Wednesday, June 25, 2014

MST3K Barbies

A few years back I went on a photoshopping binge creating cool Barbies people wish were real. Most of them were role playing related but I had to do an MST3K themed one. (it's in my contract with satan)

Thus I created a Joel one. I am not choosing in the great Mike v Joel debate, it was easier to find a red jumpsuit and throw a gizmonic patch on. That's all.
But that is Joel without the mads?
Then I realized, I really need to do the mads from the Sci-Fi era. They deserve the same plastic mattel love. So I created Pearl, Professor Bob, and Brain Guy:
Pearl's face is actually off of an Ursula doll because come on, she'd totally be Queen of the Sea if given a chance. I went scrounging for a Planet of the Apes mask to mimic Bobos. But the hardest to find was a stinking hooded cowl. It was so annoying Brain Guy got the Mr. B treatment.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Spider Cocoon Man

Spiders! They incite terror in many, a fear I don't share. I think of them as helpful pest control that weave dew dropped lace for me to stumble through as I go after the rake. I never much thought of adding them into our Halloween display.

We got a few spiders that were really cool/cute, then a few more, then a web caster gun. Suddenly, we have an entire spider display that's anemic compared to the tombstones/skeleton/medieval scenes. Cue the easiest and cheapest Halloween project I have ever done. The Cocoon Man:
I call him Frodo. He's about 3 1/2 feet long in total. I didn't want a full sized skeleton because they're pains to store and cart around. Plus, I already have 6.

The frame was a cheat as we already had most of it designed for a mummy challenge we lost.
The head is a ball of newspaper duct taped together, the arms more rolled up, duct taped newspaper. There is a wire flower inside each that gives it flexibility. You don't have to do it. It's a remnant from the mummy challenge we spectacularly lost. A lot of people don't bother with arms at all. As I said, I had it so I used it.

The body is chicken wire, which makes up 90% of all prop bodies (and 0.5% of human bodies. The invasion is coming). You don't have to use a funnel as a neck. Again, leftover remnants from mummy challenge.

I also had a pair of leftover legs. I have so many pairs of leftover legs I'm running out of ideas of what to do with them. Legs everywhere!
As you can see, the next step is pretty easy. Duct tape on the legs. Cover the body in newspaper, duct tape that on. Stick on the arms. Duct tape that on. Create hands with balled up newspaper. Duct tape that on.

I'd had a bit of a brilliant moment with the hands. I wanted my spider victim to be a making a fist so I made a fist, covered it in tin foil, carefully peeled it off, then stuffed that with newspaper. It gave me a crude mold so I didn't just have a ball at the end of the arm.

The next step is of course, spray paint:
White so no weird newspaper messages poke out through the webbing. Coat both sides, of course.

Some people do this completely differently and will wad up newspaper, then stuff that into stockings to create a frame. It works if you want to go that way. As I said, I had the frame so I used it.

I did get some stockings, but these were only knee high. Don't use knee high stockings. Get the full on panty hose. In white, of course, unless you have a flesh weaving spider. I don't want to know if you have a flesh weaving spider.
I used the stockings to build up what would become the base, cutting them in half and taping them onto my hobbit. Stockings don't do well with scotch tape so they'll fight you every step of the way. Stockings hate me.

Finally, take that bag of webbing and stretch it across the frame, rolling for about an hour until he's coated in enough that you're happy.
I'll probably cover the feet in more webbing as halloween gets closer, but I wanted to leave them mostly free to up the creepy factor.
It took me an afternoon to finish this guy, most of that time lost to watching the paint dry in June humidity. This was also the cheapest prop I have ever made. The stockings cost one dollar, which was all that had to be purchased. We already owned everything else. For what's normally a $20-$30 prop, pretty good deal.
Help me! Help me!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Free book!

I've got a giveaway going on at Goodreads (good gravy!) for a free paperback copy of my book, TerraFae.

It's got elves in it. It's got a man and woman hating each other. It's got no romance. It's got Cas. And apparently, it's got this:

Click below to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Terrafae by Sabrina Zbasnik


by Sabrina Zbasnik

Giveaway ends June 27, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I Hate Strong Female Characters

Like nonplussed and literally, the phrase “strong female character” has come to mean its antithesis. When people hear it they picture a full fleshed out woman with her own wants and desires. What they get is a woman in a mini skirt and thigh high boots that occasionally punches people.

But, and this is vital, that strong female character, cannot actually save the day. Her entire existence is for the main male hero. She may be spunky and sassy and is always met beating up some guys, but the second she teams up with MMH (main male hero) she abandons everything in her life to help him on his quest. Perhaps she manages to get captured and somehow fully forget how to fight allowing the MMH to do all the cool stuff while she sits around in a metal bikini.
Strong female character is a buzzword. People know it’s something audiences want, so they throw it in for anything. Have a female character? Well, she’s a strong female character!
But, she’s only got three lines and you didn’t even name her beyond “Busty Hottie?”
Yeah, but look, she totally stabbed that one bad guy in the eye. Strong female character!
I stated once that “if your female character doesn't exist outside of the prism of your male character's existence, you do not have a ‘strong woman.’”
Quite a few male writers had to rush to my somnolent twitter feed to inform me I was wrong (of course I am, I'm just a girl), that all of their characters are strong females because they hit things. Sometimes they hit things really hard. Maybe one's like a B cup, a large B cup of course. And then they drop the bomb, “well it passed the Bechdel Test so they're all capable characters, can't accuse me of sexism.”
Let us break down the Bechdel test for those who have yet to hear of it.
In order to pass all you need are
  • Two named women
  • Together in a scene (only one scene necessary)
  • Talking about something other than men
That is bloody it. The point of it was to show how rarely movies passed, that so much of media falls upon the 25:75 ratio. One Sue Storm to the three other fantastics (soulless scientists not withstanding). It was to give data for how rare it is for women to exist outside or to have a point beyond the main male character’s purpose.
The test was supposed to draw attention to the dearth of female characters, instead so many men found it a convenient excuse to prove they can't be accused of sexism.
Throw in a character named Candy talking to another named Mandy about how awesome shoes are, then back to the guys actually saving the world. Boom, Bechdel Test passed. This is a totally feminist work with three dimensional women.
I'm not a big fan of playing the reverse game, but imagine the utter shit fits thrown if all you needed to prove you created a fully fleshed out three dimensional male character is that you have
  • Two named men
  • Together in one scene
  • Talking about something that has nothing to do with women
This Brochdel Test is passed by, oh, just about every movie in existence. Men can have pasts, they can have motivations, desires, needs, wants outside of sex.
Women have that one scene where the love interest gossips with her best friend, who will probably never be seen again.
I despise the always tacked on female character in action movies because she's there for one reason, to polish the main character's penis. Once that's done, she's nothing more than an animated set piece, occasionally transformed into a breathing MacGuffin. Oh sure, maybe she throws a punch or two, taps a stick lightly against a rat of unusual size; but if you removed the male character, she would cease to exist. All her motivation comes down to is making the male protagonist happy (ifyaknowwhatImean nudge nudge); without him around she'd stand blank like a Stepford robot in the kitchen, making sad beeping noises, waiting for someone to switch her off.
No, passing the Bechdel test does not mean you have a fully culpable, capable, or even somewhat realistic female character. If you're uncertain and concerned you could try asking another woman and, this is the really important part, listening to her. Don't ignore the words flowing out of her mouth and mentally fill in her criticism with diamonds/babies/yogurt/chocolate/pumpkin spice latte and change nothing. We've been doing this woman thing a hell of a lot longer than you. We may just know what we're talking about.
So I say we need to have a second level of the Bechdel test; if you are basing the idea that you cannot be accused of sexism upon this test, then you need to pass the second level.
  • Have a named female character
  • Whose life does not revolve around a male character
  • Done. Maybe have some pancakes to celebrate?
I'm guessing, much like the original Bechdel test, most media will fail.
There’s another approach to creating the false “strong female character” that’s grown in popularity as male writers try to shoehorn in a female character but keep all the interesting stuff with men.
We’ll give them a woman who’s trained her entire life to become a ninja chimney sweep. She’s forsaken friends, love, and a normal life to master the secrets of ninja chimney sweeping. She’s harsh, but witty, with a short fuse for those who waste her time. But this story won’t have a damn thing to do with her. No, it has to be about a white guy, mid 20’s with a bit of a pot belly who is almost a total screw up.
But this guy is destined to be the great ninja chimney sweep hero. You can’t argue with it. It’s destiny. Rather than the girl using her lifetime of awesomeness to defeat the dust monster clogging up the lungs of Earth, instead she must lose two-three weeks of her life trying to train a perpetual fuck up. Because that makes tactical sense, to send an untrained and untested rookie instead of the person who devoted her life to it.
It’s the “girls can’t save the world” trope. She may be confident, she may be talented, she may be terrifying beyond anything the villain can imagine, but she cannot save the galaxy. Only boys can do that. So they take that female character they built up and delegate her back to being the prize waiting at home for the real hero to return once he’s finished falling into winning. Sure, she gets a backstory and maybe even a bit of autonomy, but it means jack squat when all she gets to do with that characterization is stand around waiting for a male character to save the day.
Yet, the creators can run around screaming “Look, we made a strong female character.” She can punch really hard. She doesn’t dream about boys. She won’t need any rescuing. She won’t do any saving either, but that’s not important. All that matters is we made one. We didn’t use one, but we made her.
That is not enough. Boys have grown up watching men save the galaxy for eons, but you can’t let a woman do it? Even if its part of an ensemble, she’s relegated to the half naked hottie that goes along with whatever the leader wants. It’s a guy who’s the comic relief, a guy who’s the muscle, a guy who saves the galaxy. The girl waits around for a kiss and punches a few baddies, but not too many. We don’t want to emasculate the hero.
Because this is the overriding fear with every strong female character. If we let her be too impressive, let her do too much on her own, then she won’t need a male to save her.  What if, instead of needing a man, she wanted one around? She wanted one for his friendship, or for his humor, or because he treated her like a person instead of a pile of sexy body parts? Impossible! Give her a stick to swing around, put her in a bikini, and call it a role model for little girls. Done!
This isn’t even touching upon the idea that not all strong women beat people up. Tactics, cunning, or even emotional manipulation can a powerful woman make; but in order for that to happen, a woman would have to be smarter than a man and we’re right back to emasculation terror. Sure, maybe she knows some secret ninja woman moves that allow her to take out a few bad guys. That’s acceptable. But outsmarting some big baddie? Unthinkable!
Girls must always be shown as lesser than boys, even when people are swearing up and down that they’re not by hiding behind “it’s a strong female character.” To admit for a moment that women can be just as capable as men is too terrifying for the average writing crop to admit.
And that’s why I hate strong female characters, who are anything but.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Make your wraith tutorial

I have a certain gothic aesthetic that has little to do with pale skin and gobs of eyeliner. It's more brooding gargoyles, stripped skeletons and a multi-hued palette from black to white. This means for Halloween I skip past a lot of the blood, guts, and clowns companies put out and create my own.
This guy cost maybe $20 to make total. All you need is
  • Skeleton hands/groundbreaking hands. I have a pile from after halloween sales. I'm always using them.
  • Two sections of PVC pipe
  • Spray starch, the heavy kind. You can get it at the dollar store.
  • 8 sq feet of cheesecloth. I had to buy two packages of 4 sq.
  • A balloon
  • A garden stake
  • Black spray paint.
To start, I attached the hands through the four square joint I got. In retrospect, I probably should have made a slightly larger frame with longer arms to make up for the giant hands but I was afraid it wouldn't support the weight. Well, there's always next time.

The joint has four openings and is 1/2 inch. I needed something to easily take in the hands that I secured with hot glue but not too large. I also added another pipe to create a neck. Just jam some sections together in the hardware store until it all fits.
The reason I wanted the neck and the four joint pipe was to give a longer structure for the stake to go up. This also means you have to plug up the hole on the top. I just stuck in a wad of foam, which this house is full of, and hot glued it in.
I also covered the hands in their tin foil mittens to prepare for what's coming next.
Since I want a black wraith, I knew that having white pipe and white fabric on the arms would be a problem so I spray painted that all black. You need the fusion stuff for the PVC pipe, but if you're a home haunter you already have it.

Once that's dry, blow up the balloon a little under the size of the cowl you want. Anchor it to the neck with scotch tape. Make sure to really anchor the back and front as adding the cheesecloth will cause it to droop/list.

I also made some tin foil folds and taped those on top of the balloon to really give that cowl shape.
Shove it all onto your stake in the yard and now it's time for cheeseclothing.

There are a billion different ways to go about hardening cheesecloth from wood glue and water to your own cornstarch. What I liked about the spray stuff is that I had a good control. If something wasn't still enough I could go back over it and spray it again. And you will, over and over. At least three or four heavy sprayings to get it done.

This is the creative and exhausting part where you cut up pieces of cloth, drape it over the frame and spray it. Then repeat until you have something you like.
I used clothespins to bind the cowl part and to create sleeves. Now to ignore it in the hot summer sun for a few hours while it hardens.

If you wanted a white ghost your work is almost done, but if you wanted black it's time to crack open the spray paint.

I worked the outer edges, especially hardening the cowl. I needed that dry and crusty before the last step.

Once you trust the structural support of the head, it's time. Pop the balloon. It will deflate some but it's no problem. Just pop the head back into place and hose down the inside with black spray paint.

You should wind up with something like this.

And that's how to make a cheesecloth wraith. Glowing eyes and ability to only be killed by silver or magical weapons is optional.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Free Space!

Long time no share, eh? After suffering super, major, I-never-want-to-look-at-another-word-again blow out from getting out The King's Blood, I finally picked up some of my Dwarves in Space and decided it was time.

The little novella is off in beta reading stage, and I've begun serious edits on the first one, but I'm here to show off pictures. First up, some new cover ideas.

They're all for different books, so no need to pick a favorite. I'm partial to the first just because it's blue myself. Also stabby things make everything better.

I also whipped up a little I don't know what to call it to represent my ship. Originally called the Constellation Cruise its named changed to the Elation Cru as letters fell off.
Now to the free space. In addition to making all this stuff, I dusted off the old Dwarves in Space website I cracked back in Novemberish. And I needed a nice space background for the site. Nothing too outlandish, and dark.

So, if anyone needs a blog background of space for free, here ya go. She's full of stars!
Just right click and save, then you can slap it around wherever you need some stars. SPACE!