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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Author and critic Glen Dromgoole wrote about The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure in his Texas authors column, which appears in The Abilene Reporter News, The Bryan-College Station Eagle, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, and many other newspapers across the lone star state. That installment of Dromgoole’s column also covers works from Elmer Kelton, James A. Mangum, Mike Kearby, Pete Brewton, Carol Jo Parsons, Ronda Thompson, L. C. Hayden, and Judith McNaught.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure has received a nomination for a 2007 Allbooks Reviewer’s Choice Award. Allbooks will announce the winners in January 2007.

The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure is a campy, fast-paced novel about a young swordswoman who can’t stay out of trouble but really just wants to buy some seeds. I tried to make it exciting and funny. Toni Davis also contributed to that novel.

The Whole 9 is a new interactive site for creative types to share their work and network with each other. Please see my writing portfolio at The Whole 9.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I’ve added Texas Tour, another look at Texas-related books. I’ve also updated my Link Trade page with new resources.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Books.

After its authors appeared on Oprah and various other programs, You, On a Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management started selling out everywhere. You, The Owner's Manual has also flown back up the nonfiction charts, while Suzanne Somers is enjoying similar success with her alternative medicine book Ageless: The Naked Truth about Bioidentical Hormones.

If The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer sold anywhere near as much as those books, it would raise an incredible sum for the fight against cancer; please take a moment to read about The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer.

The Acorn Gathering:
Writers Uniting Against Cancer
Music and movies.

Visit Rainbow World Radio Presents StoneWall Society Birthday Show to hear new music from gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender musicians CRAYMO, Deb Barber, Elton Costello, fundamentalists, Andrew Suvalsky, Lipstick Conspiracy, D.C. Anderson, Daphne Rubin Vega, David Brown, Eliane Ellis, Joshua Klipp, Ember Swift, Moon Trent, Ochi, Shawn Ryan, Soce The Elemental Wizard, Oestrongenix, Tomas Bell, Tommy Johns, and Emily Nyman.

I recently heard and loved The Saints Are Coming, a CD single that combines two of my favorite bands, U2 and Green Day. They performed the song during half-time at the Superdome, when it reopened for a Saints game on September 25, 2006.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a sure-bet for one of the top-selling DVD’s this holiday season, but I think Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition will also be popular. The alternate versions of the first two Superman movies make that box set appealing, and the enjoyable movie Superman Returns should find a larger audience on DVD than it did during a crowded box-office summer.

To promote the AIDS-themed movie 3 Needles and support AIDS Prevention in Africa, visit www.MySpace.com/3Needles.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Listen for my interview with the founder of StoneWall Society on the internet radio station Rainbow World Radio; it will premiere on November 15, 2006 at 7:00 PM eastern time and
run through December 1, 2006.

StoneWall Society promotes music, books, artwork, and other media that feature positive images of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

I previously received two 2002 Pride in the Arts Awards and a 2003 Pride in the Arts Award.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Book review: All We Have Is Now

Robert Taylor’s novel All We Have Is Now skillfully captures some of the worlds in which gay men find themselves: embraced by the supportive environment of the theater, hated in a small town, loved by a soul mate, or living with the grief of someone taken by AIDS or a hate crime. For narrator Ian McBride, however, the most troubling environment is one of openness and vulnerability. Ultimately, Taylor weaves a tale that not only reflects all those realities but also gives hope for gays, as well as anyone else who might feel different or isolated.

I especially enjoyed the stage scenes, in which McBride not only acts out but also internalizes some of the world’s most beloved plays. His interaction with the characters he portrays becomes an important and touching part of his budding relationship with a young admirer.

--Duane Simolke, author of The Acorn Stories, Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, Holding Me Together, The Return of Innocence (with Toni Davis), and New Readings of Winesburg, Ohio.

Friday, October 20, 2006

OpenCam: My review for This Week In Texas.


While chat rooms might feel like familiar territory for many gay men, thrillers aren’t familiar territory for many gay movies. In fact, thrillers often feature gay villains and gay stereotypes. OpenCam might include a gay villain—considering that the entire cast seems gay—but it also rises above stereotypes.

After giving up on a lasting relationship, Manny (Andreau Thomas) spends much of his time trolling a chat room for gay men in Washington, D.C. That distraction often keeps him from his artwork, and from his best friend, Maurice (Ben Green). Maurice obviously wants their friendship to go further, and his emotional openness sometimes gets a bit scary.

An attempted robbery causes Manny and Maurice to cross paths with Hamilton (Amir Darvish), a detective who later asks Manny to help him solve a series of murders. The murders not only involve the chat room Manny cruises but also involve people he knows. As it turns out, several of Manny’s acquaintances seem suspicious.

Amir Darvish creates an intriguing hero—seductive, dangerous, and concerned. However, Andreau Thomas is the star, giving Manny enough faults to make at least one of his acquaintances want to kill him but enough charm to make audience care what happens to him.

Writer/director Robert Gaston keeps taunting viewers by making certain characters seem like the obvious culprit but then planting doubts about the killer’s true identity. Gaston moderates the pacing by focusing on the relationships between the characters, while interspersing scenes of danger. He also makes good use of shadows and light, especially in scenes where a character on the Web cam obviously receives an unexpected guest.

Sex and nudity play an important role in the film, but the emotional conflicts and the growing sense of danger make it even more engaging. A little bit of humor even sneaks in now and then, usually from sarcasm, but also from some playfully romantic scenes between Hamilton and Manny. The soundtrack features an enjoyable mixture of dance music and alternative rock, with artists such as Warren Cuccurullo (a lead guitarist for Frank Zappa, Missing Persons, and Duran Duran) and 2005 Outmusic Award Nominees Keyth Lawrence and the Purple Circle.

Without giving away any of the ending, something apparently happens between two of the characters that doesn’t quite show up in the film’s concluding scenes. Maybe it’s implied and I just didn’t catch it, but it seemed distractingly missing. That is my only complaint about the entire movie, though. OpenCam is sexy and suspenseful.

Read more about this movie at OpenCamMovie.Com.

--DuaneSimolke.Com, author of The Acorn Stories, Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, Holding Me Together, and New Readings of Winesburg, Ohio.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

This is entry #250 for this blog! Thanks for reading!

It looks like some great book-to-movie adaptations are coming to theaters, like Running With Scissors, Flags of Our Fathers, Eragon, The Prestige, and James Bond: 007: Casino Royale.

I’ve recently updated the following pages: The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure and DuaneSimolke.Com: Canada.

Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema: My review for This Week In Texas.

Vito Russo's 1981 book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies explored how movies portray gays and lesbians. That book led to the documentary The Celluloid Closet, from directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. While both incarnations of The Celluloid Closet remain ground-breaking and essential, Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema focuses mostly on gay films, made from a gay or gay-friendly perspective.

Of course, only a few such films were widely available when Russo wrote his work. Now gay movies line the walls of video stores and the shelves of many gay homes. We just needed some kind of map to help us navigate those movies.

Directors Lisa Ades and Lesli Klainberg provide that map with this exciting new DVD. Though their 82-minute feature sometimes feels a little too brief and rushed, Ades and Klainberg carry the readers through important events in gay history and how those events impacted gay cinema. They also look at how changing attitudes, the popularity of film festivals, the advent of affordable DVDs, and many other changes made gay films a much larger market. If Ades and Klainberg create a sequel to this documentary—and they should—they might also examine the impact of gay TV networks and gay-owned film companies; of course, it might take a few more years to see that impact.

The entire film relies on a high-speed mixture of interviews and film excerpts. The resulting documentary is relentlessly informative and often amusing. Comments from Gus Van Sant, John Waters, Wilson Cruz, Guinevere Turner, Peter Paige, Alan Cumming, and many others in the film industry not only show why these films matter so much to gay viewers but also help trace the evolution of gay cinema. From obscure films to Brokeback Mountain, Ades and Klainberg help viewers see the importance of gay-themed movies. The DVD’s extras include even more interview footage, grouped thematically; my favorite of those features is “First Gay Movie Memories,” with the interviewees telling how particular gay scenes affected them.

Fabulous! succeeds as a gay cultural study, as a reference to help viewers decide which movies to buy and rent, and as an entertaining look at film-making. Even the negative portrayals this film examines will help inform film-lovers. Ades and Klainberg prove that queer cinema is as amazingly diverse as the queer community that supports it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mark Kendrick, author of Stealing Some Time and Into This World We’re Thrown, wrote the following review of The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure, at Amazon.Com.

In 'The Return of Innocence', Duane Simolke once again proves his writing mastery. Populated by at least two dozen characters, the story focuses on Sasha, a young female swordswoman, and her quest to destroy the evil Tay-lii. With well-fleshed out characters at her side, Sasha (or Innocence) goes on a classic fantasy adventure through the world of Theln, which exists right along the dimensional edge of another one of Duane's stories called 'Degranon'. So, along with his other offerings in the genre of contemporary fiction and sci-fi, Duane has produced this fantasy story; again proving his ability to write in any genre he needs.

To me, the mark of an excellent writer is the ability to write in a voice not his own - and to stay consistent in that character. Duane achieves that in spades by writing from the point of view of a young female warrior and taking it to its inevitable conclusion in 'The Return of Innocence'. Another mark of an excellent writer is the ability to shift genres when necessary to achieve an aim. I have read stories from three genres that Duane has written in and I've found them superb. This is an author you don't want to miss!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Music, Another Gay Movie, Another Gay Science Fiction Novel.

Please visit this new page: Music Reviews.

Watch This Week In Texas for my review of the racy comedy Another Gay Movie.

If you don’t want to read about gays or people of color, you won’t like the revised, second edition of Degranon. Though it takes place on other worlds, all the characters are people we might call Native American, African American, Hispanic, Asian, or Middle Eastern. Some of them are also gay. In fact, you could call it a gay science fiction novel. For the revised, second edition, I rewrote three of the main characters as gay men, gave a larger role to a lesbian police officer (known as a “Maintainer”), and further explored the “closet” metaphor that appeared in the first edition. Degranon deals with themes of diversity, censorship, and religious violence. It takes place in an alternate dimension, with some of our prejudices and other problems looked at from unusual angles. More importantly for most scifi fans, though, it delivers fast-paced adventure and constant twists.



Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure

By Duane Simolke

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Like gay movies? On September 19, 2006, Wolfe Releasing is releasing Fabulous! The Story Of Queer Cinema. That DVD will include interviews with Ang Lee, Christine Vachon, Wilson Cruz, Guinevere Turner, Gus Van Sant, John Waters, B. Ruby Rich, John Cameron Mitchell, Jenni Olson, and many others.

According to a press release from Wolfe, “Produced for the Independent Film Channel and featured at the year’s top film festivals, FABULOUS! picks up where THE CELLULOID CLOSET left off and explores the emergence of gay and lesbian films from the beginning of the gay rights movement in the 1960s to the ‘New Queer Cinema’ of the 90s, the proliferation and influence of gay and lesbian films festivals, the discovery by the film business of the gay market, and the explosion of gay images in the mainstream media.”

Visit Wolfe Releasing for more details, and please read my gay movie reviews at TWIT.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In a review of The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure at Allbookreviews.com, Bob Medak suggests the book “For lovers of fantasy and just a good book to read.”

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wolfe Releasing sent me the following press release, about a must-see movie.


SAN JOSE, CA —Wolfe Releasing, the largest exclusive distributor of LGBT film and video, is proud to announce the theatrical release date for 3 NEEDLES. Thom Fitzgerald’s explosive portrait of the global AIDS crisis will open on Friday, December 1, 2006, in conjunction with World AIDS Day. The film, which depicts three intimate and diverse stories of people dealing with the AIDS crisis in China, Canada and Africa, stars Lucy Liu, Chloë Sevigny, Stockard Channing, Olympia Dukakis, Sandra Oh, and Shawn Ashmore.


On December 1, 2006, 3 NEEDLES will open in a limited release pattern in approximately 20 markets, in conjunction with World AIDS Day. Wolfe Releasing, in collaboration with Covington USA, will work closely with non-profit organizations and community groups in a series of benefit screenings to help spread the powerful message of the film. World AIDS Day was started by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1988 to focus global attention on the growing HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the day is currently managed by the World AIDS Campaign.


Thom Fitzgerald, who previously directed THE HANGING GARDEN, BEEFCAKE, and THE EVENT, created 3 NEEDLES to present a portrait of people all over the world who struggle to sustain their spirits in the face of the deadly AIDS crisis. This luminous film visits rural China, a plantation in South Africa, and Montreal’s porn industry, to tell three separate yet universal stories from the pandemic.


In China, Ping (Lucy Liu) is a pregnant young woman running a black market blood collection scam that creates a mini-epidemic in a rural village. In Montreal, Denys (Shawn Ashmore) is a porn actor hiding his positive HIV status in order to continue working and supporting his mother (Stockard Channing), who herself goes to extreme lengths to provide for the family’s future. And, in Africa, Sister Clara (Chloë Sevigny) is a young novice nun driven to convert the rapidly dying Africans to Catholicism before it’s too late who makes a desperate bargain with a corrupt plantation owner to help prevent the spread of HIV in the region. Sandra Oh and Olympia Dukakis portray nuns in the same order who accompany her on the journey.


The film has already begun gathering widespread acclaim from around the world. Bruce Kirkland of the Toronto Sun said, “The spectre of AIDS has never been treated on film with the bravado, the scope and the ambition of Thom Fitzgerald's drama 3 NEEDLES.” And, Time Out UK hailed the film’s “stunning photography and powerful performances.” And, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer described the film as “Courageous…it has a raw beauty and energy.”


As previously announced, the US release version of 3 NEEDLES reinstates Thom Fitzgerald’s intended structure, content and tone, including approximately 20 minutes of crucial footage, such as a controversial sex scene featuring Stockard Channing in a Montreal strip club.


3 NEEDLES recently had a gala premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where actress Lucy Liu honored pioneering AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho, and the film is currently screening at major film festivals across the United States. And, on July 11, 2006, Lucy Liu will be honored at the annual Video Software Dealer’s Association conference with the group’s Humanitarian Award for her work in this film, as well as with UNICEF as a Celebrity Ambassador working on Pakistani earthquake relief and HIV/AIDS issues in China.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Web Page, Gay Pride, Gay/Lesbian Movie, Fantasy Novel

Added new page, Book Index: Genres, Themes, and Keywords.

Summer 2006 Gay Pride Event. If you’re near Virginia this weekend, remember the first StoneWall Society Pride in the Arts Festival, which will include readings from two of my books.

Visit This Week In Texas to read my review of the gay/lesbian-themed film Floored By Love.

I mentioned before that you can read about the comical novel The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure at Locus Online, the online companion to science fiction publication Locus Magazine. Also, an upcoming issue of the magazine itself will include information about The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure, possibly even a review!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Gay Pride Event

Walton, West Virginia, June 16-18. The first StoneWall Society Pride in the Arts Festival will include spoken word artists reading passages from my books The Acorn Stories and Holding Me Together. This gay pride event will take place at Longfork Campgrounds and Resort. I won’t be able to attend, but I’m honored by the inclusion of my works, and I hope some of my readers can go. The event also includes movies, music, and visual arts. According to StoneWall Society’s founder, “The Pride In The Arts Festival is a direct offspring of the Annual Pride In The Arts Awards presented by StoneWall Society. The goal of the PITA Awards and Festival is to provide support and to help create an awareness of our community artists.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Vote for The Southeastern Science Fiction Achievement Award (the SESFA), 2006.

Torchwood, the Dr. Who spin-off, involves a bisexual con-man from the future. The character has appeared in a few episodes of Dr. Who.

Will the Aquaman TV series happen? Watch for details at AquamanTV: Mercy Reef.

Read about The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure at Locus Online, the online companion to science fiction publication Locus Magazine.

Discuss The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure at The Dragon Page: Podcasts, reviews, and more of fantasy works.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Read about The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure at the science fiction fantasy site SFRevu.

“SFRevu is a monthly fan/webzine focused on Science Fiction and Fantasy, which features reviews of books, films, and other media, Interviews with top authors and notable newcomers, and columns with the latest releases in books, DVDs, and comics and upcoming films. Our aim is to find the best SF out there and share it with other fans of the genre. SFRevu has editors in both the US and UK and regularly includes coverage of SF from around the world.”

Monday, May 01, 2006

Unveiled

Movie review by Duane Simolke, author of the West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories, for This Week In Texas.

(German with some Persian. English subtitles.)

Named one of the Top Ten Films of 2005 by The Advocate and endorsed by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, this acclaimed political drama stars Jasmin Tabatabai (Bandits) as Fariba, an Iranian lesbian.

After Fariba flees persecution in Iran, she finds it difficult to find permanent asylum in Germany. In desperation, she assumes the identity of a deceased man and accepts a factory job. While constantly working and plotting toward citizenship, she falls in love with Anne, a female coworker played by Anneke Kim Sarnau (The Constant Gardener).

The entire cast gives quiet but powerful performances. Clearly just trying to live their lives in a thankless job, the people in Fariba’s new world cannot grasp the fear and injustice she faces. Instead, they leave it to the viewers to witness the sad plight she faces for loving a woman.

Without speeches or platitudes, Unveiled harshly criticizes any government that would abuse people over their gender, politics, or sexual orientation. That criticism—that indictment—relies on the compelling way director Angelina Maccarone and a talented cast share this story. While some politically charged American films from 2005 provoked discussion and won awards, this new import should draw more attention to the international abuse of gay and lesbian people.
Adam & Steve

Movie review by Duane Simolke, author of the West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories, for This Week In Texas.

Adam & Steve gives a decidedly gay and decidedly irreverent twist to the romantic comedy. Obviously and defiantly mocking anti-gay clichés with the title, writer/director/star Craig Chester delivers an enjoyable tale of budding love.

The film’s opening sequence, set in the 1980s, is tedious and unfunny, ending with a gross-out scene. Fortunately, the movie gets better when it jumps to the present, and it keeps getting better.

By the time Adam and Steve fall in love with each other, audiences will fall in love with them as well. The scene where the two lovers confront a gay-basher makes this comedy worth the price of admission. However, it offers much more.

Good casting propels the story. Malcolm Gets stars as the Steve who wins the heart of Adam (Craig Chester). Both actors are openly gay and play reluctant, nervous lovers convincingly. In a role that takes advantage of his goofy appeal, Chris Kattan of Saturday Night Live plays Michael, Steve’s straight roommate. Michael seems fine with Steve’s sexual orientation until Steve falls in love, but then acts betrayed. Indie film queen Parker Posey is Adam’s best friend, Rhonda; not surprisingly, she plays the gay-friendly gal pal with charm. Julie Hagerty has a small but amusing role as one of the members of Adam’s supposedly cursed family.

Part of the movie’s strength comes from how it shows that people can be such a contradiction and so self-defeating. For example, a nameless twink (Noah Segan) keeps making the most profound observations about people he barely knows, yet he seems totally shallow in every other respect. In the same way, Rhonda is funny and likeable with her friends, but bland and humorless in her attempts at stand-up comedy. Most of all, though, Adam and Steve keep failing to see how perfect they are for each other, while letting their fear of imperfections threaten their relationship.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Science Fiction/Fantasy Update

SciFi Channel is planning Caprica, a spin-off of Battlestar Galactica.

Lubbock, Texas: Saturday, June 3, 2-4 PM. I’ll sign copies of The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure, at Barnes & Noble (6707 Slide Road). I’ll also sign my West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Science fiction/fantasy update…

Can the creator of Lost save Star Trek?

Star Trek's Mr. Sulu Backs Gay Activists.

Da Vinci Code Sequel Delayed.

New Doctor Who Episodes.

Read about StarGate SG1’s Historic 10th Season.

Read about the TV version of The Dresden Files.

New Fantasy Release.

Readers can order The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure at bn.com, Amazon.com, Amazon.Ca, Amazon.co.UK, and many other online bookstores, or the Customer Services desk of their nearest Barnes & Noble Booksellers! Libraries and retailers can order it from Ingram Books or Baker & Taylor.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Gay SciFi/Fantasy

For gay-inclusive science fiction and fantasy novels, I suggest The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood), Cinátis (Ronald L. Donaghe), Ethan of Athos (Lois McMaster Bujold), The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin), Bond-Shattering (William Maltese), China Mountain Zhang (Maureen F. McHugh), Stealing Some Time (Mark Kendrick), Sacrament (Clive Barker), and Wraeththu (Storm Constantine), as well as two of my books—The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure and Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure.

These two are on my bookshelves, and I hope to read them soon: Dhalgren (Samuel R. Delany) and Echelon’s End: PlanetFall (E. Robert Dunn).

Monday, April 03, 2006

The upcoming novel The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure includes positive images of gay and lesbian people.
Brokeback Mountain is currently the #1 DVD at bn.com!

Brokeback Mountain is currently the #1 DVD at Amazon.Com!
The Education of Shelby Knox

Review by Duane Simolke, author of the West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories, for This Week In Texas.

This documentary, screened at film festivals, PFLAG meetings, colleges, and many other venues around the US, involves a teen who dares to stand up for comprehensive sex education in her home town of Lubbock, Texas. I live in Lubbock and write Rainbow: Lubbock, the online newsletter for Lubbock gays, so this documentary interests me, especially since it eventually involves the attempts of gay teens to start a gay/straight alliance at their high school.

In the film, instead of worrying about the fact that Lubbock suffers unusually high rates of teen pregnancy and teen STDs, the school board keeps trying to silence Shelby and the other teens who want the right to fully discuss sexual issues. Of course, Shelby eventually grows up and goes away to college, and nothing really changes with the schools. Still, her story—captured so well by filmmakers Rose Rosenblatt and Marion Lipschutz—forms a powerful narrative that not only shows the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs but also provokes the very discussions that Lubbock’s school board tries to squelch.

The Education of Shelby Knox should interest viewers everywhere, even if they aren’t from Texas or don’t agree with the stands that Shelby takes. Emotions run high throughout, as Shelby experiences the pain of learning that she keeps disagreeing with the views of her loving and supportive parents. Fortunately, they stay by her side.

This film, also shown on PBS as part of their Point of View series, captures some telling moments in Lubbock’s recent history, such as struggles between teens and the school board, a visit to Lubbock from members of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church congregation (the “God Hates Fags” people), and a surprise twist in the life of a moral crusader. Visit www.incite-pictures.com to learn more about the movie and its upcoming screenings.
FAQS

Review by Duane Simolke, author of Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, for This Week In Texas.

I should admit that, during the early scenes of FAQS, I kept thinking I would not like the rest of the movie. The cover and the promotional material make it look interesting, but early on, the plot seemed doomed to trap itself in B-movie territory. The movie turned out nothing like what I expected, and I definitely enjoyed it.

Writer/director Everett Lewis puts his anger out for all to see, but then keeps surprising viewers with the compassion, creativity, and humanity of the characters who embody his anger. At times, the characters seem overly simplified, with all gays as purely good and all nongays as purely evil. However, Lewis seems to use that dichotomy as a way of forging characters that basically become gay superheroes. Within the context of a comic book environment, the characters then seem real, and the violence never becomes central to the film. In fact, most of the gay characters learn to see violence as weakness and “for the straights.”

Homeless runaway India (Joe Lia) almost becomes the victim of a gay bashing, before the drag queen Destiny (Allan Louis) rescues him and then makes him a part of her gay family. Though Destiny often looks silly in her costumes, she always deserves the name “queen,” and makes an imposing entrance the first time we see her. India quickly evolves from scared runaway to a heroic and sensitive renegade who finds creative ways to stand against hatred. The closing conversation between India and his boyfriend, filmed close-up, captures the movie’s message of rebellious, fearless, transforming love.

Visit This Week In Texas for my review of the new theatrical release Adam & Steve.
Dorian Blues

Review by Duane Simolke, author of Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, for This Week In Texas.

Dorian Blues demands that viewers love it. This movie deals openly with hatred and self-hatred, yet keeps coming up with silly situations and lovable characters. It all happens with a frantic momentum, taking the audience through young Dorian’s journey of self-acceptance as well as his struggle to find both a lasting romantic relationship and a better family relationship. His futile attempts at de-gaying himself provide laughs, but will also touch on some painful memories for many gay viewers.

Michael McMillian (TV’s What I Like About You) charms relentlessly as Dorian Lagatos, a self-titled “stereotypical gay” who lives in an anti-gay home, with a cartoon-like reactionary father, an annoyingly passive mother, and an all-American jock brother. His high school proves even more hostile toward gays, so Dorian rejoices when he finally escapes to New York City.

Inspired by his first openly gay friend, writer/director/producer Tennyson Bardwell made a likeable coming out story. And while the genre seems done to death, he gives it new life. He also chose good actors for all the parts, except that Nicky Lagatos (Lea Coco) looks much older than his older brother Dorian.

While the humor and the colorful cast propel the movie, some of the best scenes involve Dorian quietly talking to just one of the other characters. Still, it comes back to the comedy, and I hope Michael McMillian will find more good roles for his comedic talent.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Science fiction and fantasy update.

The miniseries Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King premieres on the SciFi Channel tomorrow night. It’s based on a myth that inspired The Lord of the Rings, and it looks exciting!

I’ve recently posted the following:

The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure: Prologue and Chapter 1

Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure: Prologue and Chapter 1

Friday, March 17, 2006

Upcoming book release: The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure. See that page for an excerpt, related keywords, and more!

Ice Men.

Review by Duane Simolke, author of Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, for This Week In Texas.


Exploring some of the same themes of masculinity, repression, and violence found in Brokeback Mountain and the unfairly obscure Wolfe Video release Rites of Passage, Ice Men involves five men in a cabin during a cold winter weekend.

Jon (Greg Spottiswood) may or may not be the only gay character, but something happens between him and Steve (James Thomas). Vaughn (Martin Cummins) and his brother Trevor (Ian Tracey) seethe with resentment toward each other, a resentment that seems tied to regrets, an abusive father, and the cabin itself. David Hewlett, known to science fiction fans for his annoying yet lovable role on TV’s StarGate Atlantis, provides comic relief as Bryan, but also proves tragic and disillusioned. Vaughn’s ex-wife Renee (Brandy Ledford) appears long enough to turn the men further against each other.

If this movie sounds incredibly sad, it certainly leans that way at times. But the acting and the photography make it well worth seeing. Director Thom Best, a director and cinematographer for Queer As Folk, captures the taut emotions and the ways friendship can survive, even when friends don’t always seem to like each other.


Attack of the Bride Monster.
Review by Duane Simolke, author of Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, for This Week In Texas.

Currently screening at various gay film festivals, the 17-minute comedy Attack of the Bride Monster winks at 1950s-style romance movies and monster movies. It also takes a high camp look at gay marriage controversies and news stories.

As with those 1950s monster movies, the paranoid fears affect different people in different ways. Two lesbians discuss the direction of their 25-year relationship while watching TV coverage of gay marriages taking place around the country. They have been happy and committed, but the Bride Monster takes hold of one of them, demanding a commitment to an institution that the other woman finds questionable. While they hear the Christian right voicing fear of gay marriage, some of the gays in this short film express fears of conformity. Sound familiar?

Austin residents Leslie Belt (writer/producer), Vicky Boone (director/producer), and PJ Raval (cinematographer) created this silly but charming film. It received Best of the Best in the Houston Gay Lesbian Film Festival in September 2005 and the McMullen-Sullivan Founders Award in the Out Takes Dallas Film Festival in November 2005. Visit http://www.bridemonster.com/ for a list of upcoming screenings.


Regarding Billy.

Review by Duane Simolke, author of Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, for This Week In Texas.

Writer/director/producer Jeff London (And Then Came Summer) presents another character-driven story. Regarding Billy only features three actors. Ronnie Kerr plays Billy, who must care for his mentally challenged brother, Johnny (Jack Sway), after their parents die. Returning from the Gulf War, Billy’s friend Dean (Jason Van Eman) moves in with Billy and Johnny.

Besides the small cast, the setting also remains small. Despite images of the surrounding town and its boats, interspersed with images of Iraq, all of the dialogue takes place within Billy and Johnny’s home. Far from limiting the movie, however, the house’s small rooms push the characters together, where Billy must face the simultaneous challenges of watching over his brother and of admitting to his romantic feelings for his best friend.

The tender relationships in this movie will make it too syrupy for some viewers, but I loved it. Rather than relying on a big budget or on shouting matches between the characters, London lets their story quietly unfold. Of course, it wouldn’t work at all without a good cast, and all three actors carry the movie well.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lubbock, Texas: On Saturday, February 18, I had the honor of appearing on the panel discussion The View from Brokeback Mountain, here in Lubbock, at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts. Two groups sponsored the event. One of those groups, the Lubbock Film Society, fosters local filmmaking and local interest in low budget or independent movies. The other group, Lubbock Interfaith Fellowship for Equality, works to promote inclusion and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Though I originally guessed at well over a hundred, at least 90-100 people attended the event. Scheduled to last an hour, it went over two hours, and could have gone even longer.

I had already seen and loved the movie. To prepare for the panel, I read the book Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay and explored the discussion boards at AnnieProulx.Com, EnnisJack.Com, DaveCullen.Com, Yahoo! Groups: brokeback-mountain, and Yahoo! Groups: Gay Cinema.

As with those online discussions, the panel featured a variety of views on the movie and its themes. The same continued when moderator Grace Rogers opened the discussion to the audience. While much disagreement occurred, no one disagreed with the importance of Brokeback Mountain and its themes. More importantly, I never heard anyone make a single homophobic remark! It was an engaging discussion, but still left much to say, and left many eager for more such events.

I appreciate Grace, the other panelists, and the two groups for letting me take part, and all those other people who came out to discuss this thought-provoking film. To read more about gay-related events in Lubbock, please read my Rainbow: Lubbock online newsletter.


Duane Simolke author of The Acorn Stories, Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, Holding Me Together, and New Readings of Winesburg, Ohio

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Some upcoming DVD releases of special interest to LGBTs follow: Dorian Blues, Brokeback Mountain, Unveiled, Queer As Folk Season 5 (The Final Season), Transamerica, Loggerheads, and Rent.

Science fiction fans can look forward to Babylon 5 - The Legend of the Rangers (a spin-off from one of my all-time favorite shows) and Quantum Leap - The Complete Fourth Season.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Echo Magazine, a weekly publication for gays in Arizona, reviewed my book Holding Me Together on their Web site and in issue 428. The following page will change, but the review was posted online here: Echo: Between the Covers. Or see Page 55 of the following PDF file: Echo Magazine Issue 428.

“Duane Simolke's Holding Me Together: Essays and Poems 1983-2005 (iUniverse, $17.95, pap.) is an update and revision to his 1999 book, also titled Holding Me Together. It's a curious marriage of genres, and both the poetry and the essays favor political and cultural issues. For more information about this and other books by Simolke, readers can visit http://DuaneSimolke.com.”

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Book review: Coping with Physical Loss and Disability by Rick Ritter, MSW

Rick Ritter, MSW, has created an easy-to-use resource to help people confront a life-changing illness or disability. He could simply give good advice, relying upon his experiences as a disabled veteran, a social worker, and a competitor in events for disabled athletes. Instead, he engages the reader in answering questions, gathering support, finding resources, and taking a completely positive approach to difficult situations.

I love the workbook format, because it forces the reader to begin thinking about and acting upon ways to continue with a life that has become altered. Of course, altered doesn’t mean over. It just means different. Ritter avoids sugar-coating those differences or the emotional, social, and physical problems that accompany them. However, he ultimately provokes the reader into finding ways to deal with those obstacles.

Ritter ends with a brief but inspiring look at his life, followed by a variety of resources. I suggest his workbook as a great beginning for anyone facing physical loss or disability.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Gay Movie Reviews

I love Brokeback Mountain too, but how many reviews does one movie need? Instead, I’ll keep focusing mostly on less well-known movies that I suggest. Read more of my movie reviews at This Week In Texas.

Three Dancing Slaves

Review by Duane Simolke, author of Holding Me Together, for This Week In Texas.

I first saw Gaël Morel as one of the stars of the tender and sad French film Wild Reeds. More recently, he directed the movie Full Speed, and then this disturbing story of family bonds.

At times, Morel leaves much of the plot and many connections to the imaginations of viewers, relying on the beautiful setting, and the equally beautiful male cast, to keep the attention of those viewers. Most of the actors here have appeared in numerous imported films. However, newcomer Thomas Dumerchez quietly soars as a young gay man in a dysfunctional family. Part of the film focuses on him, with parts also devoted to his two brothers; in fact, Morel splits the film into three pieces, with long spaces between.

Many film buffs might find the story too disjointed, but I found it worth the effort. The movie’s title slowly explains itself, just like the motivations behind why these young men keep hurting themselves or each other.

Almost Normal

Review by Duane Simolke, author of Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, for This Week In Texas

Early on, strained acting and lame dialogue almost destroy Almost Normal. Hopefully, viewers won’t grab the remote and hit stop, because they would miss out on a cute, clever tale. Fans of the TV series Sliders or the movies Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married should take interest in this movie about a middle-aged gay man who suddenly finds himself back in high school, in an alternate reality where gay is cool and straight is sick.

Countless gay people will relate to the way this movie turns homophobia and heterosexism upside down, making the haters the hated. They will also enjoy the fun of seeing a world where gay is normal. It honestly amazes me that no one thought to make this movie sooner.

Director Marc Moody obviously has much to say about prejudice, acceptance, and love, but he says all of it in a light-hearted, imaginative way. He lets everyone see how unfairly society often treats gays, as well as the often painful experience of growing up gay, but he does both by asking, “What if gays treated heterosexuals as badly as so many heterosexuals treat gays?” Still, despite the profound satire, Almost Normal remains humorous throughout.