Ever hear of Jeff LeRoy? He’s one of my favourite film makers – auteur of Rat Scratch Fever, Werewolf in a Women’s Prison, Dracula in a Woman’s Prison, Creepies, Predator World and many more. And he’s actually a nice guy.
I first came across LeRoy when I was watching Creepies. It’s a sub-B movie about a giant spider. I say sub-B, it was obviously shot on a nothing budget, amateur actors, amateur effects, but for all the sub par trashiness, it was fun.
There’s a scene where the giant spider is tumbling down the Hollywood Hills past the sign. And I had this strange moment of dissonance. The spider was pretty tosh, pretty much a stuffed doll. The scale model of the Hollywood Hills was really good, realistic enough that it sold me, and for a second, I had the weird impression that someone was throwing a two hundred foot stuffed doll down the real Hollywood Hills for the shot. It was just a second’s flash. I’m not foolish.
But it brought home to me just how complicated movies are, how absolutely many moving parts there are to it, there are literally thousands of components, and you have to get every single one right. There’s so much to do, and it’s the stuff you miss out on that calls attention to itself. The audience can be very unforgiving.
But I was impressed by this one thing. The movie clearly wasn’t expensive, but it managed to do some things cleverly. So I found Jeff on Youtube, complimented him, and he sent me another couple of his films – including Werewolf in a Woman’s Prison, filled with gore, nudity, a near ludicrous plot, and an over the top sense of fun.
I loved it. And of course, in a movie filled with gratuitious gore and nudity, I listened to the Directors commentary, because that’s the kind of nerd I am. He said something that really hit me.
He said that what’s important about a film, whether it’s made for Five Thousand, or Five Hundred Million, is that it needs to make you want to keep watching every moment, it has to be interesting, it has to be entertaining.
If you’re looking at your watch, checking your texts, or just reciting the dialogue before the actor says it… it’s not a good film, even if it cost a billion dollars.
As a rule, I try not to get too political on this blog. I like to talk about writing and life. Politics is messy and bitter.
Having said that, I just can’t look away from the Minneapolis fiasco, and as a basic human being I can’t help but be outraged.
I know this post may be read long after, so let me start with a recap.
On Monday, May 25, 2020, Memorial day in the United States, a deli in the Powderhorn district of Minneapolis, reported to police that a middle aged black man was attempting to pay with a forged twenty dollar bill. Four police officers converged on the scene and apprehended a man, Floyd George, who was in his car who apparently fit the description. There were two other persons in the car. It is not clear whether George was the actual person or simply fit the description. I assume that will be clarified at some point.
George was ordered out of the car, and apparently reluctant to do so. However, he exited or was removed from the vehicle and handcuffed with his hands behind his back. At some point, he fell down. From this point on, he was laying down, on his stomach, hands cuffed behind his back, with three officers on him. One officer was on his legs, another on his back, and the third, Officer Derek Chauvin, knelt with his knee on George’s neck, for roughly seven to ten minutes. The fourth officer maintained control of the scene, keeping bystanders away.
On several occasions, George complained that he couldn’t breath, claimed discomfort, and asked for help. He begged not to be killed and cried out for his mother. There was a strange conversation, where one of the officers who was physically holding George in place kept instructing him to ‘get in the car’ despite the fact that George was physically immobilized by three officers, including the one kneeling on his neck.
After begging for his life and calling for his mother he fell silent. A number of bystanders complained that the officers were killing George, there were demands or requests to check his pulse. An ambulance was called, by the time it arrived he was dead. The body was moved onto an ambulance gurney and carried away, with no apparent resuscitation efforts made on site at any point by either the officers or ambulance attendants. The officers then departed the scene in their respective patrol cars.
How to start this? Five River’s Publishing is a Canadian small press operating out of Neustadt, Ontario. Over the years, they’ve published both literary and genre fiction, young adult fiction, anthologies and short stories, non-fiction, ebooks, print and audio books.
Among their publications are the audio book versions of a number of David Duncan books, and authors including Candas Jane Dorsey, Aaron Kite, Michael Skeet, Nowick Gray, Nate Hendley, Joe Mahoney, Timothy Gwynn, D.G Laderoute, Ann Marston and others, and of course, Lorina Stephens, the owner and publisher herself. Many of their books were award winners, shortlisters or finalists in various book competitions. They distinguished themselves not just by the quality of their writers, but by the high standards of their production and the sheer professionalism with which they conducted business.
They were the publishers of my novel, The Mermaid’s Tale, and were due to publish my next novel, the prequel to the Mermaid’s Tale, titled The Luck, as of August 1, 2020. Just a couple of months away.
And now they are no more.
The Rise of Fascism in Ecuador, in the 1930’s
The thing you have to understand about fascism is that it isn’t an ideology at all.
It’s all about dressing up and marching around and shouting in unison. It’s about being mad as hell and not taking it, whatever it is, any more. It’s about right and wrong, traditional virtues, manly men, womenly women, nervous but alluring sheep. It’s simple solutions to a complicated world, the innate superiority of tribe and fixing the world with a sock to the jaw of some craven jew/marxist/indian/etc. etc.
Fascist ideology is almost always a contradiction in terms. What a fascist believes, what a fascist does is self serving and fluid, fitting the needs of the moment.
There is no real theory. Theory is for eggheads sitting in their ivory towers, contemplating the world, passively studying and forming theories.
Well, while the eggheads sat there and studied, the Fascists were about action. They would go out and act, and let the eggheads study that. And while the eggheads studied, they would act again.
Fascism was not about thinking, it was about acting. It was not about reflection or ideology or theory, it was about passion.
It was all nonsense, of course. But Fascism had the advantage of looking good with all its shouting and bluster and appeals to blood and virtue.
It was my grandfather’s death that made me commit to being a writer.
I always wanted to be a writer. That didn’t mean I was all that regular about it.
Let’s see. There was Batman adventures on the blackboard when I was young. I had my two stories published in the local paper when I was thirteen.
I wrote a couple of short stories in high school. One about aliens coming into the Solar System, discovering that it was already occupied, and not having enough resources to leave. So they were basically parked out in the asteroid belt with no place to go, waiting for us to eventually find them, and not looking forward to it. There was another story about a society of sentient elephants who had banded together to try and escape a failing environment, only to discover that they were living in a giant experiment.
There were a lot of stories in my head, planned, sometimes outlined, sometimes started. Sometimes just rolling around in my head. I spent a lot of time in my head. I’d make up stories, when I was picking up garbage at the drive in theatre prior to showtime, or pumping gas or sweeping floors at the garage.
I’ve been meaning to write about Lovecraft and his racism. I think that maybe there are interesting things to say about that subject.
But instead, what set this off was Isaac Asimov. I think if you’re an average lay person, you’ll probably go ‘Who?’
But if you’re a science fiction nerd, he’s practically god. Born in 1920, Asimov was a biochemist, eventually a professor of biochemistry. Selling his first story in 1939, he was an incredibly prolific science fiction writer, with a career that spanned literally hundreds of stories, dozens of novels, the Foundation Future History series, right up to his death in 1992. On top of that, he was a critical editor. His name was on a leading science fiction magazine. He wrote mysteries. He moved into non-fiction and became a science populariser and general writer. He’s credited as the author of over five hundred books. That’s stunning.
Within the sci fi community, he was incredibly active, friendly and popular, and accessible. He was a charming guy, not retiring like Clarke, not arrogant, not weird. Just fun to be around. Any narrow field is rife with backbiting, with feuds, with dirty deals, and people getting screwed over or doing the screwing. But not Asimov. Everyone seemed to like him, no enemies, which is remarkable
He cultivated this avuncular, charming public image – the fiendishly intelligent, but friendly and approachable guy, with muttonchop sideburns and black rimmed glasses. Not threatening, not intimidating, just… likeable.
Not the best writer in the world, but a hell of a guy, and as I said, practically a god in the Science Fiction community, and well liked.
Also, it turns out, he was a serial harasser, a regular groper, who constantly sexually propositioned women, whether his advances were wanted or not. He groped breasts, he groped ass, he put his arm around women, he didn’t ask permission, he just did it. For some it was welcome, for many it wasn’t, but he just didn’t care. He reveled in it, he wrote a book called the ‘sensuous dirty old man’ about his career and joy in sexual harassment.
None of this was a secret. He was a staple at conventions. Everyone knew he did it. Men, women, women who’d been groped and accepted it, women who’d been groped and didn’t like it. Everyone knew. The behavior was there, no question, and it was normally unacceptable even for the standards of its time.
So now, finally, twenty-eight years later, Asimov’s reputation is finally crashing.
Spiderman? Great. Captain America? Terrific. Iron Man? Brilliant. Even the Hulk and Captain Marvel have their favourites.
But then we come to the Inhumans. This was the MCU’s big fiasco. There’s a lot of history with the Inhumans, and it’s pretty much all crap from start to finish. Let’s work backwards.
The Inhumans appeared in theatre as an MCU movie notable for being cheap looking, plastic, with mediocre special effects, costumes, and sub-par acting. After a couple of disastrous week or two in the movie theatres, it played on television as the pilot to an eight episode series. Now this isn’t the first time that a television pilot was released theatrically. Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica got that treatment. But it’s generally not a good idea.
The subsequent series was basically more of same – crap CGI, crap characters, crap costumes and acting. It might have had a moment now and then, but it was shabby. And it undercut itself – Medusa the lead inhuman with the octopus tentacle hair got her head shaved. Karnak, the ultimate martial artist got a concussion and lost his skills. So these ‘special attributes’ are barely introduced then written out? The series died hard no one cared.
Behind the scenes, it seems like the Inhumans were the pet project of Ike Perlmutter, who was one of the people behind the MCU. The general consensus is that Kevin Feige is the brilliant pilot of the MCU. Perlmutter was the racist, sexist, cheapskate troll who was eventually forced out of the movies and exiled into the television branch, where he could only mess with Agents of Shield. He also pushed the Inhumans there to.
Why did Perlmutter push the inhumans? Because way back in the day, when Marvel was having a hard time, they sold their most lucrative property, the X-Men. Now that they’re a big thing, they can’t get the X-Men back.
The X-Men were about mutants, regular people who got all these fantastic weird powers and amounted to another race alongside humanity. That’s pretty much the same basic description as the Inhumans. So Perlmutter basically figured that the Inhumans could be replacement X-Men.
Okay, let me show off my Nerd Cred by giving you a little of the background of the whole Inhumans shtick.
Retroverse: The Secret History of Outer Space
So what do we have here? This is my other Coronaclypse Project.
Here’s how it started. Way back when, I was working for this small law firm. My boss went nuts, after about a year, I decided that it wasn’t going to get better and quit the firm. I took a job working in house for an Indian Band and moved up north. It was a good job, loved the work, loved the people I worked with.
But… the downside was that I’d basically moved away from my wife, from my life down in the city, our friends, etc. My mother in law had just had a stroke a couple of months before. So she couldn’t come to join me for two and a half years. Come a long weekend I’d take the twelve hour bus ride down, and then take the twelve hour ride back. But even with the phone and visits, it was pretty lonely.
I had some time on my hands.
Anyway, one night, I was watching a Late Night Double Bill – This Island Earth and Queen of Outer Space.
This Island Earth involves aliens in the 1950’s who call themselves the Metaluna, who try to trick a bunch of scientists into being a think tank for them. It turns out that that the Metaluna are at war with another alien race, the Zagons, who are bombing them out of existence.
Queen of Outer Space involves astronauts in the 1980’s who get hijacked to Venus which is ruled by space amazons. Turns out that the Venerians a generation ago had an interplanetary war with a neighboring planet called Morda, they won, but they’re still bitter.
It was late at night, I was bored, and kind of fuzzy, so I ended up wondering “What if its the same war?” What if the interplanetary war from This Island Earth was actually the same interplanetary war referred to in Queen of Outer Space, just seen from two different points of view. What if these two movies were in the same universe.
A bit of cool news!
David McMillan dropped me a line to let me know that last week, two of my short story collections The Fall of Atlantis and There Are No Doors in Dark Places got picked for 4th and 5th place on Amazon’s hot new releases list.
This week, still on the hot new releases list and 19 and 20.
It’s kind of nice.
David McMillan’s collection was number one, good for him!
So… here’s what I’ve been doing lately.
LEXX Unauthorized, Season Two – From Here to the End of the Universe, edited and finalized, released March 31, about 90,000 words. I’ve started on LEXX Unauthorized, Season Three. But I think I’ll give that some time before releasing.
Then I wrote, rewrote, revised, adapted, extended, edited, revised some more, edited some more, designed covers, formatted no less than three collections of stories. The Fall of Atlantis, What Devours Always Hungers and There Are No Doors in Dark Places. Full disclosure, a lot of these stories were already written. But there were partial stories that I completed, there were revisions, there were a lot of stuff that amounted to compiling and writing from scratch. So, a lot of legitimate work. Each was about 45,000 to 50,000 words.
Over in ‘Free Stuff’ I did a 15,000 word feature on STARLOST, The Rise and Fall of a Canadian Star Trek, I think it’s actually pretty good. I’m working on Starlost Reviews, and Starlost Universe. Why? I dunno. It’s definitely not commercial – it’s going to end in free stuff. But I think it’s interesting and worthwhile. I’m not going to get rich, so why not do things that I enjoy and find valid.
So in writing related activities – two projects, look for Agents, and learn more about promotion and marketing. This blog is part of both those efforts. Much more overtly the second.