Tagged: American Horror Story

Martha Thomases: Too Much! Too Much!

By the time you read this, I will be even more behind.

The Iron Fist series starts on Netflix today. I still have not seen Stranger Things or most of Black Mirror, or A Series of Unfortunate Events. I haven’t finished the most recent seasons of Orange is the New Black or Love. I haven’t seen the new Amy Schumer special, or Trevor Noah’s.

On my DVR is the entire last season of American Horror Story, which is one of my favorite shows. There’s more than half a season of Taboo, which I really like but it’s very dense. The Americans started up again, and I haven’t watched yet. I also have episodes of Ripper Street from, like, two years ago.

Part of the reason I’m so behind in my television is the huge pile of graphic novels I have to read, along with my weekly fix of floppies.

Sometimes I even read books that don’t have pictures or conversations. They don’t pile up as much as they used to now that I read so much on my Kindle, but, I assure you, the virtual stack is quite tall. As is the physical stack of the books I want to read that aren’t available digitally.

I’m behind on movies, too. When I think about going, I realize I could stay home and catch up on last year’s films with pay-per-view for less money. And then I realize I could watch some of the stuff on the DVR for free.

All of this is on top of the things that all of us have to do — meal preparation, sleep, work — and things we might not need to do, but should, like exercise and bill paying and laundry. Toss in as well my responsibilities as a citizen, like calling my representatives regularly to vote against the latest GOP rollback of civil rights, or sorting my recycling.

This would be okay if I was a normal person. I would accept that there are only 24 hours in a day, and only seven days in a week, and that there are only so many things a person can do within that amount of time. There is such a thing as speed reading, but I don’t enjoy it. I like to bathe in a story, let myself soak it all in. For the same reason, I don’t want to watch my television sped up.

Instead, I choose to feel guilty. We are living in a Golden Age, at least as far as media choices are concerned. I have a responsibility to keep up. I am supposed to enjoy it all and talk about it so that I can contribute to an environment in which there are so many choices. By doing so, I’ll help writers and artists (including actors and directors and film crews) get paid.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to spend an hour playing fetch with my cat.

John Ostrander Gets Trumped!


I’m almost ready to give up. Throw in the towel.

I’m a writer of fantastic fiction. That’s been my bread and butter for over 30 years. Folks that fly. Folks that travel through time. Folks that live in multi-dimensional cities. Bad folks doing bad things for ostensibly good causes. And so on and so on.

For all that the stories and characters have been fantastic, I have to keep them in some ways real. I don’t want to have the readers say, “Oh, that could never happen.” I don’t want to have an editor say, “Oh, that could never happen.” Or “That’s ridiculous.” Or “Who do you think you’re kidding?” The stories need to be at least plausible in some way.

Or so I thought until this political season.

Yes, I’m going to use the T word. Trump.

If Trump did not exist, if I had simply made up him and his candidacy, I could never have sold his campaign for president. I don’t think I know an editor who would have bought it except as some wild political satire. It would probably have been dismissed as a product of my fevered liberal brain.

Reality has… trumped me.

That happens now and then. When I first proposed my idea back in the 80s for a Suicide Squad revival, of saying that the government would get supervillains to do covert missions is (supposedly) in the National Interest, there was some concern that the premise was a little too out there. In between the time when the Squad proposal was accepted and the first issue was published, Irangate hit. (For those who are too young or too old to remember, Irangate or The Iran-Contra Scandal occurred during the second Reagan administration where the White House sold some weapons to Iran (which was under an arms embargo) and used the money to fund the revel Contras in Nicaragua which had been prohibited by the U.S. Congress.)

In short, reality trumped me back then as well.

When Donald Trump declared himself a candidate for President, I thought it was a joke. I thought he was a joke. After all, he ran before and went nowhere.

Now? Now he’s the Republican nominee for the highest office in the land and the most powerful person on the planet.

I think that’s a notion that American Horror Story could do a whole season on.

He has done and said things that would have sunk any other presidential candidate in memory. Just this week he praised Vlad Putin, the dictator of Russia, and even went on Russian TV to praise him and disparage President Obama. That was too much even for Bill O’Reilly. I’ve watched countless Republicans in high positions who had to answer questions about it and looked like they were going to vomit in their mouths. They usually mumbled something along the lines of “I support the Party’s candidate.”

Look, I make no bones and no apologies for what I am – liberal and decidedly anti-Trump. I’m not nuts about Hillary Clinton and, frankly, I think if it had been almost any other person who was the Democratic candidate, they would be crushing Trump. I think, and hope, that she will in the end. All that said, I cannot conceive that Trump will win this. I keep telling myself it’s not possible but, on the other hand, I never thought he would get this far either. I do not understand the appeal. I understand there’s a lot of anger out there and a lot of people are fed up with Washington but – c’mon! You seriously want the nuclear launch codes in Trump’s hands?

If this wasn’t what we laughingly call reality, there’s no way I could have sold this concept, this story, to an editor.

If The Donald wins the election, we’ll have an additional definition for the word, “trump.”


As in, we’ve all been well and truly… trumped.

Martha Thomases: Insane, Edgy, Horrific, Great!


What do you do when something you love goes off the deep end?

If that something is person, you support him to the best of your ability and try to get him the help he needs. A person who goes off the deep end is suffering, and you, as a human, should do your best to make that person better.

What about when that something is fiction? Is it okay to enjoy watching?

I ask this because this season of American Horror Story: Hotel is completely nutso. Whatever narrative drive there might be is completely sabotaged by the sex and blood and beauty.

It’s really fun.

AHS is one of a new kind of television show, like Fargo and True Detective, which tell a complete story each season but then start over from scratch, with a new cast, new characters, and a new premise. Unlike those other two shows, AHS keeps many (but not all) of the same actors, like a repertory company or a neighborhood theater group. Some actors, like Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson have been on every season. Others, like Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett showed up a few seasons in and have stayed around.

Jessica Lange was on the first four seasons, but didn’t come back this year. Would she have kept the story on the rails? Would we want her to?

Each season, producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk take a horror story trope and play with its conventions. In the the first season, American Horror Story: Murder House, for example, a normal family bought a haunted house. I thought it was good, but it didn’t knock me out. I liked the way the story meandered, with guest stars appearing long enough to get killed, but I wasn’t entirely hooked.

It wasn’t until the second season, American Horror Story: Asylum that the craziness revealed itself in all its glory. Set in a Catholic insane asylum in 1964, the show had nuns with secret pasts, demonic possession, Nazi scientists, alien visitors, serial killers and more. I realized that the producers were going for more than a simple scare in the episode titled The Name Game, in which Jessica Lange burst into song in the middle of the day room.

She sang again, on other seasons, but it was never quite so bonkers. Neither was the premise.

For the third season, American Horror Story: Coven, the setting was a school for witches in New Orleans. It was humid and full of voodoo (and great characters), but not up to the second. And last season’s American Horror Story: Freak Show had a two-headed woman and Jessica Lange singing David Bowie’s “Golden Years,” but still nothing as wonky as the Nazi doctor being stalked by Anne Frank, which we had in Season Two.

This season, the premise is that the Hotel Cortez, a Los Angeles Art Deco jewel well past its prime, is run by a vampire, played by Lady Gaga. As if it were run by Black Flag pesticides, guests check in but they don’t check out. A detective with a tragic past is investigating a series of murders. Denis O’Hare plays the greatest bartender in the world.

I could go on, but there really isn’t any point. Each episode contains enough blood to fill a swimming pool, and plenty of sex, among every kind of combination of consenting adults you might imagine. Often, all of these things are in the same frame.

The clothes are beautiful. The men are beautiful (special shout out to Wes Bentley, Matt Bomer, Finn Wittrock and Cheyenne Jackson). The sets are beautiful.

All this beauty doesn’t make characters, however. I couldn’t tell you who the protagonist is. I can’t tell you what the menace is.

And yet, I would watch it every day if that was a choice.

Murphy and Falchuk are capable of making emotionally moving television. In addition to Glee and Nip/Tuck, they were behind HBO’s production of The Normal Heart, which had me crying buckets (and also featured Bomer, Wittrock and O’Hare).

Have there been comics that are as much fun to watch and make so little sense? I can’t think of any. Maybe S. Clay Wilson’s Checkered Demon, except that didn’t have as many cute guys in it.

There’s going to be a sixth season. I don’t know anything about it, but I’m setting my DVR.