Baen Fantasy Adventure Award Finalist! “Humanslayer.”

See the source image

I am honored to announce that my story, “Humanslayer” has been selected as one of the ten finalists for this year’s Baen Adventure Fantasy Award!

I’d like to post an excerpt, but I think that might go against contest rules.

I was honored to win First Runner Up in the inaugural BFAA in 2014 with my story, “Phoenix For The Amateur Chef.” It would be awesome to win, but obviously I am honored simply to have made it this far.

Oh, heck, no one can get upset if I just give you the first line, right..?

“At the foot of the mountains at the cold edge of the world, a dragon lay dying…”

RELEASE DAY: Fantastic Schools Anthology!

So, every now and then, I think: wouldn’t it be cool if there were a story about…

For example, like many people, I loved the story of Remus Lupin in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Not just because he was an awesome character, but because he started me thinking: what other cursed kids can’t go to Hogwarts? Dumbledore managed to come up with a scheme to get Remus into Hogwarts and keep him and his classmates safe, to an extent, but what about the kids who couldn’t go?

Children with disabilities never seemed to exist in Hogwarts. To be fair, maybe wizards aren’t “disabled” in the same ways as Muggles. After all, Madame Pomfrey is pretty much able to regrow Harry’s arm. Perhaps blindness, deafness, paralysis and developmental delays are cured among wizards in the same way that we remove extra fingers and toes o the rare occasions they develop. But there are curses and conditions that even wizards cannot cure.

Where would such children — the children who couldn’t be mainstreamed without great danger to themselves or others — learn their magic? And what would happen on that terrible day when they, and they alone were left to save the world, against all odds? This was the genesis of my novelette, “The Last Academy.” And I never thought I would write it until I was invited to the anthology Fantastic Schools. Obviously, I didn’t write in the Potterverse, but think of it as a, shall we say, Potteresque story.

And now, to whet your appetite, an excerpt, from Edric’s first day at his new school:

There was already a chair pushed back next to the boy who was eating with one hand. Edric began to sit.

“Excuse me, but this seat is taken,” said an exasperated voice.

Edric jumped. He almost lost form. “What?” The boy next to him was looking up with an amused expression on his face, but Edric would swear he hadn’t spoken.

“Yes, I know, you weren’t to know,” said the voice, which sounded like a young boy’s. “But I promise you that I am here, even though you can’t see me. Although honestly, the food might have been a clue.”

Edric blinked. There was indeed about a third of a meal on the plate in front of the seat. And the seat-cushion was flattened.

“Look, you can sit opposite me if you like.”

“Um, thank you.”

That meant that Edric had to walk around the girl in the wheelchair, the head of the table, and then the sphere of darkness, which was uncomfortably close to the wall.

“Um,” Edric said, trying not to address anyone in particular, “Is that dangerous?”

“No,” said a girl’s voice from inside the sphere. “Just don’t stick your head inside it.”

Edging around so as not to touch it, Edric sat down next to the blindfolded girl with grayish skin. As he did so, his plate filled. There was a steaming portion of shepherd’s pie, some white bread, and a cherry tart. The food looked decent enough, but it didn’t appear he was going to get any choice.

“Are you Edric?” the girl asked, without turning to face him.

“Yes,” he said.

“I’m Gwen.” She faced him and smiled, offering her hand in his general direction. He took it. Her hand felt unusually dry and cold. “Thanks for sitting with us.”

“It wasn’t his first choice,” said the girl in the wheelchair, sourly.

“Oh, come off it, Karen,” said the boy across from Gwen with a smile. “Half the people at the table tried to sit down there. It’s a shock finding yourself at Calarzat with the monsters. Can’t blame people for wanting to latch on to what looks normal.” He nodded to Edric. “Hi, I’m Callahan.”

Edric extended his hand. Callahan gave a wry smile. “Thanks, but you don’t want to do that.” He pushed himself back and withdrew his hand. Instantly, the candles guttered out and he held up a hand that was alive from wrist to fingertips in incandescent flames.

“Ah… I see,” said Edric. “I could shake the other hand?”

“Not unless you like second-degree burns,” Callahan said.

“Oi! Kindling! Lights!” yelled the biggest wolf, from down the table.

Callahan slid his hand back under the table and the candles sprang to life. “It’s useful.” He gestured to the chair beside him. “That’s Ian.”

“Sorry I tried to sit on you.”

“Oh, it’s all right, I suppose.”

Edric turned to Gwen. Might as well get the awkward parts over with. “Why are your eyes bandaged? Did you hurt them?”

“Not exactly. Are you afraid of snakes?”

Edric blinked. “Not particularly. Why?”

For an answer, her hair parted, and a thin snake peered out at him brightly. His mouth dried up as he realized what he was sitting next to. “You’re a… gorgon?”

“In a way. The Dark Lord cursed me when I was four. An attempt to blackmail my family. But I started out as a human. Calarzat is for human monsters.”

“Is that what happened to you?” Edric asked Callahan.

“Um, no,” said Callahan. “I’m afraid we had a bit of a house fire when I was seven years old. My Dad panicked and tried to cast a spell so the fire wouldn’t hurt me. It worked. Sort of. You see, the fire became my best friend. And it never wants to go away.”

“Can you control it?”

“Can you control your friends?” asked Callahan. “It gets… upset if I do that too much. You don’t want to see it angry. Ian’s dad tried to keep him safe, too. From the Dark Lord. Turned him invisible. Permanently.”

“Callahan!” snapped Karen. “You don’t talk about other people’s conditions. You know the rules.”

“I don’t mind,” said Ian. “S’true.”

“That’s not the point,” Karen said.

“What about them?” asked Edric, jerking a nod toward the group at the other end of the table. “They look normal enough.”

“It’s not full moon,” said Ian.

“Werewolves?” Callahan nodded. “Don’t like anyone else much, do they?”

“If you’re not a wolf, you’re not worth anything to them,” Callahan said.

Even Karen didn’t bother to dispute this. “And you’re here because… you can’t walk?”

Karen frowned. “No one at Calarzat is compelled to talk about why they are here unless they want to. And I don’t.”

“What about you?” Callahan asked. “What brings you here?”

“It’s hard to explain,” Edric said. I don’t want to explain it.

Karen scoffed. “Wants to know our secrets but keep his own.”

“Can you show us?” asked Callahan.

“Uh… not if you want to keep eating,” Edric said, staring down at his plate.

“And you’ve been to Porcinoma?” asked Gwen. “Yes,” Edric muttered. He wished he was back there, with his friends. Except he’d be dead. With his friends.

I hope you’ll give it a try.

LAST DAY: SFWA Storybundle: ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS and MORE!!

Today is the last day of the Science Fiction Writers of America Storybundle, which features my novel, ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS. The theme of this year’s bundle is FANTASTIC BEASTS.

And right now, this is the ONLY way to get a copy of ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS. It goes away in just a few hours.

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How much does it cost? That’s part of the awesomeness: Pay what you want! You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books! You can even choose how big a share we authors get!

ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS is part of the LOWEST TIER! YOU GET IT AND FOUR OTHER BOOKS FOR JUST $5! They are: Moonshadow by Thea Harrison, Cici and the Curator by S. J. Wynde, Whalemoon by Dustin Porta, Bloodrush by Ben Galley. It’s like getting each book for only a dollar!

If your purchase price is $15 or more, you get TEN more books: including Eyrie by K. Vale Nagle, Sunset, She Fights by Tameri Etherton, Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest, The Cursing Stones by Sonya Bateman, Night’s Favor by Richard Parry, Song of Shadow by Natalya Capello, Heritage of Power – The Complete Series Books 1-5 by Lindsay Buroker, Prince of Foxes by H. L. Macfarlane, The Wolf at the End of the World by Douglas Smith and Windsworn by Derek Alan Siddoway

The bundle is available for purchase here. Or you can look at SFWA’s blog about the StoryBundle here.

I’d also like to take a moment to say that I have finished Cici and the Curator, and it is a really fun sci-fi romp! So there’s at least two books in here that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Thanks to everyone who purchased!

SFWA Bundle: CICI AND THE CURATOR Snippet!

It is my great honor to announce that the Science Fiction Writers of America have chosen ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS as part of their StoryBundle offering this year. Appropriately, the theme of this year’s bundle is FANTASTIC BEASTS.

For the next few days on my blog, I am going to be promoting a snippet from each of these authors. Today’s snippet is from S.J. Wynde‘s CICI AND THE CURATOR!

“Whoa! What the—” The delivery girl was wide-eyed and blinking. Cici flipped the lid of the container closed and spun it back around to face her, so that the girl couldn’t see inside the gap caused by the lid resting on the dogs’ heads. The delivery girl stared at her. “What are those things? Where did they come from? How did they—” 

“Loose exhibit,” Cici said glibly. “Sorry about that. Little escape artists, they are.”

“But… how did they… but…” The delivery girl looked as if she might start hyperventilating. Then she took a breath and lifted her chin higher and pulled the strap of her air-board tighter on her shoulder. “Exotic, right. You ain’t kidding.” 

“It’s a great show.” Cici kept a bright smile plastered on her face. “You should come back and see the whole thing.” 

“Didn’t know it was animals,” the girl said. “Thought it was Art.” Her emphasis on the last word was tinged with a hint of scorn. 

“We’ve got some of everything,” Cici said. A hysterical laugh was rising in the back of her throat but she forced it down with an effort. She was piling lies upon lies, digging a trap for herself that was getting deeper and deeper. “It’s mostly art, though. You don’t like art? You’d probably find it boring, then. Really dull, I’m sure.”

“I don’t know.” The delivery girl shook her head, staring speculatively at the back of the food container. She tucked her e-pad into a pouch on her waist and grabbed the thermal bag, then paused. “Can I see ‘em again?” Cici froze with indecision, mind racing. Her mother would… her brother would… she should… It felt like forever but was no more than two or three seconds before she said, “I probably shouldn’t. I should get them back in their stasis chamber. They’re not supposed to be out. But a quick look couldn’t hurt.” Secrets were suspicious. Making a big deal about not letting the girl see the dogs would make her more curious than treating her request as casual interest about something not very important. Very not important. Definitely not the only remaining evidence of murder. 

How much does it cost? That’s part of the awesomeness: Pay what you want! You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books! You can even choose how big a share we authors get!

ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS is part of the LOWEST TIER! YOU GET IT AND FOUR OTHER BOOKS FOR JUST $5! They are: Moonshadow by Thea Harrison, Cici and the Curator by S. J. Wynde, Whalemoon by Dustin Porta, Bloodrush by Ben Galley. It’s like getting each book for only a dollar!

You decide how much of your purchase goes to the author and how much goes to help keep StoryBundle running. If your purchase price is $15 or more, you get TEN more books: including Eyrie by K. Vale Nagle, Sunset, She Fights by Tameri Etherton, Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest, The Cursing Stones by Sonya Bateman, Night’s Favor by Richard Parry, Song of Shadow by Natalya Capello, Heritage of Power – The Complete Series Books 1-5 by Lindsay Buroker, Prince of Foxes by H. L. Macfarlane, The Wolf at the End of the World by Douglas Smith and Windsworn by Derek Alan Siddoway

The bundle is available for purchase here. Or you can look at SFWA’s blog about the StoryBundle here.

SFWA Bundle: ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS Snippet!

It is my great honor to announce that the Science Fiction Writers of America have chosen ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS as part of their StoryBundle offering this year. Appropriately, the theme of this year’s bundle is FANTASTIC BEASTS.

For the next few days on my blog, I am going to be promoting a snippet from each of these authors. And because it’s my blog, I get to go first!

As I have previously noted, I am a big believer in the power of drinking to solve problems.

No, not my drinking. That’s just stupid: even my mentor Arghash had known that. It’s other people’s drinking that solves my problems. For example: Two days ago, Djug the goblin got drunk enough to think he could get away with burgling an orc-lord’s summer house. The orc-lord’s dire-wolf ate Djug and broke off two of its teeth. Pulling the teeth for the orc-lord solved my problem of paying the rent for my veterinary practice.

Well, I didn’t say it brought in repeat business.

But sometimes I join people in drinking, because we have the same problems.

In this case, I was drinking with Ulghash, Arghash’s son. Ulg and I grew up together. Only he became a doctor and a self-made man. Well, orc. And I inherited Arghash’s veterinary practice.

Hard feelings? Why? Ulghash and Arghash both got what they wanted: namely for Ulghash to rise to a higher level than fixing up animals. I, on the other hand, as a human chattel slave, wasn’t going to build my own business in the Dread Empire. So we all got what we wanted: I grew up as a higher class of slave, and Arghash got someone to keep the practice going.

Even so, Ulghash was saying, “Days like this I want to take Dad’s practice back from you.” He drained half his beer. “At least your patients don’t decide they know better than you.”

“That’s right,” I agreed. “Their owners do it. I told you about the human vampire-wannabe Countess who kept her basilisk on a diet of blood, right?”

“Yeah, but at least you can feel sorry for the basilisk.” Ulghash held his head in his hands. “I’m treating a clan chief for impotence. ‘Use the herbs,’ I said. ‘The herbs work. And stop trying every day, for the Dark Ones’ sakes. Relax a bit.’ Did he listen?”

“What did he do?” I asked.

“Got someone else to look at it.”

“Who?”

“A medusa.”

I stopped in mid-pull from my beer. “You don’t mean he got her to… look… at… it?

“Yep. He wanted it stiff. Well, it is now. I may have to cut it off before it gets infected. At least he can still piss, or he’d be dead already. He just has to watch the, uh. The range.”

How much does it cost? That’s part of the awesomeness: Pay what you want! You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books! You can even choose how big a share we authors get!

ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS is part of the LOWEST TIER! YOU GET IT AND FOUR OTHER BOOKS FOR JUST $5! They are: Moonshadow by Thea Harrison, Cici and the Curator by S. J. Wynde, Whalemoon by Dustin Porta, Bloodrush by Ben Galley. It’s like getting each book for only a dollar!

You decide how much of your purchase goes to the author and how much goes to help keep StoryBundle running. If your purchase price is $15 or more, you get TEN more books: including Eyrie by K. Vale Nagle, Sunset, She Fights by Tameri Etherton, Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest, The Cursing Stones by Sonya Bateman, Night’s Favor by Richard Parry, Song of Shadow by Natalya Capello, Heritage of Power – The Complete Series Books 1-5 by Lindsay Buroker, Prince of Foxes by H. L. Macfarlane, The Wolf at the End of the World by Douglas Smith and Windsworn by Derek Alan Siddoway

The bundle is available for purchase here. Or you can look at SFWA’s blog about the StoryBundle here.

AmazingCon (Virtual) Reading And Panel!

Hey, Science-Fiction and Fantasy Fans!

Well, 2020 is certainly going to go down in history as the worst year for Cons until we have an actual nuclear exchange (and that’s still a possibility in what do you think? October? Let’s say October). I myself was slated to attend LibertyCon in Chattanooga in June before that got cancelled by the venue. For all of you who are missing the F/SF con experience, there are many cons that are moving online. Introducing…

AmazingCon
A Different Con For A Different World


I will be appearing at AmazingCon doing a reading from All Things Huge And Hideous on Friday, June 12th, at 3 pm, and also taking questions, and will also be appearing on a Worldbuilding Panel on Saturday, June 13th at 4 pm.

I’d really love to see as many of you come as can, you can register by clicking on the con banner above, which will take you right to the website!

Oh, and here’s the best part: it’s PAY WHAT YOU WANT!! Donations are VERY much appreciated, but not required!

Many other awesome authors are doing readings and panels on a variety of subjects! Please enjoy some fantasy and science-fiction with us!

SFWA Bundle Bargain: ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS

It is my great honor to announce that the Science Fiction Writers of America have chosen ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS as part of their StoryBundle offering this year. Appropriately, the theme of this year’s bundle is FANTASTIC BEASTS.

Because Superversive Press, the original publisher of the novel, is now defunct, this is the ONLY way to get a copy of ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS at the present time. It will be available for three weeks, after which it will be gone for good, so please don’t miss this opportunity.

I am beyond honored to have been chosen to be part of this collection of great writers.

How much does it cost? That’s part of the awesomeness: Pay what you want! You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books! You can even choose how big a share we authors get!

ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS is part of the LOWEST TIER! YOU GET IT AND FOUR OTHER BOOKS FOR JUST $5! They are: Moonshadow by Thea Harrison, Cici and the Curator by S. J. Wynde, Whalemoon by Dustin Porta, Bloodrush by Ben Galley. It’s like getting each book for only a dollar!

(Click on each book above to check them out.) You decide how much of your purchase goes to the author and how much goes to help keep StoryBundle running. If your purchase price is $15 or more, you get TEN more books: including Eyrie by K. Vale Nagle, Sunset, She Fights by Tameri Etherton, Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest, The Cursing Stones by Sonya Bateman, Night’s Favor by Richard Parry, Song of Shadow by Natalya Capello, Heritage of Power – The Complete Series Books 1-5 by Lindsay Buroker, Prince of Foxes by H. L. Macfarlane, The Wolf at the End of the World by Douglas Smith and Windsworn by Derek Alan Siddoway

The bundle is available for purchase here. Or you can look at SFWA’s blog about the StoryBundle here.

Movie Reviews Far Too Late: Midsommar, Part II (of the review. There is no Midsommar II) Now With Fresh Spoilers!

So, I figure the first part of this review didn’t really do justice to MIDSOMMAR. I watched it while I was doing laundry (and if dirty laundry isn’t a metaphor for this film, I don’t know what is) and wasn’t thinking about it too deeply. But now that I’ve thought about it, I actually have to hand it to them: it’s a film that is full of meaning. Whether that meaning is worth anything or not is up to you, but it’s quite obviously there.

So, Dani, our film’s protagonist, is in a bad place. Her parents and sister have all committed suicide, leaving her as the only member of the family to survive. It’s never quite clear whether Mom and Dad were partakers in the suicide or whether suicidal little sis just decided to take them along.

Dani has a boyfriend, whose name is Christian. Yes, that’s important. He’s about to dump her when the suicide hits, and now he can’t. Christian is about to leave on a trip to Sweden with his buds Mark and Josh to visit their friend Pelle’s home. Christian decides that, in fact, he’s going to bring Dani with them, which doesn’t exactly thrill his friends as they find Dani clingy and annoying. Because she is clingy and annoying.

Upon arriving at Pelle’s village, it becomes quickly apparent that we have arrived in Scandinavian Deliverance land, where dwell Pelle’s people, the Hargans. There are two more outsiders, a couple named Simon and Connie. These folks are all about the old gods, and we all know what the old gods were like: they enjoyed sacrifice. Indeed, it doesn’t take long for the newcomers to start disappearing.

Now, over at ScreenRant, you can find an article explaining what happens to the characters in terms of the “sins” they commit during the film: they want to leave, and they defile something, etc. However, I believe this interpretation is completely off base. Midsommar is, from the outset, a pagan sermon about the virtues of the old gods, and the corruption of Christianity.

The first indication we have that all is not well in Hargaland is when two of the community’s elders commit suicide by jumping off a cliff and dashing themselves to death on rocks. Just to drive it home (sorry), the man doesn’t quite die, and he is “assisted” to his doom by means of a large mallet. The outsiders are horrified, but are asked to understand that this is only the Hargans’ way of seeking balance with the natural world and embracing death in its proper role. Josh, Mark and Christian murmur weak protests. Dani is horrified, but Christian is too weak and spineless to stand up for anything or really comfort her.

The true zealots here are the aptly-named Simon and Connie, who have had enough and make plans to leave. Simon (Peter) was always the fiercest of Jesus’ followers, and Connie is, well, constant, not to be shaken from her conviction that what the Hargans are doing is simply wrong. They are “taken to the train station”

Meanwhile, trouble is erupting among the former friends. Pelle is clearly cozying up to Dani and pointing out Christian’s shortcomings. Josh is completely indifferent to any moral failings on the part of the Hargans and is only interested in getting as much material for his anthro thesis out of it as he can. Meanwhile, Christian and Mark play the ugly-American oafs, with Mark as an incel who is clearly desperate to get laid, and careless enough to piss on a sacred tree, while Christian alternately shrugs off Dani’s pain, flirts with Pelle’s sister who is casting love spells at him, and then tries to horn in on Josh’s thesis topic by insisting on doing his anthro thesis on the village as well.

I think the names here remain key to understanding the roles of the major players. First, we have Josh. He’s fascinated intellectually, but morally repelled by this practice of paganism and wants access to their scriptures, eventually violating their proscription on photographing it. Joshua is also the English version of Jesus’ Hebrew name, Y’shua. Josh represents the Judaeo-Christian morality that wrote down the laws of God, stealing the pagans’ mysticism and then condemning the pagans. He is the most dangerous of the anti-pagans, and must be killed.

Then we have Mark, named for the writer of the first gospel. He has no real interest in anything except sex, drugs and food. He’s a tool, nothing more, and has no idea what he’s stumbled into. Only a fool would rely on anything he said. The gospel is therefore discredited.

And finally, we have Christian, named for the entire religion. He is completely and utterly unlikable, having no virtues that can stand up to the smallest vices, but always wanting to appear virtuous, no matter what the cost. He doesn’t want to look heartless so he stays with Dani. And yet he always puts himself first, never giving her any real time or energy. It’s made clear he’s at fault in this (despite the fact that Dani is obviously extremely needy and not really ready to be in a relationship at all). At the Hargan village, Christian can neither condemn the Hargans with the fierceness of Simon and Connie, nor question them with the intelligence of Josh, nor stand up for them in the face of Dani’s disapproval. When Maja, Pelle’s sister, casts a love spell on him and he finds out, he is faithless, unable to even say that such a thing is inappropriate. He is quick to steal Josh’s thesis idea when it looks easy, (imperializing over both a black man’s idea and a native culture simultaneously!) and when Josh disappears (supposedly with the Hargans’ scripture) he is just as quick to repudiate Josh and deny that they have ever been friends. Finally, he is completely willing to go to Maja’s bed and be unfaithful to Dani. In short, the “Christian” is in reality exactly what pagans imagine him to be: a weak-willed sheep, led about by his lusts, but without the courage and fortitude that would make fulfilling them admirable. As such, he is their sacrificial animal, to be used, condemned, and well-rid of.

But what of Dani? Well, she becomes the May Queen, elevated there by that most pagan of forces, fate. She was fated to be invited to the Hargans’ village, and fated to become the May Queen. As such, she is the one who ultimately chooses whether Christian or a member from the Hargans will be chosen. Screen Rant’s “explanation” of “why she kills Christian” is almost comical in its overexplanation:

“The answer to that is complex, but a good place to start is the fact that Dani isn’t exactly in her right mind at the end of the movie.

She wasn’t exactly in her right mind at the start of the movie. At best she’s traumatized. At worst, she’s codependent.

She’s been given drugged tea that’s causing her to have strange visions, danced to the point of exhaustion, and experienced the emotional trauma of seeing Christian have sex with another woman,

Her boyfriend cheated on her in public. That isn’t “complex;” that’s one of the oldest explanations for murder we’ve got.

followed by a release of emotion with her newfound sisters. By the time she’s on stage in her enormous flowery gown, Dani looks pretty out of it, but the one thing she does seem to be aware of is that Christian has hurt her.

Yes. Christian has “hurt her.” That really seems to be the sum total of Dani’s awareness, and the idea that Dani’s pain is Christian’s fault is the one thing that is hammered home time and again in this film. He didn’t kill her sister, or her parents, and he tried to include her when she needed to be included. Being drugged and exhausted is an excuse for her behavior, seemingly, but not for Christian’s. Funny how that works out.

Moreover, she also seems to recognize that Christian is the best choice for the sacrifice that represents the exorcism of evil from the community, because he – not the Hårgans – is the source of her pain.

Yes, and it’s also not the Hargans’ fault that they seduced a guy who was in a relationship, apparently. They are innocent, while Christian is guilty.

In the pagan world (note the small p, I am referring to classic pagans, not any followers of modern Wiccanism or related faiths, here) holiness is more positional than consequential. It derives more from what people are than what they do. Dani is good and Christian is bad because Dani is a woman in pain. Therefore, she must be in the right. To say otherwise would be to blame her on some level for her pain. We endure endless sobs throughout this film, most of them from Dani. And while it is true that Christian’s choices are mostly selfish, so are everyone else’s, including Dani’s. No one ever seems to think that Dani should do anything for him, but it is made very clear that Christian must stay with Dani, be there for Dani, adjust his life for Dani, invite Dani along with him, remember Dani’s birthday. He is responsible for her pain, but she is never responsible for his. He doesn’t even (conveniently) have real pain in his life, just selfish ambitions.
Dani kills Christian for the simplest of all reasons: she is angry at him and wants revenge. And her killing of him is held up as right. She is the May Queen, a holy figure. It is right that she kills him because she has decreed it to be right. It is right because it represents the triumph of the strong pagan goddess reclaiming her true superiority over the false, weak, Christian god who lied and failed to fulfill her.

Of course, what’s truly astonishing is exactly how successfully this message overrides the demonstrable horror that this pagan community has achieved: a monocultural, racist theocracy which by its own admission deliberately practices incest in order to induce mental disabilities, enforces the euthanasia of the elderly, and lures outsiders in to be sacrificed along with their own people annually. But what are such little defects compared to freeing our minds from the evils of Christian hypocrisy?

It’s a breathtakingly simple message. Who is listening?

Movie Reviews Far Too Late: The Descent

Fair warning, and never has this phrasing seemed more apt, SPOILERS BELOW.

Like any human uncontrolled descent, this movie was quite passable until it reached the end.

I mean, it was predictable as hell. This is one of those movies where there is going to be a Final Girl. Literally everything in the movie was telegraphed? Was Sarah’s dead husband having an affair with the hotter Juno? Of course he was. According to Movie karma rules, will there be a reckoning for this? Of course there will! When someone says that this cave doesn’t look like the one they studied, does that have ominous meaning..?

Dur.

But really, all that was almost forgivable, if not excusable, because this film is essentially, an all-girl production of ALIEN in a cave. That’s about enough to sell the movie on its own. But the ending…

Q: Which one?

A: Dude, what the hell? You’re the voice from the LAST MRFTL.

Q: Yeah, I got bored. Which ending?

EITHER ending! Okay, so in the American ending you get on Amazon Prime, Sarah escapes the cave, having wounded the evil Juno because she a) was the last person to sleep with Sarah’s husband, and probably caused the car wreck that killed him and Sarah’s daughter at the beginning of the film because he was thinking about it, and b) Juno accidentally killed another of their friends and then left her to die and lied about it. Oh, and c) Juno was the one who took them to the undiscovered and therefore — even without the C.H.U.D. infestation — HIGHLY DANGEROUS cave without telling anyone.

So, just to be clear, if ANYONE in this film deserves to die, it’s Juno. Although I think it sucks that what really appears to get Juno killed is her MOST excusable act: she puts a pickaxe through another girl’s throat when the girl suddenly appears behind her right after they’ve fought off a whole bunch of C.H.U.D.s. Literally ANYONE could have made that mistake, especially someone who has never fought for her life before. They might even panic and run away and leave their victim dying. Not laudable, but understandable for someone who’s suddenly thrust into a situation where choosing wrong means death.

Then WHY, for the love of crap, after Sarah escapes the cave and flees for her life is she confronted, two seconds before roll credits, with the vision of Juno’s vengeful spirit sitting in the car with her? Juno was, in fact, killed for vengeance. People who get justly killed for revenge don’t get to come back and haunt their killers. Otherwise the concept of vengeance just gets silly.

BUT, as the disembodied voice reminds us, there was another ending. The UK ending, as this film was a UK film. And in THAT ending, we discover that Sarah, after her escape…

…finds out she hallucinated the whole escape, and she’s still back in the cave, and the C.H.U.D.s are closing in.

Oh, gods. The first lesson you learn in storytelling school, usually with eyerolls from your bored elementary-school peers, is that any story ending with “And then I woke up and it was all a dream” is tedious and anticlimactic as shit. IT DOESN’T MAKE IT BETTER WHEN YOU MAKE THE WAKING UP PART BAD. Seriously, I just wish I could make a rule: you are not allowed to have your characters hallucinate shit in the middle of your horror movie.* Because it’s like bringing dead people back to life: once you’ve done it, how do you know anything is real? Maybe she was hallucinating killing ANY of the creatures. Maybe she was the first one killed! Maybe she died when she thwacked her head on the cave wall and all of this were coma hallucinations before she succumbed to a fatal head injury! I mean, either way she’s dead and nothing she thought she did mattered, right?

This trope needs to die in a fire.

*Unless the horror is that they are actually insane or otherwise being influenced to hallucinate. That’s legitimately something to fear.

2019: The Year Of The Novel. For Me.

This year, by the grace of God, saw me reach a goal I’ve been working toward my whole life: I became a novelist. This year, my publications include:

Novel: ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS (currently on sale for just $3 on Amazon!)
Novel: MOON 2095: THE GIRL WHO WASN’T THERE
Story: “Wheels-Up Time” at StarShipSofa
Story: “Whoever Is Not For Us” at Mysterion
Story: “Day Of Atonement” In HOLY C.O.W. anthology

In addition, I sold two more stories, which will appear in 2020. They are:

“On The Menu Stains Of Madness” in Stupefying Stories.
“Adeste Fideles” at Cirsova.

In addition, I was privileged to be an Attending Pro at DragonCon, and my novel manuscript ACROSS THE ENDLESS OCEAN won Runner-Up honors in the #ReviseandResub contest on Twitter. Finally, I participated in NaNoWriMo and reached 50,000 words on my As Yet Unnamed Manuscript.

Not everything went exactly to plan. My greatest shortfall was the number of stories I sent out for submission. My goal was to send out 100 stories. I sent out only 55 submissions. Some of that was that I underestimated long response times and did not have as many manuscripts ready to go as I would need. And some of it was just me being lazy. And some of it was starting a new full-time job, which is anther achievement that I am quite happy about, grateful for, and proud of. But it does take time away from writing.

Also, I am quit humbled that this year, someone — I have no clue who — sent me an anonymous gift in the form of a short sword, pictured below. Whoever you are, you made me feel like a knight, and I dedicate myself anew to the quest of creating new worlds for the readers.

No photo description available.

Ave atque vale!