Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vampires Don't Suck: An Anti-Rant

It's Halloween! Rejoice, fuckers!

Well, technically the day before Halloween.The eve of All Hallow's Eve. But if I have to look at Christmas decorations going up already, ya'll get to suffer through a premature Halloween.

And what better way to suffer than with that most abused of folkloric monsters, the vampire? Ever since Anne Rice struck it rich with her yaoi fantasies, vampires have been getting squeezed through one cornball work of girl porn after another. It's a shame because the vampire retains plenty of good horror uses - in the hands of a competent writer.

So here it is, your Halloween 2013 guide to vampire fiction that doesn't suck!

Let the Right One In
Leave it to a Scandinavian to do a grim, uncompromising exploration of childhood. Protagonist Oskar has little to fear from blood-sucking Eli, at least when compared to the bullies at his school. And rather than turn into some stoic Protestant masochist, he seeks to strike back at the world that abuses him. And as it fits her own utterly selfish interests, Eli is happy to help...

Lost Souls
Anne Rice ain't the only one who can do gay vampires - Poppy Z. Brite's little dip into the genre is all the gothy homoeroticism you gals out there crave. But unlike Rice, she crafts a very un-romantic coming of age story out of it all. Her modern vampires travel the back roads of the south in a busted up van, drinking blood and booze in equal measure, and wreaking horrible life-destroying violence on anyone who crosses their path. They're the Near Dark crew after an extended stay in New Orleans, goth meets southern gothic. And there's not a moment of pity for anyone!

Before Vlad Tepes took the ladies of London by storm, Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu gave literature an equally sexual predator. Except his is another girl in one of - if not the! - earliest lesbian romances. The titular Carmilla has a sweet scam going, ingratiating herself into a noble family and slowly bleeding their impressionable daughter, in every sense of the word... It's a bit melodramatic compared to the rest of this list but it's also the shortest. And I know what really matters to you all.

Salem's Lot
When you write as many books as Stephen King, a few of them are bound to be decent. This not so little tale about Old World vampires descending on the New England town of Jerusalem's Lot is one such book - and in so many ways! On the surface, you've got a solid little horror tale full of vampires that are actually scary. But as you dig deeper, you see that King is a serious craftsman - the inversion of the Superstition versus Science theme that dominated the original Dracula, the misery and petty malice endemic to small town America, all conveyed in a style at once literary and familiar.

I Am Legend
No book has been adapted to screen so poorly so many times. From Charleton Heston to Will Smith, Hollywoood keeps trying to focus on the man and not the monster. Matheson not only wrote the definitive post-apocalypse survival tale, but turned the entire vampire genre on its head in a way that no other work has managed to deal with since. I won't just say it, as I'd be giving away a big part of the ending, but what do you think when you hear about a guy who wanders around while you're asleep, murdering all your friends and neighbors?

Sunglasses After Dark
Okay, this is a purely personal indulgence. The vamp slayin', face stompin' heroine of Nancy A. Collins ain't gonna be made into a movie anytime soon. It's not just too raw but too cosmologically confusing - Sonja Blue inhabits a world full of much more than vampires, slipping unnoticed among humanity in a manner Joss Whedon ripped off shamelessly. And neutered. But the Blue woman's breakout adventure is a rollicking good time of revenge, unapologetic monsters, and I swear to God a cameo by John Constantine!

So there ya go! The vampire books you can really sink your teeth into. And there's one more, but you'll have to wait until midnight...


Fiend has been revamped - har har - and re-released, now on the ereader of your choice! 

So come get your fang on!
And for all you luddites, check back here for details on a spankin' new Fiend paperback!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Revolution Will Not Be [KERNEL PANIC]

I went back to Windows recently and the most shocking thing? I missed it. I missed being able to install things with just a double click. I missed making full use of the hardware on my machine. I really missed access to all those mods...

But most of all, I missed being able to just turn on my computer and do stuff. That's the one cardinal rule of software design that developers like to pretend doesn't exist. See, having to worry about those hessian end users gets in the way of all their posturing - in that it requires them to follow through on their claims of superiority. In five years of IT work, I've known all of one developer who had the discipline of a proper craftsman and she was perpetually worn down by having to carry the whole project...

I'm getting off on a different rant here. Point is, I used Ubuntu for years and, having returned to the Microsoft Kool-Aide, don't miss that open source stuff in the slightest.

This started in 2008 because I didn't want to switch to Vista and I couldn't afford a Mac if I wanted to. So I gave the whole Linux thing a whirl, burning a live CD of Ubuntu 8.10 and installing it on my 2003 laptop. It ran a bit slow in places but overall it did what I wanted without ever getting in the way. I got familiar with UNIX commands, tooled around with Python despite no programming experience, I embraced the whole open source revolution! What did I need to shell out a couple hundred bucks for a GUI just to use the hardware I already paid for anyway? And so what if it took some not-at-all intuitive process just to install anything?

That was my attitude until about a month ago, when I made the change from 9.04.3 to the latest version...

First install - Woops, looks like my system isn't 64-bit compatible. Should've assumed that...

Second install - Well that worked. Eew, is that the desktop? It looks like an iPad beta. Ah well, at least it's running smoother than that first try. Now to get back all my files and... Hey, why is everything read only? Why can't I save anything? Why can't I delete anything!?

What the frak is "/" and why are you checking for it!?

Third install - Piece a' crap, losing all my MST3K... Can't even keep up, runs slower than my 2003 machine... And now everything's turned read only again!

Fourth install - Aww hell no!

I can take a lot of abuse. I was raised by an Irish Catholic. But deprive me of Mike and the Bots? That shit will not fly.

So I went out and bought a new machine that was on sale. Pre-loaded with Windows 8. The "start menu" is obnoxious - trying way too hard to out Apple the Apple interface - but at least the damned thing works.

And just so it's perfectly clear, I did this entirely because of Ubuntu 13. I've got no complaints about 8.10 and 9.04 - go give 'em a whirl yourself. The best thing I can say about them is I never noticed a difference. For a brief period, Ubuntu really lived up to the dream of an open source OS that just plain worked, without expecting every user to be one of those Asperger's casualties who think everyone should know how to program in the command line. For moral reasons. Seriously, it's like Calvinists expecting everyone to submit to their own dull obsession...

"Use Linux because Micro$oft is teh evuls! No I won't tell you how - RTFM!"

And now, Ubuntu is trying to be the poor man's Mac. That's worse than suicide.

***Update: 10:31 am***

"You'll never miss Windows!" say the glassy-eyed cultists.

This is so much more interesting than that boring ol' BSOD...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tea Party Terrorism

You gotta hand it to the Tea Party. From their humble beginnings as an astroturf non-movement to engineering the first government shutdown in two decades, they've risen to become the most effective terrorists to ever hit the United States.

And I'm not the only one saying it. Their latest shenanigans are still being spun as politics as usual over at the New York Times and other bastions of the muddling mainstream, but a quick perusal of the comments reveals the majority have quite had it with this anti-government jihad. For every dead-ender promising to donate to the campaign of Osama bin Cruz, there's a dozen pulling their hair out and an increasing number dropping that good ol' "T" bomb like me.

Because the Tea Party just did what all serious terrorists do - hit hard without a care for self-preservation. Like all those spoiled Saudis who crashed planes into New York and DC twelve years ago, the Tea Party orchestrated the current government shutdown strictly for ideological reasons. The reaction of John Q. Public wasn't a factor 'cause when you're running on faith - whether it's Allah or Small Government - the opinions of others are beneath contempt. At best they're a distraction, mostly they're a heresy. Just ask the morality cops in Riyadh.

On second thought, don't...

But that would all just make the Tea Party just another bunch of ragheads. What they did - and I'm surprised no other global insurgents have tried this - was hit America where it really hurt... In the money.

How many people have been killed in terrorists attacks? A fair number but with rare exceptions like 9/11 they're people who are too poor or foreign to really count. And let's be honest, no one weeps over oil workers. And killing, while theatrical, just isn't how you make war on 300 million comfortable first worlders - especially if you don't have anything in the megaton range.

So what's a Tea Party jihadi to do... Why wreck the economy, of course! Conservative estimates place the cost of a government shutdown at about 1 billion dollars lost from the US economy per week. No, not "saved" because it started out as a Federal paycheck - just gone entirely. Since all those Federal employees won't have any pay to spend. Look for some shuttered Starbucks in Arlington!

But that's still small time, compared to what this is doing to the stock market. The financial press tried to downplay it this morning, claiming "cautious optimism" or something, but if you have an IRA like me you woke up to one hell of a drop. It's just gonna keep dropping the longer this shutdown lasts, which pleases the Tea Party jihadis right down to their secret keffiyahs!

"Green eggs and ham are haram! And so is healthcare!"

You can kill all the Americans you want and just get a shrug. George W. Bush killed over a thousand trying to turn Baghdad into a white collar suburb and still got re-elected. But taking our dollars, that hurts. It hurts deep and it hurts for a long long time. Those al Qaeda hicks with all their hollering and exploding are the Where Are They Now? of jihadis while the Tea Party managed to bring the mightiest empire in history to its knees. Not with suicide attacks or Ayn Rand madrassas or billions of Wahabbi cash on the sly, but by worming their way into elected office and then not doing a damn thing.

I tell ya, world class terrorists! All those yahoos in Syria and Pakistan could learn a thing or two from the Cruz crowd.

Trevor Kroger is the author of One Nation Under God, in which a similar crew of reactionary screwheads destroy America!