Entries in My book (28)
The somewhat belated book launch party for A Long Time Ago was on Saturday. My friend Claire Hunter hosted it beautifully, as you can see below. Thanks to Claire for her wonderful hospitality, and thanks also to everyone who came.
Amazingly, the producer of the Dungeons & Dragons web site, Bart Caroll, read A Long Time Ago, enjoyed it "quite immensely", and asked to interview me for the D&D web site. My answer was Yes yes yes yes yes oh my god I have to tell my sister and Scott and everyone I know etc. etc. It took some time to regain my composure.
The interview is now up on Wizards.com. Here's an excerpt, but follow the link to read the whole thing:
Wizards: Was there ever any crossover between the two hobbies (I know there was in my earlier D&D games): character names, lightsabers as treasure, D&D scenarios based on favorite movie scenes, dabbling with sci-fi role-playing games? Or to ask a separate but nominally related question, if Han, Luke, Ben, etc., were a D&D party en route to save the princess, what sorts of D&D characters would you imagine they'd be?
Gib: In my earliest D&D days, playing with the Garfield DM, I easily talked him in to letting me create a Jedi Knight class. It made no sense in the quasi-medieval dungeon-crawling setting we were playing in. But Star Wars was still my reference point for all things fantasy at that time, so I suppose it was natural that I started by reaching for what I knew.
(Attached for your amusement is a cringe-inducing example of this failed crossover attempt.)
Thanks again to Bart Caroll!
Boing Boing co-founder, novelist and internet advocate Cory Doctorow has given A Long Time Ago a terrific review. I'm struggling with the urge to type this in all caps with several exclamation marks...
From the review:
A Long Time Ago is a thoughtful, funny, and beautifully written story of the role that Star Wars played in Van Ert's life, shaping his destiny as he was raised by a USMC-deserting draft dodger and a runaway Texas beauty queen in small town British Colombia. Like me, Van Ert saw the first movie as a small boy, and thereafter principally experienced it through toys, records and merchandising tie-ins. His critiques of the Kenner action figures are both scathingly hilarious and bang on, and that's pretty much a microcosm for the whole book.
By Van Ert's own admission, he's not the biggest Star Wars fan that ever lived. But Star Wars was a gateway into other nerdy passtimes -- comic collecting, Atari home systems, coin-op video games, Dungeons and Dragons -- and he does an excellent job of tracing the curious ways that the specific nerdiness of his (and my generation) shaped his intellectual and personal pursuits.
He explains how he fell away from Star Wars fandom after the third movie, forgot about it until the "special editions," and experienced his first rumblings of anxiety about the destiny of his nearly forgotten but warmly remembered passion. He nails the prequels -- fish in a barrel, but still -- and then ties it all into a story of personal development that's sweet, hopeful and wistful.
My friend Claire is determined to hold a book launch for A Long Time Ago, even if it did come out last August. It will be Saturday 9 March on Kits Point, Vancouver. If you're in town and would like to come, let me know.
Claire went looking for Star-Wars-themed cocktails to serve at the party. I don't know why I was surprised, but it turns out there are various Star Wars cocktail recipes floating around the internet.
The most common seems to be this one, for a drink simply called Star Wars:
1 oz Southern Comfort® peach liqueur
1 oz amaretto almond liqueur
1 oz sweet and sour mix
1 oz Sprite
Mix all ingredients, and serve in an old-fashioned glass with ice.
But it wouldn't be Star Wars if it wasn't attended by some controversy, and so another web site (A History of Drinking) offers this rather more interesting recipe for a drink of the same name:
- 3/4 oz Vodka
- 3/4 oz Southern Comfort
- 3/4 oz Orange Liqueur
- 4 oz Orange Juice
- dash of Grenadine
Garnish: Orange Slice
Shake with ice and strain into an ice-filled glass. Garnish.
A History of Drinking also offers this well-named tipple:
Jedi Mind Trick
- 1 oz. Cinnamon Schnapps
- 1 oz. Irish Cream
- 1 oz. Melon liqueur
- 1 splash 151 Rum
Shake with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks or low-ball glass. Top with a float of rum.
Also of interest is Castles and Cooks' recipe for the Tatoine stand-by, Blue Milk:
Makes 2 servings
3 ounces of milk
1 ounce of cream
1 ounce of coconut rum
1 ounce of amaretto
2 ounces of blue curacao
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake for 20-30 seconds until chilled. Serve in a chilled glass. It tastes like a creamsicle! The almond and coconut flavors help reduce the orange flavor and create a sweeter drink that is a lovely shade of blue.
Only a day after Claire showed me these (and other) cocktail recipes, my sister lent me her copy of Cocktails in the Cantina, a gloriously unlicensed, unofficial recording of familiar John Wiliams Star Wars themes played in lounge style. Here's what one Amazon customer had to say:
Before John Williams moved to California and became a hugely famous composer of film scores, he gigged in numerous New York jazz clubs, performed on Henry Mancinni's recording of the Peter Gunn theme, and served as band leader and arranger for crooner Frankie Laine.
He was known then as "Johnny" Williams.
And it's to Johnny and this era that Carvin Knowles and the Evil Genius Orchestra dedicate this album of Star Wars covers, Cocktails in the Cantina, clever arrangements for big band orchestra circa the late 50's in styles ranging from jazz and mambo to bossa nova performed by some of southern California's best studio musicians.
Knowles is himself a resident of Los Angles and composer for film, the most well known of his projects being music for the adolescent comedy, American Pie. Apparently rich in curiosity and all things musical, he has composed, produced and arranged in a number of genres, from big band to jazz to blues, from funk to club. His most recent project is a world beat recording called Hamsa.
Despite the obvious appearance, Cocktails in the Cantina is not a commercial knock-off, but a project that shows some musical wit. The Imperial March starts off with pounding tympanis followed by tenor sax and trombones playing the theme down low, with the trumpets coming in a bar later on the high end in a hilarious mambo swing. The well-worn Cantina Band number is slowed down to about half the original speed, a hypnotic lullaby led by xylophone and joined by a torpid tenor sax and scatting chorus. The hipster main title features a rhythm section of snapping fingers over which a muted trumpet plays the theme, accented by a number of sound effects, including mouth harp and what sounds like a theremin (though that instrument is not listed in the credits). Princess Leia's Theme is given a bossa nova shuffle, with flute playing the melody over acoustic guitar chords accented with xylophone fills, and The Throne Room climax is played like a Peter Gun theme, with trumpets calling out the fanfare, and then playing the lead melody over B3 organ and a swinging drum kit.
Simply put, this album is a lot of fun. If you're a purist look for symphonic renditions of the Star Wars score, you'd be better off sticking to the original recordings. But for those who enjoy a bit of the unexpected in their music, this album will not disappoint.
I can't endorse it as knowlegeably as that, but I do like it. Go listen to some samples on Amazon.
If you've read A Long Time Ago, you know my hometown is Penticton, BC. Today the Penticton Herald is running a story about my book. From the article:
Now a father of two, including a young son, he's hoping to experience the movies again as father and son.
"I don't like the idea of my son becoming a Jar Jar Binks fan," he joked, adding he hopes he's able to keep the biggest spoiler in movie history ("No. I am your father.") a secret before he watches Empire Strikes Back.
Like any star wars purist, van Ert considers Empire Strikes Back to be the strongest film in the series. He "hated" the three most recent films and, as for the 1997 theatrical re-releases, he enjoyed seeing the movies again in a theatre but considered most of the computerized changes to be unnecessary.
School's still out on the forthcoming Episode VII, presently in pre-production.
"If they do it right, it could be a good movie. They have (director) J.J. Abrams, which is a good hire and they've brought Lawrence Kasdan back (the writer of Empire and Jedi) which is promising."
As for the lengthy process of writing the book, van Ert described it as "a blast" adding it was a chance to revisit his childhood and the memories of growing up in Penticton.
A friend of mine, Bruce, is a commercial airline pilot who spends a lot of time in China. He sends these photos of people posing with my book at the Miyun and Immortal Valley Waterfalls, north of Beijing, where he was hiking.
Bruce reports that he tried to get some flight attendants from Japan Airlines to pose with the book at the Beijing airport but they had no idea what he was talking about and left confused and distressed. Nice one, Bruce.
I'm pleased to announce that A Long Time Ago: Growing up with and out of Star Wars is coming to Kobo on 1 January 2013. Kobo is one of the world's fastest-growing eReading services, with eReading applications for iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows and Kobo's own line of eReaders.
The people at Kobo have been very helpful and proactive in getting my book into their store and onto their devices, and I look forward to reaching a new audience.
The story of Amazon's decision to pull A Long Time Ago from the Kindle Store on trademark grounds really got people's attention. Amazon reversed themselves almost immediately, to their great credit and my great relief and satisfaction. It has been amazing to see the story travel around the internet, and the world, like it has. Above are some samples of the coverage.
Thanks again to everyone who supported getting me back into the Kindle store by their tweets, blog posts and coverage. And thanks to Amazon for addressing the issue so quickly and decisively. I'll get back to blogging about Star Wars soon, but I did want to share some of this with you.
I haven't heard anything official from Amazon KDP [update: I have now], but the Kindle version of A Long Time Ago is back in the Amazon store! It looks as though Amazon has reversed its decision.
I don't think this would have happened so soon--and maybe not at all--if it weren't for the support of my followers on Twitter, their followers (who retweeted generously) and the kindness of Cory Doctorow, who understood the issue and blogged about it on one of my favourite sites, Boing Boing.
I am also grateful to Amazon and KDP. They are running a huge operation and there are bound to be glitches from time to time. I don't doubt for a moment that the people I have dealt with were acting in good faith and trying to do their jobs. Like I've said a few times in blog posts and tweets in the last two days: I'm a fan of Amazon. This episode, now that it seems to have all worked out, hasn't changed that at all.
I've now had an e-mail from Amazon KDP confirming that my book is live. I'm very pleased and relieved. This is over now and I look forward to getting back to talking about other things! Thanks again to Amazon for sorting this out and to everyone who helped get me to this point. It's been an interesting 36 hours!