Writing Brainstorming Tool: Fiasco RPG – Part 1

Fiasco is a tabletop RPG from 2009. The blurb for it says that ”Fiasco is a game about ordinary people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control. There will be big dreams and flawed execution. It won’t go well for them, to put it mildly, and in the end it will probably all go south in a glorious heap of jealousy, murder, and recrimination. It’s designed to be played in a single session, usually around two and a half hours, with no prep.”

For some reason my brain always wants to compare it to the Coen brothers movie Fargo: Intersected story lines that end up in some pretty grim/hilarious violence (that’s a poor description of Fargo, but it’ll do for our purposes today).

Why am I telling you this? Because you can use the set-up part of the game to brainstorm short stories and novel outlines. It’s mostly useful if you want to jump start and idea or perhaps come up with some subplots for you novel, but I can see it being used for a lot of different stuff.

I should mention that this is not my idea. The Fiasco Companion book discusses its use as a writing tool and there’s a series of blog posts on the Unleaded – Fuel for Writers blog. I’m just writing this up largely for my own reference and because some people showed interest in my write up.

How it Works

I’m paraphrasing from the Wikipedia article here.
Although there is no one standard setting, each game of Fiasco uses a playset that indicates the setting of that specific game.

Each playset consists of a basic description of the setting and:

  • six groups of six relationships between two characters in the setting
  • six groups of six needs to be shared by two of the characters
  • six groups of six notable objects
  • six groups of six notable locations

Each group and each element within that group is numbered from one to six.

To put it simply, each playset has a theme and is essentially a list of Relationships (father-son, sheriff-criminal), Locations (behind the barn, the library), Needs (to get out of town, to get rich quick) and Objects (a revolver, a picture of a woman).

Creating your own Playset

This website contains most of the available Fiasco Playsets out there. They are free to download. If you happen to be writing something that fits exactly the theme of one of them (say, the Salem one, because you’re writing a period piece about Salem witches), you’re probably all set. If not, you’ll have to do some extra work.

The novel I’m writing, which I’ve already outlined to some degree, is about two buddies who are trying to save their small town from a Lovecraftian entity that is manifesting. I hunted around for playsets that dealt with small towns, horror and monsters.

I picked up Cults of New England, Dark Shadows, Last Frontier, Back to the Old House, Sucker Creek and a couple of others. You can find all of them here.

I started with relationships. I just went and picked out whatever looked good or seemed to fit with my plot, themes and established characters. Since I’m only experimenting, I didn’t include any of my own ideas (I could have put in ”Childhood Friends” or ”Diner regular and waitress” since I know these two relationships will feature in the novel).

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My cobbled together playset. All props to the original designers.

Set Up

You’ll need some dice. You can use an online dice roller.

The ”players” in this imaginary session of Fiasco are the following novel characters:

  • Michael, one of the protagonists. He lives in cabin in the woods he’s trying to fix up.
  • John, the other protagonist.
  • Sarah, the town sheriff.
  • Jack, the teenage cult leader the Lovecraftian entity is manipulating.
  • Mary, unknown.

Process

  1. I wrote them on a piece of paper, in a general circular shape, as if they’re sitting around a table.
  2. I rolled 4 dice for each player, so 20 in total. It’s great if you can use 2 colors of dice, 10 each. If you don’t have dice, just use 2 instances of the online dice roller, each for 10 dice.
  3. If you’re using the dice roller, it might be prudent to write the results down so you can cross them out as you use them.
  4. Once you roll the dice, it’s time to choose the relationships between the characters.

There are a couple of ways to do this: The most boring one would be to look at the list and choose whatever looks good, removing dice as you go. This is likely to create boring relationships, but as the available dice get less, it might force you into some creative positions when it’s time to choose Locations and Objects. I don’t recommend it though.

Another way is to force yourself to pick different color dice each time, going from white to black and then white again.

My method is much simpler: I just look away for a second and grab whatever dice my eye falls on first. It should work for online dice rolls too. You don’t know what each number corresponds to anyway, so you’re not likely to ”guide” the results.The first dice number you pick gives you the category (Town, Romance). Once you pick one, write it down between the first two characters. This is what connects them. Then move on to the next, without further defining their relationship.

fiasc2Got a nice spread, it should work out nicely. We don’t know anything yet, just broad strokes.

You should now have 5 less dice than before, since you’ve used them up. Now you start over, this time choosing specific relationships between characters, belonging to the category that has already been established between them.

 

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There’s a part in the story where Michael and John are in the woods hunting and they find something weird. So this was a bit of a happy accident. I wasn’t planning on them finding something to take back, but it’s not a bad idea.

  • Michael doing the friends and benefits thing with the sheriff sounds like it could get complicated, so that’s cool with me too.
  • Sarah and Jack (the human antagonist) having the same repeating dream. I can see it working and it implies they’re both under the influence of the Lovecraftian entity, at least in the beginning.
  • Jack and Mary being stoner pals tells me that Mary is likely Jack’s schoolfriend. In this case Fiasco helped me create a whole new walk on role.
  • Mary and John being ”drug people” likely means that either John sells pot to Mary or Mary sells pot to John. It doesn’t say a lot, but it’s a link that might come in handy as the plot moves forward.

To be completely honest, I ran the experiment twice and picked the most interesting results of the two to create a super-relationship map. You can do that too.

Conclusion

Seems to work pretty well, and will likely be even better when we do Needs and Locations. Might have to do it one more time using unknown characters, just so that I can create some subplots for the novel. Next time we’ll tackle the rest of the connections between characters, so stay tuned.

Review: Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell by Martin Rose

20344598 Vitus Adamson is falling apart. As a pre-deceased private investigator, he takes the prescription Atroxipine hourly to keep his undead body upright and functioning. Whenever he is injured, he seeks Niko, a bombshell mortician with bedroom eyes and a way with corpses, to piece him back together. Decomposition, however, is the least of his worries when two clients posing his most dangerous job yet appear at his door looking for their lost son.

Vitus is horrified to discover the photo of the couple’s missing son is a picture-perfect reproduction of his long dead son. This leads him to question the events of his tormented past; he must face the possibility that the wife and child he believed he murdered ten years ago in a zombie-fugue have somehow survived . . . or is it just wishful thinking designed to pull him into an elaborate trap?

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I don’t actually care about the ethics of blogging or whatever, so this is the first and last time I’ll mention it.

Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell is a genre-aware horror noir novel. There seem to be a few of those lately, which is something I’m pleased about. Now zombies aren’t really my thing, but I don’t think it’s quite fair to call Vitus a zombie. More of an undead private eye or a Hellboy kind of thing. Minus the brawls.

Vitus has spent a decade being dead and slowly falling apart, when a couple of clients shows up at his doorstep with a photo of their son, who has gone missing. Only the picture is actually a photo of Vitus’s son all grown up, even though he’s supposed to have died ten years ago in Vitus’s hands. At the time, Vitus was more of a traditional zombie and had fed on his wife and kid, before the people responsible for his condition came up with a drug that keeps him human (as much human as a decomposing corpse can be anyway). Now he takes a dose every few hours, lest he loses control again.

”We miss our son and would give anything to have him back, Mr. Adamson. Can You help us?”
”Anything at all, Mrs. Rogers?”
”Name your price, we’ll be happy to pay it.”
”Can you get blood out of everyday household items?”

Anyway, he takes the case if only because he needs to figure out what the hell is going on and if his son is actually alive. As per noir guidelines, this throws him down a rabbit hole of increasingly bizarre and complicated situations: A hooded figure following him around everywhere, trying to kill his clients; a femme fatale (almost literally, she’s a mortician) that heals his wounds and weird clients that keep ”rising” from the dead.

I’ll try not to spoil anything, as I believe discovery is half the pleasure in a novel like this. I found the book to be very well written, if a little ”purple” in places. However, any purple prose is satisfyingly gory, grim or funny. Nothing about sunsets and beautiful vistas, all about sinew, rotting flesh and fatalism. The plot is meaty and complicated, but not overly so. It really is a noir tale, which in my experience is rare to find, even when it says so right on the cover. Many an evening has been wasted reading The Maltese Falcon retreads.

The premise might seem ridiculous from the outside, but is handled deftly and doesn’t stress your suspension of disbelief too much, even when the really bizarre stuff happens. The last third of the book moves along on a brisk pace, with revelations just around every corner and it’s a pretty good ride if I may say so.

Check it out if you like: horror noir, grim humor or the Sandman Slim books.

 

 

Review: Young Ones

young-ones-posterSet in a near future when water has become the most precious and dwindling resource on the planet, one that dictates everything from the macro of political policy to the detailed micro of interpersonal family and romantic relationships. The land has withered into something wretched. The dust has settled on a lonely, barren planet. The hardened survivors of the loss of Earth’s precious resources scrape and struggle. Ernest Holm (Michael Shannon) lives on this harsh frontier with his children, Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Mary (Elle Fanning). He defends his farm from bandits, works the supply routes, and hopes to rejuvenate the soil. But Mary’s boyfriend, Flem Lever (Nicholas Hoult), has grander designs. He wants Ernest’s land for himself, and will go to any length to get it.

From writer/director Jake Paltrow comes a futuristic western, told in three chapters, which inventively layers Greek tragedy over an ethereal narrative that’s steeped deeply in the values of the American West.

I enjoyed this a lot. I admit to being a little disappointed that the PR material for it gave me a completely different idea of what the movie would be (I guess I was expecting a new A Boy and his Dog or Mad Max, while this is more or less a sci-fi drama. Still, it’s a well made film and the director/screenwriter made some interesting choices that I appreciated it.

Ernest is a poor old farmer that owns land but not water. He has a job delivering supplies to the men working to bring water to the fields, but not his fields; the water is going to industrial farms further away. His attempts at convincing or bribing the boss to throw some water his way are unsuccessful. In the meantime, his daughter is dating this really douchy kid who needs to get smacked a lot. Ernest doesn’t trust me and refuses to help him with whatever scheme he’s trying to run.

All this comes to a head when Ernest’s donkey, which is instrumental for his work breaks a leg and has to be put down. He invests on a robotic donkey. When Ernest refuses to loan it to douchy guy, it gets stolen and used to smuggle contraband across the border. This is where shit goes bad and where I stop lest I spoil ya’ll.

There’s not a hint of melodrama as I would probably have expected in a movie about a down on his luck farmer trying to provide for his family (crippled wife and all). Things are mentioned (perhaps sometimes bluntly, like when Flem accuses Ernest of crippling his wife in some kind of accident he likely caused because of his drinking) and then never expanded on, but left to shimmer in the background. There’s no need for them to be brought up again later on when Ernest’s daughter is freaking out and screaming at him. I appreciate the economy.

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I rarely review good movies, because reviewing the bad ones is much more amusing and let’s face it, lazy as hell. It fits my personality, so to speak. After watching this one and checking out some reviews online, I just felt that I had to give my 2 cents as well. In fact, let’s look at this review so that I can make fun of it.

Young Ones makes use of brilliant cinematography that is instantly wasted in the hands of a director who is without a shred of talent, an editor who must have been a butcher, mediocre sound editing, and a cast that is almost as misguided and inept as the screenplays author. A story that had true potential was crippled by a lack of character development, and the nonexistence of focus. The directors lack of skill is clearly seen in his failed attempt to (I may be paraphrasing) give the character of the machine, a robotic donkey, a sense of having a soul (not even a glimmer of this is seen in the film), and his somewhat unsuccessful try at implying that there is prosperity outside the boundary of where the characters live. The film is without any sort of outstanding performance by the cast, and lacks even a single character that the audience can empathize with. Personally I believe that this feature was a waste of a perfectly good cinematographer, and I wish I had spent my time at another premier.

– Cossette-mark

This is the only review they have posted on IMDB, and they joined roughly 2 months before they posted it. A bit suspicious, but whatever, I can’t imagine why someone would want to do such a hatchet job on it. Pretty much the whole thing is bullshit, but I’ll try and play along.

Young Ones makes use of brilliant cinematography that is instantly wasted in the hands of a director who is without a shred of talent, an editor who must have been a butcher, mediocre sound editing, and a cast that is almost as misguided and inept as the screenplays author.

That’s pretty bizarre. I think the director did a pretty good job, managing to avoid any unnecessary melodrama of the kind the reviewer seems to be after. The editing was adequate, it didn’t really stick out. The cast includes Eddie Fanning (she was pretty great in this) and Kodi Smit-McPhee who plays the son is an atypical actor and was also great for the role. Then we have Michael fucking Shannon, who is good in everything.

A story that had true potential was crippled by a lack of character development, and the nonexistence of focus.

I’m gonna go ahead and say that Young Ones is very obviously a bit of a fable, a kind of old time western, just updated and moved into the far future. I mean the story is classic: A farm that’s dying or dead, the pioneer father trying to take care of his family and the asshole who wants to fuck them all over and steal their land. Hell, it has a lot of overlap with The River (starring a young Mel Gibson), if you just switch out the flood for the drought and the rich banker guy who wants to sleep with Gibson’s wife with the kid in Young Ones who is sleeping with Shannon’s daughter.

The directors lack of skill is clearly seen in his failed attempt to (I may be paraphrasing) give the character of the machine, a robotic donkey, a sense of having a soul (not even a glimmer of this is seen in the film), and his somewhat unsuccessful try at implying that there is prosperity outside the boundary of where the characters live.

Why the fuck would a robot have a soul? It’s not even an A.I, it’s literally a donkey robot that walks around. Do you expect cars in films to have a ”sense of soul?” This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard and shows how far removed the reviewer is from the actual movie and what it set out to achieve.

The film is without any sort of outstanding performance by the cast, and lacks even a single character that the audience can empathize with.

Even the bit roles were interesting and had a little bit of depth, even if they were on screen for a few seconds.

Anyway, fuck you.

4 out of 5 robot donkeys

Bad Movies Double Feature: Buck Wild and In Fear

Look at this shit.

Look at this shit.

Buck Wild

What happens when you make a horror comedy with actors that possess no comedic talent. Extremely awkward, rarely funny and too long by half.

”When their originally planned outing is cancelled, four friends go on a hunting trip in Texas. They include Craig, a straitlaced man; Jerry, a mysterious relative of Craig’s from New York; Tom, a nerd; and Lance, a hedonist. When they arrive, they discover that a chupacabra has bitten their guide Clyde, and, unknown to all, he has begun to slowly turn into a zombie.”

 

The synopsis doesn’t inform you how ~*wacky*~ the movie is. There’s a flaming gay redneck mafia dude that shows up at the beginning. At some point there’s conflict between the protagonists and him and one of them get paddled by the mafia boss’s cronies. This is the height of comedy this movie is trying to attain.

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Between painful jokes about Craig’s unfaithful girlfriend, shitty sex scenes with the ”dumb slut” stereotype neighbor and the meandering plot, there’s very little of value here. You might enjoy it more if you’re into gore and zombie stuff, but I was just waiting for the whole thing to end.

1 out of 5 redneck zombies.

 

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infearjpeg-e9500dIn Fear

This is a movie so boring, so bland, so incredibly shitty, that I feel as if I’ve already reviewed it in the past and I’m stuck in a kind of purgatory where I have to talk about this piece of shit forever. Harsh words, you might think, but I’m 100% serious, this is an offensively stupid movie, made even more agonizing by the fact that the director think he’s some kind of auteur making cinema. It seems to have worked as the movie has a 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is idiotic at best. Fuck you.

 

”Tom and Lucy have decided to go on their first trip as a couple, to a music festival and a secluded hotel. However they soon find themselves unable to actually locate the hotel and spend much of their time getting lost in a labyrinthine series of forest roads. As they continue to drive, their tensions rise as they realize that something or someone is deliberately toying with them and enjoying their torment. They pick up Max, a strange hitchhiker that may be connected to everything that is going on.”

Get used to this image, you're gonna see a lot of it in the movie.

Get used to this image, you’re gonna see a lot of it in the movie.

Probably the couple with the least chemistry in the world, you’ll spend the first half hour trying to figure out if these two idiots have just hooked up for a weekend getaway or if they have actually met before. After a series of increasingly improbably events and choices, they get lost in some sort of maze made out of hedges. Why at no point does anyone say ”fuck it, I’m off-roading this bitch” is a question that will torment you as the minutes tick on by.

Realizing at some point there’s only so long you can go without having anything remotely interesting happen and also that your actors are just not good enough to prop the whole thing up, a weird guy they find on the road is added and that’s really where the terribleness of the movie ramps up into nonsense.

This is devoid of value.

0 out of 5 idiots in a car

Mr. Jones Review

Mr-JonesMr. Jones

Hey look, it’s a horror movie I didn’t hate. I mean I didn’t like it especially much, but that’s rare enough on it’s own when your movie watching is the equivalent of a garbage disposal system.

The IMDB synopsis is pretty unhelpful, so I’ll get you up to speed myself. Probably massive spoilers follow because I have no filter.

A couple decides to move to the middle of nowhere because they have artistic aspirations. This eventually becomes an issue when they start arguing about how they left perfectly good jobs so the guy can make a stupid documentary or whatever. At the same time they find weird sculptures around their property and adjacent areas, eventually realizing they are the work for an artist that’s a bit of a underground sensation. Unfortunately he’s well known for the fact that everyone who buys his sculptures has terrible shit happen to them.

The movie is basically about solving the mystery of this artist and his creations, via the medium of found footage.

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Mostly but the numbers for the first half, it turns into some serious what-the-fuck territory in the latter half. Don’t watch this while high or tired, it’s pretty nightmarish. The movie as adequate at most things, managing some creepy moments here and there by actually utilizing the whole handheld camera aesthetic. The couple is kinda irritating, but what horror movie couple isn’t. I wasn’t gnashing my teeth while watching it so it must not have been too bad.

The ending…well… I don’t know what to say about the ending. It wasn’t disappointing exactly, but it was so convoluted and messy that I’m not sure what the hell supposedly happened. It kinda tries to throw a twist at you but it’s all very confusing and open to interpretation. Feels like they tacked on some wtf-ness to make it more interesting, but I don’t think they landed it.

2 out of 5 creepy-ass branch sculptures (I’d say 2 and a half, but I don’t like decimals)

7 Awesome Made-for-TV Horror Movies

I unironically love trash TV movies. We got a lot of those growing up where I’m from and sometimes it was all you can get outside of video rentals that were few and far between. Some of these I only saw as an adult and thus I didn’t enjoy as much. Sometimes the medium is the message, and staying up late on a school night and watching a scary movie on TV is probably the best medium there is for less-than-stellar acting and cinematography.

Salem’s Lot
”Vampires are invading a small New England town. It’s up to a novelist and a young horror fan to save it.”

Based on the fantastic Stephen King novel of the same name, it’s probably my favorite made for TV horror flick. Of course it takes the #1 spot. The scene with the kid floating outside his friend’s window is iconic for a reason (and still terrifying today).

Dark Night of the Scarecrow
”In a small town, a wrongfully killed man exacts revenge on those who murdered him beyond the grave.”

It’s been a while since I’ve seen this, but it’s a pretty solid revenge/horror flick.

Dont be Afraid of the Dark
”A young couple inherits an old mansion inhabited by small demon-like creatures who are determined to make the wife one of their own.”

Has aged remarkably well, in all honesty. The remake was terrible, so I’d rather watch this instead.

It
”In 1960, seven outcast kids known as “The Loser Club” fight an evil demon who poses as a child-killing clown. 30 years later, they are called back to fight the same clown again.”

Hey, another King adaptation. Arguably the TV movie that has scared more kids than any other. I like the book a lot and while I don’t love the movie, Tim Curry is pretty cool and it features some creepy ass scenes.

Duel
”A business commuter is pursued and terrorized by a malevolent driver of a massive tractor-trailer.”

Langoliers
”Most of the passengers on an airplane disappear, and the remainder land the plane in a mysteriously barren airport.”
I’m gonna get flack for this one, but I enjoyed it as a kid, back when I worshiped King. It’s goofy as hell, but hey, this was Lost before Lost.

Body Bags
”Three short stories in the horror genre. The first about a serial killer. The second about a hair transplant gone wrong. The third about a baseball player.”

After (2012)

After-2012-Movie-Poster-e1342638056815Oh boy. I don’t even know. A cut rate Silent Hill clone that somehow manages to be completely boring and predictable. Hell, it even gives away its own twist in the first 20 minutes. Plot synopsis says ”When two bus crash survivors (Steven Strait, Karolina Wydra) awake to discover that they are the only people left in their small town, they must form an unlikely alliance in a race to unravel the truth behind their isolation. As strange events begin to unfold, they start to question whether the town they know so well is really what it seems.”

These two end up in their hometown who is suspiciously devoid of people, except for when they seem to travel back in time and there’s a bunch of people they can’t interact with. It takes them about half an hour to figure out what’s going on, because at no point do they think about reaching out and touching one of these phantom people. Imagine the frustration as they go ”Hello? Hello?” for the duration of each scene while everyone around them ignores then. Everything looking like a totally radical 70s sitcom doesn’t give it away either. Mystifying.

A situation that could have been creepy as hell becomes completely toothless at the hands of this director and actors. Ugh, I can’t even go on.

Just watch the trailer, it’s enough to give you a migraine.

0 out of 5 Silent Hills.

 

Top 10 Horror and Fantasy Covers for May and June 2014

A bit late and also spanning two months instead of one, but here are the Top 10 Cover for May and June 2014!

 

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1. The Walking-stick Forest

Artist: Karla Ortiz
Author: Anna Tambour
Publisher: Tor.com

“The Walking-Stick Forest”, by Anna Tambour, is a dark fantasy about a recluse who creates collectible walking sticks in post WWI Scotland by manipulating the woods somewhat like bonsais. He refuses a commission from a very rich, powerful man, never considering or caring about the consequences.

authority

2. Authority: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy)

Artist: Eric Nyquist
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Publisher: FSG Originals

After thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X—a seemingly malevolent landscape surrounded by an invisible border and mysteriously wiped clean of all signs of civilization—has been a series of expeditions overseen by a government agency so secret it has almost been forgotten: the Southern Reach. Following the tumultuous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the agency is in complete disarray.

John Rodrigues (aka “Control”) is the Southern Reach’s newly appointed head. Working with a distrustful but desperate team, a series of frustrating interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, Control begins to penetrate the secrets of Area X. But with each discovery he must confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he’s pledged to serve.

In Authority, the second volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Area X’s most disturbing questions are answered . . . but the answers are far from reassuring.

 

Boy Eating

3. Irregular Verbs and Other Stories

Artist: Erik Mohr
Author: Matthew Johnson
Publisher: ChiZine Publications

keluarga: to move to a new village

lunak: to search for something without finding it

mencintai: to love for the last time

Meet a guilt-ridden nurse who atones for her sins by joining her zombified patients in exile; a lone soldier standing guard on a desolate Arctic island against an invasion that may be all in his mind; a folksinger who tries to unionize Hell; and a private eye who only takes your case after you die. Visit a resettlement centre for refugees from ancient Rome; a lost country recreated by its last citizen on the Internet; and a restaurant where the owner’s ghost lingers for one final party. Discover the inflationary effects of a dragon’s hoard, the secret connection between Mark Twain and Frankenstein, and the magic power of blackberry jam-all in this debut collection of strange, funny, and bittersweet tales by acclaimed writer Matthew Johnson.

libretto_cover_a_p

4. Libretto Volume 1: Vampirism

Artist: menton3
Author: Multiple
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Libretto Volume 1 is curated/edited by Kasra Ghanbari with a theme of Vampirism, being the misuse of power, as well as the objectification and exploitation of others. Featured contributors include Ben Templesmith, David Stoupakis, Riley Rossmo, Christopher Mitten, George Pratt, menton3, and others.

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5. Sword and Mythos

Artist: Nacho Molina
Editors: Silvia Moreno Garcia and Paular R. Stiles
Publisher: Innsmouth Free Press

The blades of heroes clash against the darkest sorcery.

Aztec warriors ready for battle, intent on conquering a neighboring tribe, but different gods protect the Matlazinca.
For Arthur Pendragon, the dream of Camelot has ended. What remains is a nightmarish battle against his own son, who is not quite human.
Master Yue, the great swordsman, sets off to discover what happened to a hamlet that was mysteriously abandoned. He finds evil.
Sunsorrow, the ancient dreaming sword, pried from the heart of the glass god, yearns for Carcosa.

Fifteen writers, drawing inspiration from the pulp sub-genres of sword and sorcery and the Cthulhu Mythos, seed stories of adventure, of darkness, of magic and monstrosities. From Africa to realms of neverwhere, here is heroic fantasy with a twist.

 

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6. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

Artist: ?
Author: Genevieve Valentine
Publisher: Atria Books

The Hamilton sisters live a double life—caged in their house by day, they break free at night to hit the dance floors of New York. Following her debut novel, Mechanique (2011), Valentine offers this fanciful reimagining, set in the Roaring Twenties, of the fairy tale of the 12 dancing princesses. The princes have been replaced by bartenders and bootleggers, and the girls wear out catalog-ordered shoes. Their dominating father has kept them shut up at home, virtual prisoners, for their entire lives. When he gets wind of what they’ve been doing, he works to find them more permanent positions as wives—whether or not they like it. The narrative is simple, as befits a modern fairy tale, and the characters are drawn in broad strokes, each dominated by one identifiable personality trait. When the novel shines, it does so by juxtaposing the tension of the imprisoned daughters’ plight against the gimlets and glitter of the underground dance halls they frequent. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is like a jittery Charleston—loose, fast, and fun.

–Bridget Thoreson

the-bees-cover

7. The Bees

Artist: ?
Author: Laline Paull
Publisher: Ecco

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive, where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw, but her courage and strength are assets. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect nectar and pollen. A feat of bravery grants her access to the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all–daring to challenge the Queen’s preeminence–enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the hive’s strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by a greater power: a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, and her society–and lead her to perform unthinkable deeds.

Thrilling, suspenseful, and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees and its dazzling young heroine will forever change the way you look at the world outside your window.

 

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8. The Devil in the Details

Artist: Dominick Saponaro
Author: Debra Doyle, James D. Macdonald
Publisher: Tor.com

A new adventure of Peter Crossman, special agent of the Knights Templar — a man prepared to administer last rites with one hand while wielding a flamethrower with the other. Now an ancient manuscript of peculiar power has surfaced, and Crossman’s assignment is simple: Get it for the Temple at all costs. This will lead to conflict with entities secular and otherwise — and to a new encounter with Sister Mary Magdalene of the Special Action Executive of the Poor Clares.

 

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9. In the Dark

Artist: ?
Publisher: IDW Publishing

In The Dark is a monstrous collection of all-new original terror tales from the darkest and most brilliant minds in comics and prose. Featuring an introduction by American Vampire, The Wake, and Severed writer Scott Snyder, and a frightful feature on the history of horror comics, through their rotten rise and dreadful decline by comic book historian Mike Howlett!

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10. Unbreakable

Artist: ?
Author: Kami Garcia
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

I never believed in ghosts.
Until one tried to kill me.
 
When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, she doesn’t realize that paranormal forces are responsible–not until mysterious identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into her room and destroy a deadly spirit sent to kill her.
Kennedy learns that her mother’s death was no accident, and now she has to take her place in the Legion of the Black Dove–a secret society formed to protect the world from a vengeful demon. A society left in the hands of a misfit group of teens with unique skills: Jared, combat trained, with a temper to match; Lukas, rogue hacker and code breaker; Alara, whose attitude is as powerful as her voodoo protections; and Priest, an engineer capable of making a weapon out of a soda can.
As the teens use their individual talents to battle paranormal entities, they earn their rightful places in the Legion–except for Kennedy, who is left wondering if she is truly one of them.
Can she stay alive long enough to find out–without losing her heart in the process?
Protect Yourself.
What you can’t see CAN hurt you.

 

The Day the Weird Tales Facebook Page Got Hacked

The Weird Tales Magazine Facebook page got hacked the other day and has been mostly posting clickbait content that seems to lead to a spammy website. With more than one million likes, the peanut gallery of the page fans came out in force in order to share their insight into this situation.

Update: Weird Tales is back! Praise Cthulhu!

Here’s an example of the content that has been going up.

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And here are some choice comments.

The Supportive, if a little sociopathic.

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The Mixed Priorities One

9

 

The NSFW

8

 

The Political

7

 

The Frustrated

6

 

The Mixed Messages One

5

 

The Activist

3

 

The Smug One

2

 

The WTF

1

Insensibles

insensibles_xlgOh Insensibles. A movie I saw the trailer for ages ago and tried really hard to find, but failed at the time. I was into occult horror movies at the time. Alas, it was not meant to be. Until now.

Set in Catalonia, Painless weaves two stories: in one, starting during the Spanish Civil War and running through to the ’60s, an asylum attempts to rehabilitate children who feel no pain, by teaching them physical suffering. For some reason these kids habitually injure themselves and others and this is why they need to be locked up in solitary. Hm… In the second, in the present time, a brilliant neurosurgeon who needs a bone marrow transplant, discovers this dark past when he searches for his biological parents.

I finally got a chance to watch it the other night and was mostly disappointed. There wasn’t a lot of supernatural or occult elements in it and they never really did show up either. I’m not sure why it was such a big deal those kids couldn’t feel any pain. It’s a disease that is real and as far as I know, people who have it don’t light themselves on fire or eat their own flesh on purpose. They just have to be careful to not injure themselves and unwittingly die from blood loss or something. The plot mostly follows one of the kids, probably because he’s the most hardcore of all (dude cuts a nurse’s Achilles tendon for slapping him around).

One of the writers of Insensibles is behind Rec (not bad!) and Rec 3 (kinda bad), but I’m not sure who to place the blame on for the pacing of this flick. You could have easily cut out twenty minutes before Berkano (nurse slashing kid experiences a rebirth as a torturer) shows up.

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I don’t want to say it was closer to Hellboy than say, Ninth Gate, but… it could easily have been a BPRD case, what with the Nazis and the super creepy torturer guy who can’t feel pain and lives in the ruble of an old prison. In that sense, it wasn’t bad. The Berkano dude was pretty creepy (he was also in Snowpiercer) and I really wish we had gotten to that point sooner and given him more screen time.

Spoilers after the break.

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The point the movie largely fails for me is the ending. Such a cop-out. It doesn’t really resolve anything, and whatever meaningful implication they tried to point out by showing the protagonist’s baby isn’t enough to save it. So the non-pain feeling guy had a kid and that kid grew up to be a great surgeon but as far as I can see, he fails pain normally and his eyes are fine. So his kid will also…be a surgeon? I don’t know and really, who cares. Bit of a letdown for what could have been pretty interesting.

That aside, the movie had some solid directing and acting, though no real outstanding performances. I can’t stay mad it, but I probably wouldn’t watch it again.

2.5 out of 5 creepy bald fuckers