This Week in Mormon Literature, May 20, 2012

The LDStorymakers Writers Conference and the Whitney Awards Gala were held, Lance Larsen was named Utah Poet Laureate, a Mormon CIA employee is gunning to be the next Tom Clancy, and Mormon filmmakers are cranking out fantasy and comic-horror films through Arrowstorm Productions. Be sure to watch the trailer for the zombie film Osombie: The Axis of Evil Dead, brought to you by some of the people who made The Singles Ward. They have a thing for shirtless men shooting big guns. Please send any suggestions or announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and blog posts

The LDStorymakers Writers Conference was held the weekend of May 4th, culminating in the Whitney Awards gala. The results were:

Best Novel of the Year: I Don’t Want to Kill You, by Dan Wells (this is the second year in a row Dan Wells won Best Novel of the Year, and his third Whitney Award). Best Novel by a New Author: With a Name Like Love, by Tess Hilmo. Best General Fiction: Before I Say Goodbye, by Rachel Ann Nunes (this was Nunes’ fourth nomination and first win). Best Historical: Letters in the Jade Dragon Box, by Gale Sears (this was Sears’ fourth nomination and first win). Best Romance: Borrowed Light, by Carla Kelly (Kelly’s first nomination and win). Best Mystery/Suspense: Rearview Mirror, by Stephanie Black (this is the fourth year in a row that Black has won this category). Best Youth Fiction – General: With a Name Like Love, by Tess Hilmo (debut novel). Best Youth Fiction – Speculative: Variant, by Robison Wells (this was the first nomination and win by the founder of the Whitney Awards). Best Speculative Fiction: The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson (this was Sanderson’s 7th nomination and 4th win).

Whitney Awards Chair Josi Kilpack’s Whitney Award Gala Speech, 2011Pictures and wrapup by Jennie Hansen and Stephanie Black.

LDS Women’s Book Review did a podcast at the Awards Gala, interviewing most of the winners, Jack and Sheryl Weyland, Whitney Awards Chair Josi Kilpack, and several other attendees. LDSWBR also did a podcast where they wrapped up the Writing Conference, talking about their favorite courses.

BYU English Professor Lance Larsen was named Utah Poet Laureate by Governor Herbert. The SL Tribune reports: “Jacqueline Osherow and Katharine Coles, both professors of English at the University of Utah and Guggenheim Fellowship recipients for their own poetry, count themselves impressed. “We’re often taken by surprise by their weight and depth,” writes Osherow on the back of Larsen’s 2009 collection, Backyard Alchemy. Coles, the state’s outgoing poet laureate, praised Larsen’s “brainy” verse. “It’s embedded in the sensory details of everyday life, and thoughtful, and spiritually attuned,” she said . . . “The literary arts are an essential part of our state’s rich cultural heritage,” Gov. Herbert said in announcing his choice. “Mr. Larsen’s artistic accomplishments, and teaching service make him ideally suited to continue the tradition of bringing poetry and literature to the people of Utah.””

Kirk Shaw, an editor at Covenant Communications for the last 9 years, and a frequent presenter at writing conferences, announced he was leaving his position to go to law school at Case Western Reserve.

At A Motley Vision, Mahonri Stewart positively reviews Steven Carter’s collection of essays What of the Night, and does a separate post where he specifically highlights two Carter essays, one on Eugene England and his persistent faith in the face of adversity, and one on Richard Dutcher and Carter’s disappointment over Dutcher’s abandonment of the Church. Mahonri talks about his own ambivalent feelings about Dutcher, in particular what he sees as arrogance.

Also at A Motley Vision: Kent Larsen encourages readers to participate in a contest at the independent Mormon book catalogue Books & Things, and in the comments the business owner Kay Curtiss explains the nature of the company. William gives us The annual cost of Mormon literary studies, and starts a funny thread on Inappropriate Mormon book club questions. Kent tries to Define ‘Ahman’, and provides Sunday Lit Crit Sermons of Emmeline B. Wells on Young Writers, George F. Richards on “reading pernicious literature”, and Levi Edgar Young’s Literary Acquaintances.

Mormon Literature and the Disney Aesthetic, by Scott Hales at The Low-Tech World. Scott replies to the phrase “modern Mormon aesthetic [is] deeply indebted to Walt Disney,” in Alex Parneene’s not-very-good essay at Salon.com called “The Book of Mitt”. Scott asks, “Is the modern Mormon aesthetic really embodied in Mormon kitsch?” While Scott sees some of that, he also sees the potential for a grittier aesthetic for those who plug into the bleak world view of the Book of Mormon.

Annette Lyon answers Jettboy and tells us Why I DO Read Mormon Fiction.

At Everyday Mormon Author, “Adolescent,” a poem by Merrijane Rice and a Mother’s Day reprint of Jenna Mason Stay’s “No Substitute for Chocolate.”

Mormonism and the Dilemma of Tragedy, by Rachael at Patheos’s Peculiar People blog.

Do I Dare to Eat A Peach is a new podcast hosted by brothers Dan and Robison Wells. They discuss the media they’ve consumed lately

Writing Excuses podcast 7.20: Cathartic Horror. Michael R. Collings and his son Michaelbrent Collings join the Writing Excuses team live at UVU to talk with us about cathartic horror. In particular, they talk about how the catharsis is part of what makes horror such a delightful genre. Michael leads with an example from his own writing, a novel called The Slab.

I just noticed that the gang from the great “Mormon The Onion” humor website The Sugar Beet from a few years ago have reformed and are posting new material at Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer. Great stuff!

New Books and their Reviews

Sian Ann Bessey. Within the Dark Hills. Covenant, April 26. Historical. 19th century Welsh man and woman enter a marriage of convenience, but they really do start to fall in love, and they meet the Mormon missionaries.

Misty DiLello Covington. With All My Love, Misty: Memoir of a Broken Heart. WiDo, May. A Mormon woman meets and falls in love with an older Mormon man who is recovering from drug addiction, in the rehab facility where she works. The story of their marriage, his eventual relapse, and death.

Richard Paul Evans. The Road to Grace. Simon and Schuster, May. 3rd in The Walk series. Inspirational. Deseret News feature story.

Kirkus Reviews: “This is at the core of the story. Who needs forgiveness more: the offender or the offended? If Alan can forgive, perhaps he can shuck his burden and find grace along his path. In one small town, a lonely woman comes to him in the night and begs for his love. Perhaps no other scene in the book better shows his character. Although the book is not specifically religious, Alan clearly shows his spirituality and cares deeply about who he is. A fast and pleasurable read with plenty of local color and enough sentiment to evoke a tear or two. Although this installment can stand on its own, a reader’s best bet is to begin with the earlier books.”

Mary-Helen and Daniel Foxx. Charlie’s Girl. Cedar Fort, May 8. YA. Set in the 1960s, a girl who has spent her life in foster care learns about her family’s history. A husband and wife team, this is their first published fiction. Mary-Helen has self-published novels and written works on genealogy. Daniel, an academic historian, has written two works of non-fiction.

Eric Hendershot. At Season’s End. Sweetwater/Cedar Fort, May 8. YA historical. A brother and sister in the Great Depression find themselves having to fend for themselves. The sister finds love. First novel by the writer/director, who has created feature films (like Down and Derby) and a number of family-friendly direct-to-video and television films.

Mark Henshaw. Red Cell. Touchstone (Simon & Schuster), May 1. Military/espionage suspense.  A group of CIA agents try to figure out a Communist Chinese plot against Taiwan. First novel, the author is an employee of the CIA, where he served in a group on which the “Red Cell” is based.

Publishers Weekly (Starred review): “CIA analyst Henshaw’s assured debut, an exciting espionage thriller, puts him solidly in the ranks of the top writers of the genre . . . Henshaw deftly weaves together all the major and minor players—the U.S., Chinese, and Taiwanese governments; the spies who provide information; and the analysts who turn that information into intelligence. The masterfully handled air-and-ship battle at the end is worthy of Tom Clancy.”

Kirkus Reviews: “Cutting back and forth among countries and locales, the novel turns up the tension, taking time to provide first-rate descriptions of scenery and technology. Stryker, a role in waiting for Keira Knightley, proves as good an action hero as intelligence gatherer. She takes a bullet to the arm and an elbow to the chops and keeps running. Pioneer is a classic burnout who has been under stress for so long he doesn’t know who he’s angry at anymore. The novel doesn’t have the dimensions that distinguish the best spy thrillers—it has the feel of the pilot for an ongoing series. But it’s a lean and efficient effort fueled by an infrequent quality: believability. In this deft novel of intelligence, the CIA actually shines.”

Heather Moore. Daughters of Jared. Covenant, May. Book of Mormon historical fiction. Based on the Book of Ether. Two daughters of King Jared II, one righteous, one not, and their lots and counterplots around the Jaredite throne.

Julie Bellon review: The relationship between the two sisters was exceptionally well done . . . The strength of the book for me was that the characters, the sisters, the family, the gray-shaded villains, and our hero, were so real, the royal intrigues so easy to believe and hard to predict, that it was easy to lose myself in the story. And speaking of losing myself in the story, part of the reason that was so easy was that the setting was well-researched and completed the illusion of getting lost in that time period. Whenever I read a book by H.B. Moore I really feel as if I were there because she is so thorough as an author in paying attention to the details. I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about the book. It is easily one of the best historicals that have come out this year. Two thumbs up and more.

J. Lloyd Morgan. The Waxing Moon. Walnut Springs, May. Bariwon series #2. Fantasy. Sequel to The Hidden Sun.

Clair Poulson. Switchback. Covenant, May. Western mystery. A detective investigates a case of horse theft at a Utah ranch, and it grows into a murder case.

Keli Swofford Nielsen. Journey to the Fringe: The Stone Mage Wars, Vol. 1. Shadow Mountain, May.  Fantasy. A young man searches to the end of the world to find a Princess the realm cannot survive without. Debut novel.

Sharon Haddock (Deseret News): C+. “”Journey to the Fringe” is a book of broken promises. It appears, at first, that “Journey to the Fringe” will be a magical journey to a distant, dangerous land that few visit and from which few return. It is a journey but it’s also a curious combination of dangers and magical rescues that make the reader take the dangers somewhat lightly. Every time a hero disappears or seems to die, he or she does not. So even at the end, it’s hard to believe that what occurs is going to last . . . There’s a little bit of the “Wizard of Oz” in this story with the White City full of people who don’t seem to be more than robots — robots ruled by a great, pompous prince. There’s some bits and pieces of other novels and stories in the looking glasses, the people living far underground, the magic in the earth, the water and with time itself. So while there’s certainly enough going on to keep the story interesting, there’s a sense of having read it elsewhere. There’s also a fair amount of confusion as to exactly why and how things got to a crisis state.”

Howard Tayler. Schlock Mercenary: The Sharp End of the Stick. May. 8th volume of the comic series.

Tamara Torero. Shayla Witherwood: A Half-Faerie Tale. Sweetwater/Cedar Fort, May 8. YA Paranormal. The author has also published Mormon YA under her previous name, Tamra Norton. A girl who is half faerie and must adjust to living in a world of humans.

VOYA: “A light, quick read. Even though this book is categorized in the paranormal genre, this “half-faerie tale” is appropriate for readers of all ages. The magical element is very clean and should not be a concern for parents or librarians. It will capture the imagination of middle school and early high school readers interested in an innocent half-faerie trying to discover herself and her origin.” Reviewer: Lindsey Weaver, Teen Reviewer

Reviews of older books

Traci Abramson. Smokescreen (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) B-. “I’m not big on LDS suspense . . .  Thus, I was surprised by how much I did enjoy Smokescreen. It could have used stronger writing, better character development (although, in the author’s defense, I didn’t realize Smokescreen was part of a series and, therefore, didn’t read the first books in which the characters were introduced and, presumably, fleshed out), and tighter plotting. Still, Abramson, who worked for the CIA, seemed knowledgeable and surprised me with some of her plot twists. All in all, I found Smokescreen an entertaining read, although certainly not a flawless one.”

N. C. Allen. The Pharaoh’s Daughter (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) B+. “There are so many things to like about this series—a tough, but vulnerable heroine; quick-paced plotting; fun, likable characters; mystery; even a little twist of the paranormal. It’s good, clean, well-written fun and, believe me, that’s not an easy combination to find.”

Stephanie Black. Rear View Mirror (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) C-. “It’s predictable; full of big, gaping plot holes; and features a heroine who is not just depressing, but helpless and annoying. The writing never engaged me, the characters annoyed me, and the dialogue sounded unnaturally stiff.”

Sandra Dallas. True Sisters (Deseret News feature story).

M.L. Forman. Slathbog’s Gold (Karen Hamilton, AML-list). “This book has it all: danger, excitement, friendship, honor, laughter, and peaceful moments. The characters are so real that they seem to become individuals that you know and would love to be friends with. Alex’s reaction to a brand new adventure and magic is one that many would have — wanting to believe and yet not believing and feeling overwhelmed by having it be real. The adventure is fast paced and leaves the reader wanting to turn the pages for more.”

Mette Ivie Harrison. The Princess and the Horse (Gamila’s Book Reviews). “I am really loving the fact that authors are now independently putting up books in series that their publishers dropped, because it means I got to read another Princess/Hound book by Harrison . . . I always find something that annoys me in these books, yet I always keep coming back to them because I really do love the voice of the series. This book also has that wonderful fairy tale feeling, and yet still feels substantive. The author often combines vivid emotions and profound views of human nature, but does it in a way that comes naturally from the world and characters. It also has the interesting romance story that managed to feel the same, but still ended up having a twist that surprised me. For some reason I find the human changed into an animal or vice versa to be a very interesting romance trope in the series. The author managed to find so much tension and conflict in how such a dramatic change affects the characters and how that plays out in the romance plot line. My complaint is that the world felt a little bit fuzzy to me. Some of the scenes felt odd in that I felt like the setting faded. A entire mob came into the forest to confront the Princess and the her entourage, but I wasn’t exactly sure how they all fit in between the trees enough to have the confrontation the author described. There were several other examples of that where I felt the author was so focused on telling the story she forgot the little background details that makes a story feel sharp and clear.  Despite that I still really enjoyed the book and really enjoyed the story and the characters. Totally worth reading if you are a fairy tale fiction fan.”

Josi Kilpack. Daisy (Sharon Haddock, Deseret News). “It’s an interesting idea. However, “Daisy” as a novel on its own is fairly shallow. The problems are predictable and the characters are pretty thinly painted. The problems that would come with three unexpected (two illegitimate) pregnancies, single motherhood, divorce, poverty and a late-life, high-risk pregnancy are, if not insurmountable, huge. Anyone surviving these kinds of situations would certainly not be a wimp. It’s sometimes hard to believe Daisy isn’t stronger or smarter. It’s also a little bit difficult to believe women who had barely met one another would confide major secrets, take one another’s recommendations for medical advice and readily agree to baby-sitting each other’s young children . . . This book is a curious one, because while it’s easy to speed along through the chapters, it’s also infuriating. It could be so much richer and better.”

Lynn Kurland. Star of the Morning (Jacob Proffit, GoodReads) 4 stars. “Yes, like the force in Luke Skywalker, the romance is strong in Star of the Morning. And it’s a wonderful romance. Morgan falling in love was a hoot . . . But, while important to the characters, it doesn’t dominate the story or plot nor does it warp the setting . . . The thing I disliked most about the book was Morgan’s irrational hatred of all things magical. In a world of active, observable magic, her reaction is as illogical as it is impractical.”

Jean Holbrook Mathews. Precious Cargo (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine) 4 stars. “Matthews is quickly making a name for herself as a mystery/suspense writer to watch for as she tackles difficult topics in far flung locations . . . Mathews creates believable characters who deal with multiple problems both of the criminal bent and the personal . . . The action keeps coming as Mathew’s plot develops in several directions culminating in ascending climaxes woven together. The children’s predicament touches an emotional chord in the reader causing an ache for the innocent naive trust of children and for parents whose poverty creates a climate where even young children must contribute small earnings in order for the family to survive.”

Bryce Moore. Vodnik (VOYA): “Moore’s first published book is crammed with action and humor, and likely to hook many reluctant readers.” “Sets itself apart from the bulk of the genre that is so preoccupied with fangs, shape-shifters, and love triangles.”

E. J. Patten. Return to Exile (Gamila’s Book Review). “It took me a few chapters to get into this book as it seemed to follow the typical pattern of all middle grade fantasies. So, I slogged through the introduction chapters and realized that I liked Phineas, Sky’s quirky and strange uncle . . . This story is full of interesting and funny characters. I found the monsters to be unique and formidable foes. I got hooked into the story and really enjoyed the world. Sometimes it feels like the story has too much going on in a few of the ending scenes, but I still loved some of the major plot twists the author managed to pull off. Overall, the book was a very enjoyable action-oriented fantasy read.”

Steven L. Peck. A Short Stay in Hell (Paul Genesse). “The sheer creativity of this novella (29,000 words) boggles the mind in its breadth and scope, and the writing was so thought provoking and gripping both for atheists and believers alike. It’s great fiction and I read this book in about two hours, and literally did not want to put it down . . . This book is so profound that it had me compulsively mulling over the terrifying implications for the past two days . . . I loved reading A Short Stay in Hell and it has given me an understanding of the human condition that I never had before. It’s hard for me to fathom how Steven L. Peck packed so much into this slim volume, or how difficult it was to whittle down this story to the razor sharp book that it is. This is no effete literary or philosophical book that distances the reader from the text. It pulls you in, tugs at your heart, makes you question the meaning of life and love, while being utterly captivating, gripping, exciting, mysterious, hopeful, and above all illuminating on the concept of forever.”

Luisa Perkins. Dispirited (Mahonri Stewart, AMV). “Dispiriteds transparent prose was engaging, its characters very well developed (especially a very strong and believable female protagonist in Cathy), and its plot full of twists and turns that kept you guessing. There was more than one point where I felt I had the novel figured out, only to have Perkins throw me a curveball and get me wondering all over again. The novel’s antagonist is blatantly malevolent and outright sinister, but even with that he still seemed like a nuanced, complex character with very clear motivations. The novel had a genuinely sweet romance as a subplot, with a unique and interesting love interest for Cathy. Dispirited was one of the best reads I’ve had all year. It upholds Zarahemla’s high standard, while being a solid piece of genre fiction in its own right, comparable to the higher end works you’d find in the national market. It’s a legitimate page turner that hooked me in the first chapter and never let go.” A spirited discussion followed in the comments section, including a mini-review from Lisa Torcasso Downing, who said, “I wasn’t impressed with Dispirited. I’m not supposed to say such things, but. There. I did. Oh it was exceedingly imaginative. And the language is very nice, but in the end, everything that happened to the protagonist (so the action/plot of the whole story) had no bearing on the resolution. She never took control and helped solve what was at stake. She was more ball in a pin ball game than a hero.”

Luisa Perkins. Dispirited (Shelah Books It) 5 stars. “Perkins shows that she has serious writing chops with Dispirited. One of the gutsiest things she does is fill the story with children . . . So often in fiction written for adults, children come off as precious or precocious, and Perkins’s child characters are neither. Perhaps the fact that she has six of her own kids helped her to be able to write their characters in a realistic way. She also does a great job with shifting points of view, which can be tricky. Each character’s voice was distinctive enough to be realistic but not so distinctive that it was distracting. The book, which takes place in a Hudson River community outside of New York City, also has a richly evocative setting where the history of the place plays an important role in the actions in the novel. Dispirited is the kind of book that I don’t ordinarily think I’d like. First of all, it’s a dark kind of speculative fiction. The problem for me lies in the fact that I don’t know what the rules of the world are when the book opens. But Cathy doesn’t know the rules either– she’s lived in “our” world for all of her eighteen years, and this is the first time that she’s had anything like this happen to her. I think this approach really works, because Cathy is just as surprised as we are as readers by the fact that she can wander into a house that no longer exists and see spirits and get answers from dreams . . . Secondly, Dispirited is a book that plays with theological ideas. Nine times out of ten, I’ll read a book about angels or spirits and hate it because books with angels and spirits are usually cheesy. But Dispirited is never cheesy. It’s also a book where the characters could be but are not necessarily Mormon, but the idea of three overlapping worlds, one possessed by humans, one possessed by the spirits of the dead, and one possessed by evil spirits without bodies, is one that comes straight from our theology . . . The book’s end came as a surprise to me, it actually seemed like the only way this story could have ended in a satisfactory way, especially to people who believe that families are only separated by death for a temporary period of time.”

E. L. Sowards. Espionage (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine) 5 stars.  “This is a great story from many perspectives. Though it is clearly historical, it is more than that. There are some satisfying, non-preachy lessons on forgiveness, listening to the Spirit, and the universal potential for goodness or evil in all men. There’s a gradual awareness of the distinction between revenge and repentance. There’s heart-stopping danger and action. An exploration of different types of love weaves its way through the horror of war. Though this story is plot driven and action oriented, satisfactory character development occurs as well.”

Julie Wright. Olivia (Tristi Pinkston, AML-list). “The very first thing that struck me as I began reading Olivia was the strength in Julie Wright’s writing. I’ve been a fan of Julie’s for years and have seen this evolution, and in this book, I felt like she had really come into her own. The word placement is deft and sure, and her descriptions and the way she conveys emotion are spot-on . . . The very first thing that struck me as I began reading Olivia was the strength in Julie Wright’s writing. I’ve been a fan of Julie’s for years and have seen this evolution, and in this book, I felt like she had really come into her own. The word placement is deft and sure, and her descriptions and the way she conveys emotion are spot-on.”

Short Stories and magazines

Dave Farland has a new story in an anthology, Songs of the Satyrs, edited by Aaron French.

Eric W. Jepson. “The Legend of Boitown”. Children, Churches & Daddies, August 12, v.235. Jepson talks about writing and eventually the story here. You can read an unformatted version of it here.

Emily Mah, “Coyote Discovers Mars”. Under the Needle’s Eye. April 25. Speculative fiction anthology, Eleven authors who were together in the Clarion West Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy class of 2001. The story was first published in 2007.

Steven L. Peck. “Dragonfly Miscalculations”. Short story in Journal of Unlikely Entomology (an online magazine of fiction that delves into the world of things that creep and crawl and explores the limits of what it means to be human).

Brad Torgerson reports Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show picked up his novelette, “The Curse of Sally Tincakes,” for the upcoming issue. This story was a twin to his Nebula and Hugo nominee, “Ray of Light.”

Theric Jepson on The LDS Eros: Pornographic Dialogue, about two short stories in Dialogue Vol. 43, Num. 1 – Spring 2010, “Straight Home” by Lisa Torcasso Downing and “Badge and Bryant, or, the Decline and Fall of the Dogfrey Club” by Levi S. Peterson. A reader sent a letter of complaint to the periodical about the sexual content of the stories. Theric links to free online links to the stories, and discusses their content (he likes both).

Tangent Online review of the military sci-fi anthology Armored, edited by John Joseph Adams, including the story “Heuristic Algorithm and Reasoning Response Engine” by Ethan Skarstedt & Brandon Sanderson. “Armored brings us twenty-three new stories . . . The concept of armored soldiers and mechanized troops isn’t an old one, but this anthology hopes to bring new ideas to the genre, casting off the shackles of standard mechs and power armored soldiers . . . “Heuristic Algorithm and Reasoning Response Engine” by Ethan Skarstedt & Brandon Sanderson takes us to a world where sentient machines are the invaders. Our characters are paired up, one in a mech and the other in a support aircraft. We follow them as they determine how advanced the invaders are (they follow a routine progression, which allows the humans to determine the risk) and try to save the people of the planet. A story of heroism and sacrifice, even in the face of certain death. In my opinion, the best story in the anthology . . . Overall, I found Armored to be exciting and refreshing. Having a deep love for the type of stories featured in this vollection, I couldn’t wait for it to be released. I wasn’t disappointed, and neither will anyone else who loves a good science fiction story about people and the armor they wear, be it in combat or peace.”

Editors and contributors to the latest issues of Sunstone appeared on RadioActive on KRCL 90.9 Friday May 11. Participants included artist Galen Dara, guest editor Holly Welker, and contributing writer Margaret Toscano.

Theater

New Book: Mahonri Stewart, The Fading Flower & Swallow the Sun. Zarahemla Press, May. Playscripts of two works Stewart has had staged in recent years. Stewart’s press release about the new volume appeared at A Motley Vision.

Shelter, a contemporary rock/pop musical by playwright Brittany Bullen and composer (and brother-in-law) Newell Bullen, and directed by BYU theatre graduate Brighton Sloan, will be performed at the New York Musical Theater Festival, July 26-29. It was previously produced at the Murray Theatre (Murray, UT) in May 2011. It tells the story of a woman working as a counselor in a Philadelphia women’s shelter. Brittany is a graduate of Denison University, Newell is currently a graduate student in conducting at Boston University. Yellow, Brittany Bullen’s previous (non-musical) production, was about a diary of a woman’s mother which traveled back in time even as the plot moved forward. It was performed in 2010 at the Sorenson Unity Center in SLC, and apparently it had some kind of production recently at BYU. Bullen is also an actor, for example she played the lead in a 2010 production of the musical “Jane Eyre” at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

Film

Do you ever wonder what happened to all of the non-Dutcher filmmakers who were part of the Mormon cinema movement from the early part of the last decade? What are they doing now?  I just noticed that many of them are making low-budget films (many direct-to-DVD films that are focused on European distribution) through or associated with a Provo company called Arrowstorm Entertainment, and distributed through the Hollywood company Highland Film Group. Arrowstorm, which is led by founders Jason Faller (from South Africa) and Kynan Griffin (from Canada), has produced an amazing number of feature films in a variety of genres in the last couple of years. Faller and Griffin helped create the okay Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-day Comedy in 2003 and the painfully dreadful Moving McAllister in 2008. In 2008 they created SAGA, “the world’s first online collectible real-time strategy game, described ‘as a landmark in game innovation.’” The game probably made them some good money, as they have been churning out movies since then. The director/producer Maclain Nelson has also joined the Arrowstorm team.  In an interview with Faller and Griffin by Filmed in Utah, Faller and Griffin talk about how for the kind of genre films they make, they make the films first, and then find distribution, which is the opposite of the usual process for more conventional movies. They have been effectively using Kickstarter to fund projects. As you will see if you look at some of the trailers, these are not made-for-Mormons films. Many of them are horror (usually horror/comedy), which look to be borderline PG-13/R movies.

Among the films the group has backed, or has been associated with:

Orcs! Directed by Andrew Black (Pride and Prejudice) and James MacPherson. Horror/humor. UK DVD in June 2011, no US release that I see. “When marauding orcs invade a US National Park, our collective fates lie in the hands of Ranger Cal Robertson and his side-kick, Volunteer Cadet Hobie, who must stop the wave of destruction before the whole world is overrun.”

Dawn of the Dragonslayer  (AKA Palandin).  UK DVD, Oct 2011.  Fantasy, dragons. Written and directed by Anne K. Black.  Black was a writer on Pride and Prejudice and The Age of Dragons.

The Crown and the Dragon. Second film in the fantasy Paladin series. Written and directed by Anne K. Black. The link takes you to a successful Kickstarter campaign for the movie.

Osombie: The Axis of the Evil Dead. John Lyde (a prolific director/editor of Mormon/Utah movies), director/producer. Kurt Hale (The Singles Ward, The R. M.), screenwriter/editor. A zombie apocalypse movie set in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden comes back from the ocean as a zombie, battles NATO troops. Watch the trailer, the mind boggles. It was filmed around Delta, UT.  UK DVD release, May 14, 2012, very soon after the film was completed. A US release may follow.

Vanity Fair article on Osombie. “A new low-budget, high-camp, terrorist-themed zombie flick, Osombie: The Axis of Evil Dead, is coming soon to a theater near you. No, we didn’t believe that could possibly be a real thing, either. And yes, it’s about exactly what you think it’s about: Osama bin Laden emerges from his watery grave as a goopy-eyed zombie, proceeds to infect his fellow terrorists, and then wreaks all manner of flesh-eating havoc in Afghanistan until a band of well-sculpted, oft-shirtless NATO Special Forces troops are called in to lay the smack down. There is much sword-fighting, blood-splattering, head-exploding action along the way.”

Writer/Director John Lyde commented: “I wrote a two-page treatment and then contacted a buddy of mine, Kurt Hale, because I knew how much he loved zombies, and he wrote the script. Arrowstorm Entertainment purchased the script and the rest is history . . . I am a practicing Mormon. My religion teaches us to not attend, view or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent or pornographic in any way. That can be difficult for a fan of horror films. I don’t like torture porn films like Saw or Hostel. But I love a good scare. Not all of my films are going to be religious or have a religious message. Some are just for entertainment purposes, like Osombie. There is a lot of violence in the film, but I tried to keep it a little cartoony and over the top to lessen the gross-out factor. I was teased on set because of the amount of zombie gore in the film and guys with their shirts off, but complete lack of swearing and female nudity.”

SAGA: The Shadow Cabel. A web series based on the video games.

Limptooth (AKA Dr. Limptooth, Immortality Bites, or Vamp U.). Maclain Nelson and Matt Jespersen, co-writers/directors. Horror/comedy. Aaron Johnson, who is in a lot of these films, stars. Gary Cole co-stars. A vampire professor is unable to grow his teeth, has an affair with a girl, she turns into vampire, violence ensues. Looks like it would be R-rated. A possible 2012 release.

Arrowstorm-related films currently being made or planned:

a. Orc Wars. Directed by Kohl Glass. Wrapped the production in May 2012. “Looking to leave the world behind, an ex-Marine buys a ranch in the remote American West, where he encounters a strange series of trespassers, including a beautiful elf princess and a Native American mystic. But when orcs invade his property, John must give up his isolation to become a hero, before the orcs sacrifice his new charges and unleash a dark magic on our world.”

b. Inside. Daryn Tufts, writer/director (My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, American Mormon). Horror. Prison inmate Mike Barrett is ripped awake in the middle of the night by a horrifying scream. Something is terrorizing the prison, and it is coming for Mike. If he wants to survive the night, he’ll have to find a way out-but how?

c. Dragon Warriors. MacLain Nelson, Stephen Shimek, writer/directors.  Stars Luke Perry, Adam Johnson.

d. Red Coat. Written and directed by Kohl Glass. Sci-fi/war set on Mars.

Richard Dutcher’s Falling wrapped up its run at a SLC art-house theater on Thursday. Here is a new Radio West interview of Dutcher.

Falling review (Sean Means, Salt Lake Tribune). 3.5 stars. “If Falling had been made in Britain or Romania — or some other country with a tradition for gritty and introspective dramatic filmmaking — it would have been hailed as a dark minor masterpiece . . . Dutcher and cinematographer Jim Orr go for broke with a rough handheld look that matches Eric’s emotional and spiritual freefall. Dutcher pushes the violence to uncomfortable levels, but it doesn’t feel gratuitous — merely a reflection of the bloody mess that Eric has made of his life. And for all that, Falling turns out to be as spiritually moving as the movies Dutcher made when he was still a practicing Mormon. Dutcher asks hard questions — of himself, of the audience, and of God — and leaves the answers for each of us to discover.”

Eric D. Sinder (an old 2008 review). B+. “Falling is relentlessly bleak, a tragic, cautionary story in which a number of ugly things happen, and Jim Orr’s stark cinematography even makes L.A.’s sunny skies look desolate. The two lead performances are consistently good, even in uncomfortable moments; in Eric and Davey’s climactic argument, it’s some of the writing I don’t quite believe, not the acting . . . The finale, brutally violent and almost just as brutally emotional, marks another milestone in Dutcher’s growth as a proficient filmmaker and film editor. Relying solely on images, with no words or music, Dutcher conveys this major point in Eric’s spiritual journey vividly, graphically, viscerally — you feel it as much as you see it. But is it the end of Eric’s journey, or a turning point leading him in a new direction? He’s losing the world; can he still gain his soul?”

Jeff Lindsay (Mormanity) discusses 17 Miracles: A Film About More Than Just a Handcart Company

Bestsellers

New York Times Bestseller Lists, May 20th and May 27th.  I also note where the books are on the USA Today bestseller list, which lumps all books, hardcover, paperback, fiction, non-fiction, into one 150 book list.

Hardcover Fiction

x, #4 THE ROAD TO GRACE, by Richard Paul Evans (1st week). #9 on the Combined Fiction (hardcover + paperback), #15 on the Combined Print and Ebook list, #21 on the Ebook list. #22 on the USA Today list. The third volume in The Walk series.

DORCHESTER TERRACE, by Anne Perry drops off the list after 4 weeks.

TRUE SISTERS, by Sandra Dallas drops off the list after 1 week.

Mass Market Paperbacks

x, #29 ENDER’S GAME, by Orson Scott Card. Back on the extended list. It seems to pop up about every other week.

Children’s Paperback

#3, #7 MATCHED, by Ally Condie (34th week).

Children’s Series

#8, #7 THE MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY, by James Dashner (22nd week).

DESTINED, by Aprilynne Pike. #115 on the USA Today overall list, 1 week. It did not make the NYT list. Kenneth Pike reports, “We got numbers from HarperTeen this week showing that Destined is Aprilynne’s biggest-selling debut . . . However, last week over 40% of Aprilynne’s total sales were eBooks.  The New York Times children’s list is limited to print copies only. This is a very interesting development for a number of reasons.  When Wings launched in 2009, in its first year its eBook sales might have accounted for 1% of total sales.  In the last 12 months, we have seen astounding growth in that number, attesting to the expanding significance of eBooks even in the YA market.  But this shift has also made it more difficult for a book–especially a series with front-loaded sales to fans–to become a NYT children’s bestseller if it appeals to adults or older teens likely to own an e-reader.  The USA Today list stands as a better measure of sales because of its combined, count-them-all nature, but of course there are fewer total spots and so it’s of limited usefulness across genres.”

Locus Online Speculative Fiction May Bestseller list.  Hardcover #1 (tie). Orson Scott Card, Shadows in Flight. It is the book’s second month on the list, it was #6 in April.

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4 Responses to This Week in Mormon Literature, May 20, 2012

  1. Mahonri Stewart says:

    I still am somewhat baffled with the zombie craze lately… they’re icky and pretty uninteresting villains…

  2. Th. says:

    .

    I’ve read the Red Coat screenplay and trust me when I say this is one you will want to see.

    (Think about Glass’s great shorts Prometheus and Der Ostwind.)

  3. Andrew Hall says:

    Here is an interesting interview with Nebula & Hugo Award Nominee Nancy Fulda
    The interviewer, who is an evangelical sf author, asks her lots of questions about being a Mormon author. Nancy, in her Facebook post about the interview, said, “I offer an alternative to Howard Tayler’s Meme in a Monoculture theory, albeit in passing, and without actually referencing Howard’s original post.”
    http://mikeduran.com/2012/05/interview-w-nebula-huga-award-nominee-nancy-fulda/

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