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2008 Holiday Gift Suggestions --
For The Writer In Your Life

Let me aim the first installment of my holiday gift / Christmas money suggestion guide squarely at those who love peeking behind the scenes, obsessively garnering details about a writer's life so that if you can ever meet him, you're prepared with both knowledge and love. But really, you're looking for a little inspiration for your own work and someday a job carrying David Tennant's shoes. In short, I think I've just described my students.

At any rate, this season offers a few choice goodies to explain genre inspiration and aspirations.

The Mindscape of Alan Moore
Shot a few years ago, this DVD saw U.S. release back in September, and it's a must-have for fans of Moore's work, of course, but also for those interested in the creative spirit. Director DeZ Vylenz sat down with Moore in his home for a lengthy interview - but this film is so much more than that.

A portrait of a man who, by his own admission, chose to frighten his friends by going completely mad, the film includes recreations and homages to Moore's seminal work. At one point, a re-enactment of a scene from V For Vendetta blows away the actual film adaptation because if its simplicity. And you can agree with Moore's daughter Leah that he does the best voice of Rorschach from Watchmen (if you choose to ignore his British accent).

Though visually it starts to repeat itself -- often intercutting the same vaguely disturbing image of a breathing moss-covered thing that could not be Swamp Thing, oh, no - the film takes a sharp turn in its second half.

After covering Moore's career up to about the point of Lost Girls, Vylenz gets the writer/artist/performer to open up about the creative spirit, and his thoughts on the artist's place in civilization. It's inspiring, and like much of Moore's work, more than a little mind-blowing. Though that could be just because of the intensity with which he says it.

The disc also includes interviews with many of Moore's artistic collaborators, shot in much brighter environments than Moore's sanctum. If the original film has any weakness, it's the lack of outside viewpoints, which the extras provide. The DVD set also has a booklet that helps guide newcomers through Moore's life and theories, though it may be best to just watch the unadulterated Moore.

Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman
Moore mentored and championed the young Gaiman as he broke into American comics. Maybe he wouldn't have needed the help, but it's easy to see a connection between the two authors. Except Neil Gaiman has always seemed somehow more accessible, his only real affectation a predilection for black, not black magic.

Maybe it's too soon to have a guide to his work, as he's still in his forties. But this labor of love still works as an intellectual scrapbook, gathering some of Gaiman's early work and painstakingly explaining the process and impact of all of his work - even some still in development.

Writers Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden and Stephen R. Bissette intersperse critical takes on the work with interviews, giving an edge of perspective. It never backs away from being a love-fest, of course, but you're here because you love Gaiman. And he, too, pops up in interviews quite liberally, occasionally giving this book the jaunty feel of his blog, which is also covered at the end.

As a guide, the book serves the dual purpose of reminding fans what they loved, and pointing people to corners of Gaiman's work that they might not have encountered yet. Certainly, as I have a shelf in an annex of Lucien's library called "Books I Will Read When I Get The Time," there's a huge stack of Gaiman's work.

Like Moore, it's clear that Gaiman was and is a voracious reader, so perhaps the gift of this book can inspire and remind would-be writers that they need to immerse themselves in a world of words even as they write their own.

And speaking of…

The Write Environment
Friend of Fanboy Planet Jeffrey Berman launched this interview series last month, and of all my recommendations, this one probably gets the deepest into the nuts and bolts of the craft. Berman doesn't limit himself to just genre writers, a very smart move which should garner this series wider interest.

Of course he speaks to another genre master, Joss Whedon, but he also talks to Heroes creator Tim Kring, and sitcom creators like Sam Simon and Phil Rosenthal. Because Berman works as a screenwriter himself, he can get past the fannish questions and turn probing and informational in a way you certainly won't get from most sites.

Everyone involved is also very comfortable, and any one of these DVDs would serve as a master class in writing. Cruise by the site and pick one up…the writer in your life will be glad to find one under the tree - or in the stocking, or just in the mail a few days after Christmas.

Derek McCaw

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