Film Corner: Willy's Wonderland

I'm immobilized in bed today but someone told me about a recent Nic Cage movie that's kinda Five Nights At Freddy's without enriching the FNAF guy.

It's called WILLY'S WONDERLAND. "When his car breaks down, a quiet loner agrees to clean an abandoned family fun center in exchange for repairs. He soon finds himself waging war against possessed animatronic mascots while trapped inside Willy's Wonderland." We start with two parents running for their lives through a creepy Chucky Cheese / Fazzbear's Entertainment. Something kills then off screen, as one does.

Another time, another day, another place. Nic Cage's car hits a strip of nails that blows out all his tires. Stoic to the end, he silently enjoys a warm can of PUNCH soda. He hasn't said a word yet but somehow he's said everything with his cool sunglasses. A traveler picks him up and gives him a ride.

A girl of maybe 16 tries to burn down Willy's Wonderland in the middle of the day but is brought in by a local sheriff who is also her mother? grandmother? Nic and the girl meet and share a slow motion look. Unsure what that's all about.

At the local garage, Nic ponders the many "missing person" posters of adults. The garage wants $1000 to repair Nic's car, but only in cash. And there's "no internet in Hayesville" thus no ATMs. Nic isn't carrying a cool grand in cash so a suggestion is made that he "work it off". There is a feel of something sinister going on. Nic looks like he's wondering if he's going to have to take his clothes off for this.

Open Thread: Light, Mist, and Shadow

silhouette of a tree obscuring a yellow light on a misty evening

Picture was taken on December 16th.  I apologize for the open threads stopping for more than seven (and actually closer to eight) months.  As Ana noted in the December newsletter, I haven't been having the best time of late.  I hope you've all been doing well.


Sunday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s basically over, but we haven't had an open thread in forever, and you can still give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Cinder the Fireplace Boy

Cinder the Fireplace Boy and other Gayly Grimm Tales (Rewoven Tales)

by Ana Mardoll

Once upon a time there lived... a beautiful prince who kissed a frog. A cinder-smudged child who hid a secret. A princess who climbed a long braid of golden hair for love. A thumb-sized boy with the courage of a giant. And a valiant little tailor whose wit was as sharp as her needle.

These stories and many more await you in this delightful collection of classic fairy tales, lovingly retold and featuring characters who receive wonderfully queer happily-ever-afters! Let these new takes on the Brothers Grimm warm your heart and nurture your yearning to see yourself reflected in beloved favorites.

Trigger warnings and pronoun guides are provided for each story.

"Mardoll has removed instances of racism, antisemitism, and Christian moralizing while introducing queer and disabled characters... a welcome, clever update of fairy tales." --Kirkus Reviews

Tags: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Transgender, Nonbinary

Book (eBook)
Written by: Ana Mardoll
Published: January 2022
Language: English

Available from retailers below.
Amazon Kindle
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble Nook
Angus & Robertson (AU)
Indigo (CA) (DE)
Thalia (DE)
Mondadori Store (IT)
Vivlio (FR)
Book (6x9 Trade)
Written by: Ana Mardoll
Published: January 2022
Language: English

Available from retailers below.
Patreon ($25 tier)
Audio Book
Narrated by: Coming Soon!
Language: English

Available from retailers below.

Writings: Kirkus Review of Cinder The Fireplace Boy

I am extremely excited about this! Reminder that you can pre-order Cinder The Fireplace Boy on Amazon!

LGBTQ+ characters take center stage in Mardoll’s reimagining of classic fairy tales.

Mardoll’s fairy tales might sound familiar, but if readers pay close attention, they’ll notice he’s made a few changes from the classic Brothers Grimm versions. In one, a prince who makes a reluctant deal with a frog discovers the amphibian is a beautiful young man in disguise. In another, a princess falls in love with a woman trapped high in a tower, accessible only by climbing the woman’s long golden hair. In the wonderfully titled “Sometimes Hansel and Othertimes Gretel,” a woodcutter’s child identifies as a boy on some days and a girl on others. The kind woodcutter accepts the child’s fluidity, while the child’s mother is annoyed by it. As Mardoll explains in the book’s introduction, he has always loved the Grimms’ fairy tales—and has frequently given volumes of them as gifts—but found them lacking in one area specifically. “I was proud to share my love for these tales, even if sometimes I felt a gnawing hunger when I remembered how heteronormative the stories were; how much sooner would I have found my queer self if those old tales had contained queer representation?” In these 31 versions of the classic tales, Mardoll has removed instances of racism, antisemitism, and Christian moralizing while introducing queer and disabled characters. Women fall in love with women; husbands give birth to babies; and beautiful maidens use wheelchairs to get around. The tales are preceded by content notes warning of potential triggers, from the classic (“Cannibalism, Murder, Dismemberment, Execution”) to the contemporary (“Accidental Misgendering”). Mardoll also starts each story by identifying the pronouns of the characters who will appear in it.

Mardoll’s prose mimics the fabulist style of the original tales. The language is precise without delving too deeply into the specifics of character: “Once upon a time there lived a child who liked to be idle and daydream, as children often do. Their mother was very vexed by this and accused the child of being lazy, insisting that a young person on the cusp of adulthood as they were should learn a useful trade such as spinning yarn.” Gorgeous color illustrations by Dingley, which manage to feel medieval and modern at the same time, accompany the text. Some of the tales are essentially the originals with a few pronouns swapped: The Frog Prince seduces a man, and Rapunzel is wooed by a woman. The more interesting ones are those in which the characters’ queerness contributes to the plot, as in the fairly ingenious title story, which is perhaps the best in the book. The protagonist is a boy who everyone thinks is a girl. His cruel stepmother and stepsisters misgender him and call him Cinderella, and it’s only the power of a magic bird that allows him to present his true self to the handsome prince. While the reader may sometimes wish Mardoll had allowed the characters’ new traits to propel the stories in new and surprising directions, the author has succeeded in his task of creating more inclusive versions of the stories that the Grimms fans know and love.

A welcome, clever update of fairy tales that work best when they reinvent the originals.

Film Corner: Babysitter Killer Queen

I promised the live tweets would resume, so today I bring you from Netflix the movie Babysitter: Killer Queen, which is of course the sequel to Babysitter. I had a lot of complicated feelings about the first movie, because I wasn't sure if it was lampshading the trope that boy-trauma isn't taken seriously in our culture or just playing it straight. I eventually did decide that I liked it and called it "CRACKS for boys".

"Two years after Cole survived a satanic blood cult, he's living another nightmare: high school. And the demons from his past? Still making his life hell." Color me intrigued. The movie starts and we get a nice recap of the events of Babysitter, and learn that there was no physical evidence left behind. No one believes Cole about what happened and the bullying has only increased. Well, shit.

The girl he had a crush on, Melanie, who knows what happened that night was true is supportive but also urging him to clam up about the night's events since it's just not something people can really believe. We have this kind of tension between Melanie's pragmatism (very reminiscent of Babysitter Bee's advicey moments in the first movie) and Cole's dreamy optimism where he just... wants to be able to be himself without being bullied for who he is.

Mel reminds Cole of the kissing that night, but is interrupted by the appearance of her jock boyfriend. Oh, we're doing this trope of the abusive jock boyfriend needling the nerdy boy? ...or...maybe we're not? Jock Jimmy is actually really nice to Cole? I thought he would be the stereotypical asshole, but he's sweet. Huh! I... like this?? Wow! There's also a nerdy kid of color and a fat girl who is wearing the "queer blue hair highlights" but we don't see much of them so far.

We cut to class where a New Girl walks in. She's POC, wearing a lingerie dress with combat boots, and clearly doesn't fit in here. She enters the class in slow motion. She's clearly a fish out of water, and the teacher outs her as a "disenfranchised youth" trying to "assimilate back into civilized society". Wow. Phoebe likes snakes and announces that she's nine days late on her period, but that she "might just keep it now" after looking at the beautiful white faces staring back at her. I love her.

Cole heads back home and his parents are talking about him behind his back. They've got him doped up on a zillion medications trying to "fix" him from talking about the night 2 years ago. Jesus. So I don't know how I feel about this. I actually do think it's reasonable that the events of Babysitter would ruin Cole's life, and we're seeing how Cole's parents still aren't really willing to listen and engage with him. They want to be "cool" but aren't listening.

"I know you don't want to take those pills, but you gotta show your Mom and I that you're at least trying." Cole asks if he wants Cole to lie about what happened, and Dad dodges the question. "It happened, Dad. I'm telling you the truth." Dad doesn't believe him. It comes out that the parents plan to pull him out of school at midday the next day and put him in a psychiatric "academy" that sounds like committing him. Melanie convinces Cole to go to the lake with her instead.

Mel tries to reassure him that everyone is on some kind of pill and what follows is... not exactly reaffirming of OCD and ADHD, especially once Xanax and Adderall are thrown up on the screen next to "Glue" and "Porn" as things people are using to cope. Hmm. Phoebe walks down the halls haunted by a rumor that she killed her parents. She's been asked to the lake, too. (Apparently?) It seems like Phoebe is having a horror movie of her own in the background. I'm sure we'll get to that eventually.

Cole's parents show up at Melanie's Dad's place looking for Cole. Mel's Dad (Juan) is dismissive and rude, and apparently sells pot to Cole's Dad. Juan doesn't care that Mel skipped school, but does care about his missing car. K.

I... have such weird mixed feelings about Mel's friend group? They're set up to be the usual high school bullies (jock, goth, nerd) that you'd think would attack Cole, but they're honestly pretty nice to him by the standards of high school strangers! I like that, but this feels like an odd choice, given how much Cole talks about being bullied, and yet I like it SO MUCH BETTER than showing us Cole being bullied by marginalized peers, as in the first movie. It drives home that the problem is the adults, not his fellow students.

Mel and Cole have a cute "best friends in love" vibe that seems at odds with her having a boyfriend (why? she knows Cole likes her and seems to like him?) and the fact that she's reminding me a little of Bee in the first movie. Still, I guess it makes sense that Mel might consciously model Bee? Bee was beautiful and cool and neat and must have left an impression on Mel. Especially given how much Cole liked her. (But again, then, why the jock boyfriend? If she's trying to impress Cole?)

Mel gives Cole a kiss and walks out of the gas station. The attendant at the cash register talks Cole into $100's worth of Magnum XL condoms. Sigh. Good to have condoms in a movie, bad explanation of how to shop for them.

Cole of course feels instantly out of place with the beach crowd. (Phoebe is here, though it's not entirely clear how or why. She appears to have hitched a ride to the beach and then rides off on a jet ski that was... waiting there for her? Did she steal it? I'm okay with her stealing it! It's not totally clear.) Mel coaxes Cole onto her house boat saying, "You're innocent. That's what makes you so special." UH. That's what Bee said too.

Cole has no cell service out here and throws his pills into the water. I'm having complicated feelings about pills being used this way in the movie; yes, Cole doesn't need them, but that doesn't mean nobody does. You know? It's hard to talk about unhealthy pill dosing without side-swiping at healthy pill use, and I don't have an answer for this.

The kids are playing "two minutes in heaven" and they stuff Cole and Mel into a closet together. Mel kisses Cole, saying she doesn't have a boyfriend "for the next two minutes". The kids are actually *interested* in Cole's cult experiences (which I totally believe about kids) and Mel is uncomfortable, insisting they change the subject from "the Devil's book".

Cole: "I never told you about the book."

OH NO. Mel murders her friend and whoops, uh. Not only is Mel and her friends in the same cult, the original cult members are now back from the dead. OH. I noticed that Mel was acting a little Bee-ish, but I didn't realize that was foreshadowing. I still unironically like BOTH the jocks, who are really wonderfully supportive. Phoebe walks in looking for gas for her jet ski and bails. Cole takes a moment to run after Phoebe and hitch a ride out of there.

Cole tells Phoebe about the blood cult, fearing she won't believe him. "Oh, thank god they weren't zombies! I hate zombies," Phoebe says. I love her. She points out that the cult doesn't sound that different from Instagram. Phoebe and Cole adorably nerd at each other over Terminator 2 and Bear Grylls. They have silly string, a lighter, and a box of magnum condoms. This is fine. Oh, and their jet ski is leaking gas which Mel tracks by setting it on fire and blowing it up.

I still think Phoebe is in, like, a different and competing horror movie that hasn't dovetailed with this one yet and I kind of like it. It gives her a reason to be here other than just helping Cole, so I like that. Phoebe finds a southern man... playing a banjo... by a fire. He says he can give her a ride back to town as soon as his wife comes back with firewood. The guy feels dangerous, and you can see Phoebe knows that, but there's not an easy way to get away from him now without pissing him off. Familiar dilemma!

Creepy Guy starts trying to grab Phoebe and Cole shows up to tie his shoelaces together and RUN. One of the cult members (Sonya) shows up to light him on fire with a flamethrower and a perfect Xena yell, then Cole runs her over a few times with the car. Cole and Phoebe hide under the car as the rest of the cult approaches. A rattler wants Cole's face (this boy just can't catch a break!) but Phoebe catches it and uses it to scare the cultists away.

Phoebe apologizes to Cole and thanks him for coming back for her. She's got some kind of undisclosed trauma, and I love her. Cole mentions her being pregnant and she happily tells him that was all bullshit. Cole is adorable. They bond over being traumatized loners with tragic pasts. Phoebe is up here visiting her family's old cabin, which is their best bet for safety. Allison interrupts by shooting an innocent bunny and then a deer who never did anything wrong.

Allison gets herself charmingly killed through stupidity, then Max shows up and Phoebe does some impressive Matrix dodging while Cole kicks him in the dick. They get to a keyless start boat named "Jenny". Tommy Tutone is the clue to this one, and the kids speed off with Max on the attached inflatable boat. Phoebe combines silly string and fire to make kiddie napalm and that's pretty much the end of Max. I'm going to miss Max. He was really sweet in his weird, messed up way.

Mm. Now the jock boyfriend is being silly about dyslexia (he speaks in the wrong order) and being "triggered". Mel kills him with her mind, then calls Cole's dad and her dad to "come pick us up". We get a really sweet scene with Cole and Phoebe to make up for the last one. Good music, too. They make it to Phoebe's cabin which apparently hasn't been sold since her parents died despite being prime real estate.

There's a "urine is sterile" joke, which is the bane of my existence. "White Rabbit" starts up to calm me, which is a good musical choice because otherwise I was going to start ranting. Mel has a "the future is female" joke, and I'm kind of reminded of how I wasn't sure if the first movie understood that it was kind of positioning all women as dangerous. Mel was the exception and now she's not.

Phoebe has a stuffed animal that she lost when she was six. Someone put it in her locker with the key to this house and a fortune saying "it ends tonight". She and Cole are about to kiss when Cole sees a cassette player and he reminisces about Bee. I think sex happens? It's very metaphorical.

"I don't really have good luck with women. They end up being murderers." Phoebe admits that she "killed my parents" but it appears to have been a car accident so like. I don't think that's *quite* fair to take on herself. Poor baby. Cole is sweet to her, and that's nice. I do like that a lot. And then he hears his Dad (sent here by Mel) calling down through the basement floor.

Oh no. Cole and Phoebe come up with crossbows and....war paint on their faces. We could've done without that. Dad catches up with Cole and says he believes him, hugs him, and then drugs him with a syringe. Christ. I hate this man. Phoebe and Mel fights in an "old school" sequence that feels like it ought to be more fun than it actually is. Mel's cleavage is getting more and more with every scene. Mel captures Phoebe and ties her up as bait.

Cole comes back and offers a trade: his blood for Phoebe's life. Mel says she's ready to deliver... and Bee rises from the sea. She looks... different? Samara Weaving is always so pretty, but she looks wan and sad somehow, in spite of her smile. Phoebe reveals that Bee supposedly died in the car accident that killed her parents. Bee implies that Bee made a bargain with the devil to keep Phoebe alive. And to... go into service for him, recruiting souls?

Mel mixes the blood in a chalice and the others appear to drink. Bee tells them it's time and they drink. Bee doesn't drink and seems alarmed... or confused? Everyone who drinks becomes sick. Bee points out that Cole isn't innocent anymore, now that he's had sex with Phoebe. I........ was really hoping they wouldn't define innocence that way.

Bee reveals that she rigged this entire thing in order to save them, but I'm not 100% that I follow this retcon of Bee as guardian angel. She sold her soul to protect Phoebe and... all this just sort of worked out. Eh, fuck it. I'm okay with Bee being good now somehow. Maybe this act of selflessness will save her? NOPE. She drinks the blood and dies. Well, that's unsatisfying and sad.

I just hope Samara Weaving is okay. Between this movie and Ready Or Not, she's had a lot of deals with the devil lately. Cole's Dad shows up to see the supernatural stuff and promises to tell Mom that Cole isn't nuts.

Cole goes back to his regular life and is happy to lie now and tell everyone that the demons were all in his head. I.........huh. Yeah, that's kind of how life goes but it feels unfaithful to the opening stuff about being True To Yourself. Slam to credits. I'm not sure what I think about all of that, but it was a fun movie and I enjoyed it at least as much as the first one.

December Newsletter (2021)

Hey, everyone. 💕 It's December and the last month of the year. I still can't quite believe I'll be learning to write "2022" soon. Let's talk and I'll try to keep this short; I know a lot of us have cooking to get back to.

One: Cinder the Fireplace Boy will release on Amazon on January 4th, 2022. If you've pre-ordered the ebook, then that's when it will show up on your reader. If you want to buy an unsigned paper copy of the book from Amazon, then they should be available to buy that day (Amazon doesn't let me set those up for pre-order). I will also have them available that day to buy from my Etsy store, which does give me a high commission than Amazon.

- For those in the Patreon $5 ebook tier, a download link will be going up shortly so that you have pre-access before release.

- For those in the Patreon $15 audiobook tier, I'm so sorry but the audiobook will have to come later this year. My usual narrator has retired and so I'm still seeking a replacement. But my plan is 100% to have an audiobook as soon as I can.

- For those in the Patreon $25 signed paperback tier, my plan is to get those mailed to you this month. I ordered an copy for myself as a "final check" on 11/22 and it's supposed to get here on 12/7. (Prime shipping isn't applied to author copies of books, and I have no idea why.) At that point, if there are no errors, I can turn around and order a bulk order that I can then sign and send out to you all. But with the holiday post office issues, I am not sure they'll get to you before January and for that I am so sorry. I hadn't factored Amazon taking 2+ weeks to ship the books to me.

Two: The feral kittens have been successfully homed, vaccinated, and spayed! You can follow their mother, @JustAnna, for future updates.

Three: Pepper is officially moving in with us and will be moving their stuff slowly over to our house over the next few months. This will get them out of an abusive situation, and the hope is that their parents will eventually allow Pepper's sibling Pibb to move in with us as well. It's a multi-stage plan.

Four: Chris the Cynic is alive and I have conveyed to her that we miss her and hope she is well. She's dealing with a lot of life things right now, which is why the open threads have stopped. Please feel free to use these newsletter posts as open threads until I can either post some more myself or find a moderator willing to do so for us.

Thank you all so much for being with us this year and into the next one. I love you all.

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