Some graphic novel gems, some real stinkers: books read

I wasn’t impressed with the first volume of Grant Morrison/Liam Sharp’s Green Lantern but GREEN LANTERN: The Day the Stars Fell is considerably less satisfying. This involves Hal Jordan, some Silver Age one-shot characters (seeing Strong Woman and Hyperman was the fun part of this) and a swarm of multiversal Green Lantern counterparts battling the anti-Hal Jordan of the anti-matter universe. This leaves us with so many character swarming around it was hard to figure what was going on; Sharp’s art didn’t make it any clearer. Outside of a one-shot included with this TPB, involving a Jordan family reunion, I could have skipped this and not suffered any great loss in my life.

QUINCREDIBLE: The Hero Within by Rodney Barnes and Selina Espiritu (who did the cover) was much better, though not so much better I’ll be back for more. Protagonist Quinton West is one of many New Orleans residents who gained superpowers during a meteor shower, in his case invulnerability. Now he’s caught up in helping a voodoo priestess stop a developer who wants to raze a black cemetery to reclaim and rebuild his family’s ancestral land.

I like the cast and setting it in black New Orleans adds some interest. That said the story just didn’t engage me enough. And I really wish Barnes had explained by the developer is black when he’s written like a descendant of white slaveowners — yes, there are lots of ways that could happen (free blacks owned slaves, for instance) but I still wanted an answer.

IMMORTAL HULK: Breaker of Worlds by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett and Ruy Jose has the Hulk and General Fortean in a final showdown as the general goes increasingly rogue (“Collateral damage.”) only to find he’s no match for the Hulk’s Joe Fixit personality. This was good except for the pretentious last issue — comics written from the perspective of a completely alien mentality rarely come off as more than a stunt.

The follow-up, We Believe in Bruce Banner, has Banner and his allies taking over Fortean’s Shadow Base with an eye to using it to take down villains untouchable by the law. As Roxxon’s minotaur leader, Dario Aggo, is one of the untouchables, he sees this as a threat. Most of the collection focuses on his counter-attack, which includes the return of Xemnu the alien Hulk (a pre-Fantastic Four character renamed the Titan when he showed up in the Bronze Age, as on this Gil Kane cover). This shifts direction sharply, but it works.

THE AVANT-GUARDS vol 1 by Carly Usdin and Noah Hayes has protagonist Charlene attending a school for the performing arts only to discover it has a basketball team. She’s sworn off the sport but they need one more player to field a team and team leader Liv is both cute and persuasive … a bit too decompressed (this could have filled about two issues) but still charming.

I also read the first volume of Punk Mambo but I covered that one over at Atomic Junkshop. If you don’t want to get out the boat suffice to say it’s competent but underwhelming. Covr by Adam Gorham#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Still working through my Alien Visitor review backlog

ETERNALS (2021) is indy director Chloe Zhao’s dive into the MCU, as a handful of  ancient astronauts, including Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie and Gemma Chan spend centuries battling the monstrous Deviants before learning the terrifying truth about why the Celestials sent them to Earth.

I enjoyed the movie. It’s good-looking, has some great twists, and a solid cast. I particularly liked the running element that the secret of the Eternals’ existence is known to all kinds of people. The cast is solid.

I did not, however, massively enjoy the movie. The Deviants are bland foes and the concept doesn’t make as much sense here as it did in Jack Kirby’s comic book. There we can reasonably assume that even though we only meet a few Olympians (Zuras, Makkari, Thena) the rest of the pantheon exists. Here it’s quite specific that these are all the Eternals that exist which undercuts the Gods From Outer Space thing. And as someone pointed out online, Gilgamesh (Don Lee) arrives on Earth in Babylonian times, too late to be the hero of  Sumerian epic. Not dealbreakers for me, but definitely weaknesses. “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you … the plow.”

If not for rereading Keep Watching the Skies I’d have forgotten NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST (1958) exists. That would be a shame as it fits into my book’s discussion of alien rape and impregnation well. An astronaut returns to Earth, apparently dead, revives and discovers he’s been implanted with alien embryos by ETs who can’t penetrate the Van Allen belt otherwise. But are they here to save us from ourselves, or is this the fist step in colonizing the world? Like It Conquered the World, the ideas are more interesting than the presentation. “There’s a man in there alive who should be dead — something that’s never happened before.”

I only watched enough of STARGATE (1994) to refresh my memory for the Ancient Astronauts chapter. Engaging in spots but the scenes on Ra’s world now strike me as generic Lost Race stuff with heavy White Savior episodes. Still fun, but it’s odd seeing Kurt Russell when I expect to see the TV show’s Richard Dean Anderson. “This should read ‘A million years into the sky lies Ra the Sun God, dead and buried.”

According to Pictures at a Revolution, Sidney Poitier was slammed by critics for much of his career for playing non-threatening black guys who wouldn’t alienate a white audience. BROTHER JOHN (1971) is very different, and almost nobody watched it. John (Poitier) mysteriously shows up in his Southern hometown when his sister’s on the brink of death, then sticks around, reconnecting with old friends and unsettling the local white power structure who know he’s up to something — but only the town doctor (Will Geer) gets to learn what it is.

A number of online reviews describe Poitier as an angel, which makes me think the reviewers haven’t seen it. He’s actually acting as an agent for aliens who want to see if we’re anyone they can tolerate when we get beyond our own little solar system. John’s report is … not favorable. It’s a striking, unsettling film which writerScott Woods describes as Poitier playing “black machismo you don’t have to apologize for.” It definitely deserves to be seen more than it is. “I would like to leave my name somewhere beside the toilet at the Stuart Street School.”

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Back in the saddle for December

So starting Wednesday my vacation ended and I was back writing once more. I’m moderately pleased with the results.

I submitted No-One Can Slay Her to a noir anthology, which is a good way to start the week. I got Famine Where Abundance Lies back from another market with lots of specific compliments, which is cool — but they still didn’t take it. I’m guessing that like a lot of markets these days they don’t stockpile — if it’s not right for the upcoming issue, they’re not going to take it.

I got in a few thousands words to Oh, the Places You’ll Go and around 9,000 on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Of course, with the book I was mostly reworking the early chapters in response to writer-group feedback and ideas I’ve developed over the past year. Unsurprisingly, when I reached the point of adding completely new material in the short story my brain slowed down massively. That won’t work as my goal for this month is a NaNoWriMo like rush — get the words down, then revise later. That’s how I’ve always done it but the past couple of years my revising process just seems to freeze up. Thinking about it now, I realize part of  that is that I’m trying to plot it out more between revisions and thereby have fewer drafts. Perhaps that’s counter-productive for the way my mind works. We’ll see.

I definitely need to structure my day with more breaks in. Even without the pressure to complete Alien Visitors I find it very easy to just write non-stop, without getting up and stretching or clearing my head. I know that’s not good for my writing but it’s a hard habit to break. But I will break it.

Oh, and I went and got the alphabetical index to Undead Sexist Cliches even though I don’t have page numbers to assign it too yet. It may take some tinkering as I figure out the categories, which isn’t a huge problem with film-reference books though. Here I have to decide if “brain theories of gender differences” is, say, it’s own entry or goes in “gender differences (brain-based theories).”

I thought I’d plan out my goals for next year this week too, but no. Outside of my writing, I usually set goals that are challenging, but not too specific — somehow that’s not working. Whether I need more challenges, more specificity or some kind of incentives I’m not sure. I definitely need to get out of the house more. But I’ll work on all that through this month.

For illustration, here’s Wisp in her new downstairs turf, under the dining room table.#SFWApro

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Cat’s cradle

So this week Snowdrop has been coming in more, often in company with Wisp.But Snowdrop’s come in much further than that and even begun exploring the house cautiously. He still won’t let us pet him, but he’ll come close enough to sniff our hands. And he seems to anticipate food being read for him in the living room when he shows up. This is good. Hopefully he’ll come to spend more time indoors and become amenable to petting (TYG really wants to pet him). And won’t turn out to be more troublesome than Wisp (we’ve been very lucky with how easy she is to deal with).

Wisp has been in a lot and she’s getting along well with the dogs. Most of the time at least. Snowdrop sometimes walks up to Plushie and sniffs or rubs him the way Wisp used to in the early days.

One morning this week, I tried closing the door out to the deck while Snowdrop was further inside. When he returned and saw there was no exit he began circling the nearest chair in obvious confusion and distress. I opened the door quickly.

He came back in shortly afterwards.

Little baby steps.

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Death and death threats

So as you’ve undoubtedly heard, Kyle Rittenhouse got off on gunning down two men at a BLM protest. Which partly reflects the insanity of gun fetishiazation. As Farhad Manjoo says in WaPo, Rittenhoue’s gun made things worse, not safer: “Rittenhouse says he carried a rifle in order to guarantee his safety during a violent protest. He was forced to shoot at four people when his life and the lives of other people were threatened, he says. What was he protecting everyone from? The gun strapped to his own body, the one he’d brought to keep everyone safe.”

Or as the family of one of the victims put it, “It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.” Dahlia Lithwick ponders whether having everyone armed encourages everyone to shoot in “self defense.”

But it also reflects that he’s doing what a depressing number of Republicans want to do or want other people to do for them: kill all the liberals. Marjorie Taylor Greene proposes giving him the Congressional gold medal. Matt Gaetz says he’s introducing a national Stand Your Ground bill so that even if you can retreat without hurting anyone, it’s okay to kill them. Rep. Madison Cawthorne, as usual, is enthusiastically pro-violence. In online discussion, some Republican voters want more Rittenhouses killing more people. Misogynist Matt Walsh argues there’s no law against shooting people. Despite being a Christian pundit, he doesn’t find any moral objections to Rittenhouse either.

Which is disturbing given the growing rise in death threats as acceptable public discourse. Anti-American Rep. Paul Gosar made an anime video showing him murdering Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez. Gosar says it’s symbolic about policy differences and therefore not a threat. Republicans aren’t criticizing him. Never mind that they freaked out about an adaptation of Julius Caesar that made Caesar a Trump figure and shrieked outrage at comedienne Kathy Griffin for showing Trump’s head on a pike. When they make death threats it’s totally forgivable! Criticizing them is like the blood libel against Jews. In the same vein, Molly Jong-Fast joking about calling the FBI on your family over Thanksgiving is monstrously fascist; giving Jong-Fast death threats over it is apparently cool.

It’s not just Gosar. We have death threats against Rep. Ihlan Omar. There have been multiple bomb threats in Washington since 1/6. Violent threats against congress-members who don’t tow the Stalinist party line enough, including death threats. The Threats please Greene. Threats against school boards and other officials over everything from race issues to mask mandates. Against election officials — alarmingly with law-enforcement doing very little. And right-wing celebrities like The Former Guy Jr. are happy to wonder why we don’t see more anti-mandate riots. Not that he’ll ever risk his own neck in one, but he’s happy to pose for right-wing media by pretending to be a badass.

And this shit spreads downwards, making death threats look normal, something routinely flung against doctors and nurses for not seeing someone fast enough. And that’s horrifying because there’s no way for anyone to know whether the threat-maker is just venting or seriously psycho.

Even if another member of the Anti-American Party never takes the White House, they’ve still done irreparable damage with this shit. I’m not sure what the solution is, but making them face consequences is a good start. So is exposing their identities.

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Plans for December

So my staycation is over, the Christmas tree is up and I’m back to work. With the golem article and Alien Visitors off my to-do list, I spent some time this week figuring out what to work on next.

First off, I need to get the last little bit done on Undead Sexist Cliches. A final spell-check, rewriting the afterword, then prepping for a January release. I’d like sooner but the holidays will slow down a lot of the publishers and Draft2Digital, so i’m going to wait.

Second, there’s Leafs. I skimped on working on them to wrap up Alien Visitors but now that’s done. Time to earn some money. I also have some ideas for articles spinning off from the book so we’ll see if I get any bites.

And then, at long awaited last, some fiction. My goals for this month are to get at least 30,000 words done on a new draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer and to get as much wordage on my short story Oh the Places You’ll Go (it’s not that long, so I’m talking multiple drafts). I was thinking of planning out 2022 too, but I’ll wait and see how I do this month. I think I’ve set things up and arranged my time for better focus than usual, but I might be wrong. I’ll see if I can keep up that intensity and then plan accordingly.

And even though I’m still thinking about self-publishing all my unsold short stories, I’ll submit them (and Southern Discomfort) if I find a market.

Wish me luck!

For illustration, here’s a photo from a couple of weeks back of some turkey vultures dining on a dead deer. Where’s Gary Larson when you need him?#SFWApro.

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Ending my staycation with a pulp covers post

The art is uncredited but does it not look like Inigo Montoya?A couple of Earle Bergy covers, not quite as evening-gown as some of his alien women look. I reviewed The Dark World here.And an old cover by Frank R. Paul.

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It is fortunate that I do not have Wolverine’s claws

For it is a certainty people would provoke me slice and dice them. Particularly if I had his healing factor so I couldn’t be stopped.

The ass-hat who provoked this was Seventh-Day Adventist pastor Burnett Robinson who said in a recent sermon that ““In this matter of submission, I want you to know upfront ladies, that once you get married, you are no longer your own. You are your husband’s.” By which he means it’s moral to rape your wife.

No, no, it’s not.

It’s true that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says wives should submit to their husbands. But a)it does not therefore follow that she must do anything her husband asks. Even misogynist Southern Baptist preacher John Piper thinks there are limits; unfortunately his dealbreakers are if the husband wants to engage group sex (or roleplaying or bondage, even consensually), not if he’s abusing her. That she has to submit to “for a season” or for one night of physical abuse. Then she can turn to the church and ask for help. Not, apparently civil authorities.

Keep in mind that (as Beth Moore has discussed), Ephesians also sets rules for husbands, who are required to love and cherish their wives. Rape is not loving. Abuse is not loving. Yet for men such as Piper and Robinson, demanding husbands do what’s right isn’t half as important as ensuring the wife never challenge patriarchal authority.

When people such as this present themselves as moral voices, my contempt is limitless.

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This was worth Apple TV

So as part of getting new iPhones, TYG and I got access to free HBO Max for a year and three months of Apple TV. I didn’t bother much about the latter until I saw they were airing a video of Broadway’s COME FROM AWAY. I signed up (don’t know I’ll keep it when the three months are up though), as I love the soundtrack.After the 9/11 airplane attacks, 7,000 air travelers were diverted away from United States air space and dropped off at an airport next to Gander, Newfoundland, which has a population of around 11,000. The results? Panic, romance, friendship, practical problems (“I went to the store for tampons and pads.”) and fish-kissing. While I”m long past the point at which 9/11 evokes strong emotions in me, the characterizations, conflicts and humor — not to mention the excellent music — worked for me; I imagine it might  work even for future generations for whom 9/11 is a historical footnote. A pleasure to see it after hearing it so often. “We have passengers down at the Moose Club who want to try elk — no, wait, it’s the Elk’s Club and the want to try moose.”

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Simon Pegg Meets Aliens (and more!)

It will be a while before I clear out all my viewing from working on Alien Visitors, but here’s the first catch-up post.

ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING (2017) has an intergalactic council (voiced by the Monty Python team) decides humanity’s survival hinges on whether Simon Pegg can use reality-warping powers for good or become corrupted. This is a good example of alien advanced science being indistinguishable from magic, as the council might as well have been God in Bruce Almighty or the bored deities gifting Roland Young with similar power in The Man Who Could Work Miracles.The results, unfortunately, are the predictable monkey’s paw effects of everything Pegg does turning out wrong though the alien’s standards turned out to be a nice twist (“It was good when he started all those wars, but now he’s stopped them — nothing is more evil than weakness!”). With Kate Beckinsale as Pegg’s dream girl. “The London Underground is worse than anything we did at Guantanamo.”

WORLD’S END (2013) has Pegg playing a self-destructive hot mess who reunites with his old school chums (including Martin Freeman of Sherlock) to re-enact the post-graduation pub crawl they never quite finished (making Robin Williams’ The Best of Times a logical double-bill). Unfortunately this plonks Pegg’s crew and Lost Love Rosamund Pike right in the middle of an alien takoever helmed by former teacher Pierce Brosnan. This has some clever writing in spots but Pegg’s the kind of overbearing jerk I just cannot stand. The alien stuff is simply too stock for me — like some of the shticks in Mars Attacks!, the pod people claiming We Make People Better could have been dropped in a serious movie without changing anything. “Does anyone know what ‘robot’ means?”

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016) is an interesting, if slightly too murky film wherein a father with a strange mutant child scurries to help him meet his Moment Of Destiny despite the efforts of the authorities to stop him and Mom Kirsten Dunst (yet another actor whose gone from kid star to Mom roles within my lifetime. Not that I’m old or anything). This is an effective SF thriller but would benefit from a little more explanation about why the kid is like this — I’d assumed an alien hybrid, but they don’t confirm or deny that. “What do you believe will happen Friday March 6?”

As CHARIOTS OF THE GODS (1970) was one of the films inspiring Tribulation 99, I gave it a look and had the pleasure of seeing TYG boggle at the bullshit (“That carving looks nothing like an astronaut!”). This pseudoscience documentary attempts to sell Erich Von Daniken’s theories about alien ancestors but even as a teen I was more intrigued than convinced by his ideas. Now I find his theories just ridiculous, nowhere near as interesting as Charles Fort (probably because Von Daniken has less solid material to work with). This makes me appreciate why some critics find Von Daniken racist, with the emphasis that the aliens did their work in Egypt and preColumbian America rather than, say, ancient Rome (the film mentions some Roman temples but only to claim their foundations were former rocket sites). Jack Kirby’s Eternals (source of the images here) is vastly more interesting.“Would Ezekiel have described visitors from space in any different terms?”

The animated CHICKEN LITTLE (2005) is unusual in that the protagonist’s Zero to Hero moment occurs well before the alien invasion, as his long-odds win in the Big Baseball Game redeems him from his previous panic over the sky falling. But then, when he starts squawking Aliens Are Coming…This makes the structure feel a little off, but the film ends up being a good example of an invasion that’s actually a misunderstanding (“You know how it is — when you’re a parent you do anything for your kids.”). Minor but watchable. “Prepare to be hurt — and not emotionally like me!”

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