“DRAAAAAAAAX!” (a review, a rant)

guardians-of-the-galaxy-david-bautista-drax

So I finally took my son to see the stupid Guardians of the Galaxy movie the other day—and trust me, it is an exceedingly stupid and bad movie for reasons I will explicate shortly—but my son “loved it.” My son is an optimist. He makes the most of everything. If it’s a movie? “AWESOME!” If it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? “AWESOME!”

But even he could feel the vibe as we took our seats.

The stupid movie had opened nearly a month before. We went to a noon showing on a Sunday attended by MAYBE 50-75 people in a theater capable of seating 1,500 and man, those taking their seats were nearly all dads with their kids. No moms. The moms knew what I knew—this film was going to suck. So, call me psychic! I could tell my son was readying himself for a disappointment.

I didn’t want it to go that way. He had already returned to school, but it was Labor Day weekend, he wanted to see the big stupid Marvel Comics Movie, and I was determined he would have a good time.

So I became three things. 1: A liar, 2: The idiot who screams in the movie theater, and 3: The moron who applauds every time something blows up.

Also, I had a card up my sleeve. Drax, man. Drax The Destroyer.

DRAX THE DESTROYER was created by Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin in the early seventies, and Drax was a pretty bad-ass character for Marvel comics. He dies. Is resurrected. Fashioned into a living weapon of vengeance. It was Drax The Destroyer from whom I drew my chosen surname, NOT Lord Dunsany, NOT Hugo Drax from Moonraker of the James Bond series, NOT the scary-ass power plant in England. Drax The Destroyer. He was green, he was nuts, he was tough as shit.

I thought the pseudonym “Simon Drax” would induce either terror or ridicule. Both reactions suited me fine.

Sitting in the theater watching Guardians of the Galaxy with my son, whenever Drax appeared on screen, I very loudly howled

“DRAAAAAAAAAAX!!!”

My son was a bit embarrassed but still highly amused, and nobody in the scant audience cared. As a matter of fact, every time I screamed “DRAAAAAX!” there were titters of laughter in the dark. And screaming at the screen for a single character is not solely the propriety of the obnoxious moviegoer. Example: Rocky Horror. “BORING!” and “WHERE’S YOUR FUCKING NECK?!” And more: I saw Jim Cameron’s ALIENS ten times in the theater in the summer of 1986, and every time this babe showed up—

Vasquez_aliens

— all the cool guys in the audience screamed

“VASQUEZ!!!!”

My voice was the loudest. At least it seemed that way. Vasquez and ALIENS rocked.

Unsurprisingly, Guardians of the Galaxy did not rock.

I made sure my son had a good time. I screamed “Draaaaax,” we applauded when shit blew up, etc. But it was not a good movie. Not even close.

Guardians of the Galaxy is an instantly forgettable assemblage of set pieces and dumb idiotic jokes and “spectacular” effects, and though I kept my son in a good, attentive mood—becoming, in effect, a liar, encouraging my son to applaud for shit—bad dad, bad bad bad dad—mentally, I was in Hell. I kept shaking my head. WHO CARES? Any of it. Who cares? The silver ball? The cameo of Thanos? That the main characters become friends? The Kirby-created villain?

Who cares.

In Alan Moore’s anthemic essay Writing for Comics, Moore uses “Who cares?” as a mantra as he rips apart bad comics, bad storytelling, bad writing. There’s never been a more successful writer than Moore who’s been more adversarial to the film industry in the adaptation of his comics into movies. He’s walked away from thousands, shaken his head at millions of dollars in payment for adaptations of his work. In many ways Alan Moore is Planet Earth’s last honorable man. He just won’t take that fat stack of cash. He has a simple theory: There are good comics, there are good movies, but they are not interchangeable. One can not necessarily be successfully morphed into the other.

I agree with him one hundred percent. Know your form.

However.

The makers of “blockbuster” Hollywood comic book movies would do well to study how intelligent, successful comics actually work as opposed to replicating again and again and again the structure of the cinematic hit based on its opening box-office haul, the demographics, the popular plot points or story arc based on previous movies rather than the source material, or the fact that the movies they make merely contain characters and elements and lines of dialogue and design schematics of the comics they are mauling that they KNOW the fans will flock to. The makers of Guardians should have read more good comics.

I don’t care that the Guardians of the Galaxy movie sucked, actually. I have better things to worry about. As a matter of fact, it was MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: my son had a good time. Even if I had to become a liar, even if I had to become a bad father, even if I encouraged him to applaud for a piece of shit. It was like giving him candy I knew would rot his teeth.

I screamed “Draaaaaax,” to the audience’s semi-hilarity, my son was amused, we appreciated the theater’s AC, we ate all of our popcorn. He had a good time. Mission accomplished.

So what’s my problem?

Glossy pieces of shit that cost millions of dollars while children are dying of hunger and thirst, movies that distort original visions of the creators, and the sad fact that I am a participant in these crimes. I might scream my chosen name in a dark theater for yucks—but I’m just as guilty as the assholes I just spent 1000 words bitching about.

Ω

I Am Gripped By A Strange Sudden Passion…

Gary Burghoff stars in M*A*S*H

Gary Burghoff as Walter “Radar ” O’Reilly in MASH

… to write a MASH fanfic called “Radar’s Brother.” It would fit into a “Haunted WW2″ collection monkey I’ve been thinking about for… sometime now.

Briefly: Radar’s older brother served in WW2. Whatever Radar’s latent psychic powers might have been, his brother’s powers were far greater. Quick tight short story. The government recognizes Radar’s brother’s abilities right away, and they use him in covert operations as a psychic throughout the course of 1939-1945. It has to end tragically with Radar’s brother’s death, and the government covers everything up. Radar and his family receive a letter, a medal, a flag. Radar idolized and loved his older brother. He is devastated. He never recovers from this loss. And this is why poor Walter O’Reilly is so twitchy and weird when he’s serving in Korea in MASH, wielding only a shrapnel of his brother’s power when he’d freeze and whisper, “Incoming.”

Notes

MASH was one of the first “adult” TV shows I was allowed to watch as a child, and I was instantly fascinated by the character of Radar. Yeah, we all love Hawkeye—whatever—but Radar was weird, man. He was a misfit, a man-boy with no “real world” experience, sweet and gullible to a fault. Also, he had extra exceptional hearing, or he was psychic. He knew when the choppers were coming in with wounded. “Incoming.”

RADAR’S BROTHER! MASH FANFICTION! MAKE IT HAPPEN!

“Just write it down, write it down now. Because you will forget it.” — Warren Ellis

Ω

Tonight — FIRE WALK WITH ME

Tonight_FireWalkWithMe

Yes, blue. Blue is the new red.

You might remember I mentioned that I’m writing a series of essays on Twin Peaks for a forthcoming anthology. I’ve written one essay, some sketches, but I’ve become overcome by a passion to spill all the brain cells I have left regarding everything I think and feel about the “start” and the “end” of Twin Peaks, FIRE WALK WITH ME. I already have 100,000 words in my head regarding this remarkable movie, but the more I thought about it I realized I should watch it again. Easier said than done. A beloved film, but I didn’t have a copy of it. Netflix has the entire series, but not FIRE WALK WITH ME. Had to buy a 10 dollar used copy. Watching, and making copious notes TONIGHT. And yes. Blue is totally right. More later.

The owls are flying.

Ω

 

The Big X in the Sky, There She Goes, and an Incredible Mix

BIG-X

Shot by yours truly this morning. The Big X in the Sky.

ThereSheGoes

Then, a second later, squinting at the sky— There She Goes.

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Experience #2: Daydream (or something similar)

By Euphony Café

No shit—dreamers, shoe gazers, carriers of broken hearts, trippers lost in their own lost land, I kid you knot, kids: this mix is it.

ps wtf is it with me and the moon [QM]. No really.

pps this ties in so directly with my recent BLACK SUN post. so bizarre. or maybe i’m just a dolt seduced by easy and crude associations.

I don’t know. Enjoy. Happy Saturday.

Ω

EDITED TO ADD: YES I SPELLED KNOT LIKE THAT ON PURPOSE.

Nick Mamatas asks: Was H.P. Lovecraft a Good Writer? (also, a rant by yours truly)

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DRAX SAYS:

This is an unusual re-post for me, because I am firmly in the camp that Lovecraft sucks. But my hero, Saint Nick, makes a sound, reasoned, and stirring argument for Lovecraft’s worth as a wordsmith, storyteller, and creepy dreamer. His essay is very deserving of every fantasy writer’s time and attention. I urge you to read it.

But first—

Q: Mister Drax, why does Lovecraft suck?

A: First and obviously: the racism. Every third sentence is infused with jaw dropping xenophobia. I just can’t read it. I want to rip the book in half. This is important. An artist’s personal and political views are one thing, it’s another when hate is embedded in the work itself. Every sentence affects a reader in a different way. When a neo-Nazi skinhead reads “those dusky foreigners” when describing American blacks or American Indians and nods Yes, Yes, that’s another young brain-damaged sociopath receiving validation from a “great” and “revered” writer. It’s unacceptable.

Q: Anything else?

A: Lovecraft’s unrepentant COWARDICE. He’s as scared of the dust bunnies in the corner of his room as he is of the unforgiving maw of the cosmos, he’s as scared of taking a shit as he is of one of his fucking intra-dimensional demons. Yeah, I know: these are intended as stories of dread and horror. But come on, man—none of his characters ever stand up and fight. They always just run.

Q: Last words?

A: Yeah. I’m really amazed at the vitality of Lovecraft’s legacy in the last ten years, even now in 2014, but it’s largely for superficial and graphic reasons. Yog-Sothoth can suck my dick, kids. Fantasy writers! Fantasy artists! WOULD YOU PLEASE EJECT THE OCTOPI?! Please. Please. Enough already.

Deep breath.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

NICK MAMATAS IN DEFENSE OF H.P. LOVECRAFT

Was H.P. Lovecraft a good writer?

There’s a petition going around requesting that the World Fantasy Award change its prize from a bust of H.P. Lovecraft to one of Octavia Butler, and it is a ridiculous petition for several reasons. The one non-ridiculous reason is that H.P. Lovecraft’s racism stains his legacy and upsets many people, as well it should. Back in 2011 I made an alternative suggestion of a chimera for the World Fantasy award’s prize.With that out of the way, let’s discuss the reasons the petition is ridiculous:

1. Octavia Butler was not known as a fantasist, did not write fantasy for the most part, and did not primarily identify as a fantasist. The one big exception is Kindred, which she declared a “grim fantasy”, even as critics have suggested that it is SF about genetics and evolutionary psychology. (An example.)

2. She’s a well-loved figure though, which means that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the petition right now. It also potentially makes a heavy brickbat for anyone who comes out against the petition. A few years ago, some people tried to rally HWA to get the Bram Stoker First Novel category named after Charles Grant…who had little to do with first novels other than having published one himself. (He did cultivate new authors via short stories.) When some objected to the name change, there were all sorts of quivering lips and lamentations that garsh too bad people don’t care that Charlie is moldering in the ground, alone and forgotten snif snif… So, you were either in favor of the name change, or in favor of digging Grant up and shitting on his corpse, you meanie.

Or, shorter: it is always a bad idea to make a person into a prize, since the prize is then tied to the reputation of the person. (Sometimes prizes are designed to rehabilitate a reputation, a la the Nobel.) With writers, whose works are always up for reappraisal, this is especially fraught. The Lovecraft/World Fantasy issue is an example of that. Is Butler’s reputation so fully bulletproof, forever? Don’t count on it.

3. The petition also claims that Lovecraft was “a terrible wordsmith.” Wrong. Lovecraft was a superior writer. As I put it on Twitter, “he had a pretty clear aesthetic and used polyphony well to build authority for the ineffable.” Generally, complaints about Lovecraft’s writing boils down to “He said ‘squamous’ and I had to look that up.” Petitioner Daniel José Older previously said of another word associated with Lovecraft, cyclopean: “What image are we to take from this? Buildings with a single window at the top? Buildings built by one-eyed giants? It means nothing to me visually, yet it’s clearly one of Lovecraft’s favorite adjectives.” Yes, well, look it up. Cyclopean means gigantic and uneven and rough-hewn. Cyclopean masonry is a term of art in archeology. Lovecraft was actually a skilled wordsmith, and chose very specific language. Older himself notes that Lovecraft used “collage[s] of firsthand documents and local lore told with thick, regional accents.” Lovecraft wasn’t a one-note bleater of ten-dollar words; he used the lingo his various characters would have. And as such, he could be

whimsical: Non-Euclidean calculus and quantum physics are enough to stretch any brain, and when one mixes them with folklore, and tries to trace a strange background of multi-dimensional reality behind the ghoulish hints of the Gothic tales and the wild whispers of the chimney-corner, one can hardly expect to be wholly free from mental tension. (“Dreams in the Witch House”)

understated: Thaddeus went mad in September after a visit to the well. He had gone with a pail and had come back empty-handed, shrieking and waving his arms, and sometimes lapsing into an inane titter or a whisper about “the moving colours down there.” Two in one family was pretty bad, but Nahum was very brave about it. (“The Colour Out of Space”)

baroque: I shall plan my cousin’s escape from that Canton mad-house, and together we shall go to marvel-shadowed Innsmouth. We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y’ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever. (“The Shadow Over Innsmouth”)

self-reflexively ironical: My tale had been called “The Attic Window”, and appeared in the January, 1922, issue of Whispers. In a good many places, especially the South and the Pacific coast, they took the magazines off the stands at the complaints of silly milksops; but New England didn’t get the thrill and merely shrugged its shoulders at my extravagance. (“The Unnameable”)

parodic: Later traded to Jacques Caboche, another settler, it [the skull of a Roman named "Ibid"—NK] was in 1850 lost in a game of chess or poker to a newcomer named Hans Zimmerman; being used by him as a beer-stein until one day, under the spell of its contents, he suffered it to roll from his front stoop to the prairie path before his home—where, falling into the burrow of a prairie-dog, it passed beyond his power of discovery or recovery upon his awaking. (“Ibid”)

hysteric: The space-time globule which we recognize as the totality of all cosmic entity is only an atom in the genuine infinity which is theirs. And as much of this infinity as any human brain can hold is eventually to be opened up to me, as it has been to not more than fifty other men since the human race has existed. (“The Whisperer in Darkness”)

straightforward: The train service to Brattleboro is not bad – you can get a timetable in Boston. Take the B. & M. to Greenfield, and then change for the brief remainder of the way. I suggest your taking the convenient 4:10 P.M. – standard-from Boston. This gets into Greenfield at 7:35, and at 9:19 a train leaves there which reaches Brattleboro at 10:01. That is weekdays. Let me know the date and I’ll have my car on hand at the station. (“The Whisperer in Darkness”, from the same Akeley letter, composed by aliens as a trap, as above. The implied story point in shifting from hysteric to straightforward is obvious.)

We could go on picking sentences and paragraphs indefinitely, but let’s not. We should also look at pacing. One might say that a Lovecraft story stays afloat by way of masterful deployment of eerie details. That would be a quote from Older again, who apparently thinks what…that Lovecraft was a good writer when it came to pacing, but a terrible one when it came to words and sentences? And yet pacing is simply a matter of the speed with which one is compelled to read on. So we can’t mean sentences, but just individual words—a wordsmith that creates a masterful pace out of bad word choices?

It’s really not that difficult. Why does “cyclopean” appear in, say, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”? The narrator is a student and a declassed part of New England’s elite. (He discovers that he’s a descendent of the wealthy Obed Marsh.) He’d know the word and use it. Would the station agent in the same story use it? No, he’d say something like “Leaves the square – front of Hammond’s Drug Store – at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. unless they’ve changed lately. Looks like a terrible rattletrap – I’ve never been on it.” And he does. Lovecraft’s narrators are often intellectuals—is it really a surprise that Peaslee, a professor of political economy, narrates “The Shadow Out of Time” like so:

This is a highly important fact in view of the shadow which fell so suddenly upon me from outside sources. It may be that centuries of dark brooding had given to crumbling, whisper-haunted Arkham a peculiar vulnerability as regards such shadows—though even this seems doubtful in the light of those other cases which I later came to study. But the chief point is that my own ancestry and background are altogether normal. What came, came from somewhere else—where, I even now hesitate to assert in plain words.

Let’s compare it to the rhetoric of an actual political economist:

On this sandy and false foundation we scheme for social improvement and dress our political platforms, pursue our animosities and particular ambitions, and feel ourselves with enough margin in hand to foster, not assuage, civil conflict in the European family. Moved by insane delusion and reckless self-regard, the German people overturned the foundations on which we all lived and built. But the spokesmen of the French and British peoples have run the risk of completing the ruin, which Germany began, by a Peace which, if it is carried into effect, must impair yet further, when it might have restored, the delicate, complicated organization, already shaken and broken by war, through which alone the European peoples can employ themselves and live.

That’s Keynes, btw, in the introduction to The Economic Consequences of the Peace from 1919. Similar sentence structures, similar free use of figurative language, and a sense of holding court even in the preliminary throat-clearings before a case is being set out. Switch Keynes for a Yithian for a few years, and he’d come back nervous and drooling and sounds even more like Peaslee than he already does.

Of course Lovecraft’s prose is not perfect, and is not beyond criticism. But if there are aspects to wordsmithing that go beyond matching prose to character; the ability to strike several different tones and moods both within and between stories; and pacing that keeps a reader riveted to the page and suspending disbelief despite unrealistic, phantasmagorical, and occasionally gruesome descriptions, they are minor aspects. It’s perfectly acceptable to object to Lovecraft’s themes, which are often explicitly or implicitly racist and xenophobic (and inseparable from the text), but that’s not the same as claiming that he’s a bad writer or a terrible wordsmith. It’s also perfectly acceptable to complain that most of his narrators just have some horrible experience, or hear about one from the past after coming across traces of a supernatural reality, and then go crazy. But that’s not about being a “wordsmith” either.

When you don’t know the meaning of a word, look it up. It was good advice in third grade, it is good advice now.

Ω

CATS IN TANKS

via @GhoulFriday

Ω

Simon Drax, Writer

DraxAvatar_by_MXM_2

Portrait by Maxim Peter Griffin

Yeah, remember him? The guy with the omnipresent cigarette who once upon a time wrote and infrequently published movie reviews, poems, stories, and the half fractured book? Well, lock up your cats and daughters—Simon Drax has limped back to life.

These are the projects in which I’m currently engaged…

EXIT VECTOR

Jeffrey C Jones_birch

Yeah, I know. But this story is still important to me, and I want to put it to rest. I rewrote the first chapter back in March, and I’m pretty pleased with it. I want to tell the story I didn’t tell, tell the story I’d promised to tell. You can read the revised first chapter here.

†  †  †

UNTITLED BONDAGE SF FANTASY (NSFW)

Aaaah… yes. That’s right. Basically it’s a rip-off of THE TERMINATOR, except with hot women tied-up in every chapter. THE BLACK HOLE IN THE CENTER OF OUR GALAXY! ALIEN TROOPS FROM ANDROMEDA—AND FROM THE FUTURE! THE TRIPLE GODDESS! You can read a sample here.

dollysofyonthetiles11

† †  †

THE PLOT AGAINST THE GIANT

I am not saying BOO about this story/ novel, but I will share an illustration created for me by the (0nce again) incredibly talented

Maxim Peter Griffin

drax3

†  †  †

TWIN FUCKING PEAKS

I’m writing short essays about my “TWIN PEAKS” experience for as a yet untitled anthology about  the “TWIN PEAKS” effect on modern culture, later TV, film. There’s a lot to chew on. I submitted my first piece: it was about the night I taped the first episode. (Obviously, I can’t share this, as it’s for a forthcoming book.) Now, crazily, I want to to jump into a massive essay about “FIRE WALK WITH ME.” Good art is never linear.

† † †

and finally,

THE LAST STAR IN THE SKY

I’m going to publish this as a Kindle Single on amazon for 99 cents a pop. Why not?

star_cover1

So if you want a copy before I take down the page, DO IT NOW.

And that is all. If even ONE of these projects reach conclusion before December 31, 2014, I will be a happy man.

Ω

CHILDREN OF DRAX!

CHILDREN OF DRAX

Dakota and Damien in an excellent comic shop on Friday, August 1, 2014.

Photo courtesy @TheCathInTheHat

Ω

Ashtray Chat: What Do You Think About This, Kids? THE MAD MAX FURY ROAD TRAILER

George Miller, creator and director of the classic MAD MAX movies, has been threatening/promising us with the sequel FURY ROAD for nearly fifteen years. In 2015, it’ll finally be here.

Your humble curator has some problems.

1: There’s no good reason on Earth that Mel Gibson isn’t playing Max in this movie. Yeah, yeah, I’m always thumping for reinvention, but—I just can’t accept another actor other than Mel in the role of Max. Not while Mel’s still walking and talking (and drinking). For fuck’s sake, they made Max look old in the horrid THUNDERDOME, and that was in 1985! Sorry, but MEL OR HELL is my motto.

2. Yes, every bit of this trailer looks “awesome,” but I can point to 96% of it and say, “That came from ROAD WARRIOR. And that came from ROAD WARRIOR. And THAT came from ROAD WARRIOR!”

(To play devil’s advocate w/ myself for a moment: There’s not a single sequence in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK that doesn’t have its origins from the original STAR WARS, A NEW HOPE. However, EMPIRE is clearly the superior film. And the elements/sequences lifted from the first film were extended to nearly dreamlike extremes—yes, you can find their origins if you dig for them, but there’s no overt Tie Fighter battle, no trash compactor, no Death Star trench.)

2, continued: So, I’m seeing SO many shots/elements lifted carbon copy from ROAD WARRIOR in this trailer. Which depresses me.

3. IF THIS IS A DIRECT SEQUEL TO ROAD WARRIOR, HOW THE FUCK DOES HE SECURE ANOTHER V-8 INTERCEPTOR?!?!

(sorry. had to let the über geek out of his cage for a second)

4. What’s up with the quintet of babes?! It not only echoes The Warrior Woman from RW (times five) but this pisses me off because I’m currently writing two “Triple Goddess” stories and I just want to scream BACK the FUCK off!

Allright that last one doesn’t mean anything to anybody except me (maybe), but I still had to fire it off.

I don’t know. I’ll still probably be second in line for MAD MAX FURY ROAD. But I’ll be yelling “MEL! MEL! MEL.”

Ω

NEW FRONTIERSMAN, THIS ONE’S FOR YOU

Far and away the absolute balls-out BEST Space:1999 fan-film ever made. Hawks! UFOs! The Meta Probe! Best Graphics of The Moon blasting out of Earth Orbit! This one’s for you, G.

Love,

SATAN

Ω

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