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Cooper Moo and Erik Bear, two of the authors of the final book of the Mongoliad trilogy from Neal Stephenson and company, The Mongoliad: Book Three, wrote this exclusive essay for Boing Boing.
The shadow of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II hangs over the shattered Holy Roman Church as the cardinals remain deadlocked, unable to choose a new pope. Only the Binders and a mad priest have a hope of uniting the Church against the invading Mongols. An untested band of young warriors stands against the dissolute Khan, Onghwe, fighting for glory and freedom in the Khan's sadistic circus of swords, and the brave band of Shield-Brethren who set out to stop the Mongol threat single-handedly race against their nemesis before he can raise the entire empire against them. Veteran knight Feronantus, haunted by his life in exile, leads the dwindling company of Shield-Brethren to their final battle, molding them into a team that will outlast him. No good hero lives forever...or fights alone.
In this third and final book of the Mongoliad trilogy from Neal Stephenson and company, the gripping personal stories of medieval freedom fighters form an epic, imaginative recounting of a moment in history when a world in peril relied solely on the courage of its people.
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Destination: Development Hell
David Hughes, longtime Empire contributor and author of the new book Tales from Development Hell, reveals the secrets of the darkest place in Hollywood
These days, Hollywood studios don’t waste much time exploiting their intellectual properties: it seemed that no sooner had Sony finished counting the box office receipts from the last of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, a "re-boot" was announced, taking its most valuable film franchise in a new direction, bringing it too a new generation, or – who knows? – perhaps simply making the suit, and perhaps the story, a shade darker. What Sony hasn’t done is wasted years in "development hell," figuring that a bird in the hand (a Spider-Man movie in cinemas) is better than two in the bush (another round of draft screenplays).
This wasn't always the case, however. Six years passed between Aliens and Alien³, eight between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins -- and an unthinkable eighteen fallow years between Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Superman Returns. So what was going on for all that time? My first book, The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, set out what was taking Hollywood so long to bring popular properties such as The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Thunderbirds, Silver Surfer etc. to the big screen -- as well as exploring the various approaches to famous franchises (William Gibson’s Alien III, Tim Burton’s Superman, Philip Kaufman’s Star Trek, etc.) which were abandoned en route to the films we know. With my next book, Tales from Development Hell, I chose a variety of projects -- a few stillborn, others aborted, one or two with a particularly painful gestation -- which aimed to illustrate the kinds of problems which can beset a film, even when some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters are involved.
Why were Oliver Stone’s and James Cameron’s thrilling takes on the Planet of the Apes property rejected in favor of Tim Burton’s unimaginative “re-imagining”? How come even the combined muscle of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Verhoeven, at the height of their powers, couldn’t get Crusade off the ground? How did Outbreak get a green light when Ridley Scott’s The Hot Zone, set to star Robert Redford and Jodie Foster, did not? How many different directors, from Ridley Scott (again -- the man does seem to suffer more than his share of development hell) and Roland Emmerich, have jumped aboard the alien-on-a-train movie ISOBAR? Why have we still not seen a Sandman movie? Where’s the film of Smoke and Mirrors, a script so hot it sparked a feeding frenzy in the early 1990s, and was never heard from again? The answers to all these questions, and more, lie in one or the other circles of development hell. I should know. I wrote the book on it.
Tales from Development Hell is published by Titan Books.Read an excerpt from Tales from Development Hell
As I write this, it is 1:17 am on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012.
I am lying awake in bed, trying to decide whether or not to have an abortion.
Of course, we don’t call it an abortion. We call it “a procedure” or a D&C. See, my potential abortion is one of the good abortions. I’m 31 years old. I’m married. These days, I’m pretty well off. I would very much like to stay pregnant right now. In fact, I have just spent the last year—following an earlier miscarriage—trying rather desperately to get pregnant.
Unfortunately, the doctors tell me that what I am now pregnant with is not going to survive. Last week, I had an ultrasound, I was almost 6 weeks along and looked okay. The only thing was that the heartbeat was slow. It wasn’t a huge deal. Heartbeats start slow, usually around the 6th week, and then they speed up. But my doctor asked me to come back in this week for a follow up, just to be sure. That was Tuesday, yesterday. Still my today. The heart hasn’t sped up. The fetus hasn’t grown. The egg yolk is now bigger than the fetus, which usually indicates a chromosomal abnormality. Basically, this fetus is going to die. I am going to have a miscarriage. It’s just a matter of when.
Because of these facts—all these facts—I get special privileges, compared to other women seeking abortion in the state of Minnesota.
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Having enjoyed the hell out of Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson's long-overdue essay collection, I thought I'd try it on audiobook for a second pass (I really like to do this when I finish a book feeling like there's more there than I could absorb in a single reading). I was happy to see that Tantor Media had produced an unabridged, DRM-free MP3CD of the book, and they were kind enough to send me a review copy. I dragged the files off the CD and onto my phone and listened to the book for the next few days as I made my way from daycare to office to lunch to office to daycare (home to daycare/daycare to home were spent conversing with the kid, of course). At 5.3 hours, this is a pretty quick audiobook, and the narrator, Robertson Dean does a very good job on the essays, which are a treat to have as spoken word (especially the couple that are actually transcripts of speeches).
The MP3CD is advertised as "iPod-ready" and indeed, the single disc (shipped in a DVD-style bookshelf case) has an orderly, well-named set of MP3 files on it. This was awfully nice, though a little more care could have been taken with the filenames and metadata. Some files had curly-quotes in them that rendered in my OS as â€™ and such; the reader's name had been put in the "artist" field of the ID3 tags, which meant that the files were misfiled; there was no cover-art in the ID3 tags. None of these are grave mistakes, and indeed, it's a treat to get an audiobook whose MP3s have any metadata or sensible filenames, but if you're going to go "iPod-ready" then it wouldn't hurt to iron out these small bugs.
Meanwhile, listening to these essays and experiencing them for a second time was quite exciting, as there were connections I'd missed, some of which will form the basis for some upcoming columns (I have two due this week!). A thoroughly recommended experience.