Monday, August 27, 2012

Thoughts On "King David: A Biography" by Steven L. McKenzie

About to return King David: A Biography by Steven L. McKenzie to the library.  No time like the present to comment on it.

McKenzie starts from the documentary hypothesis position on the history of the Old Testament and he takes the rather cynical position that the more a text protests something did not happen the more likely it actually did. He makes the claim that David was a much less pleasant person than the Bible (and interpretations/extrapolations thereof) depict him. Being a Christian, I thought the tone of the project rather cynical, but in the acknowledgements section he said his purpose was seeking truth rather than simply tearing down hagiography for the sake of tearing down hagiography and he does raise some interesting points.

McKenzie takes issue with the traditional portrayal of David being a shepherd, or at least a full-time one.  1 Samuel 16:18 refers to David as being a warrior and nobleman before he becomes Saul's musician and armor-bearer.  This raises some awkward questions about 1 Samuel 17:33, in which Saul calls David "only a boy" and compares him to Goliath, "a fighting man from his youth" and 1 Samuel 17:56 in which Saul inquires about who David's father is after the death of Goliath.  Based on archaeological evidence, McKenzie said the area's population was growing at the time and theorized that David might have had to become a mercenary because, being the youngest son, there wouldn't be much left for him after his older brothers got married and had families of their own.

McKenzie also questions the story of David killing Goliath, citing 2 Samuel 21:19 in which Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim kills "Goliath the Gittite," who had a spear whose shaft was like a weaver's beam. However, 1 Chronicles 20:5 said Elhanan killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath, who spear was like a weaver's beam. 1 Samuel 17:7 compares the spear of Goliath with a weaver's beam. This is rather problematic, although this site here cites someone who at least as some knowledge of Hebrew who claims the 2 Samuel 21:19 problem is a copyist error.

McKenzie also suggests David had married one of Saul's wives Ahinoam during the period of his exile, and that his marriage to Abigail after the convenient death of her husband Nabal (which he attributes to David) brought him the political loyalty of many of the people around.  I'd never thought of the latter theory before, although if Nabal was kind of a tool, Abigail's relatives might've been glad to be rid of him and ally with someone else.

McKenzie also claims David was involved in Absalom's killing his half-brother Amnon, who had raped his full sister Tamar.  He makes the cynical argument that because the text depicts Absalom inviting David to come to the festival where he intended to kill Amnon and David refusing, it's an attempt to "prove" David was not involved, since if he did come, Absalom would not have been able to get away with killing Amnon there, and therefore he must have been involved somehow.

However, there is another explanation.  Absalom is intelligent enough to wait years, until he had the chance to kill Amnon at Baal Hazor and escape, rather than attacking Amnon in Jerusalem immediately after Tamar's rape, at much greater risk. Given how David did not even want Amnon going to the festival, perhaps this was some psychological trick on Absalom's behalf. Absalom knows David cannot attend and asks him anyway, hoping David might seek to placate him by sending Amnon--the true target--instead.  I don't see how this is necessarily proof David had his firstborn son killed.  The text does not depict Absalom's attempt to overthrow David until many years later, so it doesn't seem like he was plotting against his father already.

However, Absalom's story does raise other questions about David's kingship. 2 Samuel 15:5 describes Absalom stealing the hearts of the nation of Israel from David by, among other things, forbidding people from bowing down to him when they meet him. Although Absalom sneakily makes people think David doesn't care about justice by letting people think the king won't hear their cases, the part about not letting people bow to does raise some questions about David.

McKenzie also questions whether David actually wrote many of the Psalms attributed to him.  The heading for Psalm 3, for example, states that David wrote it while fleeing from Absalom.  However, the Psalm does not mention Absalom or anything specific about his rebellion. Considering David's grief at his son's death, I would imagine there'd be some hint or clue.  Psalm 51 is the author lamenting his sin and begging God for forgiveness, but although the heading makes a reference to David writing it after the Bathsheba episode, it doesn't specifically refer to that.

The heading of Psalm 34 also makes a reference to David pretending to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away.  However, David pretended to be insane before the Philistine king Achish in 1 Samuel 21:12.  There is a priest named Ahimelech in 1 Samuel 21:1 whom David visits before meeting Achish, which indicates whoever wrote the headings used in Psalms at the very least needed to avoid careless errors.

Psalm 30's heading says this is a Psalm of David at the dedication of the Temple.  It was Solomon who built the Temple, after David was dead.  However, my NIV says in the footnotes that it could be the palace of David, not the Temple.  That makes a lot more sense. McKenzie does not acknowledge the alternative meeting, which is not to his credit.

From the perspective of sola scriptura, I would imagine the headings of the Psalms shouldn't be considered divinely inspired, considering the error here.  However, the obvious response is that divine inspiration applies only to the original manuscripts, which allows for copyist errors or things outside of the actual text getting plugged in.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Self-Publishing, E-Readers, and Markets That Don't Pay (Well)

I recently made the decision to self-publish my two short horror stories "Melon Heads" and "I am the Wendigo" on (for the Kindle) and Smashwords (for the other platforms).  "Melon Heads" is a piece I haven't been able to sell anywhere else, but "I am the Wendigo" was my first fiction sale back in 2006-2007.

(A now-defunct webzine called Chimaera Serials paid $20 for it. CS didn't last long after it published the story and after a couple of years, the website vanished entirely.)

I picked "Melon Heads" to be fodder for my self-publishing experiment because it's among my best stories, but I haven't yet found a publisher willing to pay professional or semi-professional rates.  "Wendigo" has a different problem--there aren't very many markets for horror reprints, at least those that pay much.

In the past, I might have been willing to submit to a market offering a low rate or even for free simply to get exposure.  However, the Internet and the rise of e-readers has changed that.  I could sell certain rights to these stories for a one-time payment of $5, $10, or $20, or I could put them on an e-reader.  My friend Jeff Baker has posted a few stories to Amazon and Smashwords and he's made more money than if he'd sold them to many lower-paying markets.

If this is representative of any kind of trend, it bodes ill for the lowest-paying markets. 

However, self-publishing short stories has its pitfalls like self-publishing a novel does.  I need to create my own cover--a recent article I read attributed one reason self-published books fail is bad cover art. The problem is, good cover art costs money. I doubt I'm going to make a whole lot of money once I put them online, at least in the short run, so spending a lot on cover art defeats the whole purpose. There's also the matter of editing, which I think my stuff won't have a problem with given how many times I've had friends and members of my writing group pick over it. And then there's formatting them properly for e-readers. I've downloaded the free e-publishing software Calibre, which should help me format the stories, but I haven't actually started using it yet.

That's a ray of hope for the lower-paying fiction markets. It's a lot easier to simply write and polish a story and submit it than to self-publish, even if the monetary returns are higher. After all, one's time has value. However, even if self-publishing short fiction for the e-reader market doesn't obliterate markets offering only a token payment or exposure, it will certainly make life more difficult for them.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Melon Heads" Is Coming

I have recently made the executive decision to self-publish my short story "Melon Heads" on (for the Kindle) and Smashwords (for other e-readers).  One of my former co-workers has offered to illustrate it for me.  I might post the cover art here at some point when it's done.

"Melon Heads" began in 2003 or 2004, during my first semester at the University of Georgia.  I was looking around online and came across the Melon Heads on an urban legends website.  I can't find the original link, but the gist of the story can be found here.

I wrote a short story fairly quickly, since I didn't think anyone had ever made a creature-horror story about the Melon Heads, but was unable to sell it.  In retrospect, the early drafts of the story were far too bare-bones and lacked characterization.  The current version combines elements of dark humor with a straight-up horror tale.  Although there's now at least one direct-to-video horror film about the Melon Heads, that may be a bonus--people are now more aware of the Melon Heads and might be interested in hearing more.

I will keep you all posted on the progress of my plan.  Should this prove successful, there might be more fiction going up on Amazon and Smashwords.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What I'm Working On At The Moment


*Battle for the Wastelands

*"Coil Gun" Screenplay

Last Thursday, my Kennesaw writing group reviewed the entirety of Battle for the Wastelands.  Got some good critiques (grenade explosions don't throw people, they shred them) and some out-of-left-field critiques (including one suggestion to have the Merrill army destroyed in the climax and have Andrew and friends set out on their own).  Revising accordingly, with the deadline DragonCon. I did get a request from a publisher last year for the full manuscript when it was done and I might send it out earlier.

One suggestion was to cut POVs to reduce overall word count, since the current draft is 105,000 words (the draft they reviewed was 104,000 words) and many novels of its type are much shorter.  I have a rather specific vision for the overall series and much of the material is set up for stuff that happens later.  Radically changing the story at the moment isn't going to fly.  However, fat lot of good plans for later in the series do if one cannot sell the first book.

I've also decided to retitle the later Wastelands novels.  Escape from the Wastelands is now Battle for the Wastelands: Escape, while the planned third novel is Battle for the Wastelands: War.  This is in the vein of my friend Alex's upcoming novel Clean, whose full title is technically Clean: A Mindspace Investigations Novel, as well as my friend James' novella That Thing At The Zoo, which is subtitled A Deacon Chalk Occult Bounty Hunter Novella.  Heck, look at the Pirates of the Caribbean films and how the first one had the subtitled The Curse of the Black Pearl, while the subsequent films had subtitles as well.  A nice, distinctive series name like Mindspace Investigations or Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter is good branding.  Although Andrew Sutter is the protagonist, he's not so central to the story that I can label everything "An Andrew Sutter Novel."  Heck, Andrew isn't even in Son of Grendel.

I've also gotten a lot of work done on the "Coil Gun" screenplay.  Current page count is 77.  A friend of mine who is a TV writer out in Los Angeles says that the bare minimum is 90 pages, so I need 13 more pages from somewhere.  I got it to 77 pages by starting the story out much earlier with the Afrikaners capturing some ethnic-Indian Australian commandos assisting Indian rebels and the angry response of the Afrikaner government to that.  I don't think I've adapted all of the material from the short story into the screenplay just yet--for example, there's the Afrikaner spacecraft carrying multiple nuclear warheads deployed against Albuquerque--but I'm probably going to need to come up with some extra stuff.  All I can think of is a new subplot involving a character's wife who is a teacher, but I haven't developed that much.

I haven't been working on a whole lot else at the moment due to the primary revising Battle is taking and various real-life job issues.

Friday, August 10, 2012

"Batman Maybe" Hilarious Music Video

Here's a video my friend Patrick shared on Facebook.

It's an absolute riot.  It has spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises, so be ye warned.

Here's the original video on YouTube:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Iron Sky" Trailer Music That Isn't In The Movie...

I saw Iron Sky in Atlanta last night and will probably blog about it later.  However, here's something I noticed that I was rather disappointed in. 

The trailer I posted here months ago has some really awesome orchestral music made even more awesome by the overlay of marching feet as the Nazi invaders board their flying saucers to invade Earth.  That music isn't actually in the movie.

However, thanks to TVTropes, I found the music on YouTube.  It actually predates Iron Sky, but it has very appropriate lyrics--it's about space travel and colonization in a very "WE WILL CONQUER THE UNIVERSE" type of way.  It's called B Mashina by the Slovenian band Laibach, which apparently also created the soundtrack to the film.

For some reason I am having trouble copying the embed HTML to post it here, but here's the link:


My First Podcast Interview...

After lunch Wednesday, my friend Nick interviewed me for his Dudeletter podcast.  Apparently I'm the third audio interview he's recorded.  In addition to asking me about how I wrote, why I wrote, etc., we discussed two of my specific projects a fair bit and touched on a third.

First, we discussed my novel Battle for the Wastelands.  Nick, along with Jeff Baker and Sean C.W. Korsgaard, was one of my beta readers that I had take a look at the completed first draft after I ran the entire novel through my Lawrenceville writing group and before I bring it in its entirety before my Kennesaw writing group Thursday.  He had some good ideas, like officially making the last chapter an epilogue and increasing protagonist Andrew Sutter's soul-searching when he's forced to re-evaluate his prejudices against "the trading folk."

(The trading folk are an ethnic group resembling a combination of Jews, Gypsies, and Native Americans.  They call themselves the Menceir, like our world's Irish Travelers.  The neutral term for them is "trading folk," but the racial slur is "pikey," which is an anti-Gypsy/Traveler slur in our world.  The stereotypes Andrew associates with them are generally similar to those held by anti-Semites, with a sprinkling of anti-Gypsy views too.  Having the hero of my story starting out as a racist is not an endorsement of racism--heroes need flaws.)

The idea of military service discouraging racism is something borne out in real life.  When I was in either very late middle school or high school, I read an article about the Marine Corps training regimen in Parade magazine, which comes with the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  The article referenced a recruit who went in a skinhead and came out saying "there are cool people of all races."  William Broyles Jr., who wrote the film Castaway, also wrote a column I read in the AJC about how reviving the draft would mix the different races and classes and reduce social division.  Although I don't think that's sufficient justification for conscription, I don't see a flaw in the logic.

We also discussed Grendel as a villain and Andrew as a hero.  Grendel is to a large degree amoral--he'll do what he views as necessary to secure his objectives.  Although these objectives aren't necessarily bad, the means he uses often are.  Meanwhile, there are moral lines Andrew will not, under any circumstances, cross.  Furthermore, Grendel's motivations are also rather selfish, while Andrew's will eventually become more altruistic.

We also discussed what I call the "Afrikanerverse," the world where my published short story "Coil Gun" and my as-yet-unpublished story "Picking Up Plans In Palma" takes place.  We briefly touched on how I'm transforming "Coil Gun" into a movie script based on S.M. Stirling's advice that short stories make good movies and books make good TV shows and discussed the Afrikanerverse in general.

One thing we touched on was how, during this world's 20th Century, the world divided into two camps.  Fascism never arose and the USSR, which started World War II in an alliance with Japan (I don't think there was a Russo-Japanese War in this world) and the Qing Dynasty of (northern) China was defeated, nipping Communism in the bud.

What resulted was a geopolitical confrontation between the League of Democracies, led by the United States and including the great European powers Britain, France, Germany (unified in 1848 under little-l liberal leaders), and post-Communist Russia, against the Afrikaner Confederation and its allies, including the Persian Empire, a Sikh state in northwestern India, and the Taiping regime in southern China.  The Afrikaners and their allies have formed what I tentatively call "the Self-Determination Compact"--basically a coalition of states who feel threatened by the spread of "American" ideals. 

The battle lines of this world's Cold War are not centered on different economic systems, but something more basic.  The League of Democracies is driven by egalitarian, Enlightenment-based little-l liberalism much like the ideals that the United States is based on, while the ideology of the "Self-Determination Compact" can essentially be described as "authoritarian traditionalism."  This does not mean there aren't any Enlightenment influences on the SDC states--the Afrikaner Confederation has democratic freedoms and the like for the white (to varying degrees) ruling class, albeit marred by religious discrimination, while the Sikh state practices a weighted voting system much like pre-WWI Prussia rather than being a straight-up despotism.

These two value systems, in a way, transcend religion.  Most of the states of the League of Democracies have largely Christian populations.  The Afrikaner Confederation's state ideology is something resembling our world's Afrikaner Calvinism and the Taiping regime is an overt Chinese Christian theocracy (Afrikaner influence means the founder of this world's Taiping, rather than viewing himself as "God's Chinese son," instead views himself as being analogous to the Old Testament Jehu--the executor of God's judgement).  Meanwhile, the Persian Empire, Thailand, the Rashids (an Arab state), Afghanistan, and some other states are traditional monarchies and the Sikh state is, although not a theocracy, a state where one religious/ethnic group rules over others.

We also briefly discussed two villain-protagonist stories I wrote centered around the character Andrew Patel, a half-Indian biomedical engineer who lives by the ideas of the philosopher Nietzsche and who does medical work for criminals in exchange for the funds needed to pursue transcendence as he understands it (basically turning himself into a cyborg).  I originally intended for them to run in a superhero anthology my Kennesaw group was putting together, but the project seems to have died for lack of interest.  I'll see what kind of markets accept superhero stories and, failing that, put them on the Kindle.  No real discussion there, but they were mentioned.

I'll post the link to the actual interview here when Nick posts it on the Dudeletter.  Although my comments about what was discussed are pretty detailed, I left a lot out--after all, you need a reason to listen to the podcast.  Although I don't know how he'll edit it, there's a good chance there will be spoilers for Battle for the Wastelands and other books in the series, as well as "Palma."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Notes From A Book-Signing

Last night I had the fortune of being able to visit the FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock for the premiere party for my friend James R. Tuck's new book Blood and Silver, in which monster-hunter Deacon Chalk gets involved in a civil war in the lycanthropic community.  The event also hosted readings from friends Kalayna Price, Delilah S. Dawson, Janice Hardy, Annabel Joseph, and Alex Hughes.

(Warning: Annabel Joseph's writing is *extremely* risque.)

Also attending was Carol Malcolm, chief moderator of the Horror and Dark Fantasy track at Dragoncon.  When the readings were done, she asked questions.

I was exercising that afternoon and cleaning up took longer than I planned, so I arrived in the middle of Kalayna's reading.  When she finished, it was James' turn.

"Have you all read the first chapter, the sample that was in book one?" he asked.

He decided to pick a chapter at random from Blood and Silver, Ch. 16.  Before he started reading, he explained that although the most common lycanthropes are predators like werewolves, in real life, prey animals grossly outnumber predators.  Thus, you're more likely to encounter a were-possum or were-squirrel or even a were-zebra than a werewolf or were-lion.  He then read from Ch. 16, which is the aftermath of a battle in which Deacon suffers a head injury.

Afterward, Malcolm began her questions.  Here are some of the things I learned from the answers:

*James read an urban fantasy he was told was dark and gritty and was very disappointed.

"I put the book down and said, 'I can write better shit than that,'" he said.  This is how his first novel, Blood and Bullets, came to be.

His favorite authors are Robert E. Howard, author of the Conan stories, and Don Pendleton, who created the character Mack Bolan.  If the Deacon Chalk stories were made into movies, he would like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to play Deacon and hoped Robert De Niro could play Father Mulcahey, a Catholic priest who drinks, smokes, and is apparently some kind of Special Forces veteran.  Kevin Bacon could play Larson, a wannabe vampire hunter who becomes a scientist (for Deacon) and wizard (which great upsets Deacon).

*As a child, Delilah's favorite books were Watership Down by Richard Adams and Pet Semetary by Stephen King.  When she read Outlander by Diane Gabaldon, she realized romantic fiction can have really good plots.  She emphasized her novel Wicked As They Come started out as an adventure novel, with the romantic plot added later.  It's a real story--not just people talking. When asked what a film adaptation of her book would look like, she said it would be something directed by Tim Burton.  Someone suggested Johnny Depp play the lead, provoking general laughter.

*Alex first got involved in speculative fiction at 13, when her grandfather gave her one of the Pern books.  When asked about adapting her novel Clean (which comes out September 7) into a film, she suggested Benedict Cumberbatch could play protagonist Adam, if he toned it down a little first.  James suggested Adrian Brody could play Adam as well.

This provoked an intervention from Delilah:

"I spent the whole Predator movie waiting for someone to kill him," she said.  "He was that annoying."

(I actually have Adrian Brody as an actor to play anti-hero Patrick Rassam in my Vasharia novels, along with Oded Fehr.)

*Annabel started writing her fiction for fellow moms-with-kids and it eventually accumulated to the point she had a book.  Given her subject matter, that's a bit shocking.  However, given how popular 50 Shades of Grey is, I really shouldn't be.

*I didn't really get a whole lot from Kaylana.  Sorry.  :)

I also learned about a website called Wordle, in which you can plug in text and see how often a word is used.  It expresses this in the form of a graphic, with words used many times represented by large circles and words used few times represented using small circles.  My friend Nick expressed concerns about the amount of use words like "reckon" and "arroyo" got in Battle for the Wastelands, so I will put Battle and Son of Grendel in the site sometime soon to see if there are any problems.  James said if he put his novels in there, the f-word would predominate.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What I'm Working On Right Now...

Current Projects

*Battle for the Wastelands

*Escape from the Wastelands

*Untitled Superhero Project

*"Coil Gun" Screenplay

Battle for the Wastelands has been finished for some time.  I've been tinkering with it, revising it based on suggestions from my friends Nick, Korsgaard, and others, and awaiting the final meeting of my writing group where we go over the whole novel.  That's slated for later this week.  Once I make the revisions based on those comments, I'll start sending it out to agents I've identified by reading the Acknowledgements sections of books like Dead Iron by Devon Monk, the Clockwork Century novels by Cherie Priest, and others.  Hopefully I won't have many significant changes to make, especially since I took out all the phonetic spelling of dialect ("'em" for "them," "somethin'" for "something," etc) at the behest of pretty much all of my writer friends.

I've also been working on Escape from the Wastelands, the second book in a planned series of eight.  Right now I'm done with the first three chapters and a significant block of text toward the end (it was originally the second half of one book) and need to finish Chapter Four.  A lot of the chapter is written already--I just need to write a battle scene in the middle.  When I brought Chapter Three before my Lawrenceville writing group, the group wanted more human interaction (including a sense of humor) among the characters, so I've been working on that.  The character Will has been established as kind of a jerk, so I figured someone not concerned about the feelings of others would be interested in pranks.  I haven't found the chance to work that into Battle, but I was able to plug that into Escape.

I've also gotten started on a new project based on how Abaddon Books has opened up for novella submissions.  I'm not familiar with any of Abaddon Books' existing worlds and they are open for new worlds, so I decided to start on a new project.  Not going to go into a lot of detail at the moment, but the premise involves supervillains relocating their operations to the Third World after the rich countries develop a significant deterrent to their behavior.  The deadline to contribute is in September.  I've written the prologue and plotted out the rest of the book.  If Abaddon Books isn't interested or if the story gets too long, this one might be a candidate for self-publishing.

Finally, I got a lot of work done on my screenplay adaptation of my short story "Coil Gun," which appears in Pressure Suite: Digital Science Fiction #3.  At DragonCon 2011, S.M. Stirling said short stories make good movie scripts and books make good miniseries, and I decided to test that theory out.  I wrote 15 script pages today, bringing it up to 62 pages total.  The problem is, a page equals a minute of film time.  A good script is 90-120 pages long.  Not sure how I'm going to add 28 pages.  Maybe I can describe some of the space battles in more detail rather than just saying spacecraft are fighting.

Tickets for American "Iron Sky" Screenings!

I was at my friend Will's birthday party yesterday and a friend of his e-mailed me a link to where I could purchase tickets for a screening of the movie Iron Sky--the Moon-Nazi movie--in Atlanta Wednesday.

This is going to be awesome.  I'll be sure to review it here and for my friend Nick's blog The Dudeletter.

My friend Sean C.W. Korsgaard said he has been waiting for the movie for years.  I remembered seeing on other Iron Sky showings, so I looked to see if there were any other screenings near him in Virginia.  There were a couple in the Washington D.C. area, about an hour to an hour and a half drive from him.  Hopefully he'll be able to see it.

Here's the link to all the upcoming screenings of Iron Sky that is managing in the United States.

Before I joined, I checked it out to see how it works.  It's actually really interesting.  I'm thinking this would be a good option for independent filmmakers (or others) who've got a movie in the can and are looking for a way to distribute it.  Find a theater, promote the screening through Tugg, etc.  If the resulting screening(s) are a success, that might go a long way to snagging a distribution deal.

If I ever decide to go indie with a film based on my short story "Coil Gun" (I'm working on the screenplay now), this might be a really good idea.  Especially if it's animated, as I've discussed earlier.  In the United States, animation is seen as something for children and a dark, violent adult SF animated movie might have trouble finding a distributor or a mass audience.  A successful independent screening might show a distributor the movie has legs, or it could serve to build buzz for an online or DVD launch.

I'm putting the cart massively before the horse here, but it's worth a thought...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Behold, I Offer You Swag!

I'm going to embark on a little experiment here.  Awhile back, I joined the Atlanta Bloggers group and met Emma, founder of Fanbolt.  One of her techniques for growing Fanbolt was offering Fanbolt t-shirts, hats, etc. to new Twitter and Facebook followers. Some newspapers do this as well.

Well, I'll take a page from them and offer some swag of my own...

Here's the current map of the world where my professionally-published short story "Coil Gun" takes place. Last Christmas, I gave a coffee-mug with that map on it to my friend Nick, since he'd reviewed an early draft of "Coil Gun."  He's regularly used that mug--it's even made an appearance on Facebook, in a photo showing his dog Scout seated with him at the table like a person.

The twelfth new Twitter follower and the twelfth new Facebook fan will receive mugs featuring the map.  This offer will run as long as it needs to.  However, the longer it takes to reach the twelve mark on both ends, the more likely it is I'll forget I made this offer, so act now.  :)

By the way, "Coil Gun" appeared in Pressure Suite: Digital Science Fiction #3.  My friend Korsgaard reviewed both the book and "Coil Gun" specifically.  If you're interested in science fiction, you'll love the book.

Building A Better "Birds of Prey"

On my alternate-history discussion forum, the gentleman whose handle is TheReturner posted a thread asking how one could make the television series Birds of Prey successful.  The show is basically about Batman and Catwoman's illegitimate daughter Huntress and the Oracle (the former Batgirl, crippled by the Joker) fighting crime, with the chief villain being none other than evil psychiatrist Harley Quinn, lover of the Joker.

Sufficient to say, it wasn't successful.  Here're some ideas that the board member whose handle is Antonio and I came up with to make it better:

*Don't call the city "New Gotham."  I don't see why they made that change.  There's no point.  Antonio suggested making this a generic near-future setting, perhaps by stylizing some of the items.  Heck, given how Batman could have been active for decades and might've had his affair with Catwoman years ago, they could even set it in the present day.

(I doubt the Joker could have gotten away with constantly being declared legally insane and then breaking out of Arkham Asylum every few months in the "tough on crime" 1990s, so setting Batman's heyday in the 1960s and 1970s makes sense on those grounds.  Also, the board member whose handle is Black Angel suggested it could be a direct sequel to the Adam West Batman series and when we actually meet Bruce Wayne, he could be played by West.)

*There was an animated series called Batman Beyond that ran from 1999 to 2001, just before Birds of Prey, that featured an elderly Bruce Wayne mentoring a new Batman many years later.  Something that was in a similar vein--basically "Batman: The Next Generation" with female protagonists--would have probably been better-received than Birds of Prey was.

*Dump the "metahumans" aspect of the story entirely.  It came off to me like they were cribbing from the X-Men or even Dark Angel, which was on at the same time.  And Catwoman in the comics was an ordinary human, not a mutant.

*The show depicts Batman as having left Gotham in his grief for Catwoman's death.  I remember at least some fans complained about that, claiming it made Batman a coward.  If I were writing it, I would depict Batman going insane with rage at the Joker's killing of Catwoman and killing the Joker himself, then having a Heroic Blue Screen of Death and going into self-imposed exile for violating his one rule.  Antonio said that if the crippling of Barbara Gordon and the death of Jason Todd (the second Robin) took place at the same time, it would be enough to push Batman to outright homicide.  That's actually a really good idea--the TV show included a flashback to Joker shooting Barbara and the Joker actually killed Jason Todd in the comics.

As I said on the forum, this gets Batman out of the way in a manner true to his character and eliminates the Joker, allowing for Harley Quinn to come into her own as a major villain rather than simply being the Joker's girlfriend/minion.  Making the Joker's sidekick into a full-blown Big Bad in her own right (I guess that would make her a Dragon Ascendant) was one of the more creative ideas of the show.

Also, it could lead to a really interesting flashback episode (or even series of episodes) if Huntress sought her father out for answers.  Batman would say something to the effect of, "Helena, let me explain..." and we see a full-blown Batman arc in the midst of the Oracle/Huntress show.  Even if the show still fails, those episodes would likely be beloved by Batman fans.

*Batman doesn't seem to be the type to get a woman pregnant without marrying her, nor abandon a child.  The TV series dealt with this by making it so Batman wasn't aware of his daughter, at least initially.  Another idea might be to have Batman and Catwoman marry and retire from their respective lifestyles.  Then the Joker breaks out of Arkham one last time and rampages, killing Jason Todd (who might try to continue being Robin on his own), crippling Barbara Gordon, and then killing Catwoman and (apparently) Helena.  Batman puts on his costume one last time and literally tears the Joker apart, then leaves.  Alfred discovers Helena is still alive, but cannot find Batman and so, like he did with Bruce, raises Helena himself.