Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Catching up...

Because I've been guilty of dereliction of duty to this blog the last few weeks, here's an update on a number of things as penance.

1. It looks like I've been reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for weeks now.  Actually, I've been done with it for the better part of two weeks.  It's a difficult book, in many ways.  The format is not as easy or "fun" to follow as a novel.  Trying to fit a secret history fiction within well-documented historical reality is often difficult, and requires a lot of sacrifices to pacing, tension, and other things that novel writers (and readers!) take for granted.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the book, though, was where the author doesn't bother following through with well-documented historical reality.  For instance, why does Abraham Lincoln have this contemptible relationship with his father, who's rewritten to be a shiftless layabout?  Because I had recently read Ben Shapiro's Primetime Propoganda, it was easy for me to see a typical liberal writer/artist position in which fathers represent authority, authority is automatically bad of any stripe, therefore history must be rewritten to have Abraham Lincoln conform to the liberal ideal of a "hero."  Granted, if I hadn't just read Shapiro's book, I might not have made that connection.  But I was still seriously disheartened by the characterization of Lincoln himself as fairly distermperate, emotionally damaged, frequently depressed to the point of being suicidal, frequently petty in his relationships with others, and other character flaws.  Also, he's rewritten as a life-long crusader against slavery--when it's well documented that Lincoln would have been willing to preserve the institution if it could save the Union, which was really his first priority. Not that flaws are a bad thing, but completely invented flaws in a historical figure... much harder to swallow.

Although the core conceit is, of course, that Abraham Lincoln himself was the vampire hunter, in fact it the book would have been better if it had focused on a different protagonist; someone fictional in whom discrepancies of character from that which is well-known and well-documented would have been much less jarring.

I had greatly anticipated the movie.  Since I found the book itself to be relatively mediocre--and the book's author is also a co-writer of the movie's screenplay--I find my expectations significantly lowered.  It might still be fun.  Heck; this is a concept that lends itself better to the film medium than it does to the rather odd book that we got anyway.

I ended up buying the book; I'll be donating it to the library here in the near future.

2. I've also been reading this Harry Connelly Twenty Palaces series, which a friend has lent me, considering that the book sounded "right up my alley."  In truth, I am quite enjoying it, but I'm somewhat disheartened to learn that the series has been cancelled after three books (I'm about halfway through the second one right now) and left in a significantly unfinished state in many ways.  The author has been very open about why it may have been cancelled.  It's not support from his label (Del Rey) which he lauds as admirable, and above and beyond his highest expectations.  You can read all about it here.  One thing that I think he misses, and which I think might be a huge dealbreaker, is that his books are being publcshed by a fantasy publisher and sold as if they were urban fantasy.  In reality, in tone and presentation, they bear a much greater resemblance to supernatural horror.  Sure, the line between the two can often be a bit blurry anyway, but I think its also true that readers expecting one and getting the other are going to be a bit off-put.  The differences are mostly on the structural level of the novels, and on the tone that the novels exhibit.

I also think that the protagonist takes a lot longer than he needs to to warm up to the readers.  And his "chemistry" with Annalise is nonexistant and frustrating for a long time.  And frankly, what kind of name is Ray Lilly anyway?  Did he think of that name while working on his flower beds?  I think we have a bunch of raylilies at our house.  Nice annual flowers.  In fact, in general, I'd say that getting the books moving and feeling engaged with them was difficult for me, both the first time around, and even the second time around.  This is another feature of a lot of horror novels; they're by nature slow-starters.  That's fine for horror fans; fantasy fans often find it difficult to get engaged.

3. My online game of DARK•HERITAGE didn't work out.  I felt like I was trying to drag all of the players along, who were either distracted, busy, or just not really as interested as they were saying that they were.  In fact, it never even started, before I kinda walked away and said, "forget it."  Apathy is the death of online games, where the pacing is going to be slow anyway.  If I can't even get chargen done without pulling teeth, then the game is doomed before it starts.  My "real life" game, on the other hand, has recently restarted after a several month hiatus.  We picked up a Star Wars campaign which takes place a few years after Jedi and ignores most of the C-canon stuff from the Expanded Universe.  In fact, my own take on running a Star Wars game would be very similar; except that I'd put it even further afield in time--a few hundred years after Jedi, and time for all the signature characters to have died and some of their actions passed into legendry, their legacy having been interpreted and misinterpreted for generations now.  I'm not in the market to run a Star Wars game anytime soon (especially since someone else in the group is just doing it) but I've also been thinking of doing a back-burner bit of development for an alternate history superhero type setting sometime.

4. And finally, I added a new blog to the blogroll--4cornershikes especially about Arches National park.  Sadly, I'm not a fan of the organization of that blog; there's actually over half a dozen different blogs featuring different areas nearby.  So, Canyonlands hikes are on a different blog than neighboring Arches hikes.  I don't want to add all of them to my blogroll and swamp it with hiking blogs, so I just added one.  I probably won't get to do all the hiking I want to this summer, but I do have some scheduled trips to the Smoky Mountains and Hocking Hills, as well as somewhere in northern Michigan--I'm thinking Tahquamenon Falls State Park and neighboring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  We might also manage a hike to the Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore.  None of those options are exactly what I want--for one thing, they're all east of the Mississippi and I'm an avowed lover of the American west and its more dramatic scenery.  But, on the other hand, they're more doable this year than what I'd really prefer to do, and heck; they're all going to be new to me anyway.

Although hiking has been one of my great desires (and little blogged about activities) the truth is, I'm underequipped currently, a little out of shape, and way too busy to really take the big hiking trips that I want to take.  I'm probably a year or too away from having the freedom I want to do a lot more trips out west and seeing the mountains and the deserts, the national parks and wilderness areas that I'd really love to.  And frankly, what I'd like to do and what it's realistic for me to ever do (at least between now and retirement) is probably going to be at odds forever.

No comments: