Monday, September 26, 2011

Koalas, geniuses and monkey assassins

What a delightfully odd mix of articles this week...

First up, my two Extinction Countdown columns for Scientific American:

Tunnels and Bridges Could Help Save Koalas from Extinction

Natural Gas Company Fined $500,000 for Damaging Endangered Species Habitat

Next, two news items for Mother Nature Network (the second of which is a rework of an article from a few months ago now that the event it's talking about is "live"):

MacArthur Foundation honors 22 new 'geniuses'

The art of hand washing

(And as long as we're talking MacArthur geniuses, here is my interview with two of last year's honorees, from IEEE's The Institute.)

Finally, two new reviews for Graphic Novel Reporter: Hit Monkey and Photo Booth.

That's it for now! More soon!

Monday, September 19, 2011

This week's stories and the stories behind the stories

What a great week. I wrote about some fantastic ideas, as well as a few scary news items, and found out about a cool reprint of one of my articles.

First up, this week's news items for Mother Nature Network:

New 'jelly' batteries could provide cheap, safe power for small electronics [This was the most popular story on the for days after CNN linked to it from their home page.]

Climate change researcher, biomimicry expert among annual Heinz Award winners

Studies: Lint from synthetic fibers is polluting the ocean and coastal beaches [Eek! Especially tough since we wear so much polar fleece up here in chilly Maine.]

Are your sheets preventing you from getting a good night's sleep? [As a sleep apnea sufferer, I'm always looking for ways to improve my slumber!]

Next up, my two Extinction Countdown articles for Scientific American:

Return of the Toxic Avenger: Rhino Advocate Proposes Poisoning Horns to Protect Them from Poachers [This was a sequel to one of my all-time most popular Extinction posts, which can be found here.]

Texas Wildfires Devastate Last Habitat for Endangered Houston Toad [A scary, sad story, this was very tough to report on. The full effects of these terrible wildfires won't be known for months.]

Finally this week, an oldie but goodie: one of my articles is included in this new e-book, "The Best of IEEE-USA Today's Engineer: On Consulting – Volume 2." Read more about it here.

More next week!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Big week: Species debates, bare bums, book reviews and getting into management

Monday brings my weekly round-up of the previous week's articles and publications, and this week there were a bunch of them.

First up, my usual two Extinction Countdown articles for Scientific American:

Should Captive-Bred Chimpanzees Have Full Endangered Species Act Protection?

Last-of-Its-Kind Plant Could Get Federal Protection

Next, this week's news article for Mother Nature Network (which was a hoot and a half to write):

San Francisco considers protecting its benches from public nudity and bare bottoms

MNN also published my latest book review for them:

'Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind'

Speaking of book reviews, here are two new ones for Graphic Novel Reporter:

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity

Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet

And last but not least, my latest career focus feature for Today's Engineer. This was incredibly fun to pull together. I conducted about a dozen interviews with people around the country. The resulting article should be a crowd-pleaser:

Career Focus: Engineering Management

More next week!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

From the Archives: Wes Craven's New Nightmare

[Continuing my excavation of old articles and reviews written in the days before email. I think I drove a horse and buggy when I wrote this!]

A Novel by David Bergantino
Tor, Pb, $4.99
ISBN 0-812-55166-4

(Originally published in The New Jersey Graveline, December 1994)

Okay, first things first. Run out and go buy yourself a copy of this novel. I'll wait.

All right, now that you've fought off the holiday shopping crowds and made it back alive, let me tell you why you just bought this book. David Bergantino's adaptation of the movie "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" is done the way novelizations should be done. In fact, it goes even further than that, and manages to become something unique.

By now you are probably aware of the plot of the "New Nightmare" movie -- while preparing to film a new "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie, the cast and crew are stalked by a suddenly very real Freddy Krueger, who is intent on keeping his story and his character alive -- but knowing that won't quite prepare you for this novel.

Bergantino does much more than just adapt the movie - he adds to it. Scattered throughout his novelization of Wes Craven's script are excerpts from Bergantino's own journal, written over the course of the two months in which he wrote the novel. These journal entries depict Bergantino himself dealing with troubling dreams that echo the situations in the script he is adapting. Also included with the journal entries are newspaper clippings detailing events the occurred in the previous year -- real events that found their way into Craven's script -- as well as letters from someone trying to contact Bergantino regarding his book, and a "matter of life and death."

These extras are what make the book worth reading. As Bergantino's journal depicts his growing paranoia, and as the newspaper clippings show us that the deaths of several characters in the script actually happened in real life, the book takes on an almost surreal quality. It becomes harder and harder to distinguish the reality from the fiction, and the book becomes scarier and scarier as it progresses, because the reader just doesn't know what to believe!

Based on Bergantino's journal entries, WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE is his first book, and I really feel it could be a career maker. As a novelization of a (relatively) hot movie, the book will undoubtedly sell better than most first horror novels, and that should show publishers that his later books might sell.

On the other hand, this could be the work of an established novelist, written under a pen name, as many novelizations are, but I'd rather assume that it isn't.

Take a long look at this novel. Not only is it very good, it just might give you an idea of how to write a novelization someday yourself. After you do that, start getting your name out there. Let editors know that you are available and that you are cheap and fast, and someday it could be you writing that novelization. And maybe that will lead to something else for you, too...

[Whatever happened to David Bergantino? He wrote a few YA horror novels after this, then disappeared. Or at least his byline did. A shame.]

Update 8/17/2013: I just got an email from David Bergantino, two years after I posted this old review and nearly 20 years after I first read his New Nightmare novel. He's not only a real person, he has written several other novels and worked on a long list of video games. How nice to have this "mystery" solved after all these years!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New articles: My favorite extinct species and the world's most reviled sports mascot

Last week was a bit of a shortened work week as everyone (myself included) either spent their time recovering from Hurricane Irene or preparing for the long weekend. But the week still brought four new articles from me, including one about my favorite extinct animal of all time, the notorious Thylacine.

That article was one of this week's two pieces for Scientific American:

Newly Discovered Hawaiian Bird Could Already Be Extinct

Thylacine Hunted into Extinction for No Reason, Study Reveals

I also wrote two new articles for Mother Nature Network, the first of which is pretty scary, and the second of which is too damned funny:

Record droughts in Florida fuel spread of invasive plant Melaleuca

Meet EcoKat, the eco-enforcing Kansas State University mascot

This is already another short week, but as always, it will be full of new words and stuff. Have a good one, and stay tuned for the latest from my keyboard.

(Oh, and make sure to check this blog from time to time, as I'm starting to post some old articles that I have recovered from the Platt Archives.)