Yes, you can probably file this under “Chris is thinking too much about Superman again.” But the latest trailer for Man of Steel is out, and I am almost physically excited by the chances for this movie now.
I admit, I’m an easy target for anything about Superman. As a kid, I wore the Underoos, I ran around in a red cape, and read the comics. I saw Superman III in the theater, and even that did not kill my love of the character. So I was going into the theater on opening day, no matter what.
To put it in the kindest terms possible, that hasn’t always been the case.
Superman, despite being on the level of a primal myth for us now, is not an easy character to bring to life. The idea behind him is elegantly simple, and almost encoded into our DNA: a perfect man comes from the stars to save us all. That’s easy to understand and often incredibly hard to pull off in execution.
But two things in this trailer makes me think that’s going to be time and money well spent, that make me believe the filmmakers really understand what a Superman movie needs — what every Superman story needs.
This is the first: when Lara says to Jor-El, “He’ll be an outcast. They’ll kill him.”
And Jor-El responds with one word: “How?”
That’s brilliant. It’s more than just a badass line. It shows a fundamental understanding of what makes Superman so compelling.
In most fiction, the threat of death — “They’ll kill him” — is the ultimate raising of the stakes. I’ve read that every good story ends with a death, and while that may not be true, it’s definitely true that death is the engine that drives the drama. Characters seek to escape it, avoid it, or deal it out to their enemies. But they cannot ignore it.
Except, as Jor-El points out, Superman can. By virtue of his powers, he is beyond the usual punishments and sanctions that mortals must endure. He is outside the old rules of the game, and that makes his story a new and compelling set of problems. How do you create drama where the protagonist is invulnerable — literally — to what usually drives the story?
Many writers have a problem with that, which is one reason why Superman stories are not easy. It’s hard to find conflicts that a perfect man cannot end simply by spinning the world in another direction.
But the second moment in the trailer is what makes me confident they can do it.
When Clark first reveals his abilities by saving a school bus that’s gone into a river, his foster father Jonathan Kent (played by Kevin Costner, because, come on, who doesn’t want the guy from Field of Dreams to be his dad?) tells him that he’s not from Earth.
Clark responds by asking, “Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?”
And Jonathan Kent pulls him in close, and, voice cracking, says, “You are my son.”
If you didn’t choke up a little at that, well, you’re far less sentimental than I am.
Moses and Christ allegories aside, this is where we see how Clark chooses to deal with the legacy of great and unearned power from Jor-El and Lara. He still wants to be human. And his father embraces him for everything he is — not out of fear, but out of love.
Superman is not about what he can do. As Chris Sims recently said, if Superman wanted, he could rule us all and force us to be good, because after all, the dude’s got laser eyes. It’s about what he chooses to do. And he chooses to be good. He chooses to do the right thing. He chooses to care about humanity.
His enemies will say that this makes him weaker. But because of what he’s learned from the Kents, it’s actually what makes him a hero.
That’s the movie I want to see.
With super-punching, of course. Because you’ve got to have the super-punching.
Hey kids. It’s March, and in remembrance of the day when Julius Caesar got perforated on the way to work, I’m joining 16 great authors to give you a chance to win copies of all our books.
It’s called The Ides of March Book Giveaway. It runs from March 1-15th, and we’ll give away one copy of each of the following to the lucky winner:
THE FIREBIRD (ARC) by Susanna Kearsley
A twin-stranded story that blends modern romance with 18th-century Jacobite intrigue, traveling from Scotland to Russia, from the NY Times bestselling author of The Winter Sea
THE TWELFTH ENCHANTMENT by David Liss
In Regency England, at the dawn of the industrial era, magic and technology clash and the fate of the nation rests in the hands of a penniless young woman
An epic adventure fantasy with a decidedly steampunk edge where magic – and the power of the Cold Mages – hold sway
THE MAPMAKER’S WAR by Ronlyn Domingue
A mesmerizing, utterly original adventure about love and loss and the redemptive power of the human spirit–releases March 5th!
DRACULA IN LOVE by Karen Essex
“If you read only one more vampire novel, let it be this one!” -C.W. Gortner, author of The Last Queen & The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
“A novel within a novel honoring what we love most about Austen: her engaging stories, rapier wit, and swoon worthy romance. Pitch perfect, brilliantly crafted.” —Austenprose. From the bestselling author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
THIEFTAKER by DB Jackson
Combining elements of traditional fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery and historical fiction, Thieftaker will appeal to readers who enjoy intelligent fantasy and history with an attitude
Glamour in Glass follows the lives of the main characters from Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence
DEVIL’S GATE by FJ Lennon
Devil’s Gate is exhilarating urban fantasy, with first class writing and characters that are unforgettable beyond the last page
THE CROOKED BRANCH by Jeanine Cummins
“Wonderfully written, with strong, compelling characters, it is a deeply satisfying combination of sweeping historical saga and modern family drama, a gentle reminder of the ever-reaching influence of family”–Booklist
A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan
The story of Isabella, Lady Trent, the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist, and her thrilling expedition to Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever
THE RECKONING by Alma Katsu
(Yes, I know. It’s a much classier crowd than you’d expect to have me.)
One set of books will be given away per 500 entries. Winners will be notified within 48 hours of the contest’s end. You can enter here. And this is all due to the hard work of Alma Katsu, who got us all together. Many thanks, Alma.
Good news, everybody: RED, WHITE, AND BLOOD is a finalist in the 2013 Audies for Suspense and Thrillers, which recognize “distinction in audiobook and spoken word entertainment.” As much as I’d like to take credit, it’s all due to Bronson Pinchot, who once again did a brilliant job bringing my scary thoughts to life. (Bronson previously won Audible.com’s “Narrator of the Year” in 2010, in part for his work on the first Nathaniel Cade book, BLOOD OATH. He’s also just an incredibly nice guy.)
The awards will be MC’ed this year by Daniel Handler, author of the Lemony Snicket books, on May 30 in New York.
I’ve been asked by quite a few people when the next book in the Nathaniel Cade series will be done. Until now, I’ve mumbled some vague replies about a top-secret project, which probably made them think I was doing nothing but snacking on Cheetos and watching movies on Netflix.
Now the news is out: before I move on to Cade Book Four, I’m writing a book called BIMINI, about the Fountain of Youth. Here’s the announcement, which went out on Publishers Marketplace last week:
Christopher Farnsworth’s BIMINI, an action-packed thriller updating the legend of the fountain of youth and the conspiracy led by people whose vitality depends on it, to Rachel Kahan at William Morrow, in a pre-empt, by Alexandra Machinist at Janklow & Nesbit. (NA) Film rights to Tom Jacobson and Monnie Wills.
The book is inspired by an original idea from movie producers (and all-around good guys) Tom Jacobson and Monnie Wills. I’m having a lot of fun with it right now, and I think anyone who likes Cade is going to have a great time reading this, too. Once again, this is all due to my brilliant agent, Alexandra Machinist.
And that’s about all I can say before mumbling some vague stuff about how this is still top secret for now.
As for Cade, I am going to get back to him — he won’t let me rest until I do — by the end of the year. I’ll have more news on Book Four once it’s finished.
Anyway. Thanks to all of you who keep asking about Cade, and for all the kind words about the books.
A couple of years ago my mom found a box with all my elementary school papers. In addition to some embarrassing pictures — I rocked a bowl cut for far longer than the style would allow — I came across one of those questionnaires that teachers have their kids fill out when it’s Friday and the clock is counting down toward the weekend. It asked about my parents, my pets, and my brother. And then there was the one question that still stands out to me today:
“What do you think you want to be when you grow up?”
My reply, in shaky block letters: “A writer like Stan Lee.”
I was six or seven when I wrote that. I barely knew what a writer did, but I knew that Stan Lee got to make up stories about Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and a bunch of other super-heroes. That sounded pretty good to me.
When I was 39, my first novel was (finally) published and I was invited to speak on a panel at Comic-Con. That would have been a dream come true by itself. But as I was checking into the hotel, I realized I was standing in line right in front of Stan the Man himself.
I told him something he’d probably heard a lot before: “I became a writer because of you.”
He gave me the famous smile, shook my hand, and then that voice that I’d heard narrating Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends said, “Bless your heart. Thank you.”
Today he’s ninety years old and still Smilin’ Stan. You could do a lot worse for role models.
Thank you, Stan. Happy Birthday.