About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Oscars 2019

12:05 AM - And we'll call this a wrap for the Live Blog.  I may have more to say about some of my favorite movies of 2018, but for the Oscars, it's a night.  I know I've done better jobs on the live blog than this year, but since they eliminated around a half hour of Stuff, they eliminated a lot of the down time when I could pay less attention to what was on the screen, and more to my typing.  I'll take that trade-off any day.

12:03 AM -- Best Actress.  Prior to going for a repeat viewing of The Wife a couple of weeks ago, I don't believe I've ever gone back twice to a movie just to see a brilliant performance by an actress.  I am deeply disappointed for Glenn Close.  I might have a hard time separating out Olivia Colman's performance from my overall dislike for the movie she was in.  But even allowing for that, I can't see Colman's performance as better than the third or fourth best in the category, because Melissa McCarthy is a knockout in Can You Ever Forgive Me, and as up and down as A Star Is Born is, it would almost certainly be down-er with anyone else in the lead role.

11:58 PM - Talking more about the Adapted Screenplay category.  I didn't see Beale Street, but there are arguments to be made for all four of the nominees that I did see, while the Original category is full of weak links in stronger movies.  Can You Ever Forgive Me takes an assortment of unlikeable characters -- even Jane Curtin as the literary agent isn't the most likable literary agent, which is scandalous, and makes us love their faults and imperfections.  A Star is Born gets progressively weaker as it goes along, but at its best it takes a story that's decades old and makes it feel utterly contemporary, and it tackles issues of class differences that aren't required from the original movies. But the Screenplay category, both for awards and nominations, is often where the consolation prize is given, and it's a great place to give Spike Lee his first competitive Oscar.  I'd put Spike Lee's career against that of Martin Scorsese.  Neither has many Oscar statuettes.  Both have done films that are highly variable in quality.  I'm glad to see him with an Oscar to put on his shelf.

11:45 PM - I'm more upset with Green Book winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay than I am about its winning Best Picture.  The Oscars will be the Oscars, and if anything they've gotten better and less Oscar-y over the course of my lifetime.  Last night I saw Goodfellas at the Loews Jersey, with around 300 people in attendance to see a film that's some thirty years old.  It lost Best Picture to Dances With Wolves.  I doubt the Loews Jersey would program Dances With Wolves.  If it did, I doubt 300 people would show up to see it.  But the most notable thing about that year's Oscars isn't that Dances With Wolves beat Goodfellas for Best Picture.  The more enduring film loses often, and if you take a look at the Amazon rankings, it ain't like there aren't people still interested to buy a copy of the movie.  What's noticeable is how Dances With Wolves swept so many of the smaller award, and once upon a time the Best Picture always racked up Oscar after Oscar.  Now, it's much more common to see the spreading around of the statuettes as we saw this year with Roma, Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book and Black Panther all taking home multiples.  But for Screenplay?  The remake of Driving Miss Daisy wins for Screenplay?  And yet, even there, my disappointment is tempered.  This year's Adopted Screenplay category was full of contenders.  The Original Screenplay category?  Well, The Favourite wasn't winning.  Vice?  First Reformed and Roma are both better movies than they are screenplays.  Roma's strengths weren't in its underwritten screenplay; I don't know that even the movie's fans would say the screenplay was its strength.  And First Reformed is similarly flawed to Roma.  There's just too much in both screenplays that we don't see on the screen.  Without Ethan Hawke and the passion that the screenwriter also brought to his direction, First Reformed is a clumsy mess that flips its lid as it goes over the top in the ending, and Roma is full of contrivances and the under-explained in its screenplay.  But. Still.  Green Book, for Screenplay?

11:32 PM - Returning to earlier items...  So I joked about Ludwig Goransson's ago, but quite well-meaningly.  He's 34 years old.  And winning an Oscar for Best Score at the age of 34 -- well, that takes some work.  You don't get to score very many motion pictures fresh out of college.  You've got to become known, apprentice, gain trust, have reputation enough that the music branch of the Academy will think of you as a possible Oscar winner.  If we looked back over 90 years of Academy Awards, how many winners will we find who were younger?  It's also a tribute to Ryan Coogler, to spot the talent in someone he meets at college, and have the confidence to give that person work.  It's easy enough in to do in his debut movie Fruitvale Station, but then you have to be willing to stick with your man when the studio starts to say "Superhero movie, we need to have the score by the guy who does the loud obnoxious Superhero Movie music."  Also worth noticing is the delicacy with which Goransson's scored the quite different Creed and Creed II, where the score requires a different touch, including playing the obligatory homage to Bill Conti's original and enduring themes from the first Rocky movie, which Goransson always does with skill and grace.  Now, if Goransson would be willing to study just a little bit more at the knee of a John Williams and get even better, because Williams is getting on, Michael Giacchino isn't doing as much as he could be doing to assume the mantle, and we need people for that role.

11:15 PM - Green Book. Well!

11:03: We don’t always get what we want in life. Green Book won an Oscar for its screenplay, and Glenn Close did not win for The Wife.  I shall have more to say on these things.

10:50 PM - Rami!  I believe Bohemian Rhapsody is currently in the lead with four Oscars.  Very good Nike ad.  Roma is the only movie with a shot at overtaking Rhapsody.

10:45 PM - Already at Best Actor?!?!?

10:36 PM - after a few minutes of music from E.T., the bulk came from Superman: The Movie, the music over the funeral of Jonathan Kent, which brings tears to my eyes as an adult when I am lucky enough to see the film on the big screen. Fitting selection in a year when Margot Kidder is amongst thise whose lives were commemorated.

10:25 PM - Ludwig Goransson said “twelve years ago” in his acceptance speech. He doesn’t look old enough! Since I didn’t like any of the score nominees, I opted to root for Black Panther in this category, and am glad to have another win for the movie.

10:20: The Good. The Bad. And The Ugly. And having Green Book win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay is definitely in the Bad column.

10:09 PM - I quite liked how they non-introduced Shallow, just had Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper come on up and sing. Would have been better if theybalso used the occasion to reenact that famous piano number from The Fabulous Baker Boys, but, OK. And how have so many people been doing the “Star Was Robbed” thing. It’s a great first third of a movie that gets worse with each trimester.  Really!  It isn’t a great whole movie.

10:05 PM - quoting @kylebuchanan “Only 3 black women have won Oscars for anything other than acting. 2 of them just happened tonight.”

9:57 PM - First Man. Won an Oscar.

9:53 PM - American Idol ad is the first standout in a while. The cell service providers are dragging the whole thing down.

9:50 PM - Whatever happens with Roma as Best Picture, Netflix has three Oscars in hand tonight.

9:48 PM -  “I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar.”

9:47PM -first time presenters have done two awards?

9:38 PM - Not so happy about Supporting Actor category.  The winning performance could have been in the Best Actor category, and I just have a lot harder a time seeing Richard Grant or Adam Driver being swapped out for actors as good or better, while with Mahershala Ali, I can easily plug in three or five. Richard E. Grant first came to attention in the late 1980s with Withnail and I, which I didn’t see, and How To Get Ahead in Advertising, which sadly I did, an overpraised art film but Grant made an impression.  He resonated more positively in Steve Martin’s LA Story, and over the past thirty years he’s been in everything and anything, genre-wise, that you could be in, a lesser known actor from the Mchael Caine school choice philosophy. But there’s nothing in that thirty years to hint at the offbeat power and brilliance of his performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me,, which is a tone perfect tone poem about a deeply imperfect man playing off an ewually imperfect character played by Melissa McCarthy. I reckon being nominated and getting to play the award circuit is for a Richard E. Grant somewhat its own reward, but an Oscar would be a bigger one. And Adam Driver is an actor of deep subtlety as seen also in movies like Paterson.  So, here, two performances I much preferred to the one that won.

9:26 PM - from David Itzkoff in the New York Times — Trevor Noah reflects on his own life as “a young boy growing up in Wakanda,” and recounts the many people in his life who approach him by saying “Wakanda Forever.” “Even backstage, Mel Gibson came up to me like, ‘Wakanda forever.’ He said another word after that but the Wakanda part was nice.”

9:16 PM - I could’ve filled out half of a Ten Best list just with documentaries. Bathtubs Over Broadway, Three Identical Strangers. Science Fair. Filmworker. In addition to the the two I placed on.

9:12 PM - When Justin Chang says it for you, quote Justin:  Foreign-language film winner Alfonso CuarΓ³n, making the second of likely three appearances on stage tonight, has a lot of cinephilia to go around: This time he tips his hat to CITIZEN KANE, JAWS, THE GODFATHER and BREATHLESS and quotes Claude Chabrol. 

9:09 PM - Black Panther didn’t make my Ten Best, but I find myself pulling for it because the films I liked more  are often not contending. And it is the work of an actual filmmaker in Ryan Coogler who tried jard to bend the superhero movie to his vision, and crafted a film that wears the influence of other great films on jts sleeve, rather than other superhero movies.  I am pretty much dead to the world of superhero movies at this point in time, but this has more staying power with me.

9:05 PM - Geek note, Ruth Carter was the Costume Designer for Joss Whedon’s Serenity.

8:53. Serena!

8:44 PM - Moving along so briskly, not a lot of dead time for blogging!

8:37 PM - Walmart ain’t my favorite place. McDonalds neither. But they step up to the plate with their Oscar ads.

8:27 PM - the guys are killing it with the tuxes this yearπŸ˜€πŸ‘πŸ˜ŠπŸ˜πŸ‘πŸ˜Š

8:26 PM - Vice is not a good movie.

8:25 PM - and a great Rolex ad.  Google did someg soecialir the Oscars, but seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey abused that way.  Yikes!  Ugggh!!

8:21 PM. That was a great Cadillac ad, and then gets followed by a very prosaic Verizon ad.

8:18 PM - But Free Solo also made my Top Ten, and I wish I had gotten back to see it in IMAX.  Missing from the category is Three Identical Strangers.

8:16PM - What a great category. Minding The Gap, Free Solo, RBG all good.  Me go for Minding the Gap.

8:10 PM - Regina King is favored to win, and Beale Street is the one film all over the awards season that I took a pass on. No dog in this hunt.  I couldn’t have done worse seeing Beale Street over The Favourite, which I loathed.

8:08 PM Sparkly! Love the tux Chadwick Boseman is wearing.

8:04 PM An Oscar buffet fit fir a Queen

7:48PM - Getting ready!  Post from when nominations were announced here and my Top Ten for last year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Oscar Nominations!

Most of the films I liked most didn't get anywhere near a nomination for Best Picture.  There is 0% overlap between the Academy and my Ten Best list, and if I get around to posting a "worth mentioning" there might be three from that list.  But there are lots of things to be praised in the selections.

And just to note, I signed up around Thanksgiving for this social media site called Letterboxd where I am listing every movie I see, and expect to review a good chunk of them.

Black Panther was one of the best superhero movies in years, but that's a deeply degraded standard since most of them aren't very good at all.  But Black Panther is the work of a major filmmaker, who made a superhero movie steeped in influences from major works in the cinematic cannon rather than other superhero movies.  Sure!

BlacKkKlansman is one of Spike Lee's best movies, it boasts great performances, it's timely. Sure!

Bohemian Rhapsody isn't a good movie, but the last twenty minutes are about as transcendent an experience as I've ever had in a movie theatre, helped by seeing it on a big RPX screen with great sound. And since you can't get directly to the transcendent experience, I've got no problem with the Academy bestowing a Best Picture nomination on the film.  Sure!

The Favourite.  WTF.  There's a thirty point gap on Rotten Tomatoes between the critic and audience rating.  I'm with the audience rating.  WTF. WTF. WTF.  And with Roma, I can understand and appreciate why the critics are fawning over the film even though I didn't like it all that much.  My dislike of Roma veers into the kind of passionate dislike which at least suggests it's gotten under my skin.  The Favourite?  WTF WTF WTF.

Green Book:  This would be kind of like having a really great slightly modernized version of a 1980s military sf novel come out in 2019, and be nominated for a Hugo Award.  It's not a bad movie.  I laughed out loud in parts, as did the audience I was with.  Again, lots of good performances to go around.  The movie's safe and comfortable, but I think not entirely so because there's some squirminess and discomfort in the mens store scene or the country club scene that bring it a little more into today than the same movie might have been thirty years ago.  But at the same time, you can't shake from the movie that there are parts of it that seem so thirty years ago.  Meh.

Roma:  So I didn't like this movie very much.  It's so full of all the things those deep within the critical establishment like.  Deep meaning.  Rich and wonderful black-and-white cinematography. Very auteur.  It was pretty much foreordained from its earliest screenings to be an Oscar nominee, but I would have liked a character to care about, a tiny bit of a sense of humor, something that wasn't so fully and self-consciously auteur. Meh.

A Star is Born:  I'll apply the same guidance as I did for Bohemian Rhapsody, only in reverse.  The first third of the movie is danged good.  It goes steadily downhill, the middle third somewhat worse and the final third I'm thinking really really hard about the Bumblebee puzzle in that weekend's NY Times Magazine.  But the good parts are dang good. Sure!

Vice:  No.  Not Best Picture material.  Nominate it for make-up, nominate it for Christian Bale, but this is not Best Picture material.

& Moving down the list...

Actor:  Willem Dafoe got a nomination for a movie nobody has seen.  I don't need to look at the "Snubs and Surprises" list to know what one of the leading Surprises will be.  I would give this to Rami Malek, because how you give a great performance in a bad movie with those teeth leading into one of the most transcendent sequences on film...

Actress:  Glenn Close is impeccably good in The Wife, and it's a movie about an author winning a  Nobel Prize for Literature.  How can I not root for that?  But all the competition is strong.

Supporting Actor:  Hard to choose,  We'll toss Mahershala Ali for being in the wrong category.  We'll toss Sam Elliott for doing a great job with cliches in a cliche ridden movie.  Sam Rockwell is good, but I'm sure there are five other performances as or more deserving.  And I still wouldn't be able to choose easily between Adam Driver and Richard E. Grant.  But I'll go with Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me, because it's closer to my profession.

Supporting Actress:  Amy Adams.  Because The Favourite isn't very good, I didn't like Roma, I won't go see If Beale Street Could Talk.  And Amy Adams was great.  But whether or not I go and see Beale Street I think Regina King has this.  (Why am I not going to see Beale Street:  Me no like the overly arty Moonlight full of weird shots of people coming onto the frame out of focus.  Unless there's a chance to do this as part of a double feature...)

Director:  Spike Lee.

Animated:  Spider-Verse.  More because of how much love it's inspired from people I love, more than because I loved it myself.

Screenplay:  First Reformed in Original.  BlacKkKlansman or Can You Ever Forgive Me for Adapted.

And let's talk about First Reformed.  Ethan Hawke is great in it, and the movie has some indelible aspects and images that I won't soon forget.  The ending!  The ending!  But really, the movie is just too damned weird, and the unique and special qualities of the weirdness don't entirely compensate for the fact that the movie is trying to do way too many things at once, with too many important moments happening way too quietly to the point that you wonder if they're motivated at all.  The weirdness of the movie, its offputting-ness, is nicely demonstrated by the fact that Willem Dafoe has an Oscar nomination for a movie nobody say, and Ethan Hawke does not.  Since a lot of my problems with the movie have to do with its screenplay I hesitate to award it an Oscar in that category, but I feel like the movie deserves an award someplace.

Cinematography:  Cold War and Roma are both fabulous.

Documentary:  We are living in such a great era for documentaries, and Free Solo and Minding the Gap are both wonderful.  And even though I liked RBG, I think it would be a disappointment, awarding a perfectly fine documentary for being in the moment when there are other movies which are just plain better.

Editing:  Bohemian Rhapsody.  You don't get twenty minutes of transcendent filmmaking at the end without editing the heck out of it.

Tech categories:  A brief moment of silence for First Man, which has a couple nominations down ballot.  I wanted to love this movie, with a director and actor I both love both doing some solid work, but at the end of the day the movie never makes a persuasive case for existing when we already have The Right Stuff, already have Apollo 13, etc.

Good News:  No need to see Mary Poppins Returns on account of its Oscar nominations count, which is slim.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Boskone Schedule

Excited to be heading up to Boston on President's Day weekend for Boskone 56.  It's forty years this day that I was staying by coincidence at the Boskone hotel, got free samples of the recently launched Omni magazine as a result, and started on the road to reading sf/fantasy that led to everything else.  

Starting bright and early with my first panel at 4pm on 15 February, I've got a great schedule, with lots of great co-panelists.  I'll also be doing a demo of the Mistborn: House War board game, which Crafty Games was gracious enough to donate to the convention's games library, and doing a Kaffeeklatsch with Barry Goldblatt, which is a great chance to be part of a very small group getting advice from two really good agents.   I hope I'll get to see some of you.

In part because I've attended Boskone with fair regularity the past dozen years, I have a lot of clients who are in the Boston area.  Dan Moren, Auston Habershaw, Greg Katsoulis, Suzanne Palmer, Kenneth Rogers, Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, Toni L. P. Kelner and Steve Kelner are among the JABberwocky authors you can see at Boskone this year.   I'll be meeting with an author I met last year, who's currently in revision on a promising military sf novel,   And in 2017, Boskone's where I met up with Nick Martell for the first time, and a year after that I sold his first novel.  Networking and con-going can be a big part of finding early success in this business.  If you miss me at my panels, you might find me in the dealer's room, at the art show reception, or hanging out in the hotel's lobby bar.

The Life Cycle of a Book

Format: Panel
15 Feb 2019, Friday 16:00 - 16:50, Lewis (Westin)

Most of us just see the finished product on the shelf. However, there are lots of little (and big) steps associated with getting the book to the store. What's the life cycle of a book, from submission to publication? It's not as simple as "the author writes it, then the publisher prints it." What are the direct, indirect, and associated steps involved in the production and publication process — from editing to marketing, selling, reviewing, reprinting, and more?

also on the panel:  Gene Doucette, Andrea Corbin, Nicholas Kaufmann, LJ Cohen

Editing Your Manuscript for Submission

Format: Discussion Group
15 Feb 2019, Friday 17:00 - 17:50, Griffin (Westin)

Join our panel of editors and agents for a discussion on what they look for in a submission. Is submitting to an agent different from submitting to an editor? Are they seeking the same or different things on first reads? Do you submit a precis, a chapter or chapters, the whole manuscript, or other material and, if so, to whom and when? How do you prepare your novel for submission? What are some tips and tricks on how to cut, embellish, or shape a manuscript?

also on the panel: Joshua Bilmes (joshua@awfulagent.com), Auston Habershaw

Mistborn: House War Game Demo

Format: Gaming
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 12:00 - 12:50, Harbor I - Gaming (Westin)

Game on! A semi-cooperative resource-management game, Mistborn: House War is set during the events of Mistborn: The Final Empire, the first novel in the bestselling fantasy series by Brandon Sanderson. Join Brandon's agent Joshua Bilmes for a special demo of this fun new boardgame!

The Great Agent Hunt

Format: Panel
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 17:00 - 17:50, Marina 3 (Westin)

Finding an agent can be a bit of a mystery. Whom should you contact? What should you say? How much of your manuscript should be finished before you call? And what about established authors who have to change representation? Our pro agents share their experience and advice on the key steps in your agent-finding process.

also on the panel: S L Huang , Barry Goldblatt (Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency), Christopher Golden, Lauren Roy

Stereotyping Authors

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2019, Sunday 12:00 - 12:50, Harbor III (Westin)

Some authors get known for writing only one particular type of fiction: hard SF, or urban detective fantasy, or grimdark milSF mystery nurse romance … This sort of branding can bring a writer great success — while plunking them straight into a pigeonhole. Some find it quite difficult to escape. But breakouts are possible. Our panelists discuss the ups and downs of becoming a "known quantity," and how it affects the arc of their careers and the fiction they publish.

Ginjer Buchanan, Christopher Golden, Darlene Marshall

Kaffeeklatsch: Joshua Bilmes and Barry Goldblatt

Format: Kaffeeklatsch
17 Feb 2019, Sunday 14:00 - 14:50, Galleria - Kaffeeklatsch 1 (Westin)

combined with Barry Goldblatt of the Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency, bgliterary.com

Monday, August 6, 2018

San Jose - here I come!

My second WorldCon in San Jose, and it's starting next week.

Here are some things I remember from ConJose in 2002:

John Hemry/Jack Campbell and I went looking for lunch, and we walked and walked and walked on a kind of hot day, and we never exactly found the restaurant.  John still holds this against me.  And I kind of can't blame him.  But, like -- there was barely MapQuest in 2002, let alone the wonder of Google Maps.

Tobias Buckell isn't a client of mine any longer, but I had the honor of representing him at the start of his career, and we had a pretty long chat at the Starbucks in downtown, around the corner from the Waldenbooks now long since gone, about the wonderful novel that became Crystal Rain.  The Starbucks is still there, and I'll think fond thoughts of Toby and Crystal Rain every time I pass by.

It was an adventure getting to the party floors at the Fairmont, finding the secret stairs to walk up and up and up because the elevator service wasn't up to it.  Sadly, this is a familiar story at lots of conventions.  Rarely do hotels have elevator service designed for peak hours.

The Marriott didn't exist yet.

Those were the days when you could still head out and catch a mall bookstore, a B&N, a Borders, more -- all in close proximity.  I visited sooooo many bookstores in 2002.  Borders in Milpitas and Los Gatos and Fremont and Emeryville and Dublin and San Ramon and here and there and lots of other bookstores besides.  The store in Milpitas, not far from the Cisco HQ, was a fabulous store for science fiction and fantasy.  And back then, the front of the store wasn't being sold off to the highest bidder and was still largely determined by what was doing well at each store, so you knew the moment you walked in that you were in science fiction heaven.  L. E. Modesitt visited as many or more bookstores as I did, and however many I went to in 2002, but he had a car.

Still around, the Barnes & Noble on Steven Creek Pkwy, which I took the bus out to, and which was an amazing store as well for science fiction and fantasy.  I kind of miss when my life was a little less busy, a little simpler, and I could more easily explore the world beyond WorldCon when I went to a WorldCon.

Meisha Merlin did exist.  

In any event, it's sixteen years later with one World Fantasy at San Jose between now and then.

Maybe you can help me create some new memories this year?

There are three JABberwocky authors up for Hugo Awards this year -- Marie Brennan, Suzanne Palmer and Brandon Sanderson.  The last time I was in San Jose, I had read some Brandon Sanderson but not yet Elantris, and we weren't officially author/agent for another six months.  

My 2018 schedule:

Friday, 11am, 211C in Convention Center
Negotiating Book Contracts

Saturday, 3pm, 211B in Convention Center
This event will require an advance registration through the convention

The link on internet to my schedule page is here:

For another couple of days, I've opened an express line for querying me.  If you are going to San Jose, and if you put WorldCon in your schedule line, we'll give top priority to looking at queries.  What better way to find a great new manuscript for me to take on, and maybe even talk about it at the Starbucks just like I got to talk about Crystal Rain with Tobias Buckell sixteen years ago.
Find my query guidelines here.

I'd love to have more panels on my schedule, so more definite places where you can hear me speak, find me after, collect a business card -- that sort of thing.  But I'm going to WorldCon to be part of it.  I'll be around the Dealer's Room when I can be, so maybe you'll find me roaming about there.  If you're a SFFWA member, I'll pop into their hospitality suite.  I'll be hanging at whatever hotel bar all the publishing people end up hanging at.  I like to visit the different bid parties or publishing parties, so sometimes at night it's just a question of being in the right place at the right time as I rotate from the bar to the SFFWA suite to the bid parties to a publisher party.  And wherever I am, unless I'm in a meeting I'm there to meet people.

WorldCon, Baby!


Monday, May 14, 2018

Balticon 52 - Program Schedule

Can't wait to be back at Balticon this Memorial Day weekend, and am sharing my full program schedule below.  The convention and all of the events are at the Renaissance Inner Harbor hotel.

This is a special convention for me.  Balticon was the first convention I attended as a pro, heading down to meet up with Elizabeth Moon the year she won the Compton Crook Award for best first novel for Sheepfarmer's Daughter, which is about to be reissued in a 30th anniversary trade paperback edition, with a new introduction from Elizabeth.  Last year's Balticon was where I sat down in the Renaissance, read the opening page of Nick Martell's The Kingdom of Liars, and knew instantly that I'd found a great new author, ultimately doing my best deal ever for a debut author.

Balticon has done a great job keeping with the times, broadening its program to appeal to a wide range of ages and a wide range of interests, all unified by their love of science fiction and fantasy in all its many forms.

It's a great opportunity to get some quality time with me.  JABberwocky client Jack Campbell is also attending; link to his schedule follows mine.


Friday May 25, 2018, 6pm
Intellectual Property and You
St. George
James R. Stratton (moderator), Harold Feld, Joshua Bilmes, Doc Coleman
What you need to know about the legal framework for protecting your works.

Sunday, May 27, 11am
Best Books on Writing
Mount Washington
Joshua Bilmes (moderator), Val Griswold-Ford, Sarah Pinsker, Scott Edelman, Marilyn "Mattie" Brahen
What books should you have on your shelf when you're trying to read about writing?

Sunday, May 27,  5pm
How to Incorporate Critique
Joshua Bilmes (moderator), Day Al-Mohamed, John Appel, Leah Cypess, Alan Smale, Rosemary Claire Smith
What do you do when you have two readers giving you different or even contradictory feedback? How much are you willing to let the feedback change your work?

Sunday, May 27,  8pm
Long Live the King: The Success of Black Panther
St. George
John Edward Lawson (moderator), Joshua Bilmes, Inge Heyer, Devin Jackson Randall
Black Panther shattered box office records from the time tickets went on sale. What about the writing and visual storytelling resonated so strongly with audiences?

Sunday, May 27,  9pm
Tales From the Slush Pile
Mount Washington
Joshua Bilmes, Neil Clarke, John Edward Lawson
Editors share tales of some of the gems they’ve received, and give advice on how to avoid becoming fodder for future panels like this.

Monday, May 28, 10am
Who Cares About the Critics?
Room 8006
Track: Television/Film
TV and film crtiics have a habit of panning genre works, even if it's exactly what the audience wants. What's the disconnect?

Monday, May 27,  11am
Pitches We're Sick Of (and Ones We Want to See)
Mount Washington
Sarah Avery (moderator), Joshua Bilmes, Neil Clarke
Agents and editors discuss trends in submissions.


Jack Campbell, website and con schedule

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Three Oscars Outside Hollywood, CA -- the 2018 Oscar Live Blog

11:55 PM - 3:53, but thought it moved at a decent clip. At the end of the day, no great surprises.

11:46 PM - Three Humbugs Outside Queens, New York.

11:37 PM - "We'll be opening this envelope when we come back."

11:22 PM - I melt in Timothee Chalamet's smile.

11:20 PM - John Avildsen for Rocky, Jonathan Demme for Philadelphia, Michael Ballhaus for Fabulous Baker Boys, Roger Moore when all I wanted was a sweet distraction for an hour or two, Sam Shephard for The Right Stuff,

11:14 PM - del Toro not my first choice, but he gave a really nice speech.

10:59 PM - well, multiple great scores had to lose, and no complaints here about what won.

10:56 PM - This Is Me. Best for Last. The only musical number when I closed by iPad to watch the whole number without distraction. What a great number,more at performance, great anthem. Can this please win? And the movie such a word of mouth audience driven hit.

10:51 PM - Deakins!

10:38 PM - Screenplay was an interesting race. A school of thought for Three Billboards, but even people who liked it often didn't like it all the way through. A lot of love in the room for Jordan Peele and Get Out. And his speech was on the long side but had a vivid passion and purpose, as did the movie. It captured a moment without every trying to be important or worthy. Have sometimes told my clients not to worry too much about theme in writing, because theme arises from whom they are, and whom they are provides guide rails which will provide the theme. Tell a good story, the theme takes care of itself.  The speech Michael Stuhlberg delivers in Call Me By Yoir Name -- the acting puts it over and it's a really really good speech, but doesn't it also show a lack of confidence in the writing to put across the message without announcing it?  I'm not upset or surprised to have a win for Call Me By Your Name, but doesn't make me more of a fan of that style of filmmaking.

10:35 PM - Listening to the long, worthy, stolid acceptance speech from James Ivory encapsulates in a minute or so my general dislike of the Merchant Ivory school.

10:32 PM - Len Wein didn't last long enough to hear his name read on an Oscar telecast.

10:16 PM - There are only nine awards left to go. I actually think they're doing a not bad job moving things along.

10:14 PM - Woth a title like "Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405" how can you not win an Oscar.

10:09 PM - "do not aim the hot dogs at the vegetarians"

9:59 PM - "I'm am editor. I should be able to do this."

9:57 PM - Editing. Another tight category. Dunkirk deserves, but Baby Driver especially, hate to see lose.

9:54 PM - Blade Runner 2049!

9:52 PM - Shouldn't Spider-Man have a Queens accent?

9:49 PM - Verizon ads -- like, isn't there some other ad agency, any other ad agency, that would be better for Verizon than the one it's using?

9:41 PM - Looking over my list of movies seen in 2017 during the animation awards I don't care about. One of two clear snubs for me is in the animation category, I actually saw Captain Underpants, and I really, really enjoyed it, and I can't believe it wasn't better than one or another of the movies that were nominated.  Second snub, Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger.  The acting categories are tough, since you've always got to ask who gets the boot to make room for your preferred.  But that was such a vivid, memorable performance, and I don't believe in 20 years that anyone will study Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour as a lesson in acting the way they might pore over every frame of Gyllenhaal's performance in Stronger. They don't get better, just don't.

9:35 PM - What a pod. The Hans Zimmer Walmart ad, the AARP ad, and the T Mobile all rocked.

9:28 PM - A consensus that Janney would win, but could you watch Laurie Metcslfe in Lady Bird and not want very very badly for he to take the award?  I have this sudden urge to see Lady Bird again after watching that clip.  Like, I liked I Tonya and I liked Janney's performance and yet can't feel right now very very clearly that the wrong person won.

9:23 PM - First year I can remember that I've seen not a one of the Foreign Film nominees.

9:20 PM - Rmember Me production number drew my attention to the TV screen over my iPad more than the Mary Blige performance did. The very long Google ad did nothing for me at all.

9:11 PM - Shape of Water wins for Production Design, a category I don't mind having it win in. It is very stylized, very much an artistic vision, and none of the other nominees strike me as being better or more so.

9:10 PM - "I am from Pakistan and Iowa; two places that no one from Hollywood can find on a map."

9:06 PM - And this is a good opportunity to talk about the Best Score category, which has so many amazing and very different scores. At least two of three when I saw the movie I tweeted "this should be an Oscar nominee," amd they were.  It's hard to think of watching Dunkirk with a different score. Carter Burwell's for Three Billboards was different and pitch perfect.  Johnny Greenwood also different and tonally adroit over the course of the movie.  Anything other than a multi-way tie, and multiple deserving scores are going to lose. About as close as Oscar ever comes to the difficulty of knowing every tennis match will have a loser when you really really like both players.

9:00 PM - The Sound categories -- tough this year. Sound so integral to Dunkirk and to Nolan's vision. Saw Blade Runner in IMAX and wow! A Star Wars movie. A movie like Baby Driver with music so integral and action so timed to the music.  Can't complain to have Dunkirk win both, but poor Blade Runner. But maybe in Cinematography for Blade Runner moment.

8:50 PM - What do we think of the Twitter ad?

8:46 PM - 
Justin Chang

Willam Hoke has this comment: "Since when does having a microphone allow you to attack someone? So far Jimmy Kimmel has attacked Mel Gibson and others by name. How is that decent? Let us all remember that Obama's attack on Trump got us where we are today. This is shameful."

A good point, actually -- though we are losing sight of the idea that we hold the President to a higher standard of behavior than we do a talk show host.  Part of the damage that may not get undone in my lifetime, the coarseness of discourse.

8:42 PM - Funny story: I went to see Icarus and slept through almost all of it. Abacus the other one I was interested in, but having read extensive coverage of the event it described in New York Times and New Yorker, figured movie wouldn't add anything more to my knowledge of it.

8:37 PM - Really liked not just having Eva Marie Saint present an award, but letting her precede with a really classy, historically minded speech. For all the "rich history of Oscar" claims by Oscar producers, a rare instance of actually doing it.

8:35 PM - 
Justin Chang

Did not know this: Jordan Peele is the first filmmaker to be nominated for best picture, director and original screenplay for a debut film.

8:31 PM - It would have been weird for Costume Design not to go to a movie about fashion designer, but some thought it might have gone to something more period, or as part of a Shape of Water sweep.

8:29 PM - The big "Costume Design" on the envelope -- why didn't they think of that 89 years ago?

8:27 PM - maybe more of a burgundy tux. The make up award foreordained.

8:26 PM -- will there be better dressed pair of presenters? Love the red tux, and the silver dress goes well with the crystal theme of the set.

8:24 PM -- that was a Rolex ad? I've seen movies that are worse, with lower budgets.

8:18 PM -  "Everyome who's ever looked at a billboard." Sam Rockwell's win widely predicted. It is a great performance in a movie I loved, for an actor with a great CV.  When I was 8, my parents were taking me to see things like Walking Tall, Godfather, and Deliverance.  As Jack,Torrance says in The Shining "perfect for a child."

8:10 PM - love that Timothee Chalamet has the confidence of youth to be doing the white tux.

8:08 PM "if we can't trust agents." Trust me😬
8:07 PM - Kimmel is nailing it. Funny, serious, tonally about perfect.

7:52 PM -- getting ready.

Oscar Warm-Up

Movies are the thing I do that I've done the longest, aside from reading, and aaaahh! Oscar night.

I saw over 100 movies in 2017, a lot but there are years I've been closer to 120. Around 90 of those new first run films. Most but not all of the Oscar nominations.  I'm old enough to know what I'm not likely to like, and if there's a movie like The Florida Project or Mudbound, where every wonderful review screams out "Joshua will not like this," I am happy to listen to that voice,

Call Me By Your Name was close to being that kind of movie, but the Paris has a nice balcony, and Timothee Chalamet was very pleasant to watch in Lady Bird, and even though I hate Merchant Ivory movies I went to see this movie with a screenplay from James Ivory.  And it was about as good as a movie I'm not going to like can be? Did I snooze through the peach scene? Possibly. But I mostry stayed awake. Chalamet was good. The last scene was great. Yeah, could have and should have been ten minutes shorter, but I don't mind the movie having success, or winning an Oscar or two.

The Shape of Water, however...  That one I mind. It isn't very good at all.  It's a highly stylized movie like The Artist, but to me stylization isn't a substitute for the real world. Part of why I don't like on the whole the Wes Anderson school of filmmaking. There isn't a true word, a true moment, a true performance, a true anything. It's craft that's about nothing other than its own craft.  Not happy, not happy at all, that people talk about this as Best Picture material. Best Director material.  If someone wants to give an Oscar to Alexandre Desplat, have at it. Anything else....

Lady Bird... Frances Ha was an awful dull miserable sit through with not an enjoyable moment to be had, amd the critics swooned over it. Having the star of that in another movie with critics swooning.... I made that the second half of a DIY double feature so I could walk out guilt free when it proved to be another Frances Ha.  Which it totally is not. This movie was full of humor and great performances, and wit and reality and an utter delight through and through. My first glimpse of Timothee Chalamet. A true introduction to Sacramento.  It isn't my choice for Best Picture, but it is still an amazing movie.

And like Get Out, Lady Bird captures a moment.  And my did Get Out capture a moment. Solid acting, a script that transcends its genre, and so so so of its time.  Is Get Out in the Best Picture mix?

Phantom Thread? Tell me after the Oscars how you like your asparagus and your mushrooms. It's interesting. The Post is too safe, though accomplished. Darkest Hour is safe.

Ah, Dunkirk. A spectacular achievement for Christopher Nolan, fascinating to watch once, lots of great ingredients. And then seeing it a second time, the icy chill of a movie with barely a human soul to be find left me so utterly cold that I tuned out, and then walked out,

My clear favorite Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.

Yes, I get it.  The lead character is annoying. Agree. There are great scenes where we see the writer writing, like the lecture to the priest comparing the Catholic church  to the Crips and Bloods. There are ridiculous things, like having a cop throw someone out the window with no real consequence, someone else firebomb a police station, and no real consequence. And yet, I was utterly caught up with these characters, not as symbols of our time but as themselves. If we can enjoy the unreality of Get Out because we are caught up with the symbolism of the moment of the movie's exaggerations, can't we be caught up enough in the strength of these characters to let the falseness of individual moments slide on by?  With sharp writing, indelible characters, a suite of strong performances, one of the year's best scores, excellent photography -- the moment the movie ended, with sublime perfection with the perfect line at the perfect time, I wanted to see it again. And when I did see it again, I liked every moment and every element every bit as much.

Almost 8pm. Time to end the warmup and get ready for the live blog.