December 01, 2009

Notes from a DVD Geek

Happy holidays, DVD fans.  I'd like to recommend some gift ideas for the movie geeks you may be buying presents for.  Let's start off with some classics that have really nice editions available.

With James Cameron's latest opus storming theaters this holiday season, I thought the original Cameron masterpiece, "The Abyss," should get some play.  There is a beautiful edition out right now, that has both the theatrical and the extended Director's Cut, along with a ton of extras.  If your secret-Santa buddy is more action-oriented, it's hard to go wrong with Cameron's "Aliens". . . which of course has a beautiful 2 disk collectors edition that has both the theatrical and extended cuts of the movie.  Or, if you just want to go whole hog, there's always the 9 disk "Alien" Quadrology.

Sticking with SF classics, I wanted to point out that Borderlands still has one of the limited edition, 5-disc "Blade Runner" suitcase editions, containing a ridiculous number of cuts of the movie, as well as a bunch of crazy-ass (Origami unicorn?  Flying police car?!?) pieces of "Blade Runner" themed plastic-gack.  This is truly the edition the hard core "Blade Runner" fan in your life has been calling out for.  This suitcase edition comes with the original "workprint" version of the movie that features a DIFFERENT voice-over from the original theatrical edition. So yeah.  Gotta have it.

Moving back to the realm of recent SF, the current "collector's edition" of "Serenity" is a nice gift for the Joss Wheadon fan in your life who is mourning the cancellation of Doll House.  If just one movie won't make up for the loss of a Wheadon tv series, I recommend picking up the "Buffy" complete series package.  All seven seasons in one box.  It takes up a lot less room then all those individual seasons, and has a bunch of bonus features not found in the single-season packs.  So if your Wheadon fan really needs something awesome this Christmas, "Buffy".  Always "Buffy".

For the Harry Potter fans who just can't get enough, there's a series of 4 disk ultimate editions of the first two movies coming out in December. . . . The usual ton of extras plus. . . a copy of the book!  This may seem a bit redundant, but true fans know you can never have enough Potter.

Another awesome gift idea out there is the "Family Guy 'Star Wars'" episodes.  There's a Blue Harvest/Something Something Something Darkside double pack, that collects both of the amazing "Family Guy" spoof episodes in one package.  This is a great fit for any "Star Wars" fan, or "Family Guy" fan, or any combination of the two.

For the hard core Euro-trash horror fan. . . you can not go wrong with The Blind Dead Collection ("Tombs of the Blind Dead"/"The Ghost Galleon"/"Return of the Evil Dead"/"Night of the Seagulls"/ from director Amando De Ossorio). . . all in one coffin-shaped package!  Nothing says "I love you" like "The Blind Dead".

Another classic for the horror movie fan in your life is the 9 movie Val Lewton box set.  Val Lewton was a legendary producer at RKO studios, and the low budget "thrillers" he produced ("Cat People" / "The Curse of the Cat People" / "I Walked with a Zombie" / "The Body Snatcher" / "Isle of the Dead" / "Bedlam" / "The Leopard Man" / "The Ghost Ship" / "The Seventh Victim"), are legendary.  This set also includes a documentary, "Shadows in the Dark," which covers Lewton's career and influence.  This will be appreciated by anyone who loves classic horror movies.

For those who like their horror with a more modern flair, you might consider the Dark Castle Collection box set.  This production company was named after William Castle, and this DVD set includes "The House on Haunted Hill," "Thirteen Ghosts," "Ghost Ship," "Gothika," and "House of Wax".  Several of these were amazingly good, and all of them were far more entertaining then one would have expected. Highlights definitely include "The House on Haunted Hill" and "Gothika".  Even "House of Wax" works if you imagine it as a kind of twisted homage to Dario Argento -- it doesn't have to make sense, it just has to look incredibly weird, and compelling!

For the anime fans on your list, I recommend looking at various complete series sets that exist.  "Ramna 1/2" is available in season sets, and the first couple seasons are hilarious.  "Gunslinger Girls" is an excellent example of the "little girls who kick ass and have existential angst" sub-sub-genre.  Another great example for this sub-genre is "Elfen Lied".  Instead of secret government orphan assassins, we have secret government psychic weapon experts.

Finally, the best Christmas gifts are ALWAYS Studio Ghibli films. From "Totoro," to "Porko Rosso," to "Howl's Moving Castle," to everything in between.  There's a Hayao Miyazaki film for everyone.  Get one, or more, for folks on your Christmas list.  They will definitely thank you.

That's all I've got for now. I'm going to go watch "Pom Poko" again.  (I just love raccoons with giant testicles.) Happy Holidays!

November Bestsellers

1. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
2. Makers by Cory Doctorow
3. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
4. Green by Jay Lake
5. Silver Mage by Katharine Kerr
6. Canticle by Ken Scholes
7. Transition by Iain M. Banks tie with
    American Fantastic Tales 2-Volume Boxed Set edited by Peter Straub
8. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
9. The Dragons of Ordinary Farm by Deborah Beale and Tad Williams
10. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi tie with
      Mariposa by Greg Bear

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Soulless by Gail Carriger
2. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
3. Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers
4. Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick
5. The Gabble and Other Stories by Neal Asher
6. Dog Days by John Levitt
7. Lord-Protector's Daughter by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
8. Fade Out by Rachel Caine
9. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
10. Lamentation by Ken Scholes

Trade Paperbacks
1. xkcd Volume 0 by Randall Munroe
2. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
3. Interfictions 2 edited by Christopher Barzak and Delia Sherman
4. Booklife by Jeff VanderMeer
5. Lovecraft Unbound edited by Ellen Datlow

Overheard at the Store

Okay, so normally this section is called "Overheard at the Con," and we only print it when we attend conventions & overhear things at them.  Well, you guys are just so gosh-darn quotable that we'll be expanding the section to include funny, out-of-context things we occasionally overhear at the store, too.  (And no fair oh-so-casually dropping funny quotes just so we'll include them in the newsletter!)

"I don't know, it was disturbing - there's just something about Lolita with a whip."

"My parents are FedEx-ing smoked turkey and green-beans to the bookstore for me.  Can you sign for that?"

"This poem is about "Gilligan's Island".  Then The Skipper starts tearing peoples' legs off."

"Build a man a fire and you've kept him warm for the night; light a man on fire and you've kept him warm for the rest of his life."

"Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice."

The 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

(Thanks to Salem Evans for major assistance in compiling this year's Gift Guide while I ran around doing cafe stuff! - Ed.)

*Zombies, zombies, zombies
For the zombie enthusiast on your list, the penultimate survival guide now comes in three great flavors:
a) Original (THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE by Max Brooks, Three Rivers Press Trade Paperback $14.95)
b) Flashcards (THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE DECK by Max Brooks, Potter Style, $13.95 - Instructional deck of 50 cards: vital lists, tips and diagrams with even more illustrations than the original book!)
c) Novel (WORLD WAR Z: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE ZOMBIE WAR by Max Brooks, Three Rivers Press,  Trade Paperback, $14.95 and Hardcover, $24.95)   If you or the folks on your list can't get enough zombies, there's also a lovely new hardcover gift edition of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, available.  It's called THE DELUXE HEIRLOOM EDITION (Chronicle Books, Hardcover, $24.95). Additionally, we've got something we can _guarantee_ they don't already have - the "My Zombie Pinup Calendar 2010 - Where beauty eats BRAAAIIINNNNSSS," which is exactly what it sounds like; sexy undead girls in cute risque' outfits, published by good ol' local folks. (, $19.99).  The publisher's website says "We dug up the idea of the 1950's vintage pin-up calendar and hit it over the head with a shovel"!

*As I do every year, I'm  recommending hardcover volumes of well-loved classics for your gift-giving pleasure.  We've got nice hardcover editions of DUNE by Frank Herbert (Ace, $29.95),  THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley (Del Rey, $30.00), THE PRINCESS BRIDE by William Goldman (Ballantine, $24.95), GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (William Morrow, $29.95), and many, many others.

*Ah, media!  We've got lots of TWILIGHT and its successors by Stephanie Meyer, a nice box set of the first three books in the Percy Jackson series (the first book has just been made into an eponymous movie called THE LIGHTNING THIEF), and, of course, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak (Harper, Hardcover, $17.95) a timeless favorite.  We also have the excellent new NightShade Books anthology IMPROBABLE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES edited by John Joseph Adams (Trade Paperback, $15.95), and, no, that's absolutely not meant to be Jude Law on the cover!  We can represent the "Weird Tales" side of Holmes, too, with GASLIGHT GROTESQUE: NIGHTMARE TALES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec (EDGE, Trade Paperback, $16.95).

Speaking of calendars, we have lots of personal day calendars and wall calendars, with a theme for absolutely anyone:  from fine art by Michael Parkes to Bunny Suicides, from Escher to Roald Dahl, from Giger to Breaking Bad News With Baby Animals, from Dr. Suess to Unicorns and oh-so-many more!  Over 50 to choose from.  Calendars range in price from $7.99 to $19.99.

Everything from simple geometric designs to dragons, skulls, and scorpions. Rings range in price from $4.99 - $24.00.

*Edward Gorey
We have a wide array of Gorey merchandise in the store. A few examples include:
a) GOREY'S DRACULA: A TOY THEATRE (Pomegranate, $24.95) - Paper dolls for grownups, (or especially morbid children) based on Gorey's 1970's design for the staged "Dracula".
b) EDWARD GOREY: THE NEW POSTER BOOK (Pomegranate, Oversized Softcover, $19.95) - a collection of some of his most well known illustrations
c) The ever-popular and enduring GASHLYCRUMB TINIES (Harcourt, Small Hardcover, $10.00) - "A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs / B is for Basil, assaulted by bears. . ."
Additionally, we have all of the AMPHIGOREY collections and lots and lots of the individual books, including my all-time favorite, THE CURIOUS SOFA (Harcourt, Small Hardcover, $10.00) which claims to be "a pornographic work by Ogdred Weary" -- actually just suggestive and very funny and not pornographic at all.

*FAMOUS LAST WORDS: FOND FAREWELLS, DEATHBED DIATRIBES AND EXCLAMATIONS UPON EXPIRATION edited by Ray Robinson (Workman, Small Hardcover, $9.95) - This book puts famous last words and the last words of the famous into context. It runs the gamut from weird and irreverent to honestly touching.

*THE POP-UP BOOK OF PHOBIAS by Gary Greenberg and Balvis Rubess (William Morrow and Co., Oversized Hardcover, $29.95) - Guaranteed to get you out of baby-sitting for the rest of your life.  We also carry THE POP-UP BOOK OF NIGHTMARES.

There are still some hand-made steampunk clocks (made with found wood and weird dials and, in one specially memorable case, an enormous flat hard drive and bits of church organ) from local Black Heart Industries left! For an extra special gift, or for the geek who has everything.

*Speaking of steampunk, it's everywhere now - steampunk is the new zombies!  If you want to be right on top of the trend, pick up BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest (Tor, Trade Paperback,  $15.99) LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, Hardcover, $19.99), BOILERPLATE: HISTORY'S MECHANICAL MARVEL by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett (Abrams, Oversized Hardcover, $24.95), MAINSPRING by Jay Lake (Tor, Mass Market, $7.99), SOULLESS by Gail Carriger (Orbit, Mass Market, $7.99) or the original STEAMPUNK anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Tachyon Publications, Trade Paperback, $14.95).

*Imported wooden boxes
Sizes range from a deck of cards up to small chests with designs including Celtic knots, metalwork, and pentacles.  Recommended for almost anyone.  Prices range from $5.00 to $48.00)

*XKCD book by Randall Munroe (breadpig, Other Softcover, $18.00) -
Good not only for fans of the comic, but for newcomers as well. This book includes extra doodlings and ponderings of the author alongside the mouse-over text from the website.

Tired of glitter-encrusted snowmen and trees? Try writing your Christmas missive on one of these awesome sci-fi postcards. Taken from retro covers of magazines and pulp novels, perennial favorites include "The Gods Hate Kansas" and "Sin In Space"! $1 each.

*THE BLADE ITSELF by Joe Abercrombie (Pyr, Trade Paperback, $15.98) - Are you (or someone dear to you) frustrated with waiting for the next SONG OF ICE AND FIRE book?  Do you (or they) like fantasy hugely bloody, with a thread of dark humor?  This is our recommendation; a trilogy that's actually finished, with an additional book (BEST SERVED COLD, the start of a new series) that stands just fine on its own and is one of my favorite titles from 2009.

*AMERICAN FANTASTIC TALES edited by Peter Straub) (Library of America, 2 hardcover volumes in slipcase, $70.00) - From the Library of America website: "From its beginning, American literature teems with tales of horror, hauntings, terrifying obsessions and gruesome incursions, of the uncanny ways in which ordinary reality can be breached and subverted by the unknown and the irrational. In the tales of Poe, and Hawthorne, and their literary successors, the bright prospects of the New World face an uneasy reckoning with the forces of darkness. As this pathbreaking two-volume anthology demonstrates, it is a tradition with many unexpected detours and hidden chambers, and one that continues to evolve, finding new forms and new themes."  I strongly recommend this amazing (and gorgeously packaged) collection.  One volume covers "From Poe to the Pulps" and the other covers "The 1940's Until Now".

And, as always, we're glad to help make suggestions, and we have gift certificates if you're just not sure.  We can also arrange for gift credits -- essentially gift certificates that you can give to out-of-town folks to be used for mail orders -- if some of the genre fans in your life live remotely.

Happy holidays to you, from all of us!