November 12th, 2007


Howard Hughes Ponders the Perplexing World (Pt. One)

When I was finished with the Beowulf novelization, at the tail-end of the ms., after the glossary, I wrote:

Author’s note: If a teacher or professor has assigned you Beowulf, this novelization doesn’t count. Not even close. For readers who would like to learn more about Norse mythology, I strongly recommend John Lindow’s Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs (Oxford University Press, 2001).

It was one of those things I put in the manuscript that I figured had a zero chance of making it into the printed book. So I was surprised when I got the page proofs and discovered it was still there. Even so, I thought someone would surely cut it at the last minute. They didn't, and it appears in the novelization just as I wrote it. So, kudos to HarperCollins on that count. However, a few days back, Spooky brought to my attention the following, from Neil's blog (dated November 6th):

Incidentally, I think the educational pack done for Beowulf is simply wrong. Part of the point of the Beowulf movie that Roger and I wrote is the places it diverges from the story of Beowulf, and the ways it explores the relationship between a person and a story about a person. I don't think they should be putting the stuff we made up on material intended for schools -- it seems like a way of justifiably irritating teachers, who have enough to put up with when they try to teach Beowulf without us making their lives harder. It would have been much more interesting to have put up either the original, or one that talked about the differences -- I'd absolutely encourage high schoolers to see our version and talk about what changed and why.

I think my first reaction was, "Kids still go to school?" But after the initial shock, I was even more amazed that the studio didn't step in and remove my disclaimer from the end of the book. Here's the link to the laughable "educational" pack (a downloadable PDF). Looking at it, I assume the pack was compiled by YMI ("Young Minds Inspired") with the approval and aid of the film studios (Paramount and Shangri-La). So, anyway, yeah, a big thumbs-down to YMI, etc. for attempting to pass this film version of Beowulf off as the real thing to bolster group ticket sales, but kudos to Neil for calling them on it. Sadly, most teachers will use the "educational" packet and never see his blog entry (much less mine). Frankly, if I were an English teacher and I were going to show my class a film version of Beowulf, it would be Sturla Gunnarsson's Beowulf and Grendal (2005), which also diverges significantly from the source material, but not nearly as significantly as the Robert Zemeckis film.


Yesterday was not bad, as days off go. We threw away the rotten old jack-o'-lanterns, had lunch at the Corner Tavern in L5P, and wasted much of the afternoon searching for used hardback copies of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune in local used bookshops (then came home and ordered online from Powell's).

Last night, we watched Mikael Håfström's adaptation of Stephen King's 1408. I have not read the short story. In fact, I think the last new work by King I read was The Dark Half in 1989. I didn't see this film in theatres because it just didn't look particularly interesting. But we got it from Netflix, and, well, it wasn't particularly interesting. The first half hour or so is somewhat intriguing, in a sloppy made-for-TV kind of way and might have served as the set up for something effective. Once Cusack enters the "evil" room at the Dolphin Hotel, though, the film quickly disintegrates into a hodge-podge of spook-house clichés, piled nonsensically one atop the other. There are moments where you can see the influence of House of Leaves and The Haunting of Hill House, and even The Shining and The House Next Door, but the film never gets anywhere near those sources of inspiration in terms of its artfulness or effectiveness. There's way too much, and much of it comes off as hoaky, confused comedy. That said, I was shocked to learn that the theatrical release ends very differently (we saw the director's cut), with a more upbeat ending. Test audiences are the death of "horror," and just about anything else worthwhile. Either version of the film would be disappointing, because it just isn't very good, but the practice of going with the opinions of a bunch of Middle-America know-nothings in hopes of scoring a bigger box office continues to baffle me every way I can be baffled.


Finally, a couple of comments to the blog I wanted to answer, First, subtlesttrap writes:

Your mention of Winter's intro totally reminded me of a question I have been meaning to ask you about the inclusion of "Mercury" in the 2008 edition of Tales of Pain and Wonder. I know you stated in a previous post that it was going to be included, but I just wanted to double-check. I can't wait to have this edition sit next to my 1st edition signed hardcover. Can you believe the 1st edition hardcover from Gauntlet Press is already fetching $175-$500 on the out-of-print market?

I only believe it because I have seen it happen. But it's one reason I'm glad that Subterranean Press will soon be releasing the 3rd edition of Tales of Pain and Wonder, because it usually galls me to see people selling the book for such outrageous prices (and the mercifully-oop Meisha Merlin tpb galls me on principle). But yes, "Mercury" is included in the subpress edition, as is the new story, "Salammbô Redux," while "Angels You Can See Through" has been excised (but will be included in the accompanying chapbook, Tails of Tales of Pain and Wonder).

Also, corucia asks, Regarding the failed prologue for Joey LaFaye - perhaps you could consider it as potential fodder for a special-edition version of the book. To my knowledge, there will not be a limited-edition of Joey LaFaye, but I am considering including the unfinished prologue in Sirenia Digest. Wow. Over a thousand words, and the day has not even started...