Mike's schedule for Orycon 38.Read More
It’s no secret that since the beginning of the history of films, we’ve been infatuated with aliens. Whether they’re invading our world, or if we’re encountering them closely on spaceships and planets far away, aliens have abducted our hearts and imaginations for decades.Read More
There are a lot of great Hard Rock and Metal bands out there who have made some classic music. But there are only a handful that have made THE PERFECT album.Read More
I'm proud to present the "Tales of Future Past" e-book bundle, featuring best-selling authors Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Bunker, Jason Andrew Bond and award-winning author, William Hertling!
If you like Sci-Fi and Steampunk, this is a great collection of fantastic fiction. On a personal note, my first published Steampunk story, "Cosmic Doppelganger," appears with a host of other great short stories in Penny Dread Tales 4. I couldn't be happier. It's an honor to have my story paired with one of my writing heroes, Kevin J. Anderson!
Well, here we go again: it’s another Hollywood reboot of a beloved classic and another round of arguments for and against the reboot. This argument lights up the Internet like bacon lights up my smile in the morning. I’m talking about the reboot of Ghostbusters led by an all-star, all-female cast.
And I’m going to be one of those geeks lighting up the Internet.
Yep, I know there are more important things in the world to be worried about, but messing with our happy childhood memories seems to be a never-ending motif of the current powers-that-be in Hollywood. They seem to be on a mission to bury the entertainment world in a glut of remakes, reboots and reimaginings, casting a shadow on the legacies of some classic movies and keeping the doors to the kingdom under tight lock and key for any creative talent that might someday bring us our next original ideas like Star Wars, The Matrix or Avatar.
I know that making movies is always a big risk. I get that the studios and the producers with the money don’t want to take a gamble on something they don’t understand. It’s a business to them. That’s why they keep continually mining their past successes. They look at it as a surefire thing: if these movies keep making money, why not just keep churning out the same thing over and over? They aren’t concerned with being creatively bankrupt as long as they aren’t financially bankrupt, and I can’t entirely fault them. That’s safe business practice in an industry that’s inherently unsafe to sink your wealth into. Besides, as an audience, we keep going back to see these rehashed ideas.
Now, I’m not saying that these reboots don’t always work. But for every creatively exciting reimagining like the first Star Trek by J.J. Abrams, and the new Planet of the Apes movies, we get an onslaught of dreck like the current spineless Robocop itineration and the humorless, soulless Evil Dead remake. And then we get movies that we didn’t even know we wanted, like another fucking Rambo flick or another incarnation of He-Man and The Masters of The Universe—which come to think of, may just be a Rambo movie set on another planet.
While all these reboots are being produced, there are probably numerous original scripts that might just have the goods to be “the next big thing.” There are potential future blockbusters that will never see the light of day because the major studios won’t take the risk, and the independent studios don’t have the budgets to film them.
Back to the Ghostbusters reboot:
I’ve read several articles where detractors of the new Ghostbusters have been accused of being sexist because they don’t support the idea of a female-led reboot. While I can’t speak for every detractor, I can say that I don’t have any issues with the all-female cast. I couldn’t care less if they made the movie with an all-African-American cast and some Caucasian dude playing Winston Zeddemore. I couldn’t care less if they only wanted to cast the movie with cute puppies and kittens with unlicensed nuclear accelerators strapped to their backs. What I care about is that the original Ghostbusters is a near-perfect movie. It was done right the first time. End of story. It’s an American classic like the Coney Island Hot Dog and spray on hair. There is simply no need to retell this story in any capacity. There are some things that you don’t mess with, like Superman’s cape, the Lone Ranger’s mask and, of course, Jim.
Could you imagine, sometime in the future, some exec deciding that after releasing Star Wars Episode 39, the studio should just start from scratch and remake Episode 4? Hell no, you spineless, money-grubbing suits. Hell no. And Hell no to the ideas being floated out there about rebooting Blade Runner, Aliens and the soon-to-be-released Terminator reboot. Go screw yourselves, Hollywood execs. I’m not giving you my money to shit all over my happy childhood movie memories. Those movies deserve the proper respect and the place in film history that they hold. So stop soiling the creative legacy of the hardworking people involved with making these classic flicks.
In recent years, the best flicks coming out of Hollywood, in my opinion, have been those based on novels and comic books. Because, let’s face it, Hollywood finds it easier to borrow or copy someone else’s creative work. That’s at least one bright spot for fans of big production films. Movies like those in The Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games movies, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and franchises based off of beloved Marvel and D.C. comic books have saved the day financially and creatively for the big studios. But how long can that last? Even those movies are getting the constant reboot, like Batman, Superman, Spiderman, The X-Men, The Hulk and probably what will be another pointless Fantastic Four movie (soon to be released).
I understand that ranting about this subject is like tilting at windmills. Hollywood is not in the business of making movies. Hollywood is in the business of making money. So many would say that if you want to see art, if you want to see an original movie, stick to the Indie films. And in many ways, Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy has led to the rise of movie quality television programming from networks like AMC, FX and, of course, Starz, Showtime and HBO. Nowadays I sometimes prefer to watch these TV shows rather than slap down sixteen bucks, plus another thirty on drinks and snacks, just to see another version of a movie I’ve already seen a hundred times before.
I know what you’re thinking: “Mike, if you don’t like them, don’t watch them.” And I agree with you. But I also miss the days when Hollywood took some risks. Those years gave us phenomenal movies like Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien, Aliens and so many more. I know there are new, and original movies just begging to get made.
So I pray to the Hollywood gods to hear my plea; stop messing around with my happy movie memories. Stop remaking classics that should be left alone. There are original scripts out there. There are young, talented directors looking to show the world what they can do.
The need for fresh, innovative stories is out there. If you make it, the audience will come.
The Legends and Dreams bundle features works by Rebecca Moesta, Kevin J. Anderson,Tonya Macalino, Roslyn McFarland, Pam Bainbridge-Cowan, Courtney Pierce, E.M. Prazemen, Ripley Patton and Luna Lindsey! This is a great bundle of e-books for a great price. Please drop by, pick it up today, and s...upport local independent authors!
Hurry, though! This bundle will only be running for the next 2 weeks and 3 days!
Just click through the image below to download these great books today!
I’m a Geek from way back.
And no, I don’t mean I used to tour with sideshows back in the twenties and thirties biting the heads off of chickens. I mean I fell in love with what we now call Geek culture from an early age. From watching reruns of the original Star Trek when I was four or five years old, to the first time I saw Planet of the Apes around the same age, I fell in love all things Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. I remember staying up late at night with my dad to watch the local Creature Feature show and marveling at the classic Universal Monsters and Hammer Horror films. I have the fondest of memories of staying up way past my bedtime to watch Vincent Price and Alice Cooper in the Welcome to My Nightmare special when it first aired.
I don’t feel the need to let my Geek Flag fly to up my Geek Cred, but I wanted to make it clear from the get-go of this blog post that I identify as a Geek.
That said, I’ve noticed a trend from my Geek friends that I find disturbing. The trend is a reverse discrimination from fellow Geeks and Nerds towards the people that used to discriminate against us, and the things that those people love.
I remember all of the shit I took in grade school for my intense love of Star Wars. I was into everything Star Wars, and I wasn’t afraid to show it. That earned me the nickname of “The Star Wars Freak” from many who didn’t understand the movie or my deep love for it. I didn’t bother me much. In fact, I remember wearing that intended insult like a badge of honor. I loved what I loved and fuck the naysayers if they didn’t understand.
Today I’m still geeky about many things. I’m a football fanatic, and I love my team, the Seattle Seahawks, as much as I love Geek culture. I’m a passionate music lover—especially Metal—and I can spend hours geeking out about music, even when it drives my friends crazy. Everybody is geeky about something. Whether it’s movies, sports, music, video games, cars, science, politics, history or even knitting, passion is passion. People are passionate about a variety of things that bring them happiness or comfort. It’s human nature.
I’ve noticed lately as I post about sports that some of my Geek friends call me out, or call others out, by making snide comments or marginalizing a love of sports as something for meatheads and jocks. This disappoints me on many levels, but what makes me sadder is that the same people who were likely marginalized as kids and made to feel like outsiders react by showing those same prejudices toward things they don’t understand.
If you don’t understand something, or don’t like it, that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there is something inherently wrong with judging that thing based on your own biases and prejudices. We all have our opinions, and we’re entitled by free speech to share them, but I have a problem when the comments become personal, dismissive and discriminatory. It’s okay that we don’t all like the same things, but it doesn’t give someone the right to piss on the things that others love and have a genuine geeky passion for.
I’m calling on my Geek friends to show some tolerance and compassion and to be the bigger person in the virtual room. There are plenty of Geeky things I don’t like or understand—Anime, LARPING and the SCA to name a few—but I have friends that are passionate about these things. More power to them! If you love something that’s not hurting someone else, let your passion be known! If you’re cruising social media and see posts for subjects you’re not into, skim past them. Nothing is making you read my multiple posts about the Super Bowl bound Seahawks, or the latest news about a thirty- year-old Metal band I dig.
The current trend of reverse discrimination might stem from the fact that what used to be a subculture of Geekdom has now become mainstream. It’s become cool to be a Geek in many areas of our society. It’s become commonplace for me to have conversations with folks that have never picked up a comic book in their life and discuss the latest movie featuring characters from Marvel and D.C. Comics. This has led to some Geeks and Nerds I know calling out others as being “Fake Geeks.” Don’t believe me? Just Google the term “Fake Geek” and see all of the vitriol being posted on the subject. I welcome these geeky conversations with people who have just joined the party I’ve been a part of all my life! There’s plenty of room at this party for newcomers, and there’s plenty of geeky booze to drink. It’s not for me to judge the level of these newcomer’s passions!
I’m asking one simple thing from my fellow Geeks and Nerds out there: Think before you criticize what you don’t understand. Will your words hurt? If you read, or heard those words criticizing the things you love, how would you feel? Since every Geek I know has been hurt by others tearing down what they love, shouldn’t we know better than to judge others for their passions?
Now go out there, let your Geek Flag fly high and salute all of the other flags you see flying. Treat them with respect and acceptance—even if you don’t understand why anybody would run them up the flagpole.
If you were old, deaf or completely coked up and out of your mind during the ‘80s, you might have missed the fact that Hard Rock and Heavy Metal ruled the music world during that era. Bands like Van Halen, Def Leppard, Scorpions, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motley Crüe, Poison and Guns N’ Roses controlled the airwaves and invaded every home in America via MTV. Hard Rock and Metal had been around for a while, but the ‘80s saw them rise to the top of the charts and into the forefront of our collective conscious, thanks to the early chart-topping success of the bands Quiet Riot and Ratt.
This musical domination really began in 1980. There has never been a year so singularly responsible for unleashing so much great Hard Rock and Metal to the masses. In 1980 I was twelve years old and anxiously awaiting Han Solo’s fate after being frozen in carbonite. I was also mourning the loss of Battlestar Galactica on TV. Not to mention I had just discovered girls! Girls, girls, girls! And as I said in my musical evolution blog, this was the year I really started to drift away from my parents’ Rock ‘n’ Roll music and into the raging rivers of the music that members of my generation could claim as their own.
Sure, I have some personal prejudices; this was the year that my lifelong love of all things Hard Rock and Metal was born. How could I not? Don’t forget this was also the year that the mighty Led Zeppelin broke up after John Bonham’s tragic and early death. In 1980, we lost Bon Scott, the lead singer of AC/DC, only to have him replaced with Brian Johnson before the year was over. Peter Criss also departed KISS, making room for one of the best and most thunderous Hard Rock and Metal drummers ever, Eric Carr.
In 1980, Ozzy kicked off his solo career, and bands that would find some measure of success later in the decade like Exodus, King’s X, Loudness, Manowar, Metal Church and Overkill were formed.
It’s as if all of these events capped off an era of ‘70s Rock ‘n’ Roll, which although classic, appealed to a smaller crowd of die-hard fans. In 1980, the dam burst open. In the following years, that smaller crowd would turn into legions of fans slavering for more, more and more. The era of excess opened with a boom of pounding drums and a crunch of Heavy Metal guitars.
But instead of arguing the point, I’m going to let the music do the talking. Here are some of the seminal Hard Rock and Metal releases of 1980, beginning with AC/DC’s stunning tribute to its late lead singer, Bon Scott:
AC/DC- Back in Black
What an album. This thing kicks ass from start to finish. When someone says, “All killer, no filler,” Back in Black is what they’re talking about. Although it may not be my favorite album from these boys from down under, it’s certainly a fan-favorite of many die-hard rockers. Since coming out in July of 1980, Back in Black has sold more than fifty million albums, making it the second highest selling album of all time (behind Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon). It’s the highest selling album of any Australian musical act, including the chart-topping Men at Work, and of course, the ever-physical Olivia Newton-John.
With outstanding production from John “Mutt” Lange—who produced the band’s previous masterpiece, Highway to Hell, and would go onto produce multiple Def Leppard albums—this record hits you hard and heavy with crunchy riffs, driving bass lines, searing guitar solos, and of course Brian Johnson’s trademark gravelly, soul-searing voice. This is one bad-ass album that’s withstood the test of time. I challenge anyone to listen to Back in Black and tell me that it doesn’t energize them and make them feel like they can take on the world.
If you can listen to this and not be moved, then you’re already dead. Hell, Back in Black is an album you have to play so loud, you’ll even wake up the dead. So, if you’re not moved, you’re just dead to me. Dead I tell you.
Black Sabbath- Heaven and Hell
Ronnie James Dio, we miss you so much. And on Black Sabbath’s phenomenal Heaven and Hell album, RJD would quiet the uneasiness of many Sabbath fans who mourned the departure of Ozzy Osbourne. To be honest, many of my generation’s Sabbath fans became listeners of the band because of this album. For a few previous albums, Sabbath had been riding the wave of its ‘70s success rather leisurely, until it came crashing onto the rocks of the shores of drug addiction, excess and inner-band feuding.
Even as talented as RJD had proved himself when he was a member of the bands Elf and Rainbow, nobody really gave Black Sabbath much of a chance without its original front man, Ozzy. On Heaven and Hell Sabbath came out all guns blazing, completely revitalized and moving in an incredible creative direction due to the new blood being infused into the mix. Songs like “Neon Knights”, “Children of the Sea” and, of course, the title track, “Heaven and Hell”, became instant classics.
Critics and fans were both satisfied by this iconic album, while somewhere out in the musical netherworld, a former bandmate was struggling with addiction and depression, trying to find his own musical footing in the world… for more on that, keep reading.
Def Leppard- On Through the Night
Although not as well remembered as Def Leppard’s following efforts, On Through the Night did peak at number 51 on the Billboard 200 here in the U.S., and at number 15 in the UK Albums Charts. This hard-rocker helped put Def Leppard into the forefront of what would become the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal,” or just plain NWBHM. And although the band likes to think of itself as a Pop Rock band with more in common with ‘70s Glam Rock than with the ‘80s Hair Nation, that’s just revisionist history from the band members. Even though On Through the Night is much rawer than the band’s next (and classic) album, High & Dry, the boys in the Union Jack tank tops and shorts made a hell of an impression on this release.
There is certainly the trademark Def Leppard vocal harmonies, and nods toward what the band’s slicker production would sound like by the time Hysteria was released, but overall this is just kick-ass, guitar driven Rock ‘n’ Roll. Probably the most Hysteria-esque tune might be the ingratiating single, “Hello America”. But no matter what side of the fence you are on in the Leppard camp—pre-Hysteria or post-Hysteria—the album, On Through the Night, helped kick off the ‘80s with a roar.
Diamond Head- Lightning to the Nations
Diamond Head was not a successful band of the NWBHM, but its influence on other Hard Rock and Metal bands can be felt even today, thanks in part to tape-trading and positive word of mouth reviews from bands like Metallica and Megadeth. Diamond Head caught the attention of the bands AC/DC and Iron Maiden, and those acts took them on tour in a supporting slot. Unfortunately, Diamond Head wasn’t able to turn its deal with MCA records into a profitable venture. The band would’ve fallen into obscurity if it wasn’t for the help of Metallica, which had famously covered the Diamond Head tune, “Am I Evil”. Metallica would later be instrumental at securing a remastered rerelease of Lightning to the Nations, as well as assisting the band in newer projects.
Check out Diamond Head’s original version of “Am I Evil” below.
Iron Maiden- Iron Maiden
If the cover of this album—drawn by Derek Riggs—doesn’t scream METAL!!! enough for you, then by the time this record blisters your ears with aggressive, yet melodious, punk-tinged chords and notes, I think you’ll get the idea. Though not living up to the future production values that Iron Maiden would become known for as a band, this album told the world that the band’s mascot, Eddie, and the boys in Maiden had come to kick ass and conquer the NWBHM!
And they recorded this classic album in thirteen days! There have been bands that take years to make an album and never come close to the quality of Iron Maiden (Guns N’ Roses comes to mind). The band exploded out of the UK and went worldwide with its first album featuring Bruce Dickinson on vocals—Number of the Beast—but it would be a shame to downplay the importance of this first Maiden album, even with Paul Di’Anno’s decidedly punk-influenced vocal style.
This was the first of many albums that transformed Iron Maiden into the globe-trotting, musical phenomena it is today and stoked the fires that keep the irons of its rabid fan base held high.
Judas Priest- British Steel
On previous releases, Judas Priest experimented with its Hard Rock/Metal sound to varying degrees of success. With British Steel, they leapt to the forefront of the NWBHM. With a balance of truly heavy classic tunes and songs commercial enough for radio play—without alienating the fans of their heavier, darker work—“The Beast That Is The Priest”, as the band is often referred to, gave us an album for the Metal Ages.
The standout heavier-than-thou songs, “Metal Gods”, “Breaking the Law” and “Grinder” still make me bang my head so hard that I could keep many a chiropractor laughing all the way to the bank. The anthemic “United” is fist-pumping bravado perfect for both music arenas and sports stadiums around the world. The commercially successful “Living After Midnight” is the perfect party song. In “The Rage”, the band continues to showcase its deep musical roots by incorporating reggae guitar work while letting Rob “The Metal God” Halford stretch his vocal wings.
As with many Americans, British Steel was my initial introduction to Judas Priest, and I still hold this album as a measuring stick to what a truly great Metal album should be!
Motorhead- Ace of Spades
Lemmy Kilminster—he of the massive mutton chops and a trademark facial mole with its own personality—has often claimed that his band, Motorhead, just plays good old Rock ‘n’ Roll. In many ways, that is true. But one thing is for certain: Motorhead plays its own brand of Rock ‘n’ Roll and sound like no other band on the planet. Every song from this band drips with attitude, sleaze and an almost Punk sensibility. On Ace of Spades, Motorhead continued to refine its signature sound—a musical style that punk rockers, Metalheads and Hard Rock fans could agree on. Motorhead looked like nobody else on the rock scene and played balls out fast Rock ‘n’ Roll with swagger and grit. They still do, and will keep doing so until Lemmy is unable to stand on stage and play and sing.
Without a doubt, Ace of Spades and Motorhead had the biggest influence on what would become the Thrash Metal scene in the mid-eighties. From the opening riffs of the title song, “Ace of Spades”, to the slithering sounds of “Love Me Like A Reptile”, this album would go on to inspire bands like Anthrax and Metallica and bands as diverse as Guns N’ Roses and The Cult. Ace of Spades has left its mark on Rock ‘n’ Roll, and that mark will burn like the Mark of the Beast well into the future.
Ozzy Osbourne- Blizzard of Oz
As I said at the end of Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell entry, Ozzy was out there—and with the help of his future wife, Sharon, about to explode back onto the scene with an album that launched a fantastically successful solo career. Blizzard of Oz introduced us to the incredibly talented guitar hero, Randy Rhoads, and proved that Ozzy was far from being a forgotten relic of music history.
To date, this is Ozzy’s most successful album. It sold more than six million records and went quadruple platinum, a number not achieved until he released No More Tears in 1991. I’m not going to get into the controversies surrounding this album because most of them happened years after its release. I think the music of Blizzard of Oz far overshadows the insanity of the court case surrounding the song, “Suicide Solution”, and the puzzling remastered releases where the original bass and drum tracks of Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake were replaced with performances from other musicians.
Although I think that Ozzy’s follow-up album, Dairy of a Madman, was a superior record, it wouldn’t have been possible to record that masterpiece of modern Metal without the success of Blizzard of Oz.
Rush- Permanent Waves
It’s no secret that Rush is my favorite band and, in my opinion, can do no wrong (musically speaking). With that being said, Permanent Waves is not only my favorite Rush album, but it contains what I think is the ultimate Rush song to date in the form of the tune “Natural Science”.
With the outstanding quality of every song on this record, it’s no surprise that this became the band’s first album to reach the Top 5 (hitting number 4) in the U.S. charts. A long string of Top 5 albums would soon follow. Along with the band’s (at the time) longstanding producer, Terry Brown, and the art of Hugh Syme once again gracing the album jacket, this album is everything a Rush record should be.
Lyrically, Neil Peart—responsible for penning all of the bands lyrics along with his duties behind the drum kit—is at his finest, exploring these great themes: the love of music versus the cynicism of the music industry; Freewill and blind belief; and the balance between man’s natural creative instinct and love of nature versus mankind’s quest for knowledge through science and the need to conquer nature. Musically, every band member is on fire on this album, even incorporating hints of reggae into their style for the first time. As mentioned before, no song better epitomizes the prowess of the band better than the song “Natural Science”. In about a ten minute opus, every creative aspect that encompasses the band, Rush, comes together to take the listener on an emotionally and intellectually charged rollercoaster ride.
When I find friends that have never been into Rush, I turn them on to this album and nine times out of ten, I turn them into Rush fans, watering at the mouth to hear more of the band’s music and see them live in concert.
Van Halen- Women and Children First
On the heels of Van Halen’s much underrated second album, Van Halen II, the boys came off of the starting line with all cylinders firing. This album kicks ass from start to finish, with Eddie coming up with some of the most creative riffing and soloing of his career. Right from the start with the opening track, “And the Cradle Will Rock”, the band makes its intentions clear that this album will rock you until your ears bleed. Kerrang magazine rated this album at number 30 on the 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time, but I would consider Women and Children First to be in my top ten favorites.
Unlike most Van Halen records, this Triple Platinum monster only released one single for radio play in the form of the opening track. By this time in its career, the band was able to move large amounts of albums based on its tremendous touring schedule and well-deserved reputation as America’s premier Hard Rock and Heavy Metal band.
If Van Halen was ever to regain its glory days of yesteryear, it would have to come out with an album that meets or exceeds the ball-busting, guitar-shredding sonic assault that is Women and Children First.
Other Great Albums From 1980-
Krokus- Metal Rendezvous
Michael Schenker Group- The Michael Schenker Group
Ted Nugent- Scream Dream
Queen- The Game
Saxon- Wheels of Steel
Scorpions- Animal Magnetism
Triumph- Progressions of Power
UFO- No Place to Run
It’s hard to believe another Orycon is upon us! It only feels like a couple of months since Orycon 35, but it really has been almost a year, and Orycon 36 is just around the corner again! (11-7-14 thru 11-9-14)
For the uninitiated, Orycon is the premier Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror and all things Geek convention for Portland, Oregon, and surrounding communities. Going into its thirty-sixth year, the con hosts a great vendors room, panels on everything from writing to fandom interests, workshops, a costume ball and an entire hotel floor dedicated to nothing but parties and hospitality rooms.
I started going to Orycon when it was in its teen years—when I was around nineteen—and then drifted away from the con for many years, due to the usual rigors of life. But I have fond memories of wild parties, great costumes, con sex and finding a group of like-minded geeks to bond with. Ahhh, the stories I could tell from those days. But what happens at Orycon stays at Orycon.
It’s also hard to believe that this will be my fifth year at the con as a professional writer and my second year appearing on panels as a pro. This will also be my fourth year attending with the writing group I cofounded, Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA). We’ve had a successful booth in the vendors room the past three years and will have a host of local authors and their books at our table again this year.
One of the fun things we’ve done there as a group is host our annual NIWA Anthology launch party. These parties have been wildly successful, offering attendees a chance to meet local authors, purchase books, eat free food and down copious amounts of free booze in a comfortable, energetic party atmosphere. This year we’ll be launching the 2014 Anthology titled, Underground. The cool thing about these amazing parties? You don’t have to register or attend the convention to come to the party. Yep, that’s right. You just need to bring your ID and a smile. The NIWA party starts around 7pm and goes into the wee hours of the morning. Just head up to the fifteenth floor and you’ll find us.
This year I’ve got a packed schedule, and by Saturday night, I will need a cigar, a strong drink and I’ll be ready to parrrr-tayyy! Below is my con schedule. Times and room locations are to the left. Panelists are at the bottom, below the description. The panel moderators are indicated by an asterisk and bold print. Also below, you’ll find a link to all the info you need to check out Orycon 36, taking place at the Lloyd Center Double Tree Hotel.
I know I’ll see some of you at Orycon 36! Let the madness begin!
Mike’s Panel Schedule
Fri Nov 7 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Steampunk! Explain It!
How much Steam is required in Steampunk? Is alternative history a must? Is it fantasy, or SF, and/or a lifestyle?
Tom Whitmore, (*)Stephen Couchman, Mike Chinakos, Janet Borkowski
Sat Nov 8 10:00 am to 11:00 am
Should you ever burn books because of a moral principle, or is it appropriate as a form of protest or to protect people from certain kinds of information? What if it`s a religious text? The history and modern context of a controversial, often inflammatory (sorry) subject.
A.M. Brosius, Theresa (Darklady) Reed, (*)Frog Jones, Mike Chinakos
Sat Nov 8 11:00 am to 12:00 pm
Art Show Room Next to Vendors Room
Autograph Session 1
Get your books (or whatever) signed by your favorite writers!
Phyllis Irene Radford, Todd McCaffrey, Mike Chinakos, Bob Brown, William F. Nolan, Susan R. Matthews
Sat Nov 8 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Group 1 Weird West Fantasy Novel Excerpt
Closed One-on-One Critiques with Mary Rosenblum, Mike Chinakos and writer Alan Smith for novel White Steam and Black Grease.
Mary Rosenblum, Mike Chinakos
Sat Nov 8 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Freaking Me Out, Not Grossing Me Out
Are intense descriptions of bloody death and torture really necessary to scare the pants off your audience? Discussion on how to terrify without all the gory details.
(*)Mike Chinakos, Jennifer Brozek, Andrew S. Fuller, Wendy N. Wagner, Paul Groendes
Sat Nov 8 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Anachronistic Morality in Fiction
Does the audience really need to see our ethos portrayed by the Romans?
Doug Odell, Kristin Landon, Mike Chinakos, (*)Susan R. Matthews, G. David Nordley
Sat Nov 8 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Fantasy vs. Science Fiction
Which is superior? Must we choose or can we have both at once? Discuss.
(*)Tom Whitmore, Joan Gaustad, Mike Chinakos, Jennifer Brozek
Sat Nov 8 5:30 pm to 6:00 pm (this may possibly be adjusted to 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm)
NIWA Meet, Greet, & Tastings
Members and friends of the Northwest Independent Writers Association welcome you to join this friendly, mutually supportive regional group of writers and editors, for fun, to further your own professional pursuits or to discover new paper or audiobooks for your collection.
(*)Mike Chinakos and other NIWA members
Sun Nov 9 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Women Role Models in Science Fiction
Are there any good female role models in science fiction? Or are they still relegated to being damsels in distress? A discussion of both weak and strong female science fiction characters across all media.
(*)Wendy N. Wagner, A.M. Brosius, Keffy R. M. Kehrli, Mike Chinakos
Mike’s Top 10 Horror Movie Picks
Last year in the month of October, I watched 31 horror movies in 31 days and shared them on Facebook. I intended to do something along those lines this year as well, but somehow the month crept up on me like a machete-wielding, hockey mask-wearing, time-stealing slasher.
So, this year for the month of my favorite holiday, Halloween, I’ve decided to do some Top 10 Horror lists---which seems somehow supernaturally significant, as the day I came up with this idea was the tenth day of the month. I’m sure there’s some nefarious numerology involved which will summon terrifying forces beyond our control. Or hopefully entertain us and encourage a narrative on our favorites of the horror genre.
Let’s kick this thing off with my Top 10 Horror Movie Picks. Most Top 10 lists start with number ten and work their way to number one. But it seems more in the spirit of Halloween and Satan's example to flip the script. I'm just evil like that.
1.) The Exorcist
What can I say about this movie—besides the fact that it’s one of the few horror flicks that ever truly got under my skin? I mean, this thing scared the shit out of me before I really even knew what it was. I remembered as a little kid—and I mean little—sitting in the back of the car while my mom was in the store. My dad was waiting behind the wheel. The store was right next to a drive-in theater (yeah, I’m that old). That’s where I caught my first glimpse of The Exorcist. No sound. No context. Just the sight of Linda Blair covered in scars and puke. And those fucking scary-ass yellow eyes.
As a child I fell in love with all things horror. From watching Alice Cooper perform Welcome to My Nightmare on TV, to embracing the Universal Monster Movies and the bloodier, edgier Hammer Horror Films, I gravitated to this genre like a vampire bat to a Victorian damsel’s jugular.
But I had never seen anything like those brief minutes of The Exorcist. I had no idea what I was seeing, but I knew it terrified me—so much that I wouldn’t attempt to watch the movie again until I was 14. Even so, I wouldn’t get through the entire movie until in my 30s.
2.) Let the Right One In
Kids are just creepy. That’s actually a scientific fact. Google it. I swear I’m not making this shit up. When they’re vampire kids, it just makes them creepier. Let the Right One In is a movie with a brilliant take on the vampire genre. Everything about this movie exudes doom, despair and sometimes brutal horror, yet it somehow finds a way to touch your heart. This is truly a love story at its core. A fucking scary, demented love story, but still romantic in many ways. Just don’t get this confused with the inferior American version, Let Me In.
3.) 28 Days Later
This flick really redefined the zombie genre, although it’s not really a zombie movie. The scary-fast transformation of the Rage virus victims, and the speed at which they violently attack anybody that hasn’t succumbed to the virus, makes for many tense moments. The wonderful and sometimes heartbreaking performances from the actors—not to mention the brilliant script—lift 28 Days Later far above the typical apocalyptical horror story.
4.) The Shining
Yet another movie that I probably shouldn’t have watched when I was younger—let alone while I was by myself at night. By the time I got through this Stanley Kubrick classic, my parents came home to every light on in the house and me too freaked out and wired to go to bed for something like two or three days. From Jack Nicolson’s gonzo performance, to the horrifying ghosts and blood spilling from elevators, the tension in this movie winds, winds and winds—and then explodes in an orgy of axe-wielding violence and frozen horror. If you haven’t seen the fascinating—and equally gonzo—documentary about The Shining, Room 237, check it out. The documentary is chalk full of fun and crazy, just like The Shining.
5.) An American Werewolf in London
This is my favorite werewolf flick of all time. There have been some other great films, like Dog Soldiers, Wer, and Ginger Snaps to name a few, but this classic redefined the genre more than any other movie made before or after its release. Rick Baker’s werewolf transformation scene is breathtaking and will never be surpassed by even the best CGI transformation effects. The scary, often funny and heart-touching script separates An American Werewolf in London from the pack. The tongue-in-cheek dialog and the chemistry between the two male lead actors, set up a believable world that deftly counterbalances the sheer nightmarish terror of the rest of the story. Scary. Funny. Gory. What else could a horror fan ask for?
6.) Halloween (the original)
It could be argued that there were slasher flicks before Halloween, but this movie truly brought the idea of a masked, sharp weapon-wielding, relentless killer to the masses. This low budget indie flick succeeded because of its stark simplicity and the charisma of its lead actress, Jamie Lee Curtis. Halloween launched her Scream Queen career and pushed director John Carpenter into the ranks of the Masters of Horror. The funny thing about this slasher flick? There’s really very little blood and gore. Carpenter pulls an Alfred Hitchcock with his direction—mostly implying gore and letting the viewer’s imagination do the rest. Rob Zombie’s remakes in the Halloween series are great horror movies in their own bloodier right, so check those out too.
7.) Near Dark
Near Dark features many members of the cast of Aliens as nomadic, ass-kicking vampires. The mood and the terrific casting make this flick stand out in the genre. Of all of the vampire movies in my collection—which take up an entire shelf in my movie library—Near Dark’s take on the undead really influenced the vampires in my first novel, Hollywood Cowboys. The vamps in Near Dark and the vamps in Hollywood Cowboys don’t sparkle! They kick ass, take no prisoners and scare the shit out of you---like a vampire should!
8.) The Conjuring
Following the exploits of two “real life” paranormal investigators, The Conjuring is a wickedly fun and scary mash-up of the movies Poltergeist and The Exorcist, in my humble opinion The Conjuring has an outstanding cast and script, not to mention fantastic direction from James Wan (who also brought us the terrifying Insidious), making this flick a modern horror classic of the likes we haven’t seen in a long time. And did I mention creepy dolls?
9.) Night of the Living Dead
The zombie movie that started it all! This is the template for the modern zombie film. It’s got everything a good zombie flick needs: hordes of flesh-eating undead, racial and socio-economic tension, and humanity at its best and worst. Scary and claustrophobic, Night of the Living Dead is pure, low budget, indie film making at its finest!
This silent movie era Horror icon is basically an unauthorized retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But putting all the controversy aside, this is a defining movie for the horror genre and vampire flicks in general. The performance of Max Schreck as the titular undead and the make up used for the monster are truly frightening, even by today’s standards. The sense of dread and fear when one of cinema's earliest vampires takes the screen seems to be heightened by the lack of dialog and effects. Coupled with the eerie way that early film stock captures the images of the actors, I think that Nosferatu is an outstanding example of cinema’s early love affair with horror.
Property Rights: Who Owns a Work of Fiction When it Goes Global?
As I anxiously await the next installment of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, I've read the endless complaints from fans (both of the books and the TV show) as they voice their worries that the rather jolly writer might die before he finishes the proposed next two books in his groundbreaking series. Although at age 66, I think he’s got more than a few good years left in him! I've also read his retorts on the subject. As I have published two books since the last book in my Hollywood Cowboys series, I've had many people asking me when the hell am I going to finish the final book of the Hollywood Cowboys trilogy, Season of the Dead?
In some respects that means I’m guilty of the same literary crimes as Martin: I’m keeping my readers waiting while I play around in other worlds I create. But as a fan of the Fire and Ice books, I'm also guilty of the same worries about Martin as any other reader, which got me thinking—who does a work of fiction belong to once it has become part of the collective conscious of its fans?
The simple answer? Of course it belongs to its creator! Without the mind behind the imaginings that have attracted such huge crowds, there would be no zeitgeist to rally around. But am I applying Occam’s Razor to something that can’t be so simply quantified? Perhaps.
Take two of our much beloved national treasures, Star Wars and Star Trek, as examples: these are both franchises that have spawned works of fiction and fevered fans well beyond the original context of their creative vehicles.
Star Trek has had an amazing impact on the lives of fans and to the contributions of science and social equality in our nation. Gene Roddenberry and his wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, are no longer with us to give their thoughts on the subject of how Star Trek has taken on a life of its own. But I think even Gene would be surprised if he saw the numerous fan made movies based on the iconic TV series proliferating the Internet.
The Star Trek movies and Internet TV shows expounding on familiar characters and expanding the Star Trek universe, are made with love. But are they taking the Trek Universe in a direction that Gene would support? Nobody but the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself could answer that question. For the time being, fans and actors from the original show get to create in the playground owned by Paramount. Much like fan fiction, it seems that no force can stop the creative energies of fans when they truly love a good story.
But on the flip side, we have George Lucas who is still with us, and he has thoughts and actions of his own on the subject.
How many times have fans railed endlessly about the butchering of Star Wars through the numerous versions George Lucas has released? I’ve seen ordinarily rational adults slavering at the mouth like audiences at a Roman arena calling out for more blood while discussing the fact that “Han shot first” and that the digital renderings look silly when beside the original optical effects.
Lucas himself has told the Associated Press, “It’s like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I’m sorry if you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it. But I want it to be the way I want it to be.”
And to ensure he gets the last say in this argument, Lucas kept the rights to the original cut of Star Wars when he sold the franchise to Disney. Yep, that right, fans: there will be no original cut Blu-ray release of the Holy Trilogy anytime soon. And to drive home his point that his creation is his movie—and his alone—he even put the Star Wars Holiday Special in the vaults, never to be seen again. Of course I don’t think that one would hold up to my childhood sentiments as much as the trilogy does!
Is this selfish on Lucas’s part? Yes, in some respects. But creative people (including myself) can be very protective of their creations. They are our darlings—we’ve put our blood, sweat, tears and souls into their making. At the same time we need to realize that for those of us who tell stories for a living, we don’t create these things in a vacuum. For many of us, more than just financial reward compels us to share these stories. It’s an innate need to get our stories to as many eyes and ears as we possibly can.
And when we do this, in many ways our works of creation then become an interactive event. Sure we still hold the legal copyright to our works—nobody can take that away from us. But once our creation hits the minds of others, they use their own imaginations to interpret these creations, often in ways the creators never thought of. And in the case of larger-than-life successes, these stories form an emotional bond with those fans. And we all know once emotions are involved, somebody’s going to get hurt! And maybe as creators, we have a moral responsibility to avoid hurting our fans.
I’m not saying that those who create should heed every gripe and bitch from every fan, everywhere around the world. But we should try to look at all sides of the argument with open and rational minds. I know Lucas loves his movies. I know Martin can only write so fast. But they do owe something to those who turned their works into huge successes.
I think this is a debate that will go on for as long as works of fiction have avid fans supporting them. There is really no simple answer to the question. And so like everybody else, I’ll wait impatiently for my favorite books, movies and music to be released from my favorite writers, directors and musicians.
I promise to try to cut them a little slack. As a writer, I know what they’re going through.
But in the meantime, I’ll go on shouting for more blood in the arena, just like all of the other zealous fans.
#asongoficeandfire #georgerrmartin #StarWars #StarTrek
It’s not news to those who know me well—hell, even to those who barely know me—that music is a huge part of my life. I can’t imagine what my world would be like without great tunes to get me through the day.
My love of music—especially Rock ‘n Roll in all of its permutations—began with the old vinyl records my parents had in their collection. I first dropped the needle on records from Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley and the Comets, to a host of Doo Whop bands when I was about eight or nine. To this day, although I couldn’t tell you what I had for lunch two hours ago, I can sing along with all of those songs—even the songs I haven’t heard in twenty-five years!
As I grew older, and my tastes more sophisticated, I moved onto the classics of the 60s and 70s they had in their collection: CCR, Led Zeppelin, Santana, The Doors and more. My evolution towards the middle years of my musical journey had begun.
By the time I hit middle school, thanks to great stations like KGON (remember when they used to play everything?), I had begun my love affair with the music that would make my parents look like old fogies. HEAVY FUCKING METAL!!! Yep, my parents might have been cool about the music of their youth, but you would’ve thought I had summoned Lord Lucifer himself, and sold my soul for Rock ‘n Roll when I started listening to Metal.
As hard as those middle school days could be on a D&D-playing, Star Wars-loving, glasses-wearing geek, Metal was like a healing salve for my soul. Or should I say it was more like pouring gasoline on an already roaring bonfire of hormones and barely contained energy? Without Hard Rock and Metal—and the life-long friends I made back then—things would’ve been pretty damned unbearable. Ozzy, Ratt, Quiet Riot, Krokus, the Beast That is the Priest and a host of other great bands spoke to me in a secret language that I still understand today.
High school found my horizons expanding with Nu Wave, Funk, Hip Hop and Punk—I think those formative years listing to the old vinyl taught me to keep an open mind and open ear to all kinds of music. If it’s good music, it doesn’t matter what the genre. To this day one of my favorite musicians is His Purple Majesty, Prince! But I never abandoned Rock and Metal. Especially with the coming of Thrash Metal! Bands like Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, Metallica, and Testament played the perfect music for channeling all of the anger, frustration and energy of my youth gone wild!
I would continue to grow my tastes in the 90s with Grunge, Rap Rock, Nu Metal and the like. I’d also further immerse myself in the musical roots of all Rock ‘n Roll; the Blues. To this day I’m always on the hunt for new bands and new music, while supporting those artists I grew up with by following their careers and buying their new albums.
With all of that said, music has very much informed my writing. I always have music playing in the background when I’m at the keyboard. The tunes playing while I write vary depending on the genre and subject matter I’m creating. So, you would think I would’ve thought to combine both my love of music and fiction a long time ago. Nope. Sometimes I need to have someone club me over the head with the obvious to get my attention.
That someone was my long-time friend and heterosexual life-partner, Doug Cox of the killer Rock ‘n Roll band, FuzzBot. Back in 2009 the roots of what would become the Hollywood Cowboys series started as a short story I read to Dougie. After he heard it he suggested I should write what I know and turn the story into a full-blown novel. Duh. Write what you know. How many times had I heard that as a budding author?
And so the Hollywood Cowboys were born.
I listened to a lot of Rock ‘n Roll while writing about the boys in the monster-hunting, ass-kicking band from the Sunset Strip. Specifically a lot of Metal from my formative years in the 80s. Each chapter in Hollywood Cowboys, Kiss of the Traitor and the upcoming Season of the Dead, is named after a song, a lyric, or and album title from late 70s to late 80s Rock or Metal albums.
It all came about pretty naturally. I wrote what I wrote for the chapters and then went back and thought about how the subject matter related to a song I knew from those times. Surprisingly, the chapter names fell into place quickly and with ease.
The books are very tongue-in cheek. I wrote them purposefully pulpy as homage to both my favorite music and my favorite horror movies. One of the best compliments I heard from a reader was that reading the series was like reading a movie of the mind. That floored me, because that’s exactly how I approached writing these novels! With that thought, a great movie deserves a great soundtrack!
Below you’ll find links to soundtracks for Hollywood Cowboys and Kiss of the Traitor (as well as a link to the band FuzzBot). The soundtracks go chapter by chapter, and cover a healthy variety of Rock and Metal from the era.
Thanks for hanging with me as I rambled through a bit of my musical evolution! I hope you enjoy and share the soundtracks with other lovers of Rock and Metal! Remember to support your favorite bands and artists. Don’t forget about your local musicians too!
Now click the links and rock the fuck on!
Grim Highways is now available in paperback!! E-book version to follow later this week.
Mike Chinakos, author of the Hollywood Cowboys series and Dead Town, brings you nine tales of terror to keep you up at night and checking under your bed!
From the lonely roads of Route 66 to the darkest corners of the soul, Grim Highways takes you places beyond imagining. Fear fuels these stories, and the pages roll by like twisted roads on a map of mayhem.
Climb into the passenger seat, and let Mike Chinakos take you for a ride as you encounter vengeful spirits, dark intruders, ancient gods, the undead and writers living out nightmares stranger than the horrors they conjure in their imaginations.
The Road to Hell Unfolds Before You.
Purchase the Grim Highways paperback here: https://www.createspace.com/5007510
A few months ago I made my first foray into Steampunk and sold a story to Penny Dread Tales Vol. 4, which can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Penny-Dread-Tales-Perfidious-Paranormal/dp/0983278288/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411768345&sr=1-1&keywords=penny+dread+tales+iv
Not knowing how I would do, or feel, about writing Steampunk, I found writing in the genre very satisfying and entertaining. I immediately followed up Cosmic Doppelganger with another Steampunk short story in conjunction with the band Fuzzbot. That story, Letters to Abigail, was based on the music and lyrics of Fuzzbot's song by the same name. Again, I had a blast writing in the genre, and it's been well-received. With that said, I have the inklings of a Steampunk novel in the works that I'll get started on when I finish the third installment of the Hollywood Cowboys series.
My venture into Steampunk has landed my first Steampunk panel at the Time Traveler's Market Place and Ball. TTMB is an event being held in Hillsboro this coming October. The Market Faire & Ball is a benefit to support the Hillsboro Historical Society. I'm very much looking forward to this great event and the panel. As a history buff, and someone who loves to learn about local history, I think this is a wonderful way to help preserve our past.
In our hustle and bustle everyday existence, I think we're always concerned with the present moment and what the future may bring. Sometimes we lose sight of the past, and what we can learn from it. It's not news to most that Americans as a whole tend to put less value on our past than other Western cultures. This has always saddened my heart, and I'm glad to take part in an event that will help an organization that educates and preserves the colorful local history that is everywhere around us.
I've heard nothing but good things about past TTMBs. If you have some free time in October, please drop on by the event! I sincerely hope to see you there!
You can learn more about TTMB here: http://www.timetravelersball.com/
Or follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Time-Travelers-Ball/119350628100292?ref=br_tf
To check out Letters to Abigail, a FREE E-book, go here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/446965
Grim Highways, a collection of horror short stories, will be released towards the end of September!
I'm very excited by this collection, where I get to explore some similar themes through different stories. Some of the themes include vengeance from the grave, man vs. the gods, the effects of suffering from serious trauma and writers living out nightmares stranger than the horrors their own imagination can conjure.
The cover art is by Pixel Smith Digital Imagery, the same artist who created the stunning cover for my Steampunk story, "Letters to Abigail." Once again, I'm incredibly impressed with the work done by Danny Smith.
I'll keep you all up to date on Grim Highways as it nears release, and once it hits the market!
Just a quick welcome to my new website and my new blog! Please check out the links to all of my books by clicking through the cover image on this site's homepage. I'll be posting here at least once a week to keep y'all up to date on what's happening with my current writing projects. I'll also be keeping you informed about events and releases as well. Check back for updates and thoughts I intend to share about a variety of writing and pop-culture subjects!
Currently my website is listed as mikeloveswriting.squarespace.com. This is temporary while my custom domain name is being set up. Once that process has been completed you can find my website and blog as mikeloveswriting.com.
Thanks for your support!