBO, Showtime and the BBC (which is considered special here in Canada), and trusted that if I wanted to watch a new genre show, I should pay more attention to the big three ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Today I read that ABC has cancelled two of my favourite shows of the last couple of years, Better off Ted (pictured right), one of the funniest mad-scientist-meets-1984 shows ever made and Flashforward, a Science Fiction show that focused on personal drama rather than flash and special effects. They sure renewed V, though.

This is why I shouldn't watch new shows until they are established. I'm always following the shows that go away. Pushing Daisies - amazing premise, wonderful writing, amazing... wait, never mind that critical praise, you've been cancelled. Jericho, following a small town in a post-apocalytic nightmare, we loved you (Although Skeet Ulrich should have ended up with the school teacher rather than his ex - what were they thinking!), we even sent nuts to the CBS to get you renewed, but sorry, that wasn't good enough.

It's all right, I'll start following the new genre shows next year like normal. I just wish that every once in a while the good ones would get to keep going.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

RIP Frank Frazetta

On Monday Frank Frazetta died. For those of you unfamiliar with the guy, he was a massively influential fantasy artist, who for me played no small part in my childhood interest in Sword and Sorcery books. I can still remember being a little kid (grade four or five) and digging through boxes of books at a garage sale, hoping for something that might catch my attention – I was into Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books a lot back then, when I came across my first true Sword & Sorcery book – Conan the Usurper (pictured left). I didn’t know who Conan was at the time, but I sure knew that based on the cover art alone, I was going to spend the 50 cents I had for this book.

Over the years I came across his artwork on everything from Puzzles to Album covers, and I’ve got to say, I can’t think of a piece of his that I didn’t like. Back when I was a little kid and still (mostly) judged my genre books by the cover, he never steered me wrong.

Thanks Frank, we’ll miss you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

It's kind of funny, but when I think back to my earliest roots in Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction, I realize that a lot of my memories of shows that effected me involve my Mom. First movie she ever took me to: Star Wars, first SF show I can remember watching - Doctor Who (first Tom Baker and later Peter Davison), on Saturday nights on PBS. When I think back to the horror movies I watched as a kid - I can't believe she let me get away with watching them, but if she hadn't this blog might be focused on textbooks or documentaries, or parliamentary procedure*.

So for starting me on my journey as a lover of genre fiction - Thanks Mom!

*For the one reader out there who loves Documentaries about parliamentary procedure and works on textbooks for a living - I'm sorry I used your interests and career as an example of how bad my blog could be in some alternate world. Feel free to make fun of my blog at your next Textbook conference.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Things I've Noticed: My Canadian Content is way up!

For those of you who are not from Canada, we actually have laws here which state that any TV or radio station should play a certain amount of Canadian Content each day. Growing up in Canada this mostly meant that my radio played a lot of Corey Heart and Brian Adams, and virtually every kid I ever met could sing along with this animated short which played every Saturday morning before the real (American) cartoons came on the air.

It’s kind of funny, but as I was making up my yearly list of TV show finales, I realized that I currently watch a lot of Canadian content. Each week I’m enjoying Hiccups, Dan for Mayor, and especially The Bridge (a cop drama featuring Aaron Douglas from Battlestar Galactica - pictured right). In addition to that I’m a pretty big fan of Being Erica, 18 to Life, and Little Mosque on the Prairie too.

Just like I’ve seen every Oscar winner for Best Picture, I’ve worked my way through a majority of the Genie Awards (the Canadian Oscars), and have made a point of seeing Canadian films whenever they play in my local theatre. As I was writing this I wonder – how many of your own local productions do you go out and see (even if you are American, how many productions from your own State do you see) as opposed to more mainstream fair?

I definitely think that you shouldn’t limit yourself to only your local stuff, but at the same time, if you are from the place where something is made – shouldn’t you check it out? Just some food for thought – Bookmonkey.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Genre Character of the Week: Max Rockatansky

Realizing I hadn't talked about my personal favourite sub-genre (post-apocalyptic) in a little while, I figured that this weeks character should be a classic of that sub-genre for me - so I picked the character who first got me excited about the genre - Max Rockatansky (aka, Mad Max, aka The Road Warrior).

As a kid, I first watched Max in the film The Road Warrior on a cable network called Superchannel (a movie network in Canada). I had no idea that the film was a sequel and was simply in awe of this strange world filled with marauders and villains who terrorized anyone they came across. Max shows up as an emotionally shut down loner, completely unwilling to help the only group of decent people the film introduces us to, until he looses pretty much everything he owns and effectively has no choice.

What I loved about this film (not counting the costumes or that amazing boomerang!), was how in-depth it got into the character of Max without saying anything directly. It didn't tell me about Max, it simply showed me who he was. Max was someone who had lost everything and was merely surviving, not living. By the end of the film he begins to connect a little with the people around him, but for me this larger-than-life character started my interest in post-apocalyptic stories.

As an older teen I found Max Max and then re-watched the Road warrior just before Thunderdome came out. As a series, Max goes through a lot more emotionally than you would expect from your average run-of-the-mill action flicks. Although the last two films as they are among my personal favourites, check out all three if you want to see Max's entire journey - they are definitely worth the viewing.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review: The Unwritten

Back in March I asked a couple friends about which current comics they were reading, as one of the titles I'm currently collecting just finished, I thought it would be fun to try something new. One of the first comics brought up was a series by Mike Carey and Peter Gross called The Unwritten. Last week I got the first volume of this series in from my public library and I've got to say - this is a pretty amazing series and I can't believe I hadn't heard of it before.

The premise of the series is pretty interesting; the main character, Tom Taylor, is the son of a famous author named Wilson Taylor, who wrote a massively popular book series about a boy wizard called Tommy Taylor. In the first issue while appearing at a convention, Tom is accused of not being his father's son, which causes a backlash of anger from fans of the book series. The intriguing part is that Tom may actually somehow be from another world - in fact, he might actually even be the boy wizard everyone assumes the character was based on.

The series feels a lot like a mix of Sandman and Fables to me - which is about as high a compliment as I can give a new comic series. I'm only six issues in and the series is ongoing, but seriously, if you are into dark fantasy, give it a look.