reviews


npr booksMy cat woke me up at 5 AM this morning, for no reason whatsoever, and while I was feeling pretty groggy and annoyed at him and life in general, because what the hell, man, I clicked over to Twitter… and wow! Maybe my cat knew that I’d discover some really amazing news!

I couldn’t be more excited to tell you that Vermilion was reviewed on NPR. And holy mackerel, what a review it is:

Lou is one of the most delightful and charismatic fictional creations in recent memory. Her compelling blend of world-weary wryness and wide-eyed vulnerability makes for some firecracker dialogue, but it also reflects Tanzer’s kaleidoscopic view of the Old West, a place that’s far more dazzling and diverse than most history books have led us to believe. There’s lace with this leather, and there’s grace with this grit. … Vermilion is a unique, hearty, thought-provoking romp that rewrites history with a vivacious flourish.

I am truly humbled and excited by the enthusiasm Vermilion has been garnering from critics and readers. On one hand, it’s a bit bizarre, seeing how quickly people are reading it and writing about it—I’m experiencing a sort of Thanksgiving Dinner syndrome. The dang thing took me 5 years to write, and people are just tearing ass through it! But of course, on the other hand, I wrote it because I wanted to write something that would give people joy, so achieving that is wonderful and cathartic. The excitement is making me excited about the book all over again, and that feels amazing.

If you’ve yet to pick up Vermilion, you can now do so via Weightless Books, either in .mobi (Kindle), .epub (Nook, iPads, maybe Kobo?) and .pdf (???). If you prefer physical books, as Vermilion is distributed and returnable it would be delightful if you requested your local Barnes & Noble or indie bookstore get in, and bought it that way. Libraries can also get it—I know a few have done so already, but the more the merrier! You can also enter the Goodreads Giveaway; Word Horde is giving away three copies.

Finally, if you’ve enjoyed Vermilion, please consider reviewing it on Goodreads or on Amazon, and tell your friends!

 

It’s been a wild week. Vermilion was reviewed nicely on Fantasy Literature, where they also ran an interview with me (comment and you might win a free copy!). Then Chuck Wendig gave me the chance to write about Five Things I Learned While Writing Vermilion over at his blog, Terrible Minds. People seemed to be enjoying it, which is lovely! Oh, and my publisher kindly set up a Goodreads Giveaway for the book—sign up before May 1 and you might win one of 3 copies!

Then yesterday, I got word that Vermilion not only has a *starred* review in Library Journal, but it’s also their SF/F Debut of the Month!

That’s two stars for Vermilion, and I gotta say, it feels wonderful to know that reviewers are enjoying what I’ve done. I’m sure the spectacular cover by Dalton Rose, designed by Osiel Gomez, isn’t hurting the book’s chances of getting noticed. And early Goodreads and Amazon reviews indicate that readers are also enjoying the book, which feels even better!

Anyways, I believe Vermilion will be in the Dealer Room at HorrorFest, so if you’re there this weekend, you could procure your very own copy. And if you’d like to say hi, here’s where I’ll be:

Saturday, April 18th

10 AM: Signing with Carrie Vaughn and Mario Acevedo (Extras Room?)

2 PM: Rebooting Horror Franchies: Is it Possible to Reboot a Horror Franchise? Which Would You Like To See Re-Imagined? (Panels Room)

4 PM: Best Moments in Horror Books and Films: What Are the Moments from Horror Books and Films that Stayed With You? (Panels Room)

Sunday, April 19th

11 AM: Signing with Mario Acevedo (Also in “Extras Room”)

1 PM: From Page to Screen: What Horror Stories Would You Like To See Adapted? (Panels Room)

3 PM: Plumbing the Darkness: Why Do We Write Horror? (Panels Room)

11106286_10203916584380505_1917450945_nBehold! 

Yes, Vermilion is very nearly out. I’m so excited! People responded very well to the reading I did at AnomalyCon last weekend, which was lovely. Thank you to all who attended, and as for the two attendees who walked away with ARCs, I hope you enjoy the full story!

So, yeah! Keep your eyes peeled for copies in the wild over the next few weeks (and I’d be very grateful if you would ask for the book and Word Horde titles by name at your favorite local bookseller or library if you don’t see it on the shelf). The book is also imminently on Amazon and other online retailers, if you don’t have a favorite local spot to shop.

Inevitably I’m having a few first-novel jitters, but I’m cautiously optimistic about Vermilion. After all, two of my favorite authors had very nice things to say about the novel, which is lovely:

Vermillion is fresh and strange—a dark and sparkling story of magic, monsters, and mystery in the Old Weird West. Gloriously weird and heartfelt, it’s a credit to the genre from start to finish.”

—Cherie Priest, Award-Winning Author of Boneshaker and Maplecroft

Cherie is an amazing writer, and an amazing person, too! Maplecroft was one of the best books I read last year. I’m beyond tickled she enjoyed Vermilion.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, another of my must-read authors also found the book to his taste…

“Tanzer’s debut novel is extraordinary, portraying a world that is engagingly curious and curiously engaging. One doesn’t realise how much one’s life has been missing a story about a Chinese/English buster of violent ghosts out in the wilder end of the Wild West until one reads this. Plus, talking bears.”

—Jonathan L. Howard, author of the Johannes Cabal novels and the forthcoming Carter & Lovecraft 

Any regular reader of my blog knows how much I admire Jonathan Howard’s work, so it means an awful lot to me that he enjoyed the book.

Finally, The Monitor reviewed Vermilion a few weeks ago, for their Top Shelf column, and had exceedingly nice things to say about it:

“Tanzer’s writing, as always, is a delightful meld of period-authentic language and modern sensibilities. Snappy, often hilarious dialogue is embedded in a deftly written narrative thread that gives plenty of room for characters to breathe and evolve. The world-building is fantastic and leaves many opportunities for follow-ups: I for one really hope this is the beginning of a series, as I want desperately to see Lou — an amazingly round and compelling protagonist — back in San Francisco, doing what she does best.

Vermilion abounds with relatable, human characters of various genders and sexual orientations. LGBTQ issues are folded into the supernatural plot with respect and care, focusing on the emotional and interpersonal repercussions in a refreshingly gentle but frank manner.

An amazing debut novel from an author to be reckoned with, Vermilion is most definitely Top Shelf.”

Top Shelf? More like Top That!

You can read the full review at the above link, which sums up the novel better than I’ve ever managed—so, if you still have questions about the book, that’s a great place to check it out!

You can still order Vermilion directly from Word Horde, but as I said, it should be showing up elsewhere very soon. Oh, and as for those of you who pre-ordered, thank you! I confess my signature is awful, so I tried to spice up your bookplates a little. I hope you enjoy!

I’m happy to announce that Films of High Adventure is back! That’s right, remember when Jesse and I used to watch turkeys like The Craft and then write up our thoughts and feelings in a vaguely amusing fashion? Or think we were in for a turkey, and then praise films that withstood the test of time? Like… I dunno, those were pretty few and far between actually.

Anywho, we’re back on it, doing it once a month for Pornokitch. The first installment is up: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Most enthralling, dude.

Next Thursday, keep your eyes peeled for the first in my new series, Pygmalia. I’ll deconstruct The Bride and rant about the patriarchy.

Mr VampireYikes! I wasn’t expecting this so soon in 2015, but Vermilion is… imminent here in ARC form,out in the world, digital and hard copy.

If you are a book reviewer, and would like to receive an uncorrected ARC for review, please contact Ross Lockhart at publicity[at]wordhorde.com. ARC!Also, if you know any book reviewers into some or all of the following, maybe send them this way, or at least spread the word: gender fluidity, weird westerns, steampunk-y things, sickness, death, and dying, sea lions, vampires, San Francisco, hiking, the Rocky Mountains, trains, bears, the Mr. Vampire franchise from the 1980s, ghosts, punching things, Big Trouble in Little China, friendship, sanatorium culture a la The Road to Wellville, hysteria, adventures, snow, mountains, sexual tension, mysteries, and… uh… I guess that’s enough to go on.

Thanks, and happy reading!

I’ve only once ever followed a print comic during its actual run (The Maxx, back in the day) until sometime last year my friend Oliver put me on to the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics. They’re… super-great. Gene Luen Yang is an amazingly talented writer (and artist; his American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints are both awesome). So when I saw that Dark Horse was releasing an Avatar short for Free Comic Book Day I figured I’d check it out and have my first ever Free Comic Book Day experience.

Well… my experience was that Free Comic Book Day involves a lot of waiting on lines for free comic books. I kind of knew that going in, though. Even so, it was fun. I saw some cute kids in costumes, and I picked up the free Avatar short, and some stuff I paid for.

Anyways, as I said, I really like Gene Yang’s writing, so I figured I’d enjoy the short—when I learned about the release, I looked up last year’s free Avatar comic by him and it was great. This year’s was, as well, but man… it was also an awesome call-out of some biz that’s been going on in geek/comics culture for way too long.

From the tiresome handwringing within the nerdosphere over the perceived threat of Fake Geek Girls, to the much darker, recent othering-plus-horrifying-rape-threats debacle surrounding Janelle Asselin’s reasonable remarks about Wonder Girl’s representation on the cover of the Teen Titans #1, fandom—be it comics, literature, cartoons/anime, films, shows, whatever—is a often a troubling and difficult space to negotiate if you’re a woman. Which is why it’s so awesome that this was Gene Yang’s chosen subject of the Avatar short for Free Comic Book Day:

photo-2Omg. Right?

So yeah, the whole thing is fairly transparently about the bogusness of snooty exclusivity in fan culture, done Avatar-style, and the solution is… okay, spoiler alert…

It’s solidarity. And sisterhood. And allies being fine with taking a back seat while those with the actual experience drive, so to speak.

Also kung fu. Shockingly enough, I really liked it!

The original Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of my favorite shows because it is sweet and thoughtful and very, very sincere. It also improved via adaptation in response to critique—after the first season where Katara was more or less The Girl Main Character, they introduced a bunch of super-interesting main female characters. I’m all about content creators hearing “you did an awesome job—now do better!” and instead of doubling down and saying “eh, whatever,” striving to improve… by listening. The Avatar creators could easily have become part of the “eh, whatever” culture that makes comic/geek culture so frustrating. But they didn’t.

It’s awesome that Gene Yang is continuing that tradition not only by writing engrossing, fun scripts for the Avatar comics, but actively making the point that comics, and fandom in general, is for everyone. While I don’t need my artistic heroes to also be nice people, it’s pretty wonderful when that actually happens.

This month for my Roald Dahl series for Pornokitch I tackled Rhyme Stew and Dirty Beasts. Both were… sub-par. Well, they can’t all be hidden gems.

April flew by in a haze of work. I was busier than I’ve been in a long time. But, I’ve made significant headway on my WiP, turned in two short stories, only one of which was unprofessionally late, and did quite a lot of work for my various freelance jobs. I also performed with my lion dance friends twice, both at CU.

The weather is changing, but slowly. It’s sunny… most of the time. And warmer, most of the time. But the wind is still cruel and ferocious. It’s been blowing around the blooming tulips and plum trees and cherry trees. Even so, the beauty of spring been inspiring me to get outside more, which is good. I got my bike its annual tune-up and have been riding around more.

What else… well, I discovered that Boulder has its very own Kombucha tap house… I mean, I guess I should have assumed that was the case. It’s called Rowdy Mermaid (!). I tried their kombucha at the farmer’s market and it’s really good! They had it in a kegerator. It’s 2014 in Boulder!

 

 

 

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I figured I’d post a spoiler-heavy review of this forgotten book:

2014-03-17 09.42.48The Girls of Banshee Castle, by Rosa Mullholland

I picked this book up from a vintage bookseller on a whim. It’s inscribed as such:

Wishing Laura a Very Merry Xmas, Aunt Edith, 1909

It is definitely a book an Aunt Edith would give you for Christmas. On one hand, it’s sort of Austen for Tots… you know, all the recognizable bits from classic Austen novels but with all the sexual subtext, arch commentary, and interesting stuff removed. It’s basically about Nice Girls Acting Nicely for 300+ pages. But it falls flat, because the author’s imagination of what makes a Nice Girl is actually terrible, including unexamined laziness, oddly-placed racism and absurd classism. But it was kind of a wild ride…

Patricia, Dympna, and Finola, three realistically-named sisters, are the daughters of the  last Lord Tyrconnell. The Tyrconnells are historically profligate Irish noblemen who have spent the family fortune on parties and hunts and whatever, and left these unfortunate girls with so little they’ve spent their whole life in poverty, just barely scraping by with only their nursemaid to look after them. “Granny” does what she can, however, such as taking Dympna to learn painting in Italy, and assuring Patricia is able to study the pianoforte in France. With such a barren, terrible existence, you can imagine the trials endured by these brave, unfortunate lasses.

Whilst living in London they hear that the girls’ last living relation has passed away, leaving their absentee brother the bulk of what remains, but for them, little beyond a few pounds to live on, and a mysterious, run-down castle in Ireland. They decide to save on rent by going to live in the castle, of course, and there their adventures begin.

Luckily for the lasses, Ireland is full of semi-mystical, half-wild, but still highly deferential poor folk who believe in fairies and bog-witches and whatever, but still know to tip their fucking hats to the quality. Perhaps most jaw-dropping of these side characters is “Lanty,” some local boy that comes to the castle eager to serve them. He is a quaint country lad full of notions, and at one point when the girls are staying over with some rustic country Irish because of a storm, he runs out into the lightning to tell their nurse where they are. He is wiling because:

“Why thin, many’s the time I go out in it just for the fun of it. I do be always longin’ to see the fairies caravandherin’ about in the lightnin’, for they do go off o’ their heads in it intirely, and it’s the greatest luck in the world to the mortial that catches them at it. People do say that wherever the lightnin’ shafts down into the ground there does grow gold-mines, and the fairies mark the places, and if ye seen them at it ye could be richer than Creosote!”

In case you can't read it, the caption is "Give us the baby, for it's wake ye are for want of a cup o' tay"

In case you can’t read it, the caption is “Give us the baby, for it’s wake ye are for want of a cup o’ tay”

All the poor Irish are written like this.

Anyways, for about a thousand pages the girls alternate between working nicely together to make Banshee Castle a sweet dwelling for all (how sweet!) and paying calls on their impoverished neighbors, who, without a hint of resentment, stuff the quality ladies full of “potaties” and tea and other hard-earned foodstuffs.

Then there’s some biz where next to Banshee Castle some rich Americans who are of Irish descent have settled in to their estate, “Alabama,” to like, distribute largesse via a true Rich White Person Novel Scheme. Basically they’ve bought some godforsaken windblown island and built a town from scratch there, in order to terrorize their transplanted tenants to the tune of “we’ll rent you fishing boats and whatever at a good rate so you can live in not-as-abject poverty, but if you get drunk, carouse, or act in any way not like Worthy Poor, we’ll kick you off the island.” Patricia, who is the most affected by this move to the obscure country, makes sure to fall in love with the young man of the family with the quickness, of course.

Oh, I should note that after Patricia returns from Alabama to relate all this, the sisters have the following exchange:

“Have they a banjo?” asked Fin. “Americans always play the banjo, don’t they?”

“You don’t suppose they are niggers,” said Dympna.

“How can I tell? I haven’t seen them yet,” said Finola. “There are lots of free negroes now, going about the world, are there not, Granny?”

Dympna is the novel’s sweetheart Mary Sue, by the way. Such a nice girl, don’t you think?

Well. As all this is happening, Finola just does her thing, being an Extra Young Sister in the fashion of Margaret Dashwood, and Dympna, the middle child, tries to get her rotten poetry published in awful magazines of the day. As I mentioned, Dympna is more or less the focus of the novel; Ms. Mullholland clearly loves her best, and lavishes upon her writerly schemes, romantic nations, and “lively” personality. Dympna like… I dunno, dresses as a maid to fool some guests, ha ha, and gets to make herself a studio out of the perhaps-haunted tower where some former Lady Tyrconnell whose tragic tale I have already forgotten once also painted and wrote awful poetry. (The locals believe she still walks these moors, etc.)

The novel finally takes a turn for the slightly more interesting when it turns out that the actual Lord Tyrconnell, the Girls’ brother Hugh, has been found in America, and is coming to Banshee Castle to meet them. Some things about him are mysterious, of course. Anyways, he arrives, and is handsome and kind, and lives with them for months. He particularly enjoys Dympna’s company, not at all creepily, and spends hours with her in her tower, listening to her read her wretched poems and compose terrible stories based on the locals’ folk tales.

But when Christmastime comes, Hugh decides to put on a play, and invites over the Americans. Mansfield Park-style, it is a play that actually represents the characters’ relationships, and he plays some sort of mysterious stranger who claims to be someone he is not, for Reasons. Dympna is appalled by this element, and tells Hugh she could never forgive someone who pretended to be someone he wasn’t, for any reason, so of course that is what is actually happening. As revealed dramatically later in the novel, Hugh turns out to be not their brother at all, but their distant cousin who pretended to be their brother because of Reasons that make little sense except inside of novels like this.

He has also fallen in love with Dympna, and before leaving in disgrace, asks the 16 year old girl to be his wife:

Dympna sobbed and sobbed, and shook her head.

“What is the good of loving me when you are not my brother any longer?” she said. “Why need you have told? We could have gone on being happy. If our brother is dead, and you took our brother’s place, why need you have ever undeceived us?”

“Things could not have continued so for ever, Dympna, even if there had never been anything wrong in the deception.’

“Why; if it is true that you loved us?”

“Because I have been hoping for some time past that you would one day consent to be my wife,” said Hugh.

“Wife!” echoed Dympna with a start, and looking up with a bewildered glance in his face. “Have I not often told you that I should never marry, that I would always stick to my brother Hugh. And now I no longer have a brother.”

She declines, rather understandably creeped out, as apparently for months now he’s been hanging in her room with her, letching on her whilst pretending to be her loving brother. She and the rest of the family turn him out for being a dishonest cad, and he leaves, a defeated wretch.

So yeah, she declines, but years later—after she’s matured into a woman, barf—she decides she was harsh on him for being a creep and a liar. Hugh is rich, after all, so she marries him. A happy ending for young Dympna. And all the Girls of Banshee Castle, who deserve it, I’m sure. THE END!

Woof! So yeah, this book was incredibly idiotic. The worst part was how these girls were presented as worthy poor, helped to greatness by worthy poorer, but really they are all just loathsome creations of a mind untouched by reality. They  just demand butter and folktales of working class people who live in peat huts and can’t read and whatever, and go back to their nice house and lament their poverty while taking it in stride, putting on a brave face, whatever. Never do they  feel the need to work beyond painting and possibly light gardening, so others provide for them. Ughhhh.

Sorry, Laura. Your Christmas present kind of sucked.

Years ago at this point, Jesse Bullington and I co-wrote a column called Films of High Adventure that ran on a semi-regular basis. For those of you who never read it, but are for some reason reading now, the deal was basically this: I never really watched most of the big-budget cheesy fantasy/action/scifi/whatever movies that came out back when I was a wee Tanz, only developing a love of such things in later life. Jesse, who’s watched like every movie ever, plus used to manage a video store, made suggestions and watched them along with me. Then we’d write up some Stalter and Waldorf-style commentary.  Anyways, we had to drop the column due to being pretty busy, but when a friend said she wanted a “full report” on Masters of the Universe (she kindly let me borrow her DVD—see below) I figured this would be a fun way of providing her with such. Here’s our old intro:

The Film: Masters of the Universe (1987)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? A Golan-Globus production (The American Ninja Series), because of course it is. Direction by Gary Goddard, who never made another feature length movie but went on to direct numerous theme park attractions, including Star Trek: The Experience and Jurassic Park: The Ride. Written by David Odell, whose experience in writing dialogue for lifeless puppets in The Dark Crystal and The Muppet Show served him well when it came time to work with Dolph Lundgren. Shameless Star Wars rip-off soundtrack by Bill Conti. Acting, such as it is, by Dolph (chemical engineering Masters grad, Olympian at the 96’ Summer Games, and recipient of a Fullbright scholarship to study at MIT … and star of the first, fifth, and sixth Universal Soldier movies), Frank Langella (the world’s sexiest Dracula, at least until Gary Oldman came along), Meg Foster (They Live, Hera from Hercules and Xena), Billy Barty (Frequent Films of High Adventure alum; see our columns on Legend and Willow), Robert Duncan McNeill (uh, a leading role on Star Trek: Voyager? Molly adds: That… that was Tom Paris? WTF?!), James Tolkan (“hey, it’s the bald principal from Back to the Future!”), Chelsea Field (Dust Devil, The Birds II: Land’s End, and wife of Scott Bakula), and Courtney Cox (something called Cougar Town? Ouch). Aside from a bunch of extras, there are maybe five other people in the whole movie with speaking lines—one of said extras won a contest toymaker Mattel held to be featured in the film, and this lucky lad, Richard Szponder, got to play the stirring role of “Pigboy.”

Quote: “Where are your friends now? Tell me about the loneliness of good, He-Man—is it equal to the loneliness of evil?”

Alternate quote: “You mean this used to be an animal…?”

First viewing by Jesse: Right after the video release arrived at the local Uni-Mart gas station from which we rented most of our movies when I was a kid. So probably a few years after it actually came out, which would put me at maybe seven or eight years old.

First viewing by Molly: A few weeks ago. Jesse and I had wanted to do Masters of the Universe for Films of High Adventure back when we were doing the column regularly, but the local video store doesn’t have a copy. Go figure! Anywho, somehow this became a topic of conversation at StarFest, a local Denver con, whilst hanging out with Stephen Graham Jones and Carrie Vaughn, both of whom were appalled I’d never seen it before (specifically because of the Teela-thinks-meat-is-gross moment I quoted above … they know me). Carrie very generously volunteered to loan me her personal copy, much to my husband John’s extreme pleasure, so we watched it on his birthday weekend.

Most recent viewing by both: A few weeks ago

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Moderately high, but for all the wrong reasons—this turkey was the first time I remember experiencing deep, palpable disappointment from a film. I was young, stupid, and loved all things He-man, so a live-action movie couldn’t possibly let me down, could it? Turns out, it could and it did. I remember that right up until the end I kept expecting Battlecat to show up, or for Dolph to don a pink tunic and turn into Prince Adam, or even just have Teela pop her collar and/or take off her pants. Not even one maniacal Skeletor cackle? Weaaaak.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: None. I totally played with He-Man toys (still have a scar from where one pinched me badly), loved the show. Loved She-Ra too, of course. I wasn’t aware there was a feature film until I think John told me about it.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Weaaaak. I would estimate that between my first childhood viewings and the modern day, I’ve watched previous Films of High Adventure entries Conan the Barbarian, The Beastmaster, and Yor: The Hunter from the Future a dozen times each, easy. Masters of the Universe I never rewatched, not even when it came on tv—some wounds never heal. I unsuccessfully petitioned that instead of watching it, we instead screen some episodes of the (total classic) cartoon, or even just watch the ten-hour version of this:

Did Molly listen? No she did not.

Molly’s thoughts prior to watching: I was super-stoked, no lie. I … kind of love He-Man. I spent some quality time revisiting the cartoon a year or so ago, and while I had to stop watching due to how much Orko is crammed into every 22 minutes (what is up with that? NO ONE EVER LIKED ORKO), some of the earlier episodes are really quite good. “The Creeping Horak” in particular was kind of … cosmically horrible, if I may? Also: Teela! Also also: Skeletor and Evil-Lynn’s kinky, weird-ass relationship. Also also also: Skeletor and He-Man’s kinky, weird-ass relationship. Okay … so the obvious fight between those two over who is the leather-daddy and who is the leather-boy is pretty much the best thing about watching the show as an adult.

So obviously when I heard there was no Orko in the film, plus Teela was a vegetarian, kind of, and also Frank Langella was playing Skeletor, despite everyone in the world save John, Steven, and Carrie telling me the film sucked, there was no turning back.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: It’s pretty much as stinky as I remembered, though as grown-up I’m (somewhat) more able to articulate my displeasure then I was as a tot. I’m also better equipped to parse just why it’s so bad, which doesn’t really redeem the film, but does make me even more depressed about the fan-fucking-tastic He-Man movie that never was. So, yay for adulthood?

As a kid, I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t on Eternia for most of the film, where all the cool monsters were, why did the costumes suck, etc. Looking back on the project, it seems likely a one-two punch of frugality and copyright law. A movie that largely takes place on California backlots with stupid American teenagers running around is easier on the investors than a movie set on an alien planet populated by freaky creatures. Apparently for the film they secured the rights to the toyline, but not to the cartoon series, so it was probably also easier to just invent new characters and storylines then to, you know, adapt the source material that everyone loved. Like I said, understanding why it burns you like an eyeful of Skeletor’s crazyjuice doesn’t do much to mitigate the pain, but whatever.

Yet for all that, watching it with little hope of actually liking it did let me appreciate some of the subtle nuances I never appreciated as a kid. For example, Evil-Lyn, Teela, and Man-at-Arms were perfectly cast, even if there costumes were lacking. And Skeletor’s gold lamé Godmode outfit at the end does answer the age old question of, “What if the What if comic series had an issue titled “What if … Galactus Ran Studio 54?”


Frank Langella was certainly game, and contrary to the above image, kinda took Skeletor in a slightly less-campy direction. That said, I generally prefer my Skeletor like I prefer my friendly neighborhood street musicians: coked to the gills, shuddering with deranged laughter, and just plain weird. But Langella’s take on the villain has more, uh, gravitas, and points for trying, I guess. By the Sorceress’ ridiculous bird suit, did I really type that? I did. That’s what happens when you look for a silver lining on this brown cloud.

Here’s the thing: He-man, being a toyline that grew into a narrative instead of the other way around, is totally fucking insane. Everyone in the show is either howling mad or balls-dumb, and the plot follows suit. It’s just a bazonkers storyline, and it needs to be in order to provide the joy one feels when Prince Adam explains his backstory:

What kind of powers does He-man possess? Oh, that’s right, fabulous secret powers, with that allusion to the world’s dumbest origin story delivered with an animated smirk that Dolph Lundgren could only dream of pulling off. Rather than embracing the random craziness of the toyline and the cartoon, however, the filmmakers decided to make things comparatively coherent, which results in a cinematic disaster that is nowhere near as campy as it needs to be. Which is saying something, considering that camp is about all that the movie has going for it. Alas, I say, alas and alack.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Everyone lies! Well, everyone except my husband, Stephen Graham Jones, and Carrie Vaughn, I guess. Masters of the Universe is totally good. It’s as if Warlock and Beastmaster had a moviekid, and that kid was a Mattel tie-in film ripping off Star Wars. What’s not to like about that?

I mean, there is certainly enough about MotU to incur frequent skeptical head-tilts, especially in re: the plot, the quizzical lack of Prince Adam, Battle Cat, or SNNNNAKE MOUNTAIN! (sorry, but you gotta always scream it like Skeletor), the whole conceit that 80s teenagers would assume any old piece of equipment with lights on it was a “Japanese synthesizer,” the ending, Billy Barty playing an Orko substitute somehow just as annoying as Orko … but I dunno. Even with all that, it was awesome. Sure, the writing is leaden, Dolph is terrible, and it makes no sense overall, but it’s great in a super-80s kind of way. I mean, come on! That scene where Teela shoots stuff and turns around, grinning like it’s Christmas on Eternia and she just got a new jumpsuit, saying “Woman at arms!”? Has there ever been a fluffier “Take that, patriarchy!” moment in 80s cinema? I challenge you to think of one.

Additionally, while they abandoned most if not all of the stuff I love about He-Man (what can I say, I can’t get enough of that one recycled animation of He-Man throwing a big rock at stuff, and there is ZERO big-rock-throwing action in MotU!), they kept the central weirdness of the love triangle between Evil-Lyn, He-Man, and Skeletor, and they should be commended for that. I mean, even calling it a love triangle is too simple. While Wikipedia, source of all unbiased knowledge, lists Evil-Lyn as Skeletor’s “significant other” there is so much more to those two than that, right? They’re certainly a couple, but more of a “She makes him tea and listens to his feelings and also on slow Saturday nights she lets him read her his bromance fanfics about how on “Alternate Eternia,” Skeletor and He-Man are on the same side and also sometimes are girls and sometimes they also invite over Prince Adam, that goody two-shoes, to have adventures” kind of couple than … anything else. AND FOR ONCE THIS ISN’T JUST ME, OKAY? The movie pretty much proves it, right? I mean, what exactly are Evil-Lyn and Skeletor doing in that scene where he’s staring at her while she kneels in front of him? Furthermore, why else would He-Man shout at Skeletor that it’s always been about the two of them, while getting laser-whipped, or whatever? Uh huh.

Totally. Good.

High Points: That one moment when Skeletor is being weird to Evil-Lyn, staring right in her eyes but not making out with her; when Dolph finally belts out I HAVE THE POWER whilst getting whipped by a laser-whip, much to Skeletor’s obvious titillation … when the cop stays in Eternia because duh, and also, pretty much everything. (So sez Molly: Jesse will save his points for the next section)

Low points: Billy Barty as not-Orko, being goddamn Orko. The whole “instead of making a He-man movie, why don’t we just make another bland, broke-ass ‘warriors from another time and place comes to earth’ picture” thing. Everyone except Dolph wearing entirely too many pants.

Final Verdict: Molly gives it two thumbs up. Jesse remains solidly a Skeletor-sized “hater.”

Next Time: Only the gods know…

I continue to be overwhelmed and amazed by the enjoyment people are getting out of my humble work(s) of fiction about incestuous flaky fops. As of now, A Pretty Mouth still has a five-star rating on Amazon, I’m gearing up to do a Q&A in February over at The Next Best Book Blog (which should soo be putting up my recipe for an Infernal!, my Calipash Twins-themed cocktail), and just a day or so I noticed that A Pretty Mouth had made a best-of list—to be specific, Black Heart Magazine’s Best of 2012.

Gabino Iglesias, their poetry editor, was kind enough to say about my book:

Fun, unique, sexy, Lovecratian literature of the highest caliber. I wanted to paint my walls with some of the lines in this book. It’s simultaneously classic and new and the prose is undeniably authoritative. This is the kind of book that weak writers read and decide to stop writing because they’ll never be this damn good.

Wowza. Seriously. And the fact that I’m on the list with Stephen Graham Jones, Tom Piccirilli, and several other amazing writers makes my inclusion even more pleasing. Pleasing being an understatement. See, that’s the kind of “undeniably authoritative” prose that gets me this kind of praise!

Thanks again, Mr. Iglesias! And if you, dear reader, would like to own your very own copy of A Pretty Mouth, well… 

Next Page »