Blogging A to Z Day 30: Zombies!

As Sourcerer’s resident horror blogger, it should be no surprise that I am a zombie fanatic. I watch zombie films, I read zombie books, I keep up with The Walking Dead and iZombie and virtually every other zombie show or flick out there, and I sometimes play zombie games.

There are, of course, a host of things that help to account for our fascination with zombies:

fear of disease, fear of death, fear of losing our mental faculties, etc. We seem at once aware of the zombie as a fictional character and concerned about the plausibility of a zombie outbreak. And the result of our fascination is that zombies have become a multi-million dollar industry.

As for me, there are three simple but terribly true reasons that I find zombie stories compelling. The first is the world that gets created when everything fails-the government, and by extension education, social welfare, prison systems, road maintenance, etc.; and modern inventions, including electricity, the Internet, GPS, running water, and telecommunications.

The second is the failure of modern notions of childhood, morality, and socioeconomic status to hold up under the pressures of a post apocalyptic world. In Zombieland, one of most disturbing erosions of culture is the loss of names; in The Walking Dead, it’s the loss of childhood embodied by Carl, Judith, and Carol’s decision to teach the children about knife safety and zombie killing during story-time; in 28 Days Later, it’s ownership of the female body. These conversations mirror conversations that we have daily, that we rehearse in our arguments about these concepts.

And the third thing is the complexities that arise when we see something human that isn’t human. Or that we don’t think is human. In Shaun of the Dead, the undead are able to be trained to perform simple tasks. In Warm Bodies, they retain something of their prior selves and can think and feel. And there is a repeated scene in which someone must kill a loved-one-turned-zombie, one that turns up in virtually every piece of zombie fiction ever.

And so, here at the end of A to Z, and on a Thursday, no less, I give you a Thursday 13 of my favorite zombie flicks:

13zombiefavorites

This post is by @parttimemonster of Part Time Monster and Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Part Time Monster!

Blogging A to Z Day 25: Video Games

If I’d discovered a way to get paid for playing video games when I was in my late teens, I would be one of the wealthiest people you would ever meet right now. For years, I spent most of my non-writing computer time playing video games. I haven’t been into gaming in years now because work, a grandson, and blogging doesn’t leave any time for them.

Here are the games I spent more time playing than the rest when I was a hardcore gamer.

  1. Morrowind – My favorite game ever.
  2. The early games in the Fallout franchise – Especially Fallout 2.
  3. Civilization Games – My favorites were Civ II and Civ IV.

Morrowind is one of those games you either love or hate. It’s the third installment of the Elder Scrolls series and the only one I ever played. It was released in 2002 and I picked it up year later at the used game shop. Fell in love with it immediately, and it’s pretty much the last game I ever played.

Several things make Morrowind special. It’s set on a island so huge and detailed it takes a single player months to explore. It has a linear storyline and quests, but you don’t have to actually complete any quests or the storyline to enjoy the game. And the game doesn’t end once you finish the main quest. It’s basically a huge sandbox that allows you to do pretty much anything you want.

It has an excellent system for creating custom spells, crafting magic items, and making potions. And it’s one of the easiest games to modify that I have ever encountered. The modding community gave this game a lot more longevity than it would otherwise have had. Want a huge palace or a companion to travel with you? There are mods for that, and for just about anything else you can think of.

Fallout is set on a post-apocalyptic earth which was laid waste by nuclear war in the 1950s. The first game begins 100 years after the war. The player character has grown up in an underground vault, is given a quest which requires him to venture above ground, which is now a wasteland peopled by bandits, mutants, and paramilitaries.

The Fallout wasteland is one of my favorite settings ever. This series is distinctive for its striking iconography and darkly humorous storylines. The first Fallout was simple, and too short, but I remember thinking at the time (1988) it came out that I’d never seen anything quite like it. Here’s the intro to Fallout 2, voiced by Ron Perlman, to give you a sense of what this world is like.

The Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise has probably gotten more of my time than any other. I played these games off-and-on from 1991, when the first one was released, until about four years ago when I stopped gaming. These are turn-based strategy games in which you build cities, use them to produce units to defend your civilization and build more cities. The game begins at the 4000 BC and runs to 2050 in most versions.

You can win civilization in several ways: by sending a spaceship to Alpha Centauri, by total military conquest, by domination — which means ruling a certain percentage of the world’s population and territory — or by being ahead in points when the game ends at 2050. You can play on randomly generated maps of various sizes, and choose the number of opponents to play against. My favorite thing to do was upload a pre-generated map of the actual earth and play with as many opponents as possible, because that makes for a long, interesting game of shifting alliances.

I could go on and on about civilization, but I’m already over my word count for an A to Z posts. So, what about you? Ever been into gaming? What are some of your favorites?

Blogging A to Z Day 22: Sinestro

What frightens you? I’m not asking for the big things that nearly everyone would name. What are the day-to-day stresses and experiences that frighten you? I’m writing this right now during a heavy and potentially tornadic thunderstorm, so I’m a bit on edge myself. I would not consider myself a coward, but I’ve dealt with anxiety all my life, and about a lot of different things. That’s a big reason certain characters—Batman and Daredevil, to name but two—really appeal to me; they operate in a state without fear, having conquered it long ago. Admiring those sorts of characters led me to the Green Lantern books five or so years ago, and to one character in particular: Sinestro.

It is said that Thaal Sinestro was the greatest of all Green Lanterns—an order defined by its ability to overcome great fear—before his rather dramatic falling out with the Green Lantern Corps’s Guardians. Perhaps his strength of will grew too great once given the powers of a Green Lantern; regardless, it was his forcing of his will, of his sense of order, upon his war-torn homeworld of Korugar that led to his expulsion from the Corps and his banishment to the Antimatter Universe, where the Weaponers of the world called Qward created for him the first yellow ring that drew from the portion of the Emotional Spectrum powered by fear, the opposite of the green light of willpower.

As a former high ranking and well-traveled Green Lantern, Sinestro was familiar with the prophecy of the Blackest Night, and he created his own corps of yellow lanterns in preparation. As he revealed following his defeat in his war against the Green Lantern Corps, his goal was not necessarily to win. Rather, it was to make the universe strong enough to face the darkness to come; either his philosophy—strength through conquering one’s own fears and mastering others through theirs—would win out, or the Green Lanterns would have to adapt and become more savage in order to defeat him. Either way, a powerful army awaited whatever was coming.

Is Sinestro rightly classified as a hero, or as a villain? In all honesty, I have pondered this and cannot rightly say one way or the other. What defines either of those roles? Sinestro may not be the most classically righteous of individuals, but if the ends ever do truly justify the means, then he certainly sees the well-being of others as his greatest priority. Many may shy away from his methods because of the harshness of his example, but you have to acknowledge that when he puts a threat down, it never gets back up again. For all of these reasons, Sinestro is one of my very favorite comic book characters.

That’s it for my contributions to this year’s A to Z challenge. Thank you all for stopping by and reading! I look forward to seeing your thoughts in the comments below. Feel free to check out some of my other thoughts on Sinestro in my reviews here at Sourcerer of his ongoing comic series written by Cullen Bunn. Do check back in the future, because I have plenty more to say about this character and his stories. Have a good day, everyone!

 

Blogging A to Z Day 18: Penny Dreadful

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Somewhere along the way, I became Sourcerer’s resident horror blogger. I blame it on a fascination with the macabre, an odd enjoyment of things that go bump in the night—as long as they’re safely put away by the end of the show, film, or book.

And I spent a lot of time studying monsters, studying Victorian and Edwardian and Gothic literature. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw many, many changes, especially in science and medicine, and literature of the period reflects the way that science and superstition battled one another during this age of modernity and discovery.

During this era, postage stamps were introduced, making mail carriage more standardized; daguerrotypes were introduced, and by the turn of the century, so was the handheld camera; anesthetics were developed, and new understanding of disease spread led to new surgical techniques, disease treatment, and sanitation.

Enter penny dreadfuls, 19th century publications, often serialized over periods of weeks or months. An increasingly literate population and new means of production allowed for inexpensive book publication on the mass market level. Woodcut illustrations often accompanied the 8-16 page serials, lurid and dark. Titles ranged–Varney the Vampirebut this is where we first find Sweeney Todd, and it is where we find the germs of Frankenstein, Dracula, and many other monsters that have become ubiquitous since their inception.

Last year, Showtime ran the first season of John Logan’s Penny Dreadful series, a show that imagines what Victorian London would’ve been like with characters from various penny dreadfuls wandering about.

Dorian Grey (Reeve Carney), Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and his monster (Rory Kinnear), and Mina Murray Harker (Olivia Llewellyn) are all connected by their relationships with Malcom Murray (Timothy Dalton) and the mysterious vampire-hunter-and-powerful-medium Vanessa Ives download (9)(Eva Green). Oh, and there’s Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), a werewolf sharpshooter, and his consumptive prostitute girlfriend, Brona Croft (Billie Piper).

Season one centered around the relationships between the characters—establishing how each fits into the overall story by creating a back-story in which Vanessa is Mina’s former best friend who is working with Sir Malcom to rescue his daughter from the vampire who has stolen her away. Both Ethan Chandler and Victor Frankenstein are hired as part of Malcom’s team. Dorian’s place is a little less certain–we see him with Vanessa a few times, but we don’t yet have a full connection between him and the other characters.

Some of the most stunning scenes in the first season involve The Grand Guignol. The theater was an actual theater known for producing penny dreadful style horror

See?

See?

shows, though it was actually in Paris. The theater set works fantastically for meta-commentary on the show: we watch the audience’s faces, and yet—we are the audience.

In season 2, we are set to see more of Madame Kali (Helen McCrory), who will be the season’s main antagonist. The trailer for season 2 also promises that we’ll see characters who didn’t come into contact with one another last season interacting–and we’ll get to see what Brona Croft is like as the Bride of Frankenstein.

Season 2 of Penny Dreadful begins on May 3. You can catch me blogging the season here on Sourcerer again—and watch for a review of the new Penny Dreadful Clue when it’s released in July!

clue

This post is by @parttimemonster of Part Time Monster and Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Part Time Monster!