Friday, September 24, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: What are you reading right now?

From Booking Through Thursday:

What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

Even though I don't really like reading more than one book at a time, I am rocking a few different bookmarks in a few different books right now.

Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home by Gil Reavill. I'm only a few chapters into this and I'm a little surprised in that I assumed it would be more of a reference book as opposed to the type of creative non-fiction that it is. I originally bought this book a few years ago, stuck it on my "writing reference" bookshelf, managed to somehow move it and misplace it a few months ago when I went looking for it again, and just recently found it exactly one book shelf below where I thought I put it in the first place. Aftermath, Inc. follows crime-writer's Reavill's "adventures" with Aftermath, Inc., and while there are some gruesome bits (which don't bother me as much as I'd imagine that might bother some others), it's a fairly straightforward and clean read detailing what Aftermath does and Reavill's journey to understanding crime scene clean-up firsthand.

Return of The Wolf Man by Jeff Rovin. I plan on covering this novel in greater detail elsewhere next month, but for now, I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying this book! A few years ago, Dark Horse Comics licensed the Universal Monster characters for a line of novels and, quite frankly, they kind of missed the mark (again, more coverage of these novels coming soon, too). After poking around a few message boards, I heard reverant whispers of Return of The Wolf Man, so I dug a bit deeper, and found that the novel was out of print. I've read so many good things about the book, though, I went ahead and starting saving my pennies so I could order a used copy, and I'm so glad I did. As a longtime comic book reader, I'm well accustomed to the idea of "shared universes," and in Return of The Wolf Man, Rovin continues the connection between Universal's Dracula, Wolf Man and Frankenstein's Monster character . . . and then further establishes the Invisible Man link teased at the end of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, throws the Gill Man into the mix and hints at the Mummy franchise. In this 1998 paperback, Jeff Rovin pulls a Geoff Johns by not only connecting the Universal Monster franchises, but even addresses any perceived inconsistencies that have crept into the films (why exactly is Larry Talbot transforming into The Wolf Man in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein when he was seemingly cured in House of Dracula?) while capturing the unique voices of these monster characters along the way.

Novel Shortcuts: Ten Techniques that Ensure a Great First Draft by Laura Whitcomb. I was talking with my friend Casey the other day about writing, and I mentioned that sometimes I regret having read as many how-to writing books as I had growing up. I subscribed to "Writer's Digest" magazine since the late 80s, and I wonder if this has had an adverse impact on my own writing now. I often times find myself getting hung up on the technical aspects of writing, the hows and the whys, worrying more about the business end instead of the creative end. I worry that I get so fixated on all this that I let it stifle me. So why pick up another writing reference book? I read a review of it somewhere online, and it sounded like something that might give me a few pointers, and since I've started work on something brand new novel-wise (and, man, am I excited about THIS one!), I'm hopeful there might be some things I can learn from Laura Whitcomb as I put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard. So far, I find myself nodding along to a lot of what Whitcomb recommends in the book; I'll be able to offer a more tangible review once I've finished reading it.

Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories by M. R. James. I stumbled across the British documentary A Pleasant Terror: The Life and Ghost of M. R. James (dir. Clive Dunn, 1995) quite by accident. I knew who M. R. James was and all, but I wasn't overly familiar with his work. This documentary convinced me that I need to read his short stories. I've not TECHNICALLY started reading this just yet, but it's sitting on my nightstand as I type this, and now that I think about it, I think I'll crack it open tonight!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Science Fiction Museum

I've been wanting to visit Seattle's Science Fiction Museum since it opened in 2004, and when our friends Scott and Tracey were visiting the Pacific Northwest, we decided that hitting that museum was something that needed to be done.

I wasn't overly impressed.

It's been almost a week since we were there, and I find myself going back and forth on the experience - we were a little tired and had a few other events on our schedule the day we visited the museum. That said, it's a science fiction museum, so I expected a certain level of technology, interactivity, immersion, etc., that was definitely lacking. The Science Fiction Museum is attached to the Experience Music Project which does offer its visitors an opportunity to play instruments, record music, etc., but the Science Fiction Museum really just seemed to encourage its visitors to stand around and watch.

Additionally, the sci-fi side of things felt like an afterthought, crammed into a few small rooms (one of which was downstairs, as in, in the dark basement), which made sense as the Experience Music Project was there first (the Science Fiction Museum was added four years after the EMP opened in 2000). I went to this museum wanting to learn something, to celebrate science fiction and its importance to culture (pop and otherwise), and feel appreciated as a fan. I didn't get that. I felt a little pandered to, passing by displays of toys that I had when I was a kid, books I've already read, and fewer movie props than I've seen at a Planet Hollywood.

I took plenty of pictures, and we noted a handful of post-apocalyptic fiction book titles for Bren to track down, but in the end, I wished there would have been more science fiction meat (says the vegetarian). It felt fluffy, and while it may have been entertaining to see "The Jetsons" and Blade Runner mentioned in the same "look at what the future might be"-type display, in the end I was disappointed.

(Speaking of pictures, there were zero real photo opportunities at the Science Fiction Museum. I understand restricting flash photography in the dimly lit basement, but I was really surprised that there was nothing really interesting to take pictures of in the lobby or any areas set up to memorialize a visit to the museum.)

I'm glad I went with the folks I went with to the museum - that really made the trip worth it. But I wonder if we would have had as much science fiction fun just going through my DVD collection.

(These pics are in no particular order, and I apologize for any fuzziness that might have crept into them. The lack of a flash made picture-taking a little more difficult than it would have normally been.)