About Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy succumbed to leiomyosarcoma on April 1, 2007. The irony of this is not lost on any who knew him and laughed with him. He was the first “official” book reviewer for The Dragon Page Radio Talk Show, and after moving to Arizona, he became a frequent contributor to Cover to Cover, Wingin’ It, Slice of SciFi and co-host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas.

He will be missed.

Pimp That Book!

I've been a long time listener of The Writer's Roundtable. Recently the show's host, Antoinette Kuritz, informed me about an opportunity some of our underpublished listeners may like to know about.

"Brian Jud, (www.bookmarketingworks.com) and Antoinette Kuritz, literary publicist, (www.lajollawritersconference.com) have decided to field a weekend seminar on PR and Marketing for authors and publishers. So many of these seminars out there are cattle shows at which everything is upsell. Instead, this seminar will provide tremendous content and information to a handful of authors and publishers at a time - no more than 12. Attendees will leave with a practical, comprehensive marketing plan, a media marketing plan, content for their press kits, hooks, sound bites, and real knowledge of how to implement or oversee their own PR and marketing. This is not an inexpensive weekend, but the value will far outrun the cost. The first seminar will be in San Diego, March 24-26."

If you think you could benefit from an intensive weekend like this, check out Brian and Antoinette at www.bookmarketingworks.com.   [Read more...]

What are the odds?

Some people just can't catch a break.   [Read more...]

War of the Worlds

First of all, thanks, Tee, for letting me don your shoes and write a movie review. Now watch what I do with it, you may never let me do it again.

Instead of doing a normal review, I'm going to turn this one interactive. Reading various discussions of this film on the net, a question occurred to me that I find intriguing, and I want to know what our listeners think.

So, I'll give a quick review of the movie, then get on to the question.

The Gist: Tom Cruise gets the kids for the weekend. The aliens invade. Tom and kids run for their lives.

The Good: The special effects. The acting. The little girl. The other special effects.

The Bad: Seeing the aliens before the end. The teenage kid (his character, not the actor, he was quite good).

The Ugly: Watching the aliens eat.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

War of the Worlds
Genre: Fantasy
Official Webpage: www.waroftheworlds.com

Ok, there's the review. That took a lot out of me. Now on to the question I pose to you, the Dragon Page listener.

This is an interesting movie for me, because it illustrates for me two different thoughts on making movies from other source material. Should we try to keep as close to the original material as we can, or should we use the source material as a guide, but be free to modify it as we see fit?

From a scientific standpoint, the plot of War of the Worlds suffers on two counts. The first is the idea of three-legged aliens and their three-legged vehicles. The second is the foundational idea of the plot: aliens that are superior in every possible way are finally outdone by simple germs that mankind has evolved into symbiotic relationships with.

As discussed in the ?Movie Answer Man? section of Roger Ebert's website, three legs ? tripods ? make great stationary foundations, but suck when it comes to locomotion. Even if aliens could evolve to have three legs, which is unlikely, there would be no reason for them to use that model in their machinery. Humans don't use two and four legged or wheeled vehicles because there are two-legged and four-legged animals. We use them because those designs work. And they'd work for three-legged aliens, too.

Also, given what we know today about how viruses and bacteria work, the idea that they would wipe out the aliens, while not completely out of the realm of possibility, is a loooooooong shot. As they like to say on fark.com, here comes the science.

So, some would argue, justifiably so, that since the science upon which the movie is based is about as accurate as that of The Core, the movie is a dud. The writers should have done a bit of research before they sat down to write the script.

However? errors in science or not, these germ-wimpy walking camera stands are faithful to the original work. Can you have War of the Worlds with an ending other than germs killing the aliens? Then it's not War of the Worlds, is it?

So, my question to you, dear reader, is: If we want to revisit a previous work, do we stay close to the original, or do we correct and modify the stories to coincide with current scientific knowledge, which, of course, may one day become obsolete? Do science fiction stories, like scientific theories, need revision as scientific knowledge grows?

Most fans of science fiction novels enjoy reading the old stuff even when they know full well that the ideas they are based on are slightly, or even grossly, flawed. All the evidence says that there are not now, nor have there ever been men from Mars, yet Stranger in a Strange Land is still in print and considered a must read. Readers have no trouble understanding that science fiction of the past is based on the scientific understanding of the day, and adjust to it. But does the same logic apply to remakes of older works?

So, I want to know what you think. You're not limited to discussion of WotW, of course. When a movie is translated from the book to the screen, what should and should not change?   [Read more...]

Review: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" by J. K. Rowling

It's pretty sad when you're 33 years old and the highlight of your year is when the next new children's book is finally out on the market. Deciding to skip the ridiculous lines and midnight ?parties,? I pre-ordered my copy online, and only had to chew the tablecloth for four hours from when I woke up at eight o'clock, till the postman finally delivered my book at noon on Saturday.

And, just like last I did with Order of the Phoenix, I forgoed (forgew? forwent?) everything, and did nothing but read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (stopping for the occasional bathroom break) until I finished Sunday afternoon.

God, I love being a geek.

Before I get into it, I'd like to share something I've noticed about the Harry Potter books since, say, The Goblet of Fire. Imagine buying a jack in the box. A big one, say two feet by two feet by two feet. The instructions tell you that the longer you crank the handle on the side of the box, the bigger the ?jump? at the end. So you test this out. You crank the handle a few turns, and just lifts the lid and says, ?not worth my time!?

So, you decide to turn the crank for one full minute. ?Pop Goes the Weasel? begins to play, and Jack gives the standard jump at the end. You try it for five minutes, and this time he jumps out and yells, ?Tequila!?

So, what would happen you wonder, if you cranked it for a whole day? So, you begin to crank.

And crank.

Stop for a bathroom break.

Go back to cranking.

Stop cranking at one in the morning, wake up at eight, and resume cranking.

Till two in the afternoon.

Then you open the door, make sure no cars are coming, hit the button, and run across the street. You faintly hear the organ monkey music in the background till the time comes.

And then trumpets blair!

Angels come down from on high and lift their voices in praise!

The house explodes in a barrage of sound and heat and light!

And, at the same time, you have a spontaneous orgasm.

That's what reading a Harry Potter book is like.

The Gist: It is year six for Harry and the gang at Hogwarts. And the wizarding world is at war (crank). The students read the Daily Prophet every morning to learn if anyone they know has gone missing, or been found dead (crank). Dumbledore is leaving the castle for extended periods of time, however, when he does return to the castle, Harry starts taking private lessons with him, lessons that will hopefully prepare Harry to face Voldemort (few hours of cranking).

Soon, the students of the school fall under attack (I feel the springs tensing). Harry is convinced, though he has no proof of it, that Malfoy is responsible on two near fatal attacks on Hogwarts (must? keep? cranking!). He believes them to be small occurrences in a much bigger plot.

A plot grows into one climatic night, when the Dark Mark is conjured over Hogwarts (Cue the trumpets! Cue the trumpets!).

The Good: Trying to be as non-spoilery as possible, let me list some of the plusses:

We learn why the Avada Kadavra curse does not kill Voldemort after it rebounds off Harry.

We learn who the Half-Blood Prince is.

We know for once and for all which side Snape is really working for? or do we?

The Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year?Damn!

Harry learns what he must do to finally defeat Voldemort.

The Bad: I will have to admit, this book is nothing, NOTHING like what I expected. Like the other books, it still centered around life in Hogwarts, when I thought the scope would have branched out much more by now. I was hoping for a little less conversation, a little more action, please. Though the war is full on in the wizarding world, we actually see very little of it, until the end.

However, that is obviously because the purpose of this book is purely to set up book seven. The ending of Half Blood Prince guarantees that book seven will be nothing like any of the others. So, while the book wasn't all I wanted, it did it's job. It makes me want to read the last book all the more.

And, no, I'm not going to tell you who dies. Sorry.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
Published by: Arthur A. Levine Books; July 16, 2005
ISBN: 0439784549
Genre: Fantasy
Author's Webpage: www.jkrowling.com
  [Read more...]

Phoenix Tales

I've heard it said that the fear of death so permeates us as a species that all of our endeavors serve as distractions intent on keeping us from thinking about our eventual deaths.

Sometimes, when the clock clicks over at two thirty in the morning, and I can't sleep, I wish I could come up with more distractions.

Some people apparently decide that rather than distract themselves from thoughts of death, they will turn a brave face into the wind and speculate on the landscape of the undiscovered country.

Gregory Bernard Banks has done this in Phoenix Tales: Stories of Death & Life, a collection of short stories examining not only death, but how it influences our perceptions of life.

Banks engages death from every imaginable angle. The first story, Escape Velocity, examines a future in which western medicine has advanced to such a degree that the human body can survive almost any calamity, whether the person who lives in that body wants it to or not.

In the story Escape Velocity, death represents a release some wish they could embrace. In A Cup of Time, everyone wants to avoid death at all costs. In Avatar, a man sees his death as the possibility to change his life for the better.

Science fiction, fantasy, the commonplace, young, old, willing, afraid, good, evil. This book provides everything but distractions.

I knew from the first story I would rate this book high, but struggled with the exact number. Then one day at work, after my last appointment had gone, and my area supervisor (hello Andrea) had left for the day, I read Living with Mrs. Klase, and I wept. I bawled. My eyes became red, my nose transformed into a waterfall. Vulgar, staccato sobs echoed in the empty office. I prayed in earnest that the DHL driver wouldn't walk right through the door at that moment, or I'd have to kill both him and myself out of embarrassment.

Any book that can do that deserves the highest marks.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Phoenix Tales: Stories of Death & Life by Gregory Bernard Banks
Published by: Lulu Press; March 1, 2005
ISBN: 1411620356
Genre: Science Fiction, Short stories
Author's Webpage: www.phoenixtalesbook.com
  [Read more...]

Pottermania

Is it July 16th yet?   [Read more...]

SpiderBabe

It's a typical Friday night for me. I'm at Mike's house. It's midnight, and Mike and his wife have been in bed for at least three hours. For those of you keeping score, that means Michael does all his drinking during the day.

I'm not going to sleep for another hour or two. I'm sitting in the living room, about fifteen feet away from a massive library of the best modern science fiction donated to us by generous writers, many of whom want us to read their stuff and interview them on our show.

I'm watching late night cable TV.

For some reason, Dinner for Five wasn't on, and I find myself watching a movie on Cinemax. You know the kind I'm talking about. Yes, you do, and don't pretend you don't watch now and then. Now, normally, I would watch about ten minutes or so of a flick like this, until the bad acting and horrible dialogue would finally be more than I can bear. But I end up watching it all the way to the end, and the whole time I'm thinking, "God, this would be a riot to review for the Dragon Page." Why? Because it's a T&A spoof of Spiderman.

By dawn's morning light, I completely forgot about it, but by later that afternoon, I remembered again.

Torn between the idea that it would be fun and funny to write a review for a movie like this, and that it would be dumb to write a review for a movie like this, I decided to let fate decide. I sent a letter to Seduction Cinema and asked for a review copy of the DVD, SpiderBabe. If they didn't send it, no harm no foul. If they did send it, who am I to argue with fate?

And here you are, reading this review instead of R.A. Salvatore's newest Dark Elf novel.

Patricia Porker is your everyday, demure, mild-mannered college freshman until she gets bitten by a genetically engineered, radioactive spider. When she wakes up the next day, she is imbued with superhuman powers, a new look, and a sexual gluttany that, thankfully for us, she has no qualms about feeding, and feeding, and feeding. After a burglar kills her Uncle Flem, a burglar she could have stopped, she vows to use her powers to help mankind, and get the man of her dreams. Her adventures lead her into a face to face battle with Femtilian, a super-villain created by a military-funded secret experiment gone wrong. Who will win in the end?

Man, this idea could so be made into a big budget feature.

So what does this movie have that puts it above your average sexploitation romp? Two things. First is the star, Misty Mundae, who I fell in love with immediately. And apparently, so has everyone else, as she is in practically every Seduction Cinema movie made now. Non-enhanced, non-sunbeded, pretty in an Amber Benson, not Pamela Anderson kind of way, she stole my heart. Sorry, Mur, we both knew it couldn't last.

And second, this film is actually funny. The jokes are puerile, to be sure, but I actually laughed hard, out loud, several times, at things that were intentionally funny. And the acting is actually watchable. Once or twice I asked myself, "Did I just witness... comic timing?" What more can you want out of a movie like this?

Oh, yeah, I remember. The DVD set comes with an R-rated and Unrated Version, and the Unrated Version has fourteen other great reasons to watch Spiderbabe, and they've all got nipples. Nipples. Nipples, nipples, nipples. Nipples that are desperate to see the light of day. Nipples that manage to collect themselves into groups of four and six. Nipples that are friendly, and want to shake hands with other peoples' nipples. This movie is genius.

And for people who like DVD extras, like me, you won't be disappointed. Both versions of the film have several good, and different, extras. For a B-movie, this flick was pretty elaborate, with green screen fighting, exterior filming in New York, and an explosion or two. You can find behind the scenes segments on costuming, special effects, rehersals, and fight training. Seriously.

So, we have come to an end of this review. If you think this was inappropriate, as this wasn't actually a science fiction film, I have two things to say. One, if Tee Morris can review Paris Hilton's podcast, I can review whatever the hell I want. I'm just saying. And, two, you haven't seen where SpiderBabe's web shoots out from.

Rating: 3 out of 5   (higher rating than Episode III!)

SpiderBabe
Studio: Seduction Cinema; 2003
Genre: Soft-core lesbian spoof of major sci-fi feature
Official Webpage: Seduction Cinema
  [Read more...]

Crater County

So there I am at Ice Escape, and a young man starts chatting me up about his book, Crater County: A Legal Thriller of New Mexico. It's a slightly supernatural legal thriller, he says. And I says, "A slightly supernatural legal thriller? I don't think I've ever read something like that." And he says, "How'd you like to review the book?" I says, "Sure, why not?"

We said a lot.

I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt, and believe that we just had a miscommunication over the content of the book, because it turns out that the book doesn't have any supernatural aspects to it at all. It does have a medicine man, some talk of spirits and being guided by winds, and some nods to Native American beliefs and philosophies, which I bet makes it unique among legal thrillers in and of itself.

But supernatural?

Sci-fi?

Fantasy?

Magical realism?

Anything remotely like what we normally review on the Dragon Page?

None of the above.

I can't help but feel I wasted my time, reading what I thought would be speculative fiction, and ending up reading a typical thriller, which is not a genre I enjoy. However, I told the guy I'd review his book, so here it is, short and sweet.

It's almost a good book. Not quite, but pretty damned close.

Crater County has recently become the murder capitol of New Mexico with a triple homicide. And Luna Cruz, the assistant attorney who'd rather be an Olympic triathlonist, has to prosecute the megalomaniac pip-squeak who did it. Cryin' shame she's falling for his defense attorney.

So, like any thriller, more people die, herrings rojos are paraded before us, and it's all a bewildering mystery until the action-packed climactic climax... and the clean-up afterwards.

This is the second novel by Jonathan Miller, and as small press fiction writers go, he's not bad. I'm not a thriller fan by any means, but he tells a coherent story with interesting characters. And while the plot may be ordinary, the setting certainly isn't, and it adds a nice flavor to the story.

So why don't I recommend it? The prose, while far better than many self published fiction authors', just isn't quite there yet. He makes small errors in style that, if corrected, could make big houses interested in his work. The small author intrusion here, the jarring point-of-view shift there. The running gag repeated just a little too often. Every so often something would jump out that said, "amateur."

I have no doubt that Jonathan Miller has the talent to become a fine author. He just needs some more practice.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Crater County: A Legal Thriller of New Mexico by Jonathan Miller
Published by: Cool Titles; April 2004
ISBN: 0-9673920-4-7
Genre: Thriller
  [Read more...]

From Fark.com

I have often wondered what casseroles were made of before Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup was invented.

This is kinda like that. From Fark.com. What did geeks do before electricity?   [Read more...]

Amityville House of Pancakes

Allen, Pete S. (editor)   [Read more...]

Bookhugger

Well, this is a new one for me. I'm not reviewing a book or a movie, but a gadget.

Bookhugger makes reading books a bit easier. It looks like some sort of mechanized insect, so it's perfect for science fiction fans. You strap the book in, spread it open, and slide the pages behind its? wings? And voila! Hands-free reading. As the book just sits in its stand, you can read it and do whatever else needs doing at the same time. When you need to turn a page, you just slide it out from under one wing, and into the other. Imagine how much easier it will be using, say, a cookbook while making your favorite Carne Asada dish (Tucson is growing on me.)

If you're on the go, lift the Bookhugger off the stand, close the book, wrapping it into the wings to keep it closed (it can be done quite easily) and go. When you get the chance to read, you have the book spread wide open, holding it with only one hand. Not bad.

Everything is telescopic, so it easily adjusts to any size book. But before I get to sounding like a paid advertisement, the product does have its drawbacks. The first is that the Bookhugger is great for mass market paperbacks, and thin trade paperbacks and hardbacks. Get much bigger than that, though and you start to strain the arms that hold the book open. If the book is any bigger than a mass market paperback, use the stand, as I found trying to hold a heavier book by the handle became a burden a bit too quickly. The creator of this device said that he had some future designs for bigger books.

Also, there is one aspect in the design that I think should change, and that is how the book is strapped in. Basically, you open the book to the middle, and an elastic band is strung between the pages and hooked at the top. It is effective, and isn't too difficult to do. But, when you unstrap the book, be sure to have a good grip on that strap, or else it'll snap back, and that isn't fun.

Still, if you have need for hands-free reading situations, or you hate trying to hold a paperback open with the fingers of one hand while holding your fork with the other, this may be your solution. You can find pictures of Bookhugger and order it from its website.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Webpage: www.hugabook.com   [Read more...]

Review: "Haunted" by Kelley Armstrong

When she was alive, you didn't fuck with Eve Levine. A half-demon witch and master of the black arts, she didn't exactly seek opportunities to dole out pain and death, they just presented themselves on a regular basis. An unfortunate consequence of the life she chose. But she never flinched from what she had to do. Yup, in life, Eve was the biggest badass around.

In death, not so much.   [Read more...]

Blast from the Past

I'm not a big fan of modern video games. But I love the old Atari 2600 stuff. A few weeks ago, Evo mentioned Joust. Don't remember why.

I found a great website with tons of old video games you can play right off the web, including Joust.

Enjoy   [Read more...]

Just some ideas

Many of you who have been listening to the show know the guys are trying to come up with a new name for the podcast show, as The Dragon Page: Between absolutely sucks. So, I've been thinking over some new names. If you think of any, put them in the comments section.

Joe's most excellent new names for the Dragon Page Podcast Show:

Dragon Droppings (also acceptable are Dragon Poo, and Dragon S**t)
The Dragon Page: Reloaded
Roar
The Dragon's Den (highly original, I know. But I actually think it could work.)
The Dragon Page: Second Wind
The Dragon Page: Breath Macabre (ok, it would never happen, but it sounds cool. Since we have a show called Live Fire, I'm taking a stab at another magical element, Air, but I'm not sure it's working.)

Anyway, I'll keep thinking. Post some of your ideas if you like.   [Read more...]

Necronomicrap

This may be the first intentional satire I've gotten to review for the Dragon Page.

The chapbook Necronomicrap: A Guide To Your Horoooscope, by Tim Frayser, mixes astrological "facts" with obvious lampooning. For example, while you can use the book to learn the names of Saturn's moons, I highly doubt you should share Frayser's interpretation that the moons regulate "various aspects of human flatulence."

About half of the book... teaches? various aspects of astrology: the planets and their influences, the four basic elements, the zodiac, etc. The last half consists entirely of a yearly horoscope.

My birthday falls on July 10, so my horoscope for July reads thus:

"You will read something that will remind you of something completely different and unrelated, and you will spend an inordinate amount of time this month trying to figure out what it was about the former that reminded you of the latter, exploring all options, at least coming to the conclusion you must be nuts. When invited to appear as a guest on a daytime talk show alongside all your former intimate partners, give it a pass."

Now, if I ever go on a daytime talk show, I'm sure as hell not cutting off my right hand, but you get the idea.

Now since I had to review the book, I had to pretty much read it straight through like a novel. If you buy the book, I can't recommend doing that, reading straight through the horoscope one entry after another after another got to be quite dull, and I honestly started skimming and jumping pages to get to the end.

However, I can see this book being great for when you have guests over. Looking up people's horoscopes and personality types via their signs would make for some fun. Plus, I'm sure there's a drinking game in there somewhere, and what more do you need than that?

Rating: 3 out of 5

Necronomicrap: A Guide to Your Horoooscope by Tim Frayser
Published by: Yard Dog Press; December, 2002
ISBN: 189368735X
Genre: Satire
Author's Webpage: tapestry3.home.mindspring.com
Publisher's Webpage: www.yarddogpress.com
  [Read more...]

Mr. Data's Brain is just around the corner

As an audiologist, this may intrigue me more than others, but it looks like we're this much closer to transhumanism. Scientists have made a replica of the organ of hearing in the ear.

I can see it. One of these days, this puppy is going to be implantable, and I'm going to be out of a job.

Wonder if I can write a book in a month, and enter it in Wizard of the Coast's open call. Gonna need a new trade.   [Read more...]