Numfar, do the dance of grief.

Sad news: Andy Hallet, Lorne the green karaoke demon from Angel, has died from heart disease. He was 33.

I didn’t know him except through his work, but his work was so wonderful that I find myself missing him. He was incredibly talented, and by all accounts a very sweet guy.

For years, whenever I heard “Its Not Easy Being Green” I felt a touch of melancholy because it made me think of the loss of Jim Henson. Now it will be doubly sad.

The Sting of The Scorpion: A Book Review

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I had my eye on this book on Amazon for ages before I decided to take a chance on it. I’m a bit skittish, having bought small press and self-published books before that turned out to be utter crap…heck, I recently bought a very popular YA adventure novel by a writer whose books sell millions of copies and it was one of the worst written tomes I’ve cracked open in years.

So, yeah. Skittish.

But I finally bought Warren Stockholm’s The Sting of The Scorpion, allegedly the first issue of Scorpion Magazine, though this was published in 2006 and there’s still no sign of a second issue. But things happen, and it is the product of a small press.

The Scorpion is a pulp hero in the tradition of The Shadow, but even more in the tradition of The Spider (both of whom I wrote about here). He’s dark and deadly and armed and dangerous, clad in a black-veiled fedora and a black leather trench coat, brutally taking the fight to the criminals that plague his city, Steeltown.

While the hero is fashioned from a very readily recognizable pulp archetype, Stockholm does some interesting things with The Scorpion and the world he inhabits.

For one thing, the tale takes place in an alternate history in which Germany won the second world war and occupied America for sixty years. America has only recently booted their wretched asses out and is rebuilding itself. The milieu is an intriguing amalgam of the thirties and the late twentieth century, as if the culture sort of froze in place under Nazi rule, but technology moved forward.

As for the hero, in classic pulp fashion, The Scorpion by day is a wealthy paragon, living in the tallest building in the city, assisted by a mysterious Asian woman, dedicated to his mission against evil…but he’s not just a hero with a dark past, he’s a hero with a really dark past. And he’s not really human, in some very interesting and dangerous ways. Richard Wentworth dressed as The Spider to scare criminals into thinking he was a monster; Kurt Reinhardt becomes The Scorpion because he is a monster.

Reinhardt is a compelling protagonist, the action frequent and brutal, the city a violent and noirish place, and the plot interesting. Not only that, but Stockholm can actually write very well (though this is possibly the worst copy-edited book I’ve ever read all the way through). I do have to warn readers of delicate tastes away, however, because this is a very grim and blood-splashed work.

I enjoyed the hell out of this story. I wish there was a Scorpion Magazine #2, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Unlike some other attempts at modern pulp I’ve read (or tried to read), this one’s going on the shelf with my Doc Savages, Shadows, and, of course, that other arachnid, The Spider.

The New Telepathy of Social Networking

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In his excellent book On Writing, Stephen King sets out to define “What Writing Is.” His answer?

Telepathy.

It’s a mode of transmitting thoughts from one brain to another, through space, through time. As King writes in Maine in 1997:

We’ll have to perform our mentalist routine not just over distance but over time as well, yet that presents no real problem; if we can still read Dickens, Shakespeare, and (with the help of a footnote or two) Herodotus, I think we can manage the gap between 1997 and 2000.

As well as the gap between Georgia and Maine, as I read those words now, and 1997 and 2009. And whatever spacetime gap there is between him, there in 1997, me here in 2009, and you where and when you’re reading this now. We’ve got a telepathic chain goin’ on. That’s pretty wonderful.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I’ve tried to grok the whole social networking thing. I was one of the cynics, originally, proud and determined not to get caught up in MySpace or Facebook or Twitter, not to hoard countless “friends” I didn’t know like I might collect marbles, not to sublimate my social life (such as it is) to the virtual gulfs of skinless cyberspace. Continue reading

Catching Up With Dollhouse

eliza1Earlier, I was pretty hard on Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse, which airs on Fox, the network too stupid to make Firefly a hit.

My basic problem with the show was that, while it had a great premise with huge potential, the active structure of the show shoved the things that were interesting about it into the corners and filled the space with bland stories that had little permanent importance to the history the show was building. In other words, the intriguing people running the dolls, and the intriguing things starting to happen to the dolls (especially Echo), were serving as a framing device for stories that were a hell of a lot less interesting.

I wasn’t alone in my response. Many other Whedon fans (and I am, very very much, a Whedon fan) were finding themselves really not liking a show they’re preconditioned to root for. The ratings started weakly, and dropped. Messages came forth from Whedon headquarters, implying that Fox had been too heavy-handed and interfering at first (easy to believe, all things considered), but had loosened up after a while and allowed Joss and his team to start doing things the way they really wanted to.

Give us till the sixth episode, they pleaded. It’ll start to get good.

Well, the sixth and seventh episodes have aired at this point. Major things happened, game-changers. Echo went off-task a few times, which seems to be her hobby. The banal storylines that were unrelated to the main story arc went away, and the stories that replaced them had significant impact on the characters and the arc.

Know what? It’s getting good. It’s getting real good. It’s not quite Joss good, just yet, but I do see that coming, and I’m now enjoying the journey.

Unfortunately, the show probably won’t get to explore its full potential. It is on Fox, where shit thrives and great shows die young, and the slow crawl out the gate and low ratings won’t help. I read that Fox is committed to showing the full thirteen episode season, then won’t rerun the show during the summer. I’m thinking that also means they won’t be picking it up for the next season.

That’s a shame, as I think it has the makings of a great show. But at least we’ll have the thirteen episode story arc to enjoy…or the latter half of it, at least, since the first half kinda blew. And Joss can move on to other things, and those things will hopefully be Joss good. Maybe someday we’ll get to enjoy one of his creations for a bunch of years again. But it probably won’t be on Fox.

Optimism, Action, and How To Be The Neighborhood Pulp Hero

You never know where you’re going to find a nugget of crystalline wisdom, something that gives you pause because of its brightness and clarity, that makes you think about how you’re living your life, and how you should be living it.

I found one of these nuggets recently. The unlikely place I found it? Continue reading

Let The Right Subs In, aka Power to the People

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Last week, I watched the Swedish independent horror film Let The Right One In. It’s an unusually smart little film, particularly for the horror genre these days, and it’s probably the best vampire film I’ve seen since Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993). Or maybe Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987). Its approach to horror is to come at us through character rather than through gore or trickery (which is not to say it doesn’t have some of those too), and in ways it reminds me of the works of Val Lewton in the 1940s.

I recommend it highly. But that’s not the point of this entry.

No, the point of it is, turns out I was fortunate to see the movie on the original Swedish screener DVD. The US release of the film on DVD/Blu-Ray last week turns out to have been something even more scary than the movie itself: a dumbed down version of the movie itself. Continue reading