Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Quick and dirty monsters

I heard once that science fiction is basically just horror with an engineering degree.  I don't completely agree with that, but I'll definitely agree that components of horror can play invaluable roles in SF.  The whole point of genre fiction, after all, is to provoke an emotional response in the reader, and fear is a powerful emotional response.

The great thing about SF is that we can invent all sorts of cool monsters.  One way to do that is to take an ordinary creature or object from Earth and make it a lot bigger and more malevolent.  For example, consider this little cutie:

Aww...  Adorable, right?  Now let's make him bigger and meaner:

Yikes!  Same critter, basically.  Both are excellent predators.  But one is cute, and the other will eat you.

The problem with big cats is that, while dangerous, they're also kind of ordinary.  They usually don't make for good villains, though there are some rare cases.

So it's better to go with something extraordinary... something with which most people aren't familiar.  Like single-celled organisms.  Imagine this creepy white slime-mold stuff:

...but on a much larger scale.  That's basically the plot of The Blob, by the way.  The blob was just a large amoeba that had an appetite for man-flesh.  And it was pretty horrifying, too.  When I saw that movie, it scared the crap out of me.  I was just a kid at the time, so maybe I'd have a different reaction seeing it as an adult, but still...

Here's a real-life amoeba feeding on a couple of doomed single-celled organisms.  Watch the poor victims thrash with pain and terror, and imagine they're humans:

The cool thing about protists is that there are all kinds of different types.  You can mix and match their characteristics and come up with something completely new.  You could start here, for example, and let your imagination run wild with the possibilities.

Now, taking small things and embiggening them is hardly a new idea.  In fact, the B movies of the 1950's were full of such monsters.  And they were often cheesy as hell.  But that's a flaw of execution, not principle.  The special effects simply weren't there to do it right, and the scripts and acting were often sub-par.  Compare the giant spider of Tarantula with the one from Return of the King:

Big difference, right?  A giant spider doesn't have to be cheesy or campy.  It's all in the execution.

So there you go.  Quick and dirty monsters.  Take the strange, and make it big and bad.  And then twirl the tip of your mustache and laugh evilly, because that's what good monster-makers do.  :D

Thursday, May 18, 2017

One last black day

Chris Cornell, front man for Soundgarden and Audioslave, died last night.  He was 52.

I remember being in college and seeing the Black Hole Sun video on television and thinking it was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen.  Disturbing, actually.  And I still think that.  But there's no denying the appeal of the music.  The Superunknown album--and the bulk of grunge music, to be honest--was dark and depressing and full of angst at a Baby Boomer world that hadn't left much room for Generation X.  And that was why we liked it.  It struck a chord in our souls that the rock and metal music of the 1980's did not.  I didn't appreciate it at the time, but as the years have gone on, it's grown on me.

Cornell's voice was fantastic and distinctive, one of the best in rock history.  He was the first male American to do a James Bond theme song.  His cover of Billie Jean is haunting and completely non-pop, making it very different from the source material.

Here's Chris Jericho discussing his death:

Cornell had long suffered from depression and substance abuse, and it's a shame his demons finally got the best of him.  But we still have the music.

R.I.P., Mr. Cornell.  :(

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day any mothers who might be reading.

KFC is getting in on the celebration, too.  They've published a romance novella featuring Colonel Sanders.  It's called--and this is not a joke--Tender Wings of Desire:

Go to the Amazon site and read the reviews.  They're priceless.  An excerpt:

I have already gifted this to myself, pulling up to the Amazon drive thru and hurling it through cyberspace to my Kindle. Having begun to dig into this bucket of love, my breasts are already heaving at the tender way the words just fall off the bone of this manuscript.


One has to wonder, though, if the romance genre was really the best way to go.  I mean, mothers read a variety of things, not just romance, so why not publish, say, a mystery?  Perhaps Colonel Sanders is a hard-boiled private detective working the mean streets of North Corbin, Kentucky.  By day, he's a chicken seller, but by night, he's a lone crusader, a pursuer of justice for those who have no other recourse.  Instead of a gun, he carries a pair of trusty drumsticks with which he batters (heh) his enemies.

Or maybe science fiction would be better.  Colonel Sanders is a starship captain in the Extra Crispy Navy.  He's also a cyborg, a creation of KFC Labs, made for one purpose: to defend the Chicken Republic from the invading hordes of the Beef Empire.  There can be no coexistence, for Emperor Burger is determined to eliminate the consumption of chicken from the galaxy.

How about fantasy: Harland Sanders is an amateur wizard.  One day, he gets a call to adventure: a more experienced wizard has offered him a deal.  Harland agrees to use his most powerful spell--The Secret Recipe--in exchange for access to the wizard's customer base.  Together, they work their magic in a wondrous land called Utah, hoping to demonstrate that a chicken restaurant can in fact bring joy and peace to the world, in addition to being financially viable, so long as one has the eleven herbs and spices in the proper proportions.

Anyway, just a few thoughts.  KFC writers, get to it!  :D

And Happy Mother's Day to mothers everywhere.  :)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


I've got an insect bite on my finger.  Happened Monday.  It itches like crazy, and the area is swollen and red.  I think it was just an ant, but I don't know.  Whatever it was, I've been applying ice to it, which means I haven't been writing or editing or anything because I can't do that stuff with an ice bag on my hand.  This short blog post is about the extent of my capabilities right now.  So that's where I'm at.

In the meantime, here's the awesome and admirable Bob Ross and his happy little trees: