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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


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What is a drabble?

Drabbles are microfiction of exactly 100 words. The tight word count doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility to tell a story. They’re fun to write! Adult drabbles I’ve had published include:

  • “Forbidden Love”, “Blind Date”, and “Zombie Sonnet 43” adult horror/humor drabbles in MONSTERS dark fantasy anthology (Black Hare Press, 2019)
  • “Sins and Virtues” adult dark fantasy/humor drabble in ANGELS fantasy anthology (Black Hare Press, 2019)
  • “Ghost Father” adult paranormal/humor drabble in BEYOND paranormal anthology (Black Hare Press, 2019)
  • “The Zombie Brigade” adult horror/humor drabble in APOCALYPSE anthology (Black Hare Press, 2019)
  • “Lend Me Your Arms” and “All the World’s a Shipwreck” adult horror/humor drabbles in 100 WORD ZOMBIE BITES anthology (Reanimated Writers Press, 2019)
  • “Leviathan” adult horror drabble in FORGOTTEN ONES anthology (Eerie River Publishing, 2020)
  • “O Captain” adult horror drabble in OCEANS anthology (Black Hare Press, 2020)


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Interview with fantasy novelist Laura Bickle

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams.

I had the pleasure of meeting her at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con, and we have been amusing each other on Facebook ever since.

BickleLaura

For what age audience do you write?

I write contemporary fantasy for adults and young adults, with a healthy dollop of horror. Because I can’t resist adding things that scare me.

Henry: dol·lop (ˈdäləp) noun (not to be confused with dalek) – a shapeless mass or blob of something, especially soft food. Or HORROR!! Healthy dollop: a larger shapeless mass or blob, when a normal-sized blob just won’t do.

Tell us about your latest book.

The tagline on the back cover – which I love! – is “Stephen King’s The Gunslinger meets Breaking Bad.”
Many Westerns begin with the story of a stranger coming to town, and this story is no exception. Geologist Petra Dee arrives in the tiny town of Temperance, Wyoming, to find clues about her father’s disappearance decades before. In the course of her investigation, Petra stumbles across a string of weirdly desiccated bodies that she can’t explain with science. She finds herself in a war among the local cattle baron, his undead minions, and a drug-dealing alchemist. It’s very weird west meets contemporary fantasy.

Henry: A geologist named Petra!? As in Petra-fied? Better call Saul!

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I’ve been accumulating books on alchemy for many years, and I was thrilled to finally be able to put them to good use. The whole history of alchemy is fascinating to me: the intricate symbolism, the obsession with immortality, the idea that rocks could be changed to gold. The theme of this book deals with the first of seven processes in classical alchemy, the calcination process, in which all that is known is reduced to ash in the crucible of the alchemist’s lab.

Henry: As writers, we go through a similar process wherein all of our first draft is reduced to ash in the crucible of our word processing software and self-doubt.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

The most challenging part for me is always getting started. Staring at the blank page scares the daylights out of me. It’s a vast void that could become something awesome, or something really terrible.

Henry: Writers vary wildly on this score. For me, the most challenging aspect is knowing when to STOP revising. Was that a valid piece of feedback, or should I stick with my original vision? Vacillation, recrimination, excessive Twinkie consumption. You know the drill.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that it requires the same disciplined work habits that other jobs do. There are deadlines, accountability, and needing to work well with people. I feel like my previous work really helped me to be able to take writing as a serious endeavor and treat it accordingly. It’s not so much magic as sweat.

Henry: I tell my sons that self-discipline IS magic. It powers the practice to make you proficient at school or sports. It enables you to master your less gracious inclinations. There’s a quote from Randy Pausch about self-discipline that I love: “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I recently had the opportunity to attend San Diego Comic-Con as a panelist. Attending SDCC has always been on my bucket list, but the chance to go in a professional capacity was a dream come true. I loved all of it – the toy reveals, the cosplay, the comics.

Henry: I’ve moderated author panels at SDCC for the past few years. It is a blast.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Try NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – at least once. It’s a challenge each November to chuck your excuses and write 50,000 words in a month. It gets me out of my head and shuts up my inner editor, and forces me to get accustomed to working with a deadline. I use what I’ve learned in NaNoWriMo on every book I’ve written.

Henry: We picture book writers have our annual PiBoIdMo – a challenge to come up with 30 picture book concepts in one month. I’ve been pushing my own EatMoPiMo (eat more pie month) without much traction to date.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

My favorite is from THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI: “No matter where you go, there you are.” It seems to be the answer to just about everything.

Henry: Warning: fanboy rant. For those poor unfortunates who haven’t seen this cult sci-fi movie, it features an all-star cast of Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Jonathan Banks, Clancy Brown, and Jamie Lee Curtis (in a deleted scene). The movie is creative as hell. I love how the aliens use “monkey boys” as an ethnic slur for humans. And how the aliens all have the given name John. And that one is very particular about how his surname is pronounced. The movie has many great quotes – in fact I did a blog post on that subject.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

This isn’t really very arcane, but when I begin a project, I start with an idea notebook. I scribble notes and ideas in it. Outlines. Thoughts for what should happen in the next scene. Pictures and meanderings. I have several pages in this notebook before I even dare open a word processing document.

If I get stuck, I pick up a Tarot card deck and draw some cards. The deck is my random idea generator, and is my surefire trick to get beyond writer’s block.

Henry: Sure, sure. Nothing strange about a Tarot deck at all. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Invisibility. I could be a fly on a wall, go wherever I liked…and collect some amazing story ideas!

Henry: I have two words for you: restraining order.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

My all-time favorite book is Robin McKinley’s HERO AND THE CROWN. I read it when I was a pre-teen, and fell in love with fantasy ever after. It was the first book I’d read that had a female protagonist who slew her own dragons. I was hooked.

Lauren DeStefano is another favorite. The Chemical Garden Trilogy is a must-read. I love her characters and the dilemmas she places them in – just extraordinary work that really makes me feel.

I read Yangsze Choo’s THE GHOST BRIDE last year, and it was positively luminous. I’d love to have her over for dinner with Robin and Lauren to discuss modern fairy tales.

Henry: Note to self – add these to my to-be-read pile.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I’ve lately been obsessed with serpents of all kinds: dragons, basilisks, Medusa and her sisters. I have a garden in which snakes like to gather, and I’m curious about them. The snakes I have in the garden are small DeKay’s snakes, and they’re quite shy. There’s something very mysterious and elusive about them, and I can see why they’re such wonderful fodder for literature.

Henry: Just a tip. If one encourages you to eat an apple, don’t. Just don’t.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m playing with my cats. We have five (six, if I can convince the feral cat in the backyard to quit waffling and come inside), so there are a lot of bellies that demand rubbing!

I also collect comic books, Tarot cards, and action figures. I have a garden in the backyard that is slowly taking over the lawn, and it’s currently Tomatopocalypse here. I’m also trying to get back into drawing. I haven’t done much of that since high school, so I feel pretty tentative about it.

Henry: Feral cats are known wafflers.

What would you like it to (accurately) say on your tombstone?

Hm. “Still exploring” would work.

Where can readers find your work?

The latest updates on my work are at my website, http://www.laurabickle.com. Thanks very much for interviewing me today!

Henry: It was my pleasure. This interview can also be read at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Interview with NY Times bestselling urban fantasy author Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire was born in Martinez, California, and raised in a wide variety of locations, most of which boasted some sort of dangerous native wildlife. Despite her almost magnetic attraction to anything venomous, she somehow managed to survive long enough to acquire a typewriter, a reasonable grasp of the English language, and the desire to combine the two. The fact that she wasn’t killed for using her typewriter at three o’clock in the morning is probably more impressive than her lack of death by spider-bite.

Seanan is the author of the October Daye urban fantasies, the InCryptid urban fantasies, and several other works both stand-alone and in trilogies or duologies. She also writes under the pseudonym Mira Grant.

Seanan was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed (as Mira Grant) was named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2010. In 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot.

McGuireSeanan

For what age audience do you write, and in what genres?

I primarily write for adults, and I write urban fantasy, horror, and science fiction.

Henry: I’m pleased to share that I have an urban fantasy (in that it features the Fae Queen from Romeo and Juliet) picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, coming out from Schiffer this fall. It’s intended to interest kids in urban fantasy at an early age. You’re welcome.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is about 110,000 words long, all printed in black ink on white paper.

Henry: Good to know. Note to self: be more specific… By way of comparison, my picture books are under 500 words. So your book is 220 times better than mine. Well played, sir.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

Well, I hope they don’t get paper cuts.

Henry: That seems like a good goal. Note to self: be even more specific…

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Continuing through the difficult parts.  Not every step of a story is easy, or fun, and sometimes it takes a strong work ethic to not go watch television instead.

Henry: And don’t get me started on revisions, or how a writer knows when the writing is “done”.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

I really enjoy having a job where I don’t need to wear trousers.

Henry: Interestingly, that is not the first time I’ve heard an author extol the virtues of working in pajamas.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I stopped wearing trousers to work.

Henry: I did that once, but my office co-workers did not appreciate it and called Human Resources. I’m crushed that you didn’t mention meeting me at ConDor and San Diego Comic-Con as memorable. But, I realize it’s hard to compete with the siren’s call of no trousers.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t quit your day job until you can support yourself and your family off of your royalties.

Henry: Good advice. Particularly since VERY few authors can support themselves solely on book royalties.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Yes.

Henry: I saw that coming. Either that or trouser quotes:

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Winston Churchill

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

No.

Henry: I find this hard to believe. There must be something – incense, animal sacrifice, Twinkies…

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation without needing to account for the movement of the planet. I would spend so much time at Disney World…

Henry: I love that you’re thinking about the physics of a magical phenomenon. It should come as no surprise that someone who writes urban fantasy likes visiting the Magic Kingdom. Teleportation WOULD be handy. It’s also the greenest form of transportation.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Stephen King, Catherynne Valente, and Jay Lake. King because I really want to meet him; Valente because she would kill me if I had dinner with Stephen King and didn’t invite her; and Lake because I miss him very much.

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully offers:

Catherynne Valente is an American fiction writer, poet, and literary critic. For her speculative fiction novels she has won the annual James Tiptree, Andre Norton, and Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine, the World Fantasy Award–winning anthologies Salon Fantastique and Paper Cities, along with numerous Year’s Best volumes. Her critical work has appeared in the International Journal of the Humanities under the name Bethany L. Thomas as well as in numerous essay collections.

Joseph “Jay” Lake, Jr. was an American science fiction and fantasy writer. In 2003 he was a quarterly first-place winner in the Writers of the Future contest. In 2004 he won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction. Lake’s writings have appeared in numerous publications, including Postscripts, Realms of Fantasy, Interzone, Strange Horizons, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Nemonymous, and the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror. He was an editor for the “Polyphony” anthology series from Wheatland Press, and was also a contributor to the Internet Review of Science Fiction.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The Tasmanian wolf. The last of them died within my grandmother’s lifetime. How is that not heartbreaking and amazing, all at the same time?

Henry: I was aiming more for fantasy creatures like imps or minotaurs, but that is indeed an amazing and heartbreaking choice. I recently saw a fictional movie about a hunter discovering a living Tasmanian wolf.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Watch television and go to Disneyland.

Henry: Only one of these activities can be conducted without trousers.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

Here lies the body of Seanan McGuire
If I told you what happened, you’d call me a liar.

Henry: While her passing was sadly not just rumor,
She lives on through her fine writing and humor.

Where can readers find your work?

At a bookstore near them! I am published by a multitude of traditional publishers, both under my name and the name “Mira Grant,” and I am not hard to find.

Henry: Her official website is http://www.seananmcguire.com. Thanks for joining us, Seanan! You are bright and a wiseguy – two traits I admire.

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Great Science Fiction Comedy Movies

By Alasdair Wilkins, Charlie Jane Anders and the mad geniuses at io9 (http://io9.com/the-13-greatest-science-fiction-comedies-of-all-time-1613425431). I love io9, but I feel like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and Men in Black deserve to be on this list too.

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

Here are the 13 greatest (live-action) science fiction comedies of all time.

13. Mystery Men

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

The film flopped on its initial release, providing yet more evidence that, as a general rule, big budget comedies just don’t do very well at the box office. For all its pyrotechnics, Mystery Men is really just an alternative comedy with surprising insight into the superhero genre. If I’m being honest,Mystery Men probably does a better job deconstructing superhero conventions than the Watchmen movie does.

It helps that almost everyone is perfectly cast. It’s hard to imagine anyone better suited than William H. Macy for the straightforward family man the Shoveler, Hank Azaria for the wannabe British fop the Blue Raja, Greg Kinnear for the narcissistic sellout Captain Amazing, Ben Stiller for the irritable asshole Mr. Furious, or Geoffrey Rush for the ludicrously over-the-top supervillain Casanova Frankenstein. The only real misstep is Paul Reubens as the Spleen, but I suppose that’s because he’s just a little too convincingly creepy.

Better than any other superhero movie I’ve seen, Mystery Men captures what it means to have a city full of costumed heroes and villains, a concept it exploits to hilarious effect. The superhero tryouts really hit upon the absurdity of D-list superheroes, the discussions of whether Captain Amazing is really Lance Hunt (which is impossible, because Lance Hunt wears glasses and Captain Amazing doesn’t) make it difficult to ever take the Clark Kent concept seriously ever again, and the climactic fight sequence manages to brilliantly use every last one of the heroes’ lame powers. Plus, Michael Bay cameos as a douche bag henchman. Sounds about right.

Also worth checking out:

The Specials, starring the always awesome Thomas Haden Church and Paget Brewster, came out around the same time as Mystery Men and is its low-budget equivalent. It may lack the action of Mystery Men, but that just allows the film more time to develop its oddball cast of characters. The recent Sky High is actually a pretty decent movie, grafting a lot of good jokes onto what could have been a lame kid’s movie (supporting turns from the likes of Kurt Russell, Lynda Carter, and Bruce Campbell certainly help). And of course there’s always The Incredibles, which isn’t exactly a comedy but is always worth watching.

12. Safety Not Guaranteed

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

A small-budget film about a group of journalists from a local magazine who go to investigate a newspaper ad seeking a willing time traveler, this movie caused a huge sensation and earned director Colin Trevorrow the chance to direct Jurassic World. And it’s a brilliantly funny movie about a weirdo (Mark Duplass) and the woman who’s drawn to him — there’s a lot of loss and pathos here, but the movie keeps a kind of indie-comedy vibe going throughout that actually helps you bond with the characters.

Also worth checking out:

Another weird time-travel movie that hit big around the same time is Hot Tub Time Machine, in which a group of middle-aged losers (and one younger guy) travel back to the 1980s at a ski resort. It’s much more of a standard gross-out comedy, but has some really nice character bits as well. And is pretty much stolen by Rob Corddry as the one jerk who doesn’t accept that you should just leave history the way it was. There are some clever uses of time travel in Hot Tub, and Chevy Chase is perfect as the hot-tub maintenance guy who knows what’s going on.

11. This Is The End/The World’s End

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

Two apocalyptic comedies came out around the same time, on opposite ends of the Atlantic Ocean. And they’re both funny and kind of thought-provoking, in different ways. Which one of these you prefer probably says a lot about you.

In The World’s End, a group of middle-aged dudes decide to recreate the massive pub crawl they did when they were teenagers. But it turns out the small town they grew up in has gotten a bit more cosmopolitan since they left. It’s looking a lot more like any town, anywhere, with very generic furnishings and boring people — and maybe that’s a sign of something more sinister. It’s a weird mashup of midlife-crisis-drinking and apocalyptic silliness, which drives towards a really dark ending.

In This is The End, Hollywood personalities play themselves at a party — where the Biblical apocalypse suddenly happens and everyone is screwed. Seth Rogen, James Franco and friends wind up cowering in a basement, being preyed upon by Emma Watson and strange monsters. And the whole thing gets more and more Biblical until it reaches an honest-to-God religious ending. For my money, World’s End is funnier but This is the End is cleverer.

Also worth checking out:

Seeking a Friend at the End of the World is another apocalyptic comedy, which doesn’t quite have the same bite as these other two but has some really neat moments and more of a focus on characters resigning themselves to the end of the world. Definitely worth watching. And Attack the Block isn’t really a comedy, per se, but it does have an apocalyptic feeling and a lot of funny bits.

10. Spaceballs

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

Mel Brooks’s Star Wars parody is from his later, weaker period, and it lacks some of the wit and inspiration that made Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein classics. Neither Bill Pullman’s Han Solo character nor Daphne Zuniga’s Princess Leia are particularly memorable, placing most of the comedic responsibilities on the rest of the cast.

Luckily, the supporting players are more than up to the challenge. Brooks roped in two SCTVpowerhouses, John Candy and Rick Moranis, to play the Chewbacca and Darth Vader roles, and these two are crucial to the film’s success. Candy’s Barf is about as lovable as any half-man/half-dog (he’s his own best friend) possibly could be, providing Spaceballs with the bare minimum of emotional investment needed for it to be more than a string of hit-or-miss comedic setpieces.

Still, it’s the villains, including Moranis’s Dark Helmet, Brooks’s President Skroob, and George Wyner’s Colonel Sandurz, who consistently steal the show. Moranis is particularly inspired as the least likely person to play the galaxy’s greatest villain, and the fact that he plays the part as though it’s any other Rick Moranis role gets funnier with each passing scene. The film’s constant willingness to break the fourth wall doesn’t necessarily make for the most satisfying narrative, but it does provide some fantastic gags, as we’ll see below.

Spaceballs is far from perfect, but it established many of the conventions that would dominate future space opera parodies, and it represents a comedy legend’s one great attempt to take on the science fiction genre. For that alone, it earns a place on our list.

Also worth checking out:

If you’re looking for an even sillier parody of Star Wars, look no further than Hardware Wars. If you’re looking for something of the unintentionally hilarious variety, I’d recommendStarcrash, the highly unauthorized Italian remake of Star Wars that may or may not star Christopher Plummer and David Hasselhoff. (It totally does.)

9. Cabin in the Woods

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon teamed up to make a satire of classic horror movies where a group of teens spend the weekend at a cabin in the woods… but this movie takes some bizarre turns and winds up being a lot more than that. The whole thing is brilliantly, sardonically funny, and the characters are so pigeonholed as stereotypes that they wind up growing beyond that and becoming something more. And in the process of commenting on how horror movies serve our need for clichéd bloodshed and stereotyped characters, this film winds up saying something profound about storytelling and the human race.

Also worth checking out:

Joss Whedon’s webseries Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is also screamingly funny and has a lot of dark observations about human nature. The two works have a sort of complimentary darkness and silliness to them, and you could almost imagine the Evil League of Evil being a consultant to the people organizing the mayhem in Cabin. Also, Whedon’s Firefly movie,Serenity, is very funny, though not really a comedy.

8. Army of Darkness/Shaun of the Dead

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

I’m probably stretching things a bit to consider these films science fiction. (I’ll countArmy of Darkness because there’s time travel and a Day the Earth Stood Still reference, and Shaun of the Dead makes it, because the zombies might have been caused by a meteorite, which is sort of like science.) As such, I’ll just combine these two brilliant horror comedies into one entry and say that, together, they just about add up to one science fiction comedy. And why not?

The debate as to whether Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness is the better film will likely rage on into eternity, but I think it’s fairly clear where I stand. Casting aside the last shreds of seriousness seen in Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness is nonstop badass quips and undead slapstick. That’s a winning combination right there, and Bruce Campbell has never been better than he is here.

Meanwhile, nobody puts more time and effort into their comedies these days than Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz might be the most intricately constructed comedy I’ve ever seen). Shaun of the Dead is no exception, taking the relatively mundane idea of a zombie comedy and adding onto it a dense web of callbacks and subtle visual gags that demand repeat viewings. It’s also just a funny, eminently quotable movie, with Nick Frost’s Ed getting all the best lines. Although I still don’t see the point of owning a car in London.

Also worth checking out:

For more Bruce Campbell goodness, look no further than Evil Dead 2. If you must look slightly further, then check out Bubba Ho-Tep, where Campbell plays an aging Elvis Presley in a nursing home who teams up with a black JFK to fight a mummy. It’s as awesome as it sounds. Fans of Shaun of the Dead should definitely give Wright and Pegg’s series Spaced a try. It’s not science fiction, but it’s one of the most proudly geeky series ever made.

7. Groundhog Day

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

It’s easy to forget how committed this film is to its time loop premise. Bill Murray is funny enough that I’d gladly watch a film about him as an asshole weatherman even if he wasn’t trapped reliving the same day for an unspecified span of time. (Director Harold Ramis once said it was thousands of years, but the official word now seems to favor about ten years.) The fact that the film keeps coming up with new takes on its premise is what elevates it to the heights of science fiction comedy.

Murray’s repeated attempts to woo Andie MacDowell, each day slightly modifying his behavior so that he can give her exactly what she wants, is one of the best examples of what makesGroundhog Day so good. On the one hand, it’s simply a funny idea, as the callbacks and repetition mount and build up comic momentum. But the film also wonders about what it really means to live a life without consequences, as by his hundredth attempt Murray isn’t even bothering to hide his preparations for his next attempt, fully aware no one will remember his sleaziness.

The film is also refreshingly willing to tackle darker territory. Murray’s attempt to save a homeless man are positively heartbreaking, and there’s real pathos in a nurse’s observation that this is simply his time. His ultimate despair and repeated attempts to kill himself are funny in the bleakest, grimmest way possible, but they’re part of the reason the film’s eventual happy ending feels so richly deserved.

Also worth checking out:

There’s at least one other Bill Murray/Harold Ramis science fiction collaboration I can think of that’s worth watching, but I can’t quite remember the name. Maybe it’ll occur to me later in the list.

6. Tremors

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

Of all the homages to fifties monster movies,Tremors was one of the first and it’s still the best. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward make a wonderfully stupid, profane pair as they try to evade the massive earthworms that have come to devour their desert town. The other twelve residents of Perfection, Nevada, are just as fun to watch, with the survivalist couple and their well-armored rec room a particular highlight.

The film reverently captures the charm of old monster movies without resorting to cheap parody for laughs. Instead, the humor comes from exploring how actual people might react to being attacked by fifty-foot earthworms, and the results are pretty damn hilarious. The gloriously terrible special effects are also part of the appeal of Tremors – if, as is sadly inevitable, they ever remake Tremors, I can only hope the Graboids don’t make the leap to CGI. Some things really ought to be sacred.

Also worth checking out:

Slither is a much more recent homage to this kind of movie, and it has the added advantage of starring Nathan Fillion. For more cult eighties movies, there’s always The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension, which is sort of paying homage to every film ever made.

5. Ghostbusters

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

Oh yeah, this is the Murray/Ramis film I was thinking of. The special effects inGhostbusters haven’t necessarily stood the test of time, but the movie’s enduring themes of “Who you gonna call?” and not being afraid of no ghosts have kept it relevant well into the 21st century.

Day Aykroyd has always struck me in interviews as being far more interested in the paranormal than any normal person should be. (It’s possible his claims that he sincerely believes we will soon be visited by ghosts are all part of an elaborate joke, but if so, that is some serious commitment to a bit.) Either way, his and Harold Ramis’s complete belief in the seriousness of the ghostly threat lends the film some much-needed authenticity. The rest of the cast, including Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson, all get their moments to bring the funny, and nobody wastes their opportunity.

Still, this is pretty much completely Bill Murray’s movie. Legend once had it that he didn’t even read the script, instead electing to ad-lib all of his lines. That’s since been denied by pretty much everyone involved, but his hilariously natural, seemingly off-the-cuff readings make it easy to see why the rumor took hold in the first place. Besides, he really made me rethink the wisdom of strapping an unlicensed particle accelerator to my back, and that’s really just a public service.

Also worth checking out:

Whatever you may have heard, Ghostbusters II is a pretty decent film and worth checking out, if only for Cheech Marin’s random cameo (his one line is still stuck in my head years after I first saw the movie). The eighties was something of a golden age of science fiction comedies, and there are no shortage of other movies to check out, including Weird Science, Short Circuit, andEarth Girls Are Easy.

4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

It’s the rare science fiction franchise that has the guts to make one of its big-budget movies into a fish-out-of-water comedy, but that’s exactly what Star Trek does here. I’m not sure anyone would have guessed the series would have concluded the loose trilogy begun in Wrath of Khan with a lighthearted time travel story about saving humpback whales in eighties San Francisco, and I really doubt anyone would have guessed such a movie would end up being one of the best Star Trek movies.

It helps that the entire cast has so completely grown into their roles. William Shatner is legitimately good as Captain Kirk here, and he displays a newfound willingness to not take himself seriously that would serve him well in pretty much all of his future roles. Leonard Nimoy, who also directed the film, is appropriately spacey as the recently resurrected Spock (though that also might have something to do with all the LDS he took during the sixties). The always brilliant DeForrest Kelley adds another dimension to their adventures in the past as McCoy angrily surveys the state of 20th century medicine.

Then there’s Uhura and Chekov’s attempt to find the nuclear vessels in Alameda, which takes the form of an amusingly unrehearsed scene where they ask real passersby in San Francisco where the ships are. Speaking of nuclear vessels, it’s quite possible that, without this film, Chekov’s inability to pronounced his v’s would never have taken on such legendary status. And there are few things quite as enjoyable as watching Scotty wrangle with a primitive Apple computer.

Also worth checking out:

The two Star Trek fans in Free Enterprise are way too insufferable for their own good, but the film is worthwhile if only because William Shatner takes his capacity for self-parody to its logical conclusion. In this case, that conclusion is a rap interpretation of Julius Caesar where he plays all the parts.

3. Sleeper

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

Woody Allen only once turned his attention to the science fiction genre, but it was more than enough to show he knew what he was doing. Supposedly a “wildly distorted” adaptation of When the Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells, Allen’s story hits upon pretty much every science fiction trope that doesn’t involve space. From cryogenics to dystopias to changing sexual mores to slapstick robots – it’s all here, and it’s all hysterical.

The decision to freeze his character in 1973 and awaken him in the 22nd century was undoubtedly part of the movie’s success, as it would have been impossible to believe such a staid, repressive future society could ever create an oddball like Allen’s trademark character. Besides, Allen’s unique status allows him to return to similar territory he tackled in Bananas, as he becomes the world’s unlikeliest revolutionary.

Although Allen’s turn as a robotic butler and the orgasmatron are justly famous, perhaps the film’s best running gag is Allen’s willingness to wildly fabricate 20th century history. He calmly agrees with a historian that sportscaster Howard Cosell was used to punish political prisoners, he tells Diane Keaton that giving guns to criminals was considered a public service, and he claims that Bela Lugosi was the mayor of New York. I wish I could get cryogenically frozen, if only so that I could get the chance to make up historical “facts” half as good as those.

Also worth checking out:

Mike Judge’s Idiocracy tackles a lot of the same material, although the dystopian elements ofSleeper are replaced with a more straightforward brand of dumbassery.

2. Galaxy Quest

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

Galaxy Quest is a rare trifecta: it’s a great science fiction comedy, it’s a brilliant comedyabout science fiction, and it actually works as a pretty decent science fiction film in its own right. The film never loses sight of its parody of Star Trek‘s most cliched tropes or its affectionate skewering of the various neuroses of the has-been actors, and it’s a tribute to Galaxy Quest‘s comic dexterity that it perfectly balances both threads. It’s also about a million times better than any film starring Tim Allen should be.

Admittedly, some of that is down to his supporting cast. Alan Rickman long ago passed the point where he was even capable of turning in a bad performance, and here he actually has good material to work with as a seriously tortured British thespian who absolutely despises his catchphrase. The movie’s deconstruction of science fiction wouldn’t have seemed quite so definitive if Sigourney Weaver hadn’t been involved, and she shows even more comedic chops here than she did in Ghostbusters. Tony Shalhoub and Sam Rockwell get tremendous comic mileage out of the latter’s existential angst over whether he’s the doomed extra or the plucky comic relief, maybe the film’s best bit of sustained meta-comedy.

Even so, one shouldn’t dismiss Tim Allen’s contribution just because the rest of his filmography is so full of, well, total crap (the Toy Story movies excepted, of course). More than any other recent actor, Allen captures all that was so distinctive about William Shatner: the hamminess, the bravado, the willingness to turn in terrible performances in terrible films.

It’s an open question whether a better actor could have so fully inhabited the Captain Kirk role; in fact, I might go so far as to say he was perfect for the role. Considering the stories that Allen “purposefully” tried to replicate Shatner’s legendary dickishness and prima donna tendencies on set, I’d say he knew that too. Whatever works, I guess.

Sigourney Weaver Seduces Aliens, Drops Dope Rhymes In New Galaxy Quest DVD

Just how multitalented is Sigourney Weaver? Here she is, seducing two aliens and then doing a rap…

Also worth checking out:

There’s plenty of other Star Trek parodies out there, but I don’t think any will ever top theFuturama episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before.” Or, for that matter, any episode with Zapp Brannigan, who Matt Groening has described as 40% Kirk, 60% Shatner.

1. Back to the Future

The 13 Greatest Science Fiction Comedies Of All Time

The Particulars:

Quite simply, there’s never been a more complete science fiction comedy. It’s legitimately interested in the mechanics of time travel, placing a time paradox at the heart of the film’s central conflict. The film never backs away from the admittedly creepy comedic potential of a mother unwittingly falling in love with her time traveling son, and the film’s exploration of Marty McFly’s culture shock and unwitting anachronisms hilariously climaxes in rocking out just a little too hard at his parents’ dance. Back to the Futurealso respects the rest of the science fiction genre, as can be seen in Marty’s brilliant disguise as Darth Vader, extraterrestrial from the planet Vulcan.

Michael J. Fox plays the kind of likable, active protagonist I still don’t understand why we no longer see in comedies. Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown might just be the definitive mad scientist in modern film, and it’s hard to imagine a more perfect bully than Thomas F. Wilson’s Biff. Lea Thompson is cute and hilarious as Marty’s mom, and Crispin Glover dials down his total insanity to steal the film as George McFly.

I’d keep going, but I think I need to go rewatch Back to the Future now.

Also worth checking out:

Why, Back to the Future Part II and Part III, of course. The first sequel might be the best pure science fiction of the bunch (though it’s not as funny as the original), while the third is basically a payoff for all the running gags set up in the first two movies by doing them all over again in the old West. Which is, to be honest, kind of brilliant.


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BEYOND THE PALE giveaway on Goodreads

Beyond the Pale  is a dark fantasy anthology featuring eleven short stories by award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Saladin Ahmed, Peter S. Beagle, Heather Brewer, Jim Butcher, Kami Garcia, Nancy Holder, Gillian Philip & Jane Yolen!
HerzBtP
 
There is currently a free Goodreads Giveaway you can enter. SPECIAL BONUS: The copies being given away are signed by Peter S. Beagle, Jim Butcher, Kami Garcia, and Nancy Holder!

Praise for Beyond the Pale:

“Beyond the Pale features a stellar, diverse line-up, brimming with talent and imagination.”
–   New York Times bestseller Jason Hough, author of The Darwin Elevator

“From the hovel of a Middle Eastern hermit, to remote islands of Scotland, to a moss-dripping bayou road of the American South, and into lands uncharted, there is a singular truth: no matter where you go, you’re never far from the darkness, the unknown … the Pale. Beyond the Pale is a rich, diverse collection of tales that will haunt and inspire in equal measure.”
–   New York Times bestseller Rachel Caine, author of The Weather Watchers

“Beyond the edge of fear and dread, shadows tell each other beautiful and frightening stories. Crack open this book and listen to the voices.”
–   New York Times bestseller Richard Kadrey, author of Sandman Slim

“Beyond the Pale is the kind of thing to keep loaded on your reader in case you need a quick fix of fine fantasy by one of the field’s finest fantasy writers.”
–   Nebula Award-nominated Greg van Eekhout, author of California Bones

“Light a black candle and crack open this collection of short stories from writers who are more than mere wordsmiths. A thrill runs up my spine as I wonder, could these scribes be messengers from in-between worlds sent here to prepare us for our own crossings? The veil thins and the candle flickers. Fiction? I’m not so sure.”
–   New York Times bestseller Frank Beddor, author of The Looking Glass Wars


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Interview with ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish’ middle-grade author Mo O’Hara

Originally from America, Mo moved to London because she wanted to live abroad but spoke no foreign languages. After a brief and unsuccessful stint as a serving wench at the Tower of London Mo found work as an actress and comedy performer. It was when she toured the UK as a storyteller that she started writing for kids.   Mo’s debut novel, ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish’ was published by Macmillan in the UK, the USA and Germany this year.  It’s follow up ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish the Sea-quel’ came out in the UK in July 2013 and will be out in March in the US. ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish- Fins of Fury’ will be out in Jan 2014 in the UK.

OharaMo

For what age audience do you write?

I mostly write funny books for kids that are between 6 and 11.

Henry: ‘Fins of Fury’ is clearly a play on the Bruce Lee movie, Fists of Fury. Are there any plans for a tie-in with AMC’s The Walking Dead? The Wading Dead, perhaps?

Tell us about your latest book. 

My latest book is ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish- The SeaQuel’. It’s been described as Finding Nemo meets Shawn of the Dead.  It’s a classic story of a boy and his undead fish but Frankie (the zombie goldfish) is both funny and fierce.

Henry: Finding Nemo meets Shawn of the Dead!!! Can I just say, this is why I love writing and reading kid’s books. You’ve inspired me. My next project will be a dystopian board book: The Very Hunger Games Caterpillar.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book? 

I hope my readers get a good story, some good laughs and no paper cuts.  These are all important for a positive experience of a book.

Henry: As my friend Ame Dyckman says, papercuts are “only a flesh wound.”

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I find starting the story the most difficult. I think I have an inbuilt fear of a blank page or a blank screen. Once I have something down, no matter how rough it is, I can keep going and make it better.  I will book dentist appointments though to avoid starting a new story (and that’s pretty bad).

Henry: I agree. Revising is much easier than getting that first draft out of my head.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

There are stories everywhere: open your ears and your eyes.  Also, just believe you can do it.

Henry: Quite so. I was presenting to an elementary school class, and I noticed that one boy had one sneaker that was totally shredded. Not worn and in need of replacement, but as if it had exploded. When the plot gels, I will write The Boy with the Exploding Sneakers. Brandon Sanderson said his book ‘Steelheart’ came to him when he was frustrated by traffic gridlock.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I had a boy tell me that my book was the first ‘proper’ book that he read cover to cover ever in his life. To be someone’s ‘first book’ is an amazing thing. For me that is beyond ‘WOW.’

Henry: Plus, he called it a ‘proper’ book. I had a parent tell me that after reading Nimpentoad, their child was willing to eat mushrooms. One small step…

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Join writers’ groups but join positive ones that will support you in your journey to publication. I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators) and it has given me support, advice, laughs, great friends and invaluable experience over the years. Also, READ, READ, READ!

Henry: Excellent advice. I too have found SCBWI membership invaluable.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I only came across this after his death but this quote from Nelson Mandela moved me. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, because love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Henry: Beautiful. I taught my sons when they were very young that people are like flowers. They come in all different colors, and the world is better for having diversity of colors.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I treat myself when I finish something. Sometimes a little motivation like a coffee or a cool notebook can spur me on. Sometimes, I admit, doughnuts are involved. 🙂

Henry: The therapeutic value of doughnuts is well-known. It’s a scientific fact. And scientific facts are the best kind of facts.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I would love to Teleport. I get really motion sick so if I could travel sickness free that would be amazing. Although I wonder if you can get Teleportation sickness? Hmmmm? That would be really unlucky.

Henry: I would’ve guessed you opting for breathing underwater (to play with Zombie Goldfish). At least Teleportation Sickness would be over quickly. My big fear with teleportation is rematerializing partially inside something else. That will leave a mark!

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

I thought about this for ages but I don’t think I could resist the urge to do some literary matchmaking, but that could go horribly wrong. So, I might just see if Shakespeare is free and the two of us can just grab a pizza and chat.

Henry: Only one guest!? This is known as bogarting the Bard.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

It’s gotta be a dragon. Dragons are just the best. On all levels. Smart, fierce, breathe fire. They’re the best.

Henry: No argument. Best cinematic dragons: The Hobbit, Dragonslayer, and Shrek.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I play with my kids and my kittens, I sing (until people tell me to stop), and I hang out with friends and talk. My daughter once said to me, ‘So talking and having wine or coffee for you is like playing in the playground for me isn’t it?’ I have very perceptive children.

Henry: Your daughter is brilliant.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

‘Here lies Mo. It was her time to go.’

Henry: Famous for granting my peculiar wish, she wrote a book combining zombies and fish.

Where can readers find your work? At all good bookshops, both real and virtual.

Henry: Mo’s website is at http://www.moohara.co.uk/

This interview also appears on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Is a Zombie Invasion Possible?

AMC’s series “The Walking Dead” has helped bring zombies to the fore in pop culture, and has (dare I say it) spawned various discussions about the real possibilities of zombie-like behaviors. This fun, yet terrifying, infographic is courtesy of http://wish.co.uk/blog/zombie-invasion-infographic/. Click once to zoom.

Zombie-Invasion-revised1


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Terrifying Movie Adaptations of Children’s Books

What happens when you give creative adults who like horror too much time? You get Cracked Magazine’s terrifying spin on classic children’s tales. Thanks for the nightmares, guys. Images below are from http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_387_23-terrifying-movie-adaptations-childrens-books_p23/

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Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

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The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone

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The Little Engine that Could

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Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

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Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

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Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi

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Freckle Juice by Judy Blume

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Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

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Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

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Where’s Waldo? by Martin Handford

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Animorphs by K.A. Applegate

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My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

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My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville.

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Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

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One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell

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The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

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Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein


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Interview with ‘The Boy at the End of the World’ author Greg Van Eekhout

Greg Van Eekhout is a native Southern Californian currently living in Pacific Beach. He finds a lot of inspiration from walking on the beach, looking out across the vast, deep sea, and finding weird dead things on the shore. He once thought he found a human leg, but it turned out to be a bleached squid.

Henry: I had the pleasure of meeting Greg at San Diego Comic-Con, but he did not mention his penchant for body parts.

VanEekhout

For what age audience do you write?

I write adult books and middle-grade (roughly for  ages 7 – 13) books, primarily science fiction and fantasy.

Tell us about your latest book.

My most recently written book is the second part of a fantasy trilogy, ostensibly for adults. It’s about wizards in Los Angeles who get their powers from consuming the bones of extinct creatures, like mammoths, sabertooth tigers, griffins, and dragons, which they find in the La Brea Tar Pits, among other places. But my most recently published book is ‘The Boy at the End of the World’, a middle-grade science fiction nove labout a boy, Fisher, who was part of a program to save the human race from extinction. He wakes up in the far future inside an Ark, a facility where he and hundreds of other human specimens were frozen in hopes that, when the Earth became once more inhabitable, the human race could repopulate the Earth. But when the facility is attacked by drones, Fisher is the only survivor. Along with a broken robot named Click and a cloned pygmy mammoth named Protein, Fisher sets off on foot across the vast wilderness in search of a another Ark and more human survivors. It’s an adventure/survival story with lots of strange creatures (giant parrots, piranha-crocs, weaponized prairie dogs) and killer robots.

Henry: I love the names Click the robot and Protein the mammoth. And piranha-crocs? That’s like an armored Cuisinart.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

Mostly, I hope readers get an entertaining ride, that they enjoy the jokes, the banter among the characters, the friendships, the action, and that they get a sense of what the world might look like after people have been gone for thousands of years.

Henry: You had me at weaponized prairie dogs.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

At a certain point in the writing of any book, you become absolutely certain that it’s terrible and is only getting more terrible with every word you write. This is normal. You just have to keep going, push your way through, and have faith that, through practice and experience and determination, you will get to the end. Then, either you’ll find things aren’t as terrible as you thought they were, or you’ll square your shoulders and face the challenge of making the terrible words and sentences and chapters better.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

There is no TEAM in CANNIBAL.

Henry: And there is no “I” in apocalypse.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

Meeting readers is always a great experience, especially kid readers. It’s an amazing experience when someone tells me that a thing I made helped cheer them up, or inspired them somehow, or helped them pass time in a fun way.

Henry: I completely agree. I did an elementary school visit and got an entire classroom fired up about finishing a science fiction picture book that we started together.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I have nothing original to say. The basics are this: read a lot, write a lot, and learn to finish what you write. Don’t focus on getting published. Focus on producing the best work you can, and have fun doing it.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I like what E.B. White said about writing for children: “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

Is it strange to drink coffee out of those big plastic paint buckets? No, I don’t really have any rituals.

Henry: Hmmm. I had you pegged for a Cthulhu-worshiping entrail-reading ritual kind of guy.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Matter-Eater Lad was a member of the Legion of Superheroes, and he could eat anything. But his rival, Calorie Queen, could eat anything and it would give her super strength. I want to be Calorie Queen.

Henry: I am Calorie Queen, but without the super strength.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Oscar Wilde for the conversation. Julia Child for help in the kitchen and tales of spycraft. William Shakespeare for the jokes.

Henry: Julia Child is a brilliant suggestion, since she brings both interesting experiences and culinary expertise to the party. And you can’t go wrong with Shakespeare. I just wrote a picture book based on Mercutio’s speech about Queen Mab in Romeo & Juliet.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I’m more interested in real creatures, actually. I mean, giant squid, right? Eyes the size of dinner planes? Beaks that can snap cables? They fight whales?

Henry: It is a scientific fact that giant squid, like honey badgers, are badass. I agree that real creatures are amazing in their own right. I am writing a scifi early chapter book where the alien creatures have bizarre powers that are based on real Earth creature abilities.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I have a girlfriend and a dog and live near the beach. I have a tiny balcony garden and I like to scream at the tomatoes to hurry up and ripen. I like to grill things.

Henry: I read somewhere that screaming at tomatoes encourages them to grow. But don’t try it with kale, because the kale will cop an attitude. Plus, I don’t yell at Brussels Sprouts because I don’t want to encourage them. By “grilling”, I assume you mean grilling food rather than interrogating suspects.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I don’t want a tombstone. I want my diseased body set aflame and catapulted over the walls of my enemies.

Henry: A proven tactic since the Middle Ages. Well played, sir. They could also use a trebuchet to hurl your tombstone after you to inflict additional damage upon your enemies.

Where can readers find your work?

Pretty much anywhere books are sold. If your local bookstore doesn’t have them on the shelf, they’ll almost certainly be happy to order you your very own copies. They’re also available at the usual online places. And here in San Diego, we have the wonderful science fiction bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy, and they’ve always got my stuff in stock, often autographed.

Henry: Yes, Mysterious Galaxy is a great indie bookstore. We have our books there too.

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.