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The Bitter Guide to Science Fiction

Because it's been too long

Justin Mohareb
January 15, 2002
 
The First Black President of the United States will be a war hero. Or OPRAH!

There are few things more dull than listening to someone expound on their life's story. Well, there are many, really. Like listening to some gaming geek detail for you, in excruciating detail, how his LARP character was chosen by the storytellers to receive True Faith, and he was carried about the venue on the shoulders of the players as they chanted "huzzah!" (at least in his world).

That's boring.

But the trivia of a person's life is generally not something I want to listen to. Unless, of course, that person is famous. In that case, I'll line up and ask, trembling, "Please, sir, may I have some more recycled anecdotes?"

You may also notice something odd with this week's selection. None of the reviewed are statesmen, diplomats, captains of industry, or otherwise any sort of Masters of the Universe (I have the power!). This is because I like wrestlers, Star Trek actors, and movie people. Sue me.

Lemme start, then, with William Goldman. He wrote The Princess Bride, and has previously published an autobiography called "Adventures in the Screen Trade". I couldn't find it, but I did find its sequel, "Which Lie Did I Tell? : More Adventures in the Screen Trade. I have no idea what Adventures... was like, as I was never able to wrangle up a copy.

In Which Lie Did I Tell, Goldman regales the reader with snippets of his life's story as he describes his career as a screenwriter. I'll admit, I got it mostly for his stuff about The Princess Bride (I've never seen Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid), but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Goldman tells his stories with a strong voice, which is good. You end the book with an idea of who he is, even if it's a whiny git.

The book is also an interesting read for budding screenwriters. Goldman's stories include the delightful anecdotes of how to get a film made, and how not to cry like an infant with a soiled diaper with it doesn't happen. He even ends the book with a sample script and interesting comments on it from certain of his screenwriting compatriots.

He even manages to bitchslap Damon and Affleck back into the Betty Ford clinic. Good job, Bill!

Have a Nice Day! is the life story of Mick Foley. For those of you who follow the great ballet that is professional wrestling, Mick Foley is best known as The Deranged Mankind. He's also Dude Love and Cactus Jack, as well as just Mick Foley.

Mick brings us along on his life's story, from his youthful beginnings, to his collegiate days in wrestling camp, to his days as the greatest superstar in sports entertainment.

Mick is a performer who has paid his dues. He's been thrown through more tables and hit with more chairs than any non-demo team leader on this planet (although a few may have thrown more chairs, but the actual counts are too close to call!). And he's done it with style, rather than soiling himself.

Mick's career is an interesting one, that's for sure. I particularly liked his adventures in Japan. His college years are interesting, and well detailed, without overwhelming the interesting later bits.

But there's a problem here. Have a Nice Day! was obviously written by Mick. And, while Mick is a great wrestler, and an interesting guy, and a good writer, he ain't a great writer. I think he could have benefited from a bit of guidance. The book tends to wander at times. There's a bit too much jumping around, and when it does happen it doesn't quite fulfill. He never does get to give us enough of the story of his friendship with superstar Owen Hart. A bit more editorial guidance might have been good.

The Rock Says , by Duane Johnson, AKA the Rock, is an example of what happens when there's too much editorial guidance. I don't know whose idea it was to tell the story of Duane Johnson AND The Rock, but it was a bad one. When we're hearing about his childhood in Hawaii, and his career in the CFL (that's the football league with the decent sized fields, son) it's an interesting look into his early life as the scion of two wrestling families. The details of his meteoric rise up the ranks of the WWF are great, too.

But... At one point, someone said to him "hey, I think it would be cool if you did a couple chapters in the voice of The Rock." At that point, he should have grabbed his co/ghostwriter by the collar, hollered "It doesn't MATTER what you think!", and gave him a Rock Bottom through the conference room table.

Unfortunately, there was capitulation (I blame Mr. McMahon, that rich s.o.b.). So, we get a few chapters that describe The Rock in various bouts. Which were so bad, I just skipped by them entirely. An actor with a well developed role should not write chapters of his autobiography in character. Trust me; we're not gonna like it. Would you like to read about the making of Star Wars written in the voice of Han Solo? I thought not. What, you would? Get out, woman, there's no room for you here.

The Rock will doubtless do a sequel (as has Mick Foley), and we can only hope that that time there'll be less of the "And then The Rock picked up Mankinds jabroni ass and tossed him into the salad bar!" third person crap. When I read an autobiography, I want first person. Dammit.

Bruce Campbell (author of If Chins Could Kill) is pretty much canonized around these parts. The actor who's played such roles as Ash in the Evil Dead films and The Devil on the X-Files (as well as being the lead in such classic tv shows as The Adventures of Briscoe County and Jack of All Trades) has developed such a near-apostolic following among the geek set that it's difficult to say anything bad about him.

So I won't. The book is a good read, taking us from Campbell's humble youth to a couple years ago when he was on Hercules. Really, though, what I wanted was less "we were a rough bunch, me and my brothers. One time, after mom had bailed us out of jail... " and more "I lost all feeling in my feet while filming Evil Dead. To this day, the sight of an ice cube makes me collapse to the floor, crying for my mother."

Of course, it also stops a few years ago, before his ill fated turn as Jack on Jack Of All Trades. Which is a shame, because I would have loved to have heard more about that. Mainly because I'm pretty sure Verne Troyer anecdotes would have been hilarious. "And then we picked him up and tossed him overboard. He threatened to tell Mike Myers on us, but we weren't afraid."

The worse revelation of the book is that Sam Raimi hasn't written a book, and since he's the director type, I wouldn't mind reading his bio. Actually, I'd prefer to read his bio. But I just loved The Quick and the Dead.

And, of course, where would an edition on Biographies be without at least one William Shatner book? Probably in a happy place.

In the space of one commuting week, I managed to read, in addition to a panoply of other stuff, William Shatner's Star Trek Movie Memoriesand George Takei's To the Stars the Autobiography of George....

Let me tell you: Shatner don't come out too well. I sympathize with GT because he knows what it's like trying to work in the White Man's world. But no matter what, Bill Shatner comes out as a jerk. This is unfortunate, what with him being Canadian and all.

Takei shows Shatner as a fairly insensitive human being; he seems to see only his own little world, and expresses no concern (or just edits it out of his little world) when anyone else says "Man, that Bill's a git" (Insert Demo Team Leader joke HERE). Hell, his Epilogue pretty much says "Bill Shatner? Jerk."

Shatner gives us a play by play of his years after Star Trek & Pre Movies (about five pages), telling us about living in a crappy little mobile hovel (not as classy as a mobile home). I guess this is to build "sympathy". Much like, I suppose, Hitler tells us how rough he's had it in Mein Kampf (not available in Canada). Bill Shatner, at least, does not blame the Jews (well, Gene Roddenberry, but only for a while).

And, no, I'm not comparing William Shatner to Hitler. Some of Hitler's coworkers liked him.

Ah, well. Much as I'd have loved to close this off with the shockingly new It's True, It's True, the autobiography of Kurt Angle (or even If They Only Knew by Joanie "Crap, I gotta act now" Laurer, formerly known as Chyna, I'm too tired, and this is too late.

So, go out and read those books. Cause if you DON'T... Ah, never mind.

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What do you think?

2

All Bitter Guides to Science Fiction by Justin Mohareb

Ha ha! I lied! #1-7 are up at his site, and I haven't added a link yet. Here are his most recent, though.

  • Because it's been too long January 15, 2002
  • It's the Bitter Guide! Now MSG free! September 19, 2001
  • And it's all verbal June 25, 2001
  • The official, Millenial, Party-licious Wes Smiderle Bitter Guide (with a sprinkling of Buffy and little chocolate toppings) April 4, 2001
  • The Bitter Guide: Pants Optional November 16, 2000
  • Not Suitable for Pregnant Women or People with High Blood Pressure August 31, 2000
  • Saludos, Amigos, a bitter greeting to you! May 4, 2000
  • I am the Bitter Guy! Watch Iron Chef!, April 7, 2000
  • The Bitter Guide to Books I Couldn't Finish, January 14, 2000, plus special bonus The Bitter Guide to the new Moe-llennium
  • Squirrels Eat Parsley, Yum!, December 6, 1999
  • Second Anniversaries and Weddings, June 29, 1999
  • Begin Witty and Trenchant rantery, April 13, 1999
  • #10 November 24, 1999
  • #9 September 29, 1998
  • #8 July 28, 1998

    Other columns at RPGnet

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