In his book On Writing, Stephen King discusses his method for discovering the story as he writes it and why he is not a fan of outlining his books. King suggests that he can tell when a book came naturally to a writer versus being an outlined work. I admit I cannot pick up on this quality in the books I read, but then I am not the master that is Stephen King (though sometimes I wonder if I might be able to pick up on a King novel’s finale that clearly was not planned ahead of time). I respect King and read On Writing at an important time in my writing journey, so I took its lessons to heart. And while I still think highly of the book and return to it more often than any other book on writing fiction, I have distanced myself from the master’s stance on outlines.
Head on over to Scriptophobic to read my evolving stance on outlines, when to ignore the advice of masters, and why it's sometimes best to ignore your own outlines to create a better story.
This piece can also be read at Scriptophobic.
You can learn a lot writing a book. Learn something about yourself, your understanding of genre, and maybe hopefully how to be a better writer on the next book. I like to think I learned a great deal in writing my apocalyptic kaiju epic In the Shadow of Extinction. But to save time, I’ve boiled those lessons learned down to a more reader-friendly Top 6. Some of these lessons learned were altogether new to me, others I understood at least on some level but had their meaning reinforced in the writing of this story.
First a short synopsis of the book: Volcanic activity unleashes kaiju across the globe and mankind's weapons prove unable to push them back. Governments disband, countries are left decimated, and our once great cities are reduced to rubble ruled over by massive predators. But there are survivors. In the age of monsters, humanity must learn to survive in the shadows.
Now onto lessons learned.
1. Writing a long book isn’t hard. Editing a long book? That’s hard.
In the Shadow of Extinction is a big book at roughly 800 pages. Or, if you prefer to view it as three volumes in a trilogy of books, it’s… still roughly 800 pages. I can’t help but view it as one big book, because I wrote it all at once. And it’s not hard to write a long story like that. Sometimes my attention waned -- I wrote the horror novella Rakasa on those days -- but mostly you just gotta keep going. I always planned on In the Shadow of Extinction being a long story. That was the design. If it had happened accidentally, that’d be cause for concern about a book that’s out of control. One of my favorite reader reviews called it, ‘The "War And Peace" of kaiju novels,’ and that’s kind of what I was going for. Epic story. Large scale action. Character arcs that play out not by the chapter but by the year. As long as you keep putting in the work/words, a story can be as long or as short as you want it to be.
But holy shit, editing those 800 pages was hell. It was originally even longer. You print up something like that for a proper edit and it breaks the spirit knowing just how much work you have to do. I set it aside, fearful of the task that awaited me after the mad sprint to write the first draft. And then finally you read the first draft and realize it’s only one grade above shite and so you’ve got more work to do after that.
I started writing In the Shadow of Extinction in 2014 and finally finished it for publication in 2018. I never had one work of fiction with me for long before. I never want to have that happen again, either. Editing a 300-page novel is no small task but it can be enjoyable if approached with the right mindset. Editing In the Shadow of Extinction was not fun. And the task continued from draft to draft as characters were created and deleted, subplots were added and removed, and new conflicts were devised throughout (never cut conflict).
What I learned is that I should have edited it one volume at a time. Smaller chunks. Sure, it would’ve felt like editing three novels as compared to one, but the point is not to make one feel needlessly overwhelmed in their creative work if it can be helped.
2. The world doesn’t wait.
As I mentioned above, I started writing In the Shadow of Extinction in 2014. A great deal has happened since then, both good and bad. In relation to the novel, two key things have transpired: 1) kaiju have seen a surprising boom of popularity in the US and 2) Donald Trump got elected president.
When I started writing the book, Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla was still on the horizon and there was very little in the way of kaiju fiction beyond Jeremy Robinson’s popular Project Nemesis (fun book!). While I edited my book, Jeremy Robinson got some company in the kaiju fiction sub-genre with the likes of JE Gurley, Raffael Coronelli, and Jake Bible. And kaiju cinema continued to see some interesting/entertaining films like Kong: Skull Island (2017), Shin Godzilla (2016), and Colossal (2016).
he hope of being ahead of the pack was gone. But! The surprising popularity of the kaiju genre did give my book more of a landing pad when it was ready for release. Do I wish I had gotten it out sooner? Of course. But I did what I could. And it’s in good company now. I’m happy as a creator and as a fan of the genre that the kaiju boom continues to go on strong.
Now let me get political… accidentally? Well, no. Not accidentally. Art is political and I’ve got some opinions, man. But my book only accidentally has something to say about President Donald Trump.
In the story’s apocalyptic future, most the world has been reduced to ash and ruin from failed wars to beat back the kaiju invaders. Refugees migrate from one burned out city to the next looking for a safe place to rest their heads. Word is spoken of a safe haven in America and refugees flock to it from all corners of the globe. But when they get there, they find walls have been erected around the safe city. Only those with something of worth are allowed through the gates and into the city walls. The rest remain on the outskirts, occasionally rising up in violent protest in their desperation to reach safety.
So, yeah. I wrote some science fiction which accidentally hit close to our current reality of walls, refugees, asylum seekers, and pitiless policies on how best to deal with the weak and wounded. Coming up with that years ago and preparing it for publication as it started unfolding above a Breaking News banner was kind of weird. Totally unintentional. And I’d really rather my book about a deeply flawed city at the end of the world had no relation to today’s America, but here we are.
The world doesn’t wait for your book to be ready so that it can land at the front of the line of the new trend. Likewise, life-changing world events happen at a rapid pace, and can have an impact (good or bad) on your work’s themes that you never intended. My book is different now from how I first conceived of it, not only because of my own changing concepts for how to deliver the story but because of uncontrollable outside influences. Your art enters into the world at a certain time. If you’re lucky, you get to pick the date. But you don’t get to pick the world.
3. It is possible to go too dark.
So, um, there’s a dark section in the book that I got some notes on. I won’t go into it, but if you’ve read In the Shadow of Extinction chances are we’re thinking of the same section. Originally it was different. For whatever reason, I tapped into my inner Tobe Hooper and went wild with that thing in all the worst ways. My early readers were not pleased by this surprising turn in the middle of a giant monster story into sweaty, backwoods horror territory. I listened — thank goodness — and I made the necessary changes. It’s still a dark, unpleasant section of the book, but in an entirely different way.
Though I don’t think of myself strictly as a ‘horror author,’ my writing instincts always point me to horror for inspiration and plot fixes. I firmly believe that it is important to trust your instincts. This is what makes you you. But you can overdo it if you’re not careful. One must juggle the need to subvert genre expectations with the need to please genre fans. In other words, don’t impale somebody on a meat hook in the middle of a kaiju novel.
I went too dark. I got too nasty. I was trying to say something about a certain ugly part of culture and went about it the wrong way.
I rewrote the entire section (probably the biggest rewrite of the book). I substituted the sweat and rust for cold, clean surfaces. I removed hooks and chains in favor of hospital hallways and orderly staff. Instead of chaos and lawlessness, it became all about the new law of the land, which was sterilized, unfeeling, inhuman government operated rationale.
The change actually helped me say what I wanted even clearer than before. At least I think so. I still get occasional notes, but I’m okay with that. I feel like it’s the right amount of dark now. And besides, the bad guys die horribly, so that’s fun.
4. Don’t chase trends. But if that thing you love is trending, then do as you wish.
If you read just about any book on writing you’ll find the advice that you should never chase trends. And I agree. However… if you’re already into that trending thing, then maybe now’s a good time to tell that story you’ve always wanted to tell.
If you’re not into vampire tales, you’d be silly to follow the Twilight hype and write your own (are we through that now? Is it safe?). But if you do love your vamps and Bela Lugosi is your dream guy, then damn it, now’s your moment. Write fast. Write with passion.
Listen, In the Shadow of Extinction is not a big hit bestseller. It’s not. I’m a small-time author. But it sold well by my standards. Better than my previous books. The first month’s sales were especially nice and I got myself that big ol’ Bergman box set from Criterion as a gift to myself. I call that a win.
I do not believe it sold better because I have a larger platform now (though I do) or because the cover art is good (though it is). I believe it sold well because it settled into a popular subgenre of fiction that people are reading now. You can easily identify it as a kaiju novel, not just a horror, sci-fi, or disaster novel, you know? It has a niche. And that matters.
Don’t chase trends. Chase your passions. And if what you’re passionate about is trending, then you better damn well make the most of it.
5. The value of beta readers you don’t know.
I’ve used beta readers before but they were all friends, family, and writers I knew. When I was pushing In the Shadow of Extinction into its 4th draft, I decided to reach beyond my trusted circle to find beta readers who had never heard of me or my books before. It was worth it.
One beta reader came back with notes that dramatically improved Part 1 of the story. I mean, holy shit what an improvement. It was a problem section of the book for me that my circle of trusted readers/friends didn’t think was that big of an issue. This one beta reader who I’d never spoken with before comes in and almost immediately points out what’s wrong and why. And it’s like, Duh. There it is. That’s the problem. So much of the time the lightbulb of an idea is there but it requires someone else to flip it on.
Another beta reader had good suggestions about one of the book’s kaiju, which they felt didn’t fit in with the attempt at ‘realism’ found in the other kaiju (let’s be real, they’re giant monsters. But if some of them exist by a set of physical rules, it only makes sense that they all should. And failing that, at least explain/point out that this particular monster is special for some reason).
Another reader had notes about the section alluded to in #3. One reader said they found a certain character dull. At least a couple of folks suggested chapter cuts. Another came up with a notion of where the story might continue in a sequel.
All of these thoughts, even the ones that had very little to say beyond ‘this good’ and ‘this bad’, were invaluable to me as I shaped the mammoth manuscript into its 5th and final draft. Chances are I would not have ever made some of these alterations had it not been for these beta readers. It is worth it to reach beyond the usual circle of confidence now and then, find someone with the basic requirement that they enjoy reading, and see what they have to say.
A note on beta readers and feedback from writer friends: if someone tells you there’s something wrong with the book, they’re probably right. However, if that someone tells you how to fix it, they’re probably wrong. Fix it yourself. It’s the only way you’ll be totally happy with the change.
6. Listening to the monsters…
It seems like Toho sues somebody every other week for the unlawful use of Godzilla in entertainment or advertising. There’s a reason for that. Simply, Godzilla is so much a part of modern pop culture that it’s become shorthand for ‘giant monster.’ And though we see some interesting, totally original monsters now and then, the influence of Godzilla informs the design of many original beasts.
In the Shadow of Extinction was no different. The influence of Godzilla and all his rubber-suited friends can be found throughout. But I tried to put some distance between us and make these original kaiju my own. There’s no atomic rays or fire breathing dragons to be found anywhere in the text. And radiation has little to do with how they’re brought to life.
In the Shadow of Extinction has four main kaiju: the gargantuan dinosaur-like beast, the insectoid horde, the giant sea creatures, and a blind mole monster. But they were just monsters until I discovered what they were trying to say. You know, Godzilla is a stand-in for nuclear annihilation. Kong is about capitalism and slavery. Hedorah is a monster that symbolizes the danger of unchecked pollution. A great many more were about diving too deep, going where we did not belong, or being reckless with our scientific discoveries. And so on. So, what were my monsters up to? What did they have to say?
I didn’t figure it out right away. Wasn’t until rewrites when I deduced that the monsters were about war and all the misery that comes with it. In the book, mankind enters into war with each other as well as with the monsters, thus speeding along our own demise (that’s not a spoiler; most the book takes place after the end of the world). The Tyrant, the big guy on the cover of the book, is like war made flesh as it crashes through our cities looking for something new to fight. And some of the human characters are no better, continuing to want a fight with the monsters long after that fight is already lost.
Once I understood this, the vision of the book changed for me. The ending came into clearer focus. And I had it.
Listen to your monsters. Find the theme hidden beneath the rubble. You don’t have to write a ‘message story’ to have something to say.
Bit by bit over the past couple years, Raffael Coronelli has been writing one of the more original takes on the kaiju genre in fiction. That world exists sometime after our present world has perished and the titans that are linked to the spirit of the earth – titans that play some role in both our salvation and destruction – have largely disappeared back into myth and religion. The stories (Daikaiju Yuki, Y2K: Yuki Conquers the World, Mowka, and now this collection) tell the tale of this fantastical world in small doses from multiple perspectives, with not one of the volumes thus far topping 250 pages. It’s an interesting but enjoyable way to present a new sci-fi/fantasy world – a world that is deep, well-drawn, and familiar yet also full of new discoveries. The manner in which Coronelli presents the world in these smaller, but regularly released volumes allows us to keep up with the story while also not becoming overwhelmed by any one particular chapter. With the latest release of the ongoing saga, we get four standalone stories set within the realm of Daikaiju Yuki, set some years prior to the events of the original book.
The title story, Scythian Frost, starts us off on the best possible note. Set in an arctic outpost, the story focuses on a trio of men who walk out onto the frozen tundra looking for a fabled temple that is rumored to house a dormant kaiju god. It’s a dark, somber story about men at the edge of the world venturing into the unknown. My kind of jam. This is the best story of the collection.
Also strong is story two, Outrigger, which is an oceanic adventure over troubled waters. A two-man vessel takes a ship over sleeping leviathans, disbelieving the maritime horror stories of their existence in these waters. But they probably should’ve charted a different course. Outrigger is thrilling and features a pair of unlikely kaiju antagonists that I quite enjoyed meeting.
Lair of the Devourer is a jungle river adventure looking for a fabled crocodile kaiju while threats of local warlords threaten all involved. This is the one story where I really felt like it could’ve benefited from a longer length and more depth. It’s not bad, but there’s a rushed quality to the story that’s not present in the first two stories.
The shortest story is Thyrus the Beast of Umbria (previously published in the Mokwa paperback), an action/horror chase sequence with a mother and daughter on the run from giant wolves in the night. I really like this one. It’s short but satisfying.
The collection finishes up with The Pantheon Arrives! which is about the escape from a place of work under attack by kaiju, with the desperate hope for the arrival of the land’s protector kaiju. This is the weirdest of the bunch, complete with bizarre clam kaiju and a ‘wait what?’ twist regarding its characters that has me asking a lot of questions. More than any of the other stories (including my favorite, Scythian Frost), this one seems to build the most lore for the world of the series its set in.
I quite enjoyed the collection. As with all anthologies, you’re going to have your favorites and least favorites, and I definitely have my picks. But on the whole it’s very solid. Coronelli has grown considerably as a writer in the two years since Daikaiju Yuki, here crafting some truly special science fiction/fantasy. For kaiju geeks like myself, the Scythian Frost collection is a real treat, giving us one strange story of adventure and wonder after the next.
I didn't read nearly as much as I would've liked this year. Partly this is because I read and re-read my 800 page book In the Shadow of Extinction a few times over in preparation for its release. Partly it's because I was just distracted by movies, videogames, and a BREAKING NEWS world on fire.
But I did read some good stuff in the time that I put aside for ink and paper. Here are my favorites...
THE FORCE by Don Winslow
The Force feels so very much in the moment. It is a cop epic for a time when cops are viewed more cynically by more people than perhaps ever before. Police brutality and videos of cops killing unarmed black men are major subplots that make up a background (and eventually the foreground) of American justice on the edge of a knife. It is an angry piece of work, one that points an accusatory finger at police but also takes time to see the world from their point of view. It also points out the corruption and the hypocritical attitude found in the courts and D.A. offices. No one gets out looking super clean in The Force and the story is all the better for it.
I’m coming to learn that there are few real heroes in the works of Don Winslow and many bastards. The Force's Denny Malone is a complex antihero, a man who is hated, loved, feared, and honored. It’s impossible to approve of everything the man does, but one can’t help but end up rooting for him as the world closes in around him. Supporting characters on both sides of the law, of which there are many, are also well drawn. And the action is written in a blunt force manner which I really enjoyed.
The Force is a brilliant crime epic and I give it my strongest recommendation. Don Winslow is fast becoming one of my favorite authors writing today. Winslow's The Border, his sequel to the masterful The Cartel, is probably my most anticipated novel of 2019.
PET SEMATARY by Stephen King
In the introduction to the book, Stephen King says he kept Pet Sematary in a drawer for years because he was disturbed by the book and the conclusions it made. It's true, the book is dark as hell. One of the darkest, most uncompromising of King's long career of dark fiction. I decided to give the book a look because I never had before and I was excited for the new film adaptation (the original film is very, very good). I knew the story going in and as such probably wasn't as frightened by the twists King comes up with. But the novel is darker and sadder than I was expecting, even while I knew the original film to be dark and sad itself. This is one of King's very best.
WHOSE BOAT IS THIS BOAT? by Donald Trump (by accident)
Donald Trump visited hurricane victims and was enchanted by the arrival of a boat where it should not have been. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert then turned it into a kid's book complete with new artwork. All the lines are actual quotes from Donald Trump.
It is hilarious. It is sad. There is no moral.
ANNIHILATION by Jeff VanderMeer
VanderMeer's novel breaks so many rules and as such I am not surprised to see it receiving very mixed reviews among my Goodreads friends. It's purposefully paced, it's non-linear, it's distant and cold, and it's secretive almost to a fault. But it is also fascinating and very creepy. It takes a familiar set-up -- the expedition into the unknown -- and it wastes no time in establishing itself as something very different indeed.
The film adaptation, which is very different from the book but possesses the same spirit, is also one of my favorites of the year.
BROKEN SHELLS by Michael Patrick Hicks
Broken Shells is a nasty little book. It’s like a long lost Tales from the Crypt episode in the way that it starts as one thing, becomes something else, and only gets darker as it goes. Hicks fits in a bit of political commentary into the book as well. The main character is a poor African American man in Trump’s America and deals with open hostility long before a giant bug bites off his ear. There are moments that call to mind Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, a horror movie ahead of its time with politics on its mind that also featured a black man as a hero.
But what Broken Shells will be remembered for is its gross monster horror brutality. Hicks does not shy away from the slimy details. If anything, the unflinching look at the gory details seems to be one of the author’s primary intentions in writing this story. The author’s style—blunt but squishy—makes for very readable prose. The protagonist Antoine is a likable, flawed hero fighting against the odds and even the villainous car salesman is written with unexpected depth.
The book is grim. Maybe too grim for some folks. But for those in the mood for hardcore monster horror, look no further. I’m gonna remember it for a while, especially for one bug birthing scene that I think would make Ridley Scott proud. And I’m gonna think twice before following the car salesman to his office to make a deal.
DAIKAIJU YUKI by Raffael Coronelli
One of the popular concepts of kaiju storytelling that isn’t often translated when the genre crosses the Pacific is the idea of a link between monster and man. You see this in Ultraman, the 90’s Gamera trilogy, and an assortment of other tokusatsu entertainment. The closest we get to some approximation of that in Western Kaiju is the link between man and machine as seen in Pacific Rim and (the Americanized) Power Rangers. Raffael Coronelli’s Daikaiju Yuki is one of the only examples I can recall of the man/monster concept in an American kaiju tale. It’s a refreshing new take on the kaiju novel with an old school twist.
The novel is a little on the short side this appears to be by design. A sequel and a spinoff are already available. In a time when kaiju fiction is going through a surprise boom of popularity, many authors (myself included) have used the opportunity to tell dark tales that mainstream kaiju entertainment was reluctant to give us. Coronelli goes the other direction and embraces the fun and fantasy of kaiju spectacle. I dig it.
REDMAN VOL. 1: THE KAIJU HUNTER by Matt Frank
Matt Frank is one of the friendliest kaiju geeks in town. Pairing him with Redman, the most bloodthirsty kaiju killer Tsuburaya ever created, did not seem to me to be an automatic yes-this-makes-perfect-sense combo. But I was wrong. Of course I was. You never doubt Matt Frank, gang. How foolish I was to forget this.
Redman is like a cousin of Ultraman except he goes around like Jason Voorhees stabbing kaiju to death whether they're good or bad. Absolute maniac. He kind of returned to relevance in the last few years after episodes of the largely forgotten/rarely seen 1970s tv series were officially uploaded to YouTube.
The comic, printed in a darker, pulpier fashion than most Frank art, is a loving tribute to the character that just ten years ago would've been inconceivable to see published in America. It is not just the best Redman story I've seen, it's also maybe Matt Frank's best work (Godzilla: Rulers of Earth is hard to beat, though!). I believe Vol. 2 is not far away and I can't wait to get my hands on it.
FASCISM: A WARNING by Madeleine Albright
Hell yes, I'm following up a kaiju comic with a nonfiction book written by a former Secretary of State about the history of fascism and its dangerous return. That's who I am.
This is a good book. And, sadly, an important one for where we are today. In it, Albright details the historic rise of fascist states, how she dealt with fascist leaders during her time in politics, and how to recognize its ugly stench as it comes slithering out of the shadows today. She comes this close to calling Trump a fascist and leaves the reader to make their own conclusions (guess what I concluded). Today, when leaders with fascistic tendencies wield power all across the world, and free elections continue to vote these guys into office (WTF WHY), books like this one and Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny are worthwhile reads for recognizing the warning signs. There is good cause for worry.
After failed attempts to get into the works of H.P. Lovecraft in years past, in 2018 I gave it another go and much to my surprise... I really dig some of these stories. Yes, the man and some of the intentions of his text are problematic to say the very fucking least. I am not forgiving those things. But these are mega creepy, very enjoyable stories. I understand their draw now where I hadn't before. The Dunwich Horror, Dagon, and The Hound are wonderfully crafted horror tales.
Writing can be a lonely task in the day-to-day but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have some sort of backup helping or cheering you along. Today at Scriptophobic, I offer some Dos and Don'ts for building your writer support group.
Loved this. Every character is so full of life, right on down to the speaking roles with only one scene. Also a great Chicago film, which finds some beauty in the city while also pointing out the corrupt heart. One of the best crime dramas in recent memory.
PADDINGTON 2 is the most cheerful, uplifting, good-natured prison movie ever. Just delightful. I want to give this movie a hug.
MIKEY AND NICKY
Holy shit. This movie. I don't believe I'd heard of MIKEY AND NICKY just a couple months ago. Well, anyway, it's great. Falk and Cassavetes are superb. Clenched teeth, frothing mad, strangely funny script. Great film. Kind of floored me. Not sure exactly what I was expecting but it delivered more. Will be picking up the new Criterion disc next year. (Farewell, FilmStruck.)
THE TALE is excellent. Hard to watch at times but excellent. Makes some interesting narrative choices, all of which work. The storyteller wrestles with her past, searching for truth in memory, and casts actors in her place so we can follow along. Fascinating and raw.
OVERLORD is very good. Works as a war film, a 'men on a mission' movie, and a horror movie. Make the special serum green and it could've easily been called WAR OF RE-ANIMATOR. It's in touch with its B-movie concept but takes itself seriously, which is for the best in this case.
One almost wishes they'd kept the horror stuff out of the trailers and marketed it as a war film only. Would've been a fun surprise, like vampires showing up in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. In any case, it's a good war/horror mashup, and one of my favorite such films since OUTPOST.
Wonderful film. Funny, sweet, and horrifically uncomfortable. So depressingly relatable it hurts sometimes.
Some of the best use of music you'll see in a 2018 movie, making one laugh and experience dread in equal measure.
One of the year's best films.
This week over at Scriptophobic, I talk about the fragility of ideas in storytelling, the value of test pitching ideas to friends, and the importance of protecting those ideas during the first draft writing process. Check it out!
Stan Lee has died at age 95.
This man meant so much to me. Not only was he one of the first creatives I was introduced to (by way of comic books and Saturday morning cartoons), but his creations made a kid like myself not feel so small or alone. His work made my imagination run wild -- still does. It's difficult if not impossible to imagine a pop culture world without Stan Lee's influence on it.
I knew this day was coming but didn't want to believe it. RIP, Stan.
It’s Election Eve in America. This is the most important midterm election of my lifetime – probably yours, too! And I am begging you to please get out to vote. Get your significant other to do the same. Bring your grandma along, too, why not? Don't believe the polls. Don't think your vote isn't needed. Show up, wait in line. Vote. We need you.
America is standing on the edge. The government is openly flirting with fascism and authoritarianism. The Republican Party has shown zero interest in reining this in and is happy to look the other way as the president drags us into the mud pits. The country is divided, this is true. Trump wants it that way. Almost everything he says or does pits one group of us against the other. He wants us to fear, to hate, to distrust one another. And sometimes that message is heard loud and clear by the unwell among us, resulting in mayhem and sometimes death.
We have a chance to check the president’s power. We have the opportunity to say, ‘No more. This is not who we are. We SEE what you’re doing and we’re sick of it.’ And the way to do this is to vote. The only way this stops is if we make it stop with the vote. And it won’t end this election, even if every Democratic candidate wins. It’s going to be a long process to rebuild what was broken and educate those who have been lied to for years. But we do it one step at a time. One vote at a time.
I just want us to be good and decent again. I want political crimes to be met with consequences. I want to look towards the future with hope rather than dread. And we can work toward these simple, attainable goals by electing people who believe in our values. Vote for people who will defend women’s rights and the rights of minorities. Vote for people who believe in science and the threat of global warming. Vote for people who believe mass shootings should be met with serious discussions about guns in America rather than just a ‘gee, what can we do?’ shrug. Vote for people who believe in stamping out corruption in government. Vote for people who aren’t racists or fascists. These political candidates will represent us for years. Make sure they’re REALLY representing us and what we believe.
And please don’t stay home because your candidate doesn’t pass your personal purity test. In Illinois, the candidates I favored in the primary didn’t make it to the general election. So what, I voted for the next best thing, which in this case is Democrats all the way down the ballot (I voted early). In a better time, maybe we could decide to vote for a third party candidate to send a message, but that’s not where we’re at right now. Every vote counts. Wasting votes on folks who can’t win or not voting at all = a vote for Trump.
I’m going to wrap this up by saying that I know it’s unpopular among some people to see political views expressed too strongly online, especially by creative types who want you to buy their book/art/movie/music/whatever. But this is more important than that. I want every book sale I can get but I will give up a book here and there for the ability to have my say about the things important to me. Besides which, I think you’ll find a lot of my personal politics in my books, anyway. Hell, my kaiju novel has to do with refugees being met at a supposed safe haven by gates that refuse to open, so… yeah. If my views expressed online are going to make you reconsider reading my books, chances are you weren’t going to like them anyway.
If it sounds alarmist to suggest that you should vote as if your life depends on it, then at least vote as if your freedoms depend on it. That’s the plain simple truth. Voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, basic American rights are all on the ballot this year. Protect them. Vote Democrat.
I watched so many movies this October. I took part in HoopTober, a Letterboxd horror movie scavenger hunt, and reviewed 31 movies. You can find them at the link. In addition to all the horror movies, I also caught some other good stuff. Here's a few faves. (As always, click the art and you'll find my affiliate link to Amazon if you wish to purchase one of the films.)
The 2018 Halloween is the best Halloween sequel since Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). And it might even be better than that film, too. It’s a great horror film anchored by a wonderful dramatic performance by Jamie Lee Curtis and no shortage of scares. I would’ve liked Halloween more without a dumb, short-lived subplot, but I still love the movie for what it is. Brutal, funny, and not lacking in something to say, it’s one of my favorites of the year.
You can read a full, detailed review of the film at CityOnFire.
Holy shit. I cannot remember the last time I saw a movie so full to the brim with dark, depressing, horrific imagery. You hear of movies that are an 'assault on the senses' well this was an assault on the soul. It's also an amazing piece of storytelling and a fantastic film. I doubt I will ever watch it again, though.
I think we need a new movie like Threads and The Day After to remind modern audiences of the horrific cost of nuclear war. Not to exploit our fears but to inform and upset us. The threat of nuclear holocaust has not diminished since these films were made. In many ways, the threat has intensified with bigger bombs and crazier world leaders. People need a reminder now and then of the threat these weapons pose.
Upgrade is the definition of cool. Creative camera work, badass action, and a dark sense of humor. It's the movie that the live-action Ghost in the Shell should've been. Oh how I wish I'd been able to see it in theatres. Instant cult classic.
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Sorry to Bother You is amazing. Like post-Ferguson Vonnegut. Funny and also heartbreaking. Sci-fi America and immediately recognizable 2018 America at the same time. It's an entire world in 2 hours. A must see film. Don't let anybody spoil it for you.
First Man is great -- love the back-and-forth between thundering noise and complete silence. A Simple Favor is one of the most delightful surprises of the year. A Star is Born is a beautifully acted drama that's going to win a ton of statues. The Hate U Give is one of the year's most important films and features what should be a star-making performance from Amandla Stenberg.
At CityOnFire, I reviewed Jeremy Saulnier's chiller Hold the Dark, Gareth Evans' badass horror movie Apostle, and the kickboxing/prison true story A Prayer Before Dawn if you wanna give those reviews a look.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
Blog notice: mostly this blog is for sharing my thoughts and talking about my books. From time to time I will also comment on books, films, music, sports, and/or videogames. During these times I may use images of the creative works under discussion. I'm posting the images under the "fair use" allowance, for purposes such as criticism, comments, reporting, teaching, and research. If you have any issue with images used on this blog, please contact me and the images will be removed.
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