Tag Archives: undead monsters

High School as Hell: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This summer, I’m taking time to do something I should have done a long time ago: watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I know, I know, I’m way behind on this one. The first season came out in 1997, when I was not cool enough to watch amazing television, apparently.

So I’m making up for lost time, thanks to the wonders of Netflix and the ability to binge-watch shows.

Years ago–probably when everyone else was busy watching good TV–I remember hearing Joss Whedon say his vampire-slaying, demon-fighting, world-saving show was actually about normal high school drama. I remember smirking and being all “pssh, whatevs. The only vampires in my high school are teachers who suck out our lives with too much homework.”

Well, Mr. Whedon, I finally get it, and I apologize for my teenaged smart-aleck sass. This show really IS about high school being hell. For every vampire-related monster-of-the-week catastrophe, Whedon folded in some kind of completely normal high school problem.

So, to distract me from the crop tops I’m developing an unnatural desire for thanks to this show, I’ve made a list. For your viewing pleasure, this is all the episodes of the first season; the monster story and it’s real-world allegory.

  1. “Welcome to the Hellmouth”– discovering a den of vampires/being the new girl at school
  2. “The Harvest”- group of vampires have some kind of prophecy/making friends
  3. “Witch”– body-snatching voodoo-working witch/dealing with parental expectations and fitting in
  4. “Teacher’s Pet”– teacher eaten by a mantis monster/struggling with schoolwork
  5. “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”– pack of vampires are after you/struggling to balance dating vs. friendships
  6. “The Pack”-demonic hyenas eat the principal/changing friend groups and dealing with bullying
  7. “Angel”-falling for a vampire who claims he no longer feeds/developing a crush on and trusting a “bad boy”
  8. “I, Robot…You, Jane”– internet demon bent on taking over the world/online dating and the obsessive use of computers (guilty!)
  9. “The Puppet Show”– being bullied by your ventriloquist dummy/stage fright and mandatory school participation activities
  10. “Nightmares”– nightmares become literally real/test anxiety and fear of abandonment because of parents’ divorce
  11. “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”– invisible girl on a rampage/cliques and feeling like an outsider
  12. “Prophecy Girl”– fear of a deadly prophecy/not having a date to the big dance

Crop tops! So many crop tops! And ugly sweaters for Xander. At least Willow is *supposed* to look kinda dorky.

Not only is watching this show a lot of fun, it’s been helpful to remember these kinds of teen pressures as I start a YA story. I’m not much older than the YA audience, but those years might as well be decades in terms of how my priorities have changed (and hormones settled down!).

It’s also great to see a master creator like Joss Whedon develop his work. I’m a familiar Whedon-ite by now, and he was certainly already good in the Buffy days, but this show isn’t as developed from the get-go as some of his work. It’s nice to know that even the pros can learn and grow.

It’s also a helpful reminder that no great story is just about the surface level. If Buffy were really about slaying vampires–and only that–I wouldn’t be looking forward to season two. But there’s a lot of emotional depth beneath each monster fight because of this “high school as hell” subtext. Sure, she may be in a fistfight with an invisible girl, but really she’s dealing with feelings of loneliness and isolation. And I’m not much of a fighter, but I can relate to feeling invisible.

I look forward to the rest of the show!


Filed under Uncategorized, writing

Beyond the Great Beyond

What happens after we die?

Depending on your background, you will have a different answer. A biologist may say your body decomposes; you have no life after you are brain dead. A spiritualist may say you return to oneness with nature. A religious person may say you go to heaven (or maybe somewhere else). A zombie aficionado may say “hopefully you stay dead so I don’t have to shoot you in the head.”

But no one really knows for sure.

That’s why I found this article on “Consciousness After Death” so incredibly fascinating. A doctor and researcher specializes in bringing people back to life after their hearts stop. And sometimes, they say they’ve heard and seen things that defy the understanding of science.

The article says:

At the same time, experiences reported by resuscitated people sometimes defy what’s thought to be possible. They claim to have seen and heard things, though activity in their brains appears to have stopped.

It sounds supernatural, and if their memories are accurate and their brains really have stopped, it’s neurologically inexplicable, at least with what’s now known.

Chills, right? I mean, this whole idea sounds like it’s straight out of science fiction (and it inspires a good bit of science fiction, too). But these are real doctors, real researchers.

This is part of the reason I’m so inspired by science fiction. It’s the genre that best blends the line between real and fiction, in a way that fantasy just couldn’t. I mean, when 50,000 Leagues Under the Sea was published, no one thought we might one day actually have ships that could travel under the water and discover massive squid. There’s this fantastic interplay between fiction and reality, this great chicken-egg situation, that is so exciting.

But back to the article. What do you think: is there something beyond the electric activity in our neurons, something that sticks around after we die?

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Review: Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you like space operas, you are going to LOVE this book. If you don’t know if you like space operas because you’ve never encountered one before (they’ve gotten to be a bit rare), that’s ok: If you like “Firefly,” or “Alien,” or “Armageddon,”and maybe a bit of “The Walking Dead” and “Law & Order: SVU,” you’re going to like this book. Heck, if you like “Star Trek: The Next Generation”‘s interaction with the Borg, or if Gaius on “Battlestar Galactica” was your favorite character, you’ll love this.

If you see “Leviathan Wakes” in the bookstore and are terribly intimidated because it’s a monstrously thick book, get over yourself and buy it anyway. Or buy the ebook. But you should absolutely read it.

“Leviathan” is a bit slow to get going. There’s a weird mystery from the very beginning, but it took me awhile to “get it” and to really understand the monstrosity of it. You’ll start out getting acquainted with the rough-and-ready crew of an ice hauler, just going about the normal efforts of transporting ice from Saturn to the colonies out in the asteroid belt. But of course, things go wrong.

You’ll also meet Detective Miller, who shows you a thing or two about how to deal with crime in a Belter colony. (Hint: Mess with the atmo, get thrown out an airlock). He’s a space version of your tired old tough-guy TV cop, and you’ll love him for it, even as he slowly breaks apart.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the rest of the book involves:
-terrifying monsters (hint: zombies)
-sentient alien weaponry
-the challenges of dating in space
-intra-galactic battles
-cunning diplomats
-against-all-odds scenarios

I think that just about covers it–but, admit it, I had you at “sentient alien weaponry,” didn’t I?

This book is a heckuva lot of fun, and really defied my expectations. Just when I thought I knew what was coming, it took another shocking turn. I really appreciated the respect for the science; you get a really good look at the many challenges of living in/colonizing space, and how that would change not just the solar system, but the people, and how those challenges might be overcome.

Great read. Cannot praise this story enough. Go get it!

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Do the Shuffle: Zombie School

Whattya think? Could you make it through zombie school?

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May 11, 2013 · 10:08 am

Review: ParaNorman

I wasn’t planning on reviewing movies: a lot of people do that, and do it really well, and I just don’t watch enough TV to keep up any sort of pace. But I just watched “ParaNorman,” and wowza.

Long review short:

  • If you are an adult who loves stop-motion or just really fantastic visuals,…
  • If you are an adult who has always loved quirky kids’ movies,…
  • If you are interested in supernatural tropes and twists on your expectations,…
  • If you are a parent of a child who is bullied, or who you think may be acting as a bully, you and your child…
  • If you are a parent of an older-age kid who fits in one of the above categories, you and your child …
  • If you’ve always been or are the parent of a kid who likes movies that might be a little bit scary for other kids, …

…Watch “ParaNorman.”

I wish this movie had made a bigger splash when it came out. After hearing it was stop-motion from the guys who did “Coraline,” I was interested, but none of the ads made me actually want to see it. For one thing, they seemed to focus a lot on ghosts and “talking to the dead.” And overall the ads didn’t seem to have a clear idea of what it was.

Ghosts are in the movie, and talking to the dead is significant, but you know what 90% of the movie is? Zombies. Funny zombies, scary zombies, bad b-movie zombies, regular people that are pretty much zombies because they’re kinda dumb…

It’s a movie about Norman, a kid who can talk to/see the dead, but no one in town believes him and he’s bullied and teased by pretty much everyone. Except then it turns out that the town legend about cursed pilgrims and a witch is, um, actually true. Oops! And Norman is the only one who can rescue them, but he’s a little fuzzy on the “how” part of that. It takes awhile for him to work it out, and he does, in a better-than-the-grown-ups solution he decides upon all by himself. He makes a lot of friends in the process, and most of the townspeople realize how stupid they’ve been (and the rest deny it).

And did I mention it is visually stunning? There were times I wanted to pause the movie just to look at all the detail. I can’t believe this was claymation/stop-motion. I mean, it’s nothing like “Wallace & Grommet,” and those are some incredible movies. I wish I could see the set and the props up close. It would be an amazing miniatures display!

For some of the supernatural elements, they’ve overlaid some light CGI. It’s not distracting, but is really excellent at emphasizing the “otherness” of the spooky bits. And it was great! Drool-worthy.

If you’re still on the fence about “ParaNorman,” (or you’re just looking for other good stuff) consider this list. If you’ve liked something else here, odds are good you’ll like “ParaNorman,” too.

“The Graveyard Book,” book by Neil Gaiman
“Coraline,” by Neil Gaiman (book or movie. Personally I found the movie a lot scarier).
“The Corpse Bride,” movie by Tim Burton
“The Nightmare Before Christmas,” by Tim Burton
“Frankenweenie,” by Tim Burton (my goodness, can you imagine how epic it would be if you got Neil Gaiman together with Tim Burton?! Minds would explode)
“Anya’s Ghost,” comic by Vera Brosgol
“Monster House,” movie directed by Gil Kenan

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Infinite and Beyond

I’ve been looking forward to a video game for about two years now. It’s finally (nearly!) here, and all signs are pointing to “probably gonna be awesome.”

Bioshock Infinite is the newest title in the Bioshock line. Though it’s not part of the original Bioshock timeline, it similarly explores a dystopic society held in remove from the rest of the world, explored by the player, someone from the “regular” world. The experiences are as new to the character as the player.

For non-gamers, a quick summary: Bioshock (the original) was one of the best games I have ever played. It had an interesting concept, cool weapons and powers, and, most of all, a completely immersive storyline. It was everything I wanted in not just a video game, but also a story. It was revolutionary.

In the original Bioshock, the player wandered around the ruins of an underwater city called Rapture. It was a look at what might happen if pure capitalism were allowed to run its course—long story short, it ain’t pretty.

I played that first game so much that I still associate the title screen for the production company (2K) with clutching my controller in the dark, fearful and exhilarated.

Bioshock 2 was an okay game, analyzing some socialistic dystopic ideas in the same underwater city, but it couldn’t touch the sheer power of that first story.

Fans are hoping this newest game will be a return to that original breath-snatching incredulity.

And the cinematic trailer released this month is confirming a lot of those ideas.

Hopefully even non-gamers can feel the intrigue of that trailer. That trailer doesn’t even have any game footage in it (typically a requirement to get any traction with fans) and I’m really looking forward to it. I read a lot of dystopias and I’m interested in a lot of these ideas, but the Bioshock was something different. Video games have an advantage over other media in that the reader/user can literally interact with the environment, allowing a strong story to unfold at the reader’s pace. A good game can do that with optional voiceovers (in Bioshock, you can find audio journals of lost citizens, and choose to play them or discard them), but Bioshock also went above and beyond with their perfectly on-point background music, in-game advertising jingles, and stylized art.

Yes, it was a first-person shooter, so there was a lot of gory fighting, but that wasn’t what made the game outstanding—after all, Bioshock 2 had the exact same fighting, slightly improved, and it wasn’t nearly as fun to play.

No, it’s all about the story.

I love video games, but they’re a secondary medium for me. I hope to get that same overwhelmingly scared-in-the-dark-what-might-happen-next feeling with every book I read, too. And hopefully, along the way, with every book or story I write.



Filed under video games