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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories is now available as The Acorn Stories: Kindle Edition, joining such books as Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, I Am American (And So Can You), The Pillars of the Earth, and A Thousand Splendid Sons, in becoming available for wireless delivery onto Kindle.

Praise for The Acorn Stories…

A lush tangle of small-town life branches out in this engrossing collection of short stories. –Kirkus Discoveries

The ability to depict such a wide cross section of humanity, including details of each character’s breadth of knowledge and experience, takes a talented, insightful author, and Duane Simolke is such a writer. –E. Conley, Betty’s Books

If you liked WINESBURG, OHIO…rejoice. –Watchword

By the time you have finished reading these tales of the people who inhabit the fictitious town of Acorn, Texas, population 21,001, you will have met some endearing as well as irritating characters, from the Mayor to the local would-be gigolo; from the busy-bodies to the business owners; from those who grew up in Acorn and have tried to escape the small town to those who have moved to Acorn to escape from the real world. –Ronald L. Donaghe, author of Uncle Sean

A well-crafted collection of short stories. –L. L. Lee, author of Taxing Tallula

When you finish, when you put the book aside, Acorn will still be with you.” –E. Carter Jones, author of Absence of Faith

I highly recommend this book! –Richard Carlson, author of Jeremy Grabowski's Crazy Summer in Stormville!

It was a real pleasure to read about the fictional town of Acorn, Texas. –Mark Kendrick, author of Desert Sons

Simolke makes good use of his vivid imagination in creating credible dialogue and satirical images. –Huda Orfali, author of Blue Fire

There are people that you like, some that you can't wait to see if they get theirs. –Joe Wright, StoneWall Society

Each of Simolke's stories lets us look into the lives of some of the most interesting characters I have ever read about. –Amos Lassen, Literary Pride

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gay-themed music



StoneWall Society has announced the winners of this year's Pride In The Arts Awards, in the category Music. Visit there for links to music and information from the artists. StoneWall Society will have nominations and voting in other categories over the next few months.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Science Fiction and Fantasy News. Entry updated 12/14/07.

Christopher Paolini’s Third and Fourth Eragon Books.

The Inheritance Cycle #3 will arrive September 23, 2008. However, the project is no longer just a trilogy. Read more about it. Eragon and Eldest both became bestsellers.

Watch here for news about a sequel to Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure.

Billie Piper Returns to Dr. Who.

If you order Inheritance Cycle #3, Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, or anything else from Barnes & Noble Booksellers before 12/18/07, enter the online coupon code N6R7C4J during checkout, for a 25% discount off one item. According to bn.com, “Some restrictions apply. Coupon can be redeemed once online per customer. See site for complete details.”

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gay Pride



“Editing,” a poem about past and present homophobia. This video contrasts the dark imagery of “Editing” with colorful, positive pictures from Toronto Gay Pride, showing a refusal to let fear, violence, or hatred silence us.

Friday, November 02, 2007

CNN.Com: Church ordered to pay $11.9 million for funeral protest

(Warning, some of these links lead to a site that also includes adult content.)

I mentioned recently that the videos Gay Science Fiction and Gay Love Poem had reached #19 and #29 in the list of Hottie Videos at Gay2Share.Com. They are now #10 and #12. Those videos are book trailers for Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure and Holding Me Together: Essays and Poems.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I’ve created a book trailer for my West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories.

Texas Fiction: The Acorn Stories Book Trailer

Visit the West Texas town of Acorn! Enjoy the German festival, a high school football game, homemade apple pie from the Turner Street Café, and the cool shade of a hundred-year-old oak tree. Meet dedicated teachers, unusual artists, shrewd business owners, closeted gays, and concerned neighbors. See how lives become intertwined in moments of humor or tragedy. Just be careful, because in Acorn, the sky is always falling!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Kirkus has just reviewed my West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories, saying that “A lush tangle of small-town life branches out in this engrossing collection of short stories.” The Acorn Stories previously received a Pride in the Arts Award, as well as numerous positive reviews at Amazon.Com and bn.com.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I’ve created book trailers for two of my gay-themed books.

Holding Me Together

Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure

They’re very short; please take a look and see what you think.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Celebrate Gay Pride Around the World!

Dann Hazel used Reactions to Homophobia, an essay in Holding Me Together, as one of the resources for his book Witness: Gay and Lesbian Clergy Report from the Front. In Australia, Kris Coonan, UQ Union, University of Queensland, used it as a resource for his article Sexual Prejudice: Understanding Homophobia and Heterosexism, Biphobia and Transphobia. The Queensland Government's Community Benefit Fund and PFLAG Brisbane used it as a resource for the booklet Assisting Those Who Come Into Regular Contact with Lesbian and Gay Youth.

“By killing yourself, intentionally or through unsafe sex, you call yourself worthless and expendable. How can you think of a human being that way? Quit punishing yourself for the bigotry in society. Refuse to help the cause of homophobia. Take care of yourself. Learn to love yourself and protect yourself. See yourself and your partner as worth protecting. Treat safer sex as an act of defiance and gay pride, a statement about your love for yourself, a statement about the value of your life. Treat living each day as a tear in the fabric of bigotry.”



That quote comes from Not Worth Dying Over, another essay in Holding Me Together. Paul Harris quotes that passage in the book From Our Own Lips: The Book of GLBT Quotations. Minnie Van PileUp (the pseudonym of a writer who lives in Boston) quotes the same passage in The Quotable Queer: Fabulous Wit and Wisdom from the Gays, the Straight, and Everybody In-Between.



Mountman, a reviewer for StoneWall Society, has created animated versions of two poems from Holding. Visit MS Agent Pages for the software and links. (Note: the poems are earlier versions, and slightly different from how they appear in Holding’s 2nd Edition.)



Artist Roger Beauchamp created Team Leviticus, artwork based on Reactions to Homophobia.



Watch for news about how the 2007 Pride in the Arts Festival will involve my books.

About.Com 2007 Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Calendar.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Summer reading.

This is the 300th blog entry at Acorn Universes! Thanks for reading!

Critic and gay activist Amos Lassen has just reviewed The Acorn Stories for Amazon.Com and the gay Web site Eureka Pride. Lassen wrote that “Each of Simolke’s stories lets us look into the lives of some of the most interesting characters I have ever read about.”

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Summer of Pride 2007 Celebrations

Pride in the Arts Awards & Festival. Summer of Pride.

Summer of Pride 2007 Celebrations have begun at StoneWall Society. Besides a Scavenger Hunt and a number of Outvoice and Rainbow World Radio events, nominations have begun for the annual Pride in the Arts Awards. Those awards promote and celebrate the works of LGBTs in music, visual arts, writing, film, and performance arts. Pride in the Arts Awards, History, and Past Recipients.

Creative gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans people who want to promote their work should look into StoneWall Society, including an event that’s happening after the summer this year, Pride in the Arts Festival 2007, October 12-14 at Longfork Campground in Walton, West Virginia.

My StoneWall Society Wing

--Duane Simolke

Thursday, June 14, 2007

REEL ATTRACTIONS
Schedule and press release

3rd Annual Arkansas LGBTQ Film Festival
Sponsored by Cinema Pride, Easy Street Piano Bar, and
University of Central Arkansas PRISM
June 23-24

Special Guest 6 Time Emmy Award Winner: Stu Maddux

Schedule of Screenings:
Following Conway PRIDE on

Saturday, June 23
6:00- “Love Life”- Drama about a marriage of convenience between a gay male and a lesbian woman that turns sour (71 minutes)**

7:30- “Bubbeh Lee and Me” – 87-year-old speaks her heart to her gay grandson (35 minutes)

8:00- “Bob and Jack’s 52-year Adventure” – Directed by Special Guest Stu Maddux – story of two men who survived all odds and are still together 53 years later (41 minutes)
(Followed by discussion with director)

9:15- Women Short Films (30 minutes)

9:45- “Tan Lines” – Coming of age story of young surfer
(97 minutes)**

11:00- Special Bonus-- film from 2007 Diversity Pride in Eureka Springs (60 minutes)

Sunday, June 24
12:00- “Red Without Blue” – Moving documentary about identical twins, one of whom opts for sexual reassignment surgery (90 minutes)

1:30- “The DL Chronicles”—Episode from Here! TV’s new series on African-American men who cheat on their wives with other men (29 minutes)**

2:00- “Rock Haven”- Story of merging Christian Fundamentalism with sexuality and succeeding
(90 minutes)

3:30- “El Calentito” – A Spanish rock musician finds her true love in the audience at a local bar (86 minutes)

5:00- “Show Business: The Road to Broadway” – Behind the scenes of 4 musicals, “Wicked,” “Taboo,” “Avenue Q,” and “Caroline, Or Change” (104 minutes)

7:30- “Laughing Matters… More” – All female, all stand-up, all comedy (73 minutes)

9:00- “Back Soon” – Bittersweet love story between two men, one of whom is straight (83 minutes)**

10:30- Bonus Gay Short Films**
**Films may not be suitable for all ages

There will be additional showings as well after the official schedule (as bonus films) including the world premiere of "We're All Angels."


***
Bob and Jack's 52-year Adventure

(Little Rock, AR) In 1952 an Army sergeant was cornered and courted by his commanding officer. Their romance grew so obvious that rumors became anonymous tips to headquarters. They avoided court-martial by confronting their entire unit. That pivotal moment cemented Bob and Jack together for the rest of their lives. 52-years later they share how they remained a couple: how one man left his wife and children, how together they moved to a small town and became a fixture in the community, and today how they survive in their eighties without the benefits of marriage.

Now, Bob and Jack’s 52-Year Adventure, an award winning documentary about their relationship will have its Arkansas premiere Saturday June 23rd, 8 PM at Easy Street Piano Bar as the opening night film of Reel Attractions, The Arkansas GLBTQ Film Festival. A discussion with director Stu Maddux will follow.

“We feel extremely honored to premiere at this festival,” says Bob Claunch, now 81, from their home in Los Angeles, CA. “With everything going across the country with "don't ask don't tell" and with gay marriage, we hope people are encouraged by our story. We didn’t have it easy but we didn’t give up.”

“That’s one of the reasons we think that the film is a good message for young people too”, says partner Jack Reavley, 83. “They need to know that they can have successful relationships. The skeptics are just waiting for us to fail when we try to have lifelong love. Well, we didn't. And we're here to tell you that you won't either'."

The weekend-long festival will exhibit more than a dozen films including some of the best releases this year in the genre of gay cinema. For more information about the event contact Amos Lassen: 870-550-6298.

For more information, photographs and trailer visit: http://www.bobandjack.org

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Gay blog

Blogger Twin Powers Activate! Read about Homomojo’s request for more gay bloggers to contribute articles and help promote Homomojo.
Gay Movies

Del Shores, creator of the cult classic Sordid Lives, is currently directing a film version of his play Southern Baptist Sissies. I saw a production of Sissies in Dallas; it’s as funny as Sordid Lives at times, but really sad at others. It’s great all the way through, though, and I had kept hoping Shores would turn it into a movie.

Some new or upcoming gay DVDs:

Boy Culture

Eating Out 2

Noah’s Arc: the Complete Second Season

Dante's Cove: The Complete Second Season

Monday, June 04, 2007

Meet The Founder Of A Group That Promotes LGBT Artists



I’ve always appreciated Len Rogers of StoneWall Society for Pride in the Arts, Rainbow World Radio, and all the other great work he does to promote LGBT music, books, film, art, and spoken word. However, I never knew about how SWS came to be, until I read Jed Ryan’s interview with Len.

LEN ROGERS WANTS YOU!...to Take the Pledge, to Support the Arts, to Vote, and More!

It’s a long interview, but inspiring, and a great example of how much difference one person can make. Len not only gives of his own time and creativity but also provides a platform for reviewers like Mountman (his best friend) to help promote gay artists.

Gay.Com honored Len as one of six local heroes; Len and SWS also received 2007 WVAS Terry Awards.

My StoneWall Society Wing

Len and StoneWall Society at MySpace

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The online miniseries Star Trek: Of Gods and Men should be amazing when it’s finally online. The trailer certainly makes it look way beyond what I would expect for an online feature.

With an exciting new season premiering soon on ABC Family, Kyle XY Season One is available to pre-order.

Some new or newly updated pages: Science Fiction and Fantasy, Gay Listmania, Gay Science Fiction for the UK, and SciFi/Fantasy Adventure for the UK.

--Duane Simolke, author of Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Babylon 5 - The Lost Tales is finally available for pre-order! Click here to view the cover art! I love B5 and can’t wait to see these new adventures.

Eureka: Season One, the first DVD of the goofy and lovable SciFi Channel series, is also available for pre-order. As I mentioned here recently, the new season starts in July, along with the first American broadcast of Doctor Who Series Three.

--Duane Simolke, author of Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure

Friday, April 06, 2007

Scifi/fantasy news.

Watch for the DVD of Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, Volume One in July, as the beginning of a direct-to-video series. StarGate SG1 will continue this fall, with two direct-to-video movies. Meanwhile, the final 10 episodes of the series will start Friday the 13th on the SciFi Channel, followed by StarGate Atlantis and the new series Painkiller Jane.

This summer, SciFi will offer a new season of Eureka, along with a new Flash Gordon series. Their sister network, USA, will have new seasons of The Dead Zone and the 4400—both airing during the summer. Battlestar Galactica will return to SciFi in 2008, possibly January.

Watch for Torchwood on BBC America, as part of a “Supernatural Saturday” programming block. I haven’t seen the premiere date yet.

Spring and summer sf/f movies include Next, as well as the latest installments of Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Fantastic Four, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

See http://www.stonewallsociety.com/GLBTArtists/duanesimolkethereturnofinnocencerev.htm and http://thejammstation.bravehost.com/legendary.html for Joe Wright’s review of The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure.

Monday, April 02, 2007


When Darkness Falls. My review for This Week In Texas.

Director David DeCoteau offers horror B-movies with extremely homoerotic undertones, mostly by putting a lot of cute guys in situations together that involve wrestling, underwear, or bondage. Some of those movies are fun as guilty pleasures, but the ones I’ve seen never quite make the leap from gay overtones to gay.

Enter writer/director/producer Jeff London. London usually makes quiet dramas about gay characters who are struggling to deal with coming out or other issues. I’ve kept up with his work since And Then Came Summer. I especially love his movie Regarding Billy and never would have expected him to jump from that tender love story to a zombie flick. But here it is.

When Darkness Falls is classic, 1950s-style horror, relying on shadows and scares, while avoiding gore. However, unlike any movies from the 1950s, all the characters are gay. Despite the success of the gay slasher movie Hellbent and Here TV’s supernatural series Dante's Cove, gay horror movies are still rare. This one is an entertaining entry into a new genre.

Mike Dolan and Matt Austin play two young men who are just starting a relationship. Kevin (Dolan) invites his new boyfriend, Danny (Austin), to spend the weekend with him in the mountains. Kevin’s home there is not only secluded in the woods but also adjacent to a cemetery.

Kevin enjoys scaring Danny as often as possible. Unfortunately, Kevin’s romantic advances get stalled by the arrival of his friends, who also enjoy scary pranks. As the night progresses, the scares go from joking around to something more sinister.

London keeps the tone light and playful. The actors all bring charm and good looks to that fun atmosphere. Some of the acting needed more work—another parallel to David DeCoteau—but that’s normal with low-budget horror movies.

The DVD of When Darkness Falls also includes a second, shorter film, The Best of Care. This one involves two of the actors from the first film, Mike Dolan and Ron Petronicolos. Both actors also appeared in London’s movie The Last Year.

The Best of Care uses a much darker tone than When Darkness Falls. Bill lives with his sick boyfriend, caring for him around the clock. The tension finally overtakes him, leading to some disturbing plot twists.

Mark Krench scored both of this DVD’s films with appropriately creepy music. Scary movies rely heavily on the right music to lead up to the bumps in the night; Krench delivers, adding to the fun of this Saturday matinee double feature.

Filmmaker Jeff London grew up in California but recently relocated to West Texas and plans to later relocate to Hawaii. His first film, The Judgement Road, received a Best Drama Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Hollywood.

Since London is a big science fiction fan, I hope he eventually procures the budget for a gay science fiction movie. We can find many gay science fiction books, and British television made a hit of the queer-themed scifi series Torchwood. The audience is apparently there, waiting.

Read more about When Darkness Falls and other Jeff London films at Guardian Pictures.


--Duane Simolke, author of the West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories and the gay-themed novel Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It’s been five years since the publication of The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer, and that fundraiser has started selling again! Here’s an early news item about the book’s creation: Bookflash: Writers Uniting Against Cancer.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Visit Blackfeet Indian History to learn about Blackfeet Indians and other Native Americans. Bill Wetzel, one of the authors of The Acorn Gathering, is a Blackfeet Indian and wrote about reservation life in one of the stories he contributed to that collection.

Friday, March 16, 2007

From Lubbock Online Entertainment Briefs: 3/13/07: Dean, Simolke will autograph new books. Sterling Dean’s novel is a science fiction adventure, Phast Times. A description follows below.

All Captain Galrang Elbercroft wanted was to make a decent profit. Somehow, he managed to get tangled up in a web of deceit and violence while on a routine trading mission to an asteroid mining colony. Now he and his crew, along with the colony’s citizens, must battle a mercenary horde. They will have to use everything they have, their courage, their wits, and the capabilities of their sentient cargo vessel to survive against the merciless forces of a rapacious interstellar megacorporation.

Read more about The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Torchwood, the spin-off from Doctor Who, is now available on DVD in the UK. Watch here for details about the American release; we already have the Torchwood books. Doctor Who airs in America on the SciFi Channel and BBC America, but I haven’t seen anything about either station airing its spinoff. Captain Jack, the main character on Torchwood, appears in numerous past and upcoming episodes of Who. Jack is a bisexual character, played by the handsome and openly gay actor/singer John Barrowman.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I’ve just updated and redesigned the following blogs: The Acorn Gathering: New and Authors and The Acorn Gathering: Reviews. The Acorn Gathering raises money for the fight against cancer. Readers can order it at online bookstores or their nearest Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Anti-gay pastor. Spiritual books.

Gay marriage critic tried on lewdness. It looks like yet another holier-than-thou crusader might be a closet case, just like the supposedly ex-gay mayor in The Acorn Stories.

Here’s good news for spirituality and religion. Click through to see the high sales rankings for these books. They have all jumped high in sales lately, and they’re hardly the only religion/spirituality books that are selling well. (Sales rankings start at 1, with 1 being the top-selling book.)
Rhonda Byrne: The Secret
Allison DuBois: We Are Their Heaven: Why the Dead Never Leave Us
L. B. Cowman: Streams in the Desert
Joel C. Rosenberg: Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future
Matthew Stewart: The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World

This next one might also garner some attention; I loved this author’s book Living In Sin?
John Shelby Spong: Jesus for the Non-Religious
Lubbock, Texas: Saturday, March 24, 2-4 PM. I’ll sign copies of The Return of Innocence and The Acorn Gathering at Barnes & Noble (6707 Slide Road).

The Return of Innocence is a comical fantasy novel about a young swordswoman who stumbles into bizarre adventures. That book received the 2007 AllBooks Reviewer's Choice Award, in the category SciFi/Fantasy.

The Acorn Gathering is a fiction anthology that raises money for the fight against cancer. I edited that book and wrote four of its stories.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I’m currently the featured author at Razor Pages, and my West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories is the featured book. Razor Pages is a site that promotes independent authors and helps readers find new books. Please visit my Razor Pages author’s page.

Please also visit my new SciFi/Fantasy Adventure page.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sunday, February 11, 2007

3 Needles: my review for This Week In Texas.

Thom Fitzgerald presents a globe-scanning epic about humanity’s response to the AIDS pandemic.

Countless movies already deal with AIDS, but writer/director Thom Fitzgerald uses his film 3 Needles to examine the epidemic on simultaneously global, personal, and spiritual levels. Amid beautiful scenery and equally beautiful people, the HIV virus takes its toll. The onslaught of a common enemy makes Fitzgerald, his narrator, and (hopefully) the audience wonder why we can’t all unite against that enemy.

The film’s narrator, and one of its stars, is Olympia Dukakis. Loved for her roles in hit films such as Steel Magnolias and Moonstruck, Dukakis has also appeared in many gay-themed features, such as Jeffrey, Tales of the City, and one of Fitzgerald’s previous films, The Event. She always charms viewers with natural, seemingly effortless performances, but here she plays one of her more dramatic, impassioned roles. As Sister Hilde, she not only tells the different stories in the film, but also tries to fight HIV in Africa.

3 Needles actually starts in South Africa, using it as a framework for the different stories. However, we only hear Sister Hilde’s voice at this time. Like the other stories, this one involves rituals. In this case, the ritual takes tribal boys into manhood, with rites of circumcision. A bloodied knife on the ground provides stark contrast to the splendor that surrounds the young men.

In preparation for the film, Fitzgerald traveled South Africa, trading stories with tribal elders while learning about the lives of South African people and how AIDS has impacted those lives. His obvious concern and admiration comes through on the screen as we follow the young men along their painful journey into manhood.

Though that part of the movie ends quickly, it introduces us to the magnificent work that cinematographer Thomas M. Harting provides throughout the film. Harting, a long-time collaborator with Fitzgerald, received the Atlantic Film Festival’s 2005 Best Cinematography Award for 3 Needles. While this movie might occasionally be hard to follow, and some of its violent scenes hard to watch, Harting makes every frame artistic. Shot in a variety of languages, and sometimes relying on no words at all, this movie puts much of its burden on the imagery; Harting brings that imagery to life.

Gorgeous images among pain also typify the next story, in which a pregnant woman (Lucy Liu) traffics black market blood, ignorantly spreading HIV throughout entire villages in China. With no understanding—not even a word—for the virus, she simply wants to support her family. Liu’s bright red clothes and pretty face epitomize the movie’s contrast of beauty in the midst of ugliness. She still manages to blend into the world of this story.

Audiences know Liu for her comical work in TV’s Ally McBeal, her musical turn in Chicago, and her string of tongue-in-cheek action films like Charlie's Angels, Shanghai Noon, Kill Bill, and Payback. Here she offers a quiet, vulnerable performance.

Shawn Ashmore and Stockard Channing also might surprise some of their fans. Ashmore played Ged in the Earthsea miniseries, Ice Man in the X-Men movies, and Terry Fox in the TV movie Terry. Here he plays a porn star, stealing blood to pass his HIV test, so he can support himself and his parents. He needs a negative test result to keep making more porn films, but he gives HIV to his costars. Ashmore’s good looks and sometimes ambiguous expressions make him convincing as someone who could incite so much trust and get away with anything.

As Olive, the mother of Ashmore’s character, multiple Emmy, SAG, and Tony award nominee Stockard Channing takes even more extreme measures to support her family. While Betty Rizo (Channing’s character in Grease) never was Sandra Dee, even she would blush after seeing what Olive does, and why she does it. Viewers who loved Channing in Grease, Out of Practice, The West Wing, Six Degrees of Separation, or The Matthew Shepard Story might barely recognize her. In 3 Needles, she makes her character look desperate and fatigued, turning an unlikely storyline into a moving tragedy.

The film’s ending story brings us back to South Africa, and provides glimpses of the young men from the first story. It also brings back some of the film’s most breathtaking scenery, contrasted with the film’s most violent and tragic scenes. Fitzgerald had read about South African tribesmen raping young virgin girls, in the folk belief that the virgins could cure AIDS. That atrocity makes its way into the conclusive tale.

When we finally see Olympia Dukakis, instead of just hearing her voice, she is one of three nuns, each trying urgently to help the AIDS-ravaged people of South Africa. Two impressive actresses join her as the other nuns: famed Canadian star Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy, Arli$$, The Princess Diaries, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Night Listener, etc.) and independent film favorite Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don't Cry, Party Monster, Kids, The Last Days of Disco, If These Walls Could Talk 2, etc.).

The nuns meet resistance from the people they want to help and bureaucracy from all around. The harder they work, the more they suffer. Ultimately, their faith drives them to keep making whatever difference they can.

Overall, Fitzgerald offers a visually and emotionally stunning work. It requires careful attention and demands further thought. Some viewers might dislike its structure or its scope; still, few viewers could leave it without thinking more about how AIDS has changed the world, or what those changes mean for humanity.

***
--Duane Simolke, author of The Acorn Stories and Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Lubbock, Texas: Saturday, March 24, 2-4 PM. I’ll sign copies of The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure at Barnes & Noble (6707 Slide Road).

Monday, January 29, 2007

Here’s something new for my readers in the Great White North: SciFi/Fantasy for Canadian Readers!

Available Men: 7 Hilarious & Sexy Gay Short Films: my review for This Week In Texas.


Short film collections often deliver a mixed bag of good and forgettable movies, along with a few initially enjoyable shorts that end way too abruptly. However, this collection satisfies throughout. All seven features involve gay men and display a unique sense of humor.

Available Men, directed by David Dean Bottrell (15 minutes). Richard Ruccolo (from the adorable romantic comedy All Over the Guy) is one of four men who pair off in the wrong way. Two of them are gay men looking for their blind date, while Ruccolo is an agent who thinks he’s meeting a screenwriter but instead sits down with one of the gay men. The results are hilarious and would be fun as a one-act play. Jack Plotnick, always great in his roles as witty gay men, gives another funny performance while listening to the screenwriter talk about expectations. This short’s director, David Dean Bottrell, recently appeared in several episodes of Boston Legal as an uptight, murderous peeping tom.

Straight Boys, directed by Dave O’Brien (15 minutes). I love the drama The Conrad Boys; Nick Bartzen, one of that movie’s stars, appears here as a college student with a jealous girlfriend and a doting gay roommate. Despite some mild violence and conflicted emotions, Straight Boys delivers an enjoyable slice of light-hearted comedy.

Hello, Thanks, directed by Andrew Blubaugh (8 minutes). Using classified ads and voiceovers, Blubaugh gives a funny look at gay dating. His character’s struggle to define himself propels the fast-paced humor. It gets a little too fast, though, and most viewers probably won’t be able to read all of the ads without hitting the pause button a few times.

Tumbleweed Town, directed by Samara Halperin (8 minutes). I usually dislike animated films. However, this odd feature from 1999 keeps my interest—except during the slow dance, which seems to last longer than the film’s eight minutes by itself. Halperin animates action figures and other toys, subverting icons of heterosexual masculinity: trucks, truckers, cowboys, country music, etc. Halperin’s hyper-masculine action figures kiss, snuggle, and have sex with each other. It’s so goofy and irreverent that it works.

The Underminer, directed by Todd Downing (6 minutes). In an unusual approach to adaptation, author and performance artist Mike Albo portrays two different lead roles, in a film based on his book of the same title. Albo is loveable in one role, but both hilarious and annoying in the other…that of the title character. The “underminer” throws out back-handed compliments, spiteful judgments, or passive aggressive whining, every time he opens his mouth. The results are hilarious and should lead to a feature-length adaptation of the book.

Irene Williams: Queen Of Lincoln Road, directed by Eric Smith (23 minutes). The only documentary in the collection, this film initially seems misplaced. It focuses on an elderly woman who loves to design her own brightly colored clothes. Eric Smith immediately becomes enamored with her, and follows her around with his camera for ten years. Despite the focus on Irene’s flamboyant personality, Smith always shows her in a positive light, while also giving an unusual look at friendship between a gay man and a heterosexual woman. Not surprisingly, this short received ten film festival awards, as well as the PlanetOut Short Movie Award for Best Documentary.

Sissy Frenchfry, directed by JC Oliva (30 minutes). Also not surprisingly, this scrappy little gem received the Grand Prize Winner of the 2006 PlanetOut Short Movie Awards. The always engaging Leslie Jordan (Sordid Lives, Will & Grace) plays Principal Principle, at a school that also features a stunning drag queen, openly gay football players, plus-sized cheerleaders, and a gay icon named Sissy Frenchfry. Miss Coco Peru (Trick) also makes an appearance. A newcomer introduces homophobia to a gay-friendly school and turns Sissy’s world upside down. But Sissy won’t give up. This campy satire provides an uplifting ending to a collection of funny gay films.

--Duane Simolke, author of The Acorn Stories and Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Book review: The Gathering, by Ronald L. Donaghe

As someone who reads every book the prolific and talented Ronald L. Donaghe writes, I waited quite a long time for this particular novel. The series Common Threads in the Life began with Common Sons, a gay classic that went out of print for a while then eventually came back as a print-on-demand book. And the demand definitely existed!

Donaghe then continued his series with The Salvation Mongers, a searing look at the ex-gay movement. That second book used some of the same settings and characters. The couple from the first novel again took center stage in The Blind Season, which introduced readers to a much larger extended family.

Donaghe kept saying he was writing a book called The Gathering, which would bring together the Common Threads characters. Fortunately, he changed his mind about The Gathering concluding the series. At least one more novel remains. Of course, he writes other series as well, but this review strictly focuses on Common Threads.

Tom and Joel, the two young men who come out and fall in love as the title characters of Common Sons, are now in their fifties. The daughter they fathered during The Blind Season is now a grown, fascinating woman, and the mother of that daughter has also forged her own identity as an independent woman who has overcome a troubled past. In The Salvation Mongers, Kelly works to expose the ex-gay group that had caused suffering in his life. In The Gathering, he falls back into Tom and Joel’s life, along with an old enemy.

I would call The Blind Season the darkest part of the series, and this novel shares some of that book’s gritty tragedy. However, the spotlight soon returns to the relationships of The Gathering’s large—and mostly lovable—cast. The characters spring as naturally from the New Mexico landscape as the agrarian life they enjoy. Instead of catty, stereotypical queens in a New York City coffee shop, Donaghe gives us three-dimensional people that represent the lives of countless gays across countless small towns. He also gives us heterosexual characters who often surprise us in their ability or inability to overcome prejudice.

As other reviewers often note, Donaghe also gives us gay couples who work hard to create lasting relationships—with or without gay role models. Tom and Joel’s hard work on their farm constantly mirrors their hard work at making a better life for themselves and other gays. Donaghe not only imagines that possibility, but presents it in an appealing, memorable novel.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Science fiction/fantasy news

The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure received a 2007 Allbooks Reviewer’s Choice Award!

Watch for a direct-to-DVD release of Babylon 5: The Lost Tales. B5 was one of my all-time favorite TV shows, so I’m glad to see the saga continuing.