500 Words on the Topic of Hellraisin’

My donors are so shy and unimposing.  I have a guess who one of them is, and if I’m right, he might like a word about cenobites…  Jeezis Shit, I just went searching for the origin of the quote “Sticks and stones may break my bones but whips and chains excite me” and the entire internet thinks Rihanna came up with it.  I heard that shit in junior high and I’m forty-seven years old, so … time travel?  I was thinking, maybe Andrew Dice Clay, but that didn’t come back with anything.  Why can I imagine it in Woody Allen’s voice?  Somebody help me.

Anyway, sexy menace.  Tearing your soul apart as a euphemism for the ecstasy of orgasm.  Chains and blades and hooks with a life of their own.  The black-eyed priests and nuns and less specifically gendered clergy of Hell, in sexy leather clothes, ready to give you the business.  You know you want it.

Something about the cenobites from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (original story Hellbound Heart) is just sooo iconic.  They are gods among monsters.  I’d love to come up with something that hits the same way, but is it possible?  Is that kind of idea just lightning in a bottle?  Were they a Platonic Ideal just waiting in the realm of Forms, and Barker just happened to be the first guy to pluck them from that airy plane?

There’s the seeker.  Frank “Come to Daddy” Cotton and his ilk.  Somebody chasing a high that can only be found in transgression, and there’s never enough.  Then there’s the box.  Beautiful, elegant, small, activated by touch, by curiosity.  The cracks in the world, admitting the power of Leviathan.

Then there’s the Apostles of Pain.  The cenobites.  Love those guys.  I’m not into S&M, not really, but the look of it all?  Very cool.  I like cool things.  I like the aesthetics.  Total poser, I know.  I remember being in The Metro on Seattle’s Broadway buying leather accoutrement, and the clerk asked, “Stocking up for a good time?”  I felt so uncool.  Whaddyagonnado?

I guess I could seek the box, do that fiddly hand jive, unlock the lament configuration, and get my cool on.  Or my flesh off, whichever happens first.  I’ll be like the doctor in Hellraiser II, “To think, I hesitated!”

I came up with the core of a formula for trying to arrive at the power of Icon in monster design.  Come up with Sinister Themes of the monster, Visual Motifs, Colors, Shapes, Textures, Powers, and Places associated with them.  You can see some mention of it here.  I still haven’t successfully used it to come up with anything interesting.  Just never got around to it.  Maybe on another one of these posts.

For now, this post will just be a note of admiration for the creation of a master.  Maybe when I’ve sold my screenplay for Gun Lemurs and made a bank full of money, I can buy the time to pursue my own immolation.  To earn that charisma.  Wish me luck?

Hierarchical Perspective

There’s this concept in art history called hierarchical perspective.  As I recall, before the rules of realistic perspective were worked out from observation of reality, artists would draw character’s and object’s size relationships based on how important they were.  Jesus lookin’ fifty feet tall next to a king who in turn dwarfs the peasantry, that sorta shit.

I wish I had a higher quality version of this music video.  I like it a lot.  The tiny mans always make me feel some type of way about art history.  Or maybe I’m just a giantess fetishist.

 

The Brinkman is Back

FreethoughtBlogs’s own William Brinkman is at it again!  He has a new story set in his Bolingbrook Babbler Literary Universe, and I got an advance reader copy of it.  The rest of you rabble can order it tomorrow, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.  This is my review.

Like William’s The Rift, A Fire in the Shadows is action-packed genre fiction, set in the Weekly World News -inspired setting of his “Bolingbrook Babbler” articles.  At around 12k words, it’s long for a short story, but only covers a few short events.

There’s a lot of information around those events, and the author wants the story to stand on its own, so the exposition can land like bricks upside the head.  The references to events in The Rift feel particularly unnecessary, beyond the important fact of the weredeer incursion.  I do like being able to include a sentence like that in a review.

Still, as I said before, it’s fun to see SFF genre fiction that isn’t beholden to the conventions laid down by the titans of Intellectual Property.  There’s stuff here to enjoy.  The vampire battle strategizing reminded me of a bit in “From Russia with Love” where James Bond was thinking about how he could totally judo chop through his opponent’s chest if he wanted to, but now wasn’t the time for it.

One thing that struck me odd.  The vampire characters seem to regard their own human ethnicities as a thing to be disdained, and I’m not convinced they’d have any reason to feel that way.  This element seemed like a ploy to spell out the characters’ backgrounds without breaking from the plot and dialogue to do so.  In general, the bitchy attitudes of the vampires were unappealing, and while that may have been intentional, it’s not interesting to me as a reader.  I know some other readers like it, so YMMV.  I did like the main character Lydia being a lovefool like The Cardigans.

William’s writing style spells out a lot.  “Show, don’t tell” is one of the central dogmas of 20th century literature, but there are situations where even back then it was ignored.  Short stories in action-packed genre fiction, well, that’s one place where telling works.  His “The Rift” was short for a novel, and like this story, packed a lot into its length, by merit of willingness to lay ideas out plainly.

This creates a paradox (if I’m using that word right), because sometimes William does not spell something out.  Those can be pretty important themes and ideas, and since a reader gets accustomed to him spelling out the situation unambiguously, it’s easy to forget he might leave something unsaid.  I’m guessing a lot of readers might miss his unspoken ideas.

**SPOILERS BELOW**

Like “The Rift,” I think the main character of “A Fire in the Shadows” has an unreliable perspective.  Lydia is the kind of person who is in love with the world, like a ramped-up high school student.  Like I used to be, once upon a time, wheeling from one crush to the next.

And that’s the exact kind of person that would repeat the social faux pas that exploded the atheo-skeptic community – a poorly timed pass at a person, which would come off as creepy.  Had Lydia followed through with her love confession at the end of AFITS, she would have been an even bigger creep than Tom during his elevatorgatery crime in The Rift.

Who wants to have an age-inappropriate leather-clad stranger confess their love for you, at night when there’s no one else around?  Big yikes.  Interesting to see a story show a character walk up to that edge and come back.

I think it’s funny that a person could miss that whole theme because it’s the source of the title.  “Fire” is vampire slang for your burning soul.  While Lydia is a reasonably good person, she has that fiery passion of a stranger lurking in The Shadows – something romantic until it becomes dangerous.  Something she needs to be mindful of, and that the targets of that affection are probably better off not knowing about.

That’s emotionally sophisticated stuff.  I liked it.  Thanks, William.

DC TV Extinction

Spoiler Warning for The Flash.  I really profoundly don’t care about spoilers, but hey, here’s a moment’s consideration for those who do.

Not really sure what the new business model at The CW is going to be since the takeover, but it seems like the crossover DC Comics shows are being phased out, bit by bit.  There’s a new DC Comics show that hasn’t premiered yet, but safe assumption it will have little to do with the rest.  It’s easier and more cost-effective to have your shows be modular, not interdependent in any way.  Hey, biz is biz.

Legends of Tomorrow was easily the best thing left in the DC slate and had its last season.  I hope everyone involved is well compensated and living their best life in whatever they do next.  After hinting The Arrow spinoff character Diggle was going to become The Green Lantern in crossover bits for a season, they wrote a weird little end to that plot, like, psych, never mind.  An thus the last of The Arrow‘s existence takes a dirt nap.

Stargirl‘s second season was COVID’d into a strange depressing mess.  They did as well as they could, but you could feel the characters were being isolated from each other for social distancing, the plot written in such a way as to denude the world of extras, leaving everything cold and dark.  Third and final season coulda been worse, but the amazing action of the first Season was almost completely gone.  They just didn’t have the budget for it anymore, I’m sure.

So The Flash is on its last season, which is good.  It’s time.  The most recent two seasons were hobbled by COVID and ended up totally bizarre.  I theorized here that the lady playing Flash’s main squeeze had come to dislike the production in some way, since her character was written out of contact with most of the cast during those seasons.  But she’s back in the house; looks like those strange writing decisions were probably more about COVID issues.  That will let them send the series into retirement with a solid season filmed under less strained circumstances.

The Flash has generally been marketed as less edgy, more superheroic and light than The Arrow.  That marketing was undercut by how grimdark and hopeless the main villain plots have been, over and over throughout its run.  Now that they’re back to their original form, without sensible plague restrictions, will the oppressive atmosphere return?  Who is the big bad of the very last season?

It’s Batwoman!  I did not see that coming.  Batwoman was cancelled and did a very competent job of its last season.  I liked it all well enough.  I think Greg Berlanti (or somebody else in his company) must love his actors, because he keeps giving them chances to show up even after their shows end.  Javicia Leslie is playing an alternate timeline version of Batwoman who became a Jokeresque wildhearted villain.  That means acting like a big campy goofball.  Let this season actually be fun!  We’ll see.

After all of this, I must share an amusing discovery I made.  For all the success of the DC comics shows – particularly The Flash – none of them touched the viewership of The Vampire Diaries.  Whatever big feels they inspire in a certain segment of humanity, the nerd audience is just smaller or less passionate than the romantic girly audience.  Take that, entitled-ass dorks!  And to whatever extent I share an identity with you – not as much as you might imagine – take that, me.

I guess I’ve only been paying attention to the DC shows because of the cultural connection with the comics, the art, the iconic characters in the background of my life since early childhood.  The Superfriends.  The guys on my underwear and my sippy cup, whatever.  If I wanted to pay attention to shows that really matter to most people, I’d skip the dork slate and watch sweet sexy vampires doing their thing…

The Individual and Society and Kung Fu

revengering

There’s this horrible kung fu movie I keep coming back to, in English called “The Revenger,” starring the lovely Ti Lung.  There are two things that compel me to watch it again.  First and foremost, the voice actor for the lead in the English dub is spectacularly degenerate.  I love him.  I don’t know if I’d even say he’s a bad actor; he can put the emotion on that he’s supposed to be conveying, sometimes even a subtle attitude of sass or menace.  But he sounds like his cheeks are full of cottonballs, and anything that has to be shouted comes out completely bizarre.  My fave line to say in his voice, “I’ve come for my father’s bones!”  Love that shit.  (Spoiler alert?  None of you are going to watch this, or if you start, you won’t make it to the end.)

starring the revengerSecond, it’s a Chinese perspective on individualism vs. collectivism, personal principles vs. social harmony.  I am missing a lot of context, possibly all of the context, but if I can ever tumble to it, maybe the movie will help me understand how at least some Chinese people really feel about all that Confucius shit.  Here’s what I do get…

There were some competing philosophies of how to have the best society, early in Chinese history.  The idea that won out, to the extent it informs people even in other countries of the “Sinosphere,” was Confucianism.  The principles are pretty similar to the Old Testament, particulars about food and slaughter aside.  Obey the government, obey your family, everybody be righteous at all times or get squashed.  If you love Confucius and think I’m getting something wrong, feel free to take a dump in my comments.  I might even allow it out of moderation.

Side note: Western techno-fascist shitbird wannabe cult leader “Mencius Moldbug” named himself after a huge Confucius fanboy that helped his teachings proliferate, kind of the Plato to his Socrates, though I think the relationship was less direct.

Collectivism is a general way of doing things, common in many countries outside the West (especially in Asia, I don’t know about Africa or indigenous America), that prioritizes societal needs over the individual.  The only go-to version from Western culture I can think of is that Vulcan saying from Star Trek, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the individual or the few.”  It’s telling in Star Trek that philosophy was always being tested and contested when it came up, because…

Individualism is the general way of doing things in the West, especially America since Ronald Reagan, which prioritizes the needs of the individual over those of society.  Within my American heart, this definitely has an edge, though they both exist in a balance.  I love this interview with Einsturzende Neubaten’s Blixa Bargeld where he says, “I was only trying to establish myself and my individualism as anarchically and radically as possible.”  That’s gonna be my excuse for everything for the rest of my life.

memevengeAs much as I’d love to be a radical, almost everything in life seems to have a moderate answer, a question, a caveat, some reason you can’t reasonably be absolute about it.  The well-being of society is crucial to our collective survival.  The well-being of an individual is paramount because we are all alone within ourselves, never having been given a choice about whether or not to exist, and we should be able to live our lives in our own way, as long as it causes no harm to others.

And within SJW circles we are approaching that from a Western perspective regardless of how much we want to “decolonize our minds.”  Self-care babe.  Disability activism is a huge component of progressive discourse, but a seldom discussed aspect of that is conflicting access.  What works for one disabled person may be poison to another, perfect access for everybody at all times is impossible, though it is a reasonable thing to aspire to.  Within that issue of conflicting access, we see this: who’s individual needs are more important?  When is it reasonable to consider the needs of the majority?  What if (this will be utterly foolish, bear with me) the trolley being made accessible to this one disabled guy causes five non-disabled guys to be 25% more likely to get hit by a trolley?

So this has become a recurring theme of art, to the point that it’s a running joke every artist statement claims their piece is about “The Individual vs. Society.”  And “The Revenger,” at least in the first half, is about exactly that.  Ti Lung’s character is a buff kung fu master who lives by his own rules.  When he encounters a religious charlatan taking people’s money to lead them in a hokey ritual, he busts up the joint.  With kung fu.  (This moment early in the film will make all movement skeptics instantly orgasm.)  When he meets young lovers fleeing the gal’s arranged marriage, he busts up the coercive groom.  With kung fu.

naughty revenger, no!Living in this way he makes a lot of enemies.  Those enemies are leaders of men – clans, businesses, religious groups, etc. – and while plotting to get back at him, they make the reasonable argument this is for social order, for harmony in society.  Whether they seem righteous or not, you can’t just have roughnecks busting up the joint.  With kung fu.

Their scheme somehow involved one of their daughters* getting pregnant by the individualist (I don’t remember why), and him getting ambushed and killed with dynamite.  They try to kill the daughter* and her baby, but they get away, and baby grows up to be played by same actor as the dad.  Only now, Ti Lung is a The Revenger.  Meanwhile, the Bad Dudes for Society have parceled up dad’s bones for keepsakes.  When baby Revenger grows up, mom tells him what happened, but makes him swear not to revenge.

He agrees, but he goes out to collect dad’s bones.  While he’s at it, he scares the guys, even wearing a fake moustache to act like dad’s ghost for a minute.  The bad dudes attack him and then it isn’t revenge; it’s self-defense.  Promise to mom kept.

This is Chinese media that shows collective concerns can go too far in oppressing the individual.  BUT it came out of Hong Kong when they were an independent hyper-capitalist colony of Britain.  BUT Cantonese people are still Chinese, still under the sway of confucian ideals.  And other of their movies seem to support those values.  BUT does this movie even directly affront them?  Dude is awfully upset about a dad he never knew, carries out his mission in obedience to that ghost.  Confucian filial piety, right?

I don’t know.  But I do love the first part, where dad version Ti Lung is establishing himself and his individualism as radically and anarchically as possible.  Excelsior!

it's him. the revenger.

 

*I made a mistake here.  I wrote the post before I rewatched the movie and was mostly going from memory.  The character that got pregnant with baby Revenger was the main villain’s sister, not daughter.  I left out a lot of deets that weren’t super relevant to the thesis.  This junk has side characters and side plots galore.

Hellstar Reminism

So I got a philosophy for the end of the world inspired by a Junji Ito comic, Hellstar Remina, in some translations just the less fun Remina.  I’ve still never read the comic in English, so it’s based on my visual read of the story.  I’ll soon check out the translation to see what I’ve missed.  At that time, this idea may face some revision.  By the way, all of the spoilers for Hellstar Remina now, because it’s necessary to explaining the moral lesson I take from it.

Like a number of Junji Ito’s horror manga, Hellstar Remina depicts an apocalypse.  The planet Earth and most of its inhabitants don’t get through the story alive.  But this one was especially interesting to me because it shows different ways to respond to a species-level existential threat.  As a storyteller, Ito has long held an interesting tension between humanism and misanthropy – something shared with filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa.  I wonder if this is just an attitude some dark-minded Japanese folks have and a known thing there, or if it’s just something anybody in the world might develop at random.

Basically, the way humans can be quite horrible is displayed unvarnished, or even exaggerated, but compassion and sometimes progressive values come through in other characters within the same story.  This isn’t always as simple as good guys over here, bad guys over there.  People start good, go bad, come back, do it again.  Usually you understand why the bad do what they do – see them as human, even when they end up as literal monsters.  Hard to describe, not always the same.  This might be getting off topic, because good and evil are a little more straightforward in this story than the extended canon of Tomie or Uzumaki.  Whatever, moving on…

The plot.  A scientist announces the discovery of a very abnormal new star in the night sky, with his daughter at the press conference.  I believe he named the star after her, causing an association in the public imagination between the girl and the star.  But pretty quickly, the star is revealed to be a possible threat to the Earth – heading toward it at incredible speed.  Is it a star?  Meanwhile, this doesn’t seem to be public knowledge yet, and Remina the girl has developed a fan club.  In particular she has three suitors.  One is a rich kid that shows her to his cool expensive fallout shelter.  But they seem to do a passable job of not monopolizing her affections yet.

The threat of the hellstar becomes apparent to the public and civic unrest menaces the scientist and his daughter.  Her fan club saves her, for the moment, but she’s separated from her father.  When the star slows down to stick out a giant tongue and gobble up another planet in the solar system, the people of the world go bonkers and come for girl Remina’s blood.  They kill the a couple of fan club guys and torture her for a bit.  Her father is killed.

The fanboys help her escape but they fall to infighting.  Seems they got a touch of the same craze as the rest of the world.  One of them has the sense of self to feel ashamed and leaves, but he didn’t have the presence of mind to realize that he left her undefended with the worse guy.  (He shows up later as just another murderer.)  Worse guy is the rich kid, and he hauls her back to the fancy shelter.  He tries to force himself on her, but his parents object.  They just want her dead like the rest of the world.  Mom slaps her around, then the fam drag her out to the crowd.

The story splits here between rich family and Remina.  Rich family theorizes that if they go to live on the Hellstar like fleas, it won’t notice them and destroy them like the rest of the world, so they pack up in a rocket ship and skate.  Back on earth, girl Remina is taken by the people of Earth, who have united in a massive doomsday cult, led by KKK-lookin’ creeps with torches.  She escapes them briefly, running into a solitary homeless man who has no idea what’s going on.  The two of them are tied to either side of the same cross that carries the burned remains of her father.

In space, the rich family set foot on the Hellstar and transform into melty piles of twisted bullshit.  HS Remina opens a second eyeball and licks the Earth.  This causes gravity to go haywire.  The cultists had set a pyre beneath girl Remina’s cross, but the cross gets lifted away.  A cultist cuts Remina loose to abscond with her.  The gravity of the Hellstar and Earth are dueling, which has people able to leap around like they have super strength.  Don’t get at me on the physics of this.  The cultist grabs Remina by the legs and smashes her against the sides of a broken building, like trying to dust a rug.

But he cut the homeless guy loose when he snatched Remina, and that guy comes to save her with roundhouse kicks and such.  Together they flee the cultists.  But as they’ve gotten used to the crazy light gravity, so have the cultists, and now they are being chased by what seems like everybody in the world, all crying for her blood in different languages, wielding any weapon they can find.  They’re flying through the air in a massive swarm.

Gravity shifts again.  The homeless guy and Remina seem to luck out, while the rest of humanity is dashed to the ground, creating an ocean of blood.  Girl Remina blacks out and wakes up in the fancy shelter.  The homeless guy and a few random non-murderer kids found their way into the shelter, and as Hellstar Remina devoured the earth, somehow the shelter was one of the crumbs that broke free to hurtle lonesome through space.  People are surprisingly celebratory about this.

Why are they happy?  They got away from however many billion murderers, and a planet that was just munched like popcorn.  But the room surely doesn’t have the resources to sustain their lives forever.  They’re surely going to die.  And that could well be all of us.  The story ends there.  What do you take from that?

I say, if everybody in the world is doing bad shit, be the one person who isn’t.  If we’re all gonna die, be kind to the people you are with, right to the end.  Ruin is living for hate, the only goodness possible in life is what we make by being kind in the ways we can, in the time we have.  Something like that.  Hellstar Reminism.

One could easily take different lessons from the story, perhaps worse ones.  And maybe there are explicit textual things I cannot understand from reading the comic book by image alone.  I’ll find out soon enough, which is why I’m spelling out this philosophy now before it gets altered by improved understanding of the source.  So there you go.

How Horror Fiction Has Fallen

So no bites on reading the stories I’ve posted lately, alright.  There could be a variety of reasons for that and not much point speculating and self doubting, but it did put me in mind of cultural shift that happened in my lifetime.  Horror fiction rose to become a giant market in the eighties, then collapsed so utterly there is no longer a horror section in most book stores.

I sometimes encounter this with people I know.  I say, hey, check out this thing over here.  And they say they aren’t into horror.  This makes me wonder what’s different, between now and the ’80s.  Because right now we really are living the cyberpunk dystopia the ’80s predicted, a world of trash and fire and capitalism ripping through everything left that’s good in the world, politics so removed from reality that every apocalyptic thing that happens is just so many data points in the botox’d heads.  Even nuclear holocausts are back on the table of possibilities.  This is the ’80s on speed.  Where’s the interest in horror?

The ascendance of horror back then is often attributed to the dark undertones of the plastic pop universe, but other causes are possible.  The relatively uncensored images of the Vietnam War stained a lot of minds, and our equivalent wars were heavily, heavily filtered.  Desert Storm is a video game and a theme song in a lot of minds.  You could find images of graphic violence from that time if you searched for them, but you would not see them on the evening news.  The military industrial complex learned its lesson, and the reward was a US public very willing to go to war after that point.

There may be other demographic and market factors.  Westerns and other manly genres had a big collapse, almost like men just stopped reading anything?  That’s certainly the case now.  The vast majority of readers are women.  By that theory, it’s like men stopped reading until horror briefly lured them back in, then they fell off again in the late nineties – right as video games became so dominant in boy culture.

One person in my household read horror in the ’80s, but does not now.  She gives a reason which is just counterfactual – that the books got more cruel or violent over time.  She read Stephen King when he was relatively new, and talks like his later work was more violent?  Dude was as skeevy and creepy as anything from day one.  I think this lady’s just one of the blithe readers that somehow didn’t process the pedo content in It.  So I interrogated her a bit more and it seems she just read less of it for a while and lost her tolerance for it.  But why?

Within my own life, I couldn’t handle certain extremes of horror movies for much of my young adulthood, until I rounded some kind of corner on it.  Then I was watching Hellraiser and Dawn of the Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and all that.  But another change came along.  Inspired by Takashi Miike, Eli Roth kicked up the transgressive factor in horror a lot, and I had to draw a line of my own.  I’m not that hardcore.  This mirrors my bf’s mom’s idea about what happened in her own life – “I didn’t change, the horror did” – but I think people can see the difference between The Grudge and The Human Centipede.  Amirite?

But horror literature is a whole other kettle of fish.  Unless your imagination is superb, you aren’t seeing things the way you do on film.  I could read much more violent content in books than I could handle on screen.  I can write horror worse than I’d ever want to see, and it doesn’t bother me.  It’s all entertainment, diversion, spooky fun times.  A spine tingler.

Why are so many people utterly uninterested in horror?  I had a kind of lousy friend who wouldn’t check out me or my bf’s stuff when it was just gothy, not actually involving any horror whatsoever.  Weenies.  Seems like 99% of all reading that happened 2000-2005 was the terf’s kiddie books, and the people who grew up on that never wanted anything substantially different from it.  Or maybe I’m just being a hater.  I don’t know.

This is mainly looking at fiction for adults.  There actually is a lot of horror content now – short fiction, tons of video games, especially in indie spaces – but booksellers don’t want to touch it.  And on a possibly unrelated note, I run into a lot of massive weenies.  Hi weenies.  I’m sure you’re lovely people and make the world a brighter place in your own ways.  Just wish I met more non-weenies sometimes.

Music Questions and Groovy Ghouls

I hope this video plays on other sites and in most countries. If you can, take in this visual and auditory information, then consult with me when you have finished your assignment.

OK, to be honest, I have nothing profound to say about this. I pick up this and that, trivial info, from random curiosities and wikipedia, but the answers are often lacking. You can never really know what it was like to be there. So I’m still left with a few questions.

The lead singer of the Mary Jane Girls was a protégé & / or collaborator with Rick James, and I think the only actual MJ Girl on the recorded track. The other girls were stand-ins for tours, promotion, image. I expect on tour they’d just lip synch at most concerts, so they didn’t even need singing skills. Probably they were dancers first. But did they sing? I know sometimes singers would try to do the whole package as performers, sometimes with tragic results (I’m thinking of a breathless sweaty Paula Abdul performance on MTV Music Awards from long ago). How singin’ were the non-recorded Mary Jane Girls?

The lead MJG was a singer first and a dancer / performer second, right? I think it’s funny to imagine she just danced how she felt and the dancing girls had to try to coordinate to that. Try to keep up girls. Probably not, but who knows?

Other random thought, why is the white girl in a skeleton costume? I do think the combination of light eyes, blonde hair, and heavy makeup evokes the doll-look possession in the first Evil Dead movie, so she’s kinda ghoulish. I know cocaine was huge in this scene, which creates a strong association between the color white and death, but surely that’s my own projection. It’s just weird that one of them had a ghoul outfit and the rest didn’t. The song does have a spoopy vibe, anyway.

Still from Evil Dead (1979)

I rather like eighties funk, though I’m no expert on it. I feel like it lost something in the transition from the seventies, like feeling and soul, and then replaced that with this cold alien drug vibe that has a different and perverse kind of appeal. What do you think?

Songs I’m Liking

Some days I get horrible mashups of bad songs in my head, most recently from watching Todd in the Shadows‘ “One Hit Wonderland” series on yewchoob.  Today I’m doing OK.  Did you know that the milieu of Tenacious D’s demons and broadswords universe was once a real place, inhabited by people like Ronny James Dio and Judas Priest?  Anyway, Judas Priest’s The Sentinel features a demonic revenant doing a throwing knife massacre.  I love it.

Also on my mind is Prince’s Kiss.  Neil Cicieraga did a remix of it which seems inspired by pure loathing, or perhaps misunderstanding that the funny aspects of the song were originally meant to be funny, and it comes off like he didn’t get the joke – a rare thing for Neil, who is a sharp musical wit.  Or it might be that any recognition of Prince’s appeal was soured by his estate’s litigiousness, a trait which may be the reason I can no longer find a link for that.

This morning I was listening to The Sound’s album Jeopardy.  I only got as far as the end of “Missiles” before I needed to tend some chore.  The lead off track “I can’t Escape Myself” is the best bad self esteemin’ song ever, sad and terrible, but beautiful rock and roll.  “Hour of Need” is a great companion to it.  Every time I hear those songs I think of the sad goths in my life with affection.  “Missiles” doesn’t have the most clever lyrics in the universe, but the late lead singin’ man’s voice elevates it to a passionate expression of frustration we all feel being in a world of nukes and war – shit regular people are nigh powerless to stop.

Sing it, baby.

The Rift – Our William Brinkman’s New Novel

Our FtB man William Brinkman is dropping a novel for y’all this week – on July 13th, my birthday.  But I had a birthday present in June when he made a review copy available to his people.  Thanks, man.  Below the fold are some very long form thoughts I had before and during my read.  Above that, the review I’ll post wherever I have an account.

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I had a good time reading this book, though I had some reservations before I started.  As soon as the adventurous part of the story began – which was pretty quickly – you could feel the author entering his comfort zone.  With all the disappointment and crap involved in Disney’s monopoly on entertainment, I’ve been hoping to see more adventurous fiction that doesn’t rely on any of their properties – in spirit, like fic with the serial numbers filed off.  And being an AMAB reader over the age of forty, post-YA wasn’t going to do it for me either.

The Rift was an entertaining high speed journey into Brinkman’s “Bolingbrook Babbler” universe, inspired by the UFO / amazing bat-boy end of the tabloid spectrum, and best of all it required no prior knowledge of his oeuvre.  We follow a character being introduced to the world of paranormal conspiracies and don’t have to choke on a bunch of references to deep lore.

This is one of those books that *needed* to be self-published because it’s too unconventional, too niche, to be sold to major publishers.  You can have a story with wild original content, but to sell that it needs to fit into some kind of recognizable mold, like surreal literary fiction or magical realism.  The Rift is genre fiction in a very functional 20th century style, without the frippery of Catherynne Valente or poetic ostentation of litfic regulars.

I’d place it in what was once called “men’s fiction” – the kind of adventure stories that once sat near the checkout stands at supermarkets, like the tabloids that provided The Rift’s milieu.  Stories about spies, war, survival, treachery.  And yet it isn’t a very comfortable fit for that genre either.  The ladies in those stories are objects and props, and this one takes pains to establish that ladies have lives and agendas wholly independent of our adventuring protagonist.

That said, The Rift does center the perspective of a man who becomes enmeshed in the world of internet misogyny.  Of course he has a shot at redemption and can change in the course of the story, but the close third person perspective on him could be off-putting to those who have been most bothered by those internet misogynists in real life – regardless of the author’s intentions and the story’s ultimate direction.

Which gets us back to the issue of niche.  While this novel does not depend on prior knowledge of Brinkman’s Babblerverse, I feel it does require some knowledge of skepticism as a culture, and of the rift that brings us the title.  If you don’t understand what skeptics are about, the story’s introduction to the concept might feel off-putting or confusing.  If you weren’t privy to the fall-out of “elevatorgate,” when the skeptic movement split into progressive and reactionary factions, then you might have a harder time understanding the very point of the story and most of the events within it.

Even within that subculture, the book could lose audience from its concept alone.  As I mentioned, the progressives burned by the IRL conflict may have very little interest in seeing a redemption tale play out.  Hopefully the ten years since the furor began will help them get past that enough to read the novel.  It handles the subject very well.  Everything that starts to feel insensitive, or like a misstep, is ultimately redeemed through the story’s plot.  It’s kind of brilliant at that, playing its hand with more subtlety than you might expect.

And all that said, maybe I’m not giving the average non-skeptic-culture reader enough credit here.  If the price is right and you like the idea of a feminist sci-fi adventure in a tabloid UFO setting, give it a shot.  And if you are in the book’s target demo – skeptic culture warriors – definitely pick this one up.

Full Disclosure: William Brinkman and I are both writers on the same blog network, which is for progressives within atheism and skepticism.

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Now for the deeper thoughts I had, which probably make this one of my longest articles ever, haha…

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