Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Google

I want Google Books to do well.  I want there to be a second absurdly big company selling ebooks. iTunes hates its customers as much as it hates proper capitalization, and Barnes & Noble just ain't hacking it either.  I don't see any other major player competing with the 'Zon.  Which is a shame, because Google is so bad at it.

I've never tried to publish on Google, and I understand they're not taking folks off the street, so my experience is second hand, mainly through confused authors trying to figure their system out.

The main complaint is pricing.  Google has the right in their contracts to slash the list price to nothing, and Amazon has the right in it's contract to price match it.  So Google drops the price of your book to 12 cents.  They still pay the full royalty (bleeding buckets of money in the process), but with few sales because nobody buys from Google.  Amazon price matches, giving you 9 cents a copy.

During the last Black Friday, Google was slashing everything.  Authors were jacking up the price hoping that the final result would be their actual desired list price.  The ended up pricing a $2.99 book at $69 to get the list price stable.  Then they found out they still got paid the full royalty on the $69.  Lots of prices got jacked up that weekend.

Amazon sucks at all thing mobile.  Their attempt at a phone, their shopping app, their app store, the Kindle app - all horrible.  Unfortunately, Google sucks at all things book.

Maybe it's the one book I've bought from them.  I can read it on the Google Play website on a PC, but only if I'm logged on to that particular Google account.  If I want to use another Google sign-on, I'll get kicked out, and have to do a workaround like opening a different kind of browser.  The text doesn't resize well on Firefox and bookmarks disappear or can't be deleted.  I usually use Chrome anyway, but a text reader should be able to work anywhere in 2015.

I clicked to download the PDF, but you don't get a real PDF.  You get an ascm file, which requires a different form of Adobe and lots of signing on and an internet connection every time you want to look at the book you paid for.  I finally got a version that reads offline without a password, but every time I open it Adobe tries to spend ten minutes re-downloading it.  And when I read it, there's a two second lag every time I try to scroll.

Amazon is smart enough to know that this level of DRM is counter-productive.  Step Two trouble shooting any DRM issue is always "look for pirated copy".  It should never be easier to steal than it is to buy.

Hopefully the largest data collecting organization in human history can manage to figure out how to sell letters on a screen.  Right after the world's largest bookseller figures out how to keep bookmarks from disappearing.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Mark of the Werewolf by Jeffrey Sackett

Mark of the Werewolf
by Jeffrey Sackett
1990 Bantam



A gypsy werewolf is captured by a neo-nazi genetics lab who tries to recreate the phenomena to create an unstoppable army.

The text is filled out Interview with a Vampire style with hypnotic regression sessions with the immortal werewolf, where he hangs out with Nostradamus, Dracula, Merlin, and Pontius Pilate.

Put together well enough, but a bit dry.  I think Sackett just forgot he was writing a horror novel at some point.  There's a battle between neo-nazi half-werewolves and armed Jewish Nationalists, want to see?  Nah, of course not, we'll just summarize it in a couple sentences.  A detailed explanation of Zoroastrianist symbology?  Yes, twenty more page please.

In paperback from Amazon.

An updated version of this book is available for Kindle under the title Lycanthropos.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Things I Didn't Finish - Bite by Richard Laymon

Bite
by Richard Laymon
1996


Not sure why I picked this one up.  After witnessing his steady decline with the Beast House chronicles, I figured his early stuff was his best.  As time went on, the gory madness went down and the interminable interior monologues and obsessions with tedious admin went up.  1991's One Rainy Night was tolerable (albeit with overlong clothes changing scenes), but sometimes I think I'm still reading the posthumous 2005 Glory Bus.

A guy answers the door to find his ex-girlfriend and one true love in a bathrobe.  She asks him to kill a vampire.  He does, which starts the most tedious body disposal scene since Pulp Fiction.  Laymon's obsession with intimately detailed changing scenes turns up again, as characters spend page upon page worrying about what clothes to wear before, during, and after the killing.

Looking at plot synopses later it looks like I dodged a bullet.  The entire novel is about disposing of that stupid body, like if The Trouble With Harry crossbred with 90s psycho road trip.

I'll have to go back to his analog stuff and work my way forward.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Adventures in Self Publishing - Whining About Whining About Formatting

I've bought a couple of ebooks that were not only poorly formatted, the publishers knew they were poorly formatted and offered excuses in the blurb or the text itself.

The issue with both these books was the same.  The publisher has a nice little PDF they probably spent a lot of money and/or effort formatting that they used to give their printer.  The physical book came first, and they wanted to get away with just uploading the PDF to Amazon and calling it a day.

The problem is, PDFs don't play nice with Kindle.  They basically act as a series of snapshots of the pages.  To read on on an actual Kindle, you have to zoom in on a quarter of a page, then zoom out and zoom back, and maybe there's a trick to it, but it's basically unreadable.  Phones are worse.  They kind of work on PCs and tablets, but even then it's not always ideal.

The first book was a scholarly work which said in the blurb that they could only have a PDF version because of all the graphs and charts that wouldn't work on the Kindle.  I'm a third of the way through, with no graphs or charts yet.  But at least they were up front.

The second book was from a Fortean small press that doesn't make a lot of money.  I know this because the publisher mentioned it in the actual text of the book.  Several times.  The ebook actually opens with a chapter about how you should have bought the physical book instead.  This time around, the publisher blamed the "limitations in the technology", because evidently nobody has invented a thing that displays both text and pictures.

This aggravates me to no end, because it's bull and they know it's bull.  Formatting a PDF for your galley proof is way, way harder than formatting an ebook, so these folks know better.

There are a few exceptions.  Some things like comic books, travel books, some magazines, things where it's either all pictures or the text needs to be lined up with images.  These books were neither.  There were some pictures, but they stood alone between sections of text.  Nothing mobi or epub can't handle.

Some PDF files you can convert to DOC or copy and paste the text out of.  These are easy.  Convert to text using the nuclear option (convert to a txt file and lose all the formatting), then go back to clean it up and add minimal formatting.

The Fortean book was formatted more like a series of pictures, and one couldn't directly convert the text, not that I tried to hack it into readable shape.  Go back to an earlier version, maybe a DOC file the author submitted, or run it through an OCR program and clean it up.

Neither mentioned footnotes, and those can be a legit pain in the butt.  The only time I've used footnotes in an ebook as a reader was an Alan Partridge book, and they worked wonderfully well.  Just click on the number like a link, read it, and click "back" to return to your place.

Footnotes are simple, but tedious.  Have the footnotes at the end of your book.  Make a bookmark at the note, then a hyperlink from the number in the text.  For added points, you can have a bookmark and hyperlink going the opposite direction as well.  Simple, but if there are hundreds of them it can take a while.

Both publishers could make a case that the ebook version won't recoup the time/cost to properly format it, and they may be right.  In which case, don't release it in the first place.

Having known some graphic design / layout folks, I suspect the issue is one of attitude rather than ability.  To put it nicely, some of them are insane control freaks.  Layout, font, font size, page breaks, everything has to be in their control.  And ebooks aren't about that.  You control what letters show up in which order and that's about it.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Old Time Radio - CBS Radio Mystery Theater - Cold Storage

Every few years I make an attempt to get through all 1399 episodes of this incredibly uneven series.  Here's one of the better ones - a nasty little slice of Southern Gothic, complete with an antebellum trap queen, secret rooms, and horrible accents.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Night Raider by Mike Barry - Lone Wolf 1

Night Raider
by Mike Barry (Barry Malzburg)
Lone Wolf 1
1973 Berkley



Burt Wulff is a good cop who refuses to go on the take.  His girlfriend ends up dead of an overdose and Wulff decides to kill a lot of people.
"I'm going to kill some people,"
"Take it easy man."
"I'm going to kill a lot of people," Wulff said.
This is rushed out in a prologue that was less fleshed out than most series' recaps.  Wulff then proceed to target random drug dealers and follow to chain up to the big fish.  Not much action, and his last two targets he dispatches by setting the building on fire.

There are some occasional stream-of-consciousness flourishes (though not on the level of the early Butcher novels), but most of the prose is confusing and awkward.  The few dialogue scenes are repetitive, with characters making the same point five or six times in a row.

I've heard a lot of takes on this series.  That is was written purposely bad as satire on the genre.  That it has a character arc that requires reading all 14 volumes to appreciate.  That it's hackwork pooped out to cash in on the Executioner's popularity.

Read on its own merits, this is probably the most poorly written of the Men's Adventure series.  Cliched and derivative, but with the promise of having possibly the most unhinged of main characters.

Critics seem to give the series a lot more credit than I think it deserves, probably based on the respect they have for Malzburg's science fiction.  I wonder if they give the same credit to his erotica novels like I, Lesbian and Nympho Nurse.

Malzburg himself talks about the social vision he had for the series, and how the war on crime mirrored the war in Vietnam.  As if this was unique and profound, and not cliche and omnipresent in Men's Adventure of the time.

I'd be nicer, but he pooped all over Don Pendleton, so screw him.  I might skip forward to the end, as number 14 is supposed to be especially crazy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Who's Watching the Kids



Opens at my favorite casino, Slots of Fun, a sad little dive connected to Circus, Circus.  Jim Belushi sets the tone for the rest of his career.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Monster From Earth's End by Murray Leinster

The Monster From Earth's End
by Murray Leinster
1959 Fawcett Gold Medal


Cut-rate "Who Goes There?" / The Thing From Another World knockoff.  A plane makes an emergency landing on an Antarctic base.  The pilot commits suicide.  The rest of the passengers and a penguin are missing.  Clearly, some kind of creature attacked them all.

A bit of a jump in logic, but we're not done!  Most of the book is the base crew endlessly speculating what manner of creature it might be.  It must be nocturnal - is it attracted to light?  Is it repelled by light?  The dog made a noise - quick!  Set everything on fire with molotov cocktails!

Finally something kind of happens in the way of little venus flytrap plants running around attacking people.  These midgets, as their called, aren't well described and don't cause a lot of damage.  Frustratingly, everyone thinks these little monsters are completely unrelated to the "boojer" beast they've been making up in their head.  Are there 5 or 7 of them?  Are they transparent?


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

TV Obscura - Strange Paradise

Never heard of this one until just recently - a 1969 supernatural soap opera, a Canadian knock off of Dark Shadows.  Called Strange Paradise, it is set in the Caribbean, though in a spooky house in the Caribbean, so what's the point.  A man sells his soul to the devil to bring his wife back to life.  It stars thick slice of ham Colin Fox, a man so Canadian he played three different villains in Friday the 13th: The Series.



The series was co-created by Ian Martin, who later recycled elements into CBS Radio Mystery Theater and a couple of gothic romance novels.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Don D'Ammassa's Horror Checklist

I've spent the last week going over Don D'Ammassa's massive Horror Checklist, a pretty exhaustive collection of capsule descriptions for hundreds of horror novels.  He only lists supernatural horrors, and I skimmed past anything later than 1991, but I still added a couple hundred titles to my own want list.

About thirty of those are currently available for Kindle.  This made me happy, because I'm assuming the vast majority were placed there by the author or their heirs once the rights reverted back to them from their original publisher.  I hope to be giving them some love soon.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Who is Peter Raft?

Who is Peter Raft?

A figment, evidently.  The Online Peter Raft resource blog is the only reference to such an author aside from links from Mark West's blog.

A pity, too.  Someone has created a series of crime and horror books in the tradition of 70s UK nasties, complete with (mostly) authentic looking covers and plot synopsis.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Mike & The Mechanics - Silent Running

This one just keeps getting more baffling.


Listening to this song in 1985 it's clearly a survivalist theme about Russians taking over the US Red Dawn style.  According to the guy he wrote it, it's about a guy in space in the future sending a message back in time to his family.  A message about commies, evidently.

The song was used in some movie about nuclear waste called Choke Canyon, clips of which are in the video.  The song's original title is lifted from the unrelated science fiction movie Silent Running, and the video has yet another sci-fi story with Billy Drago.

And, yes, it was normal in the 80s to have soft rock hits with lyrics that might have come from Jerry Ahern.

For some reason I always thought the Mike of Mike + the Mechanics was Mike Post, but I'm glad I was wrong.  Mike Post is better than this.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Lupe by Gene Thompson

Lupe
by Gene Thompson
1977 Ballantine Books



Emily's husband David is cheating on her.  An eleven-year-old Mexican boy follows her around and keeps offering to have sex with her and get rid of the mistress.  They bang in a cemetery in a scene to dull to be creepy, the mistress dies from spontaneous combustion, and Emily is put on trial.

Yep, didn't see that coming.  This is a legal drama.  An overzealous prosecutor files murder charges "by supernatural means" and the judge, with all the dignity of a referee in a Francis the Talking Mule movie, allows it.

Lupe died before the cemetery shenanigans and only shows up just kind of standing around from afar.  The rest of the book is Emily being languid and neurotic, being framed for satanic evilness, being harassed by crowds, and the dumbest courtroom scenes since Drop Dead Diva.

The courtroom stuff has enough legalese to show that Thompson took it seriously enough to know better than to try to get away with it.  All of his evidence is kept secret (can't do that) and the prosecutor acts as his own expert witness throughout the trial, The only suspense in the whole book is waiting for the reveal of how the prosecutor knew how the mistress died and how he intended to prove it in court...

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

TV Obscura - The Grand Knockout Tournament

It's 1987 and the stars have come out to Alton Towers to help the British Royal Family raise money for charity.  We've got John Cleese, Christopher Reeve, Tom Jones, Sheena Easton, George Lazenby, John Travolta, and of course, Meatloaf.

Here's the American version, hosted by Barney Miller.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Devil, Devil by Michael Avallone (Satan Sleuth 3)

Devil, Devil
by Michael Avallone
Satan Sleuth 3
1975 Warner Paperback





Philip St. George is the Satan Sleuth, another in a seemingly long line of useless occult detectives who end up doing more harm than good, though to be fair, given Avallone's idiosyncrasies, this may have been on purpose.

St. George is a pretty self-conscious Doc Savage homage, down to his bronze skin and hidden explosive buttons, and a magnificent schlong as Lester Dent only wished he could have described.  A wealthy adventurer, he dedicated himself to exposing fake occultist and satanic cults after his wife and child were murdered in the first book.

Here he faces a satanic cult of wealthy socialites, coerced by Sister Sorrow and kept in place through a series of human sacrifices.  And by face I mean get captured by and run away from.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Alton Towers - Haunted House

Here we have the pub cover band version of Haunted Mansion before it was ruined with light guns.  Whole chunks of the narration were lifted from the Disney original, including having a Ghost Host.  Taken on its own terms, there are some interesting differences.  The tone is darker, I like some of the portraits, and the ride vehicle looks like a cross between a larger roller coaster and a moving theater.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

After Alice by Margaret Bingley

After Alice aka After Alice Died
by Margaret Bingley
1986 Piatkus Publishers Limited







File this under "creepy domestic drama with unnecessary supernatural angle".

On the night of his bachelor party, a guy is visited by a horny ghost.  Nothing spectral or spooky, just kind of there like Topper or Jennifer Slept Here.  He gets married and the ghost pushes over his pregnant wife, killing the baby.

They have a couple more kids while the husband keeps banging the ghost.  One kid is spooky, the other intellectually disabled.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tower of Blood by Spike Andrews - CAT (Crisis Aversion Team) 1


Tower of Blood
by Spike Andrews aka Duane R. Schermerhorn
CAT (Crisis Aversion Team) 1
1982 Warner Books
Men of Action Book



Two cops stop the son of a failed industrialist from committing acts of revenge against his competitors.  Weirdly, this may be the first Men's Adventure book I've read that had regular cops doing their job.  I know there are plenty out there, but I think the marketing starts to slide over to detective and police procedural territory.

The whole thing gave off a strong 70s buddy cop show vibe, to the point that I had this playing in my head through most of it.



The characters interacted OK, but I couldn't tell you anything about them.  One cop is married, the other isn't.  Not that I'm minding, as for once this book filled up the page length with action scenes.  Lots and lots of long, competently written action scenes.

What really impressed me with Tower of Blood is how skillfully crafted the action scenes were.  Some of them went on for 30 pages or more and didn't drag.  You got an excellent sense of place and could visualize every movement in your head.  This may have the only decent, drawn out foot chase I've ever read.  There's a reason nobody writes chase scenes - they're hard to write.

I ended up studying this one for how it was put together.  For instance, different writers use different tactics when there's an extended fight scene with unnamed opponents.  Here, he just uses "the guy" throughout.  Like an admission that it's prickly and he's just going to ignore it.

By the ending things started to drag a bit, as our two cops break up a hostage situation in a high rise restaurant and have an extended fight around and in a helicopter.

There were three in the series.  The second was written by George "Crime Minster" Ryan, the third by Schermerhorn again.  As far as I can tell, Schermerhorn wrote these two and a crime suspense novel "Hard to Kill" as James Marcott.

The Men of Action Books line from Warner Books had the worst logo.


Currently available for Kindle.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Crabs' Moon by Guy N Smith (Crabs 5)

Crabs' Moon
by Guy N Smith
Crabs 5
1984 New English Library




I wonder what happened to Guy N Smith in the eight years since the first installment of the Crabs series.  The first had awkward British sex, but at least it was kind of sweet in a "shall we proceed with intercourse" kind of way.  By book five, he's moved on to the kind of miserable misogyny that the British does so well at their worst.

There's precious little actual giant crab attacks in this one, and Smith completely skips his own finale.  Mostly we get women cheating and getting raped and their interior monologues of how much they loathe themselves.

This installment is set at a British coastal holiday camp, which is miserable enough as it is.  The army has the place sealed up, because it makes sense to keep hundreds of people mere feet from the shoreline when you could evacuate them inland, especially since the crabs mostly attack at night.

The story follows along a series of miserable people.  A married woman ditches her kids to fool around with a guy that gets killed by crabs, then hits on another guy who has a girlfriend that breaks the barricades to sleep with another guy and gets molested buy soldiers and a dirty hippy

The violence is pretty tame, and the sex is less appealing than a VD scare film.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cataclysm by Don Pendleton

Cataclysm: The Day the World Died aka Cataclysm
by Don Pendleton
1969 Bee-Line Books




Don Pendleton is best known for starting the Executioner series, but he also wrote weird, conceptual science fiction.  And smutty private detectives, but I haven't found any of that yet.

The world is falling apart from social decay and natural disasters, and a handful of scientists try to find an answer for humanity's survival.

The story jumps forward a few years at a time, giving a quick page wrap up of all the disasters that happened in the meantime.  These are the scenes I wanted to see, but instead we mostly get folks talking like a 60s British sci-fi movie.

Cataclysm is not so much 70s disaster movie as it is 70s pop futurism.  There's weird pseudo-science (without society, humans physically revert down the path of evolution in one generation), and sex.  Lots of sex.  Not much actual sex scenes, but talking about sex.  The scientists are polyamorous, and survivors from the wild are treated with sex therapy to heal them.

The frustrating thing is that there is all kinds of crazy stuff going on somewhere else, over there, while we hear a bunch of scientists just kind of chat.  Near the end we actually get an action scene, as a man survives a massive earthquake while in a protective pod, but I could have used a lot more of this.

Interestingly, Joseph Rosenberger wrote some "non-fiction" about various Doomsday scenarios for Fate magazine.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Better When They Sucked - Suicidal Tendencies

Suicidal Tendencies released one of the most important West Coast punk albums in 1983 with their debut album.  They steadily went downhill after that, and in 1993 decided to re-record the entire album in Mike Muir's crappy new voice.  At the time I thought this was a big FU to the fans of the original, but it turns out they didn't have rights to re-release the original, so they just re-recorded the whole thing.  Kind of like 1990's Night of the Living Dead.  Which also pales next to the original.



Listening to it now, it's not as bad as I remember.  At least Mike Muir hadn't gotten into funk yet.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Battleground USSA - Red Dusk by Christopher Blair

Battleground USSA - Red Dusk
by Max Auger (Christopher Blair)
Blood & Tacos 2015


First a word about the series this spun out of.  Blood & Tacos is the literary equivalent of the fake trailers from Grindhouse.



I like all of these for different reasons, but Eli Roth's Thanksgiving is the only one that could be mistaken for the real deal if you weren't paying close attention.  There are a lot of directions to go when doing these kind of homages:

You can be influenced by the original but do your own thing, like Rob Zombie or Quentin Tarantino.  You can lovingly lampoon the source material like Edgar Wright.  You can aim at the source material but miss because you vastly overestimate the power of post-production like Robert Rodriguez.  Or you can just do the thing in the genre you're doing the thing in, respecting and loving the source material.  Thanksgiving was pretty much a straightforward 80s slasher trailer, turned up just a notch.

Blood & Tacos is a direct riff off these trailers, to the point of having a Machete style character.  The conceit is that they are a series of chapters of recently discovered Men's Adventure novels from the 80s.  I wasn't a huge fan of the first installment, as I felt most of the stories were played a little too much for laughs and didn't have a firm grasp of the material they were making fun of.

The exception was USSA Texasgrad, which if anything was a little too wry.  Luckily, in this novella length expansion, things are turned up a notch without getting too jokey.

There's very little backstory, so the reader kind of has to make it up on their own.  Russia has invaded America and taken over much of the west coast.  Both sides have had their military decimated.  I pictured it as being like years after Red Dawn, which the title kind of implies.

Air Force Captain Mike McCreary takes a team to Alaska to investigate reports of the Russians building a bridge across to Bering Strait and ends up facing down the Chinese navy.  It's played pretty straight - straighter than Jerry Ahern even, but there are occasional winks.  McCreary turns a little apple pie John Wayne in a few places, and there's a running joke about liberal slaves the Russians captured from San Francisco still in disbelief that the Russians don't live in a worker's paradise.

It was a fun little tribute, and it was good to see someone doing it without looking down their nose.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Madness of Frankenstein by Derrick Ferguson

Madness of Frankenstein
by Derrick Ferguson
PulpWork Press 2014


Doctor Peter Holden is sentenced to an insane asylum for following the work of Victor Frankenstein.  He arrives to find Frankenstein running the asylum under an alias.  If this sounds familiar, it's because it's deeply derivative of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell.



And I'm totally cool with that.  I've always liked Hammer's depiction of the doctor as being the real monster, a complete sociopath with no regard for human life.  This was my favorite of the series, and I don't mind seeing a literary remake.

The doctor teams up with a seductress witch to give his creation a soul, while a zealous justicer gathers up a mob of angry villagers to raid the asylum.  Things start out slow, but get good and over the top once villagers and escaped lunatics face off.

There's a little bit of the kitchen-sink approach I've seen with some of the new pulp writers, here in the shape of witchcraft and a magic artifact, but not enough to be distracting.

Derrick Ferguson is a new pulp writer I've been meaning to check out, mainly known for his Dillon series.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Better When They Sucked - TSOL



But then, sometimes punks get artsy, put on eyeliner, and learn to play piano



This is the only good version of this song, and gets us as close as we'll ever get to a punk rock Meatloaf.  I so want there to be a punk rock Meatloaf.  This is also as close as TSOL gets to being listenable.  The rest of the album (including the album version of this song) is horrible.  But it get so much worse.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sweet Dreams by William W Johnstone

Sweet Dreams
by William Johnstone
1985 Zebra



Alright, strap yourself in.

Our jumping off point is the phenomena of ghostly lights seen around Missouri.  I don't know if this is specifically the Missouri Headlights, I mean, Spook Lights -



There's also an archaeological dig at an Indian burial site.  A Manitou, or Indian spirit thingee, uses the light to travel in and rape women.  He rapes a doctor's wife and explodes her head with electricity, but it's ok because she was an evil harpy because she didn't like that he was cheating on her with his secretary.  Dames.

Said doctor performs an autopsy on his own wife then sleeps with his new psychiatrist girlfriend the same night.  This is our hero.  The two doctors befriend a couple of little kids who are special.  Special how?  Maybe we'll find out later, if Johnstone remembers (he doesn't).

We move into the Devil series template here.  The town is isolated, with people getting amnesia if they cross the border in either direction.  The townspeople inclined towards evil get superevil and work for the Manitou.  Of course, this includes all the teenagers.  A handful (the kids, the doctors, a preacher, and a couple of cops) stay normal.  Everyone else becomes a zoned out zombie, shuffling through a semblance of normal life.

The kids' parents have incestuous orgies while they're trying to sleep and the kids' toys come to life and start banging each other.  What's going on?  Luckily, there's a magic Indian man to explain everything.  And, yes, he's a drunk.

The Manitou is very dangerous and can't be stopped by Western Jesus magic.  Only another Manitou can stop it, or maybe the kids, or the medicine man's magic, or maybe he can't be stopped, but definitely not by anything God can do.

So, something something about being between two worlds.  We have to go to the haunted house!  The drunks, kids, doctors, and cops force their way through a storm to get to the haunted house.  The woman cop gets blown away by the wind, raped some, then teleports back to the house with a sore tush.

Yeah, the raping.  There's a lot of rape in this book.  Like, twenty or something.  Every character's backstory involves rape.  Child rape, monster rape, ghost rape, all the rape is in this book.  Never seen so many anuses get "bulled" into.

So the group gets to the haunted house and hit a time warp to 1890.  Their clothes change to old timey clothes, but they're invisible spirits so it doesn't matter, and they run into the evil man that lived there in 1890 who is also a ghost at the same time.  He rapes a bunch of kids.

They befriend a ghost dog and the Manitou starts confronting everyone with illusions of their darkest fears.  The evil man that is also a ghost says he works for Satan, who might be teaming up with the Manitou, but let's not go anywhere with that.  The cops fight a living wall of human flesh with pointy sticks.

We're three fourths of the way through, so let's introduce a bunch of new characters.  Some cops figure out how to get into town and keep their memories.  They team up with a priest and go to the haunted house.

There's a running subplot about a teacher (yes, she gets raped) who get's possessed by the Manitou, wears Indian clothes, and skins men alive.  The skinned men still live and she joins the evil rapey people on a raid on the haunted house.

The rapey people get shot, and the skinned people melt under holy water and crosses, because that works now.  That thing about Jesus magic not working?  Never mind, it works fine.  God just opens up an earthquake, the Manitou falls in, the end.

But wait...EPILOGUE !!!

The Manitou crawls out of the ground into a lake a couple days later.  So much for Jesus magic.  Only a few pages left, can we squeeze in a couple more rapes?  Because the Manitou babies grow fast, and in one year they'll be full grown and the Manitou will strike again.

How are the kids doing?  They're apprehensive, because they've got the feeling that in one year this will all happen again.

Johnstone was nice enough to even list all of his own plot holes and lost threads there at the end:

  • The kids were supposed to be special, didn't do anything.
  • The magic Indian was supposed to be special, all he did was give wrong information and die somehow.
  • The spook lights got forgotten.
  • So much was made about God not being in the same world as the Manitou, yet this couldn't be more of a deux es machina if it got wheeled down on ropes.
  • None of what anyone did mattered.  God could have zapped the Manitou whenever he wanted and saved the town a lot of rape.

But don't worry, all these loose threads will be tied up in one year in the sequel that Johnstone is shamelessly plugging that never happened.

There were no dreams, sweet or otherwise.

The Kindle edition was done by the Lyrical Press imprint of Kensington Books, an ostensibly real publishing company.  They evidently had an intern just scan in a paperback, complete with OCR errors and the original back matter.  I just sent Zebra my 50 cents for their catalog.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Operator #5 005 - The Cavern of the Damned

The Cavern of the Damned
Operator #5 005
by Frederick C. Davis as Curtis Steele
August, 1934

pulpcovers.com

Operator #5 faces an insidious cult, whose tentacles reach into the Secret Service itself.  Worshippers of Zaava use the fumes of bhang (cannabis) to enslave victims to their will, including the head of the Secret Service itself.  Operator #5 is accused of treachery and runs fugitive from his own organization,

I've read references to Operator #5 picking up some Weird Menace traits, but this is the first time I've seen it.  Death traps involving freezing victims solid and hordes of killer ants, and the finale takes place in a hellish underground cavern.

A whole different vibe from the earlier issues - less military, more secret agent.  Fails to pick up a lot of the loose ends, like how or why the leaders face was projected into the sky, or what happened to an entire missing girl's college.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Better When They Sucked - Human League

I'm operating from memory, so forgive me for butchering the history here.  Human League started of as being a titch more artsy avant garde before the real musicians of the group left and they turned more pop.  Their first album under this incarnation had a little ditty described by frontman Philip Oakey as a "poor quality filler track", and ended up being:



Which, I don't care how cool you think you are, is one of the best pop songs ever.  So let's move all creative control away from the band to Janet Jackson's producers:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Work in Progress being posted at WriteOn

Amazon has a new Wattpad style site called WriteOn for works in progress, and I figured I'd give it a try for my next novel - the working title right now is Dead Territories.
Pitts City has always been a violent town. That was before Syndicate boss Ritchie Tears declared war on women, slaughtering them by the score. When the Syndicate gains the power to raise the dead, no one is safe. In a city where the police are decimated and the FBI are helpless, Detective Rebecca Simons pays the ultimate price to stop the ultimate evil.
 It's not set in the Victim City continuity, as there are some laws of physics being broken and some world-altering events.  Feel free to follow the progress, or hang around for a year or so for the final product.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Better When they Sucked - We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It



Now people try to sound this lo-fi on purpose.  Get a better contract, some producers, a professional studio, and...




Wednesday, October 14, 2015

TV Obscura - Half Nelson



Joe Pesci, Victoria Jackson, Fred Williamson, Bubba Smith, Dick Butkus, and Dean Martin as himself.  Just found out about this last week, and I used to go out of my way to find horrible TV.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hitman 1 - Chicago Deathwinds by Norman Winski

The Hitman
Hitman 1
by Norman Winksi
1984 Pinnacle Books




Dirk Spencer is an idle playboy who finds meaning in life after his friend's kid gets Zimmermanned by a couple of corrupt security guards.  His mission - use his millions to go around murdering folk.  After the security guards, he turns his attention to Murdoch, a candidate for the Governor of Illinois.

Murdoch's campaign is anti-immigrant, pro-life, homophobic, anti-feminist, and anti-welfare.  In 1984, the middle of the Reagan era, this made him Hitler incarnate and a target for righteous murder for his views alone.  In 2015, that''ll get you into Congress.

It is kind of refreshing to see a left-wing lunatic to counterbalance the Joseph Rosenbergers and William Johnstones.  Kind of like a Bill Maher to Glenn Beck.

Spencer discretely shadows Murdoch in his personal helicopter and Lamborghini before launching his assault.  Did I mention The Hitman is kind of silly?  It's kind of silly.  Spencer is completely over-the-top - shooting Uzis out of his Lamborghini or flying upside-down in a stunt plane, all the while being the best at the sex.

This one took me a while to get into.  Something about the actual prose just rubbed me the wrong way, but I eventually got used to it and was breezing through by the end.  If you don't mind things getting a little stupid, this one can be pretty fun, with decent action scenes and large slices of sleaziness on the side.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Adventures in Self-Publishing - Updates

A few notes and updates:

Smashwords has been taking a full three days for their pre-screening before they even think about submitting to vendors.  Even cover changes are taking this long.  However, they are still my distant second largest storefront after Amazon.

Draft2Digital has a feature where it automatically generates and "Also by" pages with links that are specific to the individual vendors.  When you add a new title, it can automatically add it to the list and update all your previous books to include the new information.  The only downside to D2D is their automated screening for objectionable material for certain vendors.  I'm assuming its automated, as it can reject items with a couple hours of submission.  There is some inconsistency - recently it rejected four titles for iTunes and Kobo, but accepted a Collection with the same titles inside.  It rejected some titles with no keywords, so it must look at the actual content itself.  Either they have a program that looks at combinations of words to measure creepiness, or they have staff that skims the books for same - either way.

Draft2Digital gets the books in the stores quicker than Smashwords, even taking out Smashwords pre-screening process.  D2D got a book into Kobo in a few hours on a Sunday night - some of my titles never end up in Kobo via Smashwords, and I have no idea if they got rejected or it just never got delivered.  I'm in a place now where I submit everything to D2D, and only use Smashwords for their own storefront and the vendors I couldn't get into with D2D.

Twitter doesn't seem to be a particular fruitful avenue for advertising books.  If one already has a presence and following there, the occasional announcement of a new title can't hurt, but just dropping ads doesn't get much mileage.  Their analytics page is garbage.  I know there can be differences in the way the same data is collected, where the daily cut-off points are, etc, but the best you can figure from Twitter's own analytics page is whether one tweet got more clicks relative to another.  Maybe.

You can pull it up to show all your tweets on the left side, with the totals on the right.  On my particular page, I have maybe 3-4 link clicks on the left, and like 20 on the right.  And Amazon affiliates counts like 150 for the same links over the same period.

The more stats I see on ebook sales, the fewer reliable trends I'm able to develop.  The term "your mileage may vary" definitely applies.  I've collected some data on a variety of other folks' titles to account for the fact that my titles are flatlined.  Monday is supposed to be the biggest online shopping day, but it's my worst day for ebooks.  Friday nights and Saturdays are slow, but things posted Saturday get clicked on Sunday.

There are only two reliable trends I've noticed - there's a bump at the beginning of the month (paychecks?) and holidays are always slow.

There's a ton of data out there on ebook buying trends.  Will they apply to your book?  Depends.  A particular advertiser might work wonders for Romance but get nothing for Sci-Fi.  Mystery fans might be all over twitter, but maybe the Horror folks are all on Pinterest.  And this doesn't even begin to touch individual differences.  Some of the top selling writers work in the lowest level genres.  Horror sells well for Stephen King, not so much for everyone else.

The take away - if you like working with data, sign up for Amazon Affiliates and get a ton of tracking IDs.  I think you can get 100 of them.  Then develop your own data, do split tests, knock yourself out.  Otherwise, just concentrate on getting your next book out.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Better When They Sucked - Warsaw/Joy Division

Never got into Joy Division until well into the 21st century, and even then it was only due to seeing live performances on retrospectives.



I went back to listen to the official releases and was reminded why I didn't like them - Martin "the guy Dead Kennedys made fun of on Nazi Punks F Off" Hannett producing the soul out of everything.

But they were even better before, when they were Warsaw:

Monday, September 7, 2015

New Reoma World - Rainbow Bandits



There should be more suspended dark rides.  Peter Pan is the only one that comes to mind.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

African American Men's Adventure

Men's Adventure paperbacks cashed in on the Blaxploitation craze just like James Bond did with Live and Let Die and Marvel did with Luke Cage.  Most of these books fed directly off this trend, and a few fed back into it.

First, here's what I'm not going to talk about -

I'm purposely leaving out some masters in AA crime fiction, such as Chester Himes, Iceberg Slim, and Donald Goines.  These are the class acts, the Ian Flemings and Mickey Spillanes to the Nick Carters and Don Pendletons.

I'm also leaving out some more straightforward detective and cop fiction.

Several of the series below have AA authors, some most definitely don't.  This is more about the genre, not the creators.

Superspade by BB Johnson
6 books 1970-1


This one seems to predate the Blaxploitation film craze, but seems to have the same vibe.

Shaft by Ernest Tidyman
7 books 1971-5



Yeah, that Shaft.  The one that started (or at least popularized) it all.  Too bad they didn't make a movie out of "Shaft Among the Jews".

Iceman by Joseph Nazel
7 books 1973-5


A pimp and casino owner that fought the mob.  Gotta get me some of these.

Nazel also wrote several stand-alone books that would fit here - I'll have to do some more research to give him justice.  Some appear to be novelizations of films such as Black Gestapo and Black Exorcist - I think the movies came first, Nazel doesn't have any screen credits in IMDB.

Murder Master by Joseph Rosenberger
3 books 1973-4


Haven't read these, but I desperately want to.  I'm sure they handle race relations and dialogue in the sensitivity and respectful manner we've come to expect from Rosenberger.  I kid - he's a horrible racist and I'm sure these are horrible.  Still want to read them.

Black Samurai by Marc Olden
8 books 1974-5


American GI Robert Sand gets trained by Japanese Samurai and becomes a secret agent.  Made into an Al Adamson film with Jim Kelly in 1977.  This is the only series here available in ebook.

Black Angel by James D. Laurence
4 books 1975


The only female AA Men's Adventure character I know of.  I have no idea if she's like Pam Grier, but I'm hoping yes.

Aubrey Knight by Stephen Barnes
3 books 1983-93


Outside the genre, but I wanted to mention it.  This is a scifi action series about a null-gravity boxer in the future or something.

Am I missing anything?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The In-World

The In-World
by Lionel & Patricia Fanthorpe as Lionel Roberts
1960? Badger Books



I ignored the warnings at my own peril.  Lionel Fanthorpe is the coolest guy to be the most horrible writer there ever was.

I've seen writers described as Pantsers (just writing by the seat of their pants) or Plotters (developing a detailed outline and gradually adding detail and dialogue until they have a book).  Fanthorpe is so much of a Pantser that he doesn't know what to write until the book is already over.

The first 10% of the book establishes rural England as our setting.  At this point he decides it's really future year 1980 rural England, which is exactly like 1960 rural England.  Then he goes on and on about pre-modern UFO phenomena - Charles Fort, airship sightings, blah blah blah.  This is because UFOs are attacking!

Not attacking rural England, mind you, we don't go back there again.  They attack Holland or something (I'm not going back to check, you can't make me), and they are immune to missile attacks and planes.  Maybe we can use our space rockets, because we have those now in 1980.

A journalist that might have been mentioned in the rural England stuff is aboard a rocket ship that rams into the UFO.  The journo space walks into the other ship and shoots a couple of aliens with a pistol.  The aliens are very briefly described as half-toad, half-chair, which would be interesting, so let's not spoil it by going into any detail.

The journo hides in the ship, which flies down to a hole in Antarctica to an underground cavern.  The aliens didn't come from Mars or Venus, so they must have come from the hollow earth.  Journo walks through a tunnel or something, falls asleep, and is awakened by a bearded man.

Beardy belongs to an offshoot of the human race that lives underground and uses magic instead of technology.  They are the Yeti and Bigfoot and fairies, too.  Don't know what the guy looks like aside from the "Beaver" on his face, which I'm guessing meant something different in the 60s.

The aliens are aliens after all.  The come from outer space to visit the underground people every 100 years and for some reason they're being mean now.  Beardy uses magic to teleport Journo onto their ship.  Journo shoots one of them, and he saved the world, hurray!

But it's so, so much worse than this.  Fanthorpe's writing style was to dictate his story while hiding under a blanket to block off the outside world.  He clearly had no idea what he was writing about for a good chunk of the story, and instead of fleshing out a bare bones outline, he LITERALLY REPEATED EVERY SENTENCE THREE TIMES WITH SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT WORDS.

We've got spaceships, frog chair aliens, underground labyrinths, and a splinter race of humanity - and I have no idea what any of them look like.  Want to fill out page length, Fanthorpe?  How about you tell me what a frog chair alien looks like?  Or have some characters.  Maybe have them talk to each other.  Or have them do stuff.  It took a good 80% of the story to have anything resembling a scene.

Honestly, I think it takes a lot of effort to write this badly.  This is sci fi pulp, just throw in more monsters and spaceships and cities being blown up.  Takes a lot less effort than figuring out three ways of typing the same sentence.  It would sure take less effort to read.

Friday, August 21, 2015

On Padding

Sometimes outside forces require a page length that exceed the story's natural life.  This happened a lot in classic television, where a popular show would be extended from a half to a full hour.  Sometimes there were growing pains while the producers and writers got used to the new format, sometimes they gave up and went back to a half hour, and sometimes they just kept sucking until they went off the air.

Market forces have affected page length of pulp works as well.  For instance, the 80s saw an increase in page length, with writers coping in various ways.

The best way is to have more stuff happen.  CADS benefits from this.  Twice as many pages?  Twice as many mechsuits blowing up twice as many rape gangs.

Some write in more detail, or otherwise manage to naturally fill out the space.  The Mystic Warrior and Body Smasher series do ok here.

Or you could write in absurd level of detail, like giving a four page history of a bridge or describe buying a fridge for a chapter - I'm looking at you, Crime Minister.

Most of the pulp writes were very concise, but some of them knew they were writing per word and had their thesaurus next to them.  Every noun gets an adjective, and every verb an adverb.  I have problems getting through Arthur Leo Zagat for this reason - I swear he once wrote "the fiery flames of the fire".

While they say writers got paid by the word, they really got paid by the page - the word count was estimated by page length, not actually counted out like computers do now.  Dialogue is a relatively easy and harmless way to inflate estimated word count - the lines tend to end sooner.  This is especially true of snappy banter.
"Really?"
"Yeah."
"You don't say."
"I just did."

Don Pendleton was guilty of a little of this later in the Executioner series, as well as using dialogue to recycle the same content.
"Boss ain't going to like it if Bolan hits the arms shipment."
Bolan: "I'm going to hit the arms shipment."
[Bolan hits the arms shipment]
"Boss ain't going to like it that Bolan hit the arms shipment."
"I don't like it that Bolan hit the arms shipment."
"The boss sure doesn't like that Bolan hit the arms shipment."

With Joseph Rosenberger you get this, with meticulous planning to boot.  This works in heist films because there's some tension in the plan going wrong.  Rosenberger just wants to write the same scene two or three times.

Getting into character backstory and side-drama is ok to an extent.  John Russo rambles on a bit, but it's within the confines of the story.  I gave up on a Rex Miller novel after a hundred pages of hearing about someone's divorce or something.

Not the writer's choice, but sometimes they just jack up the font and squeeze in the margins.  Some of Shaun Hutson's books were originally twice the pages of more recent reprints.

Or you could just repeat every sentence three times.  Three times you would use the same sentence.  The same sentence could be repeated thrice.  By just swapping out words for their synonyms.  Replacing words with other words that mean the same.  Changing out one word with another with the same meaning.

Yeah, so I read some Lionel Fanthorpe.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Doctor Death by Herb Fisher

Doctor Death
by Herb Fisher
Doctor Death 1
1988 Berkley



A Vietnam vet rancher accidentally kills a mob boss' son in a fight.  After a botched hit, the mob sends a whole crew to his house, and Doctor Death has to protect his family from the siege like he fought off the VC years ago.

Fairly well written, but in kind of a serious, literary style which doesn't quite fit with the cliche subject matter.  It was originally a screenplay, and it shows.  I'm also guessing it took a long time to see daylight, as the "Vietnam vet faces violence back home" thing was long played out by 1988.  The story itself references that one of his kids was born while he was in the service, which dates the setting to more like 1980.

The siege was competently handled, and it was well written enough that the text didn't drag even though precious little actually happens, but nothing here especially thrilled me.  There are three more in the series.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Festering by Guy N Smith

The Festering
by Guy N Smith
1989 Arrow


Some people say "write what you know".  Guy Smith has evidently moved to the country and had a well installed.

In medieval times a man comes back from London to the country with the titular condition.  He's buried deep underground until this ancient evil is awakened centuries later.

But first, wells.  A good third of the book is nothing a city couple getting a well dug in their new country property.  From there, only most of the book is about wells, with occasional asides to people dying of puss-oozing boils.

Since this is Guy Smith, any fatal disease is accompanied by frantic prostitute killing, though he confines himself to "slags" and hallucinated prostitutes.

Nasty, sleazy, and gross, though not quite nasty, sleazy, and gross enough.  He really needed to go somewhere, other than repetitions of "Oh, yet another worker on the well has died a horrible festering death.  I guess I'll wait for the water tests to come back."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

Disney's Most Dated - Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management

You knew this was coming.

In one of Todd McFarlane's insufferable brags, he talked about how dated Spider-Man and Peter Parker were, and how he brought the comic up to date by giving Mary Jane giant hair that filled up every panel.

As someone who's sat down and read every Spider-Man comic from start to around 2011 I can say, with the exception of a couple of disco scenes in the 70s, the only comics that look embarrassingly dated are his.  Of course, this was a man that said that it was the nature of collectibles to go down in value from the moment their purchased.

The only way to cause something to be dated more than purposely trying to be hip and modern is to constantly remind the audience that's what you're doing.

So, yeah, this thing -


I won't pick on this too much except to point out that their song choices to update the show were all Cuban inspired pop songs from the mid to late 80s.  Because all the cool kids were into Buster Poindexter and Gloria Estefan in 1998.  Hell, Martin Denny was cooler in 1998 than Miami Sound Machine.

This show was so horrible that God herself struck it down with fire, and the original version has returned (kinda).

Monday, July 27, 2015

Disney's Most Dated - Cranium Command

I like Cranium Command.  I have a blurry recollection of a visit to Epcot in 1991 and this is about the only thing I remember.  It opened in 1989, and it couldn't be more 1989 if it had MC Skat Kat and Andrew Dice Clay.

We've got: George Wendt, Jon Lovitz, Charles Grodin, Bobcat Goldthwait, Kevin Meaney, and a picture of Ernest.


I watched this again recently and it holds up fairly well, with one notable exception:  Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon as the timeless duo "Hans and Franz".  For those that don't keep track of insipid SNL characters from the 80's, their hilarious schtick involves two guys with German accents who clap in the middle of a sentence.

I'm not sure if they're dated so much as never funny to begin with, but seeing as Wayne's World is making a comeback with the kids, we'll get them and the Church Lady and everything else I never wanted to see again.

And, yes, they totally recycled this into Inside Out.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Brutal Fight Stories! Lucha action!  Biker betrayal!  Inhuman brutality!

http://amzn.to/1CY0ltZ


Idle playboy Zach Valdez lived in a world of decadent isolation until a friend falls victim to a city where the missing stay lost forever.  His search pulls him into a dark world of brutal violence and cruel desire, the world of masked vigilante the Bleeding Skull.

Zach wades through the seedy worlds of outlaw pro-wrestling and underground pornography as he faces his own dark call of vengeance and the strange allure of hustler Johnny Rehab.

The Bleeding Skull faces his own greatest challenge, a cage match to the death against an unstoppable foe, a killing machine beyond pain, beyond reason.

Will Zach or the Bleeding Skull survive to discover what secrets lie buried behind the bandaged face of a deranged doctor and his insane experiments against nature?  

Thrill to spine-cracking, man-on-man action in The Bleeding Skull Against Doctor Haros!

When the Blacktop Devils tried to deal in stolen military hardware they found themselves outcasts among outlaws, on the run from the law, rival bike gangs, and their own drug-fueled paranoia, ending in an apocalypse of bullets, blades, and blood.  It only gets worse...Blacktop Devils Sidestory.

George Murdam is the Murder Man, a contract hitman killing for cash to fund his dark obsessions.

A contract to wipe out a martial arts splinter cult leads him on unrelenting path of carnage through the heart of Victim City, where life has no value and death has no meaning.

Dozens will die.  They’re the lucky ones.

Purity Sect Conflict: Kill Them All

Available from Amazon - $2.99 - Free for Kindle Unlimited

Thursday, July 23, 2015

House by Edward Lee

House
by Edward Lee
2005?

Less of the same.  A trust fund kid goes to the same house that Pig was set at with his nudist stepmom.  She gets possessed, does some Rob Black level gross stuff with some bikers, the end.  No horror, the haunted house elements go nowhere, and no reason to tie this to Pig.  Also endless repetition - constant references to how hot the stepmom is, and he tries the "She called me Leonard.  But that's the name of the guy that used to live here" card about a dozen times.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Things I Didn't Finish - From Dusk till Dawn the Series

Quentin Tarantino is one of our generations finest directors and I can not stand him.  He has a healthy respect for exploitation and pop culture without sinking too deeply into cutesy post-modernism, and is just a talented filmmaker.  He's also way too in love with his own insipid dialogue, which has just gotten slower and more unnatural as time goes on.  I tapped out after the twenty minute long "This is how I'm going to get to test drive this car" scene in Death Proof and have not given him a try since.

Robert Rodriguez is someone I want to like, but he's just not that talented and his movies just aren't very good.  If we mixed Tarantino's talent with Rodriguez' sense of fun, we'd have something.

So instead, we've got Rodriguez' talent and Tarantino's dialogue pacing.

I liked From Dusk Till Dawn, but I had no particular interest in revisiting it.  Interestingly, the series isn't the continuing adventures or spin off from the film, it seems to be a 7 1/2 hour version of the original.  This could be interesting, some additional subplots, character backstories, hey - there's Don Johnson, he should be in more things, and OH MY GOD THEY'RE STILL IN THE GAS STATION this was like two minutes in the movie and it takes up the first episode and NOBODY WILL SHUT THE HELL UP YOU'RE NOT CLEVER SHUT UP!

So, yeah, a decent 90 minute movie stretched out to 7 1/2 hours with Rodriguez doing a Tarantino impersonation with the intolerable dialogue.

At least it's not an anti-slavery film created for the sole purpose of dropping the N word in historical context.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pig by Edward Lee

Pig
by Edward Lee
originally published 1997?

This is my first encounter with extreme horror writer Edward Lee.  A down on his luck schleb gets forced to make bestiality porn for the mafia.  That's pretty much it.  The ending, involving demon possession and a harem of Amish teenagers, gets downright silly.  That's the main issue I had with this - it's a full-on comedy.  Not tongue in cheek - completely playing for laughs, with plenty of cutesy asides from the narrator that undercut any sense of dread or horror.  He even jumps in to tell us whippersnappers that Lou Reed is way cooler than this newfangled 90's music.  Sure thing, Grandpa.

The intention was to gross-out, and it did a pretty good job of that, even making me cringe in a couple places.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Disney's Most Dated - Main Street Electrical Parade

This is an example of when an event heavily promotes the latest Disney product which doesn't become the timeless classic that everyone thinks it will.  This is probably why the Florida Fantasmic is Pocahontas heavy.  But at least people know who Pocahontas is.

Meet Pete and Elliott -


Pete is the one on top, waving around and shrugging his shoulders as if to say: "Who am I?  Heck, I don't even know?"

A remake to Pete's Dragon is coming out next year, so maybe this will become more relevant.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Booby Hatch by John Russo

The Booby Hatch
by John Russo
2014, Burning Bulb Publishing

A novelization of his own 1976 sex comedy, evidently written (or rewritten) almost 40 years later.  And it shows.  Sex comedies films tend to fail on both counts, and a print version of one doesn't even show skin.

The limited plot involves a stupid woman who works as a tester at a sex toy factory.  She lives with her closeted transvestite boyfriend and ends up with a male tester who is having impotence problems.  Mostly, she just gets raped a lot.  And not in a dubious, Benny Hill kind of way.  Full on violent rape by sexual predators.  Hilarious stuff.

To make it more uncomfortable, Russo steps in as narrator to add some commentary to imply that he knows that maybe this isn't that funny of a topic in 2014, then proceeds to do it anyway.  The same could be said for the wacky Italian dialect.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lionel Fanthorpe

I've run across Rev. Lionel Fanthorpe in the past, mainly as the presenter of Fortean TV, a series I haven't managed to get through thanks to the aggressive obnoxiousness of British 90's-ness.


I've run across him again recently, this time as the author of well over a hundred pulp sci-fi paperbacks in the 50s and 60s.  Operating under multiple pen names, he wrote most of the sci-fi and supernatural titles for Badger Books, an outfit had authors churn out fiction to match the covers they had procured.  Check out their awesomeness here.

He's still active, known mostly now for Fortean books and showing up on British TV.  I was thrilled to find a ton of his Badger Books stuff reasonably priced on Amazon, but I had some mixed feelings about the presentation.

The majority of the titles have a generic cover, though a few have the Badger classics.  The books are out by Hachette Book Group, one of the Big Five publishers.  One would think they would package the books more professionally, but I can understand the choice not to.  Based on some of my knowledge of Amazon ranking, I can tell that some of these titles have not sold a single copy in two years.

I would love to see these with the original covers, but it probably doesn't make sense financially.  Even if they still owned the covers, the rights management of it would cost more than they would recoup.  As it is, even if they already had nicely formatted .doc files of the text and just had an intern dump them all into KDP, they're losing money.  I'd rather have these gems available cheaply (or at all), than have to hunt them on ebay because it doesn't pay to reissue them.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Disney's Most Dated - Electric Water Pageant



Not the most spectacular show, but I like it, and it's been around for over 40 years.  It currently has a mostly Little Mermaid theme to it, which is a property that has aged well.

This isn't making the list for the inclusion of 1988's "Walk the Dinosaur" by Was (Not Was).  No, it's for having an aggressive display of patriotism that isn't just a cover for unabashed bigotry.

The patriotic elements were added in 1977, just after the Bicentennial.  Back when waving a flag meant loving your county and not that you don't want gay Muslims to get health care.  I don't like getting political, but it is kind of a sad statement that the finale feels weird or even downright hostile today.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Disney's Most Dated - Ellen's Energy Adventure

Few creations are timeless enough to be enjoyed steadily through the decades.  Most go through phases of being cutting edge, new, around, tired, tacky,  embarrassing, ironic, kitsch, nostalgic, and if they're lucky, a standard.

Some attractions manage to skip a lot of the middle.  Take the Country Bears.  This was made in a direct response to a fad for hillbilly music in the 60s, but nobody knows that now.  People either like it or don't, but it doesn't feel dated.

Let's start with an attraction that has beaten the odds so far but is just barely hanging on: Ellen's Energy Adventure.



This has three major elements that had no right being popular past the 1990s - Ellen Degeneres, Bill Nye, and Jeopardy.  If anything, Ellen and Nye are even more respected now.

Defying all odds, this attraction has aged rather well.  We'll some that haven't in later installments.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Trip Report

Magic Kingdom

How is there not a "Vaping Dads of Disney" tumblr?

The new queue at Peter Pan was nice.  Interactive for all of four seconds, but nice.

Tom Sawyer Island: Animatronics!  The fortress in the back always seemed like it should have had something moving there, but all I can remember is the snoring prisoner.  Not much going on, but some minor shifting around in the blacksmith's room.

Epcot

Found kimchee in China, at the Lotus Blossom Cafe.  Ask for cabbage side dish and you can get for under $3.

They really need to do something with the Imagination Pavilion.  In the area near the gift shop, where you can pay to have your head photoshopped onto a picture like anyone can do on their phone for free, there looked to be an actual lab of some kind half hidden behind giant curtains.  More of a photo lab than a science lab, but it looked very out of place.

Animal Kingdom

They're really going through with this Avatar nonsense.  Huge show building being built in full view from the road.

Korean BBQ Chicken is a goddamn lie.  Barely qualifies as sweet and sour chicken.  They could have pulled a Wendys and poured bibigo sauce on chicken nuggets and done better.

Kilimanjaro Safari is 100% narrative free.  Mine didn't even have the rickety bridge, but we can delayed by pooping zebras.

Hollywood Studios

Let's look at all the attractions that have closed and remain unreplaced:

  • Sounds Dangerous
  • America Idol Experience
  • The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow
  • Backlot Tour
Nothing I'd want back, but that's a lot of missing real estate.  There were long lines that day and it still felt like a half-day park.


Great Movie Ride: I got the cowboy!  Never even seen that act before, and the fireball took me by surprise.  Robert Osborne now narrates the ride and the poor CM has like three lines left.  They either need to go full Jungle Cruise and mix it up a little, or Living with the Land and get rid of live operator altogether.  I was up front, and there was a manager taking notes as the CM screwed up his lines.  I'm guessing early June sees some new employees.  New video sequence at the end, minus Shanghai Knights.  The alien from Alien was working for the first time in forever.

Overall

I don't know if the new fast pass magic plus fantasy advance my magical experience whatever has actually increased wait times, but it feels like it.  Towards the end of some queues the standby line felt like a single rider line, where they let you in only after all the FP folks are gone.  Given that figuring out their horrible app or website is ten times more of a pain than going to a kiosk, I'm surprised that more people seem to be using it.


Phantasialand - Mystery Castle



Haunted house / mad scientist themed walkthrough queue to a bungee drop ride.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Phantasialand - River Quest



This one's interesting.  Highly themed whitewater raft ride with a dry, omnimover load & unload and an elevator.  I like how it has a small footprint and flows in concentric circles for a bit.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Phantasialand - Das verrückte Hotel Tartüff!



Great.  Germans trying to be whimsical.  Silly shoes, that's hilarious.  At least they've got some enthusiasm - wait, you're not going to follow us the entire time, are you!

This should look like fun, but at my age I see nothing but twisted ankles and knee injuries.