S.M. Douglas

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Category: Science Fiction (page 1 of 2)

Character Influences, Apex Predator, Werewolves, and Tanya

As my readers know, the co-protagonist in my werewolf novel Apex Predator is an irredeemably wicked hot woman by the name of Tanya. What follows are some of the influences that went into creating what is one of my favorite characters.

At the top of the list would have to be the character Marsha Quist/Marcia Lura – from the book and movie “The Howling” (played in the movie by Elisabeth Brooks as pictured here). Though I generally prefer the movie over the book (minus the outstanding prologue to the book), if I had to pick between the two I lean toward the book’s original rendition of Marsha.

Elizabeth Brooks_Howling

This is by no means meant to be a slight against Elisabeth Brooks. She did a wonderful job as Marsha, both visually and emotionally capturing much of what a reader would have conjured up in their brain as they read author Gary Brandner’s work. However, in terms of being an influence on my own Tanya the book’s Marsha was more sophisticated (though nowhere near as formidable as Tanya). The movie Marsha tended more toward the feral and barely under control. Though my Tanya is not one you would want to provoke, she is more multi-dimensional with greater depth to her character.

Nevertheless, multiple influences were behind the concepts that became my Tanya. For instance, the character Sarah Conner (played by Linda Hamilton) from the now iconic Terminator and Terminator II movies is another of those big influences.

Sarah Connor_Terminator

I loved the way the original Terminator showed Sarah Connor’s evolution from vulnerable victim, to resourceful survivor, to victor. Then sometime between the first and second film, and as happens to most heroic champions, she had her downfall. Ironically this happened in spite of her doing what she believed she must – in becoming a survivalist and warrior – to protect her son and humanity. Yet this self-sacrifice had a huge downside for her and her child. In the second film he had become a teenage malcontent hardly worthy of being humanity’s future savior. Meanwhile Sarah Connor had become radicalized to such an extent that she spent much of the same film acting as a sociopathic terrorist who came across as a paranoid schizophrenic at best – before vindicating herself and rising once more to heroic status.

Similarly, Tanya’s tragic background – forged in the cauldron of war – helps my readers understand how a once innocent peasant girl became a destructive killing machine ranking as perhaps the most cunning and violent of Apex Predator’s major characters. Throughout the book Tanya wrestles against her violent nature. She does the right thing in some instances and in others gives in to the monster within – producing horrific results for the unfortunate targets of her predatory instincts. This leaves the reader wondering whether she will be able to truly become a hero, or revert to the bestial nature that has allowed her to do more than just survive in a harsh and unforgiving world – but to thrive as well. Though my Tanya is different than Sarah Connor, I owe a debt of gratitude to those writers, directors, and actors that gave The Terminator such a complex, interesting, and inspirational woman as its central star.

Now, let’s talk about the ladies of Alien/Aliens; beginning with Ellen Ripley. The character played to brilliant effect by Sigourney Weaver – beginning in 1979 with the now classic “Alien” and continuing for nearly two decades thereafter. Though I could go on and on about Ripley and how much of a strong role model she is for women the world over – I would much rather hone in on something else about the character and the work she appeared in: the 1986 sequel to Alien.

Ripley

James Cameron’s “Aliens” is unquestionably a different movie than Ridley Scott’s “Alien”. Most people remember the sequel for its military style action sequences involving Ripley and Colonial Marines facing off against hordes of xenomorphs. However, in addition to Ripley’s stirring role in besting the xenomorphs, there was something else that made Aliens such a great squel. That being another of the film’s great characters and of them all, who can forget Vasquez. The presence of Vasquez (played by Jennette Goldstein) alongside Ripley makes Aliens not just a great sequel, but perhaps the ground breaking female dominated action/military/science fiction/horror movie of all time.

Vasquez_1

I dare anyone to find such a popular box office smash as Aliens that features a better pair of ass-kicking ladies. They influenced my Tanya in so many ways. Yet, Tanya is a unique personality. However, she in many ways combines the best and worst of each of them; the toughness, intelligence, resourcefulness, sheer will to survive, and strength alongside the stubbornness, disdain for authority, self-destructive, and at times violent impulses that get her into trouble. All of which leaves my readers wondering which tendencies will Tanya give in to next – the good or the bad?

Speaking of bad I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another horror movie icon who influenced my Tanya. The one and only Sybil Danning.

Sybill Danning Set of Hercules

That’s right, Stirba the werewolf queen from Howling II; Eva and Gretchen Krupp (The She-Devils of Belzac) from Grindhouse’s Werewolf Women of the SS; vampiress Frau von Hess; and co-star to Lou Ferrigno in Hercules (she’s seen here back in 1983 with her sword) – as well as so many accolades I can’t even begin to list them all.


Like Dee Wallace (who follows me on twitter) she is a true scream queen and star. Plus, she is hot! I would kill to have a body like hers, and I’m a quarter century younger. She was always hot and is still hot (see the recent picture of her at age 60). This leads me to wonder – maybe she’s not just acting in all those movies. Maybe she really is a werewolf, or perhaps a vampire?
2012-Headshot-Sybil_Danning

Either way, she’s an inspiration. I likely couldn’t have crafted my voluptuous, strong, athletic, and bad-ass Tanya (albeit Tanya is a brunette) without such strong female influences as Sybil. If you haven’t seen any of her films, then by all means pull up the Netflix, grab some popcorn, and get watching! Or, pick up a copy of Apex Predator and see if you can spot the influence of these fantastic characters and actresses on my Tanya.

 

 

Horror, Science-Fiction, and Action: Doing it Right in the ’80s

I have previously discussed just how good the early ’80s were in terms of horror films. In addition, I have discussed why the best horror film of all-time was a pioneer in terms of effectively blending the horror/adventure genres. Let’s build upon those discussions and look at several 1980s films that successfully brought together three of my favorite genres: horror, science-fiction, and action.

The year 1984 produced a bevy of entertaining films that rank it as one of the great years in movie-making history.  No list of 1984’s best would be complete without The Terminator.

terminator-poster

We all know the plot and particulars of The Terminator. What really made the movie resonate was the way in which a classic science fiction trope of time travel was layered onto an early ’80s slasher style unstoppable villain. From there, the film’s centerpiece was arguably not the final confrontation between the Terminator and Sarah Connor, a good action sequence in and of itself. Instead, the Terminator’s mid-film assault on the police station harboring Sarah Connor has since become one of the iconic 80’s action sequences. This in a film filled with above average action scenes that include the gunfight at the disco Tech Noir and a car chase featuring a dueling shotgun battle. James Cameron wrote and directed Terminator and perhaps it is no surprise that he also crafted Aliens.

aliens-poster

Released in 1986, Aliens accomplishes the tricky feat of being a sequel that is ranked by many the near equal of its predecessor.  1979’s Alien was a horror movie grounded in science fiction. However, Aliens can best be described as an action movie with strong horror and science fiction elements. Though the action and violence are stunningly done it is in the in-between or “down time” scenes where Aliens really shows it’s teeth, leaving the viewer with an almost constant feeling of dread. Put simply, there is an unrelenting intensity to Aliens that few movies can achieve.

If heavy action is a central element of Aliens it’s taken one step further in our third and final movie in this list: 1987’s Predator.

predator-poster

Is the testosterone too high at times?  Sure. Can the dialogue be somewhat stilted or even schlocky? Of course. Nevertheless, what is perhaps the quintessential Schwarzenegger film is still fun and entertaining nearly thirty years later. So much so it is almost impossible to pull your eyes away given the film’s rapid pace, solid special effects, and the way the viewer is immersed in the jungle where the action takes place.  This last point is important. Director John McTiernan does a wonderful job of using the jungle as a secondary monster to the titular Predator stalking his prey.

I have staked my upcoming novel Apex Predator (to be published early next month) on the concept that blending genres is a great way to produce an entertaining experience for readers or viewers alike. Few decades can match the 1980s in terms of producing multiple films that stand the test of time and combine horror, science-fiction, and action so well. This list could have easily been expanded if for no other reason than 1982’s The Thing. Nevertheless, I’ll leave that one for another day. In the meantime, can anyone guess the only two actors to have played characters killed by the Terminator, Alien, and Predator?

Star Wars In The News

Needless to say with the upcoming December 18th release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens all things Star Wars are everywhere. Now some may bemoan this marketing blitz, but this is nothing new.

Back in the Star Wars “golden age” of the late 1970’s to early 1980’s we also had marketing appearances by the actors, toy promotions, and all kinds of other fun stuff. And yet those efforts to further capitalize on the immense popularity of George Lucas’ creation seemed so much more innocent. Continue reading

Leonard Nimoy Passes Away at Age 83

Horrible news – Leonard Nimoy passed away earlier today at the age of 83. It is being reported that he died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Though Nimoy was sometimes at pains to point out he was not in fact “Spock” he will always be remembered for his iconic role in the Star Trek TV series (1966 to 1969) and the ensuing films. Nimoy would not only become Spock to legions of his fans (myself included) but even shaped the character. He created the Vulcan salute from memories he had of Jewish blessings during his childhood.

Beyond Spock, I would also like to point out Nimoy’s role presenting the TV show “In Search of” which would prove to be one of the better looks at strange myths, monsters, and the paranormal. The show managed to achieve a fittingly eerie and creepy tone that for a young child such as myself was often quite scary. The “Bigfoot” themed episodes were particularly disturbing as I recall.

Nimoy was a multi-talented individual and will be greatly missed, but fondly remembered. He truly lived long and prospered.

Spock

J.J. Abrams (for those of you living under a rock the director of Star Wars Episode VII) just gave us a sneak peak at the new X-Wing (as part of a UNICEF fundraiser promo spot). Gotta leave the continued move away from CGI and the beat up look of an actual X-Wing mock up (plus a few other perks in the spot):

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