Sunday, November 30, 2003

How I Spent My November Vacation

"Well, I'm back!"

Spending nine days away from the blog was actually a lot easier than I had expected. In fact, for a very brief moment, the thought of simply not returning until I really felt like it flashed across my mind. Luckily, I was able to beat that impulse back down with a very large hammer.

So, what did I do? Well, the usual stuff. First, I read some books:

:: The Sword of Rhainnon, by Leigh Brackett. I'd never read any Brackett before this. Her work is pretty hard to find -- I had to get this one from the library, since I'm not sure there is anything by Brackett even in print right now. Brackett is one of those names you'll see lauded on SF discussion boards which are frequented by people who have read the genre for a long time. Her biggest claim to fame is that she wrote the first draft of the screenplay to The Empire Strikes Back, before her untimely death in 1978 required George Lucas to turn the project over to Lawrence Kasdan.

This particular book is set, as apparently a lot of Brackett books are, on Mars -- but it's not the Mars we know now, not by a longshot. Since the book was written two decades before the Viking landers, this was still in the era when people thought there might be canals up there and that a great civilization might have once prospered on the Red Planet. So basically the book reads like one of those 1950s sci-fi adventure movies. As I read it, I could just see the burly white hero besting a planet-full of Technicolor baddies. The book never quite rose above the anachronisms, but it was still pretty fun.

:: Carrie, Stephen King. I liked this one. Not as much as 'Salem's Lot or The Stand, but this one was pretty good. Not all that scary, really, but that could be because I already knew how it ended. What made it compelling for me was that I well remember the equivalent of Carrie in my own school, the kid who was still getting his books knocked out of his hands on the stairs even when he was a senior. Anyone who ever says that "High school is the best four years of your life!" should be kneed in the groin and forced to read Carrie while being force-fed overcooked asparagus.

:: The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain. This is one of the cornerstones of the noir crime genre, and it's a good one. Tough and lean prose, a tight focus on a mere handful of characters, a crime that is almost gotten-away with, and it's short. I read this one in a day, and I think that noir novels might become my genre of choice whenever I'm tired of longer, more florid works.

:: Bushwhacked, Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose. A fascinating, if depressing, look into the policies of the Bush Administration.

:: And I'm still truckin' along on The Iliad. Hector just killed Patroclus. Lots of stuff about the Argives trying to recover the corpse. I have a feeling Achilles is not going to take kindly to this development. (Yeah, I already know how it all plays out. In college we had to read the portion of the poem where Achilles and Hector finally duke it out.)

As for writing, I didn't get as much work done as I had hoped, but I still got a bit of work done. The novel now stands just shy of 83,000 words, which is in turn just shy of the halfway point. Now I'm in the middle of a couple of chapters which set up the conflicts that play out over the last act of the thing.

In real-life stuff, Thanksgiving was lovely -- much food consumed and not a single down of football watched. (A good thing, too -- the cognitive dissonance I would have suffered as I tried to figure out which team I wanted to win in the Dallas-Miami game would have been too much.) We caught From Russia With Love on some satellite-network that was doing a Bond marathon (they followed that one up with The Man With the Golden Gun -- talk about going from good to, well, not-so-good). And we largely sat around and did nothing.

Friday I did a very small amount of Christmas shopping. I went to Wal-Mart -- but in the mid-afternoon, well after all those psychotic people who line up at five in the morning (and who, apparently, will trample anyone in their way) are gone. That's also a good time to visit stand-alone stores like Media Play and whatnot, because it's my experience that later in the day is when people descend on the malls. Then I went home. (BTW, hey, Wal-Mart! You're going to "hold" a DVD player for the woman for when she gets out of the hospital? You can't give the damn thing to her? Ye Gods....)

And that's about it. All in all, not a lot went on. Just the way I like it.

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