Tag Archives: Alien visitors

Look what came in the mail!

The Aliens Are Here comes out Oct. 30, and my author’s copies arrived this weekend.Why yes, I do feel as happy as I look there. Here’s a look at the entire cover:The image is from the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which explains why I didn’t recognize it — it’s not a movie that grips the mind.

Like I said, it feels really good to have a hard-copy version in my hands. Good enough to make all the work  I put in writing and proofing it feel worthwhile. Though sales would be nice too.

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1950s computers, 1980s papergirls and modern voyeurism: movies and TV

In hindsight it would have been interesting to discuss GOG (1954) in the section of Aliens Are Here dealing with 1971’s The Andromeda Strain.

Like the later movie, Gog is a film about science and scientific research; where the Crichton adaptation makes scientific drudgery fascinating, Gog is plodding, talky and dull. That’s partly because where Andromeda Strain is tense — can we stop a xenobacteria from causing a pandemic? — the research scenes in Gog have nothing to do with the main plot of the movie.The plot centers on a series of mysterious deaths in a lab working on space research, including plans for an orbiting solar mirror that could destroy any target on Earth, so clearly our satellite has to get up before any foreign power tries it (the kind of thinking The Space Children later warned against). The mysterious saboteur could prevent that.

Dull as it is, Gog does have a couple of interesting elements. Gog and Magog are the screen’s first non-humanoid robots; the foreign power’s interference with the base’s central computer amounts to an early example of hacking. That’s not enough to redeem it though. Not a maniac, Dr. Burton — we have on our staff a cold, calculating killer.”

If you read this blog regularly you know I’m a big fan of the Brian K. Vaughn/Cliff Chiang Paper Girls comics series so no surprise I watched the Amazon Prime adaptation. PAPER GIRLS is  fun with its story of four kids suddenly caught up in a time war, though I think the originals are so cinematic the various changes to the original storyline were pointless. The best change is giving us a look at adult KJ, which somehow never happened in the comics. The most understandable is that while Mac handles cigarettes a lot, she doesn’t smoke any.

The changes I like least are number one, the lack of all the neat 1980s period references. Number two, the girls in the comics are acting on their own; here they’re constantly led around by one adult authority figure or another. That feels very unsatisfying, as if someone got cold feet about the kids trying to survive on their own in such a nightmare situation. In any case it’s been canceled, though I’ve no idea if the flaws I found are tied to that. “You just told me I’m adopted and you really think I want to listen to Whitney Houston?”

THE RENTAL (2020) is a clunky horror story in which two couples spend the weekend at an isolated coastal vacation house with suspiciously cheap rates — would you believe this turns out as disastrous as seeking refuge from thunderstorms in isolated castles? However it’s very oddly structured, starting off as personal drama (did the homeowner refuse to rent to a Muslim because he’s a racist? Will two of the quartet hooking up with the wrong person ruin everything?), shifting into Voyeur of Doom territory (the entire house is wired with hidden cameras!) then has the Voyeur turn into a Masked Slasher who kills them all. Thumbs down. “I’m not saying we can’t get away with it — I’m saying I don’t want to get away with it.”

#SFWApro. Comics cover by Chiang, all rights to images remain with current holders.

 

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Two strange weekends in a row. But good strange

Labor Day weekend, as I mentioned before, I took off to chill after finishing Aliens are Here. But I don’t think I mentioned how strange it felt to not be doing anything for five days (Sept. 1-5). A little blogging, yes, but no other writing. I rarely take vacations that long and it’s always when I’m going somewhere, which means I don’t just lie around and read or take walks.

Of course, I did do things — shop for food, cook — but still, it was unbelievably relaxing to let myself off the hook for anything more than that. As TYG was out part of Saturday, I couldn’t do much because I had to keep an eye on the dogs. That helped me give myself permission, I think.

Then, last weekend, I attended my first Mensa event since 2019. It was the Atlanta Mensa gathering; I’d been invited because they had a time travel theme and the organizers wanted me to speak on time travel on film. How could I resist? Though work kept TYG away (we could probably have managed it, but by the time we knew that, I’d already had to book the flight).My talk went great, even though I managed to erase the outline I’d saved on my phone. Fortunately I’d practiced enough and know the material enough that I could do it even without notes. Beyond that I got to hang out with my fellow Mensans, eat some good food — the vegan meal Saturday night was so good, apparently even the meat-eaters in the Atlanta group wanted that restaurant to cater — and participated in a quiz or two. Didn’t win but one question asked for a Batman villain with a time-themed name. I gave them four (Clock, Clock King, Time Commander, Calendar Man).

I must admit, though, the socializing was a little overwhelming after so long without. Sure, I was at ConGregate and ConCarolinas this summer but cons are primarily about activities — selling books, sitting on panels — with socializing squeezed in wherever possible. In gatherings, the socializing’s the priority. I spent a lot of time re-energizing alone in my room.

Oh, I also got my first case of acid reflux in years, due to eating chocolate cheesecake late at night. With no other food in my stomach to cushion the shock. But it was very good cheesecake.

I had no problems with my flights though the airport was packed both times. I used to laugh at myself a little for always following the “get there two hours before the flight” standard. I don’t laugh so much any more.

Below, a closer look at that chocolate cheesecake (with a brownie on the side).

#SFWApro. Comics cover by Gil Kane, rights to images all remain with current holders.

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I finished Aliens Are Here two days ahead of deadline!

And wow, was that a load off me.

I spent the last days of September noting all the corrections on the PDF. And realized that while the book would definitely have benefited from a final going-over to clean up my writing, it’s not as clunky as I thought. So yay. The Aliens Are Here should be out later this month, if everything proceeds smoothly.

The proofed manuscript was due today, but I got it in Wednesday. We had our neighbor’s dog Kaya staying with us yesterday and I didn’t want to be obligated to work. Though she spent a lot of the day sitting in her crate — she’d been staying with another family for a couple of days and I think the second move just overwhelmed her. But she and Trixie did some heavy chasing first.

I also wanted a chance to kick back before I started/resumed any projects. So I took today and yesterday to read, watch extra TV, think about September goals and donate blood (this morning).

It’s a relief to have the book off my hands, though it hasn’t entirely sunk in yet. Wrapping it up was exhausting; it’ll take me a while to feel yay! instead of phew! But soon I will have copies in hand.

Oh, and I got royalties for my previous McFarland books this week, plus someone checked out a copy of Atlas Shagged on Hoopla. Unlike regular library checkouts, this digital service pays a small fee every time someone borrows one of my books through their local library. Cool, huh?

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Dying is easy — indexing is hard!

(For the source of my title, click here).

But it’s done. As of this morning, I finished the index for Alien Visitors. This afternoon I reread McFarland’s instructions for indexing, corrected some errors, and proofed the whole thing.

I’ve also completed the list of errors in the text, though I still have to add notes identifying them. Fortunately I figured out how to do that in PDF. The big challenge will be that as I got the galleys — used to be we’d get edited proofs first — the pagination can’t change. So if there’s anything deleted or added that would affect the following page, I have to make a counterbalancing addition or deletion so the text stays constant. In a couple of spots, this will be a challenge.

It’s doable though. I’ll have it done by the end of the month, then take the first two days of September through Labor Day (maybe Labor Day) off.

I’m impressed to see that like so many writers, a deadline can push me beyond my limits. I’ve put in way more hours than usual this week to get the job finished. Unfortunately some of that time came out of things like exercising, which is not optional. And reading, which is optional, but not really (I can’t do without it for too long). Besides which, this isn’t creative work. Indexing and proofing requires close attention to detail but I never have to stop and ask myself what comes next or whether what I’ve written works. Accuracy is all I need. So I doubt this heralds a sudden boost in my productivity, but you never know …

And then there’s the dogs. The photo above is from a recent trip to doggie rehab — they both need it for different reasons — when Plushie decided he wanted to be drive. He didn’t get his wish, but I’m sure you knew that.

The past two weeks, though, have been less cute. First we took them in for dental checkups. Trixie was in good shape but Plushie, who resists tooth-brushing, had to have two teeth removed, plus the under-the-gums stumps from some previous effort. That meant nothing but soft food for a week, which is a problem since it excluded most of his treats. Fortunately they think pasta is delicious so I made a couple of extra pots of it and fed him that.

This week, repeated jumping off the bed upstairs threw his back out again. He’s on cage rest and heavy painkillers for ten days or possibly a little longer. That makes caring for him more complicated — we have to carry him up the stairs — though it’s easier to concentrate on work when he’s not right in my personal space. Except when he gives the agonized “my foot is caught in a bear trap, I’m suffering!” whine for being caged (no, it’s not because of pain. Trust me). However the pain meds are taking care of that by keeping him zonked.

All in all, a good week, if not exactly a lively one.

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Filed under Nonfiction, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Indexing is still kicking my butt—

So I’m too zonked for an intelligent post today. Here’s a look at my chapter titles for Aliens Are Here:I went into the contents in more detail a few months back.  And here’s Richard Powers’ cover for Childhood’s End. I don’t spotlight the SyFy miniseries in my book but I do discuss it in the Gods From Outer Space chapter.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Indexing is the death of the soul. Well, not really, but it certainly isn’t fun

Not much to blog about for this week. I completed another of those articles I work on for Accounting Seed and I got through editing and indexinng the first four chapters of Aliens Are Here. I’m on track to get it done but lord, it’s tedious. There are just soooo many names to index in a movie book.

Part of the problem is that in the past I’ve always gotten the edited text to proof, then the index later. Now I’m doing both at once which sharply increases the workload, and I think the time constraints are tighter too. Needless to say, I’m also finding lots of errors in my work, which is both annoying and irritating. And means more corrections, which slows me down (McFarland didn’t catch as many of my mistakes as usual)

It’s enough that rather than simply listing them I’ll try using Adobe Acrobat to edit directly in the PDF. I can download it for a week as a free trial, then cancel; that’ll be long enough.

On the fun side, I have an Atomic Junkshop post about comics in 1965 and romance tropes I hate. And I got my royalty statement from McFarland; people are still buying my books! The royalties aren’t much but it’s cool I get them at all; if you’re reading this, thank you for spending money on my work.I’d have gone into more detail about the editing and indexing but the dogs are needy.

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I changed my routine. You won’t believe what happened next!

Okay, not anything shocking. But this seems to be one of those clickbait headlines and I can always use more clicks, so …

Last Thursday and Friday I accepted a bunch of articles for the Leaf content provider. However there’s a three day deadline to finishing once I accept them and for a Thursday acceptance that meant Sunday. Much as I hate breaking up my weekend, I decided to take Saturday off, work Sunday, then take Tuesday off instead. Coupled with some personal distractions, I felt very disorganized this entire week.

Nevertheless, it was productive. I got about fourteen Leaf articles done, though it took me longer than it should have — the disorganization, I imagine.

I also went over the corrections to Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and responded; mostly they were solid choices by the editor. But now there’s a final set — I probably won’t get to them until Monday.

I also completed Phase One of the index, which is going through the manuscript and putting everything in alphabetical order. I prefer doing this before submitting my manuscripts because no matter how carefully I proofread, I always find more errors. That wasn’t an option this time, as I had to push to complete the book by deadline as it was. I feel embarrassed seeing all the errors now.

It went quickly but now comes Phase Two, where I put in the page numbers. It’s slower and absolutely mind-numbing but it has to be done. Plus, of course, proofing the final copy of the text.

It’ll be a busy rest-of-the-month and the promotional effort for Questionable Minds will drag as a result. But first things first.#SFWApro. Bottom cover by Sam Collins, rights to images remain with current holders.

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The Aliens Are Here: What You Can Expect

As McFarland have the cover ready for The Aliens are Here (originally titled Alien Visitors so you’ll find relevant blog posts under both tags) I’m guessing it’ll be out before the end of the year. So here’s a preview of what it’ll cover.

The introduction covers the general history of alien visitors in fiction, then film and TV. It also delves into “real” encounters with ETs because UFOlogy is deeply interwoven with fictional saucers. Movies adapt “true” stories (The UFO Incident, Fire in the Sky); UFO encounters borrow from film (sightings went up after Day the Earth Stood Still came out).

Subsequent chapters include an overview introducing the topic, then a detailed look at two or three movies:

Alien Invaders: The 1953 War of the Worlds, Spielberg’s remake and Independence Day.

Friendly Aliens: The 1951 Day the Earth Stood Still and V — because sometimes when they say they come in peace, they’re lying.Alien infiltrators: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, both the 1956 and 1978 versions. It took some work to say something fresh and not just copy what I wrote in Screen Enemies of the American Way but I think I succeeded.Alien superheroes: Superman and Superman II.

UFO Abductions: Fire in the Sky and The Fourth Kind.

Alien Immigrants: Brother From Another Planet and Alien Nation.

Alien impregnation: Village of the Damned (both versions) and the 1964 Children of the Damned.

Ancient Astronauts: Quatermass and the Pit and Eternals.

Alien Monsters: The Thing From Another World, John Carpenter’s The Thing and The Andromeda Strain.

Alien Romance: Starman.

Aliens and Kids: E.T., The Whispers and The Faculty.

Alien Comedies: Tribulation 99, The Coneheads and Resident Alien.

Government cover-ups: The X-Files.

Genre Mashups: Predator, Predator 2 and Attack of the 50-Foot Woman.

I also include some shorter synopses of other films or TV shows in the same subgenre, and a list of added productions at the end of each chapter.

You’ll know more about its progress through editing when I do.

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Women of the suburbs, the West and the future

THE DAY THE WOMEN GOT EVEN (1980) was a TV “cozy” pilot about four suburban women (Barbara Rhoades, Georgia Engel, Jo Ann Pflug and Tina Louise) with an interest in theater who discover Julie Hagerty (soon to be much better known for airplane) is suicidal over being blackmailed by a sleazeball producer with nude shots from her “audition.” Can they take the sleazeball down with their acting skills and the help of a street-smart Latino sidekick? I’m guessing this bland film was inspired by North Avenue Irregulars, a Disney housewives vs. crooks film from the previous year, not that knowing this makes it more interesting. “Pardon me but do you have a brother in Savannah?”

CAT BALLOU (1965) is a great deal more fun, though some of the elements (a Sioux played by a guy in redface, plus scalping jokes!) haven’t aged well. And as you can see, the movie had to qualms playing up sex along with the humor (the trailer makes the most of the star’s looks). Jane Fonda plays Katherine Ballou, back in the West after a few years at finishing school. Unfortunately the town has been taken over by corrupt business interests willing to do anything to drive her father off his land, including hiring a murderous gunfighter (Lee Marvin).

As the two outlaws she’s fallen in with are hardly tough guys, Cat recruits the legendary Kid Shelleen (Marvin too) only to discover he’s a pathetic, broken-down drunk (“He did it! He missed the barn!”). The odds are against her but Cat’s very determined … A good Western parody that netted Marvin an Oscar for his double role. Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole play a banjo-strumming Greek chorus, a detail I liked but I’ve had friends who thought it was ridiculous. “There are a lot of people who are just as depraved and cowardly as they think they are.”

After watching the second season of EXTANT (S1 review here), I wish I’d finished the series before finishing The Aliens Are Here. Mollie’s (Hallee Berry) half-alien son initially appears to remake Species, propagating his kind by impregnating women who die giving birth to the aliens. By the time Molly catches up with him, the hybrids have adapted: they don’t have to kill to reproduce. But the authorities don’t see it that way and they’re about to unleash an army of Humanich soldiers to eliminate the threat. Fortunately there’s no way letting a bunch of humanoid machines off the leash could go wrong, right? The suggestion that we and the hybrids can actually share the Earth is refreshing compared to all the othering I usually witness. “A super-computer in charge of an army of killer robots — it’s a futurist’s nightmare.”

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