About a year ago I posted a list of authors I wanted to catch up with. I read quite a few books last year, but how did I do with this list?

In the Company of OthersJulie E. Czerneda — I read the Trade Pact Universe trilogy last year, and I’m about half-way through the stand-alone novel, In the Company of Others, which means I’ve read just over half her novels. That leaves the Web Shifters trilogy and the two books so far of Stratification.

RollbackRobert J. Sawyer — since last year I’ve only read two of his books: Rollback and Flashforward (reviewed here). Though I made a point of attending his panel at Comic-Con International in July.

Robert Charles Wilson — Somehow managed not to read anything of his last year.

The Hounds of AshGreg Keyes — Re-read the first three books of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, then read the final volume, The Born Queen, after it was released. Received The Hounds of Ash for Christmas, a collection of short stories set in the same universe as The Waterborn and Blackgod, and I got two stories in before I decided I wanted to re-read the novels.

The Graveyard BookNeil Gaiman — I read The Graveyard Book when it came out last fall (thanks to my brother for sending a signed copy from the SF reading!), but I can’t think of anything else (other than his blog) that I’ve read during the past year.

Other authors/titles I’ve read over the past year: Connie Willis (Bellwether), Robert Asprin (several Myth Adventures books), Naomi Novik (Fifth Temeraire novel, Victory of Eagles), Larry Niven (entire Ringworld series), George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones, sorry, not a fan), JMS (various B5 scriptbooks). Soon I Will Be Invincible (reviewed), Gateway, Night in Times Past, The Flash Companion, plus bunches of comics and tons of stuff online.

Some entertainment stuff I’m looking forward to this year:

Movies: Coraline

YouTube also has the trailer in HD.

I discovered Sandman late, borrowing the trades from one of my (younger) brother’s friends around 1998 or so, then immediately tracking down my own copies. I lucked out and got a complete set on eBay for something like $70. Since then I’ve devoured most of Neil Gaiman’s work, be it in comics, prose, or movie form. The original novel of Coraline was very good, and it’s been adapted by the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is among my favorite movies…and what I’ve seen of the film suggests that they get it. It’s hard to believe it’s only two weeks away!

Other movies: Oddly enough, I’m only mildly interested in Terminator: Salvation, Transformers 2: Can’t Remember the Subtitle, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the films have been steadily deteriorating after peaking with #3, IMHO), Star Trek, and Watchmen. I’ll probably see all of them, but none of them have me nearly as excited.

Comics, books, music, etc. after the cut: Continue reading

Earlier this month I read Robert J. Sawyer’s novel, Flashforward. It’s about what happens after, during a scientific experiment, the entire population of the world blacks out for two minutes and sees a vision of what they will be doing twenty years from now. It focuses on the question of free will, and looks at the different ways people might react to learning exactly what their future has in store.

Like most of Sawyer’s stuff, It’s a good, fast read that makes you think. It’s also been in the news lately, since ABC is developing it as a TV series to pick up the Lost audience as that show wraps up, and they’ve been announcing casting for the pilot.

I’ve posted a review of Flashforward at Speed Force (update: moved to Kelson Reviews Stuff).

As Comic-Con International strains at the boundaries of the San Diego Convention Center, it’s begun spilling over into the city. Go back 4-5 years, and the most you would see would be the occasional street light banner or bus stop advertisement. Now, there are people handing out flyers as far out as the trolley stops, and walking around the Gaslamp in ridiculous mascot costumes (the sandwiches a few years ago, the donuts this year). There are displays near the trolley stops. There are buses wrapped with full advertisements for movies and TV shows, shuttle vans labeled U.S.S. Enterprise — there was even an ice cream truck parked for several days on 5th street with a Eureka ad on the side (and probably something inside it, but I was always on the other side of the street when I saw it).

It’s mainly the TV and film studios (except for the flyers), and it ties into something that author Robert J. Sawyer mentioned at his spotlight panel: Convention-goers are nexuses (well, nexi). We’re the people who are so into movies, TV, games, comics, etc. that we’ll put in the effort, time and expense to go to this kind of event, and we’re likely to talk about it. They’re counting on us going back to our offices or dorm rooms, hanging out with friends, blogging, posting on Twitter, or otherwise telling everyone we know about how cool this and that new movie is going to be.

In short: It’s an advertising blitz designed to kick off word-of-mouth hype, aimed at the crowd that’s both most primed to receive it and most likely to spread it.

With the massive convention floor and unbelievable crowds, they’re doing everything they can to stand out. So we get the viral marketing, like the ads for TruBlood, the Humans-Only Restrooms signs, the army of people in Quarantine outfits, the Neighborhood Watch–style sign for The Spirit. We get the swag. We get the celebrity appearances. We get displays of terra-cotta warriors to advertise The Mummy and replicas of the Owlship from Watchmen.

All that brings in more people, which of course makes the event more attractive to the studios, so they put in more effort, which brings in more people, and they start promoting movies that have nothing to do with comics, sci-fi, fantasy or horror, the genres that used to be the main focus for the con. (I remember thinking that Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was an odd choice to promote at Comic-Con. This year, the sequel blended right in.)

The con seems to have reached an upper limit in terms of the number of people it can handle at the current venue, which is contracted through 2012. I wonder whether Hollywood will demand bigger crowds — which would probably be best handled by spilling into neighboring hotels — or be satisfied with the numbers it’s got.

Busy day. I had a lot of stuff that I wanted to get to but had to make choices. Shoulders are starting to acclimate, though there’s also the fact that I’ve taken a lot of stuff out of my backpack as I’ve gotten it signed. I have no idea what I’m going to do to carry around Comic Book Tattoo.

Speaking of which, yes, the books finally came in! I picked mine up late morning, and decided to shell out the extra $20 for the hardcover because it’s just so big. It’s at least an inch and a half thick, and it’s 12 inches square — the size of a vinyl record album case.

Katie dressed up as Yomiko Readman, and we started the day at Richard Walker’s Pancake House. They were very busy, but had a system in place that kept people moving — and they were also very good. We got to the convention center around 10:00, explored the floor a bit together, then split up. When I bought a comic from Sergio Aragonés that I hadn’t seen before, and asked him to sign it, he asked her what character her costume was from. He clearly didn’t recognize the show, but it was nice of him to ask. The first hour or so that we were there, she mostly got people asking, “What’s that from?” but then people who knew the show started asking for her picture.

I managed to round out the complete set of signatures on the Girl Genius trades. I also picked up a print of the Flash: Rebirth cover at Moose Baumann’s table, and commissioned an Impulse sketch from Todd Nauck. When I got there, he was talking with someone, and I waited while they chatted for several minutes. When he left, it turned out that he was Carlo Barberi, who drew Impulse during most of Todd Dezago’s run. I couldn’t stick around while he drew the sketch, since I was on my way to a panel, plus he was finishing up a sketch for someone else, so I’ll be heading back sometime tomorrow to pick it up.

I went to a couple of panels by science fiction authors, both one-person shows: Connie Willis and Robert Sawyer. Connie Willis was very funny as she talked about writing in general, about her upcoming novels, and answered questions from the audience. Robert Sawyer mostly talked about his experience in the publishing industry, and managed to make it interesting. I followed it up with a panel on lost civilizations and secret societies that should have been fascinating, but was dull enough that I left only 10 minutes in and decided to hit the art show instead. Katie attended “Humor in Science Fiction” and the Bones panel, and I finished the programming day up with Final Crisis Management.

Today was the day for running into people. On my way from Image (with the Tori book) to Studio Foglio, I ran into a group from Comic Quest (the local comic store I go to on Wednesdays). I ran into my mom at the Connie Willis panel. We met up with our friend Sean at lunch, and I ran into our friend Wayne after Final Crisis…because Katie had spotted a Minbari, and I went over to take his picture. Ten feet away, there was Wayne.

Lunch was at an Irish pub called The Field. I missed Sean’s phone call, so by the time we caught up he’d already found a place and ordered lunch, but they were nice enough to move all of us from the tiny little pub table he was sitting at to a larger table. Up to this point, we’d been batting 1.000 on food. Dinner was another story. We hadn’t gotten around to making reservations, and after a couple of places with long waits, we just went to the Horton Plaza food court.