Release The Virgins

TITLE: RELEASE THE VIRGINS
BY: MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA, EDITOR
PUBLISHED BY: FANTASTIC BOOKS
ISBN: 1-5151-2384-0/978-1-5154—2384-3
REVIEW COPY SENT BY PUBLISHER
REVIEW BY IDA VEGA-LANDOW

This is the second best book I’ve ever read that was written on a dare. The first was “Frankenstein” by 18-year-old Mary Shelley, after she and her future husband, the poet Percy Shelley, spent a wet summer at the Villa Diodati in Switzerland with their friend Lord Byron, where it wouldn’t stop raining. They spent most of their time reading ghost stories in front of the fireplace during all those dark and stormy nights, which inspired Byron to suggest that they all write a ghost story of their own. Poor Mary spent many sleepless nights wracking her brain to come up with a scary story, until she had a nightmare about “a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the novel’s story.”[Wikipedia, “Frankenstein”]. I think we all agree that Mary Shelley won that competition.

Michael Ventrella agreed to edit this collection of twisted tales after spending a weekend at an unnamed fan con, while he and a group of literary friends were sitting at a table in the bar on the third night of this four-day convention. One of them caught a fruit fly, which led to a discussion about biology, during which Thomas Nackid, who became the book’s cover artist, told them about his time in college when he was taking a genetics class and had to get up in the middle of the night to “release the virgins” from the fruit fly cultures. This catchy phrase so inspired the other authors that an idea was born; a challenge to write a story which included the phrase “Release the virgins”.

After agreeing to collect stories for the anthology, Ventrella decided to throw open the submissions process to everyone. In the book’s introduction, he admits that he was “worried that we would not get a large enough variety of stories to make this worthwhile”. But after a week, he was forced to announce, “No more unicorns!” As a longtime unicorn lover, I for one would have enjoyed reading more than the one unicorn story he included in this anthology; “Valedictory” by Lawrence Watt-Evans, which is about a girl who, along with a group of other village maidens, acts as bait to lure the unicorns at the local preserve every year so their horns can be harvested for medicinal purposes.

But despite the dearth of unicorn stories, the rest of the stories he selected, by such well-known and eminent authors of sci-fi and fantasy as David Gerrold, Keith R.A. DeCandido, even my homeboy Patrick Thomas of “Murphy’s Lore” fame, all contain the required phrase, “Release the virgins”, a small pearl hidden within a tasty oyster of prose. Some of those oysters are tastier than others, at least from my point of view. Stories such as “Are You There, Cthulhu? It’s Me, Judy” by Beth W. Patterson, about a teenage Cthulhu worshipper at summer camp, and “Coming Attractions” by Daniel M. Kimmel, about an alien who becomes a successful Hollywood scriptwriter/producer, could have used a bit of cocktail sauce. Though I do like the way that Ms. Patterson managed to smuggle the phrase “Release the virgins” into her story. (The teenaged protagonist listens to her iPod while she’s riding horses; among her musical favorites is a group called The Virgins. She remarks to one of her friends, “I wish that some label would release The Virgins as a box set”.)

Among my favorites is “Sidekicked” by Hildy Silverman about an alternate universe Earth divided into Heroics and Villains by a godlike alien called the Architect, “with a smattering of ordinary folks to save or torment”, in which a teenage girl villain called Teen Devil accidently kills a hero’s sidekick and tries to make it up to him by replacing the boy, for her own nefarious purposes of course. There’s also “Innocence Lost” by Gail Z. Martin, where a witchy woman who’s a psychometric (able to read the history and magic of objects by touching them) finds an antique statue of the Virgin Mary stolen by the man who just bumped into her and uses it to find out that the man in question has been stealing statures of the Blessed Virgin from Catholic Churches, along with other holy images known for healing and warding off evil, to protect himself from a demon he accidently conjured up and can’t get rid of. All those statues of the Virgin Mary naturally lead to the required phrase, as in “…we need to get him to release the Virgins so they can go back to the churches where they belong.” The book is filled with better and worse ways of using the phrase, so be prepared to laugh or groan accordingly.

Patrick Thomas’s “The Running of the Drones” and David Gerrold’s “Dangerous Virgins”, which end the book, are neck and neck for sheer audacity. I can’t decide which story I liked better; Patrick’s is about a private investigator on a Terran colony world trying to find the lost virgin queen of a hive of Wornets, whose inexperienced drones, all eager to mate with her, hold a yearly race similar to the running of the bulls in Pamplona to determine who gets to her first. David’s story is about fan fiction and the weirdos who love it, writers and readers alike. (Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Space Cadets, I’m one of you and I include myself in the weirdo category.) One fanfic writer in particular and the know-it-all Trekker determined to bring him down for daring to satirize Star Trek and write dirty porn versions of all the sacred original Series episodes we adore (A Private Little Whore, Charle-SeX, The Naked Slime, I could go on and on but I’m both repulsed and fascinated by this nonsense, like a Vulcan on the verge of her seven-year itch). You’ll have to wait till the end of David’s story to see how he used the phrase, but Patrick comes right out with it at the beginning of the drones’ race to mate with their virgin queen.

All in all, I found “Release The Virgins” to be a very satisfying read. Some of the stories were more satisfying than others, but even the worse ones I had to give an A for effort. Get a copy of your own and spend some time releasing the virgins while pondering whether to imprison or release the writers responsible for all these virgin efforts. (But I still think it could have used more unicorn stories!)

Otakon 2018 – a con in review

The second year of Otakon in Washington, DC was a weekend filled with fun surprises. There were guests of all media from culture with the Shinto Priestess Kanawa Kuniko to Man-at-Arms, cosplayers Serena Dejesus to production with Square Enix Producer Kimura Yasutaka and Studio Trigger President Otsuka Masahiko. Highlighted guests were Conductors Arnie and Eric Roth for the Distant Worlds orchestra with the esteemed composer Uematsu Nobuo and a treat for us all: Cheritz developer, Sujin Ri with the Korean voice actors from the popular, Mystic Messenger mobile game. There was alot to take in, alot to reminiscence, creating a weekend we will not soon forget.

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Otakon 2018 – Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans panel

The host opened the panel with a call to cosplayers to join the staff for photos at the end of the panel. They also plugged the boxsets available at the booth. The limited edition is available online which includes the Barbatos gunpla. After introducing the guests, they asked them to talk about how long they have been in the industry.
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Otakon 2018 – Distant Worlds concert

Since Distant Worlds started in 2007, I’ve been to all their concerts in the New York area. And every concert has been a wonderful experience of music, animation and story. A celebration with fans of music and game. But for Otakon to host the concert was a rare treat for attendees. And it was even rarer for me to be able to take photos to memorialize the evening after only savoring with my eyes and ears for so long.
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Book Review: FIERCE: The History of Leopard Print

TITLE: FIERCE: The History of Leopard Print
BY: Jo Weldon
PUBLISHED BY: Harper Design, An Imprint of HarperCollinsPubishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-269295-5
Review copy provided by author

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This book is dedicated to “the BIG Cats, the people they INSPIRE, and the people who work to preserve their lives and HABITATS.” But it’s intended for all you wild things out there who love to wear leopard print. It’s a historic study of the vivid, spotted fur of a beautiful beast whose strength and independent nature inspired women, who are usually the downtrodden, powerless members of society, to be strong and fearless too.

Being a livelong lover of leopard print myself, I have worn it in every way possible. My favorite loafers and sneakers are leopard print; so is a well-worn pair of high heels, along with one of my mock turtleneck tops, a short-sleeved blouse and a pair of stretch pants. Of course I have a leopard print nightgown, and a sleepshirt, as well as pajamas. I also have a leopard print bra, for which I have yet to find matching undies. I laugh to scorn the conventional notion that women over fifty shouldn’t wear leopard print. I’ve worn it more often since I turned fifty. I use it as an accessory, to set off my favorite clothes. I don’t think I’d have the nerve to wear head to toe leopard print, though certain celebrities, from Peg Bundy of “Married With Children” to Pat Benatar, who regularly performed in a leotard or catsuit, are not shy about doing so.
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Anime Expo 2018 – a con in review

Anime Expo kicked off the summer with the biggest Japanime bash of the US. Every year they get illustrious guests from Japan from creators, producers and seiyuu as well as famed musical guests. There was a ton of things going on including Deku’s seiyuu Yamashita Daiki with the My Hero Academia movie as well as seiyuu Yuki Kaji with the premiere of Attack on Titans season 3. For music lovers, there is the 3 days of Anisong with Cinderella Girls live, May’n and the famed composer, Yuki Kajiura. Couldn’t see everything and this is only a glimpse into the weekend…
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Anime Expo 2018 – Anisong Friday Concert

The concert opened up with May’n singing Chase the World to the screams of the fans. The upbeat tempo started the crowd dancing. May’n had her own crew of backup dancers along with the band. She greeted the fans in English. “Are you ready to make some noise? Come on, Los Angeles!” *fans cheer* It was awesome to see May’n feed off the energy of the fans. “There are so many people! I have alwys wanted to meet you guys. Tonight, let’s make a big memory. Let me hear your voice!”

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AnimeNYC 2017 – a con in mini review

AnimeNYC hits Jacob Javits for the first time November 17 to 19. The convention center is no stranger to anime cons, the last time New York Anime Fest being there in 2011. Helmed by Crunchyroll, the event was even bigger then NYAF with participating studios including Pony Canyon, Funimation, Viz, NYAV Post and more. An industry con with a heart in the fandom with a plethora of guests from directors, producers, voice actors, cosplayers and singers. Anime Diva night kicked off the weekend on friday with classic singers, masquerade on Saturday and the highlight of sunday, two movie premieres, Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower along with the sold out Fullmetal Alchemist live action movie. Hit the link for photos and fun….
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