Archive for October, 2014

Happy Halloween, everyone! The big day is finally here. I hope you have an awesome, safe holiday with lots of treats and only fun tricks.

And now to finish our list!

17. Check all the Halloween Google doodles…ever.

18. Throw together an awesome last-minute costume.

19. Listen to some spooky podcasts! Like Pseudopod.

20. Or Welcome to Night Vale.

21. Or Thrilling Adventure Hour. (For Halloween, I recommend Beyond Belief.)

22. Read some terrifying poetry.

23. Try your hand at Exquisite Corpse verse.

24. Or art.

25. Speaking of art, browse some surrealism.

26. Get in touch with your inner hipster and carve something other than pumpkins. (Because they’re so mainstream.)

27. Watch all of George A. Romero’s Dead movies. (I did yesterday.)

28. Write your own scary stories.

29. Do the Monster Mash!

30. And the Time Warp!

31. Again!

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If you know me even a little bit–probably even if you don’t–you understand that Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. Halloween is my Christmas, my New Year’s Eve, and my Fourth of July all rolled into one. Halloween for me isn’t a daylong event. A week barely suffices. Really, Halloween encompasses the entirety of October and the first week of November.

So, in honor of my favorite holiday, have 31 ways to celebrate this wonderfully spooky time of year.

Well, 16 ways. Look for the next 15 on Thursday!

1. Watch classic b&w horror movies!

2. Dive into some scary stories.

3. Creep yourself out with the Slender Man Game.

4. Find a haunted hayride.

5. Brush up on your urban legends.

6. Carve up a pumpkin with a sweet design.

7. Tune in to some spooky jams.

8. Channel your inner mixologist.

9. Check out Geek and Sundry’s Halloweek programming.

10. Participate in All Hallow’s Read. It’s the most fun if you exchange books with a friend, but also consider sharing an age-appropriate spooky book with the kids in your life. Better than candy–whether they know it or not.

11. Play a horror-themed board game with your dearest victims friends.

12. Or maybe just play Werewolf and add some rad sound effects.

13. Make your own candy. (Best for parties — don’t upset your neighbors.)

14. Get decorating!

15. Weird yourself out with some true crime.

16. Revisit The Twilight Zone.

Happy Halloweek, everyone!

Zombie walks and movies and books and TV series may be getting old (okay, not for me but maybe for you?). But there’s still nothing quite like a good zombie game.

Project: Zpocalypse: Survival Reanimated

End Date: November 25, 10:00pm EDT.

Rewards: Digital copies for Mac, PC, and Linux; exclusive backgrounds and early access; naming, designing,  and modeling for characters in the game; digital comic book and soundtrack; t-shirts, posters, and the game’s artbook; other games made by Greenbrier Games; and lots more!

Current Goal: $3500

Current Number of Backers: 118

Current Pledges: $5824

Why they deserve your support: They have an awesome plethora of awards–each level has something fun and different on offer. It’s also really nice to see a zombie game that focuses on tactics and group dynamics rather than just splatter. Bonus for awesome-looking environments and custom character creation. And not to mention some great stretch goals if they exceed the original $3500.

Did I give: $1 as promised!

Today’s review is of The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard, out September 30.

Please note that The Brothers Cabal is the fourth of Howard’s Johannes Cabal series. To begin at the beginning (as you should), start with Johannes Cabal the Necromancer.

And as always, reviews have spoilers.

Confession: I adore the Johannes Cabal books. If you’re looking for any sort of objectivity in your book reviews, you’re not going to find that here. I like to think my opinion is totally warranted, but I frankly don’t care. These are just my kind of books.

The Brothers Cabal picks up where The Fear Institute left off: Johannes, after his adventures against Nyarlathotep and time as a ghoul, finds himself on the brink of death just outside his garden gate. A strong and mysterious stranger picks him up, takes him into the house, and begins to care for him. The book closes with Johannes’ recognition of the figure and the line: “But . . . you’re dead . . .”

Which prompted a lot of all-caps texting and tweeting amongst my Cabal-reading buddies. There was only one person who could possibly have rescued Johannes and that was Horst, his brother-turned-vampire-turned-pile-of-dust who we haven’t seen since his demise in book one. And Horst it certainly is.

The Brothers Cabal, happily, answers nearly all of our Horst-related questions, while naturally raising a whole host of new ones in their stead. A diabolical secret society–in cahoots with an unknown entity called the Red Queen–has raised Horst from his post-undeath death with the intention of making him their Lord of the Dead, one of four supernatural generals to lead their army of horrors against the human world. We learn of Horst’s adventures through his narration to Johannes, who is still weak and in bed at the beginning of the novel. The newly-risen Horst must navigate a remote, central European castle full of zombies, were-creatures of all types, spies, and enterprising businessmen. Eventually, he falls in with the Dee Society on the side of humanity and convinces Johannes to join their cause.

The Brothers Cabal possesses the irresistible charm of the previous Cabal books, which is to say: these books are fun. Sure, there are unspeakable horrors and Elder Gods and evil carnivals and terrible deals with the devil. But Howard relates everything with a razor sharp wit that makes even the most gruesome aspects of Cabal’s adventures entertaining as hell. It doesn’t hurt that Johannes is such a fantastic character to begin with–coldly logical and of utterly dubious morals, but inflicted with a soul and an anything-but-cold mission. One of the pleasures of The Brothers Cabal is following Horst as he learns of his brother’s most recent dealings–in particular that Johannes has saved the world not once but twice since Horst’s death.

Of course, the reader has witnessed all of Johannes adventures and his reaction to Horst’s death in the first book. It surprises us not at all that Johannes so readily agrees to help Horst and his new allies. He will never be a warm and fuzzy kind of protagonist, but that’s ultimately what makes Johannes such a wonderful antihero. His rediscovery of his very inconvenient humanity is often as poignant as it is hilarious.

Meanwhile, Horst struggles to maintain his own humanity. He does internal battle with the insidious little voice of his vampirism, which bids him to drink at his leisure and cares little for the sanctity of life. While many of these exchanges are laugh-out-loud funny, we also understand the very real threat to Horst’s integrity.

Nor is The Brothers Cabal lacking in action. We have the usual zombies and vampires, but there’s also everything from a were-badger to a gigantic other-dimensional Daddy Longlegs and evil acidic amoebas. Other than the Dee Society, Horst befriends a flying circus of lady entomopter pilots. The battles are lively and suspenseful without being too drawn out or overly cinematic.

If the novel falters at all, it may be in the mystery of the Red Queen and her intentions. The book ends on a chilling cliffhanger, but we understand little of what might happen. I believe this has more to do with the book’s placement in the series than any failure of its plot or execution. By book four, it’s hard for any story to feel like a standalone adventure. Also, I would definitely suggest rereading the first three if it’s been a while.

Regardless, The Brothers Cabal is a highly entertaining continuation of the series, and I can’t wait to read more.

8/10

It’s three for the price of one, today!

First, Space Janitors is back with Season 3:

 

 

Next, Ignacio F. Rodó’s very short film “Tuck Me In,” which is simply and beautifully scary:

 

 

And this slightly longer short film, “Yardbird” from Bridle Path Films:

Fall is upon us, friends! Which means the dreary television wasteland of July and August has passed. Here’s a small roundup of six of this fall’s speculative offerings on the small screen. (Goes without saying: some spoilers below.)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Definitely still on the upswing from last season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has recovered admirably from its initial inertia to give us the engaging, action-packed story of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attempt to resurrect itself in the wake of last season’s events. It shouldn’t surprise us either that our characters have become more complicated and tragic in the intervening months. But the classic Whedon-esque humor persists. I’m especially digging B.J. Britt’s continued presence as Agent Triplett and the addition of Henry Simmons as Mac. Dramatically, Clark Gregg continues to impress as Agent Coulson and Iain De Caestecker has been delivering some major chills as the mostly-recovered-but-still-pretty-damaged Fitz. By the way, FitzSimmons4life.

The Flash: Set in the Arrow universe (guess who makes a cameo at the end of episode one), The Flash seeks to give the CW Muppet Babies treatment to another one of our beloved Justice League heroes. They’ve certainly got the formula down: unrequited love affair, baddie created at the same time, gaggle of geek types to work support. As a result, what should be exciting and fun (I mean, it’s the Flash), ends up being pretty stale within the first 45 minutes.

The Walking Dead: Sweet Zombie Jesus, what a season premiere! Carol could spend the rest of the season at a spa and still win the show’s biggest badass award. I’m also a big fan of near-sociopathic Rick and dual-lightsaber Michonne. But seriously, it’s really exciting to see this show have some momentum. The last two seasons have shown vast improvements, but I think this year is going to leave them all behind. After all, they’ve finally answered the question of “is there any sanctuary?” will a resounding NO and an explosion. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to group as they venture north. Alas, there are so many of them now that you know somebody’s going to have die soon…

American Horror Story: I’m never sure what to think or feel about AHS and Freak Show is certainly no exception. This is a show that continually trips over itself in concerted efforts to one-up the previous seasons. As a result, previous seasons have hosted completely bonkers plots (see: aliens in Asylum) or see their narratives falter and fall apart completely (Coven). Freak Show at least seems to be looking for some cohesive storytelling and obviously the setting of a freak show is incredibly rich. But I’d like to see a season that didn’t begin with some sort of sexual assault. What they do have going for them? Jyote Amge as Ma Petite.

Gotham: Many of my feelings regarding The Flash also apply to Gotham. Maybe it’s because Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight deals so comprehensively with sinister, gritty Gotham. Maybe it’s because there are so many other superhero shows out there. Maybe I’m just tired of origin stories. (How about a superhero show dealing with the characters 10-20 years after their prime?) Thus far, Gotham just feels like a less interesting rehash of everything we’ve seen before in the Batman universe–without Batman and somehow still about Batman. I mean, even Carol Kane couldn’t make me like this.

Sleepy Hollow: I have to say, I was skeptical of Sleepy Hollow at the start. I thought it would completely tank like Grimm or descend into utter ridiculousness like Once Upon a Time. Which isn’t to say that Sleepy Hollow isn’t often silly. They love them some naked Ben Franklin. They play the “man out of time” jokes hard with Ichabod. But these are the marks of a show having fun with its casts and concepts and the mythos of American history. Season 2 is definitely off to a promising beginning. The first episode played a somewhat expected alternate reality plot twist. The weird connections between the horsemen of the apocalypse and Ichabod’s family persist. But whatever plot kinks there are tend not to bother me because this show rises and sets on Nicole Beharie. Abbie is the source of the show’s greatest pathos. She’s also a helluva heroine and tough customer, with believable personal, non-dude-related issues. Which is all to good, because Abbie is contemporary America. Ichabod may be our idealistic, storied past, but Abbie is our present and future. And we’re rooting for her to win.

October is here and with it the complete awesomeness that is Halloween. Have a spooky Kickstarter to get things started kick things off right ring in my favorite month and season!

Project: Halloween Haiku II and Other Hauntings

End Date: October 14, 12:59pm EST.

Prizes: E-books, print copies, back copies, and gratitude.

Current Goal: $31

Current Number of Backers: 51

Current Pledges: $356

Why they deserve your support: Because they love Halloween (like me), do an anthology every year, are committed to doing it (hence the low goal), and pay their writers (by the way, you can submit!). Sometimes it’s nice to back a fun, simple project with a straightforward outcome. And who’s going to say no to $1 e-books?

Did I give: From here on out, I’ll be giving a $1 minimum pledge to each of the featured Kickstarters. Looking forward to my e-copy of Halloween Haiku II and other hauntings.