Tag Archives: fantasy

‘Gil’s All Night Fright Diner’ by A. Lee Martinez (Book Review)

Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez is a fun, quick read I recommend for those of us that enjoy fantasy stories that don’t take themselves too seriously. It begins with the unlikely (in other universes) pairing of a vampire and a werewolf.

While passing through the town of Rockwood, rough werewolf Duke and self-doubting vampire Earl end up in an out-of-the-way diner. They find out that this is no ordinary diner- it has a recurring zombie attack problem. Earl and Duke help the diner’s owner Loretta work together to fend off an attack and stay on as workers to help solve the undead issue. The zombies, however, are only a symptom of the real problem; local teenager Tammy is hell-bent on bringing the old gods back to this dimension and ruin things for everyone.

Gil’s All Fright Diner is a simple story written with plenty of humor. I really enjoyed the character development of Duke and Earl, but was a bit disappointed in the female characters. For example, I was left trying to figure out why Tammy felt the need to destroy the world besides the fact that she’s a teenager. I suppose evil doesn’t need an excuse, but I felt it needed more. Also, the constant reference to Tammy’s hotness (and her using sex to get anything) and Loretta’s ugliness (she was fat and therefore, undesirable) was over the top.

Thankfully, to balance out Tammy, there is a ghost called Cathy who I at first thought was there to be rescued but ended up being a strong character in the fight against evil. Also, “ugly” Loretta is a strong woman that takes no bullshit from zombies or any other creature even with her limited human body. While Duke and Earl can heal themselves, Loretta can not, so her bravery kicked ass.

I have a few A. Lee Martinez books I’ll review here; he’s a fun fantasy author to read.

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El Secreto, Mexican Fantasy Film Premieres Next Week (Trailer)

El Secreto (The Secret) is a Mexican movie with elements of the supernatural that will premiere in Mexico City on December 3rd. No word yet on when it will show outside of Mexico. It looks pretty interesting, especially considering it is low budget. I recognize a couple of excellent actors from different Mexican shows.

Here is the synopsis translated from the movie website:

After her mother’s murder, Emilia’s life changes radically. When she goes to live with her aunt she realizes that the woman keeps a secret that has been hidden and protected for centuries- a secret for which entire nations would pay any price to acquire and men would kill for. Emilia is on the brink of its discovery…

Check out their official website here for movie images, their Facebook page for a behind the scenes look, and follow them on Twitter for updates.

I added English subtitles to the trailer here. Or watch it in Spanish below.

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City of the Gods: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Book Review and Interview)

The Feathered Serpent, Quetzalcoatl

City of the Gods: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, a novel by Patrick Garone, is a unique fusion of science fiction and fantasy combining space travel, lost civilizations, mythical creatures, and alternate timelines sure to delight the genre fan. It sounds complex- and it is- yet it is told in a straightforward, easy to read manner that won’t make your head spin even when you’re trying to pronounce the complicated names of the characters to yourself (there’s a handy guide in the back for this). Garone may be a first time novelist, but his initial effort is hard to put down.

The story begins as the siblings Eddie and Sandra Ramírez find themselves in the front row of an amazing event in their native Mexico City- an enormous spaceship has appeared in the sky over the city center, and it starts addressing the citizens in a language that few understand in modern-day Mexico: Nahuatl.  Due to Sandra’s on site location and expertise in the language, this graduate student of cultural anthropology is recruited by the government to help the Presidential task force to communicate with the new arrivals. Blinded by the prospect of interacting with beings that could unravel the mysteries of the ancient civilization that built the Teotihuacán pyramids, Sandra accepts the job and is tied to events that may lead to the destruction of the very culture she wishes to protect.

Meanwhile, Sandra’s teenage brother Eddie is left in Mexico City and is witness to an epic battle between huge mythical beasts that are somehow related to the arrival of the spaceship. The whole city is in a panic.  Newly elected President Carrasco finds it difficult to face this exceptional challenge, and feels the pressure of his cabinet, the media, and the special envoy from Washington who demands a swift military solution.

Although the ‘alien arrival’ plot may sound familiar, City of the Gods adds the elements of Mesoamerican mythology, the modern-day Mexican experience, and the heightened paranoia of a post 9/11 world. Also, you learn a thing or two about pre-conquest Mexican deities and Mexican history.

I don’t want to get too specific here to not ruin the plot so to give you an idea of what to expect, this book reminded me of the Stargate movie, Indiana Jones, and Godzilla with a dash of Cthulu. It is refreshingly devoid of romantic entanglements and needless subplots. It would make an excellent alien invasion movie that’s different and uniquely Mexican.

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I had the opportunity to interview author Patrick Garone, who is a Chicagoan of Italian heritage. He is a fellow sci-fi geek (he particularly enjoys Fringe and Alien) who speaks Spanish and is a long-time member of a Latino sketch comedy ensemble. Here’s what he said:

About Garone’s creative process for City of the Gods:

I have a theory about stories. I believe that the parts of stories- characters, themes, plots-are all out there and a writer is just someone who is lucky enough to tune into them. Over the years I was able to tune into all of the elements of City of the Gods. It’s all stuff that I am really into. It’s really a weird story that grew out of a place where a lot of my interests overlap: politics, Japanese monster movies, anthropology, time travel, etc. At some point, I was like “Aha! I can put all this together into a cool story.”

I worked on it on-and-off for about two and a half years. Originally, it was going to be a screenplay but I was very unhappy with the way that it came out. It’s funny, because it has obvious cinematic roots, but that first draft was really bad because the characters were very flat and sort of monster movie stock characters. When I started writing it in prose it just came alive and began to decompress.

My challenge was that I knew it was essentially going to be a giant monster story, but I wanted to tell a really good giant monster story with vivid characters and a point of view and something to say.

I particularly liked Sandra because she wasn’t waiting to be rescued but wasn’t Wonder Woman either.

Well, my background is in the theater and in improvisation so I really like to feel like I am inhabiting my characters. I like to get under their skin and make them real and quirky.

How much did you know about Mesoamerican culture (the gods, symbolism, history) before you started writing? How historically accurate is it aside from the science fiction aspect?

I knew quite a bit actually. I am a real archeology buff and I have traveled to most of the major sites in Mexico and Central and South America. Most of the research actually was about Cortés and the conquest for the opening section [of the book] which was originally much longer. […] if anything turns out to be inaccurate, it is due to alternate universes, for which I am not responsible. But yes, you can trust most of the stuff Sandra [the cultural anthropologist] says.

Although you are an American with Italian heritage, you wrote this book with a special sensitivity towards Latinos. I read on your website that you are a member of a Latino theater company.

I guess I’m what you call “latinamericanizado.” I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of really close Latino friends and associates, who have turned me on to a lot of Latino culture. I work with Salsation Theatre Company, which is one of the first and only Latino sketch comedy and improv companies in the US. I came on board through a friend and really fell in love with the tight family vibe. It’s funny though, as an Italian American I have a different perspective especially on the whole immigration issue, which I see as being really cyclical. A lot of the ugliness and xenophobia that we see now is really eerily like what we had in the 20’s directed towards the Italian community. The immigrant experience in the US is really a long continuum.

What’s next for you?

I feel like promotions for this book will keep me busy at least through the end of the year but I have something that is percolating. I have to see if it sticks or not. But at some point, I’d like to revisit Quetzalcoatl. I feel like he has some more stories in him.

Where can we purchase City of the Gods?

Right now the book is available on Amazon.com and on my site. It will be coming to the Kindle Store in December for those newfangled anti-paper people.

City of the Gods is a great read, and considering this is Garone’s first novel, I expect even greater ones in the future. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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“Journey to Mars”: Heartwarming Stop-motion Animation (Sci-Fi Short)

Antonio dreams of visiting Mars someday

Perusing the Internet, I came across a blog dedicated to Science Fiction topics surrounding Mars. The Marooned blog recently posted about an excellent stop-motion short from Argentina called Viaje a Marte (Journey to Mars). It’s been around since 2005, and if you haven’t seen it you’re in for a treat.

It took two years to make this independent production, but it was well worth the effort because it has won dozens of awards around the world. An interesting production note is that the voice actors were purposefully non-professional. The Journey to Mars team felt this made the short feel more spontaneous and natural.

Directed and animated by Juan Pablo Zaramella, the story is based on a childhood anecdote from the script writer, Mario Rulloni . The short is about a boy, Antonio, whose grandfather seemingly takes him on a trip to Mars (in his tow truck, no less) but nobody believes Antonio and he ends up bitter about the experience. I won’t say much else, other than you won’t be disappointed.

[Side note: Zaramella has other interesting shorts on his Vimeo Page. Check out Lapsus, the fun Lapsus “interview”, and the teaser for his upcoming Luminaris.]

Journey to Mars is on YouTube in Spanish with English subtitles (16 minutes). The Viaje a Marte official website has making-of pictures and a video showing Zaramella working with the foam rubber and modeling clay figures.

See Part One here:

Part Two:

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SINO: New Film from Chile Fantástico

Production company Chile Fantástico has a new film in development called Sino (Fate). Previously I had written about Abandonados, another genre movie they made. I still haven’t seen Abandonados– am patiently waiting for the DVD. Sino is set in Chile and follows a young couple of professors who go on winter break and are faced with “extraordinary events.” Although it’s hard to tell what the movie is about from the description, we can probably piece it together from the movie blog and the trailer.  The Sino blog talks about two life philosophies: sino, or having a destiny, and the other point of view- that we make our own destiny. The trailer asks if love can conquer death. So the film is related to love, tragedy, and if it’s possible to change your destiny.

Check out their blog and Facebook Page for production stills and “making of” pictures. The trailer is on YouTube. If you hate trailers that give away the plot, well, you’re in luck because you can’t tell much with this one other than the winter mountain setting is beautiful.

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