Monday, April 6, 2009

The Amber Benson on the Borderland

Ah, the Amber Benson on the Borderlands. I remember running through that adventure back in high school. The party comes to an isolated castle in mid-coastal California, surrounded by mountains infested with goblins, kobolds, vampires, and Joss Whedon. There, they must contend with colorful local characters while exploring their surroundings, getting embroiled in the schemes of the town's inhabitants, the evil dwelling deep underground, and delightful science fiction and fantasy bookstores in the Mission. I played a wasabi blob multiclassed fighter/mage and my friend Matt lurked in doorways. Good times.

Wait a minute. None of that makes any sense.

The Saturday before last, I was happily able to take a break from my busy schedule of beating my head into the wall that was writing essays for the Oakland Teaching Fellowship and attempting to finish my first draft for Green Ronin's (I can say this now!) Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game's first supplement (In case you hadn't noticed, it was a bad week for the Burning Zeppelin). Becca, the Abigail, and myself took the Muni down into the Mission to Borderlands Books and treated ourselves a delightful hour or so with Amber Benson - one of the stars of memory's Buffy: the Vampier Slayer - as she read from her new book, Death's Daughter, signed copies, answered questions.

And I have proof (photographs courtesy of the wonderful Mr_O, a gentleman with a camera who takes pictures at events such as this and posts them to his Flickr stream for no reason other than to provide a service for his fellow fans - all photos are Creative Commons: Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike):

The lovely young lady on the left is the Abigail (isn't she cute?) and the alarmingly cheerful gentleman on the right is myself (I had no idea that I have that many teeth). Now you know what we look like. If you can't recognize Amber Benson in the middle, well... there's no hope for you.

What were the take home lessons of Amber's talk?

First of all, Death's Daughter sounds like a lot of fun. It's a fun modern fantasy, self-identified chewing gum for the brain, about the daughter of Death (the CEO of Death, Inc.), who has to win an interdimensional scavenger hunt to remain in control of the family business after her father... well... dies. The passage Amber Benson read involved the main character's search for some of Krishna's ambiguously sexual sea foam, and how the avatar of Vishnu's Gopis - milkmaids/harem girls/assassin bodygaurds (the last is an Amber Benson innovation) - kick the crap out of her while her younger sister and pet hellhound are decidedly unhelpful. If that paragraph doesn't serve to sell you on the book, there's something wrong with one of us.

Secondly, it was fun to hear Amber Benson confirm her inherent geekery. It seems that she got started on Stephen King and similar works, consumed massive quantities of young adult fantasy (including the Dark Is Rising Sequence - a favorite of mine as well), and continues to read implacably. To this day, she regularly wiles away the hours in her trailer between shoots by reading - at least, until recently she did. These days, she writes.

Amber Benson confirmed in her Q&A session that the key to successful writing is to view it as a job and approach it professionally, whatever that means to you. For Amber Benson, it means going to a local coffee shop (like me, apparently, she cannot write in her own home) and putting in a solid workday at the laptop. There you have it, the same advice we always hear and tell ourselves, confirmed by someone who actually finished and published her novel.

Amber also recommends the website Bitten by Books, a site dedicated to providing reviews of paranormal fiction, urban fantasy, and horror (with occasional forays into fantasy and science fiction as well). I'll explore the site further myself before I put an official Burning Zeppelin stamp of approval on it (for whatever that's worth), but there's a link, so you can check it out herself.

And finally, contact lenses are a pain in the butt:

I was also lucky enough to run into S. G. Browne, author of Breathers: A Zombie's Lament, the story of a boy, a girl, and the zombification that brings them together. It seems that Browne and Benson are friends, and he was there to cheer her on. I have barely cracked the book's spine, but I'm eager to dive into its fleshy innards and drink the sweet (narrative) marrow from its bones. Also, kill it and eat its brains. You can expect a review of both Breathers and Death's Daughter when I get a chance to read them. Unless you are already a zombie, however, I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you. With the levels of business I'm maintaining right now, it might be a while.

That's about it for today's Burning Zeppelin Experience. Have fun, keep writing, and buy a copy of Death's Daughter at your local independent science fiction and fantasy bookstore.

* * *

And since I have photos to spare, this is Becca, a good friend of the Abigail and I and frequent companion on our adventures. Becca is part-originator of the challenge that has me reading Twilight. She also seems very happy to meet Amber Benson and have their picture taken together, but she doesn't have quite as many teeth as I do. This is only to be expected, I suppose.

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