Tags: hollywood

Roy Batty

"We've got two choices. One of them's wrong."

Actually hot today. Sunny, and our high was 86˚F. Currently, it's 85˚F, with the heat index at 86˚F.

I hardly slept – again – and the headache's back, so...today I was no productive. One more night like last night, I'm gonna be a drooling heap.

Last night we watched the last four episodes of Ryan Murphy's Hollywood. And Jesus God, it was bad. By the end of the fourth episode I was forcing myself to finish the series, caught in a sort of sunk-cost fallacy situation. I'd come that far, after all. I am entirely able to appreciate alternate history scenarios with positive outcomes, so long as the author or filmmaker does not force his characters – indeed, his entire world – to completely disregard what humans are and why they behave as they do. If the desired effect can be achieved without the highly complex systems and situations that have produced our culture and history being dashed to a mush of fairy-dust fog, of smarm and wish fulfillment and self-righteous monologues. I would go so far as to say Hollywood isn't just bad TV. At some point, it becomes toxic TV. The Rotten Tomatoes score of 57% is too kind. I'm gonna conclude by quoting Lucy Mangan's review in The Guardian: This should be the perfect set-up for a scabrous look at prejudice, corruption, the trading of sexual currency, coercion, the well-oiled machinations that underlie an industry and how it all shapes history...But it becomes a mere wish-fulfilment fantasy that...suggests that if a few people had just been that bit braver, then movies – and therefore the world! — would be a glorious, egalitarian Eden. It is a show that is smug and obtuse enough to believe la la land's self-regarding idea that celluloid art directly shapes our lives. Bingo.

I started reading Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff (1979) again this morning, because I needed a comforting book.

This afternoon I watched Rob Bowman's The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998), the first time I'd seen it since it was new in theaters. I'm an odd sort of X-Files fan. I saw this movie before I'd seen an episode of the show (which began, of course, in 1993). I just had not been that interested. But after seeing the movie, I was in love.

Blah, blah, blah.

Really, the thin ice of coherence is getting thin.

As I said yesterday, Spooky has eBay going again. Want one of my out-of-print, hard-to-find special editions, direct from me, signed by me to you, and want all the money to go directly into my pocket (well, minus eBay's cut and the IRS)? Yeah? Follow this link. This one right here. And thank you. Bid, kittens. Bid.

Aunt Beast (the Sleepless),

1:23 p.m.

5,778K (5,505°C, 9,941°F)

Sunny and much warmer today. The high was 81˚F, and it's still 80˚F. Five more degrees of Fahrenheit, and I'll be in my own private Goldilocks zone.

This morning and early afternoon I finally finished laying out and editing the ms. for the new edition of From Weird and Distant Shores. A job I thought would take me two days took over a week. Which is mostly me being stupid. I do this shit. I think, "Oh, I can do X in no time at all," and I am almost always wrong. But now at least that project is out of my hands. At least for now.

I had a short walk Outside today, the first once since sometime last week.

Last night we saw the first three episodes of Ryan Murphy's Hollywood (2020). Almost without exception, Ryan Murphy vexes me. He has amazing vision. That's undeniable. But he also has absolutely no concept of restraint and uses a sledgehammer when a tuning fork is called for. His default setting is sledgehammer, no matter what he's doing. And then there's his "kitchen sink" problem, best exemplified by the ongoing mess that is American Horror Story. "Do everything, all at once – HARD" seems to be his motto. The only thing he's ever produced that I (almost) unconditionally loved was Feud (2017) – and I have seen a lot of Ryan Murphy. All that said, I'm enjoying Hollywood better than most of his work. Yeah, it's sort of a mess, and he's somehow wearing his heart on both sleeves at once, and it's shrill and preachy and excruciatingly naive. But I am won over by its vision of post-WWII Hollywood. Style over substance can suit me just fine, if the style's right up my alley. And because it's so goddamn beautiful, I want to love Hollywood. I really, really do.

Oh, and we watched an episode of something wretched on AppleTV+ called Mythic Quest that critics apparently love and find hilarious. Not only was it not even remotely funny, not even faintly funny, it was...painful.

This afternoon's movie of Danny Boyle's marvelous Sunshine (2007), which I still love despite the mess in the third act.

And! Spooky has eBay going again. Want one of my out-of-print, hard-to-find special editions, direct from me, signed by me to you, and want all the money to go directly into my pocket (well, minus eBay's cut and the IRS)? Yeah? Follow this link. This one right here. And thank you.

Later Taters,
Aunt Beast

4:19 p.m.

Here We Go Again

I'd not intended to skip more than a full week, to make no entries for eight days. But shit happens.

I got the news on the 18th that my cousin Jack (Julius Theodore Cage, b. 1960) had died. It was his mother who died in November, my Aunt Joanne. Jack and I were very close when I was a kid and a teenager, but I'd not seen him since 2005, at my grandmother's funeral; somehow that made it all the worse.

I had a guest from Athens most of this past week, but I didn't see much of her.

I'm racing to do a final polish (with some minor text additions) to The Tindalos Asset, and I still haven't finished The Cerulean Alphabet, so the digest will be a few days late this month.

I didn't even make it into McWane this week.

Oh, yesterday I got copies of the German edition of The Drowning Girl, so that's something. And we discovered a truly brilliant series on Hulu called Reprisal. It's in the running for the best thing I have ever seen on television, and it's certainly the best since Season One of True Detective. So, there – a ray of sunshine.

We finished The Magicians through the two new episodes. And tonight we begin watching the final few episodes of The Ranch. But the last batch was so grim, following the loss of Danny Masterson, it's going to be a sad thing, I know.

I read Jack London's Call of the Wild, and I'm partway into White Fang. It's hard to believe I waited this long to read a novel by a man who surely is one of the greatest novelists in American literature. I'm also reading Mallory O'Meara's The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick. The stuff about Patrick's interesting, but the book suffers the way all biographies suffer when the author seeks to make the story as much about herself as her subject. In this case, O'Meara makes it worse by using someone else's life to advance her own political agenda.

I don't think the camera on my iPhone is long for the world. It keeps developing odd spots on the photos. They move around. They vanish. They return. But it's probably for the best.

Sick of the Shitty 21st Century,
Aunt Beast

6:59 p.m.

"Gone all star white."

I was in bed until after 10:30 a.m., because bed was almost warm. When I got up, I posted this to Facebook: Here in Providence, it's 7˚F, with the windchill at -4˚F. Our overnight low was somewhere around 0˚F. Today's high, 17˚F. No end of this in sight. Last night, we huddled in the bedroom with a space heater to stay warm and let the rest of the house go. I am not supposed to be here. Currently, it's sunny and 9˚F. the sky is out there eating people, they're just too stupid to notice.

I also posted this to Facebook: Seriously, if anyone in Alabama or Georgia has a house they're not currently using that they're looking to rent, contact me. (greygirlbeast@gmail.com)

A few dozen oxy might make this hell bearable.

No work yesterday, except some email after midnight last night. I spent the day sitting in a pool of sun in the front parlour, trying to stay warm, working on a jigsaw puzzle. And last night, well, see above. We finished Part Four of The Ranch. I love this show so much. At least we get Danny Masterson in Part Five, so...in 2018, I get ten more episodes before I stop watching. The Ranch will not be The Ranch without the Rooster, and I have no desire to see what it will become in his absence.

Confession: In September 2015, I had the money in hand to move away from Rhode Island, to go home, thanks to the two movie options. I foolishly convinced myself it would be foolish not to wait until the spring or summer, by which point I would have had the remainder of the money from The Drowning Girl and The Red Tree being optioned. Only, then everything fell through. And so I am still here. So, this is my fault, all round. I am not likely to ever have that sort of money again. It cost us more than $8,000. to move up here, and those were 2008 dollars, and that's not counting the expense of renting a new place.

Aunt Beast

1:16 p.m.

Entry No. 5,116

Well, at least I slept a decent amount, but I'm not awake. There was some idiotic Hollywood nightmare just before I woke, and I woke to an overcast sky. It's currently 71˚F.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,328 words on "La Belle Fleur Sauvage," and I found THE END. Today, I have to proofread this monster. Currently, it weighs in at 18,534 words, written over the space of eleven days. If I can't get the changes keyed in this afternoon, I'll do that tomorrow, and then it goes away to the editor.

Last night, we saw the second episode of David Simon's new series, The Deuce (HBO). It really is excellent.

4:27 p.m.
The Red Tree

Howard Hughes thinks sleep is overrrated.

I got maybe five hours sleep last night, and was awake until about 7 p.m. My goddamn rotten feet. Then Spooky let me sleep until noon. And here I am. With a headache.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,106 words on Agents of Dreamland. Today, the plan was to do 2,000 words. Despite having not slept, I mean to do it, anyway. I want this thing out of my life.

And really, I'm about half awake. So, that's just going to have to pass as a journal entry. Oh, wait. While I was sleeping this morning, the option check arrived. I'm actually not broke. It's been a while. I'm kind of disoriented. I was first approached by Josh Boone on November 12, 2014. More than nine months later, booya. Thank you, Josh.

Aunt Beast
The Red Tree

"Look for the cars or signs of life where the heat goes."

The heat has broken for now, but the humidity is murder. And I only slept about four and a half hours last night; I'm having trouble focusing my eyes. Currently, it's it's 76˚F and cloudy.

On Friday, I only managed 573 words on Agents of Dreamland, but yesterday I did 1,106. I'm still hoping to finish by Thursday evening. I just want this damn thing finished.

From my Facebook yesterday: Sometimes, the worst sort of pressure in the world is the weight of all the people who are convinced that you can do something, just because you've done it before.

And from day before yesterday: And then I hit that place, two thirds of the way to THE END, when I simply have no idea what the fuck happens next.

I should be in Alabama right now. We were supposed to have moved by now. And speaking of the move, Writers House has cut the check for the option and FedExed it to me. I don't have it yet. Probably Monday. The downside, of course, is that one third of it's going straight to the 2014 taxes. As I said when I first announced that the two books had been optioned, I seriously hope no one mistakenly believes that I'm suddenly free of financial worries. It was a generous advance, and much higher than the average. But people seem to think that optioning your book equates to riches. It doesn't.

Where I am right now, optimism is the worst irritant. Where I am, words of encouragement strike me as gibes.

I think it was very fortunate that I didn't go to Necronomicon this weekend. There's no way on earth I could have been pleasant to be around. Likely, I'd have spent the whole weekend hiding in my hotel room. But I am sorry I missed Joshi. And I am sorry I missed Ramsey.

Last night we finished Season One of The Leftovers. It's a strange, strange show. It has a lot of trouble pulling free of the formulaic devices of what I call Old Television. A couple of episodes focus only on a single character, and that's when The Leftovers truly shines. Other times, it can become seriously lost in the huge number of characters it's juggling. But it's intriguing. And the creators wisely choose to preserve mystery, offering no solution to the events of October 14th. For now, the inexplicable remains unexplained. And yeah, I find myself looking forward to Season Two. This isn't great television, but it's worth my while.

Aunt Beast
The Red Tree

"Not the needle, nor the thread, the lost decree. Saying nothing, that's enough for me."

Yesterday's LJ entry apparently was among yesterday's 25 most popular. LJ told me so. How weird is that?

Outside, it's March. Only 71˚F and cloudy and 81% humidity. Shit weather. And how come no one told me there were new Bloom County strips? Bad humans.

Yesterday was a good writing day. I did 1,287 words and finished the second section of Agents of Dreamland. Now, hesitantly, I set it aside to write pieces for Sirenia Digest 114 and 115 (July and August).

Because people think things, there's something I should explain. On the one hand, the movie options and my doing a screenplay, this is really, really good news. On the other, it doesn't mean that suddenly I'm wealthy. Indeed, it means nothing of the sort. Most option deals are for only a few thousand dollars per book. I was lucky and got a bit more than average. I think it would be crass to reveal the actual sum, so I won't. Anyway, assuming that the films are made, and that my screenplay is indeed used, I'll make enough that I can relax just a little for a few years. But I still won't be wealthy. Hopefully, the buzz generated by the option will help my lit agent get me a better deal on Interstate Love Song, and if the movies are made, my books might sell a little better, and maybe other directors will be interested in my material. Incrementally, this could all, eventually, equal a substantially better income. But that's all a big maybe. I just wanted to say this, because in the months to come I don't want people wondering why I'm still putting out the digest and doing eBay and begging for pennies on the street corners when I could just kick back and swim around in my money like Scrooge McDuck.

I think that counts as a public service announcement.

Datak Tarr, you're a son of a bitch, but you're still a righteous dude.

Aunt Beast
The Red Tree

"...at the late night double-feature picture show."

It's a decent enough early spring day out there, 72˚F and partly cloudy.

Yesterday, the long-awaited announcement was posted to Facebook at 4:30 p.m. I'll repost it here:

(quote) "Josh Boone's Mid-World Productions has optioned both The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl to develop into feature films. I'm writing the screenplay for The Red Tree. Josh will be writing The Drowning Girl. Judy Cairo will be producing. Josh is known for The Fault In Our Stars and is currently directing Stephen King's The Stand (in pre-production) and the reboot of Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles.

Hurrah. An official press release will follow soon. I've been sitting on this since November." (end quote)

November 12th, to be precise. Contract negotiations took more than eight months.

Later in the evening, I posted:

"A few people have asked questions about the films and preserving the queerness of the novels. This is something you do not have to worry about. Also, though no details can be released yet and nothing is certain, the hope is that we can cast a transgender actress as Abalyn Armitage."

And, really, that's currently all I'm at liberty to say. Pretty much. I was fairly amused that of all the guesses people made as to what the "secret" was, virtually no one guessed that it involved my own work being adapted into film. Mostly, people seemed to think I was being hired to write for television, adapting someone else's work. as of right now, the announcement has garnered 512 likes and 133 comments.

So, there you go!


Yesterday, I mentioned the list I posted here June 27th, the "what I need to do before the summer's over" list. This morning, I pruned it. As much as I was able, because really, I have far, far too much work, and something has to go. Here's the updated version, in late July (call this now through the end of September):

1. The screenplay for The Red Tree
2. Stories or vignettes for Sirenia Digest #114 and #115
3. Editing/proofreading Houses Under the Sea: Mythos Tales (Centipede Press, 2016)
4. The juvenilia volume, (Subterranean Press, 2016), title TBA.
5. Line edits left to do on Beneath an Oil-Dark Sea: The Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan (Vol. 2) (Subterranean Press, November 2015)
6. 25k-word novella for Houses Under the Sea: Mythos Tales (Centipede Press, 2016), to be written in July, Agents of Dreamland
7. Proposal package for Interstate Love Song (next novel)
8. An introduction for Brian Evenson's The Open Curtain

It's a little bit shorter, eight items instead of eleven. The way things look right now, I'm going to finish the second section of Agents of Dreamland today, the set it aside while I write stories for Sirenia Digest Nos. 114 and 115. Then I'll finish Agents of Dreamland during the first half of August. Then I work on the screenplay until it's finished, with as little distraction as possible, and I hope it will be done before the end of September. all the editing and proofreading and stuff, that will go on in between the actual writing – somehow.

So...the days are just full.

Aunt Beast
Mars from Earth

"We're living in an age that calls darkness light." (2)

We're just back from a matinée of Andrew Stanton's John Carter, and before I say anything else, I'm going to say this film is an absolute and masterful delight. It's been a long time now since I've wanted to sit down and immediately watch a film a second time, but I did at the end of John Carter.

That said, we had to drive to Attleboro, Massachusetts to find a screen that wasn't showing it in 3D. But we did, and it was far more than worth the drive.

I first discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs through his Barsoom books when I was about eight or nine – probably the ideal time to come to them. Some will recall that Ace and Ballentine brought most of his titles back into print in the 1970s. A shame most have fallen out of print (no, I do not count Kindle or other ebooks editions) in the intervening years. But, for me, it was very fortunate timing. But, that said, this absolutely did not predispose me to believe the film would be good. If anything, quite the opposite. Here's a world I've been waiting see brought to life onscreen since I was a child (in the mid seventies, the technology to do this simply didn't exist), and I was very much afraid I would be disappointed.

I can think of few examples of critics and the public being so disastrously and unfortunately wrongheaded about a film than they have been about John Carter. It might be fair (and it might not), to say that the initial teaser played a role in how poorly this film has been perceived. Yes, it wouldn't have hurt to have stressed that this was a story from the "man who created Tarzan" or to show audiences more of the action (and, dogs, there are beautiful action sequences). And it has to be said that Stanton had a lot to do with that initial bit of advertising (which is fairly unusual when working with a company like Disney). And we know how this works now: people are baffled by a trailer, or they simply don't like it, and they start texting friends and opining on the internet; studios panic months before a film's release, as Disney clearly did in this instance; film critics sense a wave of public opinion – even if it comes from people who have decided six months ahead of a film's release that they won't see it – and so they are either predisposed or they feel obligated to write negative reviews, or they're afraid of bucking the swelling tide of expectation. This domino effect creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. No one goes to see the film, because people made up their minds long before they had a chance to see it (though, in fairness, reviews of John Carter have been mixed, not uniformly negative), or that it was declared "OMG THE BIGGEST BOX OFFICE FLOP EVER" only eleven days after its release.

It likely doesn't help that the source material is so obscure: a pulp novel, A Princess of Mars, published in 1917. I'm a little amazed Disney execs ever green lit the risky project (oh, and they also green lit a sequel, The Gods of Mars, which was in production, though no one can seem to agree whether or not it remains so). This means, though, that the bigwigs at Disney should have been on their toes, and they should have brought their most savvy marketing people to bear on the problem of getting people into the theater. They is what they didn't do, even though the film's production cost them in excess of $250 million (before promotional expenses).

Indeed, if you want to know just how badly Disney botched this wonderful film, read this article: "Our view: It’s now clear, after yesterday’s announcement – Disney viewed John Carter as a hospice case all along".

As for the film itself, it seems a little anticlimactic, this late in this blog entry, to begin a proper review. I suck at those, anyway. John Carter is a spectacle. A wondrous spectacle. This film rivals Avatar (a film, I'll note, that survived a wave of bad press early on, but it did so mostly because Cameron fought back) in its vision, and, as much as I love Avatar, in some ways John Carter is actually a more accomplished film (the acting of its human characters, for one thing). It's simply a beauty to watch. An alien world is brought to life. It succeeds as a post Civil-War period piece. It succeeds as good SF, especially of one of my two favorite "sub genres," the "space opera." It succeeds as a love story. As an action film, it succeeds. In its portrayal of the six-limbed Tharks it (again) rivals Avatar, by realistically portraying a six-limbed race (as the Na'vi should have been, from an evolutionary standpoint). John Carter simply succeeds.

And if you value my opinion, on any level and in any respect, you'll see this film in theaters while you can. You'll help push back against those intent on burying it and dooming similar, as-yet-unrealized films.

I swear, it actually made me happy.