“What Kind of Killer Do You Think Stops to Save a Dying Fish?”

Well, the Clarion West Write-a-Thon finished up last week, and I succeeded in writing things! Perhaps they weren’t the stories I should have been focusing on, necessarily, but it’s been a dark year, and it’s still only August. Sometimes, the joy of fanfic is more important than the projects that might someday get you paid.

Per usual, I offered up a movie review/essay as a possible reward, and two sponsors took me up on it. The first sponsor, Tom, has donated to the WaT several times now and has delighted in making me watch everything from classic SF that I’ve never seen (Dune) to laughably terrible movies about Big Foot that no one should see (Night of the Demon). Today, however, we’ll be discussing a film I have watched before, albeit not in a very long time: the late 90’s SF neo-noir, Dark City.

To my relief, it actually holds up pretty well.

Continue reading

Now Available At The Dark: “You Were Once Wild Here”

Friends, enemies, wayward strangers stumbling over this blog: I am delighted to announce I have a new story out today. “You Were Once Wild Here” is now available to read at The Dark!

If you are perhaps already familiar with my extensive 2019 oeuvre–it’s two stories, including this one–you might notice some similarities in my recent work: 2nd-person POV, for one; also, ace teenage protagonists. I’m extremely fond of both stories; this one, however, is much more noir in both plot and tone. If you happen to like psychic dreams, werewolves, cheerleaders, dysfunctional family dynamics, witchcraft, and murder, this might be something you’d enjoy. Official Radiohead pairing: “We Suck Young Blood.”

Triple Scoop Reviews: Captain Marvel, Cast a Deadly Spell, and Bad Times at the El Royale

Captain Marvel

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other (Theater)
Spoilers: Not really
Grade: Chocolate

Well, I finally did it; I left my house and got my ass down to the movie theater for the first time in, like, a bunch of months. I confess, I don’t know exactly where Captain Marvel fits in my Ultimate Marvel Movie Ranking, but I had a pretty good time: Brie Larson is a joy to watch, she has amazing buddy cop chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson, and I really like her friendship with Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). I know some people were really into Carol/Maria, though personally, I can’t say I ship it myself. I didn’t quite see that type of chemistry, and besides, I’m (unsurprisingly) ecstatic that Captain Marvel a) features an important friendship between two women, and b) doesn’t waste time on a needless romantic subplot. That all being said, should Carol end up with, say, Nebula or Valkyrie in later films? I’m saying, I could be here for that.

I do feel like Captain Marvel starts a bit rough. I’m not totally sure why, either, just that I wasn’t super engaged with the first, say, 20 minutes of the movie? The second Carol lands on Earth, though, the whole story comes alive. Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson are comedy gold; I particularly enjoy seeing a younger, happier, cat-loving Nick Fury. Obviously, Goose is fantastic, too. And actually, I really like all the supporting players: Ben Mendelsohn steals half the scenes he’s in, Annette Bening’s character, Dr. Lawson, goes in a pretty neat direction, and I always enjoy seeing Agent Coulson pop up. Although. Whatever they did to his eyebrows? No. Just no.

What I really like about this one, I think, is that it’s just a fun movie with a badass female lead. There’s often so much pressure on women-led films to not only be flawless but also Significant; like, if the films themselves aren’t Perfect Feminist Victories, then they’re automatic failures that only prove how this “trend” of gender-flipped and/or women-dominated films are unnecessary, a PC ploy, etc. But that’s crap for a lot of reasons: for one, every damn movie has flaws or things that could be improved; for another, a film can be significant without having to be Significant. And for the most part, Captain Marvel strikes me as a fun, easy-breezy installment in the Marvel machine; it’s another superhero movie that just so happens to have a badass lady at the forefront. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly groundbreaking material; I would say that it’s a lot of fun, and it would’ve meant a lot to me especially if I could’ve seen it as a kid.

A few final notes:

A. Gemma Chan doesn’t have a ton to do here, but I like her and I’m interested in seeing more from her in other films.

B. I’m a 90’s kid, so obviously, I’m all about this soundtrack. Garbage! Hole! No Doubt! TLC! Surely I’d buy it if I didn’t already own a good chunk of the songs.

C. Any superhero who’s dressed in a NIN shirt for half the movie is a superhero I’d like to see more of.

D. I really do like Brie Larson a whole lot in this. I’ve loved her since Envy Adams and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and I’m eager to see her in Avengers: Endgame . . . even if I’m still not super pumped to see Avengers: Endgame itself.

E. There are lots and lots of great lines in this movie, but without a doubt, the most powerful one for me was “I have nothing to prove to you.” That’s already on a T-shirt, right? I need to buy it immediately.

Cast a Deadly Spell

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other (HBO)
Spoilers: Yeah
Grade: Strawberry

Look, I was five, mostly, in 1991, so there were a few things I missed out on. For instance, did you know that HBO made a fantasy-noir TV movie about H.P “Philip” Lovecraft, a private eye who refuses to use magic in a world where everyone else does? It’s true! Fred Ward plays our shamus; meanwhile, Clancy Brown plays a gangster, Julianne Moore plays the femme fatale, and David Warner the rich, shady client. And it’s not just witches and warlocks, either; there are unicorns, gremlins, vampires, werewolves, gargoyles, demons, voodoo zombies, and, of course, the Old Ones. This is full-on urban fantasy, set in a noir backdrop, and I can’t believe I had to wait almost 30 years to discover it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean this movie is any good. Oh God, no. There’s a reason film noir is so easy to parody: hardboiled dialogue is tricky to pull off naturally, and I’m not convinced Fred Ward quite manages it. The script has a number of issues, from problematic queer rep to problematic racist shit to forgetting the basic principles of Chekhov’s magical gun. And the special effects are . . . well, let’s just say HBO has come a long way in 30 years.

But Christ, I’d love the opportunity to remake the hell out of this. I mean, I’d change a LOT. Our detective absolutely does not need to be named Lovecraft; seriously, fuck that guy. I’m keeping the Old Ones, sure, but HP goes. I’d also prefer our gumshoe had a better reason for abstaining from magic than condescending moral superiority. Everything about the queer couple (the gay guy is fat, sweaty, and pathetic; the trans woman is attacked both verbally and violently by our hero, both die badly, etc.) must fuck right off. It’d really be for the best if all the zombie slaves weren’t black, and if a virgin is going to save the day by losing her virginity before she can be sacrificed, it would help if a) she had more agency, b) wasn’t underage, and c) was actually allowed to be the hero. Instead, it’s the schmucky, adulterous, very adult cop who’s called a “hero” for having sex with her.

Still, if I could write an adult hardboiled noir urban fantasy series with or without Lovecraftian undertones for HBO today? Oh my God, that is the dream. Until then, I’ll just have to console myself with the fact that Hypolite (a witch, Lovecraft’s landlady, and presumed dead meat character) actually lives. Also? There’s a sequel. Starring DENNIS HOPPER.

I take it back. That’s the fucking dream right there.

Bad Times at the El Royale

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: ALL OF THEM
Grade: Vanilla

Man. I wanted to like this so bad.

It starts out great. The movie has a fantastic premise, a talented cast, and atmosphere in spades. I like Cynthia Erivo a lot, as well as Lewis Pullman and Jon Hamm. Hamm’s whole section–where he discovers 80 bazillion bugs in his motel room, as well as all the two-way mirrors–is particularly creepy. Unfortunately, the film also starts falling apart shortly after he dies. Specifically, I think it starts falling apart when Chris Hemsworth arrives on scene, which feels sacrilegious to say, I know. But it’s not an acting problem. The third act just desperately falls short of all the movie’s potential.

One problem, I think, is that cult leader Billy Lee (Hemsworth) doesn’t feel important enough to be this film’s chief antagonist. Creepy shirtless dancing aside, his presence and placement in this story feels a bit too random; he should just be one of the strangers at the motel with a secret agenda, not a Big Bad who strolls in thirty minutes before the end of the movie. He is, honestly, a little too boring to hold the whole third act. This story’s real Big Bad ought to be Management; they’re the villains that tie everyone’s stories together, or should, anyway. But Management is only briefly discussed, a vaguely nefarious non-entity who drops out of the movie entirely, presumably because the writers don’t know who or what the hell Management really is.

Or maybe they do know but don’t care–there’s something of a smug “we don’t have to tell you all the answers” vibe to this movie. Who’s on the film reel, for instance, and hey, I actually agree with that: we don’t need to know which famous dead person was filmed. Still, there’s a limit to how many times a movie can cheekily avoid giving you a straight answer before you wanna smack it right in the face, and Bad Times at the El Royale well surpassed that limit. Not to mention, there are just so many dropped plot threads by the end of the movie that you know it can’t all be intentional.

For instance, who murdered bank robber Nick Offerman? The movie sets it up as a mystery–we never see the killer’s face–but presumably it’s the third partner we barely glimpse in flashback, someone who’s only referred to as “the kid.” And wouldn’t you know it, desk clerk Miles (Pullman) certainly fits the bill: he’s roughly the right age, still working at this dodgy ass motel for some reason, and keeps trying to confess something that isn’t all the pervy spy shit to Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges). Except it turns out that Miles is not that guy, considering he’s literally the only character in this movie who actually thinks Flynn’s a priest–and, well, that’s it. The movie sets up a mystery in the opening act and then promptly forgets about it for the rest of the film. Also! Why the hell set a movie in a place where a literal line divides characters in different states if you’re not going to prominently use said line in an interesting way during some awesome climactic scene? Or, shit, at least figure out a way to tie it into some goddamn themes.

At 2 hours and 20 minutes, Bad Times at the El Royale is easily 20 minutes longer than it needs to be, with too much time spent on lengthy or unnecessary flashbacks. (Case in point, Miles’s incredibly last minute Vietnam War scene.) Despite all this, though, the movie is still totally watchable, especially if you, like me, are a sucker for these kinds of stories. Unfortunately, that only makes it more disappointing when what started out so promising turns out to be such a hot mess by the end.

Clarion West Write-a-Thon 2017: Week 6 Update

Top Secret Code Name of Current Project: Fedoras and Trust Issues
Current Pitch: Hardboiled fairy tale noir!
Slightly More Detailed Pitch: In an alternate post-WWII America, a cranky, bisexual PI and his ace, teenage Girl Friday try to solve the disappearances and/or murders of three different women.

Number of Unexpected Arguments Between Characters: 1
Number of Big Reveals This Chapter: 1
Number of Secret Plans Involving Murder: Well, lots. But in this chapter? 1

Song From Current Project Playlist: “Elias” – Ramin Djawadi, Stephen Coleman, & Hollywood Studio Symphony

Goal Met: YES

Last week of the Write-a-Thon, and I have met my goal! I wish I could just slack off now and go indulge in some fanfiction, but unfortunately I really need to keep up the pace to meet my deadline. I did, however, reward myself by buying an unconscionable amount of books from Barnes & Noble. The multiple shipping notices I received from them yesterday made me downright giddy.

This latest chapter is a relatively short one. It’s a scene pretty much lifted straight from “The Price You Pay Is Red,” and I wasn’t really expecting any surprises . . . only to find myself writing a brief but surprisingly intense argument between one of my protagonists and his love interest. And it was Prince, for once, playing the role of the idealist, while mild-mannered Hank was the angry cynic during the fight. It’s kind of a role reversal for both of them, but (hopefully) not out of character in scene, and I found it kind of exciting. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about turning these stories into a novel is having more time to spend on the side characters, especially Jack (obvs, since she’s no longer a side character), Hank, and Mr. Nguyen.

On the other hand, giving Jack a POV meant I had to add even more side characters–because unlike what too many stories would have you believe, most ladies have lady friends of their own. I didn’t want Jack’s whole world to be populated by people who were only important to Prince. So, there may or may not still be a Battle Royale going on for screen time (so to speak), because, as anyone reading this probably knows, I can be a wordy motherfucker sometimes.

Finally, Your Last Random Line of the Week:

People here, we don’t revolt. We just step over the bodies.

Clarion West Write-a-Thon: Week 5 Update

Top Secret Code Name of Current Project: Fedoras and Trust Issues
Current Pitch: Hardboiled fairy tale noir!
Slightly More Detailed Pitch: In an alternate post-WWII America, a cranky, bisexual PI and his ace, teenage Girl Friday try to solve the disappearances and/or murders of three different women.

Number of Murder Weapons Discovered: 1
Number of Brief, Fever-Induced Hallucinations: 1
Number of Snow White references in this chapter alone: At least 5

Song From Current Project Playlist: “Sinnerman” – Nina Simone

Goal Met: Halfway there

Making some progress. Still slower than I’d like, but I’m actually on schedule. I have to keep reminding myself of that because my Writer Brain routinely waffles between “holy shit, maybe this could be great” and “Jesus Christ, this is the worst thing I’ve ever written, burn it, BURN IT NOW.” Lately, I’ve been feeling more the latter than the former, and the temptation to put the novel away and write basically anything else is very strong.

You’re stronger, I try to tell myself. You are mighty like Thor. This declaration is not deeply convincing, but it does make me smile.

This week’s chapter: Prince, still trying to wrap his head around the potential fallout from the Big Discovery he made two chapters ago, finally finds the Scene of the Crime and does some sleuthing. Couple more chapters, and we’ll hit the big, climactic showdown shit. And two short wrap-up chapters after that, we’ll finally be at Part III!

Guess it’s time to go back to work. One more week of the Write-a-Thon to go!

Finally, your Random Line of the Week:

I understood money coming before blood.

Clarion West Write-a-Thon: Week Two Update

Top Secret Code Name of Current Project: Fedoras and Trust Issues
Current Pitch: Hardboiled fairy tale noir!
Slightly More Detailed Pitch: In an alternate post-WWII America, a cranky, bisexual PI and his ace, teenage Girl Friday try to solve the disappearances and/or murders of three different women.

Number of Dead Bodies On the Page Thus Far: 3
Number of Surreal Nightmare Scenes Just Because I Could: 2
Number of Secrets Our Heroes Are Keeping From One Another: LOTS

Song From Current Project Playlist: “Life in A Glass House” – Radiohead

Goal Met: Yes

This week’s chapter is a short one. It’s 1/3 plot advancement, 1/3 secret nighttime confessions, and 1/3, er, morning-time confessions. (An aside: why is nighttime a word but morningtime isn’t? In news shocking no one, the English language continues to make no sense.) Fair amount of Feels in this chap. That’s been an interesting challenge of the book so far, actually, trying to determine if my Plot to Feels ratio is working. I have a lot of characters and relationships to juggle. Since I’m basically obsessed with character dynamics, I obviously want to do justice to said dynamics. I also don’t want readers to think, “Jesus Christ, can we get back to the mystery yet?”

I’m a little worried about the word count, even though it’s kinda early for that. I don’t even have a completed draft yet, much less an edited down draft. Still, the nature of the story makes me uneasy about the length: mysteries tend to run shorter than SF/F because SF/F novels almost always have a lot more world-building and magic systems and shit to describe. My book might not have magic systems, but it is an alternate history with a quarantined city shaped by corruption and disease. I’m actually expanding the world-building quite a bit from the original stories, and while that’s kind of exciting for me, it’s also been something of a roadblock. I don’t come to world-building quite as naturally as I come to character work, I’m afraid.

Finally, your Random Line of the Week:

That’s life in Spindle, dear. If you can’t make the hard calls when you need to, well. You’ll never make it out at all.

Clarion West Write-A-Thon 2017: Week One Update

Top Secret Code Name of Current Project: Fedoras and Trust Issues
Current Pitch: Hardboiled fairy tale noir!
Slightly More Detailed Pitch: In an alternate post-WWII America, a cranky, bisexual PI and his ace, teenage Girl Friday try to solve the disappearances and/or murders of three different women.

Number of POV characters: 2
Number of important supporting characters: 80 billion
Number of supporting characters who are also assassins: 5

Song From Current Project Playlist: “Lady Sings The Blues” – Billie Holiday

Goal Met: Almost

Well, the first week of the Write-a-Thon is nearly over, and I’m close to completing my goal of two chapters! Considering I do the majority of my writing at night when everyone else is asleep, and I have the next two nights off, I’m not super worried about meeting my deadline.

I have discovered, however, multiple challenges when it comes to turning a trilogy of short stories into a novel. First you have to decide how you want to approach it: are you rewriting each scene into your novel, primarily focusing on expansion and development? Are you mixing up the timeline of your stories so that their plots run concurrently instead of sequentially? Or are you taking inspiration from the original stories but mostly writing a whole new thing?

Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages, but–probably not to the shock of anyone who knows me–I’m mostly going with the first approach. One of the advantages of that is having a good chunk of my work done for me ahead of time (though less than you might think, which I’m sure we’ll get to in a later write-up). One of the disadvantages, however, is having to face The Scene From Hell again.

The Scene From Hell is a scene from “The Price You Pay Is Red,” which is the second story in the trilogy. In it, our heroes, Jimmy Prince and Jack, share an uncomfortable dinner with four other characters, most of whom are involved in some kind of illegal activity. Nearly everyone has some kind of secret they’re keeping from someone else at the table, and five of them are keeping something from the one dude who suspects nothing at all. I was very happy with the scene conceptually: I really enjoyed the idea of a dinner conversation where everyone has information they need to hear or say but can only use coded messages to do so. Writing the actual scene in question, however, took freaking years off my life. I must have rewritten that scene, like, twelve times before I got it right. I despised it from the very essence of my being. It took months. Literal months.

I’m not gonna lie: when I realized I’d have to rewrite this scene yet again, I very much wanted to curl into a ball and weep.

I’m happy to report, however, that I enjoyed it much more this time around, possibly because so much of it survived the transition from novelette to novel. I worked too hard on that bastard to totally start fresh. Now I’m working on the second chapter, which is all new material from Jack’s POV. In the original stories, Jack didn’t have a point of view, but adding it has reshaped this tale so much. Jack knows things that Prince doesn’t, and that knowledge changes the context of so many scenes. More on that, I’m sure, in future updates.

If you’re interested in donating to the Write-a-Thon and haven’t gotten around to it yet, here’s a link where you can do so.

Finally, your Random Line of the Week:

Hearts aren’t owned, Jack. Shared, sometimes, but you can’t own a person and love them too.

The 2017 Clarion West Write-A-Thon

So, it’s summer. For some people that means bikinis and beach balls and–wait, do people still use beach balls? I’m obviously the wrong person to ask about summer activities: I’m a pale hermit who sleeps during the day and lives in Northern California where the rocky beaches are gorgeous if you don’t mind wearing a sweater to the oceanside. My summer activities generally include talking about going to the river instead of actually going to the river, and doing the Clarion West Write-a-Thon.

Yes, it’s that time again. Starting, well, yesterday, I’m going to spend the next six weeks working on my novel and trying to raise whatever money I can for Clarion West. What novel, you ask? (Well, you might have.) In 2015, I published three novelettes called, collectively, The Spindle City series at The Book Smugglers. (You can find links to them under the Works Published tab.) These stories are mashups of fairy tales and hardboiled noir, and now I’m turning them into a novel. I’ve actually been working on it all year, but recently I’ve hit what feels like a turning point and have finally been able to accelerate my pace. I’m hoping to use the Write-a-Thon as motivation to keep that  momentum going. By the end of 6 weeks, I’d like to complete at least 9 chapters.

Now, this is the part where I ask people for money, but I want to be clear: there are no guilt trips if you cannot afford (or just don’t want) to donate. That’s okay! My expectations for what I can raise aren’t actually all that high, TBH; I’m not a name in any way, shape, or form, and we’ve all got stuff we want and need to spend money on. But I figure it’s worth trying cause, like, anything you can do, right? Besides, it’s not like I wouldn’t be working on the novel anyway.

However, if you are interested in donating, I tried to come up with some fun rewards for doing so. Here’s what I’ve got (copy and pasted straight from my Sponsor Donor page):

Carlie’s Incentives For Giving Up Your Money

$15 – Five-Minute Cosplay
I will take five minutes, tear through my closet and honest-to-God costume box, and dress up as best I can as any character (fairy tale or otherwise) that you request, so long as we’re keeping these costumes at the PG level and not obviously offensive. (I reserve the right to do less-than-literal translations. For instance, if you ask for Daphne from Scooby Doo, I may very well do Noir Daphne.) Then I will take a picture, write up the experience, and post both here. The hilarity is in the inevitable failure.

$25 – Find Your Spindle City Character
For everyone who’s ever loved a personality quiz. I’ll send you a short survey. When you complete it and send it back to me, I’ll write you a short synopsis of your very own fairy tale inspired character living in Spindle City. Your character won’t actually be in the novel itself, but think of them like an extra in a deleted scene . . . or a red shirt in a deleted scene. Spindle City is a dangerous place, after all. Not everyone gets a happy ending.

$40 – TV Review/Spunky Analysis (Limit 2 shows per donor)
I will watch and review 3 episodes of any TV show, provided I can find said show on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Viki, or Drama Fever. Want someone to check out that amazing TV show that everyone refuses to try? Want someone to write in detail just how BAD this one show is? I am here for your pop culture needs. (Note: this will definitely happen sometime after the Write-a-Thon.)

$50 – Movie Review/Spunky Analysis (Limit 3 per donor)
I will watch and review any* movie of your choosing on my blog. My reviews, I believe, are best characterized as funny, profane, analytical, and long—like, at least 1,000 words, but honestly, probably much longer. (Note: this will definitely happen sometime after the Write-a-Thon.)

*Exceptions
A) I won’t review a movie I’ve already reviewed. Check out my Index of Movie Reviews to see what I’ve already written about before choosing this incentive.

B) Too many movies are way longer than they need to be. Please nothing over 2 hours and 15 minutes long.

C) No porn, please. It’s not my thing.

D) No inspirational sports movies, either. There’s only so much punishment I can take.

So, those are my incentives. I’m not gonna lie, people. What I like best about them is that I took approximately 1500 words longer than anyone else to write them out, as is my wont.

If you’re interested in sponsoring me, please click here. If you’re interested in checking other writers pages out instead of or in addition to myself, you can look here. If you can’t do either, again, no worries; just know that if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re gonna have to put up with weekly posts about how the novel’s coming along. And by “put up with,” I mean, dude. EXCLUSIVE BEHIND-THE-SCENES FOOTAGE. (I should figure out a way to do a hilarious blooper reel. I feel like it’d be a combination of WTF typos and footage of me cursing out my novel for not behaving. Bonus obscenities for realizing that I need to go back ten chapters and rewrite, like, all of it.)

I’ll see you all back here Friday with coverage of either my awesome progress or my super early defeat. Only time will tell!

My Own Dream Show – A Cast of Characters

Last week, I asked for everyone else’s dream casts. Today I provide my own.

Instead of a team-oriented space opera, as I’d originally intended, I came up with the idea for a Twin Peaks-esque show, only with less icky rape and molestation stuff and more werewolves and random musical numbers. There will be a murder investigation. There will be iconic costumes. Lots of food. ALL the offbeat, deadpan humor. I’m not gonna lie, people: I think I’ve got a winner here. This is absolutely a cult classic that gets cancelled in its first season in the making.

A few disclaimers first:

The clips I’ve chosen do not always match the show I pulled the actor from. I didn’t pick a Chris Pratt clip from Parks & Rec, for instance, because I haven’t watched Parks & Rec. Other times I just liked a different clip better for that actor. I’m fickle.

Also, some clips may include SPOILERS. You’ve been warned.

Now! Introducing your Cast of Characters:

The FBI Agent. Also, The Unlucky Magnet For All Things Weird.

Allison Janney (The West Wing)

(The problem with embedding clips is that you never quite find the one you’re looking for. I was hoping for a specific scene with turkeys, but hey, I like this one too.)

The FBI agent fled this strange little town long ago, hoping for a life of normalcy and law enforcement and chain restaurant options; however, the strange and supernatural follow wherever she goes. If handed a simple home-invasion-gone-wrong homicide, you can bet that psychic clowns are somehow involved. Has long since accepted this, and basically everything else that happens. Weary and cynical. Will always make time for breakfast.

Quote: Yup. That’s a werewolf, all right. Look, I believe I was promised donuts?

The Small Town Cop. Charming, But Slightly Tortured. Also, Psychic.

Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)

(Ugh, forget about the turkeys. It is stupidly hard to find Luke Cage scenes with Shades in them on Youtube. This is probably not the representative example I would have given, but I didn’t have much to work with. You can find the “lawyer” scene here at the 7:05 mark, though, and that one always makes me laugh.)

The FBI agent’s liaison/local partner during this investigation. Does the majority of his casework by reading the cards, looking for omens, having creepy dreams, and speaking to ghosts, who unfortunately aren’t always as helpful as you’d expect them to be. Has far more hobbies than any one person could realistically have. Begins a romance with the ghost of the current murder victim.

Quote: The mime in my dream told us we’d find a clue at the old sawmill. Then the Dark Mime God came and punished the mime by erasing his mouth from existence . . . but that part wasn’t real, probably.

The Hot Mechanic Werewolf Ghost, AKA, The Murder Victim

Chris Pratt (Parks & Rec)

Doesn’t know who murdered him. Doesn’t know why anyone would, and is, all in all, pretty outraged by the whole thing. Otherwise affable. Appears in two forms: his Hot Mechanic form (jeans, dirty white tank, the perfect amount of sweat) and his Awesome Werewolf form (an actual wolf). Falls hard for the small town cop. Misses food.

Quote: I’m supposed to be eating tacos today. Everyone should be clear on that.

The Hotel Owner. Also, The Badass Pack Leader Seeking Vengeance.

Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Expanse)

Owns the only hotel in town. Courteous, elegant, and seeks rampant, bloody vengeance for the murder of one of her wolves. Frequently annoys her guest, The FBI Agent, by keeping tabs on the investigation. Never impressed by its progress. Dresses fabulously.

Quote: So, you see, I cannot stand about forever for your clumsy investigation to conclude. There is a throat out there, waiting to be torn out. My teeth will only wait so long.

The Eccentric Heiress. Possibly A Vampire.

Gina Torres (Firefly)

The richest woman in town. Easily owns half the land, and is fond of popping up at night to remind people of that. Her clothing is always expensive, no matter what she’s doing, and highly unpredictable: she might show up in a black dress and matching feather boa one day, a plush white bathrobe the next. Longstanding enmity between her and The Hotel Owner. Never leaves her mansion during daytime hours.

Quote: You absolutely must come to my party. I’ll just have your head if you don’t.

The Postman/The Guy Who Can Get It For You

Michael Emerson (Lost)

Only seen in his USPS uniform. Delivers letters and packages from the normal mail, plus whatever anyone else needs on the down low. Friendly, almost always willing to engage in small talk, but takes his job very seriously. Will become quietly, abruptly, horrifyingly violent if someone maliciously tries to interfere with his legal or illegal deliveries. Eventually revealed to be the right hand man of The Eccentric Heiress.

Quote: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will stop me, sir. It was foolish of you to try.

The Local Witch Who Owns The Diner

Kate Mulgrew (Orange Is The New Black)

Plainspoken. Profane. Calls everyone hon or honey or sweetie. Has cast a spell on her restaurant that causes the patrons to talk about all their secrets and/or confidential business in public. Most customers aren’t aware of this, and the few who are put up with it because it’s the only diner in town. Wears an old fashioned waitress uniform with sensible shoes, and frequently decides for people what they want to eat.

Quote: Hon, I’ve worked here 30 years. I’ve seen some weird shit. I know when my customers need blueberry pancakes, and you don’t deserve them yet.

The Baker/ The Guy Who Automatically Makes Every Scene A Musical

Jesse L. Martin (The Flash)

Intelligent, funny, generally delightful. Frequently shows up to distribute baked goods in places that a baker really has no business being in: crime scenes, for instance. Also, funerals. Whenever he arrives, everyone spontaneously bursts into song. No one will ever acknowledge this during the course of the show.

Quote: There are vanilla cupcakes here/and mocha cupcakes there/it’s hard to deliver when there’s blood everywhere. 

(Look, don’t judge. If this was an actual thing, I’d hire someone to write better lyrics for me. It’s not exactly my forte, okay?)

The Investigative Reporter Seemingly Stuck In the 1940’s

Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire)

Favors trenchcoats, fedoras, suspenders, white tank tops, and cigars. Pants, too. Frequently speaks in hardboiled noir slang. Writes for the local paper and takes every article equally seriously, whether it’s the murder of a mechanic werewolf or how the next-door-neighbor’s cat came to be stuck in that tree. Enjoys appearing out of nowhere whenever possible. Also writes the newspaper’s horoscopes.

Quote: Scorpio, you weasel. You’re behind the eight-ball this week, all right. Better lay dormy somewhere until it blows over; otherwise, you’re liable to face some serious chin music. Avoid cinnamon.

The Town Librarian. Also, The Town Secret Assassin

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)

Glasses. Dresses almost entirely in black. Ace/Aro. Leads a reading group of young girls from ages 4-17, exposing them to different types of literature, as well as the many different ways to kill someone. When in assassin mode, may vary wildly from Victorian elegant poisoner to exuberant punk overkill, depending on what the client wants and her general mood at the time.

Quote: Excellent progress, girls. Now, who can tell which poison Merricat Blackwood used in We Have Always Lived In The Castle, and the pros/cons of that particular poison?

The Bartender/Coroner. Eventually Undead.

Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest)

Owns and runs a bar called Autopsy Room Four. Does autopsies in one of the back rooms when the town requires one. Friendly, personable. Enjoys geeking out over things, especially baseball, virology, and Stephen King. Murdered during the first season, but mysteriously comes back to life in her grave and crawls her way out. May or may not experience cravings for human flesh.

Quote: Last round, everyone! Hey, I’m disappointed, too, but this bag of meat isn’t going to autopsy itself.

The Wandering Armchair Psychologist

Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy)

Chatty. Enthusiastic. Entirely too blunt. Has appointed herself the town’s therapist, and relies heavily on pop culture, particularly TV Tropes, for her evaluations. Whenever it becomes clear that an episode is going to primarily feature a main character’s emotional arc and/or backstory, the Wandering Armchair Psychologist will appear for a series of sit-downs with that character, whether he/she/they want it or not. Usually, not.

Quote: So, your father was horrifically dismembered and eaten by a flock of wereturkeys. Let’s talk about that.

The Stranger. Also, The Voice of the Audience

Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead)

No one knows who he is or anything about him. Pops up sporadically to either tell people that they’re doing something stupid and/or dangerous, or to help them come to a ridiculously obvious realization. Usually very dry, but every now and then becomes so aggravated with everyone’s stupidity that he has a full meltdown about it . . . before once again disappearing into the night.

Quote: Going there without calling backup, huh? Yeah, that won’t get you killed immediately.

I’m telling you, people: I want this show. I want it now. I already have possible theme songs in mind: “Jugband Blues” by Pink Floyd or maybe “Strange Days” by The Doors. Oh, the many unrealized dreams of the human heart.

And if you haven’t already done so, I’d still like to hear your dream casts. (Especially YOU, Mekaela! I let it slide last week because it was your birthday, but NO LONGER.) Feel free to comment here, or at the original post where I laid out the rules.

10 Movies I Wanna Gender-Flip NOW

Slowly–impossibly slowly–I’ve been working on a Stranger Things review. I will complete and post this review someday, almost certainly before my 80th birthday, I swear, but for now I’m putting it on hold so I can write this list instead.

So, gender-flipped remakes. Whenever these come up in conversation, I always feel like I can’t properly articulate why I’m so interested in seeing them–but I do think they have value. And before you ask, I still haven’t seen the new Ghostbusters yet, much to my annoyance. It’s been a busy couple months, and at this point I’ve mostly resigned myself to the fact that I’ll have to wait for the rental . . . which sucks, not because I’m sure I’ll like it–I was lukewarm about the trailer–but because I really hoped the movie would succeed at the box office, and I feel bad for not buying a ticket. Ghostbusters’ failure to make money is a victory for the wrong kind of people, the kind who have been actively campaigning for it to fail since it was first announced because, wah, their precious childhoods are being tainted by women–and don’t tell me it’s not about the women. Most remakes, you hear the news, you bitch on Twitter about Hollywood’s refusal to make anything new, and then you move on about your day like grown ass adults. That’s hell and gone from what happened here.

It’s also a victory for the people who will argue that “See! No one wants to see a female-led cast or women in SF movies!” Not to mention the racist dickbags who have been harassing Leslie Jones and doing their level best to display the worst aspects of humanity–Ghostbusters’ failure has even been used as evidence that this atrocious behavior is somehow okay. And don’t get me wrong: it is totally and absolutely valid if you saw the movie and didn’t like it, or just aren’t interested in checking it out–but those misogynists frothing at the mouth the second it was announced? I am exhausted of listening to their bullshit, and Lord knows they won’t be shutting up anytime soon.

All right, that got away from me a bit. Back on track! One of the reasons I’d like to see more genderbent remakes is just the glorious change-up in ratio of male to female characters. Women usually only outnumber men in romantic comedies, romantic dramas, and–interestingly enough–slasher flicks. In fantasy, western, SF, noir, action, crime, war, and various other genres, though, men easily outnumber women–and boy do people complain if ladies outnumber dudes in those genres, because that means it’s a stunt, it’s appeasing the PC Police, made for feminazis, blah blah garbage garbage. Of course that’s patently ridiculous if you think about it: sure, you’re used to seeing movies with 9 men and 1 woman, but is that actually indicative of your life experience? Do you really know 9 men for every 1 woman in your life? No? Then please stop acting like reversing the gender ratio is some completely ridiculous thing that could never, ever be possible. You’re just not used to it, and that’s okay. None of us are used to it.

You wanna know how to get used to it? By watching so many movies with all or mostly female casts that it’s just not a big deal anymore. You could, of course, make original movies that aren’t remakes; in fact, I’d love to see those too. But let’s not pretend that getting those movies is somehow easy; otherwise we’d already have them. Besides, revisiting old worlds/stories with gender-swapped characters could actually be pretty powerful.

With that all in mind, here’s a list of some gender-swapped remakes that I think could be exciting to watch.

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