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Sparks and Shadows

Installing Linux on a Dead Badger

Coffin County

Mr Hands

Home Before Dark

In Silent Graves

Fear in a Handful of Dust

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Tools for Wandering Writers – how to stay productive on the road
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Using Profanity in Fiction – when cursing works, and when it doesn't
How To Make A Living Writing Short Fiction – can it be done? Yes.
Book Review: Lord of the Flies – all about Ralph and Piggy and Roger
Who Moved My Cheese? – a short review of this short book
How to comfort someone whose mother or father has died – advice for handling this difficult situation
Coping with unemployment – more practical advice for a difficult situation


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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sam Peckinpah
by Gary A. Braunbeck

Sam Peckinpah is the director who redefined screen violence; he is also one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.

He was born in Fresno, California on February 21, 1925 and died of a heart attack in 1984. In between, he was married five times and directed over a dozen ground-breaking films, mainly in the 60s and 70s.

He grew up on a ranch in the California mountains. His father was a judge, and Peckinpah was a rowdy teenager who eventually enlisted in the Marines. He was never put into combat, though.

After his discharge, he discovered theater and eventually got his lucky break in the early 50s when respected Hollywood director Don Siegel hired him as an assistant at Allied Artists. Peckinpah began writing scripts (he helped rewrite and had a small role in 1956's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers") and got his first job directing in 1958 when he did an episode of the television series "Broken Arrow". His feature-length directorial debut was 1961's "The Deadly Companions".

Peckinpah, with films such as "Major Dundee" and "Ride the High Country", easily established himself as a great American director. Critics were quick (before "The Wild Bunch", anyway) to mention his name alongside those of John Ford and Howard Hawks.

Peckinpah hated it.

He hated it because in the "good old" Western the only characters an audience was asked to sympathize wih were, naturally, the good guys like Randolph Scott and Chuck Heston. When the so-called "bad guys" got blown away, it was supposed to make an audience cheer wildly.

Which, as Peckinpah was quick to point out, completely robbed the "Bad Guys" of any humanity whatsoever. Peckinpah was also quick to point out that the "bad guys" in "Shane" were given full identities, so why couldn't this be a trend that could set itself firmly in the American Western?

Because no one is supposed to care about the bad guys.

Peckinpah then set out to make an "anti-Western." A film that, while it might be set in the West, horses and posses intact, had nothing else in common with the type of films he'd been making -- and despising.

That film was "The Wild Bunch". In it audiences met the likes of Pike (William Holden in one of his finest hours) and his gang, a run-down, over-the-hill bunch of outlaws who time and progress has caught up with. They were old, tired, anachronistic, looking for a way out. Audiences learned to sympathize with these men as the film progressed, even side with them and, in the film's historic finale -- almost folklore now -- watch them die in blood-drenched slow motion, every agonized twitch dwelt upon until their mangled bodies lay dead before the camera.

Here was Peckinpah's genius with his bloody ballet of death: he'd made a Western, all right, but he'd shown it from the "bad guy's" point of view, and no one cheered when they died. The black and white way of presenting right and wrong was forever destroyed, and the myth of the American Western was forever debunked.

Peckinpah was then asked why he chose to make the violence so bloody, and why he chose to film it in slow motion. His reply (which I cannot quote verbatim) was something along these lines: "I thought audiences should be given a good, clear look at what they've been cheering all these years."

Peckinpah was accused throughout his career of glorifying violence, but he insisted he was doing the direct opposite: showing how repulsive it was by dwelling on it so much.

Partial Filmography:

"The Deadly Companions" (1961)
"Ride the High Country" (1962)
"Major Dundee" (1965)
"The Wild Bunch" (1969)
"Ballad of Cable Hogue" (1970)
"Straw Dogs" (1971)
"The Getaway" (1972)
"Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (1973)
"Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" (1974)
"Killer Elite" (1975)
"Cross of Iron" (1977)
"Convoy" (1978)
"The Osterman Weekend" (1983)

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Ellen Datlow
Ellen S(ue) Datlow was born in 1949 and currently lives in New York City. She has been one of the most influential editors in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres for over 20 years.

She has been awarded with the World Fantasy Award many times and has won other professional laurels such as the British Fantasy Award and the Bram Stoker Award.

She first rose to prominence when she became the fiction editor of OMNI magazine in 1981. OMNI was slick, popular, and paid some of the highest rates a science fiction writer could ever hope to earn; while most professional magazines were paying $150-$200 for a short story, OMNI paid $1000 and more. As a result, Datlow regularly worked with writers such as William Gibson, Clive Barker, Stephen King, William Burroughs, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jonathan Carroll, Joyce Carol Oates, Peter Straub, Pat Cadigan, Dan Simmons, K.W. Jeter, and Jack Cady. Hordes of up-and-coming writers hoped that their work would catch her eye.

Datlow further solidified her influence when, in 1987, she and fellow writer/editor Terri Windling began an annual anthology series called The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. The series has been widely read and widely-acclaimed by readers and writers alike.

When OMNI folded in 1998, Datlow started an excellent online prozine called Event Horizon, but it sadly suffered the fate of many online publications and folded after a year or so. She is currently an editor at Tor Books.

Datlow regularly gives publishing seminars and teaches at established writing workshops such as Clarion. She is also a noted essayist.

In addition to her work on magazines and Year's Best, Datlow has edited many other anthologies.

Partial Editing Bibliography

  • Omni Books of Science Fiction (1983 & 1985)
  • Blood is Not Enough: 17 Stories of Vampirism (1989)
  • Alien Sex (1990)
  • Blood Is Not Enough (1990)
  • A Whisper of Blood (1991)
  • Omni Best Science Fiction One (1992)
  • Snow White, Blood Red (1994) with Terri Windling
  • Black Thorn, White Rose (1994) with Terri Windling
  • Little Deaths (1994)
  • Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears (1995) with Terri Windling
  • Lethal Kisses (1996)
  • Off Limits: Tales of Alien Sex (1996)
  • Twists of the Tale (1996)
  • Wild Justice (1996)
  • Black Swan, White Raven (1997)
  • Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers (1998) with Terri Windling
  • Silver Birch, Blood Moon (1999) with Terri Windling
  • Black Hearts, Ivory Bones (2000) with Terri Windling
  • Vanishing Acts (2000)
  • A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales (2000) with Terri Windling

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William Peter Blatty

William Peter Blatty was born in 1928 in New York City. His parents were Lebanese and his very religious mother sent him to Catholic schools. He got his first degree at Georgetown University and his M.A. in English literature at George Washington University. Afterward, he went into the Air Force; it was during his time that he began his career as a writer.

He is perhaps best known as the author of The Exorcist and the writer/producer of the 1973 film based on that novel (he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay). An accomplished screenwriter and novelist, he has authored books such as The Ninth Configuration, Legion, and Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing. He also directed the film versions of Legion (aka "Exorcist III") and The Ninth Configuration. His short novel Elsewhere appears in the 999 anthology.

Partial Bibliography for William Peter Blatty

Awards:

  • Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (1973)
  • Golden Globe Award (1973, 1980)
  • British Fantasy Award (1975)
  • Academy of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Award (1980)
  • Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement (1997)

Novels

  • Which Way to Mecca, Jack? (1959)
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane (1966)
    • This novel was revised and republished as The Ninth Configuration in 1978 (this edition was greatly rewritten and Blatty produced, wrote and directed the film of the same title in 1980).
  • The Exorcist (1971)
  • I'll Tell Them I Remember You (1973)
  • The Ninth Configuration (1978)
  • Legion (1983)
  • Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Fable (1996)
  • Elsewhere (1999)

Screenplays

  • The Man From the Diner's Club (1963)
  • A Shot in the Dark (1964)
  • I Billy Shakespeare (1965)
  • John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1965)
  • What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966)
  • Gunn (1967)
  • The Great Bank Robbery (1969)
  • Darling Lily (1970)
  • The Exorcist (1973)
  • Mastermind (1976)
  • The Ninth Configuration (1980)
  • The Exorcist III (1990)

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Miroslav Holub

Miroslav Holub was a scientist/physician and one of Czechoslovakia's most important (and prolific) poets. He was born on September 13, 1923 in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia and died on July 14, 1998.

After surviving both the Nazis and Stalin's reign of terror in his homeland, he studied science and medicine, first at Charles University in Prague (he earned his M.D. in 1953) and later at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (where he got his PhD in 1958). He worked first as a pathologist but later became a scholar and research scientist.

Holub began publishing his poetry in 1958 when his first collection Day Duty was released. During the last 40 years of his life, he published a total of 16 poetry collections and 10 books of essays.

His poetry strongly reflects his interest in medicine and pathology; he is an almost ideal poet for scientists. His work also deals with the horrors of war and some of it is quite political. Many of his poems express a melancholy sense of humor, and his hard science topics are leavened by his strong understanding of history and mythology.

If you're new to Holub's work, I suggest you start with a collection called Intensive Care that was released by Oberlin College Press in 1996. All the work in here is wonderful, and the translations seem very good (inexpert translation was apparently a problem with some of his earlier works that were converted to English). If you seek out his other works, the most reliable translations seem to have been produced by Ewald Osers.

Partial Bibliography

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S. Morgenstern

S. Morgenstern (the "S" stands for Simon) is author William Goldman's whimsical narrator of The Princess Bride and The Silent Gondoliers.

Morgenstern's is a sweetly cantankerous authorial voice, prone to all manner of entertaining tangents.

According to his fictional biography in the books, he lives in Florin City where he dotes on his wife, two daughters, and four-and-a-half grandchildren. He supposedly lived in Venice to complete his research for The Silent Gondoliers, and his love of baseball makes it obvious he's spent time in the United States.

However, English is not his native language; in a letter to the editors at Del Rey, he wrote of Gondoliers "although I have written in French and German as well as Florinese, this is my first attempt at colloquial English."

Furthermore, Morgenstern is evidently quite old, possibly older than his creator Goldman (who is 71). Further on in the Del Rey letter, he requests that the editors fix some inaccuracies for the next edition of The Princess Bride:

"You say in several places that I am dead. As I sit here and watch my fingers form this note, I am forced to believe that you are in error. I am old, but alive. Perhaps as you age, you will find the two are not mutually exclusive."

Perhaps this is an indication that someday we may see another Goldman novel come out under S. Morgenstern's pseudonym. And that would be very, very cool.

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Joe Haldeman

Noted science fiction author Joe Haldeman was born 1943 in Oklahoma City and spent most of his childhood in Anchorage, Alaska and Bethesda, Maryland, although his family also lived in Puerto Rico and New Orleans. As a boy, he dreamed of becoming a spaceman (the word "astronaut" wasn't used back then) and his dreams were fueled by the bakelite-bodied telescope his father bought him when he was twelve. Young Joe spent many a night staring up at the Moon and imagining himself traveling in a spaceship to its cold, luminous surface.

Joe held onto his dream of going into space even after he married his wife Gay in 1965 (she is just as much a space junkie as he), but it was not to be. After he graduated from theUniversity of Maryland with a BS in astronomy in '67, he tried to get a job with the Naval Observatory; his job would have been taking photos of stars at a telescope based in Argentina.

While he was waiting to hear back from the Navy, he was drafted into the army in 1967 and sent to Vietnam.

He served in the army from 1968 through 1969 and fought in the Central Highlands as a combat engineer with the 4th Division (1/22nd Airmobile Battalion). His first combat experience came when he jumped out of a helicopter into six-foot-high elephant grass in a landing zone that was under heavy machine gun fire.

"Twenty-eight years after Vietnam, the smell of roadkill still brings back the smell of days-old bodies rotting in the jungle heat," Joe says in his autobiography.

His tour of duty ended when a land mine blew up in front of him, severely injuring his legs and filling him with shrapnel. He once told me that for several years after his wounds healed, bits of iron shrapnel would work their way to the surface of his skin, and he was occasionally picking the bits out of himself, much to Gay's dismay.

Joe had begun writing well before he was sent to Vietnam, and once he had recovered, he wanted to get back to his typewriter.

"Gay had finished her master's degree in Spanish while I was in the army, and we made a deal: she would find a teaching job and support me for two years," Joe says in his autobiography. "If the writing wasn't paying off by then, I'd get a job and the writing would go back to being a serious hobby."

The writing paid off: his first short novel War Year came out in 1972, and his acclaimed novel The Forever War was published in 1975 and promptly won the Hugo, Nebula, and Ditmar Awards as Best Science Fiction Novel. Since then, he's written dozens of novels and many short stories, some under the Pocket Books "house name" Robert Graham. His work has been translated into 19 languages, and his stories have been adapted for the stage, TV, and film. Gay has been a key player in Joe's career; in addition to supporting them while he worked to sell his writing, she has been his business manager.

Joe believes that he would have become a writer regardless of whether or not he had gone to Vietnam, but his experiences there strongly influenced the stories he's written since. War Year was written almost entirely as post-combat catharsis.

During the war, Gay kept up their household in Washington, D.C.; the couple decided to move soon after Joe returned home because a woman on their street was murdered during a street mugging. Given their love of space and their trips to Cape Canaveral, Florida seemed a likely prospect. After a brief move to Brooksville, followed by journeys to Mexico and then to Iowa (where Joe attended Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa) they settled in Gainesville, Florida.

Today, the Haldemans split their time between Gainesville and Cambridge, Massachusets, where Joe teaches writing every fall at MIT (he has been a part-time professor there since 1983). In the course of his career, he has taught writing workshops at SUNY Buffalo, Princeton, the University of North Dakota, Kent State, and the University of North Florida. He is frequently an instructor at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer's Workshops in Seattle and East Lansing, MI.

Joe is an avid bicyclist; you'd never know to look at him that he was nearly crippled in the war. He looks a bit like actor Dabney Coleman, and he is a very good guitarist and has a pleasant singing voice.

He is also an accomplished poet; many of his poetry fans for a long time didn't realize he wrote science fiction, and vice-versa.


Joe and Gay are great people; if you have the chance to talk to them at conventions, I encourage you to do so. Joe is a very good writing instructor, and I've heard many MIT grads talk fondly of his courses.

As you can tell from the above biographical bits, Joe's been through a lot in his life, but one story he told our Clarion class in 1995 has stuck in my head.

Sometime in the late 80s in Gainesville, Joe was bicycling back from the neighborhood grocery store. A car pulled up beside him, slowing down. Just as Joe turned his head to see who they were, he heard apop and felt a sharp pain in his hip, and the car screeched away down the street.

Joe had been shot in the butt. He guesses that it was a teenager with a new pistol, dying to try it out. He slowly pedaled back to the house and got Gay to take him to the emergency room.

The doctor took X-rays. When he put the films up on the light boxes, they saw a white constellation of metal from all the old shrapnel. It took the doctor a moment to locate the new bullet: it was lodged well under his gluteus maximus, and would require a lot of cutting to get out.

The doctor looked at all the metal on the X-rays, then back at Joe.

"What's one more stripe to a tiger?" the doctor wondered aloud, then put a bandage on Joe, gave him antibiotics, and sent him on his way.


Partial Bibliography

Novels

War Year (1972)
The Forever War (1975)
Attar's Revenge (1975) (as Robert Graham)
War of Nerves (1975) (as Robert Graham)
Mindbridge (1976)
All My Sins Remembered (1977)
Planet of Judgement (1977)
World Without End (1979)
Worlds (1981)
Worlds Apart (1983)
Tool of the Trade (1987)
Buying Time (1989)
The Long Habit of Living (1989)
The Hemingway Hoax (1990)
Worlds Enough and Time (1992)
1968 (1995)
Forever Peace (1997)
Forever Free (1999)
The Coming (2000)
Guardian (2002)

Collections
Infinite Dreams (1978)
There Is No Darkness (1983) with Jack C. Haldeman II
Dealing in Futures (1985)
Vietnam and Other Alien Worlds (1993)
None So Blind (1996)
Saul's Death and Other Poems (1997)

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Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson was an acclaimed short story author and novelist whose work has influenced a wide range of current writers from Stephen King to Kelly Link.

Jackson was born on December 14, 1919 in San Francisco. When she was two years old, her parents Leslie and Geraldine Jackson moved the family to Burlingame, California, where Shirley spent much of her childhood. She became interested in literature at an early age, and began writing as soon as she could start putting words together on paper.

The Jackson family later moved to Rochester, NY where Jackson would graduate from the 1934 class of Brighton High School. After high school, she went to the University of Rochester in 1934, but she dropped out due to personal problems. She gave college another try in 1937 when she enrolled in Syracuse University. Jackson became a prolific writer at Syracuse. While she was fiction editor for the campus humor magazine, she met Stanley Edgar Hyman, who would later become her husband, the father of her four children, and a well-respected literary critic. The pair founded a literary magazine at the university, and they became thorns in the side of the school administration for their stinging editorials and criticisms. As a result, Syracuse would not recognize Jackson's contributions to the world of literature until 1965 (when she was close to death) when the university awarded her with the Arents Pioneer Medal for outstanding achievement.

After they received their undergraduate degrees, Hyman and Jackson moved to Vermont where they began their family and Jackson began to gain fame as an author. The family moved to Westport, Connecticut in 1949.

Jackson and her husband unfortunately had a very unhealthy lifestyle. She suffered bouts of mental illness and smoked and overate and over-drank. Ironically, her mental health had finally begun to improve when she died in 1965 at the age of 46.

During Jackson's career as a writer, her work plumbed the depths of the darkest elements of human nature: cruelty, evil, madness. But at the same time, a strong vein of humor runs through her writing, particularly in her pieces about raising children.

Much of her short fiction was published in the most popular magazines of the time: Charm, Look, Harper's, Ladies' Home Companion, Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Reader's Digest, The New Yorker, Playboy, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Home Companion, and so on.

Her most famous short story, "The Lottery", first appeared in The New Yorker in 1948. The story is about a small town in which the villagers must participate in a lottery to determine which of them will become a human sacrifice. The tale created an unprecedented stir; some readers hailed it as a masterpiece, others cancelled their magazine subscriptions in utter disgust, and still others heard only the whistling sound of the story going straight over their heads at supersonic speeds.

Jackson was equally well-known for her handful of masterfully-written novels.

The Haunting of Hill House, first published in 1959, is without a question one of the most influential horror novels produced this century. Shirley Jackson's slim book has been filmed twice and has inspired dozens of other movies. Countless stories and novels have been written in Hill House's literary shadows, including Stephen King's Carrie and The Shining and Richard Matheson's Hell House.

What makes this small novel so hugely compelling to horror writers and readers? Part of its appeal surely comes from the subject matter: the haunted house. Jackson's is a brooding, gothic country manor whose skewed architectural lines reflect the twisted madness of the man who built it. But Hill House doesn't hold chain-rattling spirits; it has a supernatural intelligence that draws out and exploits the deep-seated fears of the people foolish enough to cross its threshold. And into this dread house Jackson puts a young protagonist who is familiar enough to be sympathetic and weird enough to be interesting. We can't help but be fascinated as we watch her eccentric loneliness blur to insanity as her psychic powers bloom to create the haunting the other characters fear most.

But most of the novel's appeal comes Jackson's skill as a storyteller. The novel is deeply textured and gorgeously written. It's a book for mature readers, not because of graphic content, but because of its subtle complexity. Jackson expects that her readers are intelligent, fully capable of comprehending a metaphor, and in possession of an adult's attention span.

In the recent era of gore and shock-horror, Jackson's classic work almost seems like an anti-horror novel. No blood, no guts, no overt sex (though it does contain a strong lesbian undercurrent), no slasher movie morality; this is a novel that works dark poetry into your brain and lights a chill in your marrow.

Partial Bibliography

Novels

  • The Sundial (1958)
  • The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)
  • Hangsaman (1964)

Nonfiction

  • Life Among the Savages (1953)
  • Witchcraft in Salem Village (1956)
  • Raising Demons (1957)

Collections

  • The Lottery (1949)
  • Just An Ordinary Day edited by Laurence Jackson Hyman and Sarah Hyman Stewart (1996)
  • The Masterpieces of Shirley Jackson (1996) (winner of the British Fantasy Award in 1997)

Short Fiction

  • "After You, My Dear Alphonse" (1943)
  • "Afternoon in Linen" (1943)
  • "Come Dance With Me in Ireland" (1943)
  • "Seven Types of Ambiguity" (1943)
  • "Colloquy" (1944)
  • "A Fine Old Firm" (1944)
  • "Trial by Combat" (1944)
  • "The Villager" (1944)
  • "Men with Their Big Shoes" (1947)
  • "Charles" (1948)
  • "Pillar of Salt" (1948)
  • "The Lottery" (1948)
  • "The Renegade" (1948)
  • "The Tooth" (1948)
  • "The Daemon Lover" (1949)
  • "Dorothy and My Grandmother and the Sailors" (1949)
  • "The Dummy" (1949)
  • "Elizabeth" (1949)
  • "Flower Garden" (1949)
  • "Got a Letter from Jimmy" (1949)
  • "The Intoxicated" (1949)
  • "Like Mother Used to Make" (1949)
  • "My Life with R. H. Macy" (1949)
  • "Of Course" (1949)
  • "The Witch" (1949)
  • "The Summer People" (1950)
  • "Root of Evil" (1953)
  • "Bulletin" (1954)
  • "One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts" (1954)
  • "The Missing Girl" (1957)
  • "The Omen" (1958)
  • "A Great Voice Stilled" (1960)
  • "The Beautiful Stranger" (1968)

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Ghoulardi

Ghoulardi was the Cleveland TV alter-ego of mercurial actor Ernie Anderson.

The 38-year old Anderson had already had an up-and-down 10-year career in radio and TV when he joined the staff of WJW Channel 8 TV in Cleveland as an announcer. A year later, he was offered a job at the station hosting a late-night horror movie show. Anderson, who had lucrative side gigs doing commercials for companies such as Ohio Bell Telephone, liked the idea of the extra pay ($60 a week) but didn't want his marketability as a spokesman damaged by an association with schlocky horror movies.

So, he put on a goofy wig, fake Van Dyk beard, glasses, white lab coat, changed his voice and adopted the persona of Ghoulardi for the show. The constantly-smoking Ghoulardi came across as one part mad scientist, one part beatnik, and one part Bela Lugosi. He peppered his patter with catchphrases such as "turn blue" and "stay sick".

The first episode of Shock Theater aired on January 18, 1963 with Ghoulardi's unique presentation of The House on Haunted Hill. It soon became an unprecedented regional hit and at times had hundreds of thousands of viewers. At its height, Ghoulardi's Shock Theater got better ratings than The Tonight Show, and the Cleveland police reported that significantly fewer crimes were committed in the city when the show was on.

The show's popularity was due almost exclusively to Ghoulardi's onscreen antics. He mocked the horror movies (whether they deserved mocking or not) and made fun of local TV personalities and politicians.

Frequent targets were local children's TV hosts such as Dorothy Fuldheim (a significant portion of his fan base were teenagers who would warm to any ridiculing of shows aimed at little kids). Ghoulardi made fun of the elderly Fuldheim's somewhat gaudy appearance and would drop her photograph into skits and movie scenes where actors were reacting with horror or morbid curiosity to something. Ghoulardi's accompanying cry of "Dorothy!" became much mimicked by his fans.

He often interrupted movies with gags and skits; the show was more about having fun than about watching a movie. One ongoing skit was "Parma Place", which made fun of the Polish community in Parma, a Cleveland suburb.

However, those who were the butt of his jokes were eager to see the show gone. And sometimes, his targets were executives at his own station. Embroiled in an increasingly hostile relationship with the station's managers and facing sagging ratings, Anderson quit as Ghoulardi on November 14, 1966.

Ghoulardi was a strong influence on artists as diverse as Drew Carey and The Cramps. In fact, there have been both East Coast and West Coast bands that named themselves the Purple Knifs, another Ghoulardi catchphrase. Ghouldardi's influence on modern shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000 is pretty obvious.

And Ghoulardi was an enormous influence on filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, since Ghoulardi was his doting father. PTA later said that his father's rather large pornography collection partly inspired him to create Boogie Nights. PTA also named his production company the Ghoulardi Film Company in honor of his late father, who died on February 6, 1997.


References
Ghoulardi: Inside Cleveland Tv's Wildest Ride by Tom Feran and R. D. Heldenfels
Boogie Nights - Director's Commentary

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Maureen F. McHugh

Maureen F. McHugh is an acclaimed science fiction writer and all-round nice person who used to live in Cleveland, OH and currently lives in Austin, TX. Her work displays a gift for language and characterization that is unusual among science fiction authors.

McHugh was born in a small town in southwestern Ohio in 1959. As a young woman, she earned her undergraduate degree at Ohio University and then went to grad school at NYU where she obtained an MA in English literature.

After college, she spent a year teaching in Shijiazhuang, China and also lived in New York City. During her time in the Big Apple, she hung out with a good many gay writers and says that she became interested in their lives.

The combination of her explorations in China and her investigations into the gay demimonde led to her writing her breakthrough 1992 novel, China Mountain Zhang. This first novel was widely hailed by critics and readers alike and is unusual amongst SF novels in that it features a gay Chinese protagonist. It was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards, and it ultimately won the Lambda and Tiptree awards.

At a recent science fiction convention in Cincinnati, McHugh talked about the circumstances that led to her writing China Mountain Zhang. "I was in a writer's group in New York City," she told us. "We were crazy. We met every week, and we had to have 5,000 words written for each meeting. I'd been writing about typical science fiction tropes, but after a while, I ran dry, just utterly bone-dry of ideas. And that's when I started writing about the stuff I really cared about, and China Mountain Zhang came out of that."

McHugh met her engineer husband after she returned to Ohio and was soon married into a ready-made family. "We joke about me being the evil stepmother," she says. "In fact, the joke is that I am the Nazi Evil Stepmother From Hell. It dispels tension to say it out loud. Actually, Adam (her stepson) and I do pretty good together. But the truth is that all stepmothers are evil. It is the nature of the relationship. It is, as far as I can tell, an unavoidable fact of step relationships."

McHugh is as well-known for her short stories as she is for her novels; her story "Lincoln Train" won the Hugo award in 1995. She taught creative writing at John Carroll University and is a frequent instructor at the Clarion science fiction workshops. She was also a member of The Cajun Sushi Hamsters From Hell writing workshop.


Partial Bibliography

Novels & Collections

Selected Short Fiction

  • "Kites", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Oct. 1989
  • "Baffin Island", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Aug 1989
  • "The Queen of Marincite", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Mar 1990
  • "Render unto Caesar", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Mid-Dec 1992
  • "Protection", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Apr 1992 and The Year's Best Science Fiction, Tenth Annual Collection Ed: Gardner Dozois, 1993, St. Martin's Press
  • "The Missionary's Child", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Oct 1992
  • "The Beast", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Mar 1992
  • "Tut's Wife", Alternate Warriors, Daw Books, ed. Mike Resnick
  • "A Foreigner's Christmas in China", Christmas Ghosts, Daw Books, ed. Mike Resnick and Martin Greenberg
  • "Whispers", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Apr 1993 and The Year's Best Science Fiction, Eleventh Annual Collection Ed: Gardner Dozois, 1994, St. Martin's Press
  • "A Coney Island of the Mind", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Feb 1993
  • "Virtual Love", The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan 1994
  • "Nekropolis", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Apr 1994 and The Year's Best Science Fiction, Twelfth Annual Collection Ed: Gardner Dozois, 1995, St. Martin's Press
  • "The Ballad of Ritchie Valenzuela", Alternate Outlaws, Daw Books, 1994 Ed: Mike Resnick
  • "The Lincoln Train", The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Apr 1995 and Alternate Tyrants, Daw Books, 1996 Ed: Mike Resnick and The Year's Best Science Fiction, Thirteenth Annual Collection Ed: Gardner Dozois, 1996, St. Martin's Press
  • "Joss", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Feb 1995
  • "In the Air", Killing Me Softly, Ed: Gardner Dozois, 1995, HarperPrism.
  • "Homesick", Intersections Ed: John Kessel, Mark L. Van Name, and Richard Butner, 1996, Tor
  • "Learning to Breathe" Tales of the Unanticipated, Fall/Winter 1995/1996
  • "The Cost to Be Wise" Starlight, Ed: Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 1996, Tor Books.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

J.N. Williamson Biography and Appreciation
Author/editor J.N. "Jerry" Williamson died this past Thursday. He was a friend of mine, a kind man and an excellent writer whose work has largely fallen out of print. If you find the following books, I encourage you to look past the garish 80s horror covers and titles that he so often got stuck with and read them:

The following biography and appreciation were written by John Maclay; they may be freely reprinted/reposted.


J.N. Williamson Biographical Facts


J.N. Williamson was born April 17, 1932, Indianapolis, IN

Graduated Shortridge High School, where he co-edited the school's daily paper with later writer Dan Simmons and later U.S. Senator Richard Lugar. Studied journalism at Butler University and served in the U.S. Army.

Sang in the style of Frank Sinatra professionally with his parents' band and for Broadway-style musicals at Starlight Musicals in Indianapolis, where he met his wife of many years, Mary

The father of two sons, Scott and John, stepfather of four children, and grandfather of many.

An avid I.U. and Indiana Pacers basketball and Indiana Colts' football fan

A precocious Sherlockian, he published his first book, The Illustrious Client's Case Book, while still in his teens

Worked in sales management and as an astrologer, and sold short stories intermittently

Published his first novel, The Ritual, in 1979 at the age of 47, and went on to sell 31 more in the next 15 years

Editor of the acclaimed Masques horror anthology series and other books

Recipient of the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003

Died December 8, 2005, Noblesville, IN



J. N. Williamson: An Appreciation


I first met Jerry Williamson in the fall of 1982. At that time, just since 1979, he'd sold 16 horror novels, and was to go on in the decade to double that total. He and Stephen King were the most prolific and excellent horror novelists of the 1980s, so it was only fitting that they received the Horror Writers Association's Lifetime Achievement Award together in 2003.

As a short story and nonfiction writer, and as an editor, Jerry also excelled. He edited and I published the first Masques horror anthology in 1984, to be followed by three more volumes (two of which I published) in 1987, 1989, and 1991. And Williamson's encouragement of new writers in the genre is well known. In fact, he arranged my own first short story publication in 1983.

Jerry never let financial and physical ills deter him, and was still working on new projects when he passed on. He remained bright, and a writer's writer, to the end. He was an inspiration to so many, including myself, not to mention a warm and dear friend.

There's much more to say, of course, but I'll conclude by quoting from Stephen Vincent Benet's reaction to the career of F. Scott Fitzgerald (a writer Williamson loved): "You can take off your hats now, gentlemen, and I think perhaps you had better. This . . . may well be one of the most secure reputations of our time."

So it is with you, Jerry. We love you, we honor you, and your presence on this earth will be sorely missed. Rest in the Lord.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Philip Henry Sheridan

Philip Henry Sheridan was born on March 6th, 1831 and spent much of his youth in Perry County, Ohio. His military studies began when he entered the U.S. academy at West Point in 1848, but he didn't graduate until 1853 because he was suspended in 1852 for getting into a fight with another cadet. His fellow graduates included James B. McPherson, who would become a brilliant Union general, and John Bell Hood, who would become a Confederate officer.

Sheridan was a much better soldier and officer than a student. Despite his low graduation rank, he proved himself to be a very sharp and brave (but also stubborn) junior officer in the early years of the Civil War at the battles of Murfreesboro, Chicamauga, and Chattanooga. He was limited to leading small regular units until Ulysses S. Grant took over the army in 1864 and promoted Sheridan to cavalry commander.

Many in Washington doubted Sheridan's ability to lead on a large scale. President Abraham Lincoln is reported to have commented:

"I will tell you just what kind of a chap (Sheridan) is. He is one of those long-armed fellows with short legs that can scratch his shins without having to stoop over."

However, Sheridan rapidly distinguished himself, vastly improving the Union cavalry and making many spectacular raids against the Confederate Army.

As Sheridan gained larger military responsibilities, his victories grew. He laid waste to the Shenandoah Valley; not content with merely defeating the Confederates in battle, he burned barns and crops and slaughtered livestock.

Though ruthless, he had a remarkable ability to rally his men. When he was in charge of the army at Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864, the Union troops were caught in a surprise attack and the survivors were left fragmented and terrified. Sheridan rode along the lines and rallied his men to victory. His work at Cedar Creek earned him a commission as major general and a personal congratulations from Lincoln.

On April 9th, 1865, Sheridan's cavalry played a crucial role in General Lee's surrender at Richmond. The Confederacy crumbled, and wherever Sherdian and General Sherman went, the beautiful South was left a smoking ruin. The lands destroyed by Sheridan and his men would not fully recover for close to a century.

After the war, Sheridan was appointed military commander over Louisiana and Texas. President Johnson worried about what Sheridan would do as commander over civilians, and less than a year after his appointment he was removed from that duty and sent to supervise the Army along the U.S.-Mexico border.

At this point, Sheridan became leader of military actions against the native Comanches and Kiowa. He spearheaded efforts to exterminate the buffalo, which he knew the native American tribes depended on for survival.

In 1875, a bill came before the Texas legislature that would have protected the buffalo, but Sheridan made an impassioned, racist speech against the plan:

"(Buffalo hunters) are destroying the Indians' commissary, and it is a well-known fact that an army losing its base of supplies is placed at a great disadvantage. Send them powder and lead, if you will, but for the sake of a lasting peace, let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated. Then your prairies can be covered in speckled cattle, and the festive cowboy, who follows the hunter as a second forerunner of advanced civilization."

The joint assembly was so moved that they killed the bill. Millions of buffalo were slaughtered and left to rot on the prairies, and the Kiowa and Commanches and other tribes suffered and starved to death and were led off to the reservations.

Later in his career, Sheridan seems to have had some inkling of what he had done to the native American tribes:

"We took away their country and their means of support, broke up their mode of living, their habits of life, introduced disease and decay among them, and it was for this and against this that they made war. Could anyone expect less?"

Career landmarks:
  • 1853: graduation from West Point
  • 1861: U.S. Civil War begins
  • 1864: General U.S. Grant appointed overall commander of the U.S. Army. Grant then appointed Sheridan cavalry commander and promoted him to brigadier general (one star). Later that year, he gets command of the Army of the Shenandoah Valley.
  • 1865: Civil War ends.
  • 1865: Sheridan promoted to Major General (two stars) and sent to the Mexican border.
  • 1867: Appointed military commander of Texas and Louisiana
  • 1867: Removed from command of TX and LA. Remains in command of the U.S. Army southwest district.
  • 1869: Promoted to Lieutenant General (three stars)
  • 1883: Takes over overall command of the U.S. Army
  • 1888: Promoted to Four-star general. Dies that year at Nonquitt, Massachusets on the 5th of August.

References: this is based on notes and textbook photocopies I kept for a school paper, but my bibliography is lost to the sands of time. Poo.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Lyle Lovett

"Somehow you can tell the difference when a song is written just to get on the radio and when what someone does is their whole life. That comes through in Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson. There is no separating their life from their music."
-- Lyle Lovett

Biography

Lyle Pearce Lovett was born on November 1, 1957 in the North Houston suburb of Klein. He is the only child of Bill and Bernell Lovett, who were both Exxon employees. The town he grew up in was founded by his maternal great-great-grandfather, Adam Klein, who along with the rest of that side of his family was a German immigrant.

Lovett stayed close to both his Texas and German roots throughtout high school in Klein and college at Texas A&M in College Station, TX, which is east of Austin. He spent some time studying in Rothenburg, Germany while he was in college, and in 1982 he graduated with dual degrees in German and journalism.

He was also an avid musician while he was in college. He and friends such as Robert Earl Keen played local gigs with area bands in Texas. While he was in Germany, he met a musician who called himself Buffalo Wayne, and Wayne got him a gig playing a country-western concert in Luxembourg in 1983.

He didn't get his first professional break until after college when he got a gig as a backup singer for Nanci Griffith's first album in 1985. Griffith ended up recording a song he had written, "If I Were The Woman You Wanted" for the album Once In A Very Blue Moon.

His work with Griffith led to a recording contract with MCA/Curb Records, and he released his debut self-titled album in 1986.

Since then, he's won four Grammy Awards, the first for Best Male Vocalist in 1989, the second for his duet with Al Green for "Funny How Time Slips Away" in 1993, and the third for "Blues For Dixie" in 1994. In 1996, his album The Road to Enselada won the Grammy for Best Country Album. He and his Large Band have also earned many critical and fan accolades.

Lovett also began to work as an actor. His first major role was as Detective DeLongpre in Robert Altman's wicked Hollywood black comedy The Player. Since then, he's appeared in about seven other movies, mainly Altman films. (See the listing at the end of this writeup for details).

Possibly because of his work in Hollywood, Lovett met actress Julia Roberts. They married in 1993 and divorced in 1995. Despite Lovett's great music and great talent, his marriage to Roberts earned him far more fame and attention than anything else he'd done.

In 2002, Lovett was injured by a bull at his family's farm near Houston, TX. His uncle was attacked by the animal, and Lovett tried to intervene; he was trampled and suffered a badly broken leg.

Lovett spends much of his time touring with his Large Band or with a smaller ensemble, though he goes back to Texas whenever he can.

Seeing Lovett Live

I saw Lyle Lovett and His Large Band play at the Palace Theater here in Columbus, OH. I went mainly because the friend who took me is a huge fan of his. I'd heard Lovett's work on the radio, and liked it, but I hadn't really sought it out.

After seeing him perform, all I can say is this: wow.

He and his band put on an amazing show. All the members of the band are absolutely top-notch musicians. They'd be as at home playing for a symphony orchestra in any major city as they'd be in a honky-tonk band in a smoky Texas bar. His backup singers had absolutely wonderful voices.

One thing that struck me most is that Lovett doesn't put himself above the band. He had everyone else do solos or numbers to showcase their individual talents, and he took time throughout the concert to introduce the other singers and musicians -- all thirteen of them.

Lovett's self-deprecating between-song chat is really, really funny. He seems like a genuinely decent human being.

Julia Roberts didn't deserve him.

Partial Discography

  • Anthology, Vol. 1: Cowboy Man October 23, 2001
  • Dr. T & The Women (2000 film soundtrack) October 10, 2000
  • Live In Texas June 29, 1999
  • Step Inside This House September 22, 1998
  • The Road To Ensenada June 18, 1996
  • I Love Everybody September 27, 1994
  • Joshua Judges Ruth March 31, 1992
  • Lyle Lovett & His Large Band January 23, 1989
  • Pontiac January 11, 1988
  • Lyle Lovett 1986

Filmography

  • The New Guy (2002) -- Bear
  • Last Stand of the Tallgrass Prairie (2001) (TV) -- Host
  • 3 Days of Rain (2000) -- Disc Jockey
  • Cookie's Fortune (1999) -- Manny Hood
  • The Opposite of Sex (1998) -- Sheriff Carl Tippett
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) -- Road Person
  • Roger Miller Remembered (1998) (TV) -- Himself
  • Breast Men (1997) (TV) -- Research Scientist
  • Bastard Out of Carolina (1996) -- Wade
  • Pret-a-Porter (1994) -- Clint Lammeraux
  • Short Cuts (1993) -- Andy Bitkower
  • Willie Nelson: The Big Six-0 (1993) (TV) -- Himself
  • The Player (1992) -- Detective DeLongpre
  • Bill: On His Own (1983) (TV) -- Singer at the Beach

References:

http://www.lylelovett.net/
http://www.topcountrymusic.com/lyle.htm
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/1192/LyleLovett/
http://www.imdb.com/

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Sunday, January 20, 2002

John Mellencamp

The Rock Star

Singer/songwriter John Mellencamp was born on October 7, 1951 in Seymour, Indiana. After a brief stint as a glam rocker, Mellencamp was signed up for a recording deal with MainMan in 1976. The deal, which was brokered by David Bowie's manager Tony de Fries, involved Mellencamp switching to the stage name "Johnny Cougar" and adopting a James Dean style image. When the record (mostly of covers of other people's work) didn't sell, he moved back to Indiana and signed with Riva Records, which touted him as "the next Bruce Springsteen."

In 1979, Johnny Cougar scored his first Top Thirty hit with the song "I Need A Lover". The hits kept coming with his 1982 album American Fool, which included his signature songs "Hurts So Good" and "Jack and Diane". American Fool sold over 5 million copies.

Seeking to get back to the man he truly was, he started using the stage name "John Cougar Mellencamp" in 1983, and he dropped the "Cougar" entirely in 1989. However, in recognition of the ornery side of his personality, for some later albums he used the nickname "Little Bastard" for his songwriting and production credits.

Mellencamp had a string of straight-ahead rock hits throughout the 80s, and in the 90s he got more into acoustic and roots music.

In 1994, soon after releasing Dance Naked, he suffered a life-changing heart attack which made him give up much of his unhealthy rock star lifestyle. However, he recovered and has been musically strong ever since. His first album after his recovery was 1996's Mr Happy Go Lucky. His self-titled 1998 album garnered him some of the best reviews of his career.

In 2000, he began collaborating with Stephen King to create a ghost story stage musical. This project has been delayed somewhat by King's recovery from being hit by the van.

Livin' In A Small Town

Mellencamp spends a lot of time in Seymour, which is close to Bloomington, Indiana. If you live in Bloomington or spend a few years at Indiana University, you will at some point see Mr. Mellencamp, most likely when he decides to take his motorcycle for a spin around Bloominton's downtown some Friday or Saturday night.

He also regularly shops in Bloomington grocery stores, particularly Mr. D's. Around 1994, one of my former housemates spotted him there one early Sunday morning. As she came back into our apartment with her groceries, she said:

"Oh. My. God. I was in the canned foods aisle, and there was this old scruffy bum in there looking at the green beans. He was wearing this ratty overcoat, and he was wearing running shorts with these white tube socks pulled up to his knees. And then this beautiful blonde model-looking woman walks up and gives him a kiss, and I realized it was John Cougar Mellencamp!"

This was likely during the time that he was recovering from his heart attack, so impressing the townies with his sense of style was probably not high on his list of priorities.

In the late '90s, he took a major step in preserving his legacy in Bloomington and at IU. He donated $1.5 million dollars toward the construction of an indoor athletic facility on the IU campus. The 100,000 square foot John Mellencamp Pavilion opened in the 1996-97 school year to provide playing space for football, baseball, softball, soccer and other varsity sports.

Discography

  • Cuttin' Heads - 2001
  • Rough Harvest - 1999
  • John Mellencamp - 1998
  • The Best That I Could Do - 1997
  • Mr. Happy Go Lucky - 1996
  • Dance Naked - 1994
  • Human Wheels - 1993
  • Falling From Grace Soundtrack - 1992
  • Whenever We Wanted - 1991
  • Big Daddy - 1989
  • The Lonesome Jubilee - 1987
  • Scarecrow - 1985
  • Uh-huh - 1983
  • American Fool - 1982
  • Nothin' Matters and What if It Did - 1980
  • John Cougar - 1979
  • A Biography - 1978
  • U.S. Male - 1978
  • The Kid Inside - 1977
  • Chestnut Street Incident - 1976

Selected Singles

  • "I Need A Lover" - 1979
  • "Ain't Even Done With The Night" - 1980
  • "This Time" - 1980
  • "Jack and Diane" - 1982
  • "Hurt So Good" - 1982
  • "Hand To Hold On To" - 1982
  • "Crumblin' Down" - 1983
  • "Pink Houses" - 1984
  • "Authority Song" - 1984
  • "Lonely Ol' Night" - 1985
  • "Small Town" - 1985
  • "R.O.C.K. In The USA" - 1986
  • "Rain On The Scarecrow" - 1986
  • "Rumbleseat" - 1986
  • "Paper In Fire" - 1987
  • "Cherry Bomb" - 1987
  • "Check It Out" - 1988
  • "Pop Singer" - 1989
  • "Get A Leg Up" - 1991
  • "Again Tonight" - 1992
  • "Wild Night" - 1994
  • "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)" - 1996

Some information was gleaned from http://www.mtv.com/bands/az/mellencamp_john/bio.jhtml and http://www.mellencamp.com/

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Saturday, January 12, 2002

H.J. Ford
H(enry) J(ustice) Ford was a prolific illustrator who was born in 1860 in London. He is best known for the black-and-white line drawings he did for the many Andrew Lang fairy tale books of the late 1800s and early 1900s (titles include The Red Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book, The All Sorts of Stories Book, etc.) Ford was a contemporary of (and competitor with) other book artists such as Arthur Rackham and Willy Pogany.

Ford graduated with distinction from Cambridge and later studied art at the Slade. He became a tremendously skilled, imaginative artist whose work was strongly influenced by the pre-Raphaelites, Alphonse Legros, and Walter Crane. He did work on a wide range of topics that blended fantasy with everyday details, but his best work was done illustrating Eastern European and Middle Eastern legends.

Ford died in 1941.

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I'm Lucy Snyder. I'm a Worthington, Ohio author and former magazine editor; on this site you'll find my writing as well as features from my husband, novelist Gary A. Braunbeck.

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