Short stories, linkage, and the movie Blancanieves (#SFWApro)

My progress on Cygnet Moon has been periodically interrupted by short stories all year so I'll be taking a brief hiatus on the short story front in order to finish the novel. I will be around, because I've promised folks some interviews and blog posts, and I will be cross-posting those events here. Otherwise, things are going to be kind of quiet here at the old blog.

The last couple of weeks have just blown me away by the number of people who have said such nice things about Miserere and Manifesto: UF

Just a few links:

Justin Landon gave a super shout-out to Miserere over at in Under the Radar and calls Miserere "... one of the most grossly under-read novels of the last few years."

Mihir Wanchoo reviewed Manifesto: UF at Fantasy Book Critic. He gave a brief synopsis and his thoughts on each and every story, including "Naked the Night Sings":

This was another story, whose title was attention-grabbing, plus it was written by Teresa Frohock and so I was assured of two things; elegant prose and dark settings. Not only does the author do her best in creating a rich, dark atmosphere but she also goes about creating admirable characters who leave you hooked onto the story. Another fine dark gem from an author who is fast becoming a solid favorite of mine.

"Another fine dark gem ..." will be going on my novel web page soon. Meanwhile, go read Mihir's review and see what he has to say about all the other great stories in Manifesto.

I got a Friday night suprise from Matt Gilliard when he reviewed Miserere at his blog, 52 Book Reviews. What was so interesting about this review was the Gender Bias in SF/F Roundtable discussion that led up to Matt's decision to read more novels written by women. Authors Stina Leicht, Zachary Jernigan, and Mazarkis Williams joined Matt for a discussion of women in SF/F, and they provided some interesting thoughts on the subject.

It was a big project, but Matt handled it very, very well. Whatever you do, read these links:

Gender Bias in SF/F Roundtable Part 1

Gender Bias in SF/F Roundtable Part 2

Gender Bias in SF/F Roundtable Part 3

And finally, I watched a movie recently that I would really like to share with you. Later on, when I've got more time, I'll write a full review, but for now, if you are looking for a dark and delicious fairy tale, watch the movie Blancanieves.

The entire film is a tribute to silent movies and Pablo Berger treats his subject with great love. The idea of Snow White as a bullfighter made me laugh until I saw the performances in this film. The acting is subtle and glorious. Maribel Verdú, who is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses, plays the wicked stepmother to evil perfection. The coolest twist comes in Carmen/Blancanieve's desire, which is not to become a dancer like her mother, but to become a renowned bullfighter like her father. Set in Andalusia in the 1920s, the movie captures the romance of the period and brings it to life in black and white.

Blancanieves is dark and luscious and made with love so go on and take a bite of that apple. You won't regret it. Not at all.

I'll be around.

Watch for me.

Solomon Kane

Okay, I'm late to the party, nothing new there in regards to films. I have a hearing impairment and have to wait for the closed captioning that accompanies DVDs and Netflix streaming. Solomon Kane was released in 2009. I've heard that purists had hissy fits that it wasn't a replica of the Robert E. Howard stories, and I honestly don't remember hearing anything about the movie at all.

Complete dead air (as we used to say in the radio business).

All anyone talked about in 2009 was District 9. I succumbed to everyone's praise and got the DVD to District 9 for Christmas. My daughter and I watched it together and both of us thought that the storyline was flawed, and the movie itself fell back on trite Hollywoodish themes. District 9 was the last time I listened to the genre community for movie recommendations.

As a matter of fact, I'd been disappointed so many times that I pretty much gave up on genre movies for a while, but like any addict, I can't quit them forever.

A few weeks ago, I wandered through a local store, looking for something new to watch, and I saw the container for Solomon Kane. All I knew about the movie was that Ramsey Campbell had been tapped to write the novelization, and that is the only thing that made me stop and consider buying it. Then I remembered seeing it on the Netflix list. Having been burned by bad genre films one time too many, I thought I'd check it out on Netflix first.

I had no expectations whatsoever. Okay, that's a lie. My expectations were so low, my finger hovered over the stop button so I could back out and watch something else the minute that I got too bored. I'm not kidding.

The movie opens with Kane storming a castle. Kane is played by James Purefoy (he of Mark Antony fame in the HBO series Rome). He leads his men into the castle and through a hall of mirrors. Demons swarm behind the glass, really nasty-lovely demons. When I imagine demons, this is what I see. A teensy piece of me loved that moment and I suddenly wanted this movie to succeed.

I'm an old skeptic though, and although I was certain this movie would eventually disappoint me, I decided to hang with it for a while longer.

Some of the dialogue is corny. Purefoy delivers it like it's Shakespeare. The defining moment for me came when Kane looks up at the sky and questions God. I sneered, because I knew this was it--this was the moment when I developed the giggles over corny lines and bad acting and hit that stop button out of sheer self-defence ... and that moment never came.

Purefoy's angst and honesty were just so real that he wiped that sneer right off my mouth. I settled in for the movie and I was not disappointed.

James Purefoy's portrayal of Kane as a self-interested treasure hunter to Kane the man who seeks redemption to avoid Hell's fires was exquisite. His acting was so subtle that the viewer has a hard time pinpointing the exact moment when those two extremes merge into a wonderfully complex characterization. Max von Sydow was beautiful and tragic as Kane's father. The entire cast was comprised of fine acting, dark scenes, magnificent special effects. I've watched Solomon Kane twice now, and I still jump when the demon flashes out of a mirror to snatch a sailor into Hell. I know it's coming, but the scene is so well executed, it takes me by surprise every time.

Oh, and did I mention that James Purefoy can really rock a pilgrim hat?

I so thoroughly enjoyed Solomon Kane that I'm going to buy the DVD and watch it again.

Check it out:

Timecrimes [Los Cronocrímenes]


Um ... if you're like me and really enjoy a book or movie that gives you a nice little mind-fuck, watch Timecrimes [Spanish title: Los Cronocrímenes].

The plot and characterizations reminded me of the old Twilight Zone series. You know, the really good ones that left you staring at the screen in a mild state of wonder as the end credits rolled?

Yeah that.

Timecrimes was just ... yum.

there's more to evil than killing

While doing research for my current novel, Googleland somehow channelled me to the page for the movie Gabriel with Andy Whitfield (beware the search term Asmodeus ... you will go many places, none of them good). The conflicting reviews intrigued me, as conflicting reviews always do, and I decided I'd like to see it just to make up my own mind.

I figured I'd have to order it and promptly forgot about the movie until yesterday when I searched the racks for Priest. Lo and behold but what did my wandering gaze find but a single copy of Gabriel sitting on the top shelf! I snatched it and decided we would watch this one first and Priest later.

It was a gritty, dark fantasy, the kind I like to read and write. In Gabriel, each of the Fallen have a particular vice they encourage. Lilith runs a nightclub where drug use is rampant, Ahriman supplies the drugs that Lilith's clients use, and Asmodeus runs the whorehouse. Asmodeus was my favorite of the Fallen. With the use of surgery, he tries to give a woman a replica of his face. The insight this gives the viewer into Asmodeus is tremendous. His vanity and desire to create someone in his image is evident in that one scene; he has succumbed to the very lust that he promotes to make a mirror of himself in someone else's face.

Like the Fallen, Gabriel finds himself succumbing to his desire for revenge and his own rage. The negative emotions he thought he could easily defeat with love are roused and inflamed because of his love for the other angels who were murdered. His hate and fury overwhelm him until he loses control of himself and pounds Asmodeus's face to a pulp. Even unto the end, Asmodeus was effective, because he turned Gabriel's very strength against him.

It's horror, but not the kind of horror the Jason-Freddy-Chainsaw Massacre crowd craves. This is a more insidious kind of horror, the kind that can maim a life and take years to kill; the kind that destroys first the mind and soul, then the body.

Too many writers think of horror or dark fantasy as a string of gory murders, which to me is just a turn-off. Any moron with an ax or gun can kill--it takes real creative genius to lead others astray and into their own doom. I think that was the thing I liked about Gabriel; the seductiveness of evil, how it can be so attractive to us even when we know better.

Don't expect Academy Award winning performances in Gabriel, but it was an interesting movie to watch, especially if you're like me and enjoy characterization over body-counts.