Hooray for Hollywood–and Richard Matheson
By Greg Cox, Consulting Editor, Tor Books
Bookstores and libraries aren’t the only places to expose yourself to the astounding (and frequently terrifying) imagination of New York Times bestselling author Richard Matheson. You might also try your neighborhood cineplex or DVD store.
The hit film I Am Legend is only the most recent movie to be adapted from Matheson’s acclaimed novels and short stories–and it won’t be the last. For over fifty years, beginning with The Incredible Shrinking Man, Matheson’s works have been made (and remade) into such memorable films as What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes, Somewhere in Time, The Legend of Hell House, Duel (Steven Spielberg’s first tv-movie), The Omega Man, and The Last Man on Earth. Production has just wrapped on a thriller starring Cameron Diaz and based on Matheson’s devilish short story “Button, Button” (previously adapted for The Twilight Zone).
An accomplished screenwriter in his own right, Matheson has also translated the work of his fellow authors to the screen, including The Night Stalker (at one time the most successful tv-movie ever aired), The Martian Chronicles, Dracula, and several classic Vincent Price films inspired by the eerie tales and poetry of Edgar Alan Poe: House of Usher, Pit and The Pendulum, Tales of Terror, and The Raven.
Finally, Matheson has written for numerous hit tv series, most notably the original Twilight Zone, to which he contributed sixteen episodes. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” in which William Shatner is terrified by a gremlin on the wing of his plane, remains one of the show’s most indelible episodes.
Future Matheson adaptations are already in development, coming soon to a theater near you!
Richard Matheson’s Button, Button (978-0-7653-1257-0; $12.95 / $14.50 CAN) was released by Tor in April.
L. E. Modesitt on Viewpoints Critical
My first story was published in 1973, and Viewpoints Critical is my first story collection. There’s a simple reason for that delay. While I’ve written short fiction for far longer than I’ve written novels, the problem, at least for me, is that a good story has never come as easily as has a novel, and sometimes it has taken years to write a story. “Always Outside the Lines,” for example, took over ten years to write. The opening lines are a riff on a line from Cordwainer Smith’s “The Dead Lady of Clown Town” that I wrote years before I had a place for them, yet I knew would be just right… somewhere.
Another problem with my short fiction is that much of it is somehow different in a way that tends to defy description. For example, “Understanding” was written for an anthology about lovers and other monsters, but the editor rejected it as too misogynistic. I offered it to a well-known fantasy magazine, which rejected it as “ultrafeminist.” It was ultimately published in Canada… without labels.
When Sharon Lee and Steve Miller were putting together Low Port, an anthology about people who weren’t typical Type A high-level accomplishing heroes, I ended up writing “The Dock to Heaven” as a way of showing that there were other kinds of hard-working and unnoticed dock workers grubbing around ports, even spaceports.
Some anthology editors have noticed this. Andrew Greeley actually asked me if I could write him a futuristic SF story – not a fantasy -- based on the theme of Irish magic. I did, and the result was “The Swan Pilot,” which incorporates three separate Irish myths into a classic mythic theme, all within a very real hard-SF framework.
I do have an Irish background, mixed in with a few ancestors from elsewhere, and I’ve always had a great fondness for the poetry of William Butler Yeats, and on more than one occasion have paid tribute to him by referencing or briefing quoting his work in my books. But one story in this collection actually takes as its overall theme a riff [yes, another riff] on Yeats’ love for Maude Gonne – as well as lines from several works alluding to her – and all are an integral part of the plot and action. The story? It’s “Ghost Mission,” which was also selected for Kathryn Cramer’s and David Hartwell’s Year’s Best Fantasy 7.
There are four “war stories” in the collection, and not a single one is what one might call “traditional,” and yet all are based on truths known by those who have been there. “Second Coming” addresses a new way to incorporate “religious truth” into future war. “Iron Man, Plastic Ships” brings home the true costs of “new technology and old budgets,” while “The Pilots” touches on the cruelty of definitions made by bureaucrats and the lasting impact and shared pain of conflict across eons. Finally, “Spec-Ops,” which made another “year’s best” anthology, reveals the illusions behind “stand-off weapons” and biotechnology… and the courage to persevere even knowing those illusions.
In the end, of course, every story in the collection does reflect personal experience to a greater or lesser degree, because I believe the best writing comes from the heart and the experiences that shape the thought and emotion that should run through every good story.
Viewpoints Critical (978-0-7653-1857-2; $25.95 / $28.95 CAN) by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. was released by Tor in March. The author’s website is: www.lemodesittjr.com.
Mad Kestrel Sets Sail
By Misty Massey
When I was a girl, the library was a place of shining wonders to me. So many books, all lined up waiting for me to lose myself in their marvelous pages. The librarians didn’t want me reading inappropriate books, so my parents had to sign a permission card to let me read anything I chose. In middle school, my teacher assigned a book report and handed us a list of suitable novels from which to choose. I had just started reading Ben Hur, so I asked if I could do my report on it. The teacher insisted I couldn’t understand a book that sophisticated. My mother once again stood up for me, getting me the permission I needed. I earned a grudging A on the report. As I grew older, people kept telling me I’d need to choose a career that didn’t involve so many fictional characters. They should have guessed I’d find my way around that, too.
Mad Kestrel first came to my mind when I was playing a pirate at the Renaissance festival. I’d entertain patrons by telling stories of thrilling adventures on the high seas. I was working on another novel at the time, but the more I talked about the pirates and their exploits, the more I wanted to write about them instead. I’d been crazy about pirates for most of my life, so I started reading everything and visiting historical sites. Not that Mad Kestrel should be considered historically accurate by any stretch. Real pirates were vicious and cruel, and, as far as I know, didn’t use magic.
To me—and to many others--pirates represent bravery, freedom and romance. Whether or not they really could slide down a sail using a dagger as a brake doesn’t matter. (And no, I don’t think the Mythbusters proved that one – let them get Errol Flynn on set, and maybe I’ll believe it!)
Good Southern girls are raised not to boast about their accomplishments, yet here I am, about to be doing exactly that. I’ve built a website, started a blog, and created a video book trailer (with the help of a lot of friendly pirates and belly dancers!). I’ve made bookmarks to hand out in school and public libraries. I have several book signings and appearances lined up already, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that I should expect a few pirates to invade them.
Most writers have a day job to pay all those pesky bills that keep showing up, and I’m no exception. I run the circulation desk in a middle school library. It’s close to the perfect job. Books all around me, weekends and summers off to write. When my students learned that I’d written a book, they bombarded me with questions – how long did it take, how did I manage to get it published, and so on. The other day, a student came in and started to read one of my bookmarks. He asked if this was the book I’d written, and I smiled. He very seriously asked, “So, have you read it yet?”
Yes, darling, I’ve been reading it all my life.
Mad Kestrel (0-7653-1802-4, $14.95 / $16.95 CAN) by Misty Massey was released by Tor in March 2008. Visit Misty Massey’s website to read her blog and check out her video book trailer, Got Pirate?
The New Destroyer: Get to know a series that’s been going strong more than 30 years
The co-authors of The New Destroyer series let some longtime Destroyer fans from www.DestroyerClub.com ask them some interesting questions…
For non-fans, what exactly is The New Destroyer series?
Jim Mullaney: It's a continuation of The Destroyer series -- created by Warren Murphy and his late co-creator Dick Sapir -- which has been continuously published in one form or another since 1971. The Destroyer is Remo Williams, a wisecracking assassin who works for CURE, a secret government agency that defends the US against all manner of dastardly villains. Remo has been instructed in the ancient martial art of Sinanju by Chiun, a seemingly frail elderly Korean who is, in fact, the most dangerous human being on the face of the planet. When their boss, tightfisted, taciturn Dr. Harold W. Smith, uncovers a threat to America, he sends Remo and Chiun into the breach. And mayhem -- hopefully funny mayhem -- ensues.
What goes on when the two of you are tossing plot ideas back and forth?
Warren Murphy: An important thing, maybe the most important, is that we trust each other. Both of us know that the other is only interested in the best book we can produce. So on those rare occasions when we disagree on something, whoever feels more strongly about it wins.
Mullaney: With the first book, Guardian Angel, there must have been something in the paper that ticked us both off and the next thing I knew we were submitted a book about illegal immigration. That's how it's worked on subsequent New Destroyer books. We're making pearls here. One thing in the news is the grain of sand, followed by a hundred back-and-forth emails that build up and build up until we finally have a story.
How do you blend your different writing styles to make a novel?
Mullaney: Warren hates the same stuff I hate, and he really hates the same stuff I really hate, so there's an overlap in attitude. And since a lot of The Destroyer is about attitude, maybe that helps to mesh our styles. All I know is we've written six books together so far, four New Destroyers and two others, and I haven't had to flatten Murphy's tires or throw a brick through his front window. Yet.
Murphy: On the other hand, I've been a chain smoker for more years than Mullaney has been alive, so it's hardly likely that on my own I would have come up with a book idea like Choke Hold about Big Tobacco...but a good idea is a good idea. You learn to get over it.
What is the direction for the New Destroyer? Will you be using new foes or established villains?
Mullaney: So far we haven't used any of the supervillains from the old days. Some of them are dead and will remain dead, some are in limbo and some are definitely alive. Right now we've got villains that are best suited for the stories we want to tell. But when we come up with, for instance, a plot where the villain has to be an unstoppable killer android who has no creativity, we'll probably dust off Mr. Gordons.
Warren, has there ever been a time when you thought that it was time to wrap up the series and write Remo and Chiun's final adventure? Not that I ever want to see the series end! I'm curious if you had an idea in your head about what might one day bring the series to a satisfying conclusion for you.
Murphy: I won't let the series die the death of a thousand cuts. If it's going to die, I will kill it -- hopefully with a fitting valedictory for all the characters I have held so dear for so long.
To read more questions from Destroyer Fans and Mullaney and Murphy’s answers, visit the official fansite.
The latest in Warren Murphy and James Mullaney’s series, The New Destroyer: Dead Reckoning (0-7653-5761-5; $6.99/$8.99 CAN), was released by Tor on April 1, 2008. For more information on the series and to read the complete fan interview, please visit: www.destroyerclub.com.