Monthly Archive: August 2011


Priest!Continuing my series of essays about SFnal Movies Beginning with the Letter “P” Starring Actors Who Really Ought to Have Better Things To Do, I watched the movie Priest the other day, starring Paul Bettany.

This was a mistake.

The film is based on some sort of Korean graphic novel I have never heard of. Which means nothing. The list of things I have never heard of is vast, and no one cares about it. The list of people in the world who, in turn, have never heard of me or Avery Cates is also vast, and dwarfs most known quantities. Let it drift.

The basic idea is: In an alternate universe, vampires (which are freaky ugly monsters, not suave, good-looking European gentlemen or teenagers) have always fought humans. For centuries they battled, with the vampires slowly getting the upper hand despite the technology and 24-hour existence of the humans. When things looked most grim, the Church (which is, basically, the Catholic Church, invoking the old trope of All Christians are Catholic), somehow figures out how to train Priests, human killing machines specially trained to destroy vampires. While everyone else crowds into walled cities under the Church’s protection, the Priests go forth and kick ass, presumably with Jesus Power helping them along, and kick so much vampire ass the vampires surrender and are locked into reservations. The Priests are deemed too scary and are decommissioned and forced to take up normal lives, but because they are feared they struggle to assimilate back into society. The huge tattoo of the Cross on their faces might also have something to do with their shunning.

That’s back story. There is a plot, yes. It involves the main character seeking to avenge the death of his brother and rescue his daughter-in-law (or IS she?) from a former priest turned super special human hybrid vampire, and discovering a vampire uprising in the process.

That’s all you need to know about the plot. The real question is, does any of this work. The answer is, no.

The main problem I have with the film is that the whole priest/church part is completely superfluous. Sure, imagining a world where Roman Catholic Priests are trained as superhuman vampire killing machines is a cool idea, but that’s all it is, an idea. To make it into a universe, we need to see how this impacts things. How the religion has mutated, how the Church has incorporated vampirism into its teachings and beliefs. How the religious beliefs of the priests influence their personalities and personal struggles. Instead, it’s just used as the barest of a sketch, and then we have many many fight sequences where Paul Bettany kicks vampire ass.

If nothing else, since the vampires clearly have sentience, you might imagine the question of whether a vampire has a soul might come up, and that this question might be of interest to mean and women who believe in God and life after death and all that. The vampires, however, are treated as standard CGI-Orc beings, meaning it is sure as hell okay to murder them by the dozens, and to enjoy the spectacle of their slaughter. I don’t have any problems with this, per se, but if AlternatePriests don’t give a fuck about killing things that scream in pain as you kill them, then I would like to explore a bit about how they came to this frightening mindset.

In short, Priest is a shallow set up and then a very long fight sequence. If that’s your thing, enjoy.

One thing I would recommend: If the movie comes up for free on TV, watch the opening animated sequence. It’s fun, it summarizes the backstory efficiently, and is entertaining as heck. Then change the channel.

Monday is Guitar Day

Epiphone Les Paul CustomSo, we survived a hurricane. Some leaky roofs, water in the crawlspace we’ll be pumping out (apparently) for a week, and a lot of effort and sleep loss, but overall, nothing we couldn’t handle. Now, trying to get through to the roofer might be an adventure.

The best way to celebrate life’s little triumphs is to post your mediocre guitar playing, amiright? I said, AMIRIGHT?



The usual disclaimer: 1. I admit these are not great music; 2. I claim copyright anyway, so there; 3. No, I cannot do anything about the general quality of the mix, as I am incompetent.

A Play


(A Play in One Act)

<JEFF is at Home Depot, mystified>

JEFF: Excuse me, where are the door saddles? For an interior door?
CLUELESS HD EMPLOYEE: We only have these two kinds.

<JEFF buys one>

<JEFF is at home>

JEFF: Hey guys, I bought this saddle. They said it was one of two they had.

<CONTRACTOR1 gives JEFF his sad face>

CONTRACTOR2: Uh … we’ll just pick one up for you tomorrow.

JEFF: <slumping in defeat> Dang.

AND: Scene.

The F-Bomb Project

The F-Bomb ProjectYesterday on Twitter while rambling on pointlessly as usual (my tweets can be boiled down to <joke about pants> + <joke about liquor> + <random comment on what I’m writing> + <link to something vaguely interesting on the Internet> = hilarity) I thought about creating a book trailer where a bunch of people read one line from a passage in The Final Evolution or something, and I spliced them together into a trailer (inspired by this.)

Then Bill Cameron said “If my passage doesn’t have a lot of f-bombs, I’m not doing it. Hahahaha.” And I thought, yes. Let’s create a trailer of people reading just lines with the word fuck in them. I mean, I counted 593 of them in The Final Evolution alone.

Then, I thought, why not make that into a trailer for the whole series? Boom.

So, here’s the deal: Got Avery Cates books? A video camera of some sort? Film yourself reading any line, from any of the books, as long as that line contains an F-Bomb. Send it to me. Everything else is up to you: How you do, where you do it, what line you read, what you’re wearing, how many of you are involved – go nuts. Have fun. All I ask is that when you send me the clip, you identify exactly what line you’re reading by book, page, and line (just to spare me from having to search for each instance). Email everything to

I’ll need a bunch of these to make it workable, so I won’t be doing any work on it until I have critical mass. So encourage everyone you know to send me a clip!


Predators!After a lengthy hiatus, I once again found myself awake and offered the opportunity to watch a presumably terrible SF movie late one night. I’ve been able to avoid temptation for a while, but there it was: Predators, the latest in what has suddenly become the long-running franchise (this is the fifth goddamn movie, a fact that makes you sit and contemplate the universe, which is indeed mysterious).

The fact that they are still making Predator movies is amazing, considering the path this franchise has taken: Start with a surprisingly well-done but decidedly low-rent Schwarzenegger movie made back in Arnold’s heyday, before he was so huge a star he could make terrible role decisions but after he’d learned how to move more than one facial muscle. Then make a batshit insane sequel starring Danny Glover. Then pause for a few years while you marvel at the batshit insane you have created, weaponized, and spread over the world. Then combine your franchise with another equally batshitted franchise and make two curiously dull movies about horrifying and deadly aliens fighting each other.

Then, hire an Oscar winner, Morpheus, and fucking Topher Grace and make one. more. damn. movie.

I’m going to assume we’re all basically familiar with the Predator backstory: Predators are somehow simultaneously technologically advanced and behaviorally primitive. They will shoot you with an energy-based weapon that turns you inside-out, then howl like a fucking ape as they stomp around. They flit about the universe seeking things to hunt and kill, and they’re extraordinarily good at that. They keep coming back to hunt humans, either because we’re a challenge, or because we’re tasty.

Anyways, Predators. Here’s the basic plot outline: The most badassed of badass humans are plucked involuntarily from Earth and dead-dropped onto a mysterious planet that is one huge game preserve for the predators. There’s a Mexican drug cartel enforcer, a Russian soldier, an Israel Defense Forces sniper, an RUF officer, a death row inmate, a Yakuza enforcer, and … a meek doctor.

The meek doctor is played by Topher Grace. This clearly telegraphed that the doctor was More Than He Seems. If the doctor had been even slightly physically intimidating, it might have been a mystery, but when you have one unarmed, untrained man played by Topher Grace in your group of badasses, I immediately think the good doctor must be some sort of mass murderer.

Anyways, these folks have all been chosen because, they assume, they will be a challenge for their new friends the Predators. They are not. This because in movies like this, you have to first establish that the villains are, in fact, the ultimate badasses, otherwise you just assume the protagonists are gonna kill everything within fifteen minutes and you change the channel. So, you know the Predators are going to kill almost everyone. Okay, fine, the movie’s called Predators, not Badass Humans. Still, the opportunity to make something clever is passed over.

The way everyone just drops from the sky, waking up in mid free fall with just seconds to realize they have a parachute strapped to them is kind of cool. When the characters started to assemble I thought for a second that they would form a perfect military unit: A sniper, a heavy gunner, a captain, a doctor. That sort of thing. In a sense I suppose they did do that, but then you have the Cartel enforcer who’s just a dumb guy with some assault rifles, and the Yakuza fellow, who shows up in a nice suit, expensive shoes, and a handgun, and the prisoner, who only has a shiv. I kind of like the idea of an actual unit formed from desperate strangers who all have military training, and watching them either form a chain of command or get killed standing around. This didn’t happen.

Adrien Brody is good. I think Brody has some acting chops, but his choice in films indicates a man who’s stoned out of his gourd more often than not. I imagine Brody waking up in a blood-splattered Vegas hotel room with a contract clutched in one hand and a hooker’s severed hand in the other, and he starts to cry because he knows he’s blacked out and signed on to do another terrible movie. Or beer commercial. So he sells his character, a gruff mercenary who ruthlessly uses the others as resources for his own survival.

The other actors are fine. Laurence Fishburne shows up for a demented couple of minutes as a traitorous man who’s gone insane surviving a few years on the preserve, and he’s fun. The problem is the death-march plot. You are given a handful of characters, you expect them to die in horrific ways, and they do. The basic premise is not a bad one to make a story out of, but they just don’t do anything here. The same events could have happened if the victims had elected to make a camp and cook up some RTE rations, then been slaughtered in their sleep. And the movie would have been 5 minutes long. Win-win!

Still, Brody’s fun, the plot is fast-paced, and it’s basically well made. If you drunk and pantsless in your living room one night while a blank word processor screen mocks you, pour yourself a dram of something inebriating and punch Predators up. Why not?

The Amazing Martin Landawer

This is a short story I wrote back in the early 1990s. It appeared in The Whirligig #3 in 2001.

The Amazing Martin Landawer

by Jeff Somers

I first failed to meet Martin Landawer my freshman year of college.

When he died, I sat immobilized by stunned disbelief for a full day. It seemed impossible that I should outlive Martin. Forty-five is too young for anybody to die, but I’d been certain that Martin would last at least as long as I did, and the news left me feeling directionless, and lost. Tammy phoned me late at night, tearfully informing friends and family of his demise.

“David,” she said, her voice shaking. But resolute, pushing onward. That was Tammy. I had loved her too, at one time. “We’d like you to give the eulogy.”

I thought I’d run out of my supply of terrified shock, after a lifetime of association with Martin. “What?” I managed to croak.

“You knew Martin best. You were his best friend, David. He’d want you to do it.”

I stared at the phone in disbelief. Did she know who she was talking to? Did she know who I was?

“Tammy, I – ”

“Please, David. Martin wanted it.”

I laughed hollowly. “Then he gets it, eh? Nothing’s changed, even now.”

“What do you mean?”

I thought of that first day at school.