Monday, December 23, 2013

Stories to Read (part 1?)

Because I read a lot, and because not everything I read is very good, thought I'd compile a list of recommendations of stories that I enjoyed, and found myself remembering long after--which is rare, because a lot of what I read goes in one eyeball and out the other. So maybe you'll enjoy them too, or maybe not.Tastes vary, after all.

Rhododaktylos Nyx by Brandon Nolta -- I'm not one for flowery language, but the poeticness of the intro caught my eye--who knew post-apocalyptic futures could sound lovely!-- and serves as an interesting contrast to the hard reality portions of the story. It's a thinker, and if you like thinking, this might be for you.

Captain Quasar and the Popularity Contest On Goobalox Five by Milo James Fowler -- Out of all the Captain Quasar tales, this one remains my favorite. (They'll all good, of course.) It's good fun and likely to make you laugh ... that is if you aren't a scrooge.

Alligators by Twitter by John Wiswell -- Absurdism via Twitter. Never fails to make me laugh.

The Pony Spell by Gary McNulty -- Another silly story where a curse somehow turns into a wish fulfillment for the entire family.  

Womanspace by Ed Rybicki -- I've mentioned this story before, but it's worth bringing up again because it's an enjoyable "poke at the sexes" kind of tale. I do think people came down on this too hard, and for that, they are total scrooges. 

The Watchmaker's Wife by Lydia S. Gray -- A sad tale of a dream made into a clockwork woman, who faces the cruelties of both the world and of men. But the ending gives the reader hope of a better future for our mechanical heroine.

Day of the Creamsicles by Don Raymond -- More absurdism, because gosh darn it, it's fun! Great voice in this one.

The Third Attractor by Mjke Wood -- The story that inspired "The Mission" for me. If you can get past the techno-babble in the beginning, you are rewarded with an amusing twist. Also, it's one of the few stories I've encountered that doesn't portray the religious character as a narrow minded bigot.  

Captain Confederation by Jim Robb -- Funny story about over-regulating super heroes and their activities. 

That's it for now. A much lighter (in terms of tonality) list, but would be kind of a bummer to recommend downer stories for the holidays, not to mention, I really don't care for "weep-woe" protagonists.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Movie Review: The Toxic Avenger (1984)

No, this isn't the missing Avenger from Marvel's universe, although that would be really cool. The Toxic Avenger is one of those schlock films filled with 80's cheesy goodness. Action, gore, explosions, ridiculously over the top deaths, bad one-liners... yes it has it all!

The story behind the film is pretty interesting as well. As the story goes, originally this film was meant to be a horror, and there are scenes that would've fit nicely in a Friday the 13th movie, but the film writer did a twist, making the monster more of a good guy and thus a superhero.

Also should be noted that the director's previous experience was with pornos, which explains some questionable shots in the beginning title sequence. Don't worry though, the most you see are some tits and humping, which was standard fair in 80's movies.

The film starts with a cheesy short narration on pollution, and one has to wonder if Captain Planet hijacked the narration. Our story then begins at the local health club, where we meet the mop boy Melvin, who is the epitome of greekdom. He's scrawny, he's a virgin, he's uncoordinated, he's the target of bullies.

Health freaks Bozo and Slug (yeah, that's their names, and there is no end to the silly names in this) decide to pull a nasty prank on poor Melvin. Bozo's girlfriend tricks Melvin into putting on a tutu and to make out with a sheep in front of the entire health club. In a fit of embarrassment, Melvin throws himself out a window, and falls into vats of toxic waste that look suspiciously like green Jello. And by the power of grey skullillegally dumped waste, Melvin becomes... a horribly mutated freak with super strength and super-size. Note: Melvin never removes the tutu.       

As you'd expect, one look at the newly transformed Melvin sends everyone fleeing, which forces Melvin to make the dump his new home. However, with his new powers comes new responsibilities, as he's able to sense evil-doings, much like Spider-Man's "spidey sense".

And this is where the fun begins.

The town Tromaville (a nod to Troma Entertainment, this film's production house) has so much crime going on, it would give Gotham City a run for its money. Not only does Melvin go after his bullies, he fights drug dealers and gangsters, leading all the way up to the corrupt local government.

Some of the most creative deaths I've seen, they're downright glorious. Like making an ice cream sundae in a villain's mouth, using a dismembered arm as a melee weapon, six-way Mexican standoff, and tossing a little person into a dryer. And to add insult to death, a Melvin's signature mop to the face!

Warning: There is a scene where a dog gets shot.

Oh, and hope you like "Ride of the Valkyries" because they play it a lot; it's pretty much Melvin's theme song.

Overall, it's a very silly film that is both awesome and hilarious. The acting might make you cringe, because it's pretty bad, even for a schlock film. But despite all the gore and terribleness, comes a very positive messages, when all the townspeople band together to save their favorite toxic hero from annihilation.

So gather your friends and family around the yule log, grab some eggnog, and sit down to watch The Toxic Avenger. Because you can only watch It's a Wonderful Life so many times.   

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bad Markets: Weird T@les

If the "Save the Pearls" blow up hadn't turned you off from WT, then maybe this next bit will. To paraphrase what Keith West reported on his blog: Over the summer, WT's editor Marvin Kaye sent back an accepted story by Chap O'Keefe with a lousy explanation:

 "I regret to inform you that the publisher of We[ird Ta]les* has decided to pass on quite a few stories, yours included. This is a measure to reduce our huge fiction inventory."

Followed by:

"If you have not sold your submission elsewhere, try us again in 9 months. If we have room at that time, it will be an automatic sale."

Well gee, how gracious of them. O'Keefe wasn't the only one hurt, as this happened to seven authors total. It may not seem like a lot, but even one author having their accepted submission turned down is, in it of itself, unacceptable. It's like an employer hiring someone, then before the employee comes in for their first day of work, the employer says, "Changed my mind. Didn't want to hire you, after all."  

But it gets better when one of the contributing editors tries to defend this bullcrap.

"But for good or for bad, Mr. Kaye decided that that would/could put off opening up the submissions portal for several or more months. Like I so testily told Taran on FB, I would do this differently by soliciting much more if not all work. Then everyone knows up front not to ask and there would be less pressure on the staff. But it isn't my magazine. It's Mr. Kaye's and whether any one of us agrees or not. It is his to do as he sees fit. He has my confidence and only time will tell if this is a successful strategy or not."

Sending back accepted stories is a strategy? Then their other strategy must've been to ignore a good chunk of the submissions received, because I queried several times about my submission, sent in the summer of 2012, and never received one response. Finally, after a year, I marked them as "never responded" on The Grinder. I know other authors who had to do similarly.

It's pretty clear, especially the "I'd prefer soliciting", that these guys don't give a rat's ass about the people who submit to them. They will use you and abuse you as they wish.

This was why I wanted to post a warning on their site, seeing as they're reopening their submission portal, but as you might figure, the comment got deleted. I guess they learned from the "Save the Pearls" debacle and got better moderation.

Take caution fellow writers, this is not a good market. If you love your stories, send them to good homes. Apex, Shimmer, Strange Horizons, Horror D'oeuvres/DarkFuse, and many, many more accept weird fiction; WT's is no longer the niche market that its editors think it is. You don't have to settle for them. Even the honor of being published by We[ird Ta]les is gone, as the current publisher has tarnished the name. Do you really want to be associated with an editor who treats writers like trash, and blatantly ignores fellow editors' warnings?

*If you're wondering why I did the We[ird Ta]les, it's so I don't get picked up by the WT's search bots, and have some editor pop on here to half-ass his way through an explanation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Movie Review: Thor The Dark World

The Marvel movie comic franchise is certainly on a roll this year, first with Iron Man 3, now with Thor: The Dark World. I reviewed the first Thor film back in 2011, which in retrospect, I think was I too kind to it. The Dark World vastly improves on the first film, making it better. Yes, that's right, the sequel is actually good! How often can you say that? The big reason for this is because it does what sequels are supposed to do, which is to progress the storyline.

We pick up shortly after where the Avengers left us, Loki is chained up and facing punishment from his pseudo-father Odin, while Thor must travel to all the nine realms and clean up the chaos Loki has caused. Meanwhile on Earth, Jane Foster is searching for a way to return to Thor. Jane comes across some weird reality warp, located in an abandoned building, falls into another dimension and becomes possessed by the Aether. Bad things ensue.

The Aether goes back to the Dark Elves, but not the Tolkien elves you might expect. These elves are from space! They've got space ships, cloaking abilities, lasers and so on. Their main goal is to return the universe to its former pre-big bang days, using the Aether to do this. They're a cool aspect to the story, even if they remind me an awful lot of the Necromongers from The Chronicles of Riddick. You know, the deathly pale type with dark armor, and scary booming voices. However, I will gladly take Dark Elves any day over Necromongers. (Seriously? Who thought that was a good name?)

If it weren't for the ears, you'd think they were brothers!

 There's still the weakness of the romance between Jane and Thor; the chemistry between the two actors is basically none. So you just have to accept that they love each other. But you aren't watching this film for Jane and Thor. You're watching this for Loki. And the writers must've known this, because Loki has all the best lines, receives a good chunk of the screen time, even when he's locked up for most of the film, and is pretty damn awesome all around. Tom Hiddleston is obviously having a blast playing the role, and good for him, he's a great actor. Should definitely see him as Hal/Henry in The Hollow Crown mini-series. 

I also want to point out another kudo to the writers for sticking with the Thor-Loki dynamic, a dynamic very similar to Batman-Joker...had not both Batman film franchises dropped the ball when it came to the Joker, although understandable in Nolan's case. Still, when you got a great villain, why do away with him?

The action is well executed and appropriately paced, if not a little Star Warsy. We have time to morn characters, and the funeral scene is quite fantastic. Motivations are clear, you aren't confused about who is doing what. The storylines between Asgard and Earth are tied together in a neat little package, with a few surprises thrown in. And chances are high that you'll be laughing at quite a few moments.

So yeah, go see it.   

*edit* Found this gem on 'teh internetz'.

 Homoerotic Thor? Yes, please. :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Flash Fiction: Eye of the Beholder & Oh Deity, My Deity

Halloween may be over, but there are still treats to be had--unless you went to the grocery store and found the leftover candy wiped out--or perhaps you'd prefer a horrific trick or two?

First up is Eye of the Beholder from Horror D'oeuvres; it does require a subscription to read the whole thing, but hey--if you enjoy horror in flash form, they have plenty of that. Also, they've got a book club deal. Very pleasant experience working with the editor, nice and prompt, and pays on acceptance. Funny thing is, I almost didn't send this story there, because I didn't think it was dark enough. It's not. It's just fucking weird.

How weird you ask? No spoilers, but it does involve an eyeball in a very unusual place. Further hints: inspiration for this story came from Japanese ghost story Shirime and the lewd meme, also riding a lot of public transportation in the Phoenix area. Oh, the weird things you will find while waiting for the bus...

And secondly, Oh Deity, My Deity from Black Frost Media--a newish market who also pay on acceptance. If only more markets could do that... You might recognize the deity character from a previous story. It's more of a prequel piece, and I'm currently shopping around a pre-prequel flash with Asteya, then sometime in the near-future I'll get around to writing the final fourth piece which will tie all the stories together. At least that's the plan.

This is also one of my rare 2nd-person POV stories. I kind of stopped writing 2nd-person after a number of rejection from editors saying they didn't like it. Psssh. I still stand by that 2nd-person is a perfectly fine POV, people just need to get that stick--or is it eyeball?--out of their ass.

Hope everyone had a happy and safe Halloween, and here's looking forward to Thanksgiving. Although according to the stores, it's Christmas already!    

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Flash Fiction: Peaches in the Breeze

Only found out the other day that my flash piece--and first ever acceptance!--was published over at Abyss & Apex. I was told it was going to be published in January 2014, but better early than later, right?

This piece was accepted back in December 2011, and A&A wasn't kidding when they said they were backlogged. Then I naively waited a year for a contract, as that was before I realized you need to get after editors, because they will let things slide. I can't emphasize that last part enough.

As for the story itself, it was inspired by a shirt--no joke. Threadless has lots of neat, artsy shirts; and when looking at this shirt, because I was looking for an idea for a flash story for the Earthbound flash contest, and thought a Japanese Medusa-esque woman would be pretty cool.

A big thanks to Rez for smoothing out the tense in this story. Present-tense is inherently choppy--and you can disagree, but that might speak of your tin-ears--so I don't recommend it, especially with 3rd-person narrative. With 1st-person, it can sound pretty natural, so that works; but I have rarely encountered present-tense sounding natural in 3rd-person. That's not saying you can't do it, it's just a lot more work if you do.   

And why yes, I did draw that picture (click on it for full size), with some crappy Crayola colored-pencils. Did you know that they got rid of red-violet? Haven't drawn in ages, but feels nice, if not obsessive (I was up till 3am erasing smudges in mspaint).

Monday, September 30, 2013

W1S1 September Update

I don't have much to say about September except, "Crap! The year's almost over," so getting straight to the stats.

Stories written:1 (~5,200-word dark fantasy)
Stories submitted: 27 (including resubs)
Stories accepted: 0
Stories rejected: 24

Although kind of a downer month, had to send out several queries, only one of which was responded to, I did receive a rewrite request from Bards & Sages, so hopefully that turns out well.

I figure since I ranted about DOME (a.k.a Under the Dumb), thought I might talk about some of the new Fall shows, in the hopes that something will wash out that terrible dome taste.

Agents of S.H.I.E.D. (or AoS) is the new one from ABC set within the Marvel comic movie universe. It wasn't bad, though I really hate monologues, especially heavy-handed ones that point out the obvious. It could have done without--in fact, it should have done without.. The beginning, after the black guy saves the girl, was slightly confusing, where you have Pretty White Boy drive up, then poses as a waiter in a French restaurant, then scans a room for McGuffin. Then fisticuffs. No idea who I was supposed to cheer for. But I'm curious, at least for a couple episodes, where the show may go. I do agree with the criticism that every female, except for Melinda May, looks exactly the same. Young, medium height, trim waist, brunette... They get all their actresses from the modeling agency?

Sleepy Hallow from Fox, takes the short story written by Washington Irving and greatly expands upon it, in a four horseman of the apocalypse way. Nothing like creative license, right? Quite frankly, I'm impressed. Very interesting twist on the original story, good acting and character chemistry, mystery but not too much mystery that it loses you. And my God! It's so nice to see make-up artists being employed again! The creatures look spooky and cool and real. None of that CGI shit that Grimm employs.

Best "eeep!" moment (possible spoiler): in the beginning of the second episode, where John Cho's character, having had his neck snapped back in the previous episode, comes back to life, stumbling around the morgue with his upside-down head at his back. It's hard to describe, one of those you have to see.

Haven't seen anything else, because there wasn't a whole lot that interested me. I can't even recall what new offerings NBC has up. A comedy about terrible moms? Meh.

To wrap things up--ever wondered what Metallica's Enter Sandman would sound like as bluegrass? It would sound like awesome.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Under the Dumb: A Review

Because Star Trek: Into Darkness and Elysium were not punishment enough, I wound up watching the so-called "miniseries" Under the Dome on CBS. And yes, I want 12 hours of my life back.

For those of you who were fortunate to miss out, the show shares the same premise as Stephen King's novel, where a mysterious dome traps an entire town of people on the New England coast. But from what I've heard (I have not read the book myself), the series bears little resemblance to the book outside of the premise.

Where the hell do I begin?

I know these Stephen King miniseries are never really that good. The last one I tuned in to watch on TV was Red Rose--a haunted house story that kept telling you it wasn't a haunted house story. I also caught bits of that ABC version of The Shinning, which only proved that Stanley Kubrick knew his shit. The acting is always sub par, even when you have talented actors on the set, the special effects are cheesy (though Dome's isn't noticeably bad), and script writing is just meh.   

Honestly, I don't know why I stuck with the show. It's dumb. Stupid, dumb, bash-your-brains-in soap opera garbage. What was supposed to be an interesting situation, what happens when a you're trapped with your neighbors in a glass case?, becomes in episodic soap opera, where characters behave like morons to drag this nonexistent plot out. It wasn't until the fourth episode that we finally get some chaos. You would think people would freak out a lot sooner, right? I guess everyone was on Valium, 'cause they certainly act like it.

The way the series pads itself, is that one event happens in a forty-five minute duration. So there's a fire in one episode, military trying to blow the dome, a birth/death in another, a short lil' water war, fight club ripoff...and maybe some other stuff, but I honestly can't remember.

I don't know if it's worth mentioning the cast of characters, because they really don't do much, except for the scheming politician, "Big Jim" Rennie, who doesn't want the dome to come down, because it'd mean he'd lose his power grip on the town. I kind of wanted to be invested in Junior's character, because he appeared to be the most dynamic, being a psychopath who locks up his girlfriend, yet trying to do good by the town. But damn, is he thick. His dad, Big Jim, not only is condescending to him, but also kicked him out of the house for shooting a criminal. Yet, Junior continues to trust and obey his father. Why???

But the Dumbass Award goes to Deputy Linda Esquivel. This woman, despite all the times that Barbie helped her out in keeping law & order, and discovering that Big Jim was the ringleader of this propane-drug deal, listens to Big Jim's lies instead of interrogating Barbie for the supposed crimes he's committed. I don't even recall her talking to Barbie, one-on-one, because gee, it might clear things up. Oh, and I just love it when she stares all vacant-eyed at the gallows that Big Jim ordered the town to build. Holy shit, you're just going to let Big Jim execute a man without a trial by jury??? With cops like you, who needs criminals.   

The only storyline that has a grain of interesting in it, is the one that involves four teenagers and an egg inside a mini-dome. It's the only element that seems to progress, but like everything else, goes nowhere. The final episode, the one where people expected some sort of reveal about the dome, gives us nothing but a cryptic message. Tune in next season, right? Bullshit.

Aside from this show being based off of Stephen King's novel, I think the only advantage it had, was that it aired during the summer, when your only alternatives are re-runs and reality TV. I'm ninety-nine percent certain that if this show had aired during the Fall, competing with true entertainment like Person of Interest or NCIS, it's ratings would've sucked. But as a result of its "success"--taking a look at IMDb's reviews might say otherwise--it's going to be renewed for a second season.

I'm with others in saying, "I'm done." You can keep your dome, I'm going to go watch American Horror Story.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

More Icing on the White (Cat)astrophe Cake

In case you didn't think things could get worse for White Scat, it turns out that it is worse--and strange!

The former editor of Conjurings, a subzine of White Scat, said this (hope you don't mind, Bart):
I quit in July, just after finishing the TOC for issue one. The owner paid for all of us to take this ridiculous anti-pedophile training. It was strange and offensive all at once; I don't deal with children in any capacity, and I was never expected to. If you're wondering where the money to pay authors went, at least part of it went to giving the junior editors the training they needed not to rape children.


I don't think there are really any words for this except WTF? If you don't know by now, most editors are volunteers, dedicating their time to these magazines because they love short fiction and want to bring about more of it into the world. So to treat these volunteers as though they were potential pedophiles is just--wow. 

But thanks to editor in chief Mr. Moore's unhealthy obsession with anti-pedophilia, contributors don't receive their payments. A real lack of priorities there. No consideration for the editors, or the contributors, or anybody, really.  

I take back the head up the ass comment. The editor in chief needs to check himself into a mental health institution and stay there, permanently.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

White Cat Drowning

In the past, I've made clear my complaints about White Scat Publications, and nothing has changed my opinion. Just some hours ago, I received an email from Dora Badger, which reveals some troubling news about the publication. I'm going to share a sizable chunk of it here since it's already plastered all over Facebook, and the more who know about it, the better.

This email is to inform you that effective immediately, I will no longer be working for WCP/SDP in any capacity and that, to the best of my knowledge, Nightfall Magazine will not be published. 

Here's what I know:

-Payments to authors who contributed to magazines under the WCP umbrella (Blue Shift and Conjurings) have not been made within the contracted time.
-There is no actual plan in place to produce the remaining WCP magazines (Blue Shift & Conjurings #2, Nightfall & Dark Intent #s 1 & 2) currently under contract.
-Some physical copies of Conjurings #1 have gone out to purchasers. Other buyers have been waiting for some time. Physical copies of this magazine do exist and I don't know what is holding up shipment.
-Physical copies of Blue Shift #1 are not going out to people who purchase them. I don't know if physical copies exist.

Here's what I don't know:

-Whether Mr. Moore still plans to pay any White Cat contributors.
-If Mr. Moore has any actual, actionable plan to put out any publications at all over the next 18 months (I do believe he is still planning to produce a cookbook that was slated to be published in December of this year...that is the only item on which I have seen any movement  - except for Alamo Rising, which was effectively finished before things began going downhill - in six weeks).

Here's what I have heard from a very reliable source:

-Mr. Moore was sick for a time, but his illness was neither as long nor as devastating as he led me to believe.
-Mr. Moore and WCP/SDP are in dire financial straits.
-While Mr. Moore hopes to find a way out of this mess, there is no plan in place to do so and no real indication that one will be developed in the foreseeable future.

Please believe that delivering this news isn't easy. It is still possible that Mr. Moore does intend to move forward with Nightfall and with the other magazines, and to fulfill his obligations to pay the contributors. However, over the past several weeks Mr. Moore has completely ignored any requests I have sent for information or assurance. The fact that people who have bought copies of recent publications are not receiving them is extremely troubling to me. There have been other issues as well, which I will not go into here. 

The point is, I no longer have any confidence that WCP can do right by you or that they will provide adequate customer service to readers. Rather than ask you to wait for a year (or more!) while things at WCP are brought back under control, I have made the decision to step down and relay the information that I have to you so if you choose to shop your stories around elsewhere you may do so before markets close for the holidays.

This means my story, "Stone Within," co-written with Rez, won't be published with White Scat. It's a bummer, seeing as I went through quite a few markets to finally find a home for this story, but better that I get it out before the cat has finally drowned. On the brighter side, there have been new dark fiction markets popping up lately, so there's hope I'll be able to place the story in their, hopefully more capable, hands.

I also don't have a whole lot of faith that I'll ever see a penny for my TSW review in Conjurings. Live 'n learn, I guess.

I salute Dora's efforts during this whole fiasco, and for all the crap she probably had to put up with. White Scat wasn't deserving of her.

White Scat: you were a piece of shit publication. May your editor-in-chief get his head out of his ass.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

August W1S1 Update

Yeah, I'm late. Had caught on unfortunate case of summertime cold, and have been stuffing tissues up my nose for the past few days. Cold medicine doesn't seem to work, but then again, it's those gel tablets, and I have to wonder if those are even digestible.

Anyway... What were August's stats?

Stories written: 2 (1,400 weird tea story and a last minute flash piece)
Stories submitted: 26 (including resubs)
Stories accepted: 2
Stories rejected: 28

I knew August was going to be a rejection-heavy month, all the editors coming from their holiday, I guess. I had gotten quite a few personal rejections, and... geez. I'm embarrassed on behalf of these editors and/or their slushreaders. These personal rejections revealed a complete lack of reading comprehension--you know, that skill you learned back in the 3rd grade for book reports. If these rejections were summaries of how well the editor/slushie understood the material, then they would've flunked. Big time.

I don't write complicated stories, steeped in symbolism and metaphor. I'd say they're pretty straight-forward. So it's mind-boggling that editor/slushie's could get them so wrong. Like bang your head against the wall till it leaves a bloody spot wrong.

Anyone else scared for the state of literacy?

It's not enough just to read. You have to consume the material, chew it several times, ponder about what you just chewed, and spit it back out. It's not a difficult process, and should come automatic while you're reading, but obviously very few do it. It's more like they take a lick of the story, and decide if it tastes funny or not.

On the positive side, had some acceptances--one of which is already up at Indian SF. I know the concept behind Birth of a Witch has been done many, many times before--two separate editors told me so--but, this was the 3rd story I had written, and I felt it had some merit, even if the material wasn't new. As they say: there are no new stories, just new ways to execute them.

Also published was Great Find (4th story down) over at Perihelion. Kind of annoying that there isn't a direct link, but hopefully you don't mind scrolling.

Enjoy!--and good luck with writing, avoiding the cold/flu/whatever malady the news has hyped up this year. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Movie Review: Elysium

Anyone remember when films used to be subtle? That they could convey so much, while saying so

Elysium is not one of those films. In fact, it'll probably give you head trauma, after bludgeoning you over and over again with its messages.

The plot (for what it's worth): The year is 2154. Earth is a craphole, overcrowded, filthy, mostly made up of the poor; while the rich have fled to the colony paradise of Elysium. Yeah, you see where this is going... Our protagonist, Bourne Identity, is an ex-con who's just trying to do the right thing, when a mishap at work leaves him with severe radiation poison and only 5 days to live.  

On Elysium are medical pods that can restore anyone to full health. So our protagonist falls back on his shady connections in attempt to reach one of these pods and save his life.

Meanwhile, on Elysium, frigid Jodie Foster is trying to take control of the colony. She enlists the help of a businessman, who is part wealthy ahole and part programer, to write a program that will override Elysium's controls and place her in the president's seat--and apparently, Elysium doesn't believe in backing up its hard drive. There's also a sociopathic secret agent, played by Sharlto Copley (who you might recognize as Wikus from District 9).

And from that point, the plot gets really convoluted and ridiculous. 

Now I enjoyed District 9, despite being slightly heavy-handed. There was at least the story of Wikus trying to be with his wife again, and you cared about all the characters who were involved, even if they looked like giant shrimp.

However, director Neill Blomkamp has completely done away with the allegory this time around, giving us our own gritty reality in sci-fi form. You see, the eeevil rich people are keeping all the heath care to themselves and not sharing it with the poor. So the poor people are forced to sneak into the colony, break into homes, to get access to their rightfully deserved health care...which they did not pay for.

If there's one thing I know as a writer, it's to not force messages down your reader's throat. 'Cause, you know, no one likes it. People just want a good story, something to entertain them for an hour and a half. It's fine if you want social commentary, but it ought to be subtle and not the driving force of your story.

On the one hand, I can appreciate the director for bringing these issues to light. On the other, it irks me that the rich are portrayed in such a cynical light, when some of them do help others; they donate to charities or start charity foundations of their own. Does the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation not ring a bell? 

On the positive side, the sets had a nice authentic feel of sluminess, probably because it was filmed in Mexico. The CGI was great and felt realistic, just like in District 9. Copley gave an awesome, and perhaps most memorable performance (I can't say either Damon or Foster were stretching their acting abilities); he made a very creepy villain that in some scenes made your skin crawl (particularly when he's trying to cozy up to the woman--Ewwww!)

I don't think I can full-heartedly recommend this film. Better to watch Looper and get the same character-arc, but with so much more feeling and less sociopolitical baggage. Also, if you've seen Looper, then you already know how this movie will end. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

July W1S1 Update

Haven't done one of these in awhile, and I'm sure all one--maybe two?--of you are dying to know my stats this month. Failure? Success? Let's see!

Stories written: 3 (all flash pieces, because this was a flashy month... har har)
Stories submitted: 24 (including resubs)
Stories accepted: 2
Stories rejected:16

Had a vignette published this month, "Tag Team" from The Lorelei Signal. Unfortunately, the formatting is blah. I recommend copy & pasting the text into your word processor. Not much to say about the story itself other than a I had collected a couple fairytale twists from all the calls for fairytale themed what-nots last year. 

I was expecting a big-o rejection avalanche since everyone else was getting one, but I seem to be spared...for now. As for acceptances, both flash pieces (told ya, was flashy month), to Bete Noire and Perihelion--and a big thumbs to Perihelion for paying contributors on acceptance. Literally, hours after I signed and submitted the contract, I got a deposit in Paypal.

In contrast, don't expect to be paid on time by White Scat Publication. Despite saying payment within 45 days in their guidelines, it's more like whenever. I'm not an impatient person, but when it says 45 days, people expect 45 days or a well-reasoned delay. Also, don't expect to be included in a ToC on their website. In fact, don't expect much of anything from White Scat. There are far better and more organized publishers who are deserving of your time.

Anyway, let's enjoy "The Silence" from Bastille.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Has Horror Bled Out?

Returning to the topic of horror, which always seems to come up on blogs. I came across Diane Dooley's post on Women in Horror since she had left a pingback on "Invitation"... and I didn't notice it till now. So I may be late, but never too late to discuss.

A couple of things: I've talked about Urban Fantasy being more horror than fantasy, and recently, a few commenters from Crowded said "By the Stars You Will Know Her" is fantasy, not horror. I built "By the Stars..." to be a tale of horror, not a fantasy story--though I will settle for calling it dark fantasy--but this got me thinking that maybe a good chunk of horror stories are parading around as fantasy.

After all, fantasy is BIG right now. For the first time, fantasy is actually mainstream, thanks to Harry Potter and other popular children/young adult books. You'd be stupid not to jump on that train. And since the fantasy genre is more welcoming to female authors, it makes sense that women are submitting their horror stories as supernatural and/or dark fantasy.     

So because horror has been bleeding into the fantasy genre for a while now, it's not surprising that someone would look at a horror story and think: fantasy.

But will horror be able to recoup its blood loss and stand on its own?

Time will tell.

Western genre was never able to make a come back. We sorta grew out of adventure stories, sadly. However, Westerns are relived through science fiction (i.e. Star Wars, Firefly, various anime such as Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star) and to a lesser extent fantasy. It may very well be that horror will simply be absorbed into fantasy.

And I have to admit, my dark fantasy tales are much bloodier with a higher body count than my horror stories; partly because I prefer psychological horror. So in my mind, I actually treat the two differently. One has a single protagonist descending into madness, the other has the protags slaughtering stuff. I also write and love sci-fi horror, which tends to be more mental than gruesome. Hmm, now I wondering why my dark fantasy is so gory...

Any thoughts, opinions, psychosis, outraged pessimism? I figure I'd ask since no one will answer.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

2013 storySouth Million Writers

So this was something interesting that I stumbled across via someone else's blog. It's a contest strictly for online publications, which I thought was brilliant.

I'm a cheap bastard, so most of my reading is made up of the free stuff online; and although quality varies, there really are some great stories and publications that don't receive the recognition that they deserve. Some notable mentions are COSMOS Online (although it seems they're currently not publishing fiction), Abyss & Apex, and Ideomancer.

Only one of my stories qualifies for the contest this year, The Ungreat Escape. But I know there are lots of W1S1 writers who have fantastic stories in web-based zines. If you've got a story (to those few of you who comment or even bother to visit), or know one you'd like to share, link it below I'm curious to read.

Contest ends August 3rd, so the sooner the better! And everyone and anyone can vote. Hell, you can even vote for yourself...although that would be selfish and I'd rather do the noble thing and vote for another worthy writer.

So check it out and vote for your favorite online story!  

ETA: Forgot that Invitation is also eligible for nomination since it's 1,300 words, but... It's not exactly my favorite story. I mean I like it for what it is, but it doesn't compare to my later stuff.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Secret World Anniversary

Why yes, the coolest MMO ever is celebrating its one year release--not with champagne, but with monsters! For the duration of the event (July 3rd-July 8th15th), anyone can download the game at no cost. Otherwise it's buy-to-play.

And since no one will be reading my review of The Secret World in Conjurings (yep, still no ToC), thought I'd talk a bit about the game.

For all its flaws, bugs, broken PvP... it really is a fun game, or at the very least, refreshing. There's a sea of high fantasy games out there, and after a while they all start looking the same. You don't see too many games where you can visit London and buy some tacos from a ghoul in the back alleys. Or run around in a werewolf infested forest, high on shrooms. Or fight Lovecraftian creatures with fireballs, firearms, or a good ole katana.
Not a Lovecraft monster, but still freaky.

And props to the story, which is something woefully neglected by the majority of MMO's out there. Solomon Island still has the best story-arch of the three zones; dealing with zombies, pale men, dark secrets beneath the waves and one pissed-off demi-god.

And although I don't care much for Egypt, the issue 6 DLC, Last Train to Cairo, kind of makes up for the zone by giving you an Indiana Jones-meets-Stargate adventure. The last mission in the questline is particularly fun: you get to ride a train, killing and/or dodging obstacles as you make your way to the engine before the train reaches Cairo and unleashes its horrible, horrible device. It also gave me a feeling of nostalgia, because there was a train level on the N64 game Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire--which is still an awesome game.  

So check it out if you like challenging, yet fun MMO's and are tired of high fantasy trope land. It's free to play for this special week (you'll have to make a Funcom account, of course). Might as well spend 4th of July weekend hacking zombies with a chainsaw.      

More pics! (click on them for a better view)
Egypt at sunrise

Into the cosmos
Dunwich: it's not just a horror

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Short Story: The Mission

 It wasn’t every day that you saw a nun on the hover bus to the outermost part of town. Riley was stunned when he got on, and the driver had to remind him to pay. He sat down across from her; it was just them and some old fart snoozing in the back. According to his cube, she was of Korean descent with some Hispanic traits; her oval brown face--a face that said she was in her late-thirties--poked out of the black wimple. She didn’t have any luggage, only a small backpack on her lap.

Live from AE - The Canadian Science Fiction Review, my science fiction story The Mission.

If you do read it, please read the comment I posted below for the actual ending, which makes significantly more sense. I'm not sure how the ending got botched, but my guess: a rushed job. It was literally just the other day when I confirmed the edits. I had wanted to retain part of the original ending, because it matched the theme--and they said okay, we'll put the key lines back. And yes, they sorta did put them back, but not in the right order. So yes, please read the comment, I swear I don't write endings that jumbled up. 
*edit* Disaster averted! It's all fixed now. :)

Other than that, I'm pretty happy with the editing on the story--a story that I never really expected to sell pro, let alone SFWA-pro. Not putting the story down, I think it's a perfectly good, entertaining tale; it just wasn't something I thought the upper markets would be interested in. Maybe because it's not an emotional heart-string puller, maybe because it isn't pretension bullcrap.

The inspiration for this is kind of odd--or more of a realization. I had read The Third Attractor at A&A, and it stuck me how rare it was to see a non-bigotry religious character in a story. I'm not exactly religious myself, but I do feel bad about how much religion, especially Christianity, gets bashed in fiction. 

So I figured I'd write a story involving a nun and it wouldn't even be about religion. And here we are. Not bad for a first SFWA-qualifying sell, huh?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Presenting the ToC for - Oh wait!

You know how every single magazine and anthology has a Table of Contents available online, right? 
Not in this case

Why am I bringing this to your attention? Supposedly I have a review in there of MMORPG The Secret World. But obviously you wouldn't know that unless you bought the magazine issue, had it delivered, and opened it up to see for yourself.  

Outraged? No. Baffled? Yes.

For one, how are potential would-be buyers supposed to judge whether the product is worth their money? From a seller's point of view, this is just dumb.

Once upon a time, I tried to sell Kirby Vacuums (I don't recommend this job. Ever.) You didn't simply show the customer the box and told them that there was more inside. No. You got every damn piece out, showed them how it all works, and even vacuumed their carpet. Because a customer won't be interested unless they know what's inside the box.

People want to know what's in the magazine, not just the highlighted stories.

Another reason is the lack of public recognition toward the contributors. As I said, how would you know that I had a review in there, if you didn't buy it first? That's kind of sad that I have to tell you (and all you have is my word), rather than looking up the ToC.

For writers, public recognition is a important, because that's how writers get their name out into the world. If people recognize your name, they tend to follow your stuff and might even purchase it. So to not include all the contributors in that pathetic little blurb, which would only be acceptable on Facebook or (Twit)ter, is a good way to alienate them. 'Cause you know, it's not like magazines need contributors--oh wait!

Weird thing is, White Cat seems really inconsistent about this. Some of the Sam's Dot issues have a ToC, while others don't. Don't know if this is a decision, or just pure laziness.

Contacted the editor a couple days ago about this... Haven't heard back. Editors: they respond when they feel like it. The editor had promised to put a ToC up on his blog, which as you guessed, didn't happen.

Not sure how to feel about this other than disappointment.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Short Story: By the Stars You Will Know Her

The 6th issue of Plasma Frequency is out, and along with it, my dark fantasy story "By the Stars You Will Know Her"--and to be honest, I'm not a fan of the title, I wrote it when I was on my Lovecraft kick.

El excerpt:
She strode across star-filled waters that knew no distinction from the sky above. Shadows clung to her form, made her enigma.

But he could make out her eyes.

She had the eyes of an ancient: mists and lightning swirling into a maelstrom galaxy, a kind of chaos that would pull you in if you gazed too long.

And yet he stared.

Do I have anything to say about this story?


I had submitted this story to Crowded before Plasma Frequency, where other submitters and the editors could leave comments on your story. I did take some of the advice about cutting the less-than-interesting stuff. However, two of the comments (and sadly, I no longer have them) didn't like the ending, which was funny, because I loved it.

It's the kind of ending I like to see in horrors and dark fiction; that sharp cut off, leaving the reader to fill in the emotions. Obviously not the sort of ending for everyone--but hey, worked for the good folks of Plasma Frequency.

By the way, Plasma Frequency is celebrating their one year anniversary, which is a pretty big accomplishment for a small publisher; the majority of publishers tend to crap out within six months or less.

So to celebrate, they're holding a contest with goody prizes such as $50 Amazon gift cards and paperback anthology. Oh, and another cool thing: you get to vote for your favorite story in each issue, and the winners get to be part of Plasma Frequency's Year One anthology. So you know, if you have a certain favorite story in issue 6... *wink wink*

All of Plasma Frequency's issues are free to download in various formats, including Kindle, Nook and PDF. Check them out! I'd recommend them; they're one of the few publishers who still recognizes that things should happen in a story.