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January 2011
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March 2011

Monsters & Mullets: The Lost Boys (1987)

Lostboys I held out against watching The Lost Boys for years.  And years. I don't like teen movies, and I especially don't like '80s teen movies, and I particularly don't like those '80s teen movies the mere mention of which send my peers into squealing paroxysms of nostalgic delight. Sixteen Candles? The Breakfast Club? Dude, they suck

Given my reflexive loathing of '80s teen movies, and because Lost Boys is spoken of in such reverent tones, often by the same people who speak in reverent tones about all those other movies I hate, I was not looking forward to (re)watching it.  "Eighties crap," I've quietly assured myself for years.  "I'm not missing anything."

I was wrong.

While not, strictly speaking, a high fantasy movie, The Lost Boys meets the two major criteria for a Monsters & Mullets feature. First, of the holy trinity of classic movie-monsters, the vampire surely sits at the right hand of God. Secondly, mullets. Mullets aplenty. Mullets everywhere.  Mullets on vampires. In the '80s. Win/win/win.

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Underground Reading: 32 Caliber by Donald McGibeny

32 Caliber 32 Caliber is a 1920 detective thriller that sits somewhere between a "cozy" and Gold Medal-style pulp action. 

Our hero, Warren, is a lawyer and man of means. He's a society-type with the sort of Big Name that the newspapers love to hate. He claims to have a busy practice, but seems to spend a lot of the book at the country club, playing golf and wooing a childhood friend. However, the license that comes with wealth and stature serves Warren well throughout 32 Caliber - as his sleuthing is predicated on his ability to stick his nose in where it doesn't belong.

Whereas Warren is essentially a good egg, his sister Helen is rotten. Easily the most beautiful woman in town, she's had her pick of admirers. With a friendly push from Warren, the one she wound up with is Jim - Warren's best friend, law partner and all-around Good Guy.

And that's Jim's problem: Helen needs to be "treated rough" - Warren even tells him so. But to the lovestruck Jim, the very idea of mistreating Helen was "like telling a Mohammedan to spit in the face of the prophet".

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10 Tips for Being a Geek in London (for Free)

It dawned on us that a lot of the fun we have as geeks doesn't actually have a price tag. Scary, huh?

Here are ten(ish) different ways to entertain yourself as a genre loyalist without reaching into your carefully-horded Book Budget. Most of these only help London-based geeks, but there's a plea for your local list at the bottom... hopefully this will inspire you!

  • Orbital Gallery (& Others). Orbital maintain a constantly-changing display of great artwork in their own gallery. Although it isn't a huge space, the owners do their best to promote UK and indie artists, and it has a way of opening your eyes to exotic new work. The nearby Cartoon Museum has an entrance fee (which is reduced if you're a student and free if you're under 18), but hosts an amazing collection of illustrated art - new and old. Pollock's Toy Museum also has a ticket price, but will keep you entertained for hours with their collections of action figures, board games and other wonderful toys.
  • Hunt for ghosts. London's a very old city and not all its dead stay buried. At least, that's what this website would have us believe. Put together your own ghost tour - explore your own neighborhood or chase down a few classics (we recommend the Black Dog of Newgate - Amen Corner, EC4).
  • The Hunterian Museum. Anne likes, (though I'm too squeamish for), this museum of physiological curiousities, which boasts a distinctly Lovecraftian aspect. Check out the many examples of "monsters in spirits" and other creepy specimens. 
  • The National Collector's Marketplace at Russell Square. The temptation, of course, is to buy everything in sight - but this eclectic convention is also a great way to spend the day browsing. There's more original art here on display here than in the National Gallery - and all of it is comic book and pulp related.
  • Search for Space Invaders. London's got a thriving graffitti scene, but our favorite (and easily the geekiest) artist is Invader, a bonkers Frenchman who has bedecked the city with pixelated foes. Invader gives himself "points" for hanging them in especially complicated or hard-to-reach places. He's still winning, but, sadly, the little critters are rapidly disappearing. Find a map and get exploring - much of the fun is all the other incredible street art you'll find while hunting down your new alien overlords. 
  • Geeky Stuff at the V&A. The V&A is kind of like that brilliant cupboard under the stairs where your gran crams all that weird stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else.  As well as kimonos, forgeries and vodka bottles, the V&A has a lot of explicitly geek materials on display - including an amazing collection of prints and books and a selection of lethal Japanese weaponry that'll convert you into a manga fan on sight. (Try and seek out the legendary squid-blade, a sword with an octopodical scabbard and a lobster for a hilt).
  • Find a gaming group. Hey, you know what's still free, fun and immensely time-consuming? RPGs. The Orc's Nest maintains a list of clubs looking for players, but check out the Finchley Games Club (RPG), Games Club (CCG) and the Central London Wargames Club (Minis) for starters. Any Games Workshop or other game-supply shop will invariably have a few recommendations for you as well. 
  • The British Library. You need a pass to get books out of the (closed) stacks, but the British Library always has a gallery or six filled with some of amazing, leer-worthy books. Starting in May, this will include a six month stint showing some of the best in Science Fiction.
  • The Barbican Library. A different sort of library from the above, the Barbican has an enormous selection of music and a lot of squashy-seated listening booths. Symphonies are very nice, but why not get comfy and geek out to their extensive Hawkwind collection instead?
  • Project Gutenberg. Or, since this is London, it is probably gray and raining outside. Why not stay home? Project Gutenberg boasts a billionty-twelve free books that you can download without feeling guilty. E-reader not required - all books are available in normal formats and many even come with audio recordings
  • The Prince Charles Cinema. It isn't free (which is why we're listing it as a bonus tip), but the Prince Charles Cinema is the sole central London cinema that doesn't require selling a kidney to see a film. Membership is cheap to the point where it generally pays for itself within a viewing or two, and the PCC is a great place to watch SF and Horror classics on the big screen. Often for as little as £1.50.

[Editor's note: Apologies for the London bias, but that's where we live. If you put together a list for your hometown, let us know! And, for other Londoners, let us know what we forgot in the comments...]


The Week that Was

Reviews, reviews, reviews and slash. In case you missed anything, here's what happened this week on the site:

In the real world, we were also rushing around like madgeeks - attending a couple sessions at the LSE Literary Festival (this pounced on us at the last minute - we'll be better prepared for next year), wishing Gosh Comics a happy 25th birthday and swinging by to see David Hine's illustrations for the upcoming "The Colour Out of Space" at Orbital Comics. All were free public events - living in London is expensive, but being a geek doesn't have to be!


A Classic of Modern Cinema

A puritanical young girl seeks justice for the murder of her father. Her chosen champion is a man of a morally-ambiguous background - a reformed criminal with a penchant for bloody violence. Her hero has promised to save her, but must battle his own demons on the way.
Also noteworthy:
  • Heavily stylized dialogue
  • Stunning landscapes
  • Bloody action
  • Compelling historical setting
  • Weather-related pathetic fallacies

The Coen Brothers' True Grit? No.

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Underground Reading: Under the Andes by Rex Stout

Under the Andes In 1914, at the ripe old age of 28 - and two decades before he began the Nero Wolfe mysteries - Rex Stout wrote an adventure story, Under the Andes. The plot is familiar to any fan of H.R. Haggard and his ilk. Three companions venture someplace exceedingly awkward, find a "lost race", locate some missing treasure, deal with primitive customs (like human sacrifice) and eventually make their way home in some incredibly implausible way.

Most readers travel to Under the Andes from the expected direction: Nero Wolfe fans looking for another good mystery. The action-packed, over-the-top romp of Under the Andes is unsurprisingly, a disappointment to them. But approached from the opposite direction - say, you're someone with a self-destructive penchant for turn-of-the-century pseudoscientific adventures - it is easy to see that Under the Andes is one of the finest of its ilk - a "lost race" story carried by strong, interesting leads.

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New Releases: Trapped by Michael Northrop

Trapped Here's a fantasy for you:

You're sixteen. Middle of the pack, not especially picked on, not especially popular. You go to high school every day, hang out with friends a lot - mostly doing nothing - and think about girls (or boys). You think about the future, but only vaguely. Being successful at thirty or forty means nothing, you want something that snaps the mold now.

What you want is a disaster. Nobody needs to die, but everyone needs to be scared just enough to show how not scared you are. Adults can't be around, because you need a vaccuum of authority into which you can step. You need a situation where everyone's real self shines through: sports-field heroes are revealed as cowards, beauty queens as insecure, and geeks like you? Your natural heroism shines through. 

It'd also help if the cute freshman noticed.

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New Releases: Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot and Ruin Rot and Ruin is - and try not to be shocked - a tale of young adult, post-Apocalyptic dystopia. With zombies. (With the inclusion of a vampire flying an airship, we'd have a genre bingo.) The world ended fourteen years ago when the zombie menace began. The plague of the walking (and biting) dead swept across the land, forcing the living out of the cities and into the hills. 

At the start of Rot and Ruin, humanity has reached an uneasy truce with the zombies. Our hero, Benny, has grown up in the town of Mountainside - a small, fenced-off community where everyone is trained in the realities of undeath from a young age. The book begins with Benny reaching the age of adulthood - 15. He's no longer allowed "free" rations from the town and needs to make a living.

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