A Request for Clarification

Eric Rosenfield, I just got an email that you had rated James S.A. Corey's space opera novel Leviathan Wakes at 5 stars on goodreads.com

I need to know if this is hyperbole. As you are no doubt aware, the only truly perfect space opera ever to appear in literature are the Culture novels by the lamented and late Iain Banks. Perfect space opera in other media are certainly almost as rare. Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan, Firefly and Serenity, Farscape minus a handful of clunky episodes, 70% of the first season of the Battlestar Galactica reboot, Ice Pirates, The middle 60 minutes ofTitan AE... There may be others, but they are few and far between and as far as the printed word is concerned, very little comes close. Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy possibly approaches that quality, but tends to collapse under its own weight and bizarre theological weirdness.

By rating Corey 5 stars, you have signaled to me and to every other right thinking person that Corey is in the same rank as Banks, and that is high praise to the point of stretching its credibility.

Please explain yourself.

Review: MediaEntity #6

Over at the comiXology Tumblr, I review a fascinating comic called MediaEntity which uses the digital medium to create elliptical, filmic effects to tell a story that I describe as somewhere between a taught thriller and Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Take a gander.

Interview with Neil Gaiman

In this interview, Neil Gaiman discusses book publicity, his new book Chu's First Day of School and the American Gods television show. Enjoy!

The interview happened because the sifu at my kung fu school happens to be friends with a director of book trailers. He sent me a Twitter message that Neal Stephenson was going to be filming one at the school and if I happened to be there at the same time I might be able to meet him. I showed up, Neal Stephenson novel in hand to be signed, only to discover Sifu had gotten the writer wrong. "It'd be really funny if you got him to sign that," said the director when he saw my well-worn copy of The Diamond Age.

I've met Neil Gaiman before, briefly and even more briefly interviewed him, but he's one of my favorite writers so I rushed out to a local bookstore, picked up a copy of a book I hadn't read yet for him to sign (The Ocean at the End of the Lane) and rushed back.

Why Amazon Wins

Remember not so long ago I complained about Amazon's ebook download links disappearing? Well, they're back; I can download my Kindle books form the website again, just in time for my employer to be purchased by that etailing monolith. Soon, I will be an Amazon employee, a curious turn of events considering how we've occasionally pilloried them on this site. Granted, the most vocal pillorer (pillorizer? pilliorian?) has been Quackenbush, but I'm hardly innocent.

Here's the thing: My first ebook reader was a Palm Pilot in the late 90's, and I loved it. Later, when Palm sank, I bought a Sony Reader, the first real dedicated e-reader. When the first Kindle was released, I joined the choruses laughing at its hideous design and fearing Amazon's fomenting reach and power.

However, it wasn't long before it became clear that Sony wasn't really going to compete in hardware or software. Reluctantly, I switched to the Nook. And I was happy for a while. But now Barnes and Noble has fired its hardware engineering staff and looks to be eager to offload the whole platform as a money-loser and a failure. Meanwhile, on hardware and features, the Kindle is constantly improving, and is now better by every possible measure to any of its competitors.

Four TV Shows That Are Better Than Doctor Who

A few months back, Eric wrote a lengthy piece about why Doctor Who is the best television show ever. I think he's terribly wrong in that Doctor Who more or less encompasses everything I hate about TV.

Don't get me wrong, now, I like Doctor Who. There's a fair amount of it that I find to be hugely enjoyable. And there are certainly much worse shows than Doctor Who. There's a reason that the character has had the staying power he has, and not the least of it is because of exactly what Eric talked about in it being able to be anything it wants to be. There's something to be said for a show that can be a historical melodrama one week and a space opera odyssey the next. But I think one can get too wrapped up in that sort of thinking as well. After all, after 50 years and a limitless expanse of space-time to explore, one would hope for a few more recurring villains than just The Master, The Daleks, and the Cybermen, which the rebooted series keeps going back to the well for rather than trying to ever break new ground. And the few times they have strayed from that formula, such as with the Weeping Angels, they've never really been able to sustain them as anything more than a creepified CGI version of the monster under the bed.

So, no, as charming and fun as it often is, there is much better television to be had than Doctor Who. Here are four examples:

Judges' Cave is here!

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My story Judges' Cave is now available at Lakeside Circus!

A little taste:

After the world ended, five people holed up in Judges’ Cave and started a band. Like the punkers of old they rechristened themselves as a new people for a new, post-civilized, age. The Judges played outlandish music, all jangly majors and insistent, thumping rhythms that got under your nails and down your throat until you had to dance and stomp and rave to get it out or risk bursting. People came from miles around, canoeing through the bay that was once downtown New Haven to where the raw cliff face of West Rock jutted out over the water like the ragged brow of some angry sea god, just to watch Vinson, Warren, Burger, Rehnquist and Roberts play.

Go read the rest now!

Links on my Tumblr

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Over on my Tumblr I've linked to some interesting articles about why you should never hate a movie (or a book), literary insecurity and the cold war origins of the writer's workshop culture. Enjoy.

You can't download your .mobi files from Amazon anymore, even if they're DRM free

I provide you the following chat conversation I had with an Amazon representative:

You are now connected to Katherine from Amazon.com

Me:I bought a DRM-free Kindle book and I'd like to download it and put it on my Nook. However, the "Actions" button doesn't seem to have a "download" option any longer.

Katherine:Hello, thank you for contacting Kindle Technical Support. My name is Katherine. I understand you would like to download a book to your Nook device.

Me:Yes
Well, download to my computer and transfer to my Nook

Katherine:I understand Eric, however you are contacting the Kindle support department, in this case, if you have issues or need to download the book, first you need to contact them for further assistance. First you need to know if the book you have is support it on the Nook and then they can definitely help you to download the book

Me:I'm not sure I understand.
It's a DRM-free Kindle book
I want to download it, change it into an ePub using Calibre and load it onto my Nook
But I can't find a way to get the source .Mobi file
Anymore
I used to go to "Manage My Kindle" click "Actions..." and click "Download"
But that option no longer seems to exist

Katherine: I am very sorry Eric, once again I can help you downloading books to Kindles, not Nook. If you are having issues now with it, it will be better if you can contact them. You can read content you buy from the Kindle Store (such as books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs) on most Kindle devices or Kindle reading apps registered to your Amazon.com account.

Me:This has nothing to do with Nook. The problem would be the same if I wanted to download all my .mobi files to put on a personal hard drive for back-up.

Katherine:You might find more information in this link
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/NOOK-Su...(See full link)
I understand is not related with Nook, I can't just tell you that our books are supported for Kindle. If you were able to download to the Nook in the past, and this time is not working, could be that specific file is not supported, is better for you to ask them if in this case you can convert it or change the file to download it

Fucking Amazon.

Why Doctor Who is Better Than the Wire or Why Doctor Who is the Best Television Show of All Time

In honor of the just past 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and the final episode of 11th Doctor Matt Smith, I thought I'd take a moment to talk about why it's my favorite-ever television show, and specifically why I prefer to watch it than a more serious, feted drama like The Wire. (Though fundamentally, this essay could just as easily be called "Why I Like Doctor Who Better Than Breaking Bad", "Why I Like Doctor Who Better Than The West Wing", "Why I Like Doctor Who Better Than Game of Thrones" or pick your highly regarded dramatic television show.) In fact, I'm going to make an argument that Doctor Who is the best television show that has ever been made.

Henry Fool, Fay Grim and Why You Should Give Money to Ned Rifle

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Director Hal Hartley is Kickstarting his new movie, Ned Rifle, which is the third movie in a series that started with 1997's Henry Fool and continued in 2006 with Fay Grim.

Henry Fool is my favorite film of all time. If you want to understand why, you can start by watching this:

In 1997, the foul-mouthed, egomaniacal, ex-con, self-described genius writer Henry Fool was everything I wanted in a literary mentor, and I very much identified with Simon Grim, the quiet garbage man turned poet whom he takes under his wing. The film is archly written, as with everything Hartley does, and characters speak in brilliant monologues and rapid-fire back-and-forth that descends up and down registers from literary erudition to vernacular sexuality in the space of a sentence. As Henry himself puts it, leafing through a pornographic magazine, "I refuse to discriminate between modes of knowing".

It's a movie I come back to once every few years and watch again, and even though I've almost memorized every line at this point, I still see new things of it, new angles on the characters, new layers of meaning in their dialog. There's a scene where Simon is sitting with a pile of rejection letters on his lap, and reads one off where the editor of a magazine says "This tract you've sent us demands a response as violent as the effect your words have had upon us. Drop dead. Keep your day job." To which Henry blithely responds "De gustibus non disputandum est."

Simon: "You can't argue with taste?"

Henry: "About taste. You can't argue about taste. God, Simon."

Henry, condescending to Simon even as he wants to build him up and talk him out of the funk of extreme rejection. And is he right to do that? To tell him that he's written "a work of great lyrical beauty and ethical depth"? Is it true and is there such a thing as truth in art? Is he setting him up for disaster? Is he just a fool? Is he using Simon for his own egotistical ends? You're never quite sure.

For me, this is just about a perfect film about art, ambition and its relationship to our everyday lives.

The sequel, Fay Grim, is a radically different movie, taking the same characters and actors and throwing them into a spy thriller (with special guests Jeff Goldblum and Saffron Burrows). I'll only say that Henry here is a different man, and was a different man all along, and the first movie becomes a different film because of it.

I admit I'm less enamored of the second film because it strips out the meditations on art, though the Harem Fool sequence is as good as anything Hartley has ever written. But it's fascinating in how it plays with our preconceptions of genre, in what a sequel is supposed to be, and how our presumptions about character can be pulled under the rug at any moment by some new stray bit of information.

Which is all why you must give money to the Ned Rifle project. Because if it's anything like the first two movies, it will have the power to change everything we think we know. Which is, I think, what the best art does.

Also, if you've never seen Henry Fool and Fay Grim, find and watch them immediately.

Go now. Give.