Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Nov/Dec 2016 Issue



A few days ago, I made this cryptic post on Facebook that I had placed in some sort of contest. I didn't want to say anything because I wasn't 100% sure the magazine had been released yet, but I can see that it is up on Amazon and we are now into the cover month. So, the rest of the story...
Back in early summer, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction held a contest for readers to update a single sentence of a classic SF novel. Contestants could send in as many as six entries. I sent only two, because...well, let's just say it had nothing to do with confidence. Last week, I received a package from Publisher Gordon VanGelder. When I read the letter, my hand went to my mouth and trembled. F&SF is one of the most prestigious magazines in the field. And to see something I had written within its pages has been my dream for more than thirty years. Thank you Mr. Van Gelder and everyone at F&SF.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

REVIEWS - Ghostbusters (2016) and Netflix: Strange Things


Here are a couple of reviews for you.  Mild spoilers.

NETFLIX: STRANGER THINGS

Season 1, Episode 1

Wynona Ryder as Joyce. Photo: NETFLIX
 
          The first episode of Netflix's new series STRANGER THINGS is Eh, okay so far.  Thirty minutes in, I wasn't yet convinced to watch episode two, but by the end I was curious as to what would happen next.
          WHAT'S NEW:  Not a lot, yet.
          WHAT'S NOT NEW:  Small, isolated town with a morally questionable sheriff.  Mom (Wynona Ryder) who is overworked, over stressed, and raising her sons alone. Dad is out of the picture and might be anywhere with any number of girlfriends. Ryder's younger son is abducted by what may or may not be a supernatural evil created in the lab.
          Part of that evil (possibly) is a girl who is around the same age as the four boys on whom the show focuses.  An X-FILES-style secret lab sends out forces to track her down. She obviously originated in the lab and seems to have been part of or birthed by a huge Mordor-ish tree-trunk-looking-thing, growing out of the wall, sporting short tentacles and a clickety-smacky kind of maw.
          WHAT I LIKED:  Story is set in the 1980s, and since I am a child of that era, the show sparks a lot of nostalgia for me.  The music--even the background music that sets the mood--sounds like the synthesizer horror-movie riffs you'd hear in a John Carpenter flick from the '80s. That's a nice, subtle touch.  Spoiler here, but I gotta tell ya:  In one scene, Ryder shows her son that she bought tickets for them to watch a movie.  The movie is POLTERGEIST.  I think it would have been funny--cheesy, but funny--if the movie had been BEETLEJUICE.  (Even though we're six years too early for that one.)
          PREDICTIONS:  I have not watched episode two yet, but . . . .  Ryder's son most likely has been pulled to The Other Side (whatever its name will be).  Hence the POLTERGEIST reference. He will act as liaison between the human realm and that of the monster(s) always under great risk of losing his innocence and becoming one of Them.  The three other boys (his friends) will form a sort of Hardy Boys/Stand By Me kind of club to search for their abducted friend--a mystery that will last at least the entire season.  The club will always be closer to the truth than are the adults and especially the police.  The only adult the boys will trust will be some sort of Mentor, a grandfather- or uncle-type, who sends them on missions (probably secondary missions that aid in the main goal) but cannot participate beyond sage advice and will be unreachable when they most need him. The escapee girl, who we are not yet sure about, will probably be an on again/off again ally with whom we must work to build our trust while she does the same towards those around her.
          Wynona Ryder will always be worried and weepy.


~   ~   ~

GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)


Ecto-1, Tulsa, OK convention. Photo: Sam Reeves
           Part of me thinks the movie is overhyped, part thinks that the movie is smart but not brilliant.
          I mean, let's face it, the comedy in the first half of the movie rarely ascends above fart jokes. 
          When I first heard about the GHOSTBUSTERS reboot and saw that they were all women, I thought that this was another unfortunate bastard of political correctness.  The less sexist part of me said, "Stop wondering how they eat and breathe and other science facts.  It's GHOSTBUSTERS, not Shakespeare."  Besides, nobody said four guys were the perfect match for this story.
          One of the main reasons I wanted to watch the movie was Melissa McCarthy.  I have loved everything I have seen from her.  She is naturally hilarious, seems affable, gorgeous, and umpteen million other adjectives that boil down to just plain awesome.
          She didn't stand out in this movie.  I mean, she's good, but I felt that her character never really got off the ground in the explosive way a person might expect from a fantasy, special-effects driven movie. Then again, she is trying to recreate and renew the slot of Peter Venkman's character.  Bill Murray is pretty hard to outshine.  And maybe that is McCarthy just being smart.  If she had done something totally new and alien, we might have been put off.
          Leslie Jones is Patty Tolan, who represents (is that the right word?) Winston (originally played by Ernie Hudson). I liked her from her first second on screen. She is snarky and brilliant without falling into the Angry Woman stereotype. Patty knows the history of the city in what seems like a School of Hard Knocks versus Ivy League College educated way. The only thing I found incongruent with her is that she is obviously a history buff, yet she had never heard of ley lines. I mean, I have no history expertise (most of what I know about the US Constitution, I learned from the old School House Rock song) but even I know what ley lines are.  Maybe I am just nitpicking there though. 
          Kate McKinnon might be my favorite of the bunch. She is Jillian Holtzmann, or Egon, if we are going to keep comparing.  McKinnon's version, however, is probably the more original.  Her look with the blonde pompadour is more like the Egon from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon than it was Harold Ramis. She is a loveable rogue (the woman can't keep from propping her feet up onto the furniture) but she is not an intentional charmer.  She is goofy without being bumbling.  She is having fun with every second. 
          Holtzmann loses credibility for me because of the speed in which she creates impossibly theoretical, nuclear-physics kind of equipment.  The Ghostbusters are barely more than leaving one scene, when Holtzmann is already presenting them with the next phase of the invention they just used.
          CONS:  What the hell is it with that whirlygig-looking thing that Abby (McCarthy) keeps using to detect ghosts?  I mean, we've all seen sixty or seventy seasons of the Syfy Channel's GHOST HUNTERS.  We know what KVM and EMF meters look like.  It's not a kid's night light toy that can also cool you off during a ball game.  

Sam Reeves with Ghost Hunter founder Jason Hawes. Photo by Tonya Reeves

          PROS:  The first half of the movie was the new crew trying to terraform a VERY familiar country.  Rebuilding an iconic world is no easy chore.  They did a pretty good job of it, though.  While this movie may not be as immortal as the Summer 1984 blockbuster, it will be one of the best movies of this year.  Once the contemporary version made it past the midpoint, they started mixing in the new with the old.  It no longer felt completely like a reboot and more like a different flavor of the same story. 
            The special effects were not just cool, they were beautiful.

          There were a few hilarious moments.  Plenty of cute cameos.  And my wife and son roared with laughter throughout.

          Reboots have an inherent handicap:  they must recreate (and outdo) the magic of the original.  The originals became iconic because they expanded the borders of what we knew.  STAR WARS took an old story and gave us visuals that rewrote the books for the special effects industry.  One of the most significant reasons the original GHOSTBUSTERS succeeded was that it gave us a ghost story without the nightmares.  Changing the genders of the main characters was a good start, but it shouldn't have stopped there.

        

           

         

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

People Watching, People Bouncing


          I must tell you of my recent adventure:  I am 45 years old, and for the first time in my life, I went to a public swimming pool.  My doctor said that exercising in the pool would be great for my back, especially since the buoyancy would take pressure off my disks. 
          Boy was she right!  I had difficulty with balance at first, but it only took a few minutes to find my sea legs.   I haven't swam in probably fifteen years, and for the first time in thirteen years, I had no pain from the small of my back down to my feet.  None!  I mean, it relieved pain I had grown so accustomed to that I was no longer aware of its presence until it was gone. 
          I stayed in for about thirty minutes.  It was great.  But there was one big problem. Every 45 minutes, everyone on a ladder chair blows whistles so the lifeguards can go take a break in the air conditioning.  Those whistles mean that everyone has to get out of the pool. I began to climb out.  I was all right until I once again felt the full force of gravity. 
          Instantly, I got sick.  I mean hand-over-my-mouth-so-I-don't-puke sick.
          I sat on the first bench I could find, and I was not able to get up for about another thirty minutes.  It made me so sick that I could not make myself go back into the water, even after the nausea passed.
          Why did this happen?  Had I overexerted myself without knowing it?  Did I maybe get water into my middle ear and throw my equilibrium out of whack? 
          Being benched was okay, though, because it allows me to people watch.  The world is full of fantastic characters that might one day make it into a story.  Or bits and pieces of several people might merge into one good character.
          So, I sat on the bench and people watched.  I couldn't hear the conversations because of the fountains in the pool splashing.  I did make the following observations, though:
          There were more teenagers in the kiddie pool than there were kids.
          The cadre of We Studmuffins Three kept circling the pool.  They all looked like they had been wet at some point, but I never actually saw them get into the water.  The one who strutted with the greatest amount of I-passed-the-driver's exam machismo seemed to be the leader. The two wingmen, the lesser muffins, walked a half step behind him.  They all wore similar (but not matching, matching ain't cool) black swimming trunks.  Their hair was all dark brown and cut in the same styles.  Each had pecks that shouted, "Look! Secondary hormones have kicked in!" They walked with their arms slightly flexed and their asses cocked as if they had hemorrhoids the size of a hedgehog colony.
          There was a hipster with a chest-length red beard. It looked like someone had tried to roll some dreadlocks with it but changed their mind.  I liked him.  He had character potential.  He was impressed with my horse-fly-killing ability. (Open-handed slap--Oppa, Miyagi Style!)  He said, "Dude, I'd rather get stung by a wasp than one of those things."
          My favorite was the elderly couple, though. They were probably in their seventies, both wearing floppy straw hats.  Both were a good forty pounds overweight. These old folks were the only ones of their age there, and I guess they were not satisfied sitting at the edge dangling their tootsies.  The woman slowly crept down the ladder first, followed closely by her husband.  She walked with her arms gliding at the surface of the water, as if she were using an invisible walker.  They left the 4 ft section and trudged like pilgrims fighting the elements to the rope with blue and white floats that marked the center of the pool and the 5 ft section.  The man stood with his back to the rope.  Occasionally, he stretched his arms out to his sides, airplane-like, but not very often.  Otherwise, he did not move.  He just stood there, looking put out. 
          All of a sudden, I noticed that the woman was bouncing.  Hands folded over her belly and hopping.  She kept doing this, and apparently she was not having fun.  She neither laughed nor even smiled.  The husband appeared oblivious, even though she was three feet away.  Maybe he was used to it. 
          Five minutes passed and she was still hopping.  Completely expressionless.  Just boing. Boing. Boing. Boing.
          Ten minutes passed. 
          I'm pretty sure she bounced the entire 45 minutes between lifeguard breaks.  How did she do that without having a heart attack?  And why wasn't she having fun?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

When Dad Didn't Turn 85


Samuel H. Reeves, Sr
July 10, 1929 - February 18, 2010


Just before 1 AM, hours before I went to bed, I looked at the date and remembered what today was. I found a picture of him and posted it to a few social media sites so I could say, “Happy birthday, Dad.”  Now, after I have had some sleep, I wonder whether I was doing that for attention.

It’s odd that every few minutes or so, I stop thinking about him.  I actually forget that it has been six years. Then, there are the other times....

I usually make several trips to the bathroom on this day. Not because I drank too much water. I’m hiding so my wife and son don’t have to see me randomly stop moving for minutes at a time, because I have been buffeted with a new and concentrated form of paralysis that makes me re-live, “I think we just lost Dad.”

I guess there is a reason I posted this too. I don’t know why yet, though. If I am going to be audacious enough to call myself a writer, then I know at least that our heads are less useful for figuring things out than is a blank page.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Chuck Palahniuk - Fight Club 2 Comics

My wife typically exceeds her recommended daily allowance of being awesome.  In a recent visit to a comic book store, she held up Fight Club 2 #2 and said, "Do you have this?"

I said, "Yes, but I don't have any of the others."

Five minutes later, she handed me the stack in the video below and said, "You're done now, right?"


video