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Opulent, Glamorous, & Smelly

February 23, 2008 at 9:23 pm

The Orrery must be twisting time more violently than I'd anticipated. How is it possible 11 days have passed?! Anyway, lots of news, updates, and meaningless anecdotes to relate.

Site Updates

First and foremost, the site has been updated! Say hello to the homunculus. And while you're at it, why not see what messages have come in from the spirit realm, and send one of your own in return.

New links are on their way, too, for the unsinkable J. Michael Blumer, the unflappable Leah Bobet, the incomparable Amanda Downum, the inestimable B. K. Dunn, the selfless Melinda Goodin, and the indescribable James Steven-Arce.

(If you find your site on the links page and don't want to be there, please send a note and I'll remove your link posthaste. Likewise if your site isn't linked and you do want it to be.)

Los Angeles: Exciting! Opulent! Glamorous! Smelly!

This past Monday I returned from a four-day business trip to Los Angeles with my writing partner Melinda Snograss. Because the Writers Guild of America Strike officially ended early last week, we felt it was a good time to meet with our manager and discuss a handful of projects that we have in the offing. The television pilot we co-wrote last year, Outpost, has been on hold during the strike because although it's finished our manager hasn't been able to show it to anybody. (I have my faults, but I'm no scab.) But now that the town in gearing up for business again, it was time to dust off the script, give it another polish, and then wish it well as our manager sends it out in search of a high-profile showrunner to attach to the project. Of course, even before the strike odds were rather small that we'd sell Outpost. They're still small, but... different. The strike led to the cancellation of many pre-existing development deals, meaning potentially that people who wouldn't have been available or interested earlier may now be available and interested. On the other hand, there may not even be a pilot season this year. And even if there is, word on the street is that the studios are going to be buying far fewer pilots in the future, and those mainly ones with big names attached to them (see above re: high-profile showrunners).

There's a second reason our manager is shopping Outpost around. Even if we don't sell the project itself, the script may land the Snodgrass & Tregillis writing team a job writing for a different show. In Hollywood, spec scripts are the coin of the realm when it comes to getting jobs on writing staffs. (Jane Espenson maintains a fantastic blog that explains the ins and outs of television writing. Check it out.) Again, the odds are rather small, but hey! You never know.

We also discussed a couple of other projects. And that's all I'm saying about that right now, except to add that Melinda and I will be cowriting another screenplay this spring and summer.

Aside from attending the Anaheim Worldcon in 2006, I'd never been to southern California before. So when we weren't working (and we did a lot of work in that four days) Melinda was kind enough to show me around. We visited the Getty Villa in Malibu. It's an incredible place, and I can't do it justice. So I'll distill my impression down to three thoughts:

1) Holy crap!

2) The Romans really knew how to live.

3) I'd like to be astronomically wealthy some day. If it ever happens, I'm building my own villa. You know, for all that purty art I'll own.

If you ever have a chance to visit the Getty Villa, I highly recommend it. It's even free (except parking) -- the Getty trust is, um, healthy.

We drove on the Pacific Coast Highway to get to there, which gave me my first good look at the Pacific Ocean in my life (aside from flying over it on the way to South Korea a few years ago -- not the same thing). I made sad hangdog faces until Melinda pulled over so I could go stand on the beach. Three thoughts:

1) The Pacific Ocean is huge.

2) And wet.

3) And awesome. Suddenly I see the appeal of surfing.

We also visited The Huntington with the wonderful Chris Valada, who kindly spent a day driving us around Los Angeles. It was a little too early in the year for the rose gardens, we were just a few days too early for the grand opening of the Chinese Garden, and the Gallery was undergoing renovations so we didn't get to see The Blue Boy or Pinkie. But the weather was wonderful, the orange trees were blooming, we saw dozens of truly amazing bonsai trees, a Gutenberg Bible (Holy cow! A Gutenberg Bible!), and an illuminated manuscript of the Canterbury Tales dating from the 15th century. That's a poor summary of the wonders of The Huntington, so I'll distill my further impressions down to three thoughts:

1) Wow.

2) If I ever become a fabulousy wealthy (see above), I'm hiring an army of gardeners and landscapers. You know, for all those purty botanical gardens I'll have.

3) I really, really need to buy a digital camera. Seriously. For real this time.

That evening, after the Huntington, Chris kindly took us to the fantastic Griffith Park Observatory. It's art deco science at its best! And the views are fantastic.

One evening we went over to Studio City for a sushi dinner with our Wild Cards colleague Michael Cassutt. A guy could learn a lot about Hollywood by listening to Melinda and Mike chew the fat. A guy could also learn to envy Mike's incredibly quick, rapier wit.

We also went to the La Brea Tar Pits. It's a cool place. I had no idea that the Page Museum has so many Ice Age fossils. One entire wall is covered with well over a hundred dire wolf skulls. (And it's backlit a lovely deep orange color, ostenstibly to stimulate nightmares.) Apparently every so often a mammoth would blunder into the tar, get stuck, and attract a pack of wolves. The wolves, sensing an easy meal, would jump on the mammoth, get stuck in the tar... and attract still more wolves. (Heh. This is begging for a quip about about viscous circles, but I'm not going there. No, I'm not.) I can't help but picture a wooly mammoth with two dozen unhappy wolves glued to it. Heh. Other thoughts:

0) Note to self: never, ever fall in a tar pit.

1) Holy crap! There really was such a thing as a dire wolf. I thought they existed only in fiction.

2) What kind of evolutionary processes create sloths the size of VW minibuses? Because, you know, that's a big sloth.

3) Tar pits: smelly, even in February.

Anyway, those are the highlights of my recent trip to Los Angeles, aside from little things like driving past Houdini's house and "doing breakfast" on Sunset Boulevard. And speaking of which, I overheard the following one-sided conversation while waiting in line to use a restroom.

Things are finally moving forward, but getting this thing made is going to be tough.... Uh-huh.... Uh-huh... Okay, look, go ahead and send it to her if you think she might like it, but I just don't think this is right for Keira Knightley... No.... I see this as the perfect vehicle for Kate Bosworth.

It's a different world out there.

And no, Sam, I didn't get a tan.

Critical Mass

We had our monthly Critical Mass meeting this past Wednesday. We had 8 people and 7 submissions in play this month: Me, Melinda, Sage Walker, Daniel Abraham, Vic Milan, Steve Stirling, Emily Mah, and Walter Jon Williams (who, I humbly point out, has posted his favorite critique from Wednesday's meeting here. The discourse at Critical Mass meetings is an elevated and erudite affair, you see. Even when we're not discussing the pros and cons of electric shocks to the nether regions.) This was a pretty typical month, in terms of reading-- around 500 pages, I think. And that's only because the submission deadline crept up on a few people. I'm usually pretty good about getting the reading done, though this month I didn't because I was in LA all weekend. (Sorry, Emily. I suck.) And much of the reading I did finish was carried out at LAX, where my concentration was broken approximately every 15 seconds. (Sorry, Vic. I suck.)

Milkweed Triptych

Speaking of Critical Mass, I subbed the final chapters of Bitter Seeds this month and received terrific, insightful feedback from the group (as always). Which means the first draft is really, truly finished. Hooray! I'm elbow deep in the rewrite/second draft now. I'm tremendously excited about this. I really enjoy the revision process, and in this particular case I'm deeply fired up about making the manuscript as strong as possible before I submit it to my editor at the end of April.

And I hope to get some friends together to hash out a detailed plot for the sequel, The Coldest War, before too long. I know the basic shape of that book in broad strokes, including the first sentence, the last sentence, the "second-state rocket", and some of the explosions. (Gotta have explosions.) But I'd like to outline the novel in more detail before I get too far inside it. I've been thinking about the first scene for years, though, and I can't wait to see it on paper.

Watch the Skies

This week's totally free ebook is Old Man's War by John Scalzi.

I've heard some rumors about upcoming works that will be featured in this program. Tor is giving away some seriously excellent books.


bkdunn February 24, 2008 at 1:14 am
Thanks several times over for the link. Sounds like you got a pretty good look at LA -- the Getty, Huntington, and Tar Pits are my three favorite things I've visited in LA County (I'd probably add the LA Colosseum as my fourth, but then I have a soft spot for decrepit buildings and sports). LMK if you're ever ready to venture into the dark heart of Orange County.
S.C. Butler February 24, 2008 at 7:07 am
My daughter worked at the NY Public Library a few summers ago, the big one with the lions, and she got to actually touch a Gutenberg Bible.

We worship her now.

The next time you come to NYC, we'll visit Houdini's grave. We should do it on Halloween, when a small core of fanboys and fangirls always shows up in expectation of spectral effects.

I knew you wouldn't get a tan. I don't think Minnesotans can tan.

Ian February 24, 2008 at 10:56 am
BK! Thanks for stopping by!

I didn't know there was a Colosseum in LA. Next time, definitely. I imagine the Huntington isn't at its best in February; I'll have to go back. I will happily call on your services as a guide in the OC. (You do call it "the OC", don't you? I learned that from television.)

Ian February 24, 2008 at 11:00 am
Of course we can tan. In fact, you've never seen me without a tan.

My natural color is transparent.

S.C. Butler February 24, 2008 at 12:44 pm
D'oh! How could I have forgotten?!
Type your name here February 27, 2008 at 3:53 pm
What an amazing trip! I didn't realize you did screenwriting, too. Good luck with that project!

We have giant sloths out here in Iowa. Their bones, anyway.

Zoe February 28, 2008 at 8:38 pm
Thank you for the great review of LA, especially the La Brea Tar Pits!
Ian March 2, 2008 at 7:36 pm
Thanks for the lucky wishes, Sarah!

I just couldn't get over how big some of those sloths
were. Man. I didn't know they were so widespread, either.

I learned that there used to be giant dragonflies once upon
a time, too. I can handle giant sloths. Giant insects kind
of freak me out, though.

Ian March 2, 2008 at 7:46 pm
Hi Zoe!
Thank you very much for reading my review! I'm glad you
got a kick out of it. I think you'd love the Tar Pits. I'd
definitely go again.
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