December 8, 2017

The Problem with "Atheists"

It was really bright the other day so my wife needed my help reading her Facebook notifications. A friend of hers with lots of Facebook friends and followers posted a status asking people to post their religion because she wanted to see how diverse her friends and followers were.

Everyone who practiced a religion, just said their religion (pagan, Christian, Buddhist, spiritualist, etc). Nothing else. No tirades. No proselytizing. At most maybe something like “reformed” whatever or maybe something like “secular Buddhist”.

However, everyone who said atheist felt the need to write a paragraph explaining why and go on a big aggressive and insulting tirade...Maybe they don’t need some form of spiritually to “teach them to a good person” but they need something to teach them not to be a smug and aggressive asshole.

I think a lot of it has to do with an entire generation being brought up on Dawkins' aggressive self-promotion and the Bill Maher's habit of proclaiming himself to be an intellectual who values reason but responding to all disagreement with elementary school insults and outright meanness.

It's such a pointless waste of time in mind. Because, for me, it really comes down to people, right? I mean that’s the issue. The problem is people not the belief.

I don’t care what people believe or don’t believe. Plenty of people believe things I think are shitty and plenty of people believe things I think are dumb. That’s none of my business or my concern until they use that thing to be an asshole or deny someone their rights or justify some other shitty behavior.

But to me, the issue is still people. Not the belief structure.

Pick a thing. Religion, science, race, nationalism, whatever. People have used all those and more to justify their shitty behavior and to commit terrible acts.

Without awareness and self-reflection and consequence for actions and behaviors, people use whatever they can to remove themselves from the responsibility of their own nastiness.

So my issue is always with people, not the justification.

Furthermore, what’s the goal of being shitty and condescending? Nothing that I can see other than serving your own ego. I mean whether we’re talking about religion and atheism, or politics, or...I don’t know TV shows--doesn’t matter the side--what does condescension and aggression accomplish?


December 6, 2017

Valerian and the City of 1,000 Planets

Watched Valerian and The City of 1,000 Planets.

Visually, I absolutely positively loved it. Stunning and imaginative. Absolutely adore that sort of fantastical SF.

However, the script needed a polish or three because there was not a whole lot holding it all together--which threw the pacing off and meant there were times I felt every bit of its 2 hour and 17 minute run-time. And the actors playing Valerian and Laureline were totally miscast.

November 21, 2017

I Watch People In The World

"I watch people in the world 
Throw away their lives lusting after things, 
Never able to satisfy their desires,
Falling into deeper despair 
And torturing themselves.
Even if they get what they want
How long will they be able to enjoy it? 
For one heavenly pleasure
They suffer ten torments of hell, 
Binding themselves more firmly to the grindstone. 
Such people are like monkeys 
Frantically grasping for the moon in the water 
And then falling into a whirlpool. 
How endlessly those caught up in the floating world suffer. 
Despite myself, I fret over them all night 
And cannot staunch my flow of tears." 

Ryōkan Taigu (良寛大愚) (1758–1831)

October 27, 2017

Thank you, Comrade Arkhipov

I'm back at Disinformation. This time I'm talking about Vasili Arkhipov who saved the world 55 years ago today.

October 20, 2017

Ramses The Two Little Too Late

Just saw Anne Rice finally wrote a sequel to The Mummy or Ramses The Damned.

Got excited for a minute until I remembered I haven't liked anything she's written in years. Then I saw she co-wrote it with her son and immediately found the whole thing immensely off-putting.

October 19, 2017

Mars Attacks

Watched Mars Attacks for the first time in years.

Still kinda fun but not high on the rewatch value (probably be another decade before I get around to it again). Effects are very dated. Pacing is off. The number of big name stars in throwaway parts is distracting. Mostly the whole thing feels indulgent and gimmicky and kinda...standoffish.

October 5, 2017


Happy to announce that I'll be writing content for Disinfo. It'll be a mix of reblogs and original content. Stay tuned for magic and mysticism and jailbreaking your consciousness and other bits of weirdness...

September 11, 2017

Cosmic Aggressions

My next story (fourth written, second accepted) featuring Miskatonic University's The Dunwich Committee on Student Safety will be in the Walpurgisnacht 2018 Issue of Lovecraftiana: the Magazine of Eldritch Horror.

"Cosmic Aggressions" is my play on the higher ed concern surrounding the concept of: microagressions.

September 7, 2017

Le Secret Du Roi

Been a while since I could make an announcement like this: I'm pleased to say that I'll have a story in an upcoming issue of Broadswords and Blasters. It's an action-packed spy tale of Le Secret Du Roi.

Political Post: Roter Frontkämpferbund

The two branches of the corporate party that hold office here in the States are champions of the status quo. Why? Because the status quo keeps them in power, best serves their paymasters, and keeps us living paycheck to paycheck, laboring for a pittance under the looming fear of getting sick and going broke. The two branches of the corporate party are masters at constructing an alternate and mythic American history that services their status quo where the angels of the free market watch over reasonably-minded men practicing “pragmatic” solutions and the kind of “civilized politics” that keeps all change and progress moving slowly and incrementally, inch by inch, onward.

This fiction allows them to ignore how change really occurs; the mechanisms of progress; undercut anything actually radical and prevent it from ever happening again by co-opting and commodifying it into something generic, saleable, lacking of legitimate change or rebellion; and paint everything else as illegitimate, thuggish, and appealing to only the fringe.

So, again, despite, what you’ve been told and what they want you to believe (especially neo-liberals), and despite however you may personally feel about it, answering the call of fascists with your fists to protect your people and your community is nothing new.

The Red Front Fighters League (Roter Frontkämpferbund) began as a worker’s defense league in Germany. The Red Front Fighters League not only protected striking workers from bosses, the police, and hired thugs, but they also acted as security at marches and rallies, and worked to keep people from being unfairly evicted from their homes. They maintained special organizations for youth and for women (Clara Zetkin who oversaw the organization for women would go on serve as a representative for the German Communist Party in the Reichstag) and also maintained a special fund to provide support for members who were arrested.

The Red Front regularly engaged in street clashes with the Nazi brown shirts. When it came to fascists, the Red Front policy was you commit violence against a single member, then our entire local organization will respond in kind.

In 1929 during the May Day protests in Berlin, the police shot and killed over 30 protesters to kick off a wave of violence. Afterward, the Red Front Fighters League were formally banned and all their assets seized by the government.

When Hitler and the Nazi’s took power, former members of the Red Front were some of the first to be rounded up. Their ex-leader Ernst Thälmann, a man who also ran for president against both Von Hindenburg and Hitler, was arrested by the Gestapo for trying to organize a massive general strike to stymie Hitler’s power. He was held in solitary confinement for 11 years before being shot in the head and cremated. Many Red Front members who escaped arrest went on to fight the fascists in Spain, where they organized themselves into brigades named after Thälmann. But you know, blah blah blah both sides, blah blah alt-left...

September 4, 2017

Jeff Bridges & Buddhism

The interview is old but absolutely worth reading:
"Right now you’re in my sangha. We’ve touched in that way. Everyone I meet is in my sangha. I don’t know if that’s the proper definition, but that’s the way I’m going to hold it in my mind."

September 1, 2017

Political Post: More Fighting Fascists & Group 43

Group 43 were a band of Jewish men who came back from WWII, saw Oswald Mosley organizing fascists in the U.K. and said, not on our watch.

August 25, 2017

Political Post: Fighting Fascists

However you may feel about it, answering the call of fascists with your fists is nothing new. Here are Londoners responding to notorious British fascist Oswald Mosley in 1962:

August 21, 2017

Death Wish? Ugh...

The trailer for Eli Roth’s new Death Wish remake with Bruce Willis looks awful. no wonder it's being labelled as racist and an alt-right-violence fantasy.

Someday it would sure be nice to see a close adaptation of Brian Garfield’s slow-burn novel about how a terrible but random trauma buries an average man under a mountain of grief and rage until he feels like he has no choice but construct an alternate morality that’s contrary to everything he's ever believed in simply to cope. The bulk of the novel is Paul trying to wrap his brain around what's happened and deal with his trauma; he doesn't actually kill anyone until like the last 50 pages.

August 18, 2017

Random Thoughts, Post-Charlottesville

Thoughts following Charlottesville:

Free speech—your right to free speech is about what the government can and can’t do to inhibit your speech. It has zero to do with your job, your friends, someone else’s Facebook page, or even your community getting together and saying you’re a dickbag and should just go away. And it does not now, nor has it ever protected you from consequences like getting arrested, getting sued, getting fired, getting unfriended, or getting punched in the face.

Quick to judge/A mile in someone’s shoes—you are shaped by your experiences, your circumstances, and your thoughts. Compassion comes from being able to put all that aside and really think about what someone else has gone through so you can acknowledge the truth of their experience. If you can’t do that, if you can’t put you aside, then you can’t contribute anything really meaningful to the conversation, because all you’re doing is engaging in an intellectual exercise with you as the star. And you will find in the course of your own life, if you haven’t already, that when what you thought you knew/would do/feel about something intellectually runs headfirst into the actual experience of the thing, it’s all something completely different. Reason—in the moment, when you are face to face with someone who wants to hurt you, you cannot reason with them. If you try, then you will be hurt.

“The US is too polarized”—the problem is not that the US is too polarized. Your notion that we ever all completely agreed on anything is simply untrue.

The problem is we still haven’t figured out how to normalize the social experience of the internet so daily we run into terrible behavior: trolls, dickbags who’ve decided contrarian is a valid personality choice, bored people who just want to argue to argue and have zero interest in figuring anything out, people who mistakenly think their uninformed opinion carries some kind of special weight, and people who live for nonstop outrage.

On top of that, as a whole, we don’t seem to understand that our experience on the internet exposes us to a wider range of people with radically different experiences and opinions than we have. Most people tend to think that everyone thinks and feels the way they do. This is reinforced by their real life friendships.

The problem too is that for decades and decades we have lived in a country with two branches of the corporate party. Each branch has pursued the same policies and only distinguished itself from the other by its advertising and where they supposedly stand on social issues. This illusion of difference has kept us squabbling with each other so we don’t notice them pursuing the exact same disastrous polices that benefit their corporate paymasters and not noticing that whenever there has been actual social progress on anything it has always come from the united will of the people not the political class. The policies of the two branches of the corporate party have left our country mired in endless war and left most of us, if we have a job, living from paycheck to paycheck, barely getting by, suffocating under a mountain of debt, and painfully afraid of getting sick. Our country is one of poverty and fear. Poverty is the mother of thieves, and fear is the bastard sire of hatred. It’s not that our country is polarized, it’s that you are finally seeing things being challenged, you are finally seeing other opinions.

The South—The government as a whole shafted the South a long time ago. The Democrats have ignored it for decades. Neo-liberals favorite insult is "redneck." The South has a history of exploitation by industry. And wowhere in the United States is income inequality more visible then in the South.

You want to meaningful combat hate in the South? Create jobs with livable wages—not training programs, actual jobs—and affordable health care. If the new legitimate Left truly wants to get anywhere, they should not ignore the South.

"This started with Trump”—The problems you are seeing now were there when Obama was president. These problems are long-term and systemic. The big difference between the two men is one talked nicer and made you feel better.

Compare the police response in Charlottesville to the police response in Ferguson…

“Well, both sides…”—You should not be surprised at the number of people I am sure you have seen who don’t want to have an opinion, who don’t want to take sides, who aren’t immediately against racism and white nationalism.

This is not new.

One of Martin Luther King’s most famous pieces of writings is his Letter from the Birmingham Jail he wrote in response to an admonishing letter by white clergy who were upset about how he was just making things worse. In response King wrote:

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

August 17, 2017


Currently on the 5th season of Homeland.

Honestly not really sure why I’m still watching it or even if I’ll make it through to the 6th. Yeah, sometimes when it’s cooking it’s great drama, but ugh…

I feel like first season the show at least tried to deal objectively with the problems of the US trying to police the world and our shitty foreign policy causing the terror we’re supposedly trying to stop. However, I feel like that all falls by the wayside in favor of Frankenstein logic—“Muslims bad!”—and boy, drone strikes sure are awesome!

And, man, each successive season my dislike for Carrie Mathison has gone up. So, two episodes into this season, I'm having a hard time buying Carrie as working at a philanthropic organization.

July 25, 2017

Political Post: Our Plan? The Same as Our Opposition!

The Democrats big plan is to offer more tax cuts to businesses. It's no surprise the Democrats have learned nothing. They fail and they fail epically and consistently because they offer ZERO meaningful alternatives and no real actual dissident to the other side.

When's the last time the Democrats questioned the magic of the free market? Or tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy?

When's the last time Democrats were like, "Hey, maybe we shouldn't bomb this country and start another war?"

When's the last time the Democrats championed Single Payer Health Care? I mean, is Obamacare better than Trumpcare? Absolutely, but ultimately Obamacare is most successful at making sure insurance companies get a whole lot of money.

The differences between the two parties are all purely cosmetic to create the illusion of choice and reinforce branding. Why do the Democrats spend so much time talking about social issues? Because those issues offer no real challenge to corporations or the rich. They also divide and distract the populace while providing opportunity for both sides to direct your focus to how they make you FEEL and not what they actually DO legislatively.

July 17, 2017

The 13th Doctor

So the new Doctor Who is finally going to be played by a woman. Ignore the people who are going to complain. Ignore the people who are already complaining. Don't let them make this moment about them. Don't let them win by hijacking the conversation into either arguing or justifying when it should be about excitement and wonder for what's to come. Don't let them ruin you finally getting to throw your hands up in triumph.

Remember: Doctor Who is about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.

You see that's the problem we still have with the internet. As human beings, we have this tendency to default into thinking everyone thinks like we do. In our real lives the people we chose to spend time with have lots of things in common with us and, chances are, tend to share our opinions. On the internet, we're confronted constantly with people who don't think like we do and who don't share our opinions. Those people have always been there and will always be there.

And, yes, there have always been haters and complainers and contrarians. Especially when society takes a step foreword, moves closer to that world where we don't pay attention to things like class, religion, skin color, sex and it's orientation--especially when it comes to a fictional character. Doctor Who has always been a show with a fluid backstory and freely reinvented it's mythology. It makes total sense that an alien race that was able to free its consciousness from the constraits of a single body and the boundries of space and time would also unfetter itself from gender. (Never mind we have no idea what sex organs Gallifreyans actually pack.) We need to not let them distract us. Don't let the conversation be dictated by the bratty chatter from the kid's table. As adults, we keep moving forward with intellect and romance triumphing over brute force and cynicism.

July 13, 2017

Elementary Season 5

When it’s not functioning as simply another CBS police procedural and allows for character and bigger plot, Elementary is my favorite modern take on Sherlock Holmes. 

Sherlock’s struggle with sobriety, his attempts at relationships both professional and personal, Watson being a woman who isn’t there just to sleep with Sherlock, her backstory as surgeon and her introduction as sober companion, and their ongoing relationship are all bright spots that far outshine the visceral pulp-action of the Robert Downey films.

That brightness certainly works better than Sherlock. The BBC show about the "high-fuctioning sociopath" suffocated under the full weight of every-single-one of the worst flaws found in the writing of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Unappealing and impossible-to-relate-to characters acting smug in ridiculous plots that are badly paced and fizzle out in arrogant and unsatisfying endings.

Hulu recently added Season 5 of Elementary and so far it’s been a disappointment. So many of the plots are generic and forgettable, easily serviced by any other set of characters from any of the countless procedural shows. The real meaty character stuff has been few and far between. When it’s there, it’s been unfulfilling (like Sherlock’s relationship with Fiona). And all due respect to Nelsan Ellis but the Shinwell plot is terrible and hollow, the character is completely transparent as an eventual impetus for Joan pursuing some kind of revenge.

If the show stays like this for the rest of the season, I might be done with it.

July 12, 2017

Entertainment & Economic Power

I don’t understand the thing people have with “live tv”. Hulu for example is blowing a ton of money on a stupid Hulu Live TV option.

Who cares?

There is literally nothing I want to watch badly enough that I HAVE to watch it when it airs. And who wants to sit through commercials? (Those are the two things I actually hate about Hulu--paying extra to avoid commercials and having to wait for new episodes). Plus, I have yet to see any live tv app or any app that includes a “live” stream that runs well across a variety of internet connections (that’s why we don’t have the WWE Network—their live channel broadcast portion of the app will not run reliably on our internet connection).

All “live tv” apps are is an attempt by the networks and companies to continue business as usual. Repackaging the same old TV experience you were sick of in a fancy enough package to trick you. (This is the same reason AT&T—literally—spent a billion dollars buying the failing DirecTV instead of spending that money on improving and upgrading the infrastructure of their phone/internet service).

The only way you’re going to get the experience you want is by not caving and using your economic power. Companies and corporations ultimately don’t care about your opinion until that opinion is backed up with a blow to profits. All you have to do is take a look at something like satellite and cable. When did the price finally come down? When you stopped giving them your money and went after the experience you wanted elsewhere. When did satellite and cable start offering you customizable packages instead of making you pay a $100 for a whole bunch of channels you were never going to watch? When you stopped giving them your money and went after the experience you wanted elsewhere.

July 1, 2017

The Adventures of the Rocketeer

I don't know if they still have the rights, but if they do, Disney should totally do a Netflix-style show featuring The Adventures of the Rocketeer. Wouldn't even have to be live action. Imagine The Rocketeer as an animated seris scripted by the team behind Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.

Would also love to work on a classic pulp/Rocketeer-esque style thing with a couple other writers.

June 22, 2017

Action Adventure During the Tokugawa Shogunate

Taking a break from the fourth Dunwich Committee on Student Safety story and trying to make a submission deadline with an action-adventure tale set in Japan during the Tokugawa Shogunate:

After two young children witness a brutal murder by a powerful gang, a komusō (wandering mendicate Zen monks known for wearing reed hoods and playing bamboo flutes) tries to see them safely through a dangerous forest to the Shrine at Nakazama for a secret rendezvous with the local magistrate and his men.

June 21, 2017

Third Dunwich Committee On Student Safety Story

Just your average day in Dunwich...
Finished the third Dunwich Committee on Student Safety story and sent it off to the first round readers. One more of these to knock out, then I'm going to take a short break from my version of Lovecraft Country.

June 15, 2017

Santa Clarita Diet

Last night, I finally gave Santa Clarita Diet a watch.

I loved it.

It's so good. It's funny. It's clever. It's a little absurd. It also manages to be sweet and accurately portray what it's like to be married for a long time and still like each other...well, except for the zombie thing...

June 14, 2017

The Free State of Jones

Watched The Free State of Jones last night.

Sometimes it was a little stiff and plodding. And it probably should have been a miniseries instead of trying to compress years of people, events, and material in 2 hours and 20 minutes. But I liked it a whole lot.

Even if exact reasons and circumstances of "The Free State of Jones" are still up for debate among historians, the film was incredibly fascinating. Anymore, I’m constantly struck by all the little bits of history that never come up in school and how what we are taught about history tends to be a contrived narrative with a very particular purpose.

May 31, 2017

Dunwich Committee on Student Safety

Just finished another story featuring my Dunwich Committee on Student Safety. It's with my beta readers now, then it hits the submission rounds. Now we move on to the next story...

May 24, 2017

Thoughts On Wraith: The Oblivion

Talking about World of Darkness Games from White Wolf always eventually leads me to Wraith.

I loved Wraith: The Oblivion—LOVED it! I have nearly all of the books released for that line. I think I might have been the only one because that game line never sold particularly well. Most of my friends either never played it or just didn’t like it. I think I only ever managed to play it three times (always had to run it) and never for very long because the players found it depressing.

As much as I loved it, here are the problems I saw with W:tO:

  • It can be relentless depressing and most people play a role-playing game for some kind of escape and to have fun.
  • The players also playing each other’s shadow was a great idea, but hard to do well and often lead to player-versus-player drama.
  • So much about Wraith is character-centered and character-driven that group play was very difficult to pull off or explain.
  • The whole flavor of the game with the Kingdom of Stygia, the Death Lords, Charon and the Ferryman, and the Tempest was all great great stuff but like so many of the games that came after Vampire, most people seemed to have a hard time grokking how all the pieces fit together with the real world, the Shadowlands, and the places out in the Tempest.

I think of all the classic game lines, Wraith could most benefit from a complete overall. Here’s what I’d do:

  • Not make the game so relentless bleak.
  • Instead, play up the creepiness and weirdness. GM to Wraith-Player: “When you go downstairs, there is now a brand-new door in the middle of the living room. The living family who inhabits the house you died in does not notice the door. A part of you wants to go over and open the door, but the other part of you that refused to submit to death knows you must never ever open that door.”
  • Release an initial supplement detailing one-on-one play.
  • Make it easier to affect the living world. “Oh yeah, this is so fun just standing here not being able to do anything, especially after playing as a vampire/werewolf/mage.”
  • Or structure the game different. Maybe instead of playing each other’s shadows, half the players are playing humans the wraith characters are connected to. You could make it so it’s the mutual play of unresolved passions and desires that leads to a wraith, both the wraith’s and their human’s.
  • Come up with a different central conceit to hang group play around that connects the players together. Maybe wraiths awaken in the underworld and need to find/fight their way back to the land of the Quick?
  • And/or release supplements that provide different structures/modules to hang group play on. I always had the best luck with that when I was trying to convince people to play Wraith. ("You're all victims of the same serial killer. You all haunt the same house, each of you having lived there in different time periods. You're all the ghosts enslaved to the same Giovanni.")

May 23, 2017

New World of Darkness Editions

There’s going to be new editions of the World of Darkness tabletop RPGs, or at least for right now a 5th Edition of Vampire: The Masquerade and a 5th Edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse. (The anniversary editions from Onyx Path are the 4th editions)!

I played a ridiculous amount of WoD games—a ridiculous amount. And while I came to like other games from White Wolf more and discovered other games outside of White Wolf I probably like better overall, V:tM is what got me into tabletop RPGS. And a vampire LARP is even how I met the lovely wife.

So here are my main hopes and dreams for the new WoD lines as a whole:

  • Decide whether the meta-plot matters or not and stick to the decision
  • Decide whether the different game lines mesh or not and stick to the decision
  • If they do mesh, adjust the cosmology so the different worlds make sense together.
  • If they do mesh, publish rules for how the different powers interact and affect the different supernatural creatures
  • Free the other game lines up a bit from having to fit in the V:tM template --They all could have been slightly better games if they didn’t have to be: Group A has X number of whatevers and they are opposed by Group B with X number of whatevers
  • Make sure all parts of the central conceit of the game are understandable and don’t leave you shaking your head as to what’s the point again:
  • See most of Changeling the Dreaming
  • Wait? Hasn’t the Technocracy basically won already? Then why are we fighting them?
  • So as werewolves, we’re against the progress of man and society?
  • Back off on the incessant New Age, crunchy granola gobbledygook.
  • Axe all the terrible stuff that highlights the worst parts of gaming and being a gamer. 
  • No abominations ever
  • Never release anything like Dirty Little Secrets of the Black Hand—ever
  • Remember to keep some humans and some mystery in the world, so ease up on pumping out new “monster-of-the-week” bloodlines, etc.

May 19, 2017

Political Post: As Cherry Pie

One of my writing goals has been to try to focus my political thoughts into essays that I submit elsewhere.

My first piece is up at

And before you go read it, because I have a good feeling it's gonna anger a lot of people, here’s what I’m trying to get at it with it—I'm not advocating violence, what I'm trying to point out to you is that wishing something isn’t so, doesn’t make it so.

The elites want you locked into a mode of thinking, right? About everything. It’s only when you’ve acknowledged the truth, that you can deal with something meaningful--in this case, that's having a conversation about how to get around violence effectively.

Because what most people do when they "protest" is mimic a fictional construct, so it’s utterly meaningless and mostly accomplishes nothing other than maybe making them feel better.

Read my thoughts here: 

May 17, 2017

Marvel Flavored Dreams

When I daydream about writing comics, if the dream is Marvel flavored, it's either this: 

Or this:

May 12, 2017

The Mummy and the Universal Monsters Universe

The Mummy? Hmmm… I get it. I do. These sorts of “creative” decisions about properties come down to simply what the suits think will make them the most money, right? What you as fan think will make a good story doesn’t matter. What you as a fan think about the integrity of the characters doesn’t matter. Kill your internal monologue—it’s always what the execs think is going to pull in the most money.

Universal looks around, they see all these connected film franchises that regularly pull in around a billion dollars, and so they naturally want their cut and their monsters movies seem like a good place to start.

Once they start looking, what do they see? Del Toro’s Crimson Peak was a complete failure, Dracula Untold with Luke Evans fizzled at the Box Office, The Benicio Del Toro attempt at The Wolfman was another flop, all their big plans for Hugh Jackman’s Van Helsing (including a TV show called Transylvania) were shelved after those box office returns, and finally they come to The Mummy franchise with Brendon Fraser.

So next it becomes, “…all those superhero films are action heavy and so is Star Wars…” So naturally, they decide to kick off their Universal Monster Movie franchise with an action-adventure The Mummy with some horror elements.

But here’s the thing: yeah, I think the new version of The Mummy looks like a fun action-adventure film with some horror elements. And Tom Cruise is the male hero so I’m sure they’ll be at least one really-involved and cool stunt sequence that he and Christopher McQuarrie came up with and that Cruise trained for 6 months to be able to pull off. But despite all that…

...I’m not really sure if this is the best way to kick off a successful Universal Monster Movie franchise. The big problem is there really is nothing unique to the Universal Monsters. Anyone can make a Dracula film, a Frankenstein film (like Fox did with their version of Frankenstein that featured McAvoy and Radcliffe), or a Mummy movie without any interference from Universal as long as they’re not plagiarizing a script or using those unique character looks that they’ve trademarked (so no green skin, flat-topped Frankenstein with neck bolts or black beehive with white streaks, gossamer-gowned Bride of Frankenstein unless you want to get sued).

This is why I don’t think too many people are exactly scrambling for a new classic monster movie that wasn’t born out of something fresh…like Penny Dreadful which made use of all those same classic monster characters pretty expertly in a character-driven story that included some great takes and new twists. Plus, Penny Dreadful’s story was cohesive and complete instead of being cobbled together by a bunch of different writers hired for different parts of your franchise.

There's also the issue of the action-adventure focus over the horror, the modern setting over the past. Seems like a sure-fire way to disappoint people who might want a classic monster movie that’s maybe scary…? I mean, do you really want to see Frankenstein smashing through a tank when you have The Hulk? Besides that, I'm pretty sure that Fox is working on another version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Lastly, starting right away at the big scale we see in The Mummy trailers means you’re either going to have to keep upping the ante for each successive film before you’ve built real interest or you’re going to start big and then have to backpedal to something quieter. These sorts of films with tons of effects and big action sequences all lead to big budgets which mean the films must get big box office returns to even break even. So I'm not sure I see all this really leading anywhere except for maybe another couple of action-y movies for Tom Cruise to star in.

What would you do with the Universal Monsters franchise?

May 11, 2017

Nephilim: Occult Roleplaying

I know it's had multiple editions in France and I remember reading something about a legal issue with the rights after the original company went out of business, but, man, someday I'd love to work on a new English edition of Nephilim.

May 10, 2017

The Problem With Doctor Who

The 10th season of the new Doctor Who is now underway. Despite tons of buzz about this seasons being the best DW has been in a long time, it will be the last with both Capaldi and Moffatt.

As we get closer to a new Doctor and a new showrunner, I see a lot of talk about what went wrong with DW and why the ratings have declined. Most of the talk seems to center around either the writing under Moffat or the Doctor as played by Capaldi, or some combination of both with varying degrees of chief responsibility.

I know both contributed to my decision to stop watching DW until there was a new Doctor and a new showrunner--(the stupid, stupid scene with the Doctor playing electric guitar on a tank was when I decided I was done even trying). A few articles have also mentioned the trouble with the companions under Moffat (the most insightful one I saw wisely pointed out that Moffat spent too much time making Clara special and not enough time making her likeable). And one mentioned what they considered to be timeslot mistakes by the BBC.

Truthfully, it’s probably a combination of all those. But something else that I don’t think has been discussed really is the general lack of understanding how an audience likes to consume it’s entertainment. Splitting seasons up and having large gaps of time between episodes or specials or even the next season isn’t conducive to binging, especially considering a show doesn’t appear on a streaming service until quite sometime after the entire season is done. With so much good programming to binge, having huge gaps of time between seasons of show makes it lose both excitment and interest. And speaking of streaming services—the absolutely biggest mistake, I think, the BBC has made in ensuring the continued success of DW was signing that exclusive contract with Amazon Prime for American streaming rights and removing DW from Netflix and Hulu.

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