Once Upon a Time the review (aka two friends having a good old chinwag)

[Written or rather chatted about by Sharon Ring and Mark S. Deniz]

PLEASE NOTE THERE ARE MASSIVE SEASON ONE SPOILERS THROUGHOUT

Once upon a time there was a publisher and literary agent and they sat down to ponder a recent urban fantasy series…

Some of the main characters of the show

Mark: I’d say it’s all your fault, but seeing as I am very positive about the series now, I probably need to thank you for pushing me to watch more episodes when I was watching one every now and again and was 18 episodes behind the rest of you. What was it about the show that grabbed you right off?

Sharon: It didn’t grab me right off at all. That first episode was full of schmaltz. Well-written but full of so many cliches I was tempted to give up on it. Those in the know who were already watching it persuaded me to persevere, so I did.

M: Ah, so you pretty much started the way I did then but had a head start on me? Cool! So what kept you interested?

S: It’s a combination of factors. The dialogue is wonderful, the inter-weaving of plot and sub-plot is superb, the casting is excellent (one character in particular is genius casting for the show). More on that character in a bit!

M: I think I might know who it is…;-) I only just realised that we haven’t had a proper chat about the show, so this little online chat is our first ‘real’ chat – ooh the spontaneity of it all! Well not surprisingly it seems that we agree on what makes the show great (even with its schmaltzy bits), and I actually know who a few of your favourite characters are (not that our readers do though…). I was immediately impressed with protagonist, Emma Swan, sassy, sexy, pivotal role in the whole thang. I had a couple of characters that really grabbed me later on too, was that fact that it was deliciously character-driven the biggest thing for you or would you say the plots and sub-plots did it?

S: A bit of both. There are one or two weaker characters but I think that’s more to do with my own personal preferences of stories from my childhood. Without giving away too many spoilers there is a revelation later on in the series that was a huge disappointment for me. However, the upside to that disappointment was how the writers of the show played with those expectations. The internet was buzzing for weeks over this one hook.

M: Blimey, I missed all that kerfuffle entirely. I am going to write a spoiler alert at the beginning of this post so that when it goes live those who read this without having seen the show do so at their peril. So spill the beans, Sharon, what did I miss?

S: It was the true identity of August W Booth. Man, that bugged me. I wanted him to be Mr Gold/Rumpelstiltskin’s son, Baelfire, and what did we get? Bloody Pinocchio, that’s who! Yes, it fitted the storyline as we got closer to the truth and it allowed for some wonderful soul-searching on the part of Mr Gold, but ultimately I was disappointed by the revelation. It does, of course, leave room for an appearance from Baelfire in the next series, about whom I have a potential theory.

M: Ah, yes. I actually loved the scene where August announces he is Baelfire, as both he and Robert Carlyle were excellent in the scene. It was quite heart-wrenching stuff. It felt like Pinocchio was a character that didn’t really need to be in the show, as it felt like it was always going to be wedged in (see what I did there)…

S: I felt that was as well for a while. Once he reached the point of a reunion with Gepetto, his real father, that kind of made up for things. As it’s a huge theme for the show those reunions are really something. Still, back to Rumpelstiltskin for a minute. He’s the one I mentioned as a favourite character. I could rattle on about him all evening.

Sharon’s bloke

M: We might well get some of your rattling…I immediately loved his Rumpelstilstkin entrance, with his whiny/weasly giggles…that sort of tipped him into the favourites pile.

S:  It’s one of the most genius castings I’ve seen in a long while. I had no idea he was going to be in it. Just saw him pop up on screen and I was in love from the get-go. The dual characters work perfectly, perhaps better than any of the others. And his long arc behaviour has been exceedingly well thought out by the writers. I expect he has a whale of a time getting to play this odious, mercurial monster. Although, as the show progresses it becomes apparent that his monstrosity is not what it first appears to be.

M:Yes, agreed, if I’m not mistaken, he’s one of four people that are aware of the curse from the beginning: Henry, The Wicked Queen and August being the others. That’s one thing that if it’s been mentioned then I’ve forgotten it or missed it, which is the explanation about why three others (actually four, I’ve just remembered my favourite minor character, the Mad Hatter) know about something that was only known to the Queen (as per her spell). And why is Henry her adopted son – for plot purposes?

S: The way I see it Henry is her adopted son for a very important reason. Bear with me on this. Rumpelstiltskin was the one who put the idea in the Wicked Queen’s head to cast the spell to take them all out of Story Book Land and into Storybrooke. So far so good. What’s his reasoning behind all this? It’s because he wants to find his son, Baelfire. To do that he needs to cross to our world so he gets her to cast the spell, drags them all over, then waits for Emma to grow up (because time is irrelevant in Storybrooke, he can wait). He then treks off to get Henry in order to eventually entice Emma to town to break the spell. Once the spell is broken he can then bring magic into the world with a spell of his own making, which will then allow him to find Baelfire. Whaddya think?

M: I think I’m with you there m’dear, makes a whole lotta sense that one! I still want an answer for the others knowing about the curse, oh wait Pinocchio went through with Emma. What about the Hatter though, is it because he’s a loon?

S: Actually, I’m not sure on that one. I should probably go through the season again as I know the answer’s in there somewhere. Maybe something he did or said to the Wicked Queen at some point that made her want to punish him by forcing him to stay away from his daughter? That does seem to be a bit of a thing with her – separating people from their loved ones, which, from a psychological point of view is all down to her own heartbreak when she was younger, forcing her to become the person she is.

M: *nods* There is something about her leaving him trapped in Wonderland when she takes her father back through the hat which could link to it – oh there’s a lot I want to know about the Hatter in season two! So, should we argue about one of your faves now and easily one of my least favourites, Snow White?

Not by Mark she isn’t!

S: I love her and won’t hear a bad word said about the woman! Bring your argument forth then but don’t expect any more than short shrift from me on this subject! 😉

M:Erm, was it Snow White I meant? Well there’ll be one thing you can’t stand fast on and that’s the fight scene when she and the seven dwarfs rescue Prince (the most irritating character in the show) Charming from his Dad/Not Dad Jim Robinson – how bad was that done?

S: It wasn’t the best scene in the series but I see no reason to put Snow down for that one scene. Anything else? And you’re right about Charming. What a bland, insipid specimen he is.

M: I just thought casting was a bit off, I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that but wasn’t Snow supposed to be the fairest in the land, not the rough, tough fighting gal that would lose out to Red, the Witch, the dizzy fairy, etc, etc. any day of the week? “Mirror Mirror on the wall, you’ve got bad taste methinks”

S: That’s a little mean, isn’t it? Speaking on a personal level here, I find her very pretty. But I think some of the casting with this character is that they wanted a traditional look – the dark hair and porcelain skin – they certainly got that right. That said, she is certainly not as striking as many of the other female characters. Same goes for Charming and I wonder if this is a deliberate ploy on the part of the show. Standard generic casting so they don’t take over the whole show?

M: A very good point and I’m inclined to agree. They weren’t brave enough to make that decision with Emma, as she is incredibly striking, although has many flaws which make her very human. Her inability to deal with responsibility being a massive part of her arc. That leads me to one element that was very well done throughout and that was Emma’s reluctance to accept what was happening because we were being given the story in somewhat of a third person viewpoint and were aware of the curse immediately. That Emma wasn’t forced us to keep reminding herself that there was no way she should believe what was going on just because a child and a stranger told her similar things. Even when the Hatter ranted on about things you could see there was no way she was falling for it. One of my pivotal moments was when August showed her his wooden leg and it was normal for her. This concept that there is much more out there if we were open to it and not so blinded by logical was summed up at once.

S: Emma is striking? Well, there’s no accounting for taste. As you say it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Anyway, it’s interesting that you raise the subject of what’s logical and what’s not because one of the things I love about the show is the comparison between who they are in Story Book Land and who they become in our world. Traits and trades remain – such as Jiminy Cricket becoming local psychiatrist Archie Hopper or Rumplestiltskin becoming Mr Gold the local, hmm, what exactly is he? Antique shop owner, landowner, occasional lawyer. Jack of all trades that one. I digress. The comparison of the dual characters gets me and I think it might be a vital clue to Baelfire’s eventual appearance.

A very striking Emma (I’m sure you agree)!

M: Indeed! One thing I want to mention before I forget, (giving me a chance to pretend I didn’t read your comments about comely Emma) is the issue at the end of the season. Basically I’ve been reading on forums (I know, I know, me reading) that people are suspecting that the storm that came in means that we are wound back to the setting at the beginning with no one rememberiing who they are. If that was the case I would turn off the TV after about three minutes. Surely the ending was that everyone now knows who there were but are trapped in our world, some of them now having power again. What’s your thoughts?

S: Not sure yet. I’d be disappointed if that were the case but I think it might be something different. It’s something of Rumpelstiltskin’s, I’m sure of that. It’s a reversal of the curse, but I believe he may have added a clause to the reversal. A straightforward reversal would mean everyone’s memory restored and a return to their own land. I don’t think that’s going to happen because I don’t think that’s what Rumpelstiltskin wants. Remember I said I think this is all about him getting back his son? Why would he yank them out of our world and whisk them back to their own? I think they’ll stay where they are and I think some characters will continue to remember what has happened. Perhaps characters who are in a position to help him find his son. I do think that we will see many more characters coming in from the outside world, Baelfire being one of them.

M: That would be cool, as characters who know who they are in our world would open up all kinds of plot-goodness! And I agree with this thing about the characters coming in from the outside as they know who they are now and that makes a difference to their lives/motivations. Maybe the Hatter made a deal with Gold, because this would also benefit him, yes?

S: Perhaps, although don’t rule out the possibility of him having made a deal with the Queen of Hearts. Remember he was locked in her world, had his removed and replaced, then set to work to make another magic hat. She was quite an intriguing character. We didn’t hear her actual voice or see her, which was a bit of a thing with everyone in her Court. Lots of covered faces, did you notice? I think she may well be around more in the next season and there’s a fair chance we might discover she’s behind Jefferson/Mad Hatter being one of those aware of the spell.

M: I may well have got that one way off then, as I thought she was the one who the Wicked Queen had a fight with who then became the Sleeping Beauty Queen/Dragon…oh, I’m all confused now…I do remember the covered faces though, which was a tad creepy.

Oh and that apple, genius way of getting Snow to take a bite. Not sure how Gold had planned to deal with the whole thing about Emma eating the pie (if she had) either…

S: Okay, well the Sleeping Beauty Queen was Maleficent so she couldn’t have been the Queen of Hearts. Did you spot who was playing Maleficent? Pam from True Blood. I love that woman, she’s bloody great. Yes, the covered faces were very creepy and I’d like to know more about that. There’s a second series sub-plot right there. Hmm, how would Gold have dealt with Emma eating the apple pie? That’s a tricky one. It’s easy to think, because he’s been manipulating events from before the curse was cast, that he’s capable of stopping and causing all that happens but I guess that’s not the case, unless he has more up his sleeve than we’re aware of at this point. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

M: I noticed our Pam (I can call her that, yes?) and the lovely Amy Acker too (who I have such a thing for, and incidentally is in Grimm as well). Of the main characters in the show there are three I think we need to look at here (we can ignore Prince Charming) and they are: the Wicked Queen, Henry and Red (oh, OK Red is not a main character but she is lovely!).

S: Where do we start? How do we solve a problem like Regina? She is fantastic. One of the things I’m most impressed with in her character development is allowing her to have a reason for her behaviour. It certainly doesn’t justify it but it serves to help the viewer understand that she was once a lovely young woman in love. It’s well-played. The show’s writers could have gone for a cardboard cut-out evil queen but they’ve chosen to humanise her. I think, though this is a massive speculative leap on my part, that we may just begin to see more of this side of her in the next season.

We love Regina here!

M: Yes, she starts off very cardboard but gets all those human traits as the season goes on. She’s a complex character who has had to adapt to a world in which she doesn’t belong but one which she forced herself (and all the characters) to. She’s also rather striking too…

And Red is just an interesting character through and through, there we have this little throwback to Twin Peaks and all of a sudden she comes into her own in one episode. I loved the whole thing with the cloak too, the fact that the cloak was her protection from the wolf inside her.

Henry is a little love, thankfully not one of these hugely irritating child actors that we are overwhelmed with in other programs (Terra Nova anyone?). I like the way he maintains his faith in his mum and is so determined to see ‘justice’ done that he’ll break any rule to do it.

S: You’re going to have to explain your Twin Peaks comment at some point. The cloak device was very clever and I wonder how soon it will be in the next season before we see its reappearance. If their powers are returned but in our world, that could make for an interesting moment or two. Henry’s initial determination to find his mum and then to make her believe what he knows to be real is a wonderful side of the show. It taps into something many children feel at some point in their lives – a feeling that mum or dad is not really their parent, that somewhere out there is the real parent who will truly love them, not like the wicked ‘other’ with whom they are forced to live.

M: Good point – I realise we have chatted a good long while now, you think any of our readers are still reading? Any conclusions on the show/last thoughts?

S: Yes, one. The thing that keeps drawing me back time and again, beyond the things I’ve already mentioned, is the delight the show takes in booting the viewer’s cynicism out the window. It is unashamedly fun and funny, and it also demonstrates that no matter how evil or bad to the bone a person may appear, there’s always a story beneath the surface and we should perhaps remember that next time we decide to judge another person.

M: A cracking point to end on, thank you ever so much for joining me on this and I can honestly say I can’t wait for our next banter!

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Snow White and the Huntsman Review by Buffy Kennedy

Snow White and the Huntsman Review

by Buffy Kennedy

After seeing the trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman, I was eager to go out and see it!  It helped that I’m a Chris Hemsworth groupie…I had debated whether or not it was worth seeing because I was worried about Kristen Stewart’s potential and how on Earth they were going to make her prettier and more desirable than Charlize Theron.  Seeing an opportunity to review it for y’all, I jumped at the excuse to go see it, even if it meant seeing it alone.

Now, where to start?!  My first impression as the movie began was only one word: eerie.  That impression continued through many parts of the movie.  The magic mirror in particular was another decidedly eerie element.  The way it came off the wall and stood there draped in gold was oh so weird.

However, that’s not even the weirdest part.  The dark forest is creeptastic, and I think there were pools of sludge that poofed up clouds of LSD because when inhaled, the victim started getting wicked hallucinations.  In contrast though, the woods that the dwarves lead her and the huntsman into are so peaceful and bright and whimsical.

There’s a lot of magic in the world created, and yeah that’s to be expected, but it still requires a great deal of “suspension of disbelief”.  I’m usually pretty good at that, but there were times that I had trouble during this particular 2 hours.  Maybe it’s just that Kristen is so branded as Bella and that character that it’s hard to really grasp her as any other role, but it just wasn’t consistently plausible.  It doesn’t help that there are similarities in that she’s pretty helpless for most of the movie, annoyingly so!

Here’s a pretty basic rundown of my take on all the characters and beasties:  The Queen was extremely beautiful, even as psychotic as she was; the dwarves were hilarious and probably one of my favorite elements in the movie; the troll is boss, before being reduced to nothing more than an angry puppy; the fairies were adorable and very pixie-like in appearance; Snow White is fairly worthless and whiny until the very end (and I have to admit KS does step up and actually give a decent speech, and occasionally sheds tears, holy crap!); and the huntsman (my CH =D) is pretty badass and sexy, even when covered in mud, and OMG the accent…

Sure there were little things that bugged the crap out of me, such as the queen’s frequent screaming, the fact that Snow’s costume kept coming off her shoulders occasionally when it’s obvious there’s no reason it should (except to take an opportunity to show a little gratuitous skin on her bare shoulders), the battle sequences seeming a little frantic, and the fact that the huntsman is old enough to have been married and widowed while Snow White JUST turned 18 (talk about barely legal…just sayin’), but overall it’s really not a bad movie.  I’m not saying it’s in my favorites, but I can’t call it bad.  For one, I’m a music person, and I fully believe that music can make or break a movie (such as the awful music in Watchmen *shudder*).  SW&tH had great music!  I ran home and got the soundtrack.  I suppose it’s even more important to note that the cinematography in this movie is magnificent.  The makeup, the special effects, it was just superb.

I am cutting back on my movie owning, but this one definitely sticks out in my mind enough for me to debate getting it when it releases to DVD.  And on that note, I shall simply leave you with a little piece of yum…damn he can protect me any day!


I’m a stay home wife working on writing a book (or three). I have a passion for reading, especially romances, so I always have a book or e-reader with me. When I’m not working on writing my own books, I’m writing reviews on many of the books I read, and I do so for several blogs. I got started from a friend’s nudge in the right direction as a way to improve my writing, find new books, and meet people. It’s worked wonders on all fronts! Anyway, the bottom line about me is that I have a wicked sweet tooth, an obsession with books in general, a music addiction, and a dream to join the ranks of published authors. –Buffy Kennedy

Beastly Review by Sue Penkivech

Beastly Review
by Sue Penkivech

Director:  Daniel Barnz
Release date:  March 4, 2011
Rating:  PG-13
Running time:  86 minutes

 Beastly

When KV Taylor first approached me to review  Beastly, I was at first reluctant.  I’d loved the book when I read it last year, and was concerned that the movie version, starring Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens (who I’d hated throughout my daughters’ million viewings of High School Musical), would be disappointing at best.

I was both amazed and excited to discover just how wrong I’d been.

The movie begins with Kyle Kingson (played by Alex Pettyfer) campaigning for the presidency of a committee about which he admittedly cares nothing, but thinks will look good on his college applications.  At this point, I was prepared to write off the movie – Kyle’s speech about how it’s more important to look good than to have substance was off-putting and more than a little heavy handed.  But I persevered, and was glad that I did.

Enter Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), a pale, fae-like high schooler, who first defaces Kyle’s campaign  posters and then disputes his points, observing that Lindy (Vanessa Hudgeons) would’ve been a far superior president but instead ran for Treasurer because she didn’t believe she stood a chance in the popularity contest.  Why?  Granted, Lindy’s a scholarship student, but she meets Kyle’s superficial criteria – she’s certainly beautiful.   In any case, Lindy denies either knowing Kendra or any interest in the presidency.  Case closed, and Kyle goes home to be ignored by his image-obsessed anchorman father.

Unfortunately, Kyle decides to get even with Kendra, apologizing for his attitude and inviting her to a formal dance.  At first, it’s unclear as to why.  At the dance, Kyle’s rebuked by his girlfriend for having bought the wrong type of corsage, offers it instead to Lindy when he congratulates her on winning the Treasurer position, and has his picture taken with Lindy for the school paper.  But Kyle’s motivations become clear when Kendra arrives and he publically humiliates her – and she curses him to find out just what it means to be ugly.  By the time Kyle returns home, he’s learned; he looks like a bald, veiny, tattooed, punk rock version of his formerly clean-cut self, and Kendra’s voice explains that he will look like that forever, unless he can find someone who will say she loves him before a year is out.

(Personally, at that point I had to wonder why he just didn’t add a few piercings, find some girl at a bar, tell her that he was the lead singer in a band, and promise to put her in his next video.  It seemed as if it would’ve saved everyone a lot of trouble.  But I’m a cynic at times.)

The next parts of the movie closely follow the Beauty and the Beast story, with modern day modifications.  Kyle’s father moves him into another house, to be cared for by their housekeeper Zola (LisaGay Hamilton) until they can figure out what to do.  He hires him a tutor as well, a blind man named Will (Neil Patrick Harris), who isn’t afraid to tell Kyle exactly what he thinks of him and his attitude.

Kyle encounters Lindy again when he drug-addict father falls afoul of drug dealer and shoots one – and makes him a deal.  He’ll keep quiet about the shooting, and take Lindy and keep her safe.  Lindy’s fathert father agrees, and Lindy very reluctantly moves into the house of her father’s “old friend” for her own protection.

And, of course, Kyle (who Lindy now knows as Hunter) learns to care.  He worries about Zola’s family, whom she hasn’t seen in years, and the loss of Will’s sight.  And about Lindy, who gradually warms towards him, never realizing he’s the same guy she’d known at school (who she admits to him that she was interested in, before he suddenly “disappeared”).

All seems well, until Lindy’s father overdoses.  Kyle, while realizing that the year is nearly over, insists that she go to him – and that she go to Manchu Picchu, a trip she’d been saving for and looking forward to for years.  He gives her a long love letter as a parting gift, then regrets it when, before reading it, she tells him that she considers him a good friend.  Heartbroken, he ignores her calls until Will and Zola prompt him to go and see her off at the airport.  Where, in true fairy tale form, she tells him she loves him.  And leaves.

But the curse is broken.  As a bonus from Kendra, Zola’s children get their green cards and Will’s sight is restored.  In a nice twist, when Lindy returns, Kyle goes to meet her – but she blows him off, because she’s looking for Hunter.  Only when she calls Hunter and Kyle’s phone rings does she realize the truth.  Scenes shown during the credits depict their life together after high school – where they’re very obviously living happily ever after.

There are several notable differences between the movie and the book.  The first is the most obvious – while Kyle’s appearance in the movie is certainly odd, he’s definitely no “beast” – no fur or claws, just a lot of veins, scars, and tattoos.   Zola, in the book, was actually Kendra in disguise, there to watch over Kyle in the hopes that he’d learn his lesson.  By comparison, I rather liked that Zola was a character in her own right, who just legitimately cared about Kyle despite his initially horrible attitude toward her.  And finally, the end of the movie shows Kendra at Kyle’s father’s station, having just been hired as his new intern and suggesting that he was her next target.  It would have been interesting to see in the ending credits just what had happened there.

In any case, the movie was spectacular, with a great soundtrack that was exactly what you wouldn’t expect in a fantasy film, but which fit it perfectly nonetheless.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Sue Penkivech is a substitute paraeducator, a former school librarian, and an aspiring writer.  Her work has been published in Spec the Halls: 2011 EditionBarren WorldsFantastic Pulp Magazine, and the recently released Eighth Day Genesis: A Worldbuilding Codex.  She’s prone to rambling on about what she’s reading to anyone who’ll listen – which might be why she has so much time to read!  Visit her on the web at suepenkivech.wordpress.com!

Night Tide and She Creature by Mina Kelly

Night Tide and She Creature

by Mina Kelly

I had a bit of a flashback to my posts for last year’s Fae Awareness when I came to watch Night Tide and She Creature; as Ondine was rooted in the real world while The Secret of Roan Inish embraced the myth wholeheartedly, the same is true of Night Tide and She Creature respectively. Last year’s films were romances. This year’s are horror.

The following review spoils both films pretty thoroughly, I’m afraid.

In Spanish and Italian the word of mermaid is Sirena, in French Sirène, Portuguese Sereia, Polish Syrena, Romanian Sirenă. Trust English to be the odd one out, huh? Of course, the irony is that the sirens of Greek myth were very definitely not sea creatures, but instead actually had several bird features, which came and went as the myths evolved.

The first mermaid as we’d recognise her to appear mythologically is Atargatis, mother of an Assyrian queen. Ashamed of accidentally killing her lover she tries to turn into a fish, but she’s so beautiful her top half remains human and only her legs transform. At least this explains the doomed romance angle we’re still so hung up on today. I’ve always found it a bit weird how strongly associated they are with romance: as Fry in Futurama complains, “Why couldn’t she be the other kind of Mermaid? With the fish part on top and the lady part on the bottom!”

The usual way around this is the give the mermaid legs under certain circumstances, which both Night Tide and She Creature do. In a cute reversal, while Night Tide‘s mermaid only has a tail at full moon, She Creature‘s only has legs then.

Night Tide

Night Tide opens with Dennis Hopper as a young sailor, Johnny wandering into a bar. He sees a beautiful woman, Mora, and makes an excuse to join her at her table. She acquiesces, but when he tries to strike up a conversation she cuts him short, insisting she wants to listen to the music. He offers to buy her a drink, she declines. A strange old lady comes to the table and talks to the beautiful woman in a foreign language, later revealed to be Greek (I have no idea if it’s actually Greek or just gobbledegook). Mora is frightened and leaves the bar in a panic, asking Johnny to pay off her tab. Johnny does, and follows Mora home, cornering her outside her flat and demanding she invites him up. She refuses, he kisses her, she tells him he can come over for breakfast the next day.

This film came out a year after Psycho, and frankly, after that opening, I had a whole different idea about what sort of plot it was going to have (especially after the breakfast scene, in which Johnny goes on about how attached he was to his mother!). Instead it turns out we’re meant to find Johnny’s ‘forwardness’ charmingly awkward, rather than the actions of a date-rapist.

Anyway, Mora lives over a merry-go-round at aVeniceBeachfairground and plays a mermaid as part of the sideshow. She’s got two dead boyfriends and a lot of gossip going around about her, and she believes she’s a mermaid. And despite all that I can’t shake the feeling she could do better than Johnny. She’s also got a mad, drunk, ex-British Navy sea captain as a guardian, who keeps heads in jars in his apartment.

Johnny isn’t sure what to think of it all, and even I felt a little sympathy for him as he tried to figure out what the hell is going on. He’s sure beautiful, dainty Mora can’t be a killer, but what if she can’t help herself? What if it’s her mermaid blood?

This theory is put paid to when they go swimming, in a scene I had to watch twice to really take in what just happened. Dennis Hopper actually proves he can act (about time!), and collapses into delirium. When he wakes up he’s accused of killing Mora; I have a moment when I think the film is turning on its head again. I’m actually hooked. What the hell is going on here?

Sadly, nothing as exciting as I’d hoped, and it’s all wrapped up in a rather cliché way. Shame.

She Creature

Night Tide is most commonly compared with Carnival of Souls, and visually the lighting and camera work have something in common. It’s well shot, but while the visuals haven’t dated the plot has, and it’s hard to sympathise with the main characters. Hopper has a few shining moments, but I’m not sure they’re worth watching the rest of the film for unless you’re already a fan.

She Creature also has a sideshow mermaid as the female lead, but she’s a rather more intelligent character than Mora. Lily, played by Carla Gugino, is sleeping with the carnival’s manager Angus (Rufus Sewell, AKA that guy! You know, he’s in. Um. That film.). For the early twentieth century Lily’s got a good bit of independence and seems to enjoy her life with the other carnies, until Angus’s desire for money leads them to kidnap a real mermaid.

That’s right: She Creature gives us a real mermaid, almost from the beginning. She’s beautiful and alien and terrifying, and like Lily you can’t help but be drawn to her. Angus has the bright idea of taking her toAmerica. The boat makes for a great (and cost-effective) setting for the rest of the film, but you have to wonder why somewhere with less ocean to cross wouldn’t have been just as good. Angus is smart, but only in certain directions.

The film has a lot of fun with the claustrophobia of the boat and the tension between the sailors and the carnies. Lily suffers the worst of it as the only woman on board, loomed over by men threatening to sexually assault her and snubbed in a way even the black character is (though turn of the century attitudes are name checked, as are modern ones – he dies first). It’s like a haunted house where everyone knows where the ghost is: in the tank, licking blood from her lips.

Lily has a diary belonging to the last woman to spend a lot of time with the mermaid. The diary contains scientific observations about the mermaid, such as what she eats (human flesh) and how regularly (a lot more often than she appears to be right now). It’s fascinating because it shows a scientific rigor none of the male characters match. Lily’s speculations are dismissed as female flights of fantasy, no matter how carefully she phrases things. There’s a wonderful scene where she tries to figure out how to tell Angus she’s pregnant, and she thinks it’s due to the mermaid. Oh, she also appears to be possessed by the mermaid sometimes. Though frankly I’d have tried to strangle Angus without the help of a supernatural sympathiser by this point.

The mermaid briefly turns into a human thanks to the full moon, in a sequence that isn’t really necessary for anything except confirming that most of the men on board deserve to die, then ramps it up into full on creature feature mode. The effects are decent, and it’s the only place the plot can really go, but if it’s killing creatures you’re into you’ll find the climax fairly standard.

She Creature is a made of TV movie taking advantage of an unused made for cinemas plot. It makes a good hash of it, and in some ways the deficits are more easily forgiven than they would be on a big screen, even though they’re plot based. For a horror film it frankly isn’t that scary and very few of the plot twists come as genuine surprises, but the emphasis on women using the scientific process is a nice change in this sort of thing. Lily is a smart, likeable heroine who very quickly realises she’s got more in common with the mermaid than the men on board. Lily makes the film worth watching.

In both films mermaids represent Otherness, specifically the Otherness of women. Night Tide speaks to its audience through Johnny: his actions are shown, his motivations explained, his psychology understood. Mora is a mystery even to herself, her Otherness heightened by her exotic history. She Creature speaks to its audience through Lily: she knows better than anyone else on the ship what it’s like to be one of a kind and to be treated as though she has less understanding than a child, but the male characters refuse to make an effort understand her or accept that her point of view is as rational as theirs. Though the audience see her point of view the characters still perceive her as Other.

Both films are worth watching, but it’s She Creature that’s worth watching more than once.


Visit Mina Kelly at solelyfictional.org.

Spirited Away Review by Alexandra Seidel

Spirited Away
Reviewed by Alexandra Seidel

Spirited Away is an Oscar-winning production from Studio Ghibli, written and directed by Miyazaki Hayao. It was released in 2001 and shall be reviewed here, as spoiler-free as possible.

Spirited Away is a classical to-Fairyland-and-back adventure. All the elements we love so well are there: bravery, friendship, shape-changing, and the discovery of the main character’s inner strength (that was just sitting there, ready to be discovered all the time). There is of course also a little bitterness in this, for those who visit Fairyland will eventually have to go home again.

The main character is Chihiro, a young girl (on a personal note, seeing a strong female main character makes me just love this anime that much more). She gets inadvertently pulled into the fairy realm (not European Fairyland, this is the home of the Japanese gods and spirits) where she works hard to save her parents who foolishly ate fairy food and got turned into pigs as a result.

Now, Spirited Away is full of all these little details that we know and fervently love from myth and folktale. For example, we will find the evil witch/good witch dichotomy here that so many fairy tales contain, the magic of one’s own name, the trials of the hero, and how she always finds her own creative ways to come through in the end.

Chihiro and No-Face

Spirited Away combines these well-known elements with its very own visual flair. Settings and characters are created with love and great care for detail. The bathhouse Chihiro finds herself in would just be highest on my list of places to visit if I ever got the chance to travel to Fairyland.

To summarize, Spirited Away is a lovely tale, something that you can watch as a child, and then re-watch as you grow older just to see new things in it every single time. This anime is just like a good book that way, and really, that should be saying everything.


Alexandra Seidel is a Rhysling nominated poet, writer, and editor. She has a powerful affection for the unreal and strange, the weird, the wicked, and naturally, the beautiful. She loves speculative writing because all these things come together there with the power to create universes. Oh, she also likes tigers, who doesn’t.

Alexa’s work has appeared in Jabberwocky, Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, and elsewhere. Her first book, “All Our Dark Lovers,” is forthcoming in 2013 from Morrigan Books. She is the poetry editor for Niteblade and the managing editor of Fantastique Unfettered. You can read her blog (which she really tries to update once or twice a month) at  www.tigerinthematchstickbox.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @Alexa_Seidel.

Princess Mononoke Review by Alexandra Seidel

Princess Mononoke
Reviewed by Alexandra Seidel

Princess Mononoke was released 1997 in Japan (1999 inNorth America) and has since received much praise from critics. It was created by Miyazaki Hayato of Studio Ghibli.

This review contains as few spoilers as possible so you can still enjoy the movie in case you haven’t seen it yet.

Here is what Princess Mononoke is: raw and beautiful, painful to watch at times, bitter, cathartic. It is set in medieval Japan, the Muromachi period to be precise. The viewer sees the old clash with the new, human evolution, especially the development of mining and firearms, are pitted against unrestrained nature. What is interesting about Mononoke is that the forces of nature come to us in the traditional shapes that Japanese folklore has long assigned them, gods and spirits who inhabit and give life to trees and living creatures as well as the land itself. In Japanese, these are referred to as “mononoke.”

InMiyazaki’s creation, these mononoke though are decidedly not apart from the world of humans, and they are certainly concerned about what happens in this world. Their concern however turns to active hostility as humans continue to disregard them. In the middle of the conflict between the ancient spirits of the land and the human’s desire to move forward no matter the cost, we find San, a young woman who was adopted into a family of spirit wolves. As such, she represents the old way of life, for she is the person who is most closely connected with the mononoke. In the human corner, if you will, there is Lady Eboshi, a forceful woman who is made great by her compassion for the pariahs of society. She is the kind of person whose vision is a better life for all people, no matter where they come from. These two extremes are bridged in the movie by the young Ashitaka who is himself an outsider. It is through his eyes that we can see the good, but also the faults in both sides, and just like him, we find ourselves hoping that there is a way to resolve the conflict without everything going up in flames, without terribly losses for both sides.

Princess Mononoke may not be the most current anime production there is, but the issues raised here are issues that every generation has to discover anew for itself: part with the old and look only ahead or honor custom and ritual. Only the problem is, things are never that easy, and this is what Monononke shows us in its relentless visual language, so if you are up for that and have not yet seen Princess Mononoke, I recommend that you have at it.


Alexandra Seidel is a Rhysling nominated poet, writer, and editor. She has a powerful affection for the unreal and strange, the weird, the wicked, and naturally, the beautiful. She loves speculative writing because all these things come together there with the power to create universes. Oh, she also likes tigers, who doesn’t.

Alexa’s work has appeared in Jabberwocky, Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, and elsewhere. Her first book, “All Our Dark Lovers,” is forthcoming in 2013 from Morrigan Books. She is the poetry editor for Niteblade and the managing editor of Fantastique Unfettered. You can read her blog (which she really tries to update once or twice a month) at  www.tigerinthematchstickbox.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @Alexa_Seidel.

Tad Williams’ The War of the Flowers by Miya Kressin

Tad Williams’ The War of the Flowers

by Miya Kressin

What would you do to stay alive? Would you abandon your world, your friends? Would you leave everything behind because what was in front of you was far less deadly than where you were, even if “tamer” or even “less frightening” could never apply? Would you destroy half your race just to create a world safe for you? Would you steal a child?

“We are none of us promised anything but the last breath we take, Theo Vilmos.” ~Mud Bug Button

For power? Would you kill friends or family? If you had the ability, would you use ancient magics banned by your society to destroy them? Would you destroy your way of life and force your way into unknown waters for the sake of a chance at being the new royalty? Would you create a changeling?

What about for love? Would you let your dreams die to keep your loved one? Would you try so hard only to find you were going the wrong way? Would you give up your world for love? Your family? Would you sentence a child to die for just a chance at saving your love? Would you make a bargain with your soul — or at least your body — as the wager?

“If you swear an oath here then you had better fulfill it or you will definitely reap the consequences and they will be unpleasant in some particularly apt way.” ~Remover of Inconvenient Obstacles

Bargains are dangerous everywhere, but none more so than Faerie. Your word is your life. At times, someone else’s word is your life. Promises have far reaching consequences — some bad, others equally good. Being ignorant of the wager you make does not change the fact that you made it. Perhaps you crossed a creek without asking permission of its guardians and found yourself owing a favor to the nymphs.

Or maybe you were just clueless in general until your life was on the line. That was Theo’s story. Theo Vilmos starts off as thirty-year-old lead singer who can’t even claim to being a “has been.”  He’s a never-was who squandered his talent. Before life took its toll on Theo, he was known for his potential. But, potential and talent alone won’t get you where you need to be if you don’t have the drive to reach for your dreams and get your hands dirty with the hard work to get there.

After two devastating blows dropped him to an all-time low, Theo left his mother’s house as it had never felt like home and the city behind to rent a cabin up in the forested mountains and take time to think. In his quiet moments, he began reading the odd memoir written by his mother’s late uncle who believed he had visited the magical world of Faerie.  From the moment he began the odd hunt to find what an inherited safety deposit box key may hold for him (an odd novel that seemed as much memoir as it was fantasy,) Theo lost his tremulous hold on the mortal world.

In Tad Williams’ The War of the Flowers, multiple stories are spun onto the same intricate thread, stories I will attempt to share glimpses of without also giving spoilers. Love, power, and survival dance together to a beautiful dirge foretelling the destruction of an entire realm, and the reader is left uncertain if it will be the mortal world or Faerie. Maybe it should be Faerie. The magical realm is nothing like the childhood images of happy, winged creatures dancing through fields of flowers. Their own legends tell of a time like that before the King and Queen left, leaving another sort of flower important.

The Flowers are families comprising a sub-race of fae who are in charge of the politics, power (our idea of magic is their science,) and the social hierarchy. The closer a creature is to looking mortal, the higher one ranks in the political games, going so far as to cut off wings and dye their hair or eyebrows to appear more human.

“Oh, the color? It’s nothing—they were always white like this. I decided to stop dyeing them, that’s all. To stop pretending I wasn’t a Thornapple.” ~Poppy Thornapple.

The first fae Theo met, however, were nothing like the Flowers, nor were they as pleasant. While Applecore is a sprite—a tiny, winged being capable of casting magic charms like most other fae—she is far from the Tinkerbell character we’ve long associated with those like her. With a mouth like a sailor and an even sharper temper, ‘Core is loyal even if she’s bitchy.

“Tell you what, boyo, I’m trying to save your life and you’re not helping. Maybe I should take one of these sticks and lodge it up your back passage. That’d make you walk slow enough.” ~Applecore

A sharp-tongued sprite was far from his worse worries however. It was the irrha, a “corruption of moonlight”dark spirit sent by the Flowers to bring Theo across without consent, who freezes you to the spot, pushing you to keep reading to ensure that the protagonist isn’t caught. You’re first introduced to the irrha when it kills a mortal and steals its deformed body in its mindless attempt to catch the Theovilmos creature.

In his attempts to avoid this irrha, Theo and Applecore begin a journey through Faerie that not only takes them to the City (the only city) but also takes them on a journey into the soul of a man who is not quite what he seems. Events set into motion before he was born became the ones that would eventually lead to changing his home world into one that would never be the same. In a story where our world and Faerie have made several intimate exchanges of souls, identifying one’s true state becomes harder and harder.

“Black iron, you’re a mortal!”

“No. Well, sort of. It’s a long story. Do you want to hear it?” ~Poppy and Theo

While wandering New Erewhon, Theo is taken to the nautilus shell shaped City, where he wanders from the outlying counties named for trees (Rowan and Birch are two of the most often named) and into spiraled city districts. Entering in Sunrise, Theo and Applecore go on a journey through Morning Sky and Forenoon and all the way into Eventide and Moonlight. It is the eventual journey to the Midnight realm as he meets the voice of his nightmares where Theo must make a decision between life, love, and power. Which will he choose?  If you could only have one, or prevent another from having them at great personal cost, which would you choose? What bargain would you make?

The War of the Flowers, where you shouldn’t make a bargain unless you’re guaranteed the desired outcome and are willing to pay any price.


Miya Kressin is an author, mother, caffeine addict, wife, and fiber artist- though not necessarily in that order. When not playing with her three daughters  (a 7 y/o and twin 4 y/os,) Miya can be found writing or working her way through a stack of random crafts and art projects if she can get pulled away from her gaming fun.

Her novel The Changeling’s Champion was released by The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House in 2010 and has since been picked up for a second edition by Exciting Press. Exciting Press has also picked up her fantasy trilogy The Island.

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