Question of the Week: Favorite Forgotten Word or Phrase

As a more positive follow-up to a Facebook post from a couple weeks ago, what’s your favorite word or phrase that you’d like to see come back into common usage?

Many of mine come from films of the 30s and 40s, or from more recent films that try to capture that vibe. A word like “mook” is a little stronger than “twerp” but not as rough as contemporary terms that have taken its place. The phrase “What’s the rumpus?” either makes you think of a bygone era or of Miller’s Crossing.

Other words just aren’t used the same way they used to be. I’d love to see “wonderful” come back in the sense that we now use “unbelievable.” That is, “I wonder at your behavior.” Say, when the flustered object of a screwball heroine has had almost enough and says, “You’re wonderful.” It’s not a compliment but a pleasant protest. “Marvelous” can pull the same trick.

What’s one word you’d like to hear more often? How about a word whose earlier meaning has been lost? How about a phrase we could really use these days.


Question of the Week: Fantasy in the 1980s

To expand upon the theme of a question I asked on Facebook, what are your favorite fantasy novels and films of the 1980s? You can have a little wiggle-room for films and books from the late 70s or early 90s, but part of the reason I ask is because I’m interested in what’s unique to that decade. Thus, even if you discovered R.E. Howard or J.R.R. Tolkien in the 80s, that’s not what I’m looking for this week.

More importantly, what elements of those novels and films do you find have become dated or tired now that you look back at them? And which elements endure or must return to save us all from the dread Grimdark*?



  • I like dark fantasy. There’s no need to crush me for this joke.

Question of the Week: Creature Feature

As a kid, I loved nothing better than monster movies. They weren’t horror movies; they were monster movies. My friends and I traded monster cards, and on weekends I watched Count Gore DeVol (Dick Dyszel) present an endless parade of monsters on Creature Feature.

The first magazine I ever subscribed to was, of course, Famous Monsters of Filmland. What captured my imagination most were the articles on makeup and special effects. The earliest Halloween costume I remember making myself was a mummy (for which I tied for third place). By high school, I was doing my own prosthetics and makeup to transform into Quasimodo (ask me about the last day the Mormons came to our house) or the Wolfman and entertain the lineup for our marching band’s annual haunted house fundraiser.

Lon Chaney’s Wolfman was my early favorite, even though I recognized that Karloff’s performance in Bride of Frankenstein was the best depiction of a monster (with apologies to Lon’s father, who was overall the greatest monster actor). After puberty, just as young boys eventually give up Luke Skywalker for Han Solo, I transferred my sympathies to the Creature from the Black Lagoon because all he wanted was the girl.

Answer me two questions this week: Who’s your favorite classic (pre-1970) movie monster? And who’s your favorite contemporary movie monster? Of course also: why?

Question of the Week: Action Scenes in Books

As a film fan, I tend not to think of prose when it comes to action scenes. I think of action movies. I think of John Woo bullet ballets, Lau Kar-leung kung fu epics, or even any number of preposterous but glorious Luc Besson extravaganzas. When it comes to action, I remember what I’ve seen more readily than what I’ve read.

This is embarrassing when I’m asked the question, “Who are your favorite writers for action?” I’ve handled it with Zelazny and Howard in past, but that can’t remain my go-to answer. Help me out.

Recommend two or three of your favorite action books, preferably pre-gunpowder era or fantasy novels. Sweeten your answer by telling me what it is about those scenes that makes them so memorable for you. I’ll expand my horizons by reading the books that you pitch the best.

Question of the Week: How Do You Like Your Editing?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve worked with a wider variety of editors than usual, and I’ve experienced different methods of editorial feedback.

Perhaps most common, especially for shorter work, is an email listing suggested changes or questions with references to key phrases or page numbers. Also common are notes embedded in the document, usually as comments and edits highlighted by track changes—this is my preference. I’ve also experienced variations on these methods, some of them unwieldy and time-consuming to address, others not so bad, just different from my preference.

If you’re an editor, how do you usually send your feedback? Is it different for short stories, novels, and other forms? Is it different for different writers?

If you’re a writer, what’s your preferred method of receiving feedback? Are there some that drive you up the wall?

And if you’re neither an editor nor a writer, how have you always imagined the feedback process?

Question of the Week: Tabletop Games Based on Books and Movies

My three favorite roleplaying games to play (I have several other favorites to read) are Dungeons & Dragons (and its various descendants), Star Wars Saga Edition (which I suppose is also a descendant of D&D), and Call of Cthulhu. The first orbits a vast body of fantasy fiction around the twin axes of J.R.R. Tolkien and R.E. Howard. The second obviously expands (enormously) on the space fantasy films. The third is based on a body of fiction surrounding H.P. Lovecraft’s Mythos.

Few popular RPGs aren’t based on a genre defined by an author or a group of authors who define a subgenre. The World of Darkness owes a great deal to Anne Rice, who of course owes a similar debt to every Gothic novel ever. Shadowrun and Cyberpunk wouldn’t exist without William Gibson and his comrades in the movement. And every Pulp adventure game really should open with a dedication to Lester Dent and the other gods of his pantheon.

What are your favorite games clearly based on a single author or film or TV show? What games have you played that clearly owe no debt to a literary or film or TV source?