Friday, November 25, 2011

The Finn’s Wake PlugTastic All-Geek Christmas List of Love

I know, I know. We’re hard to buy for. How many of us have been handed gift cards for bookstores with an apologetic shrug from some well-meaning friend or relative? It’s only slightly less difficult when geek buys for geek, because as you know, one cannot cross the streams of another geek’s interest without winding up buried in evil marshmallow fluff. So to speak.

Consider this, then, to be an idea-generating list, literally bristling with someone for everyone, and nothing too unreasonable in price, either. I know times are tough. As an added bonus, most of what’s listed here is either pimping my own work or touting the abilities of my friends and fellow creative types. Truth! 

One final note: I know that most of the links below go to Please don’t consider that to be an endorsement, but rather where to click for more detailed information. Try to buy these things locally if you can, rather than lining the pockets of giant faceless corporations who may or may not be a front for some kind of Cthulhu cult. I’m just saying.

Cthulhu Gloom by Atlas Games
Speaking of Cthulhu cults...Are you kidding me? Take Gloom, one of my favorite card games ever, and make a fully-Cthulhu-ized version of it? You can be the Whately family? Argh! NEED-GAME-NOW!  Perfect for the Lovecraft fan that you know, and brand new so you know they don’t have it yet.

Whisky Stones from Think Geek
Cocktail culture is still an “in” thing, and so if you have a whisky or bourbon aficionado on your list, here’s a cool stocking stuffer for them—eternal ice! Yep, these things give new meaning to “on the rocks.”

Oh, my, this is the goods, folks. My buddy John Picacio is an award-winning artist and he trained his wonderfully-evocative eye on the characters you love to hate, and hate to love, in George R.R.Martin’s epic series. Let this calendar carry you over until A Game of Thrones starts up on HBO next April.

The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers
I’ve got friends all up in this book, from Rick Klaw to Jess Nevins. And they are all smarty-pants, too. This book has been really well received and makes a great companion or an introduction to the arts movement that is steampunk.

Dreams in the Fire edited by Mark Finn and Chris Gruber
This great collection of fiction and poetry, gathered from the members of the Robert E. Howard United Press Association, past and present, does double duty. It’s the perfect gift for any Robert E. Howard fan in your life, and also buying a copy helps support the care and upkeep of the Robert E. Howard house. A spectacular collection of fresh stories, written in the blood and thunder style that Howard pioneered, and in a wide variety of genres that Howard himself made popular.

iZombie  by Chris Roberson
Chris Roberson’s smash hit is available in trade paperback form for those of you with discriminating geeks in your life. Great for both geeks and geekettes! And if you don’t like zombies, Chris has written about a million other comics for you to check out, as well.

Midwinter & The Office of Shadow  by Matthew Sturges
Both of these novels are excellent and made me love elves again. Matt reinvented the idea of a fantasy novel and turned high-born epic fantasy into a ground-pounding adventure where the stakes purely political and no less dangerous.

King Kong Old Time Radio Drama by the Violet Crown Radio Players
This one hour program, done in the style of old time radio, makes a great gift for the Gorilla-phile in your life. Celebrate the return of Austin’s premiere old time radio troupe in 2012 with this great stocking stuffer! Includes the hit single “Don’t Shoot that Monkey Down.”

Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory
Daryl Gregory is one of those writers that other writers want to throttle. He’s got fresh takes on familiar ideas and his prose is seemingly effortless. Raising Stony Mayhall takes a very familiar and popular horror trope and turns it on its ear. A wonderful book, like everything Daryl does.

Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham
Even if you’re not reading Bill’s hit series Fables (and why aren’t you? Do you not like things that are great?) you will love this book. It’s a grand old adventure, the kind you can only read for the first time at that impressionable age, and it’s also a glorious meditation on the nature of fictional characters. What happens when we close the covers of our favorite books?

Road Trip by Mark Finn
The stranger on the side of the road doesn't know much, but he's pretty sure he's not Elvis. The baby driving the car has his own set of problems, but that won't keep him from helping a fellow traveler out. Now they are on a journey of discovery in the only thing that makes sense to either of them: a 1963 pink Cadillac... Originally published in the now out of print Gods New and Used, this tenth anniversary edition has been updated and edited by the author and is now available as a stand-alone novella.

From the makers of Fluxx and Chrononauts comes this really elegant card game that completely captures the feel of the Back to the Future trilogy. Set up is minimal, and rules mastery only takes a few minutes. Best of all, it’s as replayable as the movies are rewatchable. Good for the movie buff and the games buff on your list.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

13 Things I'm Thankful For

This blog post is the epitome of cliches, except that I never do it. Oh, I toss out a little Thanksgiving sentiment now and again, but I'm usually too busy cooking food and navigating the politics of dinner with my in-laws to have the time to actually give thanks.

So, now I find myself with a small pocket of time, and I've been thinking lately about these things in some detail. Sounds like a perfect time to blog what I'm thankful for, here in 2011. Here we go in no particular order:

1. I'm thankful for the city of Vernon, Texas. You didn't have to take to us like you did, but you did, and I thank you. Wait, did I just riff on a ZZ Top lyric?

2. All of my friends, both near and far, who keep me engaged, thinking, and motivated. Some days, you are all that keeps me on an even keel.

3. Facebook and Twitter. See above.  I love the strange conversations that break out, the crystallized thought that borders on poetry, and the instant access to so many of your lives. It takes some of the sting out of being so far away from you all.

4. John Lucas, Weldon Adams, and Toby Heidel. Three guys who could not be more different, and yet, we share a brain in some of the most important ways. I love you guys, my brothers-in-arms.

5. Clockwork Storybook: Thank you, Bill Willingham, for resurrecting and expanding our writer's group into this most brilliant think-tank that inspires and challenges in equal parts. Our annual retreat is a high point in my calendar year.

6. My family, both near and extended, has always been a place where I can go be myself. We are a close-knit bunch of oddballs and lunatics, but from that nucleus sprang some amazing, talented, brilliant smart asses. I am grateful for growing up in that environment.

7. All my nieces and nephews, feral and otherwise. I do so love being "Uncle Monkey," and the best thing of all is that they like the same stuff that I like, whether it's mythology and superheroes or Scooby Doo cartoons and magic. It's never boring when we get together.

8. Over the years a number of people have plugged into what I write, whether it's comics, or Robert E. Howard studies, or my prose fiction, and have made the effort to buy my work when they see it. To all of the fans of my writing, thank you so very much.

9. I'm thankful that VCRP is getting back together.

10. Thanks also to Dark Horse Comics and Ape Entertainment for publishing my work. I appreciate the vote of confidence!

11. I'm thankful for my creative voice. Just because it's always come easily to me doesn't mean it's easy. It's a lot of work. And some folks don't have that ability, and they really want it. I'm thankful that one of my gifts is the ability to communicate and entertain with my words.

12. Cathy No Middle Name Day, my wife and partner, is the yin to my yang, the cream in my coffee. Literally and figuratively. I'm so thankful she's a part of my life.

13. I'm thankful for my dog, Sonya Louise Finn. She's become such a big part of my life with her sweet, goofy personality. She makes me be a better person, she really does.

There's a lot more, but against that list, it all seems fairly trivial. This is a lot. These are big gifts. Thanks so much, all of you, for everything.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Obsession with Simulacrum and How We Got There

The Kardashian family: portrait of a group of people
who represent literally no one you know, nor will you
ever know. Futureworld Androids, the lot of them.
Even as we all decry "reality television" (one of the most ironic oxymorons, ever) and the eternal parade of mediocre celebrities that are constantly on display through every single media outlet known to man, and even as we all secretly watch a handful of shows "because they are all so bad," and make remarks about the our nascent schadenfreude-ian tendencies...nothing ever changes. Ryan Seacrest continues to make more televsion that is rabidly consumed by sixteen year old girls, twenty four year old mothers, and thirty four year old gay men. I don't know when those groups became the dominent demographic of our culture in this country, but I think I know when it started.

What follows is an exploratory essay based on my life experience. I have no hard data to back this up. But I think I've got something, here, and I think that if I'm not a hundred percent right, I'm also not a hundred percent wrong, either. Feel free to disagree with me or educate me as needed.

When MTV first appeared in 1981, it was not allowed in our home. The reason, I was told, was that it was "communism." I didn't understand it. I thought my step father was being faceatious. After all, if he was suppressing it, wasn't THAT what Communism was about? It bothered me that there was a television channel I didn't have access to, but all was not lost. HBO had a show called "Friday Night Videos" that showed most of the cool videos I was missing out on, so I didn't feel too out of the loop. As a result, I learned to simply not mention the current musical trend, lest I be subjected to another diatribe about "propaganda." Inevitably, several years later, when MTV was added to our cable package, I became a regular consumer. This lasted through the rest of my teen years and right up to about 1990. More on that, later.

It's widely known that the first song played on MTV was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles. It was played, without any trace of irony (because that didn't exist, either, until 1994 when Chandler Bing from Friends couldn't form a sentence without invoking it), and it was a doomsaying, of sorts. Video did, in fact, kill the radio star. If you don't believe me, then you need to hear the cautionary tale of Romeo Void.

The California-based band rode the New Wave crest with ease, and they got a lot of college airplay for a song called "Never Say Never." The combination of provocative lyrics and a catchy hook, delivered in a kind of "Come-hither Valley Girl" pout, was dynamite. For about three weeks, everyone was singing the song and chatting it up.

Until the video came out, that is.

The most flattering picture of Romeo Void ever taken.
Let me say up front that what happened to the band was wrong, so very wrong. But everyone took one look at the band and promptly, spitefully, lost interest. The lead singer did not look like how any of us pictured her looking. Instead of looking like Annebella Lwin from Bow Bow Bow, she was short, Ruebenesque, and apple-cheeked. I’m being nice now. Back then, no one was being nice. The video wasn’t on MTV more than three weeks. She just wasn’t what we wanted to look at. Not in the age of Madonna, the Go-Gos, and the other various waifs, trollops, and succubi that now regularly appeared in the midst of these new music videos.

These guys look like a Hall & Oates Cover Band.
And that’s how it all started. But it’s not really surprising when you consider that the network was founded on Beautiful People. The executives who built MTV wanted rock bands to host the shows on the channel, but none of the ones they asked wanted to come in from the road, touring, etc. and give up four to six hours a day for months on end. So, they did the next best thing. Instead of getting some rock stars who looked like regular people, they got some regular people who looked like rock stars.  And it changed the music industry forever.

 Meatloaf, circa 1978.
Before MTV, rock and roll didn’t have to be pretty (and it frequently wasn’t). It just had to be good. Musicianship and singing ability was all that was required to be a rock star. If you were pretty, it was a bonus. It helped. But it wasn’t a requirement. Sure, Fleetwood Mac had Stevie Nicks, but it also had Mick Fleetwood. Have you ever seen Steely Dan? Dire Straits? What about Meatloaf? I’m not talking about older Meatloaf, after he lost someweight for Bat Out of Hell II (and suddenly was making appearances on MTV). I’m talking about young, corpulent, 70’s heyday Meatloaf, singing “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” Can you imagine seeing him tucked between Duran Duran and Adam Ant? Of course not, because it didn’t happen. Nor would it have.

Suddenly, in order to be a rock star, you had to have “the look,” too. You had to be a beautiful person, or at the very least, not ugly. The music took a back seat to the image. Look at the major bands of the 1980s. They are all gorgeous. Some of them were so pretty, we thought they were women. All of the headbangers wore make-up, for Pete’s sake. Boy George was so dolled up, he actually fooled a few young men for about a week. Whenever “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” came on, most of us thought to ourselves, “yes, yes we do,” and a small number of teenaged boys thought to themselves, “Hey, that tall chick is kinda cute.” Funny, when you think about it. I’m sure at least one of those easily confused boys is now a republican congressman.

MTV became arguably the most dominant influence on my generation, and also to the generation right behind me. I’m at the end of Generation X, and MTV dutifully courted us for most of the 80’s. They were the first network unafraid to change up what they were doing to appeal to the youth market, and it’s always been thus. In the 1990s, most of my peers tuned out, because we’d moved on, but not MTV. They were right there, still in the thick of it, perpetually adolescent in their tastes, and eager to sell to the teens whatever they thought we’d all buy.

Marketing to teens is, of course, nothing new. The tactics were invented in the wake of Elvis Presley and the Beatles and perfected with bands like The Monkees, the Partridge Family, Donnie and Marie, and even Leif Garrett. But that was always considered “teenybopper music.” As Elvis got older, so did Elvis’ fans, and his music changed and matured accordingly. Elvis never really made full use of television the way that MTV was able to drum youth culture and the things that matter to youth culture, incessantly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This was something new, and it was different, and it didn’t take long for it to transform from a privilege to a right.

More than a decade after they first came on-air, videos had ceased to be wildly inventive experiments in storytelling and become largely formulaic marketing tools. There were exceptions, of course, but why think when you can just pull a video template out of the “tried and true” handbook? Just make sure you get enough close-ups of the lead singer, and you’ve got a gold record on your hands. No, MTV needed to expand its offerings if they wanted to remain viable in the eyes of the kids. And that’s how we got to “The Real World.”

The Real World's First Cast. Beautiful and Void.
The show’s producers originally wanted to produce a soap opera aimed at their younger audience, featuring people in their twenties. When the cost of hiring actors proved to be too exorbitant, they did the next best thing: they hired ordinary, if beautiful, people, and shoved them into a giant loft that they could have never afforded on their own, and asked the pointed question, “What will happen?  Will these seven strangers get along?” And the answer, of course, was “Pretty much, yeah.”

I’m sure it must have been a bummer for the producers. They were expecting—well, I don’t know what they were expecting. But they initially sold the show to us as a kind of social experiment, and I admit it, I was just as interested as the rest of the world. But aside from a couple of minor dust-ups, such as the white girl from Georgia asking the black girl from Brooklyn if she was a drug dealer because she had a pager (a cultural gaff—hilarious!) and a half-captured argument between two roommates, everyone else got along, or at least, tried to, because it’s miserable living in a house with people you otherwise hate.

As it turned out, those two incidents were the audience’s favorite moments from the show. Mostly because they were the two episodes where something actually happened. You didn’t have to tell the producers twice. Starting with the second season, they deliberately tried to find the biggest, most disparate group of assholes possible, and by the third season, they were actively inveigling and fomenting discord and filming the inevitable slap fights that followed. NOW it was “real.” It was the birth of reality television. And it was aimed squarely at teenagers. 

It wasn't long before every would-be actor was vying to get on the show, and in fact, they did hire actors in later seasons. Even when they didn't have actors to help the "plots" along, the producers were able to stir up enough trouble to keep everyone fighting...because that's how real life would be, if it were a soap opera aimed at teenagers. But it's never billed as that, is it? It's always "reality tv." And so a generation of kids grew up thinking that life after high school was just as epic and angst-filled as life in high school. Especially when dealing with strangers.

Here they are: the fake people you love to hate.
You can draw a straight line from those early episodes of “The Real World” straight to “The Jersey Shore.” This latest cultural embarrassment is no less disturbing because it’s now being watched by adults who think it’s awful, demented fun, and they think the rest of the world is laughing right along with them. But even as Snooki and The Situation are fighting because they all went to the club together, but didn’t talk to one another, and spend the rest of the episode working it all out, we are culturally dying a little bit inside, because this is what we’re replacing Shakespeare with. Sure, there was backstabbing, deceit, and discord in the Bard’s plays, too, but at least there was more at stake than missing a tanning bed appointment. There was a commentary inherent to the material that spoke to the human condition. “The Jersey Shore” is just bread and circus fare. It’s feeding gladiators to the lions.  

We're living in it. Or at least watching it.
It's all fake. None of these geletin-heads are from New Jersey. They aren't real people. They are simulacrum, artificial constructs. They are really pretty Chucky Cheese robots to dance and sing for our amusement. The same goes for the "Real Housewives of Fill-in-the-Blank" and all of the other rich and famous people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, who we'd never heard anything about until their sex tape got "leaked." And they didn't even do THAT convincingly, either. 

Think about it: do you know ANYONE who has anything close to approximating their lives? Pick a show, any show, and see if you can duplicate it with your friends and family. You can't. And it's not because you're not rich, famous, and spoiled rotten. It's because you're a real person with a job, hobbies, interests, and actual relationships. So many of those shows seem like they are put together by Martians trying to approximate our culture. When did ANY of this become any kind of standard for life, entertainment, or culture?

We're worshiping the androids from Westworld, who are programmed to fit a specific need and nothing else. 
It's not enough that we routinely reward mediocrity, but now with reality television, we celebrate it. These animated shells that perform for us, that get into fights, and dress like Barbie dolls, and do their level best to make their lives interesting, are what passes for celebrity in the 21st century. Famous for nothing except looking good (and not necessarily charismatic, either--just pretty), exalted for things like perfumes and clothing lines that they did nothing more than select, and of course, constant fodder for the 24-hour news cycle and endless spin-off tv shows. Who asked for this? The easy answer is, "We did," but I don't really think that's true. I suspect someone is pitching to the lowest common denominator in our society, and they are throwing strikes.

What can we do about it? I'm not sure. But I'm not done talking about this.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

If You're Upset by the Kardashian Divorce, Then the Problem is YOU

I've watched with wry amusement as the much-publicized Kardashian divorce has been co-opted by the Interwebs as a stick in the eye for the folks who argue for the sanctity of marriage being between a man and a woman. It's a conversation that the nation has needed to have for a while, and the politicized elements of that argument have little choice but to hunker down and take the body blows raining down on them right now. They have no defense for this.

Now that everything is televised, even the great and grand lie that is one of our most entrenched and enduring myths, that of a storybook romance, those that would claim that the people who can't legally marry are somehow cheapening the act for those who legally can is absurd. With the divorce rate at 50%, and with celebritiy's personal lives literally documented in closer detail than an average day in Congress, the message isn't so much mixed as it is garbled. If marriage is so bloody wonderful, how come no celebrity alive can keep one together for more than six months?

My short answer is this: we're oppressively conditioned by every romantic comedy, every romance novel, every story told to us by our mother and grandmother, every Barbie scenario, and now every single reality televsion show that's not on the Cooking Channel that marriage is the end of the story. It's the Taa-Daaah moment. And it may well be a great ending for a story, at that. It's the promise of a future in bliss, but also a closing ceremony, borne out of happiness at getting together, especially after all that's happened in the story.

Then, while America closes the book and picks up another story that will undoubtedly end the exact same way, those who got married have to figure out how to live together. Let me suggest to the shell-shocked teenagers of the world that ordinary people have a tough enough time of trying to figure out all of that stuff. If you put an entire television production crew in our living room and had producers try to steer everything you did in a certain direction, it's probably ten times more difficult.

Isn't it funny that all of the fans of people like, say, Sandra Bullock, and the media who labels her "America's Sweetheart," are waiting with baited breath to see and when she'll get married, when the reality is that one of the least-suited professions to the institutions of marriage is that of actors, celebrities, and other public figures. The reasons for this should be obvious. And yet, for the largest Christian religion in the world, the spiritual advisors whose job it is to council couples on love, marriage, and fidelity are actually forbidden to marry and have to take a vow of chastity. I've never understood that.

Studies have shown that people don't tend to engage their brains on new concepts and ideas when they can instead read, watch, and otherwise engage on concepts that reinforce their existing ideas. In other words, if you are a seventeen year old girl, and you've already got your wedding planned out, and you cannot WAIT for the NBA player of your choice to ask you for your hand in marriage, then you are not remotely interested in watching a documentary about the divorce rate. Or, if you do, you'll just think, "Well, that won't be ME. After all, I'll have a fairy tale romance. Those don't end in divorce."

Yeah, they do. Everything is susceptible to human frailty. If millions of dollars can't keep a functionally retarded NBA baskeball player and the world's hottest tulpa together for more than two and half months, then what chance does anyone have? 

Honestly, if we would just turn off the reality television, the romance novel, and tune out the overwhelming pressure to not only get married, but as soon as possible, then maybe we'd have a better shot at it. Maybe then we could all talk about the realities of how to make a marriage work, and not focus so much on how much the wedding dress cost.

But I'm not done talking about the Kardashians yet. Nor any of their fans. More on this later.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thing on Thing Action

For Halloween, I watched The Thing (2011), followed immediately by The Thing (1982), which appears to be intuitively how the movies are meant to be watched. This new film has caught some flack because, people have argued, there was nothing wrong with Carpenter's film that it needed to be remade. I agree, of course. Carpenter's Thing is one of my favorite horror movies of all time, and one of my most memorable scares during my formative years.

I was 13 in 1982. Living in Abilene, Texas, I was as far away as it was possible to be from any kind of geek gathering place. We had a magic shop that had recently closed down, but no comic book store. Only the local hobby shop carried any Dungeons and Dragons stuff, and even then, it wasn't a place to gather and talk to other people. Anything you wanted to know about, or become knowledgeable about, you had to find for yourself. 

One of my sources for things like horror movies, special effects, and the like was the fledgling Fangoria magazine. It was literally a lifeline for me, keeping me abreast of upcoming movies, talking to directors about the film, showing special effects pictures, and all of the stuff we now get on the Bonus chapters of our DVDs. I had read about The Thing in Fangoria, and also about John W. Campbell's short story, "Who Goes There?" and Rob Bottin's insane, out of control make-up effects...well, I just HAD to see it, you see. Rated R? Not my problem. We had HBO, and oftimes, if I was lucky, I could get downstairs late at night and watch whatever I deemed essential to my education.
The Blood Test. One of the best things Carpenter and Bottin gave to the world.

So, I'm downstairs in our old, weird, and even haunted house. I'm in the last room, at the farthest end of a long hall that curved around to the staircase, which curved back around and led to my room. My door faced the stairs. Make a note of that. We'll come back to it. The second floor landing fed into a hallway with the bannister on one side and a bookshelf wall on the other. Anyone from the rest of the bedrooms could walk out into this hallway and look down the stairs from the railing. Anyway.

HBO decided to air The Thing at 10:35 late one Friday Night. I crept downstairs, stealthily turned on the television, and absorbed the movie the same way that the Thing absorbs other humans. It got under my skin; what can I say? Well, the movie is over now, and that Duhm Duhm soundtrack is throbbing, and I cannot BELIEVE they ended the movie like that. I mean, Childs could still be a Thing! Even though he probably wasn't...they were going to freeze to death, man! It was my first ambiguous ending, and as the possibilities rolled around my head, suddenly, my step-father, Paul, appeared in the doorway to the den.

"What in the hell are you doing up?" he demanded.

"Nothing!" I said quickly, trying to catch up with the heart attack he'd started from his sudden appearance.

"Get upstairs and go to bed."

"You go first," I shot back, with zero insolence in my voice. If anything was waiting, he'd get it first. It was pragmatism.

He sighed and stomped off. Only then did I realize my error. I could've had an escort back down the long, dark hallway, but instead I sent my safety net ahead of me and now he was snug in HIS bed, leaving me all the dark...

Mind you, I only did this once. I learned from it, to be sure. But let me say to you that it is possible to make that hallway, turning the lights on ahead of you and off behind you as you go, at a dead run.

Cornering the stairs was tricky, but the light switch at the landing was a three-panel, so it was no trouble to hit the two rightmost switched that cut the lights on the landing and popped the lights on at the stairs. I was literally running toward the light the whole time.

At the top of the stairs, I literally dove, John Woo-style, into my room, grazing the door knob as I jumped, allowing it to swing closed behind me. My reading light was on, and I had an instant to contemplate that my bed, to the right of me, was just the right size for, oh, I don't know, anything, to be under it.

I leapt up, straight up, and transversed horizontal space like a sixteen-bit character to land smack-dab in the middle of my bed. SAFE! I pulled covers up all around me, and kept the light on, and man, I was NOT moving out of that bed.

The next morning, at breakfast, with the scares over (well, mostly), I looked at my family as they munched on eggs and bacon and thought, how well do we really know anyone?

So, naturally, The Thing is one of my favorite horror movies. I've seen it dozens of times. Kurt Russell is still playing John Wayne for Carpenter. David Keith is awesome as Childs. Wilfred Brimley! Come on! What's not to like? The paranoia, the intrigue, and of course, that monster... In John Carpenter's now-very spotty ovure, this film is a stand out and one of the few things that keeps his reputation from being totally a washout.

You can imagine my distress (and I suspect some of yours) when I found out about the new movie. Why on Earth would you want to remake it? There's nothing wrong with it! What? Oh, it's a prequel? Well, that's kinda different...and yet, after watching them literally back to back, I find they are very much the same.

The NEW Thing starts out at the Norwegian Research Base that was the set piece in the 1982 movie. In other words, when Copper asks, "My God, what happened here?" well, now we get to see it. And see it all.

I won't ruin the film for you. If you liked Carpenter's film, you should go see thig. What I will do is give you a few tidbits to make your mind up for you. The biggest, most important one is this: yes, they use CGI, but it's all based on the design of the 1982 film. In a few cases, it looks deliberately as if they were dialing back the finesse, to better make it match up. This movie is kind of a love note to its predecessor.

I couldn't believe the attention to detail. Everything that we saw the remnants of in 1982, they reverse-engineered into the action of this film. And it is an action film, weirdly. Despite hitting a lot of the same notes, this movie makes a vailiant effort to stay out of the first film's sandbox. This mostly succeeds, but with the snow, the same buildings, the same fashions, as the first movie, the Deja-Vu factor is through the roof.

As I watched the end of the new Thing, I was struck by a realization. In the 1982 version, there's no sequel. We see that coming. No matter what happens next, when spring comes, MacReady and Childs are dead doornails. Trying to get a sequel out of that film would just suck. Too much contrived circumstances. No one would buy it. But...what if someone did make it out of the Norwegian camp? Ahhhh...suddently, there's now a tent-peg to hang a third movie on. And it's okay. I think the ending works, especially as the credits roll. You'll see what I mean.

What the new movie lacks in suspense, it makes up for in being a real monster romp. And it would seem that the thing itself is learning. By the end of the first movie, we can see just as well as the monster that the direct approach didn't work so well. But hiding out...that's the ticket. And so, to the next film we go...

The two movies work great together as chapters in a bigger story. If you're a fan of the first one, you just gotta try the new one out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.