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Good morning, students,
I’m glad to see you all here in my class, eager to start learning, so let’s establish classroom policies right away.
I see that some of you are still looking around the room, opening and closing your mouths and wondering why no sound is coming out. That, of course, is because I have invoked an extremely powerful Silencing Charm that blankets all the student seats. When you raise your hand, I will remove the charm for just long enough for you to ask a relevant question.
I see there are any number of questions all of a sudden, and I’m going to answer a lot of them right now. You may not go to the bathroom. Ever. You don’t really need to, because another spell that I have invoked is Xavier’s Extraordinary Excretion Exporter. The moment you crossed the threshold, all urine and feces were removed from your bladder and bowels, and deposited in the nearest bathroom. There will be no need for you to go yourselves.
Oh, look, suddenly there are no more questions.
I see that Mr. Mason and Mr. Ferreton have discovered that attempting to pass parchment or paper to another student in order to circumvent the silencing spell will result in the parchment bursting into flame when it is touched by anyone but the writer. You may go to the nurse’s office. Ten points from Sphinxgate.
Also, despite your best efforts, you will discover that the chairs will not move from the floor. They are exactly where I want them to be, and there is no need to move them. So no, you will not be able to shuffle them just a little bit nearer your best friend, nor tilt them backward against the wall.
And since I see that you have moved on to significant and exaggerated glances and attempts to mouth words to one another with all the subtlety of giants on Confunding Powder, allow me to demonstrate an amazing spell. With this charm I can place thin walls of churning air between you. They will distort your images enough to make them completely indistinguishable . Isn’t that amazing? I’ll show you how to do the same thing in the last class of your last year here.
I should now have your undivided attention, except for those of you who have chosen to fall asleep. They will discover in a few seconds that the wood desks have been enchanted to react to the human face by growing painful but harmless thorns with astonishing rapidity.
Now, if everyone will please take out their pencils and parchment… yes? No, you may not go and get pencil and parchment. However, I will be happy to provide you with some. Let’s see who knows an interesting fact: what is parchment made of? Yes, Miss… Farmer?
That is correct: dried skin. I’d like to demonstrate a simple pair of spells for you, using Mr. Shorttop there who needed parchment as a volunteer.
Mr. Shorttop, if you will now unroll the dried skin from around the flesh of what was your left arm, you will find that you now have a roll of parchment. The raw flesh will heal, and in the interim remind you not to forget your own next time. Your index fingertip has also been transfigured into a pencil point. Now. Let us begin.
Spoiler Warning! What you are about to see is the complete and unedited script of the soon-to-be-released movie TOP GUN: MAVERICK. Rather than rely on dubious methods such as paying insiders to smuggle out the script, we have deduced its contents by consulting our memory of the first movie, watching the trailer for this one, and thinking for five minutes.
SCENE 1: CO’S OFFICE
CO: “Maverick, get in here. You’re a terrible officer and a burnout and I don’t like you.”
MAVERICK: “That’s because you’re bald and haven’t got two hot girls a day begging for your children.”
CO: “Obviously, but I can’t fire you because despite your dead-end career and discipline problems, they’ve decided to make you a Top Gun instructor.”
MAVERICK: “Who’s ‘they?'”
CO: “The producers, fueled by all the cash of Generation X’s male mid-life crises, desperately trying to remember the 80s when they were cool.”
MAVERICK: “Yes, sir.”
SCENE 2: A LUDICROUSLY BIG HANGAR
TOP GUN COMMANDANT: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to introduce you to a legendary pilot who somehow is on the verge of career suicide, Maverick.”
MAVERICK: “It’s an honor to be here in your company, and I’d like to particularly thank Goose’s son, who is harboring deep-seated hatred of me for destroying his family when he was a little boy. I’d also like to express how grateful I am for the progressive and diversity-oriented military policies that have made it possible for me to chase hot female pilots twenty years my junior all through the film.”
SCENE 3: MIRAMAR
MONTAGE OF TOP GUN STUDENTS SUITING UP AND TAKING OFF
STUDENTS: “We’re going to kick this old guy’s ass!”
MAVERICK’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!
STUDENTS: “I can’t believe he kicked our ass!”
SCENE 4: CLASSROOM
GOOSE’S KID (GOSLING): “So, is that extremely unsafe flying that you kicked our asses with how you got my dad killed?”
MAVERICK: “As the only person in the film who didn’t see this coming: um.”
HOT GIRL PILOT: “That wasn’t fair for him to say that.”
MAVERICK: “It wasn’t fair that I killed his dad, either.”
HOT GIRL PILOT: “Sure it was: you’re Tom Cruise, and his dad…”
MAVERICK: “Was Anthony Daniels, yeah: that doesn’t make it right.”
HOT GIRL PILOT: “Anthony Edwards.”
MAVERICK: “Yeah, whatever. Want a motorcycle ride?”
HOT GIRL PILOT: “I thought you’d never ask.”
SCENE 5: THE SKY
GOSLING: “I’ll show this guy that my dad — I mean I — am the better man!”
MAVERICK’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!
GOSLING’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!
GOSLING: “Oh, noes! My plan horribly failed and my plane is crashing!”
MAVERICK: “Kid! Follow all my instructions to the letter! Don’t you dare die on me! Are you listening?”
GOSLING: “I’m listening!”
MAVERICK: “Don’t hit the ground!”
SCENE 6: THE GROUND
GOSLING: “You saved my life and now I can’t be mad at you anymore. Will you be my daddy, now?”
MAVERICK: “Sure, son.”
HOT GIRL PILOT: “Does this mean I win Top Gun, now?
AUDIENCE: “Who cares?”
SCENE 7: BRIEFING ROOM
ADMIRAL: “Some foreign power who is definitely not…
…Russia because that’s too outdated
…China because we REALLY want to sell this film there
…Arab because we don’t want to draw boycotts and outrage
…Iranian because we all hate Donald Trump…
…and conveniently flies American-looking planes that we’re going to call MiG .357s because we assume the American moviegoing audience is at least as dumb as we are about foreign arsenals has launched a sneak attack that can only be solved by exactly the kind of dogfighting you’ve all just finished training for.”
SCENE 8: THE SKY
MAVERICK’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!
GOSLING’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!
MAVERICK’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!
HOT GIRL PILOT’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!
NAMELESS ENEMY PLANES: <EXPLODE>
ROCK MUSIC SOUNDTRACK: <GOES TO 11>
“A rollicking adventure that hits all the right notes.”
–Christopher Ruocchio, Award-Winning Author of The Sun Eater Series
Yesterday, a dream of mine came true. I became a published novelist for the first time. All Things Huge and Hideous has been released in Kindle format. Sometime before September, it will be released in print format as well.
I’d like to thank all the readers who have made this possible, as well as Jason Rennie, my publisher and Superversive Press. Special thanks also go to D.J. Butler and Chris Ruocchio whose blurbs are above.
Now, I’d also really love it if folks would spread the word, so for the people who share this on Facebook, or Twitter, or even better, reblog it TODAY, I am going to put your name in a drawing to win a signed copy of the book! Make sure to tag me if you post it on Facebook or Twitter. If you do it somewhere else where I’m not a member (like Instagram or Twitter) then please shoot me a note on my Contact form with a link so I can see it. This offer is only good for the next 24 hours, starting at 7:00 am CDT July 27, 2019!
DOUBLE SPOILER ALERT: As far as the film goes, I’m going to reveal a plot point.
As far as the review goes, I couldn’t even finish this movie.
I wanted to watch this because I was in the mood for a good creepy ghost story, and I’d heard good things about it.
OPENER: Dude and Dudette moving into apartment. Setting up camera in bedroom to record source of creepy noises that sometimes trouble them at night. Dude is slightly annoyed at Dudette for inviting a psychic consultant to advise them on the source of these noises, which has been messing with her since childhood.
EXPERT: Hey, this thing you’ve got here is not a ghost, but a demon. Potentially very dangerous.
DUDE: So, how about we get a Ouija board and ask this thing what it wants.
EXPERT: Okay, that’s a really terrible idea because that would be inviting it to notice you. Goodbye.
DUDE: Well, I don’t believe in this enough to take an expert’s advice seriously, but I believe in it just enough to still think Ouija boards are a good idea because I was the one who thought of them.
DUDETTE: Hey, babe. Since I’m the one being haunted by this thing, maybe I should get to make the call on how we deal with it.
DUDE (pouty): Well, okay, but you know I think I get a say, too because I didn’t know you came with a demon.
DUDETTE: Just promise me you won’t get a Ouija board.
DUDE: Okay, I promise I won’t buy a Ouija board.
Aaaaand, that was it. I was out. At this point, I can’t spend another second of my precious and finite time on this planet with these two morons. I’d rather be doing something less predictable, like picking my nose. Dude is a complete ass who wants to poke the demon because he wants to be in charge and be right. Dudette is a complete idiot who can’t see that Dude is about to go borrow or otherwise acquire the Ouija board that he only promised not to buy (oh, he is so clever, a master of verbal trickery, this one) so he can poke the demon. This is the very archetype of the Idiot Plot. And I’m going to be expected to spend the rest of the film sympathizing with these two morons, who will check out books about demons, but will never once consider going to church. At this point, I’m rooting for the demon, but figure that watching it eat them slowly from the feet up isn’t on the table.
Kevin Murphy, who voiced MST3K’s Tom Servo, in his book A Year At The Movies, recalls deciding to go see the movie Pootie Tang, and encountering a pair of young men arguing about whether to go see it. When he asked the dissenter why he didn’t want to go see it, the reply was, “Because I think it’s gonna be as stupid as I think it’s gonna be.”
And now for my review of Lifeforce.
When that movie came out in 1985, I was twelve. I hated horror movies, so was uninterested. But I knew the movie was about space vampires, and that sounded pretty stupid to me.
Over the years, a number of people have referenced the movie, and it seems to have attained some sort of cult following as an underrated 80s classic. So when I saw it free to watch on Amazon Prime, I decided to see if maybe my twelve-year old self had been overly judgmental. And indeed, it was not so bad as I had thought.
It was much, MUCH worse than I ever could have imagined. I owe my twelve-year old self an apology. And any of you out there who recommended that movie? Yeah. So do you.
How can I summarize Lifeforce? It’s as if it was made by people who had seen the movies Alien, Poltergeist, and The Exorcist, but hadn’t really understood them. These same people had also, however, watched a whole lot of softcore S&M porn and understood it very well. Perhaps too well. The whole movie is about the leading men being unabashedly drawn to an alien who looks an awful lot like Liv Tyler (so, I mean, good taste, there, at least. Note to self: also, Liv Tyler was supposedly 8 years old in 1985. Is it possible that she’s actually a vampire? Research!!), and on the way they acquire telepathic powers that make them capable of telling when a woman wants it rough. Really, I’m not making these plot points up.
During the film it is deduced that the space vampires are truly the source of the vampires of legend, because they demonstrate a whole lot of the classical vampire vulnerabilities and powers, such as vulnerability to being staked, transforming into a giant bat, and becoming a huge glowing ball of light that flies around the city sucking the life out of people using the special effects from Raiders Of The Lost Ark. We all remember when Dracula did that, right?
In truth, the vampires develop their new and frightening powers at the twin speed of plot and arousal, but let’s be fair, so do the humans. Nothing in the whole film ever happens for any reason other than that the writers decided it was time for it to. No question raised by the film is ever answered, including whether Liv Tyler and Captain Sex Slave live or die at the end. But that’s okay because we aren’t interested. The only question that REALLY interests me is how they managed to persuade Henry Mancini not only to score this film, but to produce one that sounded like John Williams’ and James Horner’s Greatest Meh.
Not the hit TV series starring Hugh Laurie. The 80s horror-schlock film starring George Wendt and some guy who was utterly forgettable as the protagonist.
So, every now and then, I get the urge to do something completely silly. Make random recipes off the internet, see how well I remember the lyrics to whole musicals, vote Libertarian, etc. And one of the things I do is watch old movies on Netflix or Amazon that I thought looked intriguing once upon a time. This is how I came to watch House.
I remember previews for House from the 1980s. It was billed as a comedy-horror or a horror-comedy. I also really like the haunted-house conceit. So I decided to give it a try and see if it was material for a cult classic.
What I found was, in fact, material that I shall use if I ever want to teach a class entitled, “Writing: How Not To Do It.” A brief catalogue of its sins will be listed below, because a comprehensive one would be longer than the film. For the hard-of-thinking, this will contain what would otherwise be called spoilers, but this film is so far gone it really can’t be spoiled.
The Junkpiled Protagonist: Our protagonist is a writer (gosh, wonder where that came from?) who is traumatized by, in no particular order, the fact that he is suffering from writers’ block, possibly brought on by his son who has disappeared from his front yard, his wife who has divorced him because of the missing son, and his Vietnam-induced PTSD. The effect is that this guy has so much shit to deal with that it’s impossible for us to care about any one issue.
The Incoherent Backstory: Apparently, the son disappeared while playing in the yard of the titular House, while I guess visiting there, because the House belongs to protagonist’s crazy aunt, but the whole family was to all appearances living there when the kid vanished. It’s implied that he either or both was kidnapped by people in a car streaking away or vanished from the House’s swimming pool before his father’s eyes.
The Endless Red Herrings: The car streaking away turns out to be only the first of myriad fake clues strewn all over the plot. Also included are Bosch/Daliesque paintings done by the aunt, endless scenes involving a medicine cabinet, a love interest that never materializes, strong hints that protagonist is completely delusional and hallucinating literally everything in the movie, and to top it all off, LITERALLY EVERY MONSTER IN THE FILM BUT ONE.
The Wandering Plot Monster: So we see the protagonist move into his aunt’s House (the same one his son vanished from and that he seemed to have been living in before) right after she has hanged herself, and despite getting fairly convincing evidence that the House is haunted — like, the ghost of his aunt appearing and saying, pretty much, “The House killed me.” — does nothing about it. Just sits and tries to plow on through his memoir of the Vietnam War despite the fact that his publisher has told him it won’t sell, and despite increasing but halfhearted attempts by the House to kill him. The fact that the protagonist looks very much like Ted from Airplane! with a perm does not add to the gravitas of these scenes. Closely related to this is…
The Idiot Plot: This is pretty much the whole film. Our protagonist kills humanoid monsters and buries them in broad daylight in six-inch shallow graves in his backyard. He completely ignores apparitions of his son begging for help. Despite the fact that the House’s clock loudly rings midnight right before monsters appear in the closets, it takes him two or three times to get it. Despite the fact that he’s a soldier, it takes him most of the movie to figure out that he might want to use guns. Despite the fact that his own son vanished in the House, he allows his sexy neighbor to use him as impromptu unpaid babysitting so she can go out clubbing and leaves the kid alone in a room of the House, from which he is promptly kidnapped by shapeshifting spirits, which he already knows the House contains. Through all of this, he continues to behave as though the most important thing is plowing on with his story of how he lost his pretty-much-an-asshole buddy in Vietnam.
The Horrible Climax: In the end, it is revealed that the cause of his son’s disappearance, the mastermind behind the House, is the ghost of his old war buddy, who has never forgiven protagonist for — get this — NOT killing him in Vietnam when he was wounded. Because protagonist went to get help instead, leaving his buddy to be carried away by the VC, who tortured him to death. So his spirit apparently decided to get revenge by invading protagonist’s aunt’s house, and kidnapping the kid to the jungles of Vietnam in another dimension, which can only be reached from inside the House.
So, EVERYTHING else in the House — the creepy distorted woman he killed, the baby kidnappers, the Lovecraftian closet-monster, the animated tools — all of this was just incidental. We never find out how long the kid was kidnapped for. Enough time for a divorce, for great-aunt to put him in a spooky painting, and for her to commit suicide. Of course, she blames the kid’s disappearance on the House from the beginning, so apparently it was haunted before Evil War Buddy Ghost got there? And I guess it was just a great place for him to take over? He’s actually a pretty knowledgeable and subtle strategist, this guy.
The only way this movie ever got made is that it was during the Great Eighties Horror Boom, when studios were desperate to mimic things like Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday the 13th Part Billion. And the production values are so low that I kept expecting to see Made In China stamped on the rubber suits. I’ve literally seen these mistakes made and avoided by high-schoolers. Take these lessons to heart: this film is not “so bad it’s good.” But it is bad enough to learn some lessons from.
So for a long time, now, I’ve had a CONTACT THE AUTHOR page set up on my blog. And now it’s time to kick that into high gear, because it’s time for a NEWSLETTER LAUNCH!
That’s right, I’m finally going to do what so many awesome authors are doing: send out a monthly update on all my fiction news!
And just as an incentive to get people to sign up, AND to give everyone a little taste of what’s coming, everyone who signs up gets a free copy of the DOCTOR TO DRAGONS ebook!
So come on! What have you got to lose besides your minds? To sign up, go to the CONTACT THE AUTHOR section and send me a note, making sure to check the box saying that you’d like to be added to a mailing list. And by next week, you will have your FREE ebook!
Dear CHOAM Company,
I would like to take the time to complain about your spice “MELANGE (a genuine Arrakis product!) It is my opinion that not only is your overhyped and overpriced, but is deceptive and dangerous as well. My own family’s case will prove illustrative.
My wife came home with a jar of melange about six months ago, for which she paid the exorbitant price of $575. While the jar was approximately the size of the other jars in our spice rack, we were surprised and dismayed to discover that within the jar stood barely enough melange to be visible, and no, I am afraid that thoughtful as it was, the microtweezers and hufuf oil magnifying lens included was not enough to significantly improve the inconvenience of digging out enough to use in cooking. Which brings me to my second point. Regardless of your advertising copy that promises “a flavor unmatchable in the known Universe,” the overwhelming impression I got from the scent of melange is cinnamon, the best grade of which is easily purchased at about $10 for a full ounce. As to the claim that melange is “never the same taste twice,” it’s rather ridiculous to make the claim when there is not more than one taste in the jar, even for the most artful of cooks.
Finally, I must question the wisdom of allowing — let alone advertising — the fact that melange is an indispensable part of foldspace drives. I can’t think of any other machine additive I would be well-advised to put on my food and consume. Besides the which, ever since we did use melange on our Thanksgiving apple pie, our familial harmony has been shattered. Not only did no one in the family notice the expense and trouble to which we went, but my wife has been going abut murmuring that she thinks I will divorce her when I discover what she really paid for the jar of spice. My high-school age son has decided it is impossible to pass calculus no matter what he does, and the younger children are all complaining about what they are getting for Christmas, and I haven’t even finished my shopping yet. Plus ever since that meal they youngest one has seemed to be in several places at once. If the doctor says that’s more than the fact that he’s seven years old, you may advise your legal department that they will be hearing from my lawyers.
Duchy of Grumman
memo: write the Ix division about eye treatments, re: younger brother DI
Okay, I completely missed yesterday’s blog, because the muse still had not let go of my hair and I was trying to slam out the last 3000 words of an 8000 word story. I finished it this morning, and am now in recovery mode. So here’s Monday’s blog. On Tuesday.
So, have you ever eaten at Ed Debevics? Yeah, it’s that restaurant chain that looks and feels like a fifties diner, only the waitstaff is paid to abuse you by making commentary on your clothes, your face, and your non-participation in singing “YMCA” by the Village People?*
So, I was thinking of this amazing concept, that people would actually pay to be insulted, and how writers are used to being ignored and also see rejection letters — especially personal rejection letters — as good things, and suddenly, an idea was conceived. You ready?
REJECTOMANCY MAGAZINE! The only online magazine in the world where you will submit absolutely knowing that you will be rejected! Takes the guesswork out of it entirely! You send us a story and we GUARANTEE that you will not only GET a rejection, but that it will be a personal and entertaining rejection that WE WILL PUBLISH, telling EVERYONE why we rejected your story!
So not only do we guarantee you a personal response, but WE PUBLISH YOU AS WELL! NOW how does it sound?
All right, so now it’s time for us to answer some questions form our hypothetical audience:
Hypothetical Questioner #1: What, you’re going to reject us, AND publish our story?
A: Hah-hah. No. What are you, stupid? But we will publish the response, maybe with a sentence or two of excerpts designed to highlight your atrocious grammar and impenetrable “style” for the express purposes of a) telling you why we’re not the only people rejecting you and b) making fun of you. Technically, that means that you will have “been published. Sort of.
HQ#2: And you think people will pay for this?
A: Of course not. That would be even harder than getting people to pay money to enter writing contests, which is already stupid and unethical.
HQ#3: But you think people will participate?
A: I don’t know. Possibly. It amounts to offering an honest, albeit tongue-in-cheek and insulting, microcritique. And that’s something a lot of people really do need and want. And the ones who need it most are the least likely to get it. They get form letters.
HQ#4: Well, how do we know you won’t just read the first page and reject us based on that?
A: Um, we absolutely will do that. Do you think pro magazines do differently? The difference is that instead of publishing stories we like, we’ll shred the whole manuscript of those.
HQ#5: What if I send you a story that is so good you just HAVE to publish it?
A: You are EXACTLY the kind of person who needs to submit here, you poor sap.
HQ#6: This is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.
A: Maybe. Who wants in?
*Okay, maybe that one was just me.