Friday, October 31, 2008

October Was Book Month

October is (WAS) Book Month!

Monday will see some new Bests here, but for now, let's take a last look at the books and book-related Bests...

The Best Book That Never Existed (But Should)

The Best Secondary Character In A Book.

The Best Book I Want To Re-Read Over And Over Again!

The Best Book To Teach Kids That Monsters, and Books, Are Nothing To Be Afraid Of.

The Best Book To Read If You Were A Kid Who Pretended To Be A Superhero.

The Best Song That Is About Writing, or Being In, A Book.

The Best Book That I Think of When I Think of The Words "The Best Book."

The Best Author I Have Exactly 39 Reasons For Liking

The Best Book That Really Was Scary.

Click here to see all the other topics I’ve ever discussed!

Team Dad:

Thinking The Lions is Life, only funnier. Ever try to find your way around Illinois using a high-school play as a reference? Ever wonder what "squid chili" has to do with romance? Ever think maybe those velociraptors weren't real after all? No? Well, I did, and you can read about it here.

This is not to say that I would not accept a popcorn tin from you. I will. But maybe do BOTH.

What did you give for Christmas last year? A sweater? A CD, or DVD? Perhaps a decorative bowl?

Maybe this year, you should give something that has some real meaning, like, say, LIFE.

You can give the gift of life, and health, and cures for diseases, to any person you know who's expecting a newborn baby. You can do that by giving a Cryo-Cell Gift Certificate.

Cryo-Cell is an innovative company that offers parents of newborns a chance to collect and store cord blood stem cells - -stem cells that could be useful in treating 70 different diseases ranging from leukemia to diabetes to cerebral palsy; their company can educate expectant parents about how this works and the benefits to their child from storing that cord blood.

And you can help those parents learn by giving them a gift certificate in any amount ($50 increments) to help them store cord blood stem cells that may someday benefit their unborn child-- even saving his or her life.

Doesn't that beat a sweater, or one of those popcorn tins? It sure does.

To view all of the Cryo-Cell information you can go to their website, and you may want to click right over to the Current Offers they've got available.

But what you really need to know is what I've already told you; they'll help parents collect (easily and conveniently and cleanly, in a non-intrusive way) the cord blood. They'll cryogenically store it for future use. And you'll have done something really nice, really meaningful, and really helpful for those parents.

Mateo and McHale Update!

Imagine if everytime your child got sick, you had to wonder "Is this the flu, or is this something that's going to require me to run him to the emergency room for another surgery?"

And then imagine that you'd already done that, already run your little boy to the hospital for surgery, had to hold his hand while they gave him anesthetic and then had to sit in the hall and wait and hope that he made it through surgery -- and then imagine that you'd done that already 10, 15, 20 or more times.

That's life for Ryan and Angie Shaw -- that and insurmountable medical bills they face after their twins, Mateo and McHale, were born conjoined and then beat the odds to survive the separation.

Ryan and Angie and Mateo and McHale don't let that kind of trouble get them down; even though this week everyone in the family was sick, Angie reports in her Caring Bridge Journal:

Besides being sick the boys are doing really good. They love to talk, sing and play. It seems like they have their own little language and can be best of buddies at times, but they still fight just like any other siblings do. What is funny is if we ask either boy if they were conjoined, they look at us seriously and say "Yes" or " Yeah" and nodd their heads at us. Who knows what they know or remember but we do show them pictures, we don't want them to be shocked someday by everything!

Not only are they singing, talking, but they're going to go trick-or-treating; stay tuned for more updates.

Mateo and McHale Shaw were born conjoined twins; they were given a 5% chance of survival, but nearly three years later they're still going strong. They've maxed out their medical insurance, though, and need help paying for their medical needs. To make a tax deductible contribution, send money to: The Mateo and McHale Shaw Irrevocable SNT, c/o Kohler Credit Union, 850 Woodlake Road, Kohler, WI 53044.

To follow the boys' more closely, click on this link and type mateoandmchale into the box that asks you to visit a Caring Bridge website.

With Mr Bunches on my lap, it drops to 2 words. Per hour.

Blog while driving, blog without typing -- like, say, if Mr Bunches is sitting on your lap, blog at the same speed you think. That all sounds good to me, especially the last part. I think very quickly. Typing? Not so much. I average about, oh, 3 words per minute. And when you've got a lot to say, that's not so great.

That's why I was so interested in this article I found that says I can Type at 150 WPM for $99!. You can read more by this blogger here, but I've got his whole article below, with permission:

I just watched a great video by Owen the writer for . Owen is a great blogger from the Isle of Man who keeps a couple great tech blogs and even builds plug-ins and widgets in his spare time from what I understand. I've known Owen for over two years now through the blogosphere.

I just finished watching the video Owen created after he agreed to try out Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Preferred. What is really amazing here is that he created this video just a few minutes after he installed the Dragon Naturally Speaking on his machine.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Standard

Many people remember the days when it would take hours if not days or a week or more to train a voice recognition software program. Owen was able to install the software and use it to very good effect as you can see from the video above which has been embedded from YouTube.

Now he's just getting used to the software and one of the things that you will notice is that his speaking style is a little slow and starts and stops a bit in between each sentence. He doesn't have 2 talk that slow nor does he have to start and stop after each sentence. He could just keep talking in one continuous fluid verbal conversation with his computer. Dragon NaturallySpeaking even has the ability to automatically insert punctuation as you talk. The auto punctuation feature is not perfect, but it is a lot better than you might expect.

Owen is actually using the manual punctuation function where he specifically says each item of punctuation that he wants inserted into his sentences and paragraphs.

Regardless, as you watch Owen's video and many other videos out there on Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10, you can see just how fast it is and just how useful it can be for anyone that wants to be able to type on their computer and create text by using their voice and speaking to their computer. It's a very liberating experience and as I write this right now I am using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10, and I am pacing around my kitchen about 20 feet from my computer using a wireless headset microphone. I walk by my computer every few steps and glance at the screen to see if my computer is capturing the text correctly, but I probably don't even need to do that because it is so very accurate.

That said, it is very important for new users to do a fairly good grammar check on the documents that they create with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. When you first get started, Dragon NaturallySpeaking does learn what you're trying to say and it improves over time. So you will need to edit a little bit more when you first start, and it's a good habit to pick up as you go forward because your speaking style is going to be much different than your normal writing style would be if you were typing with your fingers. It's a different area of the brain and you will get a different result in your written documents when you use Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

This article is approximately 540 words long(pre-edit), and I wrote it in about three minutes. It also took me about two minutes to edit because I was going back and forth into another room to help my kids with their homework. Still, that's approximately 108 words per minute including editing time!

My name is Brett Bumeter and I've been writing about Dragon NaturallySpeaking for almost 2 years now. I think this is a great product, however I also recognize that people really have to see this product in action in order to envision how I can truly help them in their work and in their lives. So I am working to bring many more videos of Dragon NaturallySpeaking to you since you can help figure out if this great tool that costs about $99 could help you type in 150 words a minute. I think it can, and I definitely think it's worth it. You decide and you let me know what you think. :-)

Best regards,

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Best Book That Never Actually Existed (But Should)

October Is Book Month wraps up by considering a book that never existed.

Yesterday, while coming up with a couple of mild japes (it's a real word) about the two NFL teams that have yet to win a game (an annual obsession of mine), I invented, on the spot, a book that never existed, but should (John Tyler: Space President For Hire.) The idea for that book then settled into my imagination as I drove home from work last night listening to "All I Want Is You" from the Juno soundtrack, and I thought maybe that should be a book.

But I didn't yet add it to the list of things I might write someday in my tattered notebook of ideas because I was driving (which wouldn't keep me from writing things in my notebook) and I didn't have a pen (which would.)

I did, though, add the idea of books that never existed to the mental list of things that I wanted to write about on here, and I decided that books that never existed would be a good way to wrap up October Is Book Month for the year.

Authors have to do a lot of stuff in creating a world that allows us to create a world in our imaginations, and most readers don't give a lot of thought to the little tasks and problems that can crop up in the course of writing a story.

But I do, because I not only read (a lot, but not as much as I'd like) but I write (a lot, but not as much as I'd like) and because I'm interested in the behind-the-scenes stuff; it makes the in-front-of-the-scenes stuff more interesting to me.

Like this: when you watch a movie scene, a particularly crazy movie scene, give some thought to how many times they filmed that scene and how many times the actors had to go through that exact scene and hit their marks and say their lines and get the mood right... and then think of how many times the set had to be redone and remade and perfected.

I started thinking about that when I saw a preview of Pineapple Express, a movie I never saw because, to be honest, I don't care all that much for James Franco and I'm tired of Hollywood trying to convince me he's a star...

... that was kind of mean, wasn't it? I have nothing against him personally and I liked him in Freaks and Geeks but beyond that, it's just, pleh. (Those mean little asides prompted The Boy to suggest that I create "The Worst Of Everything," but I don't know if I want to do that...)

... but I did see the scene in the commercials where [IS IT A SPOILER ALERT IF IT'S IN A COMMERCIAL? YES? OKAY, SPOILER ALERT FOR A COMMERCIAL!] James Franco is driving a car in a chase and he kicks the window and puts his foot through it, and in the commercial there are at least two or three different camera shots, and after I watched the commercial I didn't want to see the movie, but I did spend some time imagining how, after each take, they would have to replace that broken car windshield, clean up the fake blood, get all the extras back to their original spots, move the car to its first position, then move the cameras, then shoot it again and how James Franco would have to re-act that scene over and over and over.

Once you know all that, the movies, even the simplest movies, become that much more phenomenal.

Well, if that's tricky, how about all the little stuff that goes into writing even a short story? Not just coming up with the plot. Anyone can come up with a plot. Guy takes his life savings of $200,000 from his retirement account so that he can fly out to Hollywood and convince people he's a producer, which he does because he wants to meet a new pop starlet and try to convince her to marry him, so his plan to do that is cast her in the fake movie he's pretending to make using the life savings he took out without his wife knowing.

I just came up with that just this second; never thought of it before but it's a book I'd maybe think about writing. (After I get through the ones I'm working on and after I get through the next ones I want to work on and after John Tyler: Space President for Hire gets published, of course).

But as an author, sit down to write I'm In Love With Angel Diamond (And My Wife Doesn't Know It) (the title I just now invented for the book I invented a few moments ago) and look at that first blank page and begin to confront the problems of actually writing it, and you see just how hard it is to throw together a book.

In the first place, what are the character's names? I came up with "Angel Diamond" because it seems like exactly the lame kind of fake name a singer might take if it was produced by someone who cynically wanted to package a singer to sell to tweens. (It's also the kind of dumb rock-star name that frequently ends up in books and seems so lame when you read it, so maybe it would work fine for my book, which I'm now much more interested in writing and might just move up ahead of John Tyler on the list of projects.) But what's "guy who takes out the money's" name?

Where does he live? What's his wife's name? Who's telling the story? When is it set?

Once you get past all of that, all important, there's the matter of creating the world these people live in. How realistic is that world? I'm reading A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon right now, and a character in it is renting videos, videos that actually exist (like Volcano) but he's renting... videos, which makes the book seem kind of dated already because who rents videos?

In A Spot of Bother, the use of real movies as props for fictional characters works pretty well, because the story needs to be rooted in the real world even though it's fiction; the main focus of the book (which is very good) is George's discovery of a spot on his body that he assumes to be cancer, and the resulting chaos that causes in him as the rest of his family experiences their own chaos while a wedding is pending. (I'm halfway through the book, by the way, and it's excellent.)

The use of fictional things as props is more problematic, and comes up a lot more often. I'm writing a story right now in which the characters go to bars and restaurants and a jewelry shop and other places. For at least some of those things, I have to come up with names for the place they're going. I have to come up with the names of businesses they shop at, television shows they watch (unless I want to seem dated, maybe, if my characters are watching Gary Unmarried in my book and it comes out in two years and people say "Watching what, now?") and keep doing that, creating fictional item after fictional item. Is my character buying salad dressing? Is it Newman's Own? Or is it Angel Diamond's Ranch Dressing? Is it important at all that the salad dressing have a name? You tell me; you're the reader. One of my characters went into a grocery store and I named that, but I didn't name the kind of apples she fell onto with William Howard Taft and her son. (It's kind of a complicated story.)

The problem is even worse when your character, or one of your characters, is somebody creative -- a rock star or author or playwrite or someone -- because then you've got to come up with things for that person to have written or sung or appeared in or something, and unless you're character is also a real-life person, then your character hasn't appeared in Top Gun, so if your movie star character is in a big hit movie, then your movie star character probably acted in Wings Of Fire, or maybe the domestic comedy Damaged Goods! (Don't google them; I just made them up. But they're pretty good, aren't they? You could totally picture a sitcom called Damaged Goods!, about a guy whose wife dumps him and leaves him with their three young kids and no money so he starts up an online store selling things he finds around town that he then sculpts into art? I imagine Ricky Gervais would be perfect for the lead role.)

(Also, I'm putting that one into my idea book, too.)

Which leads me to books that never existed, but should have. Authors should really have an edge on things like this, shouldn't they? Authors should be able to come up with titles and storylines and books for their characters to read and write because authors, every author I've ever known, is brimming with ideas, has ideas just spilling out and ready to go, and the authors can then dump some of those into their books for their characters to write and even then go write those books themselves, in some cases, like John Irving did.

John Irving is a master at creating fictional books that sound like books you'd really want to read -- probably because he's had so much practice at it. Many of his characters are creative people -- writers or script readers or movie stars -- and so they have to have books and movies and scripts to write and read and act out.

Take just "The World According To Garp," in which several of the characters are writers. In that book, Irving invented at least 8 fictional stories or books, ranging from the autobiography of Jenny Fields to The World According to Bensenhaver (by Garp). He even wrote an entire fictional story -- which raises the question about whether a fictional story is fictional if in fact the entire story exists, as "The Pension Grillparzer" does, a story which is (fictionally) supposed to have been written by T.S. Garp but which actually exists, and was written by John Irving, making it not a "fictional" story anymore, right? Because it was actually written and you can read it?

(And if you think that's confusing, consider "There And Back Again," by Bilbo Baggins, the book Bilbo was always working on writing in The Lord of The Rings... but wasn't "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien subtitled "There and Back Again?" Yes, it was. Which means that the book "The Hobbit" was the real version of the fictional book Bilbo Baggins would later work on writing while he lived through the events that took place after, but which were set up by, the events that took place in the book Bilbo Baggins was writing about...)

Great. Now I'm dizzy.

John Irving didn't stop with just the Garp fictional books; he had other fictional books created by other fictional characters, and so did other authors, including J.K. Rowling's (who presumably will not sue me for my audacity in talking about her writing) creation of books like The Tales of Beedle The Bard which then also became real, too (showing, again, that authors have these ideas that they just want to get out and create) and even fictional books invented by fictional people, like the books "Lemony Snicket" wrote (including "The Big Peruvian Book of Small Peruvian Snakes") and Kurt Vonnegut, who invented an alter-ego writer in Kilgore Trout and then had that writer write a series of books that were distinctly Vonnegutian...

... and the list goes on and on, and oftentimes, like my own John Tyler: Space President For Hire or the Angel Diamond book, I'll be reading a book and a fictional book will come up and I'll think I would really like to read that book, too. And then I wish that I could read that book, and it makes me a little sad that I never, probably, will read that book, just like I get a little sad when I first go into a bookstore or library and see book after book after book and realize that I'll never, in my life, read even a tiny fraction of all the books I would like to read.

I mean, how could you not want to read "Maniacs in the Fourth Dimension," by Kilgore Trout, or "Eight Solid Light-years of Lead" by John Jose Fahey? Just the titles scream out to be read.

But above all of those fictional books stands the one single book that I most regret doesn't exist, the book that I would gladly fund research into discovering whether the hypothetical 10 other dimensions that may or may not exist actually do exist, on the theory that if there are 10 other dimensions, then in one of them, this book may exist:

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

I can actually see that book, invented by Douglas Adams in his series beginning with the book of the same name, in my mind -- something like a Kindle, which probably got the idea from the Guide, with the "Don't Panic" right on the cover and the buttons and the sub-etha updates and the screen.

And I want so badly to be able to pull out the Guide when I'm bored or questioning something, to have a pocket-sized Google with a sense of humor and style, to look up Babel Fish or Magrathea or something else, whatever pops into my head, to see what it says about everything and anything and have most of it not make sense but some of it make more sense than it should, and have the things that don't make sense actually make sense because it turns out we're not living in our world but in the world of the Guide... and to read things like this:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with."

Through all of Douglas Adams' books, while I was captivated by the humor and ideas and characters and adventures that seemed both slapped together and carefully plotted out, simultaneously, somehow, over all of that arched this thought, over and over and over: I wish I could read the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, the actual book. Entries like the towel entry and the other made-up things Adams threw into his books made me long not just to read the Guide, but to have the Guide be describing the world I lived in instead of the world his characters lived in.

Which is as good a place as any to finish up October is Book Month: I began by talking about the worlds we create reading about the worlds authors create, and I can finish by talking about the worlds we wished authors would create for us to go live in, worlds that are described and hinted at and touched on in the fictional books the authors create for their fictional characters to read and write and make into movies... or the fictional books the authors create to describe the fictional worlds they've created to the fictional characters that live in the worlds created by the authors... books like The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, the The Best Book That Never Actually Existed (But Should)

Click here to see all the other topics I’ve ever discussed!

Exclamation point:

Children tormented by demons. An old man accidentally killing people. Witches who live hundreds of years and escape from Hell repeatedly. An astronaut drifting through space... these and other great stories can be found only on AfterDark: The scariest things, you CAN'T imagine.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Here on TBOE,
October is Book Month!

There's only a few days left before I go back to... "normal"... here, so make sure you check out all the great book-related entries:

The Best Secondary Character In A Book.

The Best Book I Want To Re-Read Over And Over Again!

The Best Book To Teach Kids That Monsters, and Books, Are Nothing To Be Afraid Of.

The Best Book To Read If You Were A Kid Who Pretended To Be A Superhero.

The Best Song That Is About Writing, or Being In, A Book.

The Best Book That I Think of When I Think of The Words "The Best Book."

The Best Author I Have Exactly 39 Reasons For Liking

The Best Book That Really Was Scary.

Click here to see all the other topics I’ve ever discussed!

Team Dad:

Thinking The Lions is Life, only funnier. Ever try to find your way around Illinois using a high-school play as a reference? Ever wonder what "squid chili" has to do with romance? Ever think maybe those velociraptors weren't real after all? No? Well, I did, and you can read about it here.

117,000,000 more per day...

I have a Wordpress Blog, called "The Trouble With Roy" where I from time-to-time publish what I think of as the best of what I put on here and my other blogs -- a way to help spread the word and get my writing out to people that otherwise might not come across it, which I like to do because I like to write and I like to get paid for writing -- and more people reading my stuff equals more money for me to write it equals more writing for people to read... and you get the drift.

So I was instantly interested in the Wordpress themes and plugins available in the Wordpress Power Pack. This pack, with seven instant themes for a buck, can professionalize any Wordpress blog and help make it more noticeable, more high-quality, and more profitable. The proof is right on the site that's selling them -- top Google page rank and sample Wordpress themes side-by-side.

I've never been quite happy with the Wordpress themes that I have or with the ones I can get for free, and now I can finally get some GOOD themes to work around with, to make some more money at it, and write more, and you know the rest...

I especially like the way the Sports Blog theme looks -- all high-techy and catchy without being cold or off-putting; I'd like to use that for all my blogs, frankly.

And, they have the 118 best plug-ins for Wordpress blogs, so I can start putting those in and really maximizing that as another site.

There's something like 117,000,000 new blogs per day, so your blog (and mine) has to look good as well as be good to stand out; with the Wordpress Power Pack, it can.


Monday, October 27, 2008

The Best Secondary Character In A Book.

October Is (Still) Book Month!

I had to get reading glasses the other day; I get headaches at the end of the day and dry eyes and the doctor thought maybe it was from working on a computer, so I went out and bought myself two pairs of reading glasses, one for home and one for work, that I wear when I work on the computer.

I like to think of it as a reading injury. I always remember that scene in "Jaws" when the guys on the boat compared their old injuries and scars and told stories about how they got them. I've never been athletic enough to have a sports injury, or at least not a cool sports injury. I do have bad knees from fencing when I was too fat to really fence well but since the injury came from being heavy, not from, say, being stabbed, I don't talk about it much. I've never had a job dangerous enough to get me a cool injury to brag about, either; the closest I came was when I burned my wrist on a bun-toaster at McDonald's when I was sixteen (I still have the scar!).

But I do have a reading injury, and my glasses are, like a splint or sling or scar, proof that I read so much I've started wearing out my eyes.

Also, my glasses are like the Tampa Bay Rays' manager's glasses, which is not coincidence. I was reading an old Sports Illustrated while waiting to see the doctor, and they had an article that showed the manager and talked about his glasses and how it took a special kind of guy -- like Buddy Holly or Elvis Costello or the Rays' manager -- Joe Maddon is his name -- to wear glasses like these, so, much like the time I heard that fidgeting burns calories and so I taught myself to fidget, and much like the time I read that people with flourishes n their signatures are optimists and outgoing so I taught myself to sign my name with a flourish, I promptly, when told to go buy glasses, bought the kind of glasses that guys like Buddy Holly and Elvis Costello and Joe Maddon and, um, Drew Carey, wear. Glasses that say I'm a rock & rolling, World-Series-coachin', Price Is Right-in Kind of Guy.

Still, as cool as these glasses make me -- as much cooler as they make me, since I was pretty cool already, what with the way I blog and make up sayings like Oh Jisquita and listen to seven-minute long songs featuring a cello courtesy of the music website Muruch, which has really been on the money lately with her song selection -- as cool as all that and these glasses make me, I'm no Duncan Idaho.

Duncan Idaho is, as you've now guessed, The Best Secondary Character In A Book. Duncan Idaho first appeared in Dune, by Frank Herbert, and then [SPOILER ALERT INVOLVING CLONING AND AXLOTL TANKS AND GENERATION AFTER GENERATION OF HUMAN HISTORY] appeared in all of the remaining Dune books, quite a feat considering that all of the remaining Dune books span something like 10 billion millennia or something and also considering that his role in one book [SPOILER ALERT INVOLVING DUNCAN IDAHO'S ROLE IN ONE BOOK] is to be repeatedly killed.

The Dune books had a lot going for them before they were almost wrecked by that movie that almost wrecked them. The Dune books had everything a sci-fi lover could want -- weird planets, spaceships, battles, new societies, mutated people who could see into the future and guide spaceships that way, and Baron Harkonnen. For those unfamiliar with them, a quick recap is this: In the future, or maybe the past -- I was never very clear on that, because it may have been the past, and Frank Herbert may have been messing with readers' minds the way George Lucas messed with viewers' minds at the start of Star Wars, you know the one, the one that later he claimed was only part four of a series, when it clearly was a standalone movie that he then went back and tacked some sequels onto, and renamed "A New Hope?" Right, that one, where he began with "A Long Time Ago," so people thought it was in the future but really it was in the past? Frank Herbert may have been doing that, too, I'm just not sure.

So anyway, in the Dune books, human society is a feudal society governed by various lords and houses who rule planets based on what the Emperor (I think it was an emperor) told them to do; most of society revolves around space travel and "spice," a drug-like substance that comes from the planet "Arrakis," which is a desert planet. The Atreides family, a popular clan, is sent to rule Arrakis during their feud with the Harkonnen family.

From there, the books just sprawl across history, moving on through the lives of Paul Atreides and then Paul's children and on and on through history, all while Herbert sets up a fascinating society of political interactions between the ruling families, the Guild that manages space travel, a religious-type clan known as the "Bene Gesserit," the "Fremen" who live on Arrakis, and other people and entities. Through the book, and then the rest of the books (Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, and others) Herbert keeps building this society and also presenting great action sequences and compelling characters and interesting ideas (like what if you were a gifted seer, someone who was so gifted you could foretell the future with exact accuracy down to the last detail... would life have any meaning for you, in that instance, because you knew everything that would ever happen to you in your life? Would anything be new or interesting?) and also musing on how humanity will or can evolve and how we all interact.

It's both terribly exciting and awfully meaningful at the same time, and, as I said, the books span, if not 10,000 millenia, at least a really really long time, longer than any human life in the books, as society changes and evolves again and again.

But through all of the books, one character keeps appearing and reappearing: Duncan Idaho. Through the magic of axlotl tanks and Tleilaxu technology (which is sci-fi-geek code for the author really wanted this character to keep coming back and so he made up some stuff that would keep him coming back) Duncan Idaho, the swordmaster and warrior supreme and loyal companion of Paul Atreides and all-around-really-cool-guy -- the guy who should have been played by Sting in the movie -- keeps on keepin' on.

Duncan Idaho was an incredible character. He was a swordmaster and excellent warrior with diplomatic skills and phenomenal loyalty to his bosses the Atreides and phenomenal hatred for their enemies the Harkonnens, and he got to do all the great really cool stuff in the book -- ride sandworms and fight the Emperor's elite troops and knife-fight and save people from invasions and probably he got to swing on a giant curtain across a castle ballroom from a balcony down to the ground ... and if he didn't do that, then he certainly could have because he was that kind of character. And he did all that through generation after generation, coming back as a hated clone and then a beloved clone and moving from planet to planet and just generally being the kind of guy who, if all your friends were to get together when you were 10 and instead of playing Cops and Robbers, everyone decided to play Dune instead, if you all did that, everyone would have said I get to be Duncan Idaho (although probably you would not have read this book at 10, you'd have read it around 15, when you'd have been too old to play Dune even though secretly you'd have liked to.)

And I joke about it, joke that Duncan Idaho was so cool that Frank Herbert just wanted to keep him around, but I think that is partially true. I mean, yeah, he provided continuity in the books and yeah he served as a plot foil in Dune Messiah by [SPOILER ALERT THE DETAILS OF WHICH I DIDN'T FULLY RECALL UNTIL I WENT AND LOOKED IT UP] being cloned by Paul Atreides' enemies to kill Paul Atreides and/or to serve as some kind of proof or inducement [I REALLY WASN'T TOO CLEAR ON IT AFTER READING UP ON IT, EITHER, ALTHOUGH I RECALL WHEN I READ THE BOOK IT MADE SENSE] but mostly, Duncan Idaho, I suspect, turned out to be too interesting to let go of.

That's happened to me, from time to time, as I write here and there, write short stories and as I work on my novel; a character pops up in the story (almost literally, for me; I make up my stories off the top of my head as I go along) and then turns out to be interesting and so I keep them around and start building on them and see where it takes me. I do that because I don't plot out most of my stories in advance, and if I'm writing and a character becomes interesting to me, then I figure it'll be interesting to my readers, too, so I go with that and see what happens.

I suspect that at least part of that happened with Frank Herbert, and although he kept Duncan Idaho around and made him the focal point of some of the plots of the books as they went on, and eventually if I remember correctly, Duncan Idaho became the star of the book, it was never really enough because I always wanted to know more about Duncan Idaho, to see more of what he was doing. When he was ambassador to the Fremen, when he was growing up being hunted by Harkonnens, I wanted to know more about that.

And I wanted to know what he thought about all the stuff that was going on; see, Dune and most of the sequels were told not from Duncan Idaho's perspective but from other characters' viewpoints, and that affected me and the story, too. I got the Dune story from an omniscient narrator, and from Paul Atreides, and from others -- but I wanted to hear it from Duncan Idaho.

A lot of secondary characters seem more interesting than the main characters, in books and in movies. Wasn't Han Solo way more interesting than Luke Skywalker? Didn't we all want to know a little more about Hermione and see what she was all about? Seriously -- Harry Potter might have been the kid with the scar that everyone remembered [SPOILER ALERT? REALLY? IS THERE ANYONE WHO DOESN'T KNOW THIS BY NOW? OKAY, WELL, FINE...SPOILER ALERT FOR THAT ONE PERSON WHO HASN'T YET READ "HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCEROR'S STONE."] wasn't killed by Voldemort, but Harry Potter wasn't really all that interesting or that great of a wizard. I'm pretty sure by the end of the seven books [OKAY, THIS IS MAYBE KIND OF A SPOILER ALERT] Harry Potter knew, like, three spells, while Hermione from the first book on was way advanced and had some backstory, too, as a Muggle who suddenly developed wizarding powers, so from time to time I found myself wondering what would these books have been like if they were "Hermione and The Sorceror's Stone?"

I think that the tendency for side characters to seem more interesting in part stems from the fact that we don't know much about them. Like many heroes or stars or interesting people, they become an enigma -- what makes Han Solo tick -- and they become a spot for us to project our own ideas onto because they aren't explained; and, also, they become more interesting because they're, well, more interesting. Luke Skywalker-- and Paul Atreides, for that matter, and I figure I should mention him because it is October Is Book Month and I am, technically, talking about Dune and its sequels, so Luke Skywalker and Paul Atreides appealed to kids: they were noble, upstanding, flawless (slightly-whiny) heroes, the kind of people who unhesitatingly agreed to fly an X-wing for the Rebel Alliance or to marry [SPOILER ALERT ABOUT DUNE, THE BOOK I AM STILL SORT-OF-DISCUSSING HERE] the Emperor's daughter even though they were in love with a Fremen.

But Han Solo, and Duncan Idaho, were not so boring and Dudley Do-Right; they were exciting guys who made the Kessel Spice Run in less than 3 parsecs (which I feel compelled to point out is not a measurement of time; what Han Solo was really saying there is that he found a way to make the Kessel run in a shorter distance;a parsec is equal to 30 trillion kilometers. Han Solo didn't do it faster, he found a shortcut) and who survived being hunted by the Harkonnens and who are great knife-fighters and kill 19 Sardaukar in one battle (if you haven't read Dune, then that won't make a great deal of sense to you, but, trust me -- it's a pretty big deal.)

And I don't know, who am I to judge? I've had only minimal success in publishing so far (aside from the wildly incredible popularity of this blog, which is clearly the most-successful/best-read blog in the universe), so maybe Frank Herbert and J.K. Rowling and the others know something that I don't.

But I do know that sometimes side characters can be more interesting than the main characters, and sometimes I want to know more about them, and sometimes, when I get to know more about them, it's cool -- like when Han Solo got his own set of books like Han Solo's Revenge, and I really liked those -- and those side characters seem to me to be hinting at more interesting stories and better ways of looking at the story that I'm reading (because I seriously do think that the Harry Potter stories, as good as they were, might have been even better if they were Hermione stories, and maybe J.K. Rowling will come out with some Hermione books now, having been prompted to do so), and I do know that it's sometimes right to do that, because as time went on, Duncan Idaho became more and more the focus of the Dune stories, so it wasn't just me that was thinking Hey, I want to know more about this guy.

The list of literary characters about whom we'd like to know more, who could easily have had their own story, and who probably should have had their own story, is a pretty long one. You can probably think of ten or twenty off the top of your head. But right at the top of that list is a swordmaster who was so awesome as a character that the author kept him around for 10,000 millenia -- Duncan Idaho, of the Dune series, who despite not having a pair of Joe Maddon/Elvis Costello glasses, still managed to survive for book after book after book and earn the nomination as The Best Secondary Character In A Book.

Here on TBOE,
October is Book Month!

The Best Book I Want To Re-Read Over And Over Again!

The Best Book To Teach Kids That Monsters, and Books, Are Nothing To Be Afraid Of.

The Best Book To Read If You Were A Kid Who Pretended To Be A Superhero.

The Best Song That Is About Writing, or Being In, A Book.

The Best Book That I Think of When I Think of The Words "The Best Book."

The Best Author I Have Exactly 39 Reasons For Liking

The Best Book That Really Was Scary.

Click here to see all the other topics I’ve ever discussed!

Team Dad:

Thinking The Lions is Life, only funnier. Ever try to find your way around Illinois using a high-school play as a reference? Ever wonder what "squid chili" has to do with romance? Ever think maybe those velociraptors weren't real after all? No? Well, I did, and you can read about it here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shame On America Sunday: Corporate Tunnel & Sports Lovers.

This week, the health care crisis really hit home. On Friday night, my dad left a message for me asking me to call him as soon as I could. I wasn't able to return his call until Saturday afternoon, and before I could return his call, I had breakfast with the in-laws on Saturday morning.

During that breakfast, my mother-in-law relayed to me that she had recently received a bill for her "treatments," a procedure she gets every month at the hospital. The bill was for $750, for two months worth of treatments; the bill was her 20% of the cost of the monthly treatments, which she says "keep her alive."

After that breakfast, in the afternoon, when I called my dad back, I learned that he had just been diagnosed with, in his words, "corporate tunnel syndrome," a development that he believed stemmed from a wrist injury he suffered at work and the physical therapy he's been going through.

Both my mother-in-law and my dad asked me, specifically, to look into their situations because I'm a lawyer, and they were concerned; mother-in-law was concerned about how she and my father-in-law were going to afford to pay $375 per month, on top of their other bills, and thought that their insurance should be covering these charges. Dad was concerned about how he'd pay for his surgery to cure his "corporate tunnel" -- try as I might, I couldn't get him to call it carpal tunnel -- if worker's compensation didn't cover it. He wanted to know whether I thought maybe he should be hiring a lawyer to make sure it was covered.

Why, in the richest, most powerful country in the world, do senior citizens think they have to hire a lawyer to force their insurers to pay for necessary medical care?

As I pondered that question this morning, I saw a clip of the McCain speech where he referenced Barack Obama's ideas on health care and taxation and said they were redistribution of wealth, and I heard, as a senior citizen who doesn't have to worry about things because he's rich, as that man-wh0-married-into-inherited wealth spoke about helping the poor, I heard boos.

So before you answer my question -- especially those of you who are about to scream "socialism," especially those of you who booed or were inclined to boo yesterday when Out-of-Touch John McCain, when protect-the-wealthy John McCain, when further-destroy-America John McCain, said the words "redistribute money," -- before you answer my question, consider this:

Seats for the New York Mets new stadium, CitiField -- you may recognize the cognomen "Citi" -- it's from Citigroup, a company that bought the naming rights to the stadium but which may continue losing money until 2010 and which either have been or will be bailed out using money that could have paid for health care -- seats at CitiField will sell for as much as $495 per ticket per game. But it's worth it, right, because they get the best sight lines and offer all-inclusive food and drink, so it's not like you're spending extra for your hot dogs, right?

Before you answer my original question, which was, again: Why, in the richest, most powerful country in the world, do senior citizens think they have to hire a lawyer to force their insurers to pay for necessary medical care? consider this:

To buy tickets at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium, football fans will have to first fork over $150,000 for a "personal seat license," and then pay $340 per ticket per game.

To buy tickets to a Colts game, some people pay $235,000 to rent a "Super Suite," the key feature of which is that each suite has a 50 inch plasma TV, along with an individual TV screen for each seat -- so Colts fans pay $235,000 to go to the stadium and watch the game on TV.

To buy tickets to a Giants or Jets game in 2010, fans will pay $20,000 for a "personal seat license" giving them the right to buy a $700 ticket to the game.

To buy tickets to a baseball game in our nation's capital, where Continue-To-Destroy-America John McCain has practically lived his life, some Nationals' fans pay $400,000 per year to rent a "Washington Suite," which features a porch with a TV and the best views of the park.

It's not just the superrich, either. The average cost of a major league baseball ticket in 2008, was $25.40 across the league, according to ESPN, with teams averaging between $48.80 per ticket (the Red Sox) down to $15.96 per ticket for Arizona.

The Red Sox' attendance this year was 3,048,250. So Red Sox fans spent at least $148,754,600 (I say "at least" because those numbers don't include premium seating and corporate boxes) just on tickets. Just to get into Fenway Park and watch the game, Red Sox fans spent $148,754.600.

Arizona, the club with the lowest ticket price, drew 2,509,924 people this year. Arizona fans paid $40,058,387.04 just to get into their ballpark and watch their team play.

It may be worth it just to get in the door for some people -- ballparks and stadiums are increasingly nice and increasingly pricey. Three new stadiums are scheduled to open in 2009 -- CitiField, Cowboy Stadium, and Yankee Stadium. The combined cost of just those three new venues is $3.2 billion. Let's spell that out:

$3,200,000,000 is the combined cost just to build three new sports complexes that will debut in 2009.

Some of the money is private, some is public -- but wherever the money theoretically comes from, it actually comes from the pockets of sports fans, because none of those teams (the Mets, the Yankees, and the Cowboys) are losing money and none intend to lose money. If the money to build the stadium is public money (as it was for Miller Park in Milwaukee, where the poor paid a disproportionate share of building a ballpark they can't afford to get into) it comes directly from you and me and everyone else; if the money is private, it comes indirectly from people who buy Romo jerseys and Yankee caps; corporations do not spend money or make money; they redistribute money from you as you buy products to people who run or own the corporation.

People will say that it is all right that we spend that money on sports, and they will say that because they'll say it's private money -- people choosing to buy a Jeter jersey -- or that the public money is well-spent because it creates jobs. (I'll talk another day about the jobs such spending creates, but not today.)

But it's not; it's not okay, because at the same time as people are doing what they want with their money, they are selfishly hoarding more than they need and selfishly resisting using a tiny portion of their money for the common good. At the same time as people are spending $700 to see a stupid ball game, they are booing Barack Obama when he suggests that the rich could spare some money so that the poor can get health care. And that's not okay. It's not okay for any American to spend $700 on a ball game, or even $50 on a ball game, but not want to help the poor.

It's not okay to have a country that thinks it's great to spend billions on ballparks and might elect Continue America's Destruction John McCain so that he can take away insurance coverage from people and which boos the proposition that the rich can help the poor. It's not okay because we can do better.

I'm going to rephrase my question and ask it one more time:

Why, in the richest, most powerful country in the world, in a country where we can spent three billion dollars to make sure that people can watch a game comfortably, do senior citizens think they have to hire a lawyer to force their insurers to pay for necessary medical care?

Shame on you, America. Shame on you for booing the idea that the rich can help the poor, shame on you for making senior citizens worry about whether they can afford to live without pain, and shame on you for even considering voting for McCain.

The Fix: Increase the highest marginal tax rate to above 50% -- the rich can afford it, and the odds are you're not rich; when you get to be rich, you'll have an obligation, like the rich are obliged now, to pay your fair share of taxes. Pass real health care reform by providing a national health insurance policy that anyone can buy, a policy that has no lifetime caps on payments, and that provides an increasing premium and copay as the policyholder's income increases; those making at or near the poverty level would pay nothing; those who buy into the coverage but who earn more would pay more for it. In addition, require all insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, which would help make insurance coverage more competitive by letting those with pre-existing conditions switch carriers.

What You Can Do Until The Fix Is In: Don't vote for McCain. Seriously. Unless you are John McCain, or are extremely wealthy, voting for McCain is insanely against your interests. And if you are extremely wealthy, it's still against your interests because what will you do when the economy falls apart further under a McCain/Palin administration? Also, everytime you buy sports memorabilia, sports gear, or go see a game in person, take a dollar and donate it to charity. Here are two to start with:

Christ House: Located in Washington D.C.-- maybe even within site of the Nationals Park, but probably without the great sight lines available to season ticket holders-- Christ House's mission is to provide medical care to the homeless. Their administrator earns only $39,580 per year for salary, using the money it's raised to help over 3,600 homeless people in its 23 years of existence. Learn more about Christ House and find out how to donate.

The Humanitarian Service Project raises money to help seniors and kids through the troubles that poverty causes. Their programs include the "Christmas Offering," which gives four weeks of food to more than a hundred families every year -- plus gives away 12 tons of Christmas gifts to poor families. They also have the "Senior Citizen Project," which presently helps 115 senior citizens in need by delivering nutritious food each month, along with toiletries and other needed items, and helps them get "wish list" items like microwaves, TVs, and wheelchairs.

So how about that? You could buy that Romo jersey, and then send a couple of bucks to the Humanitarian Service Project so that a senior citizen could watch Romo play, too. And have a meal. Let's not forget that. They could watch Romo play and get a meal.

Find out more about the Humanitarian Service Project, and how to help.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Best Book That Really Was Scary.

October Is Book Month continues!

Note the actual title of this nomination. It's not The Best Scary Book, it's The Best Book That Really Was Scary.

When I watch horror movies (hang with me; I'll get back to books in a second) I have a couple of rules: Lights have to be off. No stopping the movie for any reason. And I don't leave the movie, at all.

I started those rules because I tried to watch The Exorcist on regular TV, with commercial interruptions, while the kids were home. And it was not scary at all. Nothing says "Don't be scared" more than a Tide commercial.

I also tested those rules, with Oldest. When I told her that The Amityville Horror was the scariest movie I'd ever seen, she doubted me, so we watched it and I made her watch it my way -- no lights, no bathroom breaks. And she was scared, even though the special effects in that movie are essentially some Christmas lights and chocolate syrup.

I watch horror movies that way because horror movies require, to really scare a person, that the person not break the spell. More than special effects, horror movies are about getting your mind absorbed in the story and the feeling and the mood, and anything that breaks that feeling and mood causes a re-set of the whole process. So seeing flashes of scary images and a little girl crabwalking down the stairs, and then suddenly cutting to teenagers with drools of cheese wanging around while a 1980s modern rock song plays, and then back to the crabwalking, equals not scary.

Which is, in a nutshell, the problem with scary books, something I struggle with all the time because I like to write horror stories. Books need to be read, which means that a light needs to be on. And books are read while sitting on a couch, or on the bus, or an airplane, or at the kitchen table. And, books are (for the most part) not read in one sitting, so by definition you break the spell the author puts on you.

That, I think, is why some excellent horror stories, while being excellent, aren't as scary as movies and even TV shows -- because the spell gets broken. If I read Heart Shaped Box, a horror story I'd give a 7 out of 10 to, it's got some scary scenes and a great premise and it's interesting and well-written and moves right along, but it took me two weeks to read it and in between reading scary scenes, I was giving the twins a bath and having them get excited by the "Supercold" water and I was going to the office to "work" and so I had to keep getting in and out of the mindset that's required to be scary. Whereas, if I watch a one hour episode of "Masters of Horror" and don't interrupt it and watch a girl battle off some kind of ogre-thing in a largely unexplained but still creepy setting, the scares settle in and don't leave.

That's too bad, and also very good. It's too bad that scary books can't be read in one sitting in the dark, preferably on a windy, blustery, October night when the tree branches are crackling and the leaves are rustling and the moon seems to give off even less light than usual even though it seems larger than usual, too -- a Madeleine L'Engle kind of night-- too bad because books, as I keep saying, engage your imagination, and everyone knows that there's nothing more powerful than your own imagination, and if you doubt that for even a second, stay in a stranger's house in a bad part of town and then listen to the noises the house makes at 2 a.m. -- and once you hear the noises, imagine for just one second that the noises are a pack of demons breaking into the house to come get you. Then come back and tell me your imagination isn't better than any special effects ever created. After you get defibrillated.

It's very good, though, that scary books can't be read in one sitting because people still try to write scary books and writing scary books requires doing more than having some water dripping from the ceiling in a New York apartment building or a little girl getting sucked into her TV; writing a book that really scares the reader requires getting under the reader's skin and into their mind and then knocking some things around; it requires that the writer do the equivalent of those 2 a.m. sounds-and-wonderings, and that's tough to do.

So tough that I can only think of one book that ever did it successfully -- a book that I'm still scared of, today, 18 years later.

A quick aside: This is not to say that there are not other great horror books out there, books that have scary moments and books that are creepy and books that are well worth reading -- Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz and A Good And Happy Child by Justin Evans are two that spring to mind right away -- it's just to say that only one book really and truly and actually scared me and still does.

That book was Stephen King's The Stand.

I'm creeped out just thinking of it right now, and it's broad daylight outside.

In 1990, I lived in an apartment with a high school friend and worked at a Subway shop while taking a semester (okay, four semesters) off from college. One Sunday night, I came back from a day of making turkey & bacon subs and watched some TV and then got bored but I wasn't tired, and I had no money plus, it was Sunday night and all my friends had classes the next day. But I had nothing new to read, so I borrowed the book The Stand from my roommate, who wasn't home to keep me from borrowing it, and began reading it at about 8:00 at night.

I didn't stop until about 3:00 a.m. and even then I only stopped because I had to be at work at 9 a.m. the next day. (No, I don't know why it was necessary to open a sandwich shop at 9 a.m., either.)

I went to work and worked that day and came home and began reading again, and I did that each day for the next three days, four days total to read over a thousand pages, but I couldn't stop.

And, equally important, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

From the first line -- Hapscomb's Texaco sat on Number 93 just north of Arnette, a pissant four-street burg about 110 miles from Houston -- to the [SPOILER ALERT!] last line -- Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it long. And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again.-- I was hypnotized by it.

I couldn't shake it off. The story, if you don't know, has to do with a virus that gets accidentally unleashed and kills off pretty much everybody in the world, except a few who are immune to it. Those few wander through what's left of the world, slowly gathering in one of two locations: some are drawn to the side of good, and some to the side of evil, as they try to recreate society according to the vision of their respective leaders.

Evil is embodied, in The Stand, by "the Walkin' Dude," possibly the greatest bad guy ever if only because Walkin' Dude still sometimes haunts me like this: people will say "Walking" and for a moment, every now and then, the words Walkin Dude pop into my mind and I get a little chilled. (Walkin' Dude had a name, Randall Flagg, but I prefer Walkin' Dude because it manages to be creepily 70s-ish).

Other words that can do that include Trashcan because of Trashcan Man, and references to Boulder, Colorado -- where much of the book takes place.

Those words stayed with me, those feelings stayed with me, for 18 years, just as they stayed with me the entire time I was reading The Stand -- a feeling not just of being scared, which was in there, but a feeling of being morbidly depressed and saddened and fearful; The Stand, in the best possible way, seeped into my skin and became a part of me. At work, walking to and from work, eating dinner or lunch, in the back of my mind all the time was a feeling of ... despair.

When I finished reading The Stand, it took a few days to shake off that feeling, and I never quite totally did it -- as you can tell, because it still is freaky to me, the story and the feelings and the images and the ending and the whole process.

There is very little of the jump-out-and-go-boo! in The Stand; horror books rarely work that way because they can't; there are, in fact, very few creepy or scary images altogether (although the ones that are there, like the walk through Lincoln Tunnel, are seriously scary). What is scary about The Stand is what Stephen King does so well in so much of his writing -- the deeper level of scare, the psychological torment that people go through, the slowly-setting-in, numbing horror of just how bad things are.

Other Stephen King works (the movie The Mist springs to mind immediately) do this, too, but The Stand did it better, and what The Stand did better is this: The surface horrors -- corpses and evil guys walkin' around and shootings and stuff -- lay over the underlying, more terrifying threats, like a rotting frosting over a decrepit cake: Look at the outside, and it's gross and disgusting, but cut a piece out and it'll haunt you forever. So while reading The Stand and getting creeped out and rooting for the good guys to please win, all the while, the beneath-the-surface problems and facts are slowly sinking in: there's nobody left. 99.4% of the human race is dead. There is evil walking the earth. Could I survive in this? What if they didn't let me into Boulder? Would I want to survive in this?

It sure made working in a sub shop seem a lot more tolerable.

That's what it takes to make a book scary; not just conjuring up a ghost or a vampire or some demon... it has to make your mind begin working and working and working, churning things over and mulling them and then the more it does that, the more your mind wants to go back and work on the problem and try to make it turn out good but the more it does not turn out good, and the problem has to be something that could affect you in real life, where you will never actually meet a woman who eats people in order to trick the demons into sparing her soul, but you might meet people who want to kill you because you don't believe in their way of life, and you might meet people who would betray you because they thought they loved you and found out you didn't love them, and you might meet those people -- it's possible -- after 99.4% of the rest of the world has died.

The plot of the book is too sprawling, the characters too complex and numerous, to really spell out in detail... and that's a shame, too, because to say "Creepy end-of-the-world/good-vs.-evil book" doesn't do it justice.

What does do The Stand justice is to say that if you read it, you will never forget it and it will forever creep you out. That's excellent, and that's what makes The Stand The Best Book That Really Was Scary.

Here on TBOE,
October is Book Month!

The Best Book I Want To Re-Read Over And Over Again!

The Best Book To Teach Kids That Monsters, and Books, Are Nothing To Be Afraid Of.

The Best Book To Read If You Were A Kid Who Pretended To Be A Superhero.

The Best Song That Is About Writing, or Being In, A Book.

The Best Book That I Think of When I Think of The Words "The Best Book."

The Best Author I Have Exactly 39 Reasons For Liking


Do you like sports? Do you like Gisele Bundchen? Do you hate sports blogs, though? Then read Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! -- the sports blog for people who love sports but hate sports blogs.