Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kitty Cosplay: Orphan Black

by Megan S.

SPOILER ALERT! It looks like the Dyad Institute has been meddling around with more than just human DNA and these new clones are adorable.  Just kidding.  It's actually Lilly wearing this year's Halloween costume(s).  Yep, the cosplaying kitty and I had to step up our game after last year's Sherlock, 2012's Rainbow Dash, and 2011's Ewok. And what could be better than paying homage to the best series on television and the amazing Tatiana Maslany?

So, without further ado, here's Lilly as Sarah, Alison, Cosima, and everyone's favorite serial killer, Helena.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Not So Lonesome Night In October

I may be a little bit biased, but A Night In the Lonesome October is the best Halloween book in the history of ever. It has everything you could possibly want from a book; elder gods, titans of horror fiction and talking animals. What more could you ask for?

As everyone knows (and is probably tired of me talking about), I re-read A Night In the Lonesome October every Halloween. The book is broken up into 31 chapters, each representing a day in the life of these odd characters, so it's perfectly made for a monthly read-along. The story is dead simple and involves greats of history and literature like Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, Victor Frankenstein, Rasputin and Dracula fighting to control the dread elder gods of Lovecraft fame. The book is told from the view point of Snuff, Jack's trusty hound. It's a clever little story, full of quick wit and in-jokes.

I've read it for so many years that I know it as well as the back of my hand, yet I'm always completely enchanted and surprised every year by what a lovely, fun book it is. It's perfect. Sadly, the book was out of print for many, many years and made my yearly suggestions to read it sound like the ravings of a madwoman. I wanted all of my friends to experience how wonderful it was. Finally, this year, A Night In the Lonesome October came back into print. Imagine my tears of joy. I bought myself a new copy, gifted a few and demanded in all caps that everyone on my Twitter feed should read it.

Guess what? Some of them took me up on it! Since I've spent many, many years talking about this book I was fascinated to learn what my friends thought of it too. After some gentle haranguing on Twitter, I have three victi- er, friends who agreed to share their thoughts. Dan B, Jessie H and Stellar Four's own Kathy F are all very good friends of mine who, for some reason, allow me to shout at them about books on social media. Let's all give them a round of applause for not killing me out of sheer annoyance and selling my organs on the black market. They are all incredibly awesome people.

A Night In the Lonesome October is very dear to me and I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the years of hype I gave it, but it won everyone over! Dan B said "I think it lived up to the hype. I do know that I enjoyed it enough to read it again this year, and I only reread books I enjoy quite a bit." while Kathy F said "I loved it. I think I read it years ago when it first came out, a fact I remembered as I got into it. I really loved the POV from the animal companion.". Snuff is definitely a fan favorite!

Since the core of the story involves characters from other famous works of fiction, I was curious how everyone would react to the melding of those icons. Kathy F and I share a brain on most things and I think she's spot on with her assessment, saying "Many of my fav books juggle or mishmash mythologies, so this was perfect for me.It had so many of my favorites too: the Great Detective, the Count, the Werewolf. What made it great though was that none of it was from their POV. Animal companions are a fixture, but rarely do you get to be in their heads. It was fun."

Dan B brings up a good point though, saying "The book is an excellent read. I liked how it's a slow build, and everything and everyone is slowly revealed to you. I think if the book has a failing, it's that if you aren't familiar with the various literary and horror mythologies, you aren't going to enjoy the characters quite as much. Part of the joy is recognizing who is who from descriptions and clues. But, since I did recognize everyone, it's a delight." Dan B hits the nail on the head here, as my fear is always that people won't recognize a character. When you do recognize them though, it's such a cool moment. It really elevates the book. I really think each character was picked with care for their part of the story.

Of course, there's also the fear that I really put the book on a pedestal and no one would see why I thought it was so good. Jessie H, who has her own excellent blog that you should check out, thankfully assuaged me of that fear. "As much as I’ve come to trust Meghan’s excellent book recommendations, [ed- aww, thanks] I was afraid that I wasn’t going to like this book. It’s not something I would have normally picked up on my own and she has certainly hyped it up the last couple of years. I’m glad to report that I’m loving it! I was a bit confused at first with trying to keep all of the characters straight. I’m enjoying the fact that most of the characters are from classic horror and gothic novels! So it’s been fun connecting each of them to their original novel! It has also been delightful trying to figure out which characters are participants in The Game and which side they are on."

A Night In the Lonesome October unfurls and drags you in and it's hard to resist. I am so relieved that everyone enjoyed it! When asked if they were going to join the October re-read club with me, I got a resounded "yes" from everyone! Jessie H started it the right way, "I’ve been doing the one chapter a day thing so I won’t finish it until Halloween night but I need to know what happens! I can’t wait to read it again next year!".

And Dan B? He knows me all too well. "It's quite likely that I will read it again next year. If I choose not to, I'm sure you will be quick to disabuse me of the notion." You are correct, sir!

While October is nearly over this year, it's not too late to pick up A Night In the Lonesome October and see if the world can be saved from Cthulhu by Jack the Ripper! And don't worry, I'll be sure to remind everyone about it next Halloween!
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Prep

It's Tuesday, Friday is just four days away, and the women of Stellar Four are getting ready for the big night in their own ways.

Sara N.

I don't have kiddos, so I don't have costume pressure or any plans beyond sitting at home and handing out candy while making awkward small talk with the chillruns who come to the door. (I'm stiff and awkward around kids, so my Halloween small talk is pretty weak.) But this year, since it's on a Friday night and all, I'm seriously considering playing this Halloween drinking game:

Upside: I probably won't be so tense around the kids. Downside: I'll probably die.

Megan S.

I don't have a costume to contribute, but I did get a cute Dia de los Muertos hair clip. Mine is customized with a fuller flower, but looks similar to this one from Etsy:

From SugarySkullsBoutique

Kathy F.

It's been years since I dressed up for Halloween other than wearing a tiger ear or devil horn headband. This year, however, after lots of asking and prodding from the kiddos and friends, I've decided to dress up. I have a few costume rules. It has to be cheap, comfy (I will be out in the cold running after kids hopped up on adrenaline and candy), and it has to come together in my typical half-assed fashion.

My costume: BAMF Red Riding Hood

Need: red hood, axe, jeans, combat boots, "Bad Wolf" t-shirt

So far I have the hood ($10 at Party City), the axe ($1 from the Dollar Store), jeans (got 'em already), boots (have my savvy shopper friend looking for deals), and the shirt.

 The shirt I made. $2 shirt from a sale at Jo-Ann's or Michael's + a Chlorox bleach pen. Luckily, I already have the scrawl of a serial killer, so just wrote out "BAD WOLF," rinsed the bleach out, washed it, ready to go.


I also anticipate that the consumption of hot cocoa will rise exponentially this week. Of course, if you're going to have cocoa, you have to have marshmallows. The kids love the mini marshmallows, so I get the cocoa packs that already have marshmallows. Unfortunately, most of the marshmallows melt as soon as you add the water. I hear whining about it often.

With this, that I just found for $1-something at the grocery store, melted marshmallows are a thing of the past. I can them after the cocoa loses some of it's molten tendencies.

And the family rejoices!

Note: I am well aware that cocoa tastes way better if you first heat some milk and whipping cream, then add the good 60% or better chocolate chips. I make it for myself often, but if I let the kids have that, then they will expect the good stuff all the time. They've become freaking locusts in the kitchen. Gotta take the easy steps when I can.
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Monday, October 27, 2014

Making a Monster with Sara Amundson

Drawing of Constellation Cetus, the Whale or Sea Monster by Samuel Leigh, 1824

Here we are in the home stretch, counting down to the best holiday of the year. What is Halloween without monsters? Is there a better time of year for scary stories? Okay, monsters and scary stories are excellent year-round, but they are especially potent at Halloween.

Horror writer Sara Amundson asks, "Have you ever wished you could be the proud parent of a monster, with none of the fuss and muss of actually giving birth to and raising a savage, deadly creature?"

Why yes, yes I have.

With Amundson's Make a Monster you get to suggest a physical feature or power. If Sara picks your monster, she'll write a piece of flash fiction featuring your spawn killing someone and give you credit as a monster parent on her website and social media. If your monster ends up in any of her Dreamer series books, then you'll get a Monster Parent credit in the book's acknowledgements. The Dreamer books are about monsters born in our dreams that end up in the real world.

Previous monsters include a Unicorn (of course), Razor Blade (heatbreaking), Hair, Circus Tent (holy shitballs), the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and more. I'm pretty sure that more than one of these is real.

I had to try it out, of course. My monster progeny's special power is spraying acidic glitter. Showtunes might also be involved.

If you want to try getting the Sara Amundson treatment for your monster, head over to her site or follow her on Twitter @saraterror and use the #MakeAMonster hashtag.

Happy monster making!

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Scare Yourself Silly With These Unsung Horror Films

by Sara N.

Rupert Everett in Dellamorte Dellamore
October's the season for scary movies, and if you're not thrilled with the offerings at your local megaplex (coughAnnabellewasprettybadcough), I've pulled together a list of some smaller horror films that you may have missed. These are all good: either scary, gory, funny, scary/gory, scary/funny, gory/funny or scary/gory/funny. And their level of obscurity to you all depends on how deep down the horror rabbit hole you tend to fall. Anyway, read on for a list of spooky viewing options.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kid Readers Are Awesome

The author of that article might not like Percy, but a
whole bunch of young readers love it,
read it & rec it to their peers.
This week another article came out about how horrible it is that kids are enjoying reading the books they've chosen and not ones that some people have decided they should like. Or at least that's what I've gotten out of the New Yorker op piece. (I'm not linking to because it's all just clickbait anyways. I fell for it, why should you?)

Today I got to speak to a group of 9 year olds about books. Nonfiction, fiction, biographies, historical fiction, fantasy, mysteries, I talked with them for an hour. AN HOUR. And the kids participated in the conversation, asked questions and were really excited to learn about some new books.

You can teach a kid to read, but that doesn't necessarily turn them into a reader. The mechanics aren't enough. Leave out the joy of discovering and falling into a new story, and you might make reading seem like a chore. I'm a big fan of letting kids choose the books that most interest them. Seeing 30 kids excited about reading was a ginormous boost to my day. Here's to our future readers!
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wonder Woman Is Coming to the Big Screen

This past week, DC unveiled a massive list of films they expect to release going all the way into 2022. It had everything from the Flash getting his own movie to the Justice League. DC is desperately playing catch up against Marvel and it's universe and time will tell if DC can pull it off. (Personally, I'm not betting money on it). The biggest shock was the addition of a Wonder Woman movie, slated to come out in 2017.

FINALLY! Finally someone heard our pleas and is bringing Diana to the big screen. Now, who knows if it will be any good or not, the important thing is that a female super hero movie is finally on the docket. It's official. It's going to happen. That's completely awesome. It's also shocking that DC beat Marvel to that milestone. Marvel, as wonderful as it is, doubled down and said they still have no plans for a Black Widow film or any other female super heroes. What?

In this superhero movie arms race, DC just won a major battle. Shots fired. It's disappointing that DC got there first and it's really frustrating that Marvel isn't responding in kind. Female superhero films still seem to be a complete pipe dream. It's so shocking because Marvel currently has a more cohesive universe than DC does. A Black Widow film could be incredible and everyone is clamoring to see Ms Marvel get her time in the spotlight. Why the hesitation?

Now more than ever, female super heroes are moving comic book units. The revamped (and awesome!) Ms Marvel has been hailed as a fantastic turning point in comics and sells very well. Batwoman and Batgirl (that costume!) are both making waves. There are more women in super hero comic books than ever and yet that isn't being reflected on the big (or small!) screen. So what gives? Why the disconnect?

Studios claim they're wary of female super hero stories because they've been burned in the past by shows and films that flopped. Elektra and Birds of Prey both come to mind. This is, again, one of those double standards for women in film. A lot of male super hero movies flopped and yet they still kept making superhero movies. Green Lantern was abysmal but that didn't stop DC from going forward with Superman. The second a superhero movie led by a woman fails, the studios shrug and trot out that tired old "women stuff just doesn't sell" trope. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I'm glad Wonder Woman is going to get her time on screen and I hope it's a massive success... because if it's not, it might be many, many years until we see another female superhero movie again.
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Monday, October 20, 2014


by Megan S.

I love a good tequila.  Not the stuff you slam at a bar or use as a mixer in a margarita.  No, I enjoy the full flavored, aged (añejo) tequilas that are best savored slowly.  So you can imagine how excited I was to stumble across this bottle of Los Azulejos's limited edition Skeleto añejo tequila at Costco!  Not only is it delicious, the ceramic container is perfect for Halloween and Día de los Muertos!

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Here's What You'll Be Carving Into Your Pumpkin This Year

by Sara N.

We're a little over halfway through October, and that means two things. First, that Halloween candy you bought a little too early to hand out on the 31st? You've already eaten most of it. Just admit to yourself that you're going to have to buy a second bag  — but maybe don't buy it until the morning of. And second, it's time to start thinking about what you're going to carve into your Halloween pumpkin. Here are some of the best new geeky patterns for 2014.

Orange and Black Pumpkins has some cool stuff this year, including the 12th Doctor ...

... Groot ...

... and Tyrion Lannister. (He always pays his debts.)

Keep reading for more ...

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Desperately Seeking Leia

Do you recall the outrage back around May of this year when the Disney Store unveiled their Star Wars line and Leia was no where to be found? How could there not be an abundance of merchandise for the most badass Disney princess? Then, the new hope in June when they announced that our concerns had been heard, and that Leia toys would be coming soon (I first heard about it on The Mary Sue). Ever wonder what happened next?

Yesterday, I visited my local Disney Store and took a look around. Here we are, in October, just a couple of months from the biggest gift giving and toy buying holiday of the year, and I couldn't find anything with Princess Leia on it. I asked a helpful employee. She pointed to a toy above the clearance rack in the back. It was a slave Leia figurine. After a quick query to the stock powers that be, she informed me that there was nothing else, "nothing for girls."

Seriously? They are pulling this?.
What the hell? Slave Leia? That's it? That's the "toys" we were promised? I'm not buying my not even a tween yet daughter a freaking slave Leia. I don't want one. (Laurie wrote a post a few years ago that pretty much covers my reasons why.) It wouldn't be so bad if there were other figurines or a t-shirt or a New Hope costume for the kids, but no, we get one Leia-in-a-metal-bikini toy.

Also, the "nothing for girls" bit. I'm going to be pissed off about that one for a while.

It turns out that if you go to the Star Wars page of the Disney Store online, you can get a Leia costume, Leia figurines in a couple of sets (New Hope and Jedi), and you can make your own shirts, bags, and iPhone covers with a small selection of Leia images.

That's it, though, and you will never convince me that this is "enough." I still remember my daughter's face when we visited the Disney Store back in early June. We saw the Vader and Stormtrooper costumes, as well as the R2 and Chewbacca toys. She then announced that she was going to look for the Leia stuff and I had to tell her that there wasn't any, but that they said they would have some "soon." She's starting to notice the huge disparity in "boy" vs "girl" SFF merchandise and representation. The industry is missing out on a huge market. They could be helping to create lifelong fans. They could, if they manage to pull their heads out of their asses before they alienate future buyers.

I know, my jaded self should have realized that this would always be the outcome (like after what happened recently with Gamora and DC's shirts at Walmart), but I'm not going to stop wanting things to be better.

I sent an e-mail inquiring into our promised Leia merch. We'll see if I get a response.

What happened? Did they think we would just go away? I think it'll be a very long time before we head back to the Disney Store, so in a sense, yes, we will be going away. Usually I do a decent amount of shopping at the Disney Store around the holidays, but I don't feel like doing that right now.

As the very nice Disney Store employee mentioned, "I think they really dropped the ball on that one."

Yes, yes they did.

Update: I got a boilerplate response to my e-mail that never mentions anything about my request other than to say "I'd like to invite you to visit our Store as we may have other Disney items that may interest you." Somehow I don't see myself visiting their store.
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