Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Arrivals

Disney's Enchanted is in theaters this weekend, and definitely recommended by our editors. Part parody and part inspired homage to Disney's long animated tradition of fairytale romance, Enchanted is clever, outrageously funny, and touching. Also, the scriptwriters get high marks from us: the fact that Disney is not afraid to laugh at itself reminds me of why we as children liked Disney in the first place: they just really have the knack for cinematic fun. The actors are very good, and given the premise of a fairy tale princess exiled by her wicked future mother-in-law to dreary New York ("where there are no happily ever afters") only to find herself falling for a divorce lawyer - well, what's not to like?

A favorite scene of mine: our heroine Giselle wakes to find the lawyer's house an untidy mess. She immediately does what any princess with a grain of sense does: throw open the window and begin calling the animals with her power of song. This is New York, and the sewer rats, cockroaches, and swarms of insects hurry to her aid; unfazed, she sings as she leads them in the housecleaning. The rats scrub the dishes with their tails; the cockroaches devour the scum in the bathrub. It's an inspired scene.

Prince Edward is great for laughs, but unlike his counterpart Prince Charming in the Shrek franchise, Edward is strangely sweet. My favorite line from him: in response to the wicked Queen's cry "Oh how melodramatic of you!" he rejoins: "I don't know what melodrama is, but...."

Other new arrivals worth checking on:

Marvel's graphic novel rendition of Stephen King's The Dark Tower is underway: the first issues have been anthologized in a hardcover volume, and I hope more are on the way. The volume portrays passages from The Gunslinger and Wizard and Glass, with Peter David giving a faithful and darkly poetic script and Jae Lee (whose Dracula chilled and thrilled) does dark and foreboding and very raw art: not to be missed. Moody and moody and mythic.

I borrowed the comic issues when they first came out from a good friend of our Dante's Heart art editor, who lent them to me on the strictest and most life-threatening injunction to do these precious, plastic-wrapped first editions no harm. Now I have the hardcover and can return the first editions, which I desperately hope that I have not bent or mauled in any way. The life-threatening injunction was extremely threatening - and I thought I was scary when I loan reading material....

Also, Gene Wolfe's Pirate Freedom, quick on the heels of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean success (hmm...another triumph for Disney), promises a grittier and deeply compelling take on pirates. In an interview with I forget whom, Wolfe claimed that he wrote The Wizard Knight in response to a young boy he met who was obsessed with knights and chivalry. Wolfe's quest to uncover the reason for the appeal of all things knightly led to the novel. (My personal thought is that Wolfe can never be trusted in his tales of how his books came to be, but everytime someone has the audacity to ask that hated question, "Where did you get the idea?" he tells a good tale in response.) Wolfe appears to have made a similar experiment here, digging into the mythos of the pirate captain. The epigraph that opens the book is H. L. Mencken's: "Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."

I wonder if there is any equitable yearning for readers of the other gender? To hoist the black flag, strap on something outrageous, and damn all conventions and expectations, just sail out and enjoy the breeze, live fully and sink anything in her path? As one who is new to pirates (though not to knights), and who never cracked the cover of Treasure Island as a boy though I devoured Pyle and Malory, I look forward to interviewing other readers of both genders on the subject and digging into what it is about pirates that excites our cultural imagination. Captain Jack Sparrow and our fellow with the octopus beard boarded and captured my imagination recently, and I suspect that Gene Wolfe will complete the conquest. I picked up my copy of Pirate Freedom this afternoon.

Speaking of interviews, check out this one, conducted by Neil Gaiman. It's brilliant - Gaiman and Wolfe take on the interview as an art form itself, and have a laugh in doing so. The opening salvo of the interview:

"Gene Wolfe: I'm anxious to get our interview under way, so I've decided to answer your first three questions before you ask them—You can work out the questions at leisure.

1. Although I considered placing The Knight in the universe of the Book of the New Sun series, I soon saw that there were too many dragons.

2. The Knight is to some degree autobiographical, as all my books are. For example, Able falls off a horse. I have done that myself. One is encouraged to remount as soon as possible, but not by the horse.

3. I do in fact own a sword. It is possible, as you say, that it is under some subtle, obscure spell. That might account for a few of the things that go on around here.

Are these satisfactory? I can elaborate on my replies if you wish, but they are certain to get worse.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"My Best Friend Rusts"

I ran into this poem a year back:

Soft rains
My best friend

So evocative -

- and a skilled minimalist haiku (a haiku is like a drop of water on a pond surface: you catch your breath and, after a still moment, feel the ripples). But for the life of me I can't find out who wrote it. I suspect Tom Brinck. If anyone can help, please post a comment.

In the meanwhile, here is an intriguing website:

Goofy name aside, this manifesto for "scifaiku" is actually informed and very good. The samples of haiku offered are also very good, though most of what is currently written in this sub-sub genre isn't. The manifesto deserves a look, and cries out for more poets to discover it. An unexpected genre, and one dedicated to the celebration of the unexpected: and in its best moments (like that posted above) there is potential for staggering beauty.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Update: Journal deadline

Dear readers,

We are moving back the deadline for submissions for the journal to December 5. We have received quite a few submissions, several of them extremely good, and we are in the early stages of getting back to our writers and artists with feedback and selecting contributors. We are, in fact, ravenous for more submissions of lightning-in-the-night creativity. Thank you everyone who has already submitted! You will be hearing from us very soon.

Please spread the word - for the next few weeks we will continue accepting submissions for the December issue of Dante's Heart. We are very excited to bring you our first issue.

The Editors
Dante's Heart

Snow Leopard

In honor of the imminent arrival of New Line Cinema's The Golden Compass (Dec 7) I have returned to their website and retaken their daemon test. Evidently enough has changed in my life this year that I have gone from tiger to snow leopard:

I do not mind. Our art editor has taken this test twice as well, and emerged with a spider for a companion both times. She has a mortal terror of spiders.

The Golden Compass

New Line Cinema has released a longer version of the trailer for their adaptation of Philip Pullman's novel The Golden Compass:

Take a look! We are in awe of Pullman's imagination. And we like the armored bears.