Book Recommendation: “12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers”

14 June, 2018

Note: While I am not sponsored by Doug Stanton, Simon & Schuster, or Warner Bros, I do receive an affiliate marketing payment from Amazon if you buy the book after clicking through any of the Amazon links on this page. I appreciate it if you choose to do so, and I hope you enjoy this review either way!

An excellent, harrowing, true adventure: 12 Strong

Good afternoon!

I’ve had a great day of working out, writing my novel, studying how to call in artillery fire, practicing CSS at Code Academy, practicing French at DuoLingo, and killing wasps! Wooh!

Today, I want to tell you about a killer book I listened to on Audible last month: 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers(Originally titled simply Horse Soldiers, but renamed in the new edition to tie-in with the film.)

(Link to the movie on Amazon.)

The movie adaptation came out earlier this year. which I still have yet to see it, so I’ll keep the focus on the book for now.

September 11th, 2001 …

A date which will live in infamy.

A day of horror and grief for so many thousands of individuals, and for an entire nation- an entire world – which had so recently entered a new and promising century. History with a capital “H” was supposed to be over. Violent events on this scale were supposed to be a thing of the past, relegated to the overflowing dustbin of 20th-century totalitarianism and radicalism.

And yet, on that clear September morning, America was hit, hard. Nearly 3,000 people were murdered. A towering symbol of American economic prosperity was brought crashing down, leaving a smoldering crater in the heart of the nation’s biggest city. The very heart and brain of America’s proud defense establishment was left with a gaping hole in its side, pouring smoke like spilled blood into the blue summer sky. And the daring and the lives of brave airline passengers prevented an equally devastating attack on the United State’s seat of democratic government.

9/11 was and continues to be a new generation’s Pearl Harbor: the biggest attack ever on American soil. But unlike the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, this devastating and well-coordinated suicide-attack killed mostly civilians, who moments before had been going about their regular lives. It set offices, not warships, aflame.

The Bush administration and the American public soon learned that this insidious attack did not originate with a nation-state, like Imperial Japan. 9/11 was done by a network of radical Jihadist terror cells, known collectively as al-Qaeda, inspired by the most wretched and hateful aspects of the broader Islamic religion, and led by the Saudi construction magnate-turned-terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.

al-Qaeda had operatives all over the world, especially in Muslim majority countries.

The group had killed Americans before, in Africa and in Yemen.

And al-Qaeda, with its “caliph,” Bin Laden, held its main base of operations in the landlocked, war-torn, and savage land of Afghanistan. There were the training camps, there was the money, there were the weapons, and there were the bombs, that would allow Bin Laden and his ilk to continue to stage similar attacks in the future. The JIhadis had the manpower, pouring in from the disgruntled youth of the Islamic world, to fight Holy War against the great “Far Enemy:” the United States of America.

soldiers on horseback

Revenge

It was self-evident that the smoldering crater in the heart of Manhattan, and all the gruesome trauma and loss it represented, compelled a strong response from the American people.

Bush, from the oval office, in New York City, and in front of Congress, promised that strong response.

It would be up to the American military and intelligence services to execute the mission. To avenge the Twin Towers.

And in that execution, is where the Horse Soldiers enter this story, which Doug Stanton so doggedly researched and now conveys through this book.

Secret Soldiers

The real-life characters who 12 Strong follows are a mix of U.S. Army Special Forces operators, Central Intelligence Agency paramilitary agents, and U.S. Air Force forward observers. They are all elite servicemen, and most of them highly experienced, being in their 30s or even 40s. (Practically ancient in active duty combat arms terms!) They were selected for the mission due to their unique sets of skills.

The Bush administration knew the U.S. and NATO would have to enter Afghanistan and fight the theocratic Taliban government there in order to kill and capture al-Qaeda. But it wasn’t initially clear how exactly this would be done.

As Stanton elaborates, the United States military and State Department had no war plans for going into Afghanistan. After the 1980s, the place had basically fallen off the radar. Now, no one was thrilled at the idea of stirring up the Afghan hornet’s nest. But, the 9/11 attacks and the threat of further al-Qaeda offensives demanded swift and smart action.

So, the administration settled on a “light footprint” approach, utilizing Special Forces (SF) soldiers like Captain Mike Nelson, Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer, and Sergeant First Class Sam Diller. Also known as the “Green Berets,” SF soldiers first fought for the U.S. in Vietnam, and they specialize in operating behind enemy lines, in the hostile wilderness with little food, shelter, or hope of resuppply. They’re trained to fight smart, and to make allies among the local population and friendly indigenous forces.

In other words, SF was the perfect tool to quickly rush into Afghanistan, make contact with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, and help them run the Taliban out of the country. The terrorist training camps would be dismantled. Bin Laden and his lieutenants would be dead.

Justice would be done.

And it would be done without an expensive and unwelcome large American ground presence.

12 strong movie picture

The Stories Within the Story

Stanton’s book reads like a war movie, in the most welcome sense. It’s descriptive to the senses, it gives flashforwards, flashbacks, and cliffhangers all on the right beats, and we get our anticipated epic victories and sobering losses.

Stanton offers plenty of backstories to flesh out the lives of the “Horse Soldiers,” (so named for their famous equine riding with their Afghan allies,) including how they grew up, their relationships to their wives, and how they prepared for their deployment. The narrative often zooms in on a particular aspect of a character’s motivations or concerns, leaving us more invested in the next action scene.

And there is plenty of action. The team of a dozen SF soldiers participated in frontline airstrike targeting, mounted charges, and close-quarters firefights with their Afghan hosts. This is the action of the first phase of the 17-year-old American war in Afghanistan: legions of anti-Taliban rebels charging, on horseback, into the enemies’ well-equipped lines of trenches and tanks, while orbiting American B-52s and F-16s provide devastating satellite-guided ordinance from above. This stunning mismatch of technology is rightly dubbed by  the U.S. soldiers involved “the Flintstones meeting the Jetsons.”

Stanton also provides a great deal of context to the struggle on the Afghan side, starting with the immediate aftermath of the Soviet War. He describes in awful detail the daily carnage inflicted by the Taliban on the country’s various non-Pashtun ethnic groups, and on any Afghan deemed an infidel. The punishments to women, in particular, are especially brutal. As readers, it’s refreshingly easy to root for the people fighting against the kind of guys who stone, de-hand, and decapitate people in crowded stadiums as a prelude to soccer games, or who assault men simply for daring to not grow a beard.

The colorful portrait of the Northern Alliance General Abdul Rashid Dostum is interesting, as well: a Muslim who drinks, a warlord who fights for peace, a tribesman who craves connection with the modern world. He proves to be an indispensable, if challenging, ally to the small American force in 2001/2002, and every scene of him interacting with his American allies is engaging.

12 strong picture 2

The Climax

Like any good war movie, 12 Strong has an action-packed climax: the December 2001 “Battle of Qala-i-Jangi.” This was an uprising of Taliban POWs, intermingled with al-Qaeda operatives, who smuggled handguns and grenades into their prison quarters, and then fought a savage battle against their Afghan guards and American adversaries. It’s an extremely trying combat, taking place at a time when the Afghan war looked to be nearly over. It led to the first death of an American in combat in the war, and the disturbing discovery of a captured terrorist of American origin, John Walker Lindh, who betrayed his country to join al-Qaeda.

I don’t want to spoil too much for people who don’t already know the real-life story. But, Stanton’s telling of the battle, based on heavy research and interviews with the veterans involved, is a compelling story of American bravery and the continuing savagery of war in the 21st century.

Lasting Impressions

There’s a lot I didn’t talk about, in the interest of space as well as time. 12 Strong is exciting and engaging, but it is also well over 16 hours long in audio form, and a lot happens. I’ve barely touched on the record-setting high-altitude Blackhawk and Chinook flights by SF aviators around the treacherous peaks of the Hindu Kush, or the Wild West-like mood of the whole adventure, complete with horseback rides along narrow canyon ledges and capture of ancient mud forts with nicknames like “The Alamo.”

I think whether you’re a veteran yourself, someone who knows a veteran, someone in-training for the service like myself, or simply a person who likes military history and contemporary true-stories, you’ll find things to appreciate in this book.

For me, I was struck not only by the individual skill, bravery, resourcefulness, and dedication of my country’s servicemen but by the sheer strangeness of the war. Afghanistan is a country the United States didn’t want to get involved with in the first place. And then, when we did, it wasn’t with infantry and armor divisions rolling in WWII style: it was with tiny teams of elite operatives; warrior-diplomats who built their success not only on firepower, but on coalition-building at the grassroots level. The 2002 victory over the Taliban regime belongs to America’s Afghan allies more than to America itself. The Afghans formed the ground forces, and they paid 99.9% of the cost in blood.

Of course, we have to recall what happened later in Afghanistan: the Taliban resurgence, the shift of focus to Iraq, the endless troop deployments, the suicide bombings…it all puts 12 Strong in sobering perspective. We didn’t win entirely in 2001/2002. Not by a long-shot. The war isn’t over. While it’s impossible to say for sure without an Alternate Universe Hopping Machine, maybe things cohave’ave been different. Maybe if we (the US and NATO) hadn’t poured so many more troops into Afghanistan and made our presence there permanent, if we hadn’t tried to build a centralized government in Kabul contrary to the entire socio-poltiical nature of Afghanstian, maybe then, we wouldn’t be in such a mess there now. Maybe keeping our presence small, limited to CIA agents and spec ops, so that we could be mere enablers for the anti-Taliban, anti-Qaeda forces, would have achieved our objectives of vengeance and homeland security at an acceptable cost.

Maybe.

But, that wasn’t the question for the horse soldiers. And this book is their story. It’s not a pretty story, most of the time, but is at the same time a gritty, inspiring, and riveting one. If you have any interest in looking back to the earlier days of the long War on Terror, when success seemed just one cavalry charge or one bomb-strike away, I highly suggest you check this book out. The Audible version, I can personally say, is great.

Bye bye,

-Geoff

Listen to the opening of the “The Devil and the Doctor” audio edition, read by DeadJosey!

12 June, 2018

Good afternoon readers,

As previously mentioned, I have an Audible version of my first novel, The Devil and The Doctor (Malcolm Leeds Chronicles) (Volume 1) in the works right now. DeadJosey, aka Josselyn Monserrate, is producing this most excellent audiobook version of my supernatural thriller story.

For those who don’t know, The Devil and the Doctor follows the harrowing supernatural journey of Malcolm Leeds, a shapeshifter from the New Jersey Pine Barrens, to vanquish a murderous doomsday cult and save the people he loves. It’s an action-packed, gory, creepy story, full of monsters and mayhem, swords and spells.

Joey has finished the first 15 minutes of the audiobook, which you can preview here:

Thanks Josey!

We expect the finished audiobook to be available on Amazon late this summer, around the same time as Paranoia.

In the mean time, you can purchase the paperback or Kindle versions here:

Au revoir,

-Geoff

A look back at a 1990’s PC edutainment classic: Baldi’s Basics!

11 June, 2018

Who else remembers Baldi’s Basics in Education and Learning?

Good morning rad gamers,

If you’re a 90’s baby like me, surely you remember growing up on such edutainment classics as Math Blaster, Sonic’s Schoolhouse, Jump Start, and Zoombinis! These games, with their colorful casts of cartoon characters, charming soundtracks, and genuinely fun gameplay, got us excited to learn about topics such as math, logic, and science. Sometimes the graphics were a bit cheesy, (or even unsettling!) but, developers generally did their best with what the computers of the time could do, and the finished product was generally pretty good! Besides, we were kids: we were just happy to be playing computer games in school!

There’s one game that really stands out …

The past couple weeks, the Internet’s had a great revival of interest in 1998’s PC edutainment title, Baldi’s Basics in Education and Learning. Personally, I had flashbacks to the game when I stumbled across this totally rad, totally 90’s ad for it while I was browsing nostalgic YouTube content a couple days ago:

Instantly, upon hearing that melodic and authoritative voice, so full of mathematical expertise and love of teaching, and seeing those wholesome and attentive eyes, I was transported back to the 2nd grade, when I played waaaay too much of this game on my dad’s Windows 1998 Dell machine. (I wish I had a picture of that PC.)

The game was fun. Surprisingly fun, considering its graphics that seemed odd to me even at the time. The cheap, kooky music didn’t hold me back from enjoying it! I felt so immediately sucked into the game’s world, from the moment I heard those unforgettable words:

“Oh, hi, welcome to my schoolhouse!”

Baldi’s Basics put a smile on my face, and I credit it with helping me pass many math tests. But, why was it so good? What was so compelling about this 3-D, first-person perspective schoolhouse adventure that I had to keep coming back to it again, and again, and again? (I even just downloaded a copy and played it again, here! Unfortunately, my computer isn’t powerful enough to record usable Let’s Play footage, or I’d upload that for you guys, too. 🙁 )

In my humble opinion, here are the top 10 reasons.

The Top 10 Reasons Why Baldi’s Basics is Awesome:

picture of baldi in schoolhouse

1. The Graphics

They’re bright and colorful: perfect for kids and adults alike. There’s a great range of diversity across all the characters, from the photo-realistic Arts and Crafts, to the whimsically distorted It’s aBully. You can tell at a glance what every object and character is, perfect for when you’re in a rush to your next virtual lesson. And, it’s all in glorious 3 dimensions, a true delight for the eyes of the 1990’s gamers.

2. The Music

Who could ever forget all the earworms of Baldi’s Basics? From the start menu, to the music when you first meet Baldi, and complete your first notebook of math problems. Catchy, playful, and fun. Just like the gameplay!

you can think pad

3. The Challenge

While it may have been developed by Michah McGonigal rather than the Japanese corporate giant, Baldi’s Basics certainly fits the definition of “Nintendo Hard!” The first few math problems properly ease a young player into the game’s essential tasks, and the difficulty quickly ramps up in a most satisfactory way. Maybe the learning curve is a little too steep for some young students, even today, but personally I remember adapting well to Baldi’s tougher and tougher problems, and the game’s faster-paced later portions!

map picture

4. The Level Design

This game was more than just a fun piece of learning software: it was also a place, a place of pixels and of memories that live on in the hearts of all us 90’s babies who enjoyed it in our youth! Baldi’s Schoolhouse, even after all these years, still feels big, vibrant, detailed, and full of exciting possibilities for learning and adventure. From the cavernous but well-supplied cafeteria, to the cheery outdoor-facing windows, and even to those “Faculty Only” rooms, (that we all know we snuck into anyway!) this virtual schoolhouse was a glorious place to explore and learn each time we got a chance to enter it. What could be waiting for us behind the next set of yellow doors?!

bsoda can

5. The Items

Oh man, nostalgia alert! The Bsoda, the principal’s key, the lock, the safety scissors, the quarters! I remember such a great feeling of freedom and adult-like power as I grasped, collected, and used these many magical objects throughout the game. And with a limited inventory player space, the game taught the value of careful choices and planning ahead.

principal of the thing

6. The Principal of the Thing

While Baldi was our fun-time, wacky, and diligent teacher, we also needed someone to enforce the rules and keep the schoolhouse running right! Though getting put in detention for running in the halls, or shooting Bsoda at fellow students was often a groan-inducing delay from our learning and fun, we all always understood that the ever-vigilant, cheerfully whistling principal was always looking out for our best interests. For as often as he put us in detention for sneaking into the Faculty Only rooms, he also cleared away those Bullies who blocked our paths and stole our precious quarters! Three cheers for the Principal of the Thing!

playtime

7. Playtime

This game wasn’t multiplayer, but on my more recent playthrough, it sure felt like it when Playtime was around! Her photo-realistic graphics, memorable voice, and love of physical games help add a real flash of life, color, and youth to a virtual schoolhouse primarily inhabited by adult faculty and sentient brooms. Plus, as a seeing-impaired character, she taught us all the value of respecting and including people with disabilities.

baldi face

8. Baldi’s Hair

Haha! He wasn’t completely bald! He even has eyebrows!

9. Baldi’s Voice

So silly! So thoughtful! So instructive! So encouraging!

angry baldi

10. Baldi

Glorious green-sweater-wearing, ruler-wielding, math-instructing, fun-inducing God of the Virtual Schoolhouse. Truly, he shall reign over all other edutainment software from now until man turns against his brother until man is no more,  until the Earth is devoured by the Sun, and until the fabric of reality itself is torn asunder, and its remnants scattered back among the eternal darkness of the void.

Ha ha! 😀

If you haven’t played it since you were a kid, check it out at the link below! It’s free, but you can also pay a contribution to the game’s creator, Micah McGonigal.

(Great game btw, Micah! Thank you!)

https://mystman12.itch.io/baldis-basics

Just be sure while you’re playing, to double-check your work! You know how ol’ Baldi gets when you answer math problems incorrectly!

Happy gaming,

-Geoff

 

Hear the first 28 minutes of my second horror anthology audiobook!

11 June, 2018

The first story is recorded! See audio player below!

Good afternoon citizens,

I’m sitting in a Starbucks enjoying an iced coffee and wearing my new glasses as I write.

picture of me

(Shirt from Grunt Style)

When I booted up my laptop, I was happy to see that the amazing Kim Noyes had uploaded the first 15 minutes of my second horror anthology audiobook, Paranoia: More Dark Tales from the Mind of G.R. Wilson.

In fact, she went above and beyond to the ~28 minute mark, to finish her reading of my werewolf story, The Full Moon’s Hunt, which follows the treacherous path of a 19th century London writer all the way to the Scottish Highlands, at the behest of a mysterious and beautiful noble Scotswoman with an especially dangerous father. It’s got suspense, it’s got horror, it’s got action! It’s a good time, I hope you check it out.

You may also recall that this story got an audio treatment a couple years ago on the Satanic Storytime podcast, to which I’ve been a contributor both in writing and in acting.

Here is Kim’s recording of the book’s first story:

The full audiobook, with all its other stories, will be available through Amazon Audible late this summer! In the meantime, the paperback and Kindle versions of Paranoia are available on Amazon through the link below (click the picture):

Thank you again Kim, and thank you as always, my readers!

My life would be far less compelling without people to share my stories with.

TTFN,

-Geoff

 

Movie Review: “Hereditary”

09 June, 2018

Hereditary movie poster

Movie Review: Hereditary

Good afternoon y’all,

Today, I’m going to tell you about the movie I saw Thursday night, Hereditary. (I wrote another pre-watching post about it a couple days ago, here.) In short: it was deeply unsettling, it was original, and I absolutely loved it.

Hereditary Facts and Major Credits:

Premiere: 21 January 2018 at Sundance / 8 June 2018 in theatres nationwide.

Director: Ari Aster

Producers: Kevin Frakes, Lars Knudsen, Buddy Patrick

Written by: Ari Aster

Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolf, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Gabriel Byrne

Music by: Colin Stetson

Cinematography: Pawel Pogorzelski

Edited by: Jennifer Lame, Lucian Johnston

Production Companies: PalmStar Media, Finch Entertainment, Windy Hill Pictures

Distributed by: A24

Running time: 127 minutes

Budget: $10 million

Hereditary family picture

(This will be a spoiler-free review.)

“Evil runs in the family …”

Premise:

The film follows the Graham family, consisting of mother Annie, (Toni Collette,) her husband Steve, (Gabriel Byrne,) and their two teenage kids, Peter (Alex Wolf) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro.)

Annie is a professional miniaturist with a deeply troubled childhood and young-adulthood, Steve is maybe retired (? It’s not clear what his profession is, but he seems learned,) Peter is a somewhat uneasy but generally norma weed-smoking high-schooler, and Charlie is a lonely and generally “troubled” 13-year old who draws and makes sculptures out of random junk and animal parts.

The story begins when Annie’s mother, Ellen, dies after a devastating bout with dementia. (The film opens with her obituary and funeral.) We learn immediately that Annie and her mom were on-and-off estranged, and this has something to do with Ellen’s eccentric behaviors and controlling attitude. Of course, we gradually get some disturbing elaboration on this as the film progresses.

So, Annie isn’t particularly broken up about her mother’s passing. Nor are the rest of her family…except, that is, for Charlie, in whom Ellen took an especially keen interest when the teen was growing up.

The family matriarch’s death is the spark that ignites a slow-burning, but constantly dreadful and ultimately, satisfyingly horrific inferno of family secrets, buried memories, twisted compulsions, and paranormal catastrophes.

picture of Peter freaking out

Why it’s one of the scariest movies in years:

It’s hard to talk about this movie in much depth without spoilers! But allow me to elaborate on why Hereditary had me on the edge of my seat and has haunted me for the past three days.

This movie does not rely on jump scares. Does it have jump scares? Well, it is a horror movie. But me saying for sure would be spoilers, so draw your own conclusions. This is a movie of dread, of suspense, of disturbing revelations, psychic and physical.  And yes, also, horrific imagery, and the prudent use of special effects. Aster’s film teases the viewer with hints of boiler-plate horror movie scares, motifs, and plot points, but then flips those expectations on their heads: as a result, the viewer is constantly on edge, creeping and feeling slowly their way across a dark room of hidden perils and creaking floorboards. The disturbing implications and played-with expectations, plus gruesome scenes (never gore just for the sake of gore) and frightening supernatural occurrences, are what make Hereditary so genuinely staggering and haunting.

The story itself is scary. That may sound simplistic and obvious, but contrast it with a more mainstream horror movie you’ve seen, where the dread and surprise the audience experiences is derived 90% from special effects and jump scares, and only 10% from the actual motivations, emotions, and obstacles the characters experience, all knocking against each other and weaving themselves into a plot. In Hereditary, that plot is genuinely unsettling: it keeps you uneasy with the uncertainty of what’s going to happen next, and with the sheer horror of what has already happened. In the film’s beginning, we share Annie’s dread, when she’s so haunted by the feeling that her dead mother is “still around” that she insists on keeping the door to Mom’s room locked at all times, especially after it’s mysteriously opened by itself. Later, as the strands of this family’s rotten web of inherited secrets are untangled and brought to shocking light at an accelerating pace, we constantly want to look away, but we cannot: the plot has its hooks in us, and our emotions and curiosity compel us to keep watching, just as Annie must uncover the truth of her late mother’s strange behaviors and social circle, and what these mean for Annie and her own daughter, Charlie …

picture of Toni Collette as Annie

The cinematography is also top-notch. The camera in Hereditary is dynamic in the truest sense. It is practical. It doesn’t default to shaking about as a cheap method of adding jitters to a scary scene, but rather, it moves or stands still, gives us a wide shot or a close-up, as appropriate for what the director needs to convey. We get objectively lovely establishing shots of the mountains and forests of Utah that surround the Grahm family home, (and treehouse,) but these repeated landscape images almost immediately feel ominous and grow more so as time creeps on. The camera tortures us with uncomfortable close-ups of a character’s horrified face, before we inevitably, we know, must see what they are seeing. The camera swings from side to side nervously, both in emotionally torturous familial outbursts and in nervously surveying a room where supernatural events are afoot.

One of the most creepily charming camera-uses is the frequent focus on Annie’s miniature dioramas, which depict detailed and realistic scenes of the family’s home, the hospital where Annie’s mother died, and other tiny representations of the family’s past, present…and perhaps more. There are some technically awesome shots where the camera zooms slowly into one of these miniatures, and then graces us with a seamless transition into a real-life set with the actors.

The acting in Hereditary is stellar and brings director Ari Aster’s dark vision to life with heart-wrenching, spine-tingling, and heart-pounding authenticity. Toni Collette, to my mind, handily steals the show– no, steal isn’t the right word, she earns every second of our attention, empathy, and investment: she beautifully portrays  a complex mother and daughter character, with the best of intentions but the least capacity to deal with what both her loss, and the peculiar “inheritance” of her mother are going to inflict on herself, her husband, and her children. Her range of emotion is staggering, from protective and loving, to heart-broken, to sarcastic, to manic and enraged. Collete’s Annie is very scared, and very scary …

Milly Shapiro, who plays young teen daughter Charlie, stands out for her newness and for her at-once creepy and charmingly awkward and sympathetic demeanor as the most emphasized character from the trailers. This emphasis is for good reason. That’s all I’ll say on that.

picture of Charlie

It’s tough to even talk about Ann Dowd’s character without spoilers, but she’s good. She’s convincing, she’s real. (In the trailer, she’s the woman who talks to Annie in her car; “I recognized you from your mother.”)

The fellas, Alex Wolf and Gabriel Byrne, also exhibit great emotional range and authenticity, as their respective characters, each with their own distinct attitudes and goals, are sucked into the story of maternal-bloodline disintegration and corruption.

Hereditary movie poster 2

Conclusion:

The writing and directing of director Ari Aster, combined with the technically skilled and emotionally interesting cinematography of Pawel Pogorzelski, plus the torturously authentic acting of the stars, especially Toni Collette, altogether make Hereditary already one of my favorite horror movies, and the best movie I’ve seen yet this year.

I give it a 10/10.

It’s intriguing. It’s painfully suspenseful. It’s emotionally genuine. And most importantly, but also properly developed from all those other traits: Hereditary is horrifying. It says something about parenthood (especially motherhood,) about the ties that bind family bloodlines, and about the ways that we as mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, react to the disruption, loss, and poisoning of those bloodlines.

The scariest stories, Hereditary proves, are those with one foot firmly planted in the reality we all inhabit.

 

 

Let’s Watch Me Be Really Totally Good at Let’s Playing

8 June, 2018

Good afternoon aliens and alloys,

I have an announcement.

*deep breath*

*drumroll*

I played a video game and posted a video of it on the Internet.

I also used the free version of software (Flashback Pro, which is actually pretty versatile easy to use, check it out,) so I got that adorably amateurish watermark there.

Plus, I did something wrong where my webcam display didn’t make it into the video.

STILL! It’s there.

Time to let those PewDiePie dollars roll on in. >:)

If you guys wanna see more, subscribe to my YouTube channel, I’ll do some non-horror games too.

byebye,

GeoffyGeoff

Meet DeadJosey, the narrator of my “The Devil & The Doctor” audiobook!

7 June, 2018

DeadJosey cover photo and logo

😀

Good morning fellow humans,

Yesterday, I introduced Kim Noyes, who is producing the Audible audiobook edition of my second horror anthology, Paranoia: More Dark Tales from the Mind of G.R. Wilson

Today, I want to you all to know about DeadJosey, aka Josselynn Monserrate, of YouTube fame! She’ll be producing the audio version of my first novel, The Devil and The Doctor (Malcolm Leeds Chronicles) (Volume 1). Ms. Josey has a beautiful voice, a great sense of humor, and has good tastes in comics and video games, in my humble opinion. (Which is, of course, always correct.) She has a lot of Overwatch and Doki Doki Literature Club comic voice-overs on her YT channel. Plus, she’s got a Discord, a Twitter, a Facebook, and another YT for ASMR.

I asked her for a blurb for this blog post, and here it be:

I have been a horror fan for years watching “Tales From the Darkside” and “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and reading scary stories when I was a kid. I started doing horror narrations on youtube in 2013, here in 2018 I’ve expanded what I do from horror narrations to comics and ASMR videos. I’m really excited to be doing one of G.R Wilsons pieces and taking my narrating to a professional level.

Thanks Josey! Don’t worry, you’re good at blurbs. Also, your avatar is adorable in chibi form.

 

a chibi-style picture of DeadJosey

See?

And here are a few neato VA (voice-acting) examples:

(The DDLC one reminds me I gotta do a proper post or three about that game!!)

Once again, check out Josey’s stuff, she’s great. We’re aiming for a late July, early August release of the audiobook, which will be announced in my newsletter.

dead josey picture / twitter link

Twitter Link

DeadJosey picture / YouTube link

YouTube link

DeadJosey picture / Facebook link

Facebook link

 

 

 

 

 

 

stay spoopy,

-Geoff

P.S. – I came out with my first audiobook a couple years ago, narrated by Mr.CreepyPasta:

 

 

 

Introducing “The (Mildly) Mad Scientists of Turingsburg County!” It’s the YA Comedy Sci-Fi series I’ve been contributing to!

7 June, 2018

concept art of various characters

Excellent art by Jonathan Herzog.

Good morning readers,

Do you like science fiction?

Do you like funny science fiction?

Do you like funny, cartoonish, edutainmental science fiction, starring two rival mad scientists duking out their inventive competitions in a small Midwestern town, with the help (and hindrance!) of a colorful cast of minions, villains, and bumbling detectives?!

Welcome to the world of Turingsbug County, USA, the setting for perhaps my most fun fictional co-project!

Concept Art - Farmer Green

Dr. Radcliff Green is a studious man. Art by Erin Williams.

This is “The Farmer Project,” which I’ve been working for the past year with several other contributors, under the leadership of J. Farmer. I was hired over UpWork to write and revise these short, humorous, older-children-to-young-adult science fiction stories.

This collection of stories runs under the series name The (Mildly) Mad Scientists of Turingsburg County, or, Mildly Mad, for short, and in fact are available in Kindle, paperback, and Audible form over on Amazon right now.

The series follows the adventures and misadventures of two rival mad scientists: Dr. Henry White, and Dr. Radcliff Green. (Both Ph.D.) They’re both supposedly retired from the whole mad scientist career after some serious run-ins with the government back in the day, so they’re hiding in plain sight on their neighboring farms, in the tiny, out-of-the-way, Midwestern town of Turingsburg, located logically within Turingsburg County, USA.

Farmer White

White with one of his camera-equipped flybots. Art by Gabriellle Platt.

Both scientists/farmers take different approaches to their work. White, whose career was originally in mechanical, computer, and electrical engineering, prefers to create robotic minions and technological solutions that run like clockwork: predictable, programmable, and doing exactly what they are designed for and told to do.

Green, whose specialties are biology and chemistry, prefers a more organic, free-flowing approach: his genetically engineered animal hybrids and super-plants often react to challenges in unexpected ways, as they mutate and evolve with new forms and new ideas of their own.

Both approaches have their strengths and their drawbacks, of course, with White’s creations requiring crystal clear instructions, and Green’s inventions sometimes needing a strong hand on the reigns to stop them from blooming into a chaotic, unforeseen mess.

White and Green love to compete with each other in various challenges, such as creating the most helpful minions for the town, growing the best cabbages, or collecting the biggest pile of trash. Other times, they join forces to save the town from dangers such as an illegal street racing gang, cyborg rats, or a mysterious force which is causing every object in town to get increasingly stuck together at an exponentially accelerating rate. (The latter two problems, they, uh, may have sorta accidentally created themselves … >_>)

Assisting each scientist are their equally rivalrous “not-so-super” supercomputers: MIRA for White, and C64 for Green. Both scientists compete in continually upgrading and reaching new, impactful uses for their respective computers and their ultra-advanced artificial intelligences, including the design of entirely new security robots (like the infamous “Summer Snowmen”) and the hacking of shadowy mega-corporation servers.

green and bodo concept art

Concept art of Green and Bodo, by Reese Taylor

MIRA has an interesting backstory connected to one of White’s old computer engineering co-workers, Dr. Valerie Schnoover. Schnoover and her daughter Vivian do play a direct role in an upcoming story with an especially cyberpunk theme. MIRA often helps White with his experiments and inventions, and runs the security on his farm and secret underground lab, including, at times, the direct control of his various “robo-toy” minions. She’s a free-spirit at heart, and as much as she enjoys the acquisition of new knowledge and of helping “Henry” on his latest experiments, she also does get a kick out of pushing his buttons once in a while, or later, helping to protect and mentor Dr. Schnoover’s daughter, Vivian.

Dr. Green’s supercomputer, C64, is made of a hybrid of conventional silicon chips, plus carefully designed and grown bio-organic circuitry. He often helps Green with experiments the same way MIRA does for White, and he runs the various greenhouses where Green’s latest genetic creations are nurtured. C64, similar to MIRA, also enjoys occasionally teasing “Radcliff,” and like MIRA, has his own adventures ina virtual, cyber-punk world. Plus, he has a classy English accent, and Green often calls him “Commodore,” so that’s neat.

For other helpers, White has his aforementioned robo-toys, which range in size from several centimeters to about a meter tall, plus his bigger robots such as Tractor Bot. And, at least temporarily, he had control of the solar-powered, ice-cream slinging, highly aggressive Summer Snowmen…but he doesn’t like to talk about those.

concept art of a robo-toy

There are many designs of robo-toys: some are bipedal like this, others look like spiders or crabs, and others look like toy fire trucks or army tanks. They’re all designed with different tools for different jobs.

robo-toy collored

Robo-toy art, and Bodo art below by Aaron Ballish

Green has his right-hand rabbit, Bodo! Bodo is a highly intelligent and bipedal hybrid of a bunny and genetically-modified fungus, so he has these cool mushroom ears. He’s essentially Green’s apprentice and learns quickly from the scientist in the ways of biology and chemistry. Bodo is also a major fan of Japanese history and culture and enjoys practicing his ninja skills. Also with Green are his various animal and plant hybrids, especially the kung-fu fighting “rhino-chickens.”

baby bodo

Bodo as a lil baby. He grows to nearly the size of an adult human!

Then there are the cyber-rats, who escaped from Green’s control sometime after he and White almost burned down Turingsburg, and appear to be evolving a society and upgrading themselves in the woods that neighbor the farms …

For other recurring characters, there is most importantly, Detective J.R. (James Roosevelt) Grey, Turingsburg PD’s best (only) investigator. He’s got a good heart and an iron determination to see justice served, but, he can be a bit of a bumbleking at times. He also, at first, thinks that ol’ farmers White and Green are up to no good out on those mysterious farms, and he’s determined to get to the bottom of their purportedly supervillainous activities.

Then we have various visitors to town, (such as bigfoot hunters,) recurring townsfolk, sidekicks, (like Grey’s trusty deputy, Polonski,) and villains such as the wealthy and alluring widow, Raven Black, and the uncatchable street racing gang known as the Speed Demons.

Each story includes a concise and educational “State of the Science” article, elaborating on the reality of the science and technology featured in that tale. Mr. J. Farmer, the creator and editor-in-chief of the Mildly Mad series, is an engineer himself, and a descendant of Midwestern American farmers. He conceived of the stories as a way to entertain and inspire young readers, including his own kids, on the wonders of scientific and technological possibilities.

I tremendously dig the stories, and I’m happy to be contributing to them!

I hope you’ll check them out! Personally, I think a lot of adults with a sense of humor and an interest in this sort of whimsical science fiction will enjoy them just as much as kids do.

Here again is the link to the official website, and you can click the images below for links to Amazon for several of the individual stories:

Adios, amigos!

G.R. Wilson

Introducing Kim Noyes, the narrator of the upcoming audio-book edition of “Paranoia!”

6June, 2018

Good evening errybody,

I officially have an Audible version of my second anthology, Paranoia: More Dark Tales from the Mind of G.R. Wilson in the works! Our lovely narrator is Ms. Kim Noyes, an experienced broadcaster and storyteller. As someone who loves radio, podcasts, and Audible audiobooks, and listens to them frequently in the car, at the gym, or on walks,  I’m excited to get more of my stories published in that format! You may recall that Mr.CreepyPasta of YouTube fame narrated the Audible version of my first anthology, Right Behind You:  Tales of the Spooky and Strange, a couple years ago.

Picture of Kim Noyes

Click for the link to Kim’s Audible producer’s page!

Kim is also excited to work on this project, and I asked her to share some of her experience with and thoughts on the horror genre:

I have been a horror/suspense fan since, well, forever. When I was 5, I remember being greatly disappointed because my mother wouldn’t buy me the book of scary stories that I wanted. While in college, I worked in a video store & watched EVERY horror movie we had – including “Basket Case’ & “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”. I am a huge fan of, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Edgar Allen Poe, Dean Koontz…..In the movie “The Ring”, I laughed with glee when Aidan said “No Mom! You weren’t supposed to help her”. On Halloween, I have dressed up in Vampire attire without the teeth and had to keep explaining how I had only been bitten once, so, I had not ‘turned’ yet. Some people just don’t get it. I have been in Radio for most of my adult life & currently work at a classic rock station. I LOVE to tell stories….I am SO excited to start this new chapter of my existence….

And, her favorite Stephen King book is The ShiningSalem’s Lot, or The Stand.

Thank you Kim!!

I will also have more news soon about the upcoming audio production of my novel The Devil & The Doctor!

As always, I appreciate those who purchase or otherwise read (Kindle Unlimited, Audible subscription,) my books through Amazon!

       

Happy Trails,

-Geoff

 

Movie Hype Alert: HEREDITARY!

4 June 2018,

Good evening friendos!

I began the day with a dental appointment, (green across the board on the check-up and x-ray!), and then I’ve been writing my next novel and some freelance work for clients. Hella productive, feels great!

In this post, I want to talk about Hereditary, the Sundance horror film directed and written by Ari Aster. I first saw the trailer for it when I saw Deadpool 2 a couple weeks ago, and it immediately got my attention.

First, in case you haven’t seen it, check out the trailer:

Woof. I felt my skin crawl just watching that peek! I was introduced to A24 by The Witch, which shares a producer (Lars Knudsen)  with Hereditary and is another great, artistic, low budget, original, horror film. A24 seems to be pumping out great films (horror and otherwise) left and right, and I’m always happy to see a new one get a nationwide release!

So what do we see in the trailer? I like the way it gives us a taste of the type of scares we’ll experience, and enough of a character and plot introduction to tempt us with investment, without giving away too much plot information. You know, like a good trailer should!

We have a mother and a daughter as the main character. According to the IMDB, this is Annie Grahm, played by Toni Collette. (The mom in Little Miss Sunshine, one of my favorite comedies!!) I’m already intrigued by her character. She’s just lost a mother, who was apparently quite…eccentric, and clearly creepy. The whole vibe suggests that she was a witch. Who…also apparently insisted on exclusively breastfeeding Collete’s/Grahm’s own daughter. Oh, it also looks like Annie is a miniaturist (the little house and figures are hers) and I love the cinematography and horror possibilities that opens up! (She also looks cool wearing the magnifying glass headset thing!)

And then Annie’s daughter is Charlie. She’s played by Milly Shapiro, who according to Wikipedia, had great success, including a Tony Honor and a Grammy nomination, in the Matilda Broadway musical in 2013/14. With earning that level of achievement so young, I’m excited to see how Shapiro does as the unfortunately off-putting Charlie! I don’t know if Charlie has autism or what, but that blank stare and click tick, coupled with her apparent interest in making random trash and animal parts (poor bird!!) into art pieces are all delightfully creepy and interesting. She seems to take after her mother…and, if the heavy “witch” connotations are any indication, after her grandmother, in more ways than one …

We get tantalizing glimpses of ghostly grandmas, spontaneously-combusting dudes, eerily levitating dudes, ominous strings, and lots of Charlie going click. (And asking all-too-knowing questions about the aftermath of her mom’s apparently impending death.)

I love it. I’m going to see it this weekend and review it. I’m going to avoid reading more plot information, but the A24 webpage has some good, basic, non-spoiler info.

So, what are critics saying so far?

Rotten Tomatoes:

IMDB:

MetaCritic:

Adam Epstein has some good words about the topic of it being the “scariest movie in years:”

…Hereditary, though, feels different from the rest. The blurbs calling it “the scariest movie in years” read less like a pre-packaged marketing gimmick and more like earnest assessments by those who have seen it …

Sooo my hype meter is rising through the roof!

Besides that, I’ve looked around for other non-spoilery information:

Milly Shapiro comes across as charming and genuine in this pre-screening interview:

Awesome for her! 🙂

 

I enjoyed this interview with Toni Collete, too:

(Interview begins at :45. No spoilers, don’t worry.)

That’s encouraging to hear that the movie isn’t just scary, but is also as she says, about grief and how family dynamics change in the face of tragedy. I think the best horror movies are those that speak to real, human themes like that. I always appreciate seeing evidence of horror movies, like The Witch, or IT, being not only terrifying but also legitimately GOOD movies. Anyway in the interview: I also didn’t realize Collette was Australian, very cool. (And how she says the name of the country “‘strarya!” 😉 ) That’s legit that she meditates, too. You go, Toni.

 

Plus, this Mr. H interview with writer/director Ari Aster:

Aaaand based on that excellent interview, now I’m seeing this Friday, no matter what:

  • “Old school suspense but without relying on cheap scares.” (paraphrase)
  • Rosemary’s Baby is an inspiration
  • Aster seems genuine and humble. (e.g. giving all credit to A24 for the well-edited trailer.)
  • Horror has become “comfort food” and often simply rewards audiences for already knowing the formulas and tropes.
  • This film honors, but at the same time upends genre traditions.
  • The movie is character-centric, it satisfies the “genre stuff” but all the compelling horror of the film grows from the themes and the characters, and the film is at once a scary movie and a meditation on family suffering and sorrow.

For those who have a greater tolerance for spoilers than I do, here is Mr. H’s review, which I did not watch:

 

In conclusion, Hereditary looks incredible from the trailer, critics love it, and I’m excited to see it. I look forward to talking about it with you all this weekend.

I’m going to take care of some ROTC paperwork now, hit the gym, then sleep.

Goodnight, and sweet dreams.

-Geoff