Friday, December 17, 2010

Jelly Pants - a play

How often does a writer get to indulge himself enough to write a play called Jelly Pants?

Said play went up as a part of the monthly Shotz! festival in New York City last Monday. I'm thrilled that I got to work with these guys, because let me tell you... they're funny as all hell. They've been doing Shotz! for a while now, and I was more than happy to jump in for their holiday-themed production, 'Twas the Shotz Before Christmas.

Dan from Buffyfest (you know, the guy whose review for #39 made you misty... just me?), Chris Halton (director of the upcoming Creep short), and the woman professionally known as my mom were all in attendance, in addition to a house full of people with incredibly loud and appreciative laughs that made my heart all a-flutter.

Dan Roth, Patrick Shand, Janice Shand, Chris Halton


Rob Hille did a great job directing Jelly Pants. He brought the thing to life, along with the amazing, spot-on cast. Dan Balkin played Darren, and holy FSM he put so much concentrated awesome into the character. He only had a few lines, but he lit up the stage with his appropriately goofy, overjoyed smile every time he and Monica spoke.

Monica was played by an actress who I've written for before, Jennifer Le Blanc. She is much with the awesome. I wrote a full length play, The Misadventures of Olive Sukkin, for her and I still hope that's getting produced (people are attached, we're just waiting for funding) but for now it was refreshing to see her acting in one of my shows again. Her ghostly sister Marjorie was played by Alanna Wilson, who was incredible to say the least. I'm pretentious about my writing, but I believe she added dimensions to the play--both in the funny and weepy realms--that weren't there when I put the pen to the paper. Well, the index fingers to the keyboard, but that sounds less interesting.

Obligatory Prom Picture
Alanna Wilson, Patrick Shand, Jennifer Le Blanc, Chris Halton

Alanna Wilson, Patrick Shand, Jennifer LeBlanc
Dan Balkin was nowhere to be found :(

There was a bit of a miscommunication about the page limit, so a lot had to be cut from the original piece. What I've uploaded above is a sort of Frankenstein monster that I think is made up of the best limbs of each incarnation of Jelly Pants. A lot of jokes were cut from the original play to fit the time limit, and some of them are put back, but some of them are kept out because, in hearing it, it reads better as a ten minute than a fifteen minute play. Also, I tweaked a few things after seeing it because the actors brought out things in the play than I hadn't seen. When I was going through the edits, I thought it was pretty upsetting (cutting nearly a third of the thing out), but now, having seen the show, I'm just glad I got to watch such a talented group of people say my silly, silly words.

Next month, I've got another play in the Shotz! festival. I'm submitting it today and, this time, I'm sticking to five pages. The theme is schadenfreude, and I've got a super-villainous idea, thanks to the brainstorming of one Jeffry Massey.

If you'd like to see my play next month, information will be posted in the following weeks! The date of the show is January 3rd and tickets are $10!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Open Letter to Twilight

Dear Twilight,

I know what you're trying to do. And I don't like it.

You started off fairly innocent. You weren't very well written, but you weren't truly offensive. Your Bella was disturbingly submissive, which is frown-making in a post-Buffy state of genre fiction, but it was excusable. You were what you were. A crappy romance novel aimed at teens. Somewhat humble. You aspired for nothing. You were willing to exist in relative obscurity. There were way worse, way more popular novels out there (Laurell K. Hamilton's abysmal Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, for stinky stinky instance) so I was willing to excuse you. Books like you, Twilight, were a dime a dozen.

And here’s a bit of a secret. I enjoyed you in a roller coaster ride, “this is dumb, but it isn’t even trying to be smart, yay popcorn!” way.

But then, like Vanilla Ice before you, you got famous overnight. I thought I was the only person who’d read this strange sparkly vampire romance novel thing. But then I went on Amazon and saw that there was a sequel. “Wait, people that aren’t named Patrick Shand actually read that book?”

And then… mania.

Tweens dug the shit out of you. Really bizarre grown ladies wanted to fuck Edward. A whole generation of readers began to think that vampires don't kill humans, don't have fangs, and don't burn up in the sun... they sparkle and play baseball in doofy little uniforms.

Things were bad enough then. This, Twilight, is when you took it too far. You came out with three sequels.

New Moon established Bella as the anti-feminist figure. She could barely walk (that's literal) without one of her men--both of which were, of course, super powerful and totally into fighting over her--helping her. One of the dudes forces a kiss on her, bodily forces it, and he's still considered to be a good guy. The other dude, when he isn't stalking her room at night time (again literal), wants to kill himself because he can't be with her. I mean, really? Cheer up, emo kid. It was still roller-coastery… but it had a dark undertone that I didn’t really grasp until I took a hard look at the drivel that I was reading.

And yet, since I'm unable to not finish a series I've started, I read on. Eclipse was offensively bad. Every other paragraph was a description of some vampire's beauty. You hit a new low with Eclipse, Twilight... and I began to hate you. Any of the “This is fine” feelings I had while reading Twilight were gone and replaced with anger.

Then, Breaking Dawn. It was boring, long, rapey, and in the end... I was somewhat amused to see... Bella came to power. She became the strongest of them all. It was JUST LIKE BUFFY. Except not. Yeah, the weakest female protagonist ever is suddenly empowered. On the surface, it sounds good. On the surface, I was actually surprised and sort of happy that it went there. And then, I used the thing in my head that I call a brain, deleted my recurring “this is fine” thoughts, and then really started to think. How is she empowered? Because of a dude infecting her. Awesome message, Twilight.

But that isn't even why I hate you.

It's why I think you're annoying.

But this, Twilight? This is personal.

Let's take a trip back to 2005. I had an idea for a series. The Continuity. A series of young adult novels concerning vampires. Only, these vampires do this strange thing called killing people. I know, crazy right? But the series was more than just a sequence of vampire books. It, as pretentious as this might sound, has pretty much everything I've wanted to say about... well, life in it. At the core of it's, it's a twist on the whole prophecy trope. A girl finds out there's a prophecy that she's supposed to kill this evil dude, and pretty much the world depends on it. And she says, "Fuck that." She cares about the world, for sure. But why does she have to believe in fate because some pretentious pseudo-poetic prophecy thing tell her she's destined to do something? It gets into religion and it's a really humanist book and has some ideas that I was toying with then and have since become really passionate about, but... on the surface, the plot has a lot of vampires fucking shit up. And maybe even a vampire who might eventually start fucking shit up for the good guys for his or her own ends, because there's no such thing as black and white evil. There's a whole mess of grey, and I wanted to write everything from that grey.

I also wanted to make sure I wasn't stealing anyone's ideas unintentionally. So, instead of ignoring all other books in my genre, I read a lot. I watched a lot. I saw how other folks approached the vampire myth, and I tweaked my mythology to keep it fresh, new, and relevant. And different. One of the books I read during this period of time was you, Twilight. Thankfully, my vampires were actual vampires and not--as my girlfriend once texted me--"sparkle fairies", so I didn't have to worry about stealing from you. (I also got reacquainted re-obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel during this period of time, so for that I'm grateful).

But then.

Twilight, you became famous. You changed and essentially shat upon the two genres I was appealing to. Vampire fic and YA Lit. Now, both of these have such bad connotations to serious readers. Which sucks, considering how many awesome books come from both genres. But now? Both markets are flooded with Twilight wannabes. People with good taste in books are rightfully skeptical of both genres. Shit, I know I am. For every John Green and Barry Lyga writing YA Lit, there are twenty Stephenie Meyers. For every Buffy or Fray, there is a shitload more Twilight.

I’m ashamed that I once thought you were roller-coastery.

Vampires are in vogue, and it sucks. So fuck you very much, Twilight.


Your empire is on its way down. Why? There are folks out there skewering the shit out of you, and it's working. There are more and more people who are realizing that you're lame. How?

One, True Blood. True Blood is essentially what would happen if Meyer had been imaginative, stranger (well, no, GOOD stranger, not Meyerstranger), smarter (I mean, fucking Alan Ball does it, what do you expect), and didn't have an anti-feminist agenda. And you know what? It's popular as shit. Maybe for the wrong reasons. A lot of folks are tuning in for the sex. A lot of folks, probably the Twilight crowd, are tuning in, because ooooh hot vampires OMG. And while that does suck... the stories are still getting out there. And folks are seeing how much better stories are when they don't... you know, suck. They're seeing that this romantic figure they're swooning over doesn't go home and gel his hair like Edward Cullen does. He goes home, goes to his basement... wait, no, he doesn't have a basement because he's a vampire, he has a fucking dungeon, and tears rednecks in two with his bare hands. Because he's a vampire and he's behaving like vampires are supposed to.

Two, Buffy: Season Eight. In Joss Whedon's comic, the follow-up to the TV show, the plot is simple. Vampires have become popular due to a masked villain named... any guesses? Twilight. Subtle, right? Twilight's crusade gets a whole bunch of innocent people murdered, and it's done in a way that makes the popularity of vampires look rather silly. Is it a timely coincidence? Nah. Twilight, consider yourself parodied by a series that does what you did, only way better, way smarter, and, oh, over a decade ago.

And three, I'm still writing. I've changed my book in light of the state of YA Lit, post-Twilight. The Continuity is harsher. It may be an adult novel. Not sure yet. But... well, it opens with a punch in the face to anyone thinking that Twilight is still relevant in vampire fiction.

Not that you ever were, Twilight. Because these?

They ain't vampires.

So to end this letter, here is the opening chapter of The Continuity. SUCK ON THAT (and this terrible pun), TWILIGHT!

The Continuity- Chapter One

The human and the vampire kissed passionately.

As the human’s heart rate skyrocketed, the vampire ran her cold hands from his hips, to his warm chest, to his neck, feeling his pulse pounding. The human pulled the vampire closer to his body, feeling her powerful frame against his. In that moment, he was in love. In fiery, romantic, forever-love.

However, unfortunately for him, vampires don’t love humans. They kill them.

The vampire tightened her hands on his throat and, with one quick movement, she snapped his neck. She drained him, dropped him, and watched his head flop around comically as he sprawled on the ground.

Winter wiped the blood off her lips, careful not to stain the cuff of her custom-made leather jacket. She stepped out of the dark alley and into the busy nightlight of New York City. The streets were bustling with people with pulsing veins in their necks who, thanks to a recent trend, thought that vampires were the epitome of romance. Winter smiled, baring red, bloodstained teeth.

“This just might be epic.”



Pat Shand.

PS: You smell.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands upon thousands of people set aside the time to write a 50,000 word novel. It seems like an impossible feat, especially to a guy like me who spends his whole life writing. I’ve been working on a novel called “Lefty” since 2007, and I’m still in the middle of rewrites on that. But here’s the catch. The NaNoWriMo novel is doable, because a) it’s just a first draft, b) the operators of the site encourage writers not to edit as they go along, and c) if you write 1667 words a day (doable, no?)… you will have a novel by the end of the month.

So… it’s November 30th and I don’t have a novel.

I have 17,540 moderately kinda maybe good words. There are some structural issues in this first quarter of what will eventually be a novel, but it’s a good start.

But anyway. I didn’t win this year. I hope to win next year. I think I can win next year which, granted, Future Pat Who Lives In 2011 might be chuckling at, but I’ll try. And I’ll avoid the pitfalls that prevented me from winning this year. Maybe it’ll help some other folks.


Don’t start NaNoWriMo if you’re already working on something time-consuming. I’m lucky enough to be in super tentative-don’t-get-to-excited-nothing-is-set-in-stone-at-all-even-a-little-but-holy-shit-I-am-excited-despite-what-I-said-before talks with an agent about a novel that I’m writing. It’s called Lefty and a really cool lady read it, liked it, and gave me eight pages of awesome notes that I’m confident will change the novel for the better. I’ve been working on this new draft since September, and I decided to take a break for NaNoWriMo. Thing is, my head was still really in the Lefty place… so I didn’t really have any EUREKA! moments of brilliance during the writing of my NaNoNovel. I did finally realize what the hell I was writing about a few days ago, but I’d already thrown in the proverbial towel. So yeah. If your head is somewhere else when November rolls around… let it stay there. I could have already resubmitted Lefty by now.


Don’t get too attached. This is a tough one. Any writer worth his or her squishy will get attached when writing an extended (or even a short) piece. Try to ignore that voice that says “This character wouldn’t do that” or “How could I be so mean to this character?!” or “This is happened way too fast” or any of those kind of thoughts. If you get so involved in the story that you start examining the nuts and bolts while you’re NaNo-ing… you won’t get that shiny badge at the end. That’s what happened to me. Thing is, this might also be a good thing. If the “This isn’t right” voice is so consistent… maybe this novel is trying to tell you that it needs more time and thought than NaNoWriMo allows for. And I know that those are two conflicting pieces of advice, but I’m a novelist… What do you expect?


Twitter. Facebook. Video games. They’re all delicious, delectable distractions. I’m an addict, I admit.


This is the biggest and most obvious pitfall, but it tends to be the one that most people fall in. I blame a lot of my NaNoWriMo failings on the top three, but this is the Big Bad. Ready for it?

It's as simple as this: Not writing.

(I kinda didn't write.)

So the month is over, and I didn't win NaNo. But I’m happy. In November, I finally wrote my CV and applied for a teaching job. I got a better day job. I wrote and submitted two pitches to my favorite comic book publisher. I wrote a play called Jelly Pants that will be performed in the city December 6th. I wrote the first sixty-eight pages of the first draft of Commuters (my attempted NaNoNovel)… and I feel like I’m in a good place. Hell, after I wrote the first fifty pages of Lefty, I stopped for a year due to lack of inspiration. Then an awesome girl and some coyotes inspired me in 2009, and I completed the first draft and am currently nearing the end of the second. So here’s to NaNoWriMo and productivity.

A lot of writers hate on NaNoWriMo for being antithetical to what the writing process is. Cramming the first draft of a novel into such a short period of time is, yes, usually inadvisable. A novel isn’t born in a month, no matter how good you are. But here’s the thing. While those who win this month, thinking that their novel is ready to shop to agents… they’re in for an upsetting (and super funny) surprise. However, NaNoWriMo does two awesome things. If you’re successful, you leave the month with a full first draft. A first draft that is in dire need of edits, yes, but what first draft isn’t?

Perhaps even better than that, NaNoWriMo teaches discipline. Writers are supposed to write every day. I’d even say more than 1,667 words. Writers, we’re weird. We want to write and we want to be published and we want people to read our books… but we get distracted by daydreaming and life (and also Facebook and Twitter). Most people doing NaNoWriMo don’t have agents to light fires under their asses and make them meet deadlines… because they have no deadlines. NaNoWriMo helps those unagented writers (hi there) write every day. And that is pretty damn cool.


My twitter.

My NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo's website.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Buffy Reboot: Leave Whit Anderson Alone

LEAVE WHIT ANDERSON ALONE!!!11!1excessiveexclamationpoints!!!

Alright, bit too late for Chris Crocker jokes? Yeah? Fine, fine. Though, you have to appreciate the expression of utter horror pictured above.

And that's kind of how it feels to be a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer right now. Kind of horrific. The Joss Whedon fandom is in the biggest turmoil since Firefly was canceled (read as: abused, mistreated, spat and/or shat upon, and then canceled) and things are getting ugly.

Here's the sitch.

Joss Whedon originally created Buffy as a film. People bought it. People made it. It sucked. Joss was super sad.

Joss pitched it as a TV series. People bought it. People made it. It became what many people consider to be the best television series of all time. Joss was super happy.

Now it gets tricky. The original people that bought and made the movie still have the rights to the character... and they're making a movie. You'd think that the fans would be thrilled with the news that our favorite slayer is hitting big screens to take out vampires and sparkle fairies (pictured below) alike.

But here's the catch. They're doing this without Joss. Sans Whedon. Minus the original creator. So instead of rejoicing, fans are going pretty much batshit. Thing is, I understand that. I don't necessarily agree with it as I'm a bit more objective than the average fan, but I understand it. Buffy's voice is Joss Whedon's voice. The original movie didn't work, the series did. People remember Sarah Michelle Gellar's quippy, morally ambiguous, heroic, and emotionally raw Buffy... not Kristy Swanson's campfest. So I get why the fandom is upset that the folks behind the original movie might shape this generation's vision of Buffy Summers.

However, what I don't get is this:

"This freak is just as delusional as Fran Kuzui. :/ "

Why can't Whit come up with an original idea of her own to sell? But this is the culture we seem to live in where people want to constantly feed off of others hard work to bolster their own futures.

Who the hell is she to think she has the right to get ‘her version’ of Buffy on screen?

Whit Anderson needs to just calm the eff down and just post her little thoughts in the FAN FICTION section because that's ALL this will be - a glorified FAN FICTION that has apparently been given a budget.

Once this whitless woman person, watches one episode of Btvs she will truly realise how out of her league she is.

This Anderson chick clearly decided she wanted to take Buffy from Whedon and run it herself.

I will be eagerly awaiting Whit Anderson's future autobiography: "How to Become a Pariah in One Easy Step."

If you're a true fan Ms. Anderson, you'll change your mind and leave well enough alone!

This chick and Warners can go to Hell! How many people did she have to blow to get this gig?

This freak needs to stop writing fanfics and get an original idea. Retarded.

Alright. After you wipe the vomit from your chin, skip to the next bit.

Bit of a catch-up: Who is Whit Anderson? Why, she's the writer of the new Buffy film of course. She's also a nice lady, a hilarious tweeter, and most importantly... a fan of the show. Not the movie. The show.

Now, reread those comments.

Just know that those are Whedon fans. Fans of the creator of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Doctor Horrible. I’ve often described his work as the best of our time. He has created some of the most philosophically, psychologically, and emotionally complex works of television, film, and comics that exist. For years, I’ve been proud to be a part of a fandom that watches his work and understands why these works are important. I’ve analyzed his writing with people I’ve befriended over the years, and the gratification I’ve felt while connecting with someone thanks to Whedon’s work is immeasurable. Buffy, Joss Whedon, and the fandom have changed my life.

But now this. I’m disappointed and disgusted to say the least. How is it that people who seemed to have grasped the metaphors of early Buffy, the philosophy of Angel, and the moral exploration of Dollhouse can stoop this low? Again, let’s rewind a bit. This chick and Warners can go to Hell! How many people did she have to blow to get this gig?” A Buffy fan said that.

I’m fucking ashamed of this fandom.

Essentially, White Anderson took a dream job. She’s an avid Buffy fan, just like the people bashing her and, in some cases, threatening physical violence. She’s had to face this:

And here’s the thing. What is all of this for? A whole bucket load of nothing.

1. Joss Whedon’s Buffy is still going on in comic form. Fans might be a bit iffy with certain plots that involve aerial sex and reverse deux-ex machinas… but it’s there.

2. When the movie is released, it will not be loaded with Death Rays that will shoot from the projectors and into your homes to destroy your DVDs. Even if you see and loathe the new film… your DVDs will still be there. This doesn’t retroactively negate seven seasons and forty comics worth of Buffy.

3. As EricaCV pointed out on Twitter… the original movie sucked. It still exists. People still watch it. Could things really be worse than that? And if the film is worse… so what? Again, your DVDs are looking mighty keen to be rewatched.

4. Pssst. This might be crazy to hear, but you don’t have to go watch it.

5. Here’s the clincher. Joss… doesn’t seem to care much. Read his actual snarky, meh letter about it rather than the out-of-context bits that make it seem like he’s enraged.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has changed my life. My Buffy will always be Joss’s vision. But I’m excited to see what another person who loves the show as much as I do has to say about the character. I’m excited to see new people talking about Buffy again. I’m excited that, if the film is good, a bunch of new fans will be buying the DVDs and discovering the awesomeness of Whedon’s work.

Too much energy is being wasted on being angry at Whit Anderson. She took a dream job. I’m a screenwriter who has been inspired by Joss Whedon to no end. I love the man and his work. But I would take the Buffy job in a second. It’s not an affront to Joss Whedon, Buffy Summers, or the fans. It’s a kick ass job. And I hope and sorta kinda know that Whit Anderson will do said kick ass job justice.

So yeah. Fandom. Leave the lady alone.

Slay ‘em, Whit.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hot Dogs and French Fries - a zombie story

Here's a sample of something I've been working on. Figured it was timely, what with Halloween being... you know... over.

Also, pretend there is a cool graphic of a zombie right here.

Oh, actually no. Pretend that this picture isn't shamelessly stolen from The Walking Dead.

Hot Dogs and French Fries

A Zombie Story

by Patrick Shand

No one in the world understands me.

I can see the looks of disapproval in their yellowed eyes. Those of them whose faces remain intact stare at me in slack-jawed astonishment as I eat my meal. “Blasphemy!” some of the more pretentious ones cry. “Disgusting!” the women say as they watch me swallow my food and lick my lips. Some of the younger ones say, “Mommy, what is he eating?” to which their parent responds, “Don’t worry about it, sweetie. Move along.”

Yes, I am the strange one. The freak.

I wish I could say that I was a nonconformist, but I wish I could be like them. I wish I could find their meals savory. It is what’s expected. What’s right, the leaders say. But as I watch them grab the human prisoners at random, crunching through their skulls and tearing, chewing on, devouring, lapping up the insides of their craniums, I have to wonder… why do they like brains so damn much?

Thanks to my graveyard being within close proximity to Matheson Power Plant, I was one of the first to be reanimated when the incident happened. The good folks at Matheson tried to cover up their mistake, which is funny considering every cemetery within fifty square miles was churning within forty-eight hours. Within the week, the country was in a state of all out war. Within the month, the world was ours. Enslaved humans, total chaos, free reign for us, and skulls filled with brains waiting to be eaten wherever you looked.

When I first lumbered away from my grave, confused to be back in my body, which was a lot more malodorous than I’d remembered, I had one clear thought. I was hungry. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but I knew that my stomach needed to be filled. I looked around and saw the others, the kind folks I’d been buried next to, were outright attacking humans. Babies were thrown about like footballs, men were taken down by packs of my kind, and women were lured into dark alleys and devoured by the skeevier ones.

Everywhere, they were eating brains.

Well, I figured, That seems to be the thing to do.

I set out on my quest. I approached a couple sitting out on their deck. They’d fallen asleep, and were oblivious to the mass hysteria that was taking place before them. Silently, I crept up on them as silently as I could, which, granted, wasn’t very silently, as I was dragging my broken right leg behind me like a sack of bones and flesh.

As I ascended the three steps with a thonk, thonk, thonk, the woman woke up, staring at me groggily. Before she could react, I was upon her. As I dug my decayed teeth into her throat to silence her, I felt the scream vibrating through my mouth, and I swallowed it, stifling her. The taste of blood stinging my tongue, I pulled her away from her still sleeping husband and pressed my teeth into her skull. My canines slowly sank into her head, and when I felt the resistance of bone, I pressed harder. With a loud crunch, I’d hit home. I rubbed my hands together, curious to engage in the same culinary ecstasy that my brethren were enjoying all around me. I pressed my mouth to her head and began to suck up her brains with all the gusto I could manage.

The taste overwhelmed me like the stench of a passing garbage trunk. I gasped, falling back into the sleeping husband, coughing, spitting, trying to force myself to vomit in order to rid my mouth of the awful, rancid taste.

“AHHHHH!” the husband screamed, pushing me away. He repeated his scream, albeit a few octaves higher, when I was out of his line of vision and he saw what I’d done to his wife.

Garrrrrgh!” I cried.

“Monster!” he screamed, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Garrrrrgh,” I repeated.

“Please, don’t kill me too,” he said, “please. Please. We have a kid, please…”

Garrrrrgh,” I said, already quite tired of the exchange. The husband proceeded to collapse to his knees, needlessly pleading with me to not kill him. I didn’t want to do anything of the sort. I just wanted mouthwash.

I lumbered away, confused and displeased.

Maybe, I mused, she was an exceedingly dumb woman. Maybe dumb brains taste awful.

I continued to lumber down the street, wondering what to do. My hunger starting to scratch at my stomach, and I needed sustenance. I continued to walk on, until I found myself at the local university. There was a feisty young zombie on the walkway, feasting on the brains of a bespectacled man in a tweed jacket. The victim looked to be a professor.

Intelligence, I noted.

Barrrrg,” I said to the young zombie. May I have a taste?

Rackle marrf!” he replied. Get your own, mister!

A brief digression: Humans assume, based on the tropes of film and literature, that zombies are unintelligent creatures who live only to eat and kill. Incorrect. Humans have only seen the earth. We zombies have died. We’ve seen what comes next, and we have returned. Humans couldn’t dream of understanding us. Not our desires, not our intelligence, and especially not our language, which is so linguistically complicated that humans are just unable to hear the subtle nuances in our communication. What sounds like “Ughhhhh” to the untrained ear might just be, “Excuse me, don’t flee! I don’t wish to eat your brains! I’d simply like you to point me to the nearest hot dog stand” and what people may hear as “Garrrrrgh” is actually “Excuse me for gnawing through your wife’s skull, I was simply curious. My sincerest apologies!” and what may be misconstrued as “Braaaaaiiiinss…” well, that… yes, that is actually just “brains.”

So, back to my encounter.

“May I have a taste?”

“Get your own, mister!”

“I’d hate to have to resort to fisticuffs,” I warned the young zombie.

“Fine. Jerk,” he said, pushing the bespectacled man at me.

I shifted the weight of the man to my good side, as to not apply too much pressure to my broken leg. I sniffed the open skull of the professor, smelling nothing, which might be due to the fact that my nose had fallen off in an earlier stage of decomposition. Shrugging, I tentatively stuck my tongue into the folds of his brain, bringing a morsel of grey matter into my mouth.

I instantly dropped the man and vomited a black substance all over the poor young zombie. It was the first and certainly not the last time that one of my own called me a “freak.”

More to come! If you offer me love, devotion, and the hearts of twenty seven virgins. I kid. Twenty seven is way overkill.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reviews for the New IDW Comics

A whole bunch of great Angelverse comics came out recently. Here's my review for the conclusion to the "Connorland" arc in the Angel book, the second issue of Brian Lynch's fantastic Spike series, and the epic first installment of Scott Tipton and Mariah Huehner's Illyria spin-off. It's a great time to be an Angel fan.

Illyria: Haunted #1: So, so very good. While IDW has given Illyria a lot of attention in the past (Fallen Angel: Reborn, Illyria: Spotlight, Angel: Only Human, etc.) this book gives us more insight into her perspective than we've gotten... well, ever. Since her arrival in Shells, she's been a mystery. We've seen her develop, change, grow... but she remains alien. Now, we finally get a good look at her thought process, and it's fascinating. Illyria has great conversations with both Angel and Spike that sheds light on all three characters in new and interesting ways. And that's really what good writing is. Developing characters in a way that makes sense considering their history, but keeping it all unexpected.Illyria: Haunted treads new ground, which is kind of ironic seeing that the plot is taking Illyria back to where she started: The Deeper Well. Read more...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

REVIEW: Archvillain by Barry Lyga


by Barry Lyga

Picture this. I’m at a horse show. Watching my equestrian girlfriend kick ass. Well, not literal ass, but kick ass at riding horses. While I’m cheering, whooping, etcetera, my phone is a-buzz in my pocket. I hit ignore. It continues. I hit ignore again. More vibrations. Frustration.

After the results are announced (SPOILERS: she kicked ass), I checked out my phone. Voicemails aplenty. My friend Caitlin was at a YA convention, and she met one of my favorite authors, Barry Lyga. She’d been calling me so that I could talk to him while he was signing books. Whoops.

I ended up meeting the guy later, and this time I not only got a chance to talk to him, but I got something free out of it. Yup. Free stuff. Can’t beat it. Picture this. New York Comic-Con. I’m walking. Barry Lyga is walking. Our paths cross. Music swells. Only, not really. I go, “Barry Lyga.” He thinks, “Who the hell-?” I introduce myself. He’s off to be interviewed by a dude, so the conversation is quick, but hey, I walked away with the goods.

An advanced reader copy of his new book, “Archvillain.” Gotta love it.

I just finished it, and I enjoyed it. It’s a big departure from Lyga’s usual work in the YA field. This book is a Middle Grade (ages 9-12) superhero (villain?) adventure. Think Dr. Horrible meets Hey Arnold, with less moral ambiguity and no singing. The protagonist is… well, as you’d expect from a novel that follows the “villain,” kind of a jerk. He’s got a superiority complex the size of Metropolis and he treats his parents like dirt. To avoid making him a totally unlikable character, though, Lyga gives the readers little glimpses at Kyle’s soft side through his relationships with the two people (well… things) he tolerates: His rabbit Lefty and his friend/obvious crush, Mairi. Also, young readers will love Kyle’s penchant for pulling pranks on oblivious adults, but I found it to be a bit of a retread. Pranking is a major part of Lyga’s earlier novel, “Hero Type,” so it felt weird to have pranks as such an integral part of this book as well. Even Kyle’s reasons for pulling these tricks (showing people that they’re foolish) is reminiscent of the motives of the Fools from “Hero Type.”

While I mostly liked “Archvillain,” a major problem I had with it was the repetition and the sudden, somewhat dues ex machina-ey bursts of memory. Kyle forgets all about his first “encounter” with Mike and then, when it’s convenient, suddenly remembers not only seeing him down to the last detail. Then, while his dad is talking about a camera, Kyle suddenly remembers a pants prank (best kind of prank, if you ask me) that he pulled in the third grade. Kyle is supposed to be a calculating—albeit somewhat, well, bumbling—genius. Yes, a bumbling genius. It happens. There are a few times in the book where I wondered why Kyle was being so slow on the uptake, which made the moments where his intelligence was overtly obvious a bit incongruous with the rest of the narrative.

On the plus said, it reminded me of Nicktoons, back in the pre-Spongebob days where Nicktoons were actually… you know, good. It’s set in a somewhat simplified world, where the mass public operates as one unit. Other than Kyle, the entire school… town… and world accepts Mike without question as a hero. A force of good. The government runs experiments on him, but it’s all voluntary. Nothing that would hurt him. It makes for an interesting, sort of hyperreality where Kyle stands utterly alone, a genius opposing a world full of skeptical albeit well-meaning simpletons.

The book doesn’t do for Middle Grade Lit what Lyga’s previous efforts have done for YA, but I’m not sure that it aspires to. While “The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl” and “Boy Toy” both speak for the culture of being different in high school in a way that no other YA books have thus far, “Archvillain” is simply a fun story. Kyle Camden isn’t exactly relatable and it’s often hard to sympathize with him, but reading about his schemes and failures is enjoyable. Because hey, there’s nothing tastier than a healthy dose of schadenfreude, and this book offers it up in generous helpings.

I definitely recommend “Archvillain” to any 9-12 year old kids looking for an entertaining read, and I also encourage fans of Lyga’s YA lit to check this out.

3 ½ out of 5 squishies.

Click here to purchase "Archvillain."

Click here to read more about Barry Lyga.