Thursday, June 19, 2014

Updates from a Slacker

Not entirely slacking, but I do feel like I haven't written as much lately. Partly because I've been editing/writing for an indie game Hellenica--a steampunk JRPG set in ancient Greece, hopefully coming out at the end of the year.You can check out the developers' blog here if you're interested to find out more.

But there's been some news in the past few weeks.

First off, publications!

"Astreya's Fish" over at Chrome Baby, which is free to read. If you've read By the Stars You Will Know Her or Oh Deity, My Deity, then you've encountered Astreya before. At some point, I'll get around to writing the fourth installment that'll wrap all these stories together. I just haven't gotten on it since none of those stories have been big sellers. *sigh* But it'll of these days...

Other publications:  "Detergent" in Bete Noire issue #15  --a black comedy sci-fi flash piece. Need to buy the issue, but here's a snippet: 
“We need detergent so--”

“How could you?” She frowned. “You should at least wait until she dies.”

He sighed. “But that’s taking too long. We need soap now.”

“Absolutely not!”

“I think we’ve kept her long enough, past her usefulness anyway. What does she do now? Except cost us credits. I mean, how many hips do we have to replace on her?”

“She’s not a refrigerator.”

“I agree, our fridge has never given us trouble.”

In space, you gotta get your soap from somewhere, right?

And yet another flash piece, "The Last Old House," in Horror D'oeuvres.

Some acceptances, one from an awesome anthology called Unfettered--stories which revolve around illustrations by Terry Whidborne (I chose the one with gnomes on stilts crossing tentacles). The same publisher is open for another neat anthology idea: The Lane of Unusual Traders. The pay is really good, so it's something worth checking out. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Story Analysis: The Mothers of Voorhisville

I'm going to try something new here, and may or may not earn me the wrath of some author. But I figure if these stories are up for reviews and critiques, then playing the analytical game isn't so bad and it's something I already do when reading, so...yeah.

So going to take a look at "The Mothers of Voorhisville" by Mary Rickert, published by Story is available for free online so you can read you won't be left out.

I'm going with this story because it's actually a pretty decent psychological horror, and it's becoming increasingly hard to find those that don't sound like a dreamlike sequences the author had while hopped on cold medicine. I also disagree with Lois Tilton in her review, but we'll get to that. The story is certainly (in my opinion) flawed, but not in the way that she thinks.

Voorhisville is a small town that gets turned on its head when "The Stranger" comes and seducers several of the women--women who range from married to widowed, underage teens to some reaching into their forties. The result of the seduction leads to pregnancies and the birth of blue-eyed boys...with wings. So yes, there is a Village of the Damned vibe to this, however, instead of creepy kids, we get crazy, overprotective mothers.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, individual mothers and "The Mothers" who is a collective voice. The Mothers try to chronicle the events while individuals share their personal experiences, which are the most powerful scenes. To read how each woman came into contact with the stranger, how they instantly "did it" with him, pregnancy, the terrible labor, the discovery that their child could fly--and the paranoia if anyone else finds out.  

No, what had sealed her fate was that moment when she decided to lie to her husband about the baby’s wings. It was no longer the three of them against the world, but mother and child against everyone else.

And from there, we see these mothers' sanity slip. But consequences reverberate, and we see the husbands having to bear the brunt of this, while not understanding why their wives shut them out. Hell, in Pete's case, husband of Theresa Ratcher and father of Elli, he gets accused of molesting his own daughter!

Now the text isn't clear if this is a case of mass hysteria, bewitchment, or maybe something in the water. Lois Tilton took issue with this because the ambiguity was more frustrating than interesting. If it's bewitchment, why did the Stranger do it? I don't know, but the fact that he drives a hearse should give you a sense of foreshadowing.

To me, it didn't matter. The Mothers are insane, so nothing they do is going to make much sense,  even when they act in self-preservation for the sake of their babies--and granted, they have some reason for this because people like Pete see the babies as sick animals that need to be put down--they go waaaay over-the-top.

There in lies some of the problem. The ending goes completely off the rails, almost to the point of a farce. It's just ludicrous. I can sort of understand why, not in terms of the story itself, but rather, the limits of the horror genre. There can only be so many conclusions to a horror story: the protagonist defeats the evil, the protagonist succumbs to evil, or the protagonist is the evil. As a result, I think horror writers have been struggling to come up with new ways to wow editors, and not fall into predictability. In this case, perhaps the author was trying to go out with as much of a bang as possible, despite the soft plea of the Mothers at the end.

For me personally, I would've preferred seeing the consequences extend, first the mothers, then the family unit, then to society overall. I pictured the Mothers becoming a secret society--probably because I find secret societies creepy as hell--lording over the town, sending their babies to terrorize any who dare speak out. After all, something like this must have had an impact on small town life, and if the foreshadowing is true, then the Stranger may have intended to end such a way of life.

And no, I don't think the babies were perfectly innocent. They may not be monsters yet, but they seemed to have the potential, seeing as they did chew two human beings to death, one of them being a mother. Still, the Mothers protect their young.

So I think that wraps things up. If you read "The Mothers of Voorhisville" and have any of your own insights, feel free to share them in the comment section. I wouldn't let the ending deter you from reading this (in case you haven't), because of course that's my opinion. All I know is that I didn't feel it worked for this particular piece. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

An X-Men movie that is sequel, prequel and even reboot. Obviously this revival was in part inspired by the success of Marvel, because anyone who has seen X3 knows that movie essentially ended the X-Men series...but then the franchise came back.

Brief synopsis: The future is doomed for the mutants. Giant robots known as "Sentinels" have overrun the world and hunted the mutants to near-extinction. Now it's up to Kitty Pryde (aka Shadowcat), using some odd new power of projection, to project Wolverine's mind back into the past where he might alter the outcome.

In short, I enjoyed it. Haven't seen X-Men: First Class, because for a while I was done with X-Men films. I was supremely dissatisfied with X3, and after watching the leaked version of Wolverine: Origins--a complete waste of film--the franchise had truly ran its course. But that doesn't say much because I've never really been impressed with the X-Men movies. Compared to the animated series of the 90's, with adventures of both cosmic and catastrophic in nature and size, the movies are weak sauce. Especially what they did with Rogue (booooo!) Maybe one day they'll be a real reboot. But till then...

I wasn't bored with the action like I was with Star WarsTrek: Into Darkness; in fact, some really awesome action scenes involving a new mutant, Blink, and her ability to throw portals wherever. Quite fun to see allies hop into one portal and fall out of another and onto the enemy's back, or for a portal to cut a sentinel in half. Unfortunately, the best action is reserved for the future scenes, and there's only two good ones, which makes the great cast of mutant characters feel wasted.

The bulk of the movie is set in 1973, where Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) must stop Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinate a prominent figure which would set the future as they know it in motion--but first, he must seek out young Professor X (James McAvoy) and young Magneto (Michael Fassbender). All the performances are great and I enjoy how these characters all play off one another, which makes the lack of action forgivable. Also, plenty of gags with a non-adamantizied Wolverine.

Really enjoyed Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and like his name's sake, his time on the screen is short. Again, it's sort of wasted, and you wonder why the character couldn't tag along (aside from the fact that he'd make things waaaay too easy). At the very least, they did give a nod (if you're familiar with the X-Men genealogy) to who his father might be. Interesting factoid: Evan Peters co-starred with Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the first Kick-Ass movie, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is to play Quicksilver in the Marvel movies.

Here, there be spoilers.

The plot is odd. I'm not talking about the time travel elements, because that's all comic book logic, but the fact that the movie would've been over half-way in if young Magneto hadn't been such an ass. And it makes you wonder: why the hell did they bust him out? He just made things worse!

They also try to shoehorn some historical stuff, like Magneto was originally imprisoned because he "supposedly" assassinated JFK, and then there's young Professor X's addiction to a serum that allows him to walk while inhabiting his powers, which resembles awfully close to heroine use.

Then there's this pathetic attempt to explain the mutant gene and genetics, which is an area that Hollywood has no business going into, especially when there was a preview for a movie that still sticks to the "humans only use 10% of their brain" myth.     

On the plus-side (and this is a big plus), because of all the timey-wimey stuff, this movie effectively erases all the mistakes in X3. That alone elevates this movie to higher standards. 

So despite the flaws, Days of Future Past has rekindled my interest in the X-Men franchise--there's going to be another movie coming out in 2016, so might as well get used to it. Just hoping they don't burn it to the ground again.