Last week I teased you a little about an upcoming story of mine based on an ancient Genesis song. The story still isn’t out yet - I think it’s going to be released sometime either next week or the week after that. Definitely this month, which is cool because the last time I got a story published, it was also right at the end of October.
The new story is going through edits right now, but once they’re done it’ll only be a matter of days.
For now, though, I can at least share with you the cover art for the story, designed just like all my story covers are designed, by the indomitable Jason Snape. I’ve given visitors to this site some insight into Snape before, here and here. Once again, I find myself in his debt, for the cover to this story is sublime, evocative, and just about perfect.
And here it is!
As a quick aside, in between doing this cover and the covers for these other stories, Snape and my friend Matt Link managed to get a game of their design accepted by Game Salute (the folks who also did Alien Frontiers and Nothing Personal). The game is going to get Kickstarted next week, so look for it. Here’s an overview of the game.
Consider this a plug for it. So… given all that, next week you can get all sorts of wintry goodness all over you, what with Kickstarting The Great Snowball Battle and reading The Three Trespasses, Part One. Enjoy!
I came to Genesis kind of late in their game and in a way that other hardcore Genesis fans may scoff at - I first fell in love with the Phil Collins song ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’, and that led to me really liking the later Genesis song, ‘Mama.’ That meant that my first real exposure to Genesis was the 1983 album titled Genesis - pretty much the last thing they did before spiraling into pop music banality. There were a few really good songs on their biggest album, 1986’s Invisible Touch, but let’s face it - as much as I loved that record when I was 16, it’s mostly crap.
Fortunately, I loved Genesis so much, and I’m so much a completist, that I had to have every song they made in my library. I also had to have everything by Genesis’s original frontman, Peter Gabriel. And now, almost 30 years later, I truly believe that Peter Gabriel’s music has enriched my life and affected me more than any other artist from any other artistic medium, ever. As much as I love reading, and as much as I love movies, I don’t have a favorite author or director who’s impacted me as much as Peter Gabriel has.
I think that his power over me comes from the transcendent nature of his musical moods and his lyrics. That’s why he’s my favorite artist. Even though I only dabble in playing music, a musician is one of my chief influences.
Peter Gabriel’s songs are cinematic in scope - I think that’s why they appear so often in movies and television shows. (See Birdy, Wall-E, Gangs of New York, Red Planet, Waking The Dead, Babe: Pig In The City, City of Angels, The Craft, Natural Born Killers, Strange Days, Angus, Philadelphia, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Say Anything.) And for me at least, his lyrics have demonstrated that music can tell engaging, inspirational, even rapturous stories.
One of the earliest examples of Peter Gabriel’s genius came at the beginning of his tenure with Genesis. More hypercritical people have said that early Genesis was pompous, overblown, and pretentious. I’ve read those critics. And while I do agree that Peter Gabriel’s theatrical posturing at early Genesis concerts might have been a tad on the gimmicky side, when I listen to the music, it blows me away that songs of this level of complexity and magnitude were written by a bunch of kids barely out of high school, barely out of their teens. Early Genesis songs were, with few exceptions, nothing short of epic. It’s because of early Genesis that my favorite music these days comes from bands like Tool and Elbow and Mastodon. Give me epic over catchy any day.
At the same time, Peter Gabriel’s lyrics were chock full of literary references and adaptations of existing stories which made me have to go to my mythology and history textbooks again and again. My love for referential literature, like that of John Ashbery, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound, came from the referential lyrics of one Master Peter Gabriel of Surrey, England.
The influence of Peter Gabriel on me is so high, in fact, that I actually concocted an entire novella based on the lyrics to one of Genesis’s earliest recordings.
In late 1970, when I was just over a month old, Genesis released a 6-song album called Trespass. The second song on it, ‘White Mountain’, was a 7-minute opus about a pack of wolves chasing a lone traitor to their pack across a frozen wasteland atop a snow-blasted mountain. The song may or may not reference Jack London’s novel White Fang, which has characters in it with names similar to those in the song.
‘White Mountain’, along with most of Trespass, had lackluster sales and got low marks from critics.
Except in Belgium. Go figure.
But to a teenage boy coming to the music a decade and a half after it was written, ‘White Mountain’ was an effective and haunting fable which would stay with him for many years, until he became an artist in his own right.
Sometime after that, he’d sit down and write a 10,000-word treatment of the story, fleshing out the background of the anthropomorphic wolves involved, elaborating on their relationships, and giving their story new life. Then, a few years after he wrote the story, a small press would be willing to e-publish the novella. Novellas are notoriously difficult to publish in traditional paper form, but the advent of e-books makes them more attractive and feasible.
So here it comes - The Three Trespasses, Part One, the story of a family of wolves living on the White Mountain, a story first imagined by one of my musical and artistic heroes, Peter Gabriel.
Ok. So it’s a day late. Whatever. Here is a continuation of that which I am into right now. In other words, that which I am grateful for (other than the “usual” stuff, like my family, and bunnies).
Movies and Television
10) Those who know me well, know that I love zombies. And not in a kissy-face way, no sir. If I saw a zombie, I’d pop it a good one in the head like I’m supposed to. But I love watching movies about them. I love reading about them. I think Romero is a genius. And so is Robert Kirkman, who has taken the zombie apocalypse to a whole new level with his comic book series The Walking Dead.
Walking Dead follows a group of survivors for not just days, or months, after the apocalypse destroys life as we know it. If I understand Kirkman’s intent, he means to keep his tale of survival and mayhem in the ruins of Earth going for years and years and years. And years. And now, AMC has picked up his comic as an ongoing series. We’re five episodes in as of this writing, and the show is getting all the praise it deserves. Those who know me well also know that I am NOT an avid television viewer. But you can find me every Sunday night, planted in front of the TV, watching the dead walk and cheering on the living.
It’s also awesome that the comic and the TV show are based in and around Atlanta.
11) Lost haters can kiss my ass. A host shows on pay cable (The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Californication, The Wire, etc. ) brought the dregs of television programming up a level, and showed us that viewers COULD indeed follow a storyline - that each episode did NOT have to be self-contained. (Although it IS true that TiVo, DVRs, and DVD releases did make it safer for programmers to take a chance on certain shows, and made it easier for us to “catch up” if we missed an episode.) They showed us that our depth of perception extended beyond the cultural references of the Simpsons and the tear-jerking homiles of Touched By an Angel.
Still, ONE show brought that level of storytelling to primetime non-cable programming, and that show was Lost. Sure, it broke down a little toward the end. Sure, the first 6 or 7 episodes of Season 3 were disappointing. Sure, they killed Ecko senselessly and that really pissed me off. Regardless, Lost was and still is the pinnacle of anything I’ve seen or heard of on the major networks. Fox had a few gems, but they foolishly cancelled them. ABC had the good sense to let Lost run its course, and television is all the better for it.
12) Joss Whedon also had a lot to do with the improvement of television. Still, for me his crowning achievements were not Buffy and Firefly (although Firefly was remarkable - thanks again, Fox, for cancelling it). Instead, I was awed by his run on the Astonishing X-men a few years back, and every time I see Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long, I sit for a few minutes and wait for the tears in my eyes to dry. Seriously. I cry because the ending is so perfect and horrible at the same time (and I mean horrible in a good way), and I cry because it simply blows me away that a fucking musical can be so simultaneously hilarious, fascinating, and elaborate.
Gotta give credit where credit is due: Joss Whedon had a lot of writing help from his brothers Zack and Jed, as well as actress Maurissa Tancharoen. And Neil Patrick Harris made the show, just like he made the one episode of How I Met Your Mother that I saw palatable.
Declaration! Doogie Howser is dead, and you have to see Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog!
When I decided to share a little bit of what I’m listening to, I realized that I haven’t bought a CD in years. At least not a “proper” one. I download my music now, and if I want to take it in my car, which doesn’t have an MP3 player (yet), I just burn it to a disk that may or may not survive.
Again, those who know me know that I have a highly varied taste in music. I listen to just about everything except popular country and anything in the Jonas Brothers/Hannah Montana/Justin Bieber vein. I have my favorites, sure, but even those are all over the place. And with my love for Rock Band and my passion for Pandora and Blip.fm, I’m always listening to things outside of my comfort zone.
I settled on a few old favorites to suggest to you, because I know they’re all releasing new material next year, and I want you to do what I’m gonna do and get their new stuff. I started listening to each musical act during a different era of my life, but I’ve remained faithful to all. And why? Because they’re gooooood.
13) I started listening to Peter Gabriel when I started listening to Genesis sometime in the early 1980s. Genesis quit making good records shortly after that, but Peter Gabriel kept making really excellent ones. His latest is actually a remake album - he took a baker’s dozen of songs from a variety of acts and redid them using only keys, strings, and his own strange and wonderful voice. It’s called Scratch My Back, and with the exception of the Radiohead remake - which I think sucks - he made a masterpiece. The idea is that all the artists he covered will reciprocate and cover one of his songs, and the resulting album will be called I’ll Scratch Yours. Hopefully, it’ll come together next year, and we’ll get a complete record with some amazing interpretations of some of my favorite songs on it.
14) I started listening to Tool in college, and I still do. Because of the intricate nature of each of their songs, and the fact that every member of Tool pursues outside interests (not necessarily musical), years typically go by between Tool albums. I kind of like that - taking your time usually means the end product will be better than a rush job. Unless you’re Axel Rose or Robert Jordan, that is. Tool’s last record was 10, 000 Days, released in 2006. Most of the band, and the band’s record company, have said they’re working on something new. So I’m hoping that by next Christmas, I’ll be once again deciphering Maynard James Keenan’s provocative lyrics and Adam Jones’s massive guitar riffs.
15) I only started listening to Elbow back in 2001 or 2002, as a result of them popping up on a Pandora station I’d created. They are a perfect example of fantastic music that has never been commercially viable here in the United States. Guy Garvey’s evocative voice reminds me of Peter Gabriel and Morrissey, and his lyrics blow me away with their wit and poeticism. The music is basically synth pop updated to 21st century standards. It reminds me of old David Bowie, New Order, and The Cure. Elbow has tentatively announced a new release in 2011, and if you like any of the acts I’ve compared Elbow to, then you should check them out.
And… that’s it. That’s what I’m into at the moment. Now, things change, and this post and the one before it will probably go out of date in a month or two. Will I still like the things I’ve listed here? Probably. Will there be more things to like? Also probably. If you’re interested, I’ll share those things with you at some date in the future.
Hell, I’ll probably share with you anyway, whether you’re interested or not.