We Will Be Invincible
Psycho II, The Legend of Billie Jean, and some notes on the future
I’m doing some thinking about how best to make use of this newsletter, balanced with the website and the scattering of other half-finished thoughts and ideas I’ve strewn across landscapes both digital and analog. If you’ve been with me during any of my previous attempts to do this, you know the likelihood of success. But the dream endures! Anyway, in the meantime, and because my planned article about J.G. Ballard’s Kingdom Come has become a sprawling epic that needs taming, I thought I’d do one of the things that I do worst, which is promoting some of my projects and undertakings, as well as delivering a few shrimp chip size glances at recent entertainment.
The Feminine Critique Podcast: The Legend of Psycho II
The Feminine Critique is one of my favorite film podcasts, and Emily and Christine are two of my favorite people, so I was very excited to make a guest appearance on episode 159 to discuss The Legend of Billie Jean (1985) and Psycho II (1983). We talk about everything from respect for the younger generation to why men stopped wearing short shorts and half-shirts, as well as our fondness for Anthony Perkins and how to do a sequel to a bona fide horror classic many people see as untouchable. I had a blast, learned a few things, and hope you’ll give it a listen. Find it wherever you go to find podcasts. Be sure to follow The Feminine Critique on Twitter and Instagram as well.
I Wrote a Book
It’s called Cocktails and Capers: Cult Cinema, Cocktails, Crime, & Cool, and it’s about…well, those things. Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, mid-century New York hang-outs, gentleman thief movies, Diabolik and Kilink, El Santo and Blue Demon, Fantomas and Les Vampires, Ian Fleming, James Bond, Martinis, Americanos and Negronis, the Rat Pack, Dean Martin’s Matt Helm films…plus music suggestions and cocktail recipes. Does it all make sense crammed together like that? Like, maybe 75% of the time it does? But no matter! For $16 I think it’s a pretty good time, so if you haven’t, consider picking it up. And if you have a moment to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or B&N, that’ll help me in my goal to break into Amazon’s top two million best sellers!
I’ve Been Reading…
If life and writing went the way I want, I’d be sending insightful reviews of a reasonable length of each of these. But, well, you know. Anyway, I have been reading some pretty good books lately. So here’s a quick rundown of reads for which I will vouch.
Velvet Was the Night
After Mexican Gothic, I was down to read anything and everything Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes, which led to Gods of Jade and Shadow and, more recently, to Velvet was the Night. Where Mexican Gothic was horror and Gods of Jade and Shadow was historical urban fantasy, Velvet… is a political thriller set in Mexico City during the 1960s. No gods, demons, or creepy fungi, but plenty of thugs, spies, student radicals, secret police, and one woman with a love of romance comics who finds herself in the middle of it.
The final book by J.G. Ballard, this tale of an ad man who finds himself in the middle of a fascist revolution driven by hyper-capitalism in the London suburbs is a lot, which is why, as I mentioned in the intro, I’ve been trying to write about it in more detail. I’ll figure out how to break it up into digestible articles, but until then, Old Man Ballard is as sharp and cranky and unsettling as any other age Ballard. The story of a neofascist uprising fomented in the ‘burbs by hiring an empty suit to rile up people’s sense of aggrievement and xenophobia is still very much relevant.
Cage of Souls
My first book by prolific science fiction author Adrian Tchaikovsky. I was initially hesitant, because “prison” stories aren’t my thing (the season of every TV show where the lead gets sent to prison is usually my least favorite). However, although Cage of Souls took a little bit to click with me, I was absolutely hooked once it did. It goes into directions I really did not expect, and I found the characters and the world, both inside and outside the prison, endlessly fascinating.
The Sheep Look Up
Like Cage of Souls, John Brunner’s dystopian tale of ecological apocalypse took a little while to click with me. Also like Cage of Souls, once it did, I was all the way in. And like Ballard’s Kingdom Come, The Sheep Look Up is still very much relevant and chilling. The world is sick and dying, and rather than deal with it, people are pretending everything’s fine while politicians look for excuses, scapegoats, and profit. The rapid-fire first third is sometimes disjointed, and it’s hard to keep the characters straight, but once it settles into a rhythm, it’s a breathtaking, chilling, thoroughly downbeat journey into a world ravaged by pollution, toxicity, and disease.
Archiving Teleport City, 25 Years Later
A quarter of a decade ago, give or take a couple of months, I started a cult film review website called Teleport City. At the time, it was one of a few and one of the most popular cult film sites on the fledgling World Wide Web. In the ensuing 25 years, it has at times flourished, at other times languished; at times, been lovely and well-maintained, and at others broken down and haggard. These days, the movies we reviewed are much easier to find, and other people are doing a much better, more dedicated job of discussing them. As all good things must end, the time has come to wind it down, for a number of reasons.
However, no one wants to throw away 25 years of work. So I am archiving, in fits and starts, all of the Teleport City reviews on the Suburban Pagans website. I’ll highlight some of the better ones as they’re moved, but the first order of business was building out the Todd Stadtman Archives. Todd was instrumental in the success of Teleport City and wrote some of the site’s most popular reviews. His reviews have been properly spruced up, and in many cases have been augmented with all-new and better screencaps (when we started the thing, a 250-pixel wide image was considered quite large).