Series Condition: Silver Surfer

More and more lately, I’ve been in the mood to read comic books and graphic novels. And more and more, I’ve wanted those comics to be bright and colorful—with fluid line-work and just a little bit cartoonishness to them. I’m really gravitating toward the work of artists like David Rubin and Andrew MacLean right now. But then the other day I realized, ‘Hey, why not check in on the modern master of bold, fun comics… Mike Allred!”

I’ve been a fan of Allred’s since back in my college days, when he drew Madman and also The Atomics. My favorite series he ever did was X-Force/X-Statix. In that series, he just went ree-dic-ulous when it came to color palettes and character designs. But also Peter Millgan’s plotting and themes on that series were surprisingly topical and hard-boiled, which was a nice juxtaposition to the art. I’d definitely recommend checking that out. But anyway…

I’d heard good things about the Silver Surfer series that Mike Allred had been working on, so I decided I should give it a try. Boy was I glad I did!

Silver Surfer
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Mike Allred
Color Artist: Laura Allred
Publisher: Marvel
2014-2015
15 issues (A completed series)

I can’t say I’m much of a fan of the Silver Surfer. From what I’ve seen of him, his personality seems as nondescript as his character design. Also he’s one of those cosmically powered characters who seems to be able to do anything, based on the circumstance he’s been written into. He’s a walking, talking Deus Ex Machina. Where’s the drama in that?

Series co-creators Scott and Allred avoid this problem by introducing Dawn—a plucky-yet-vulnerable earthling girl who becomes the Surfer’s companion on his galaxy-spanning adventures. Does the ‘companion’ part sound familiar? To me, it sounded a lot like Doctor Who. I like Doctor Who somewhat, but the episode ‘Silence in the Library’ kind of ruined the series for me. It was legitimately (and schlockly) scary—which I like—but also it emphatically points out the fact that the Doctor is compulsively putting random civilians in horrible danger, for the sake of intergalactic adventure. Sure the humans are willing participants, but it seems quite neglectful—even slightly diabolical—that the Doctor doesn’t offer much to protect his companions, except for a chintzy ‘sonic-screwdriver’ and the constant advice, ‘Run fast!’

This ‘Silver Surfer’ series avoids this problem of manslaughter-level adventureneering because:
A) It quickly establishes a quirky, swashbuckling vibe, and the dangers never seem that visceral or immediate.
B) The Surfer is always cosmically powerful, so he can keep Dawn safe in just about any instance.

The story begins twelve years before present time, and Dawn is a just little kid wishing on a star. That meteor ends up the being the Silver Surfer, who is in his pre-heroic phase—when we was a enthralled henchman of the planet-devouring god-villain, Galactus. Instead of wishing for something for herself, young Dawn wishes for the falling star—wishes that it will keep flying forever so that it always have the chance to grant wishes to others.

This first connection is never brought up in the series (although maybe it is revealed in the next volume), but nevertheless, the story skips ahead to present-day, and Dawn is abducted as a hostage because some enigmatic cosmic device declares that she is the most important person in the Silver Surfer’s life. How is that possible if they have never really met? The series spend a chunk of time unspooling the Surfer and Dawn’s relationship. And along the way, they find themselves in some pretty zany predicaments.

They tangle with the Never Queen, who is the cosmic entity who embodies of all unrealized possibility.

They go to a planet where everyone is obsessed with being the ONE perfect expert in their profession. On this adventure, they meet Warrior One, Banker One, Ice-Cream Maker One, etc.

They return to visit Dawn’s family just in time to face off against the obviously-name villain Nightmare. Then we’re treated to a classic ‘everybody faces their greatest fear’ adventure.

Add to that a ‘time-loop’ adventure that’s laid out so that the comic book issue can be cut up and pasted together into an real Moebius strip. Seriously.

Along the way there’s plenty of nice, smaller moments. Like the one where the Surfer has to get used to traveling across interstellar distances with a human who has to eat and drink three times a day, and pee and poop out all that stuff even more often.

But the highlight of this run is a multi-part story where the duo find a hidden planet occupied by 666 billion refugees from 666 billion worlds. Hmm, what kind of monster could have destroyed that many planets? (Burp!) and who is the former indentured servant who helped lead that monster to all these worlds? Let’s just say that the Surfer’s past comes back to haunt him, and it leads to a turning point in his Dawn and his relationship. And also a clash of cosmic powers that is actually truly memorable. The story culminates with a ‘I am Spartacus’ moment that ‘calls back’ to the Surfer’s origin story, and that is actually pretty emotional. It’s one of the best pure superhero stories I’ve read in a long time.

I’d highly recommend the series, if you’re looking for comic-book in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy or Doctor Who. And the good news is that there’s a volume of Silver Surfer with the same creative team, so that means a whole other galaxy of possibilities and adventures to explore!

 

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Now available! ‘Exile!’

The conclusion to the Idyll Trilogy is finally here! Now available on Amazon.

Here is the description for Exile:

The Starboards and the Bridges are back for the pulse-pounding conclusion to the Sci-Fi Western / Dystopian IDYLL trilogy!

Now our settler heroes find themselves living in self-imposed exile on a cold and otherworldly island fortress. Their new ‘Citadel’ is arrayed with technology that’s more fantastic—and deadly—than anything they’ve ever imagined.

But their new position brings powerful enemies, and also the implacable curiosity of the Parliament, the world-shaping entity that ultimately controls all of Idyll.

Can they learn to work together—even while fostering new romances and tending to old wounds? Who is the mysteriously familiar stranger haunting their new home? And how far can their bonds of love and family hold? Beyond the threshold of death itself?

To protect their friends and their planet, Miriam, Virginia, Walt, and Samuel must prepare for the ultimate showdown. And even war.


Woo-hoo!

What else will you find in Exile?
• An honest-to-goodness pistol duel with plasma pistols.!
• A new, mysterious (alien?) life-form.
• And a debate about a virtual-reality afterlife! (I swear I wrote this before I saw Black Mirror’s ‘San Junipero.’)

Check it out… I hope you will like it!

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Idyll Chatter: Writing Progress

In May of 2008, I started keeping digital journal to keep track of my writing progress. Basically, I’d make a new .RTF file each month, and record what I wrote on for that day. Over the years, it’s developed into more of a personal journal—but more of a ‘dudish’ version of personal, as in recording what I did on my lunch hour, or what I watched on TV that night.

But I still list my writing (or lack thereof) for every day. And as I switch from one writing project to another, I color code the months with different color tags. That usually gives me a daunting (and usually depressing) look at how long it takes me to finish a book. I’ve included a screenshot of the last 4 years of my ‘Writing Journal.’

The yellow dots are months that I worked on IDYLL, and the purple dots are months I worked on the novel that became LINE OF DESCENT. I swapped working on those two books, on and off, for nearly ten years! The blue dots were months I worked on polishing SHADOW SIDEWAYS. The orange dots represent progress on THE WILDS.

I had forgotten that I started a first draft on The Wilds for several months, then went back to do one final pass on Idyll, then came back to finish The Wilds. So last week when I was checking how long it took me to write The Wilds vs. writing EXILE, I was disappointed to see 12 red dots (EXILE months) vs. 11 orange dots for The Wilds. Exile overall is about 3,000 words shorter, and also it has a more streamlined and straightforward plot. Also, I thought I was getting faster with my writing, and I thought I was really motoring along. Then I scrolled up in my Finder window and saw that in truth I worked on The Wilds for an 11-month clip and also an 8-month clip before that. So Exile WILL be the first book that I finished in a year or less. Pretty cool!

By the way… The green dots at the bottom of the window? Starting in April and May of 2017? That’s the beginning of a completely new series of novellas! I’m very excited about that, and it’s been major fun creating a new world. For this new series, I’m hoping to keep the novellas around 40,000 words, so that I can finish them and publish them at a more rapid pace. (By comparison, all of my other novels are around 80,000 words.) I’m hoping the series will have a sort of pulpy, episodic vibe—but with no cliffhangers. Stay tuned for more news in the coming months!

Coming in May: Exile!

Officially announcing the release of Book 3 of the Idyll trilogy! Coming May 16…

The Starboards and the Bridges are back for the pulse-pounding conclusion to the Sci-Fi Western / Dystopian IDYLL trilogy!

Now our settler heroes find themselves living in self-imposed exile on a cold and otherworldly island fortress. Their new ‘Citadel’ is arrayed with technology that’s more fantastic—and deadly—than anything they’ve ever imagined.

But their new position brings powerful enemies, and also the implacable interest of the Parliament, the world-shaping entity that ultimately controls all of Idyll.

Can they learn to work together—even while fostering new romances and tending to old wounds? Who is the mysteriously familiar stranger haunting their new home? And how far can their bonds of love and family hold? Beyond the threshold of death itself?

To protect their friends and their planet, Miriam, Virginia, Walt, and Samuel must prepare for an ultimate showdown. And even war.

 

Idyll Chatter: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I want to apologize in advance for letting my blogular presence slide over the last few months. I’ve been really buckling down and focusing on finishing the last revisions of IDYLL, Book 3. I thought I was doing really well, finishing the first draft in mid-December. But for some reason these last few rounds took a really long time.

I’m thinking about redesigning the covers for all of the Idyll trilogy. What do you think of this new logo style?

Probably the biggest factor was work, which has been crazily busy over the last few months. I’m working after-hours more than ever, and that’s certainly been cutting into writing time. But I have to admit there was a period there where I got complacent (about 75% into my final set of rewrites), and I slowed my pace. Also, I’ve been thinking more and more the next series I want to write, and there’s been a few hours of writing time that I’ve devoted to outlining and world-building on that series.

After two years of straight writing on THE WILDS and EXILE, I needed a little break from the planet of Idyll, and I think those little bits of break have helped me re-approach the IDYLL finale and re-excite myself about the whole series. I’m really pumped about the way the Idyll trilogy ends, I can’t think of any other heroes who have had their story end in quite this way!

How will Samuel, Walt, Miriam, and Virginia ride off into the sunset? Will ALL of them make it to that last ride? I’m proud to announce that readers won’t have to wait long to find out. The manuscript is now finished, and EXILE should be released by May 16!

Also, I’m planning to release the entire series to Kindle Unlimited, so if you’re a KU subscriber, you’ll be able to check out the entire series for free. Stay tuned for more news.

And thanks so much for visiting and reading!

The Pulchritude Award: Inflammable

Nick_RivieraHi, everybody! The Pulchritude Award goes to words that don’t sound like what they actually mean. Today’s winner…

In the immortal words of the all-too-mortal Dr. Nick: “Inflammable means flammable? What a country!”
‘What a country,’ indeed, Dr. Nick. And what a word!
Or should I say ‘What a prefix?’
Or should I say ‘What a series of prefixes?’
Or should I just shut up?

You see, there are a couple of ‘in-’ prefixes, that come from a variety of Latin roots. Most obviously, ‘in-’ can mean ‘un-’ or ‘not,’ as in invisible, incredible, or inadequate.

But there’s also an ‘in-’ prefix that means ‘in,’ ‘into,’ or ’toward,’ as in income or inundate. This is also the prefix for inhibit, which comes from Latin roots that roughly mean ‘hold in.’ Therefore, uninhibited is not a double-negative. That’s also where inflammable comes from—an adjective that means something is liable to burst ‘INTO’ flame.

Now if someone could just explain why invaluable is better than valuable!

Past winners of the Pulchritude Award are:
Alacrity and Phlegmatic

A Writing Tip That Ruined Me: Prologues

prologue_114378562What do agents and editors have against prologues? Several times, at conferences or online, I’ve heard publishing experts recommend against starting your novel with a prologue. Also here. And here. And here. The prevailing wisdom seems to be this: “If your prologue is important enough to be in the book, make it your first chapter. If not, then cut it.”

I guess if I were filtering through a slush pile of 100 submissions a day, and a mere 10% of them began with prologues, I’d get pretty sick of them too. But if I analyzed that irritability, I think I’d draw the conclusion that the slush-pile/submission process is stupid, not prologues.

I think I read a LOT of books, for the average person—which is to say maybe 30 books a year. In the last year, have I read a book that begins with a character waking up? Not that I can remember. And if I did, would I have rolled my eyes and immediately judged the book to be not worthy of my time? Absolutely not. But according to industry wisdom, that’s another one of the unforgivable cliches that should never open a book:

– The main character waking up
– The main character dying (then coming back in subsequent chapters as a ghost, or in flashbacks)
– The main character looking in a mirror

Does anyone outside the established publishing industry care or notice if a book starts in one of these ways? I don’t think so. Just jaded, bleary-eyed slush-pile readers.

As a casual reader, I love prologues. They create an air of mystery. The add suspense, or foreshadowing. They can lay groundwork for the themes or the character arc of the book. They’re typeset in all italics! What’s not to love? I recently read a book, Blue Remembered Earth, that began with an all-italics, nearly incomprehensible frontispiece, and followed that with an eight-page prologue. And I loved both of them. And then the all-italics tone reappeared at the end of the book, creating a perfect wrap-up. Voila! Great!

In fact I’d probably read a book that was all prologues, kind of like how Kentucky Fried Movie was mostly movie trailers.