Halloween 2012: The trailer for Halloween 2013

Halloween did not go off as planned this year. And it was all because of Superstorm Sandy, the Frankenstorm that frakked Halloween but good.

(Note that complaining done here while people are freezing, starving, drowning, decomposing and otherwise traumatized further north is done strictly tongue in cheek – I am very glad the storm did not hit Maryland worse than it did. Now, back to the whiny complaining of a frustrated set designer.)

As you may know, with the exception of CapClave, October was Halloween Prep month for me. Weekends, weeknights, I even took off Halloween day to get everything in place. There was measuring, hammering, sawing, painting, stapling and cutting and pasting:

Then came Sandy. Last weekend was supposed to be the ‘clean out the garage and prep it for Halloween’ time. Instead, it was ‘pack every item that could blow away or get damaged into the garage.’ With the government closed two days, in theory I had five straight days to get ready for Halloween with my biggest garage-decoration ever.

But the power went out Monday afternoon. And stayed out Tuesday.

Next step: decoration triage. I concentrated on making the costume. Without power, the garage was a no-go. With temperatures ranging from the 30s to 50s, the house grew colder too, making it hard to work with precision.

Aye, it be a sizeable styrofoam skull…

The actual Captain Redbeard next to his giant unadorned head!


All day on Halloween, I watched the number of customers out in my county drop and then stop. It was like they stopped fixing stuff. If only the power came on by 3pm, I thought, I could whip the garage into shape.

My wife came home way after 3 and felt so bad about the situation that she suggested I set up shop where there was power and hand out candy in costume. I said that the worst thing that could happen was that the power goes on right before trick-or-treating and then I look like I didn’t do anything with the garage. I have a reputation in the community to uphold, you understand.

As night began to fall, we dragged a card table up the street where the lights were on. Right after we got set up, at 6:05pm, the power came back on.

We ran everything back down to our driveway, plugged some lights into outlets and I did Halloween there:

The Captain mans the wee table with the undecorated but newly-powered garage behind him.

I told everyone who came by to come back in 2013 to see the full spread in the garage. Halloween 2012 turned into a trailer for Halloween 2013.


Creatively Celebrating Halloween

Computational demonology lab, inspired by Charlie Stross’ Laundry novels and of course, H.P. Lovecraft

My writing time usually takes a hit in the month of October because I have certain Halloween obligations that seem to grow each year. Since these are creative obligations, I like to think that they are exercising my creative muscles in different ways than writing, but that ultimately strengthen the writing as well. It’s my rationalization and I’m sticking to it.

Every year I create a scene in my garage for the enjoyment of trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Consider it my small contribution to keep celebrating Halloween alive and well.

It all started in 2008, when I made Harvey Dent election posters and put them on the front lawn (remember, it was an election year), and hung a giant bat symbol of light strings from the portico of the house. Then I dressed up as Batman, hid in the dark (sometimes on the portico) and scared trick-or-treaters with my Batman voice.

In previous years, I have done the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a computational demonology lab (above), and a Victorian vampire’s dining room. I have a reputation in the neighborhood now, and it must be defended. My kids are the right age that they score points with friends and classmates because of whatever production I put on.

This year, my daughter decided on the theme (pirates) while we were on vacation. She left it to me what to do with it. There are plans being assembled and supplies being purchased, I can assure you.

Here are last year’s preparations for Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

Prep for the Sleepy Hollow scene. Yes, those are actual tree branches that I used to create a forest.

Rebooting space pirates

With another Pirates of the Caribbean movie out, and me deep into a space pirate project, it’s time to spill a few words on the topic.

I love pirates. There, I said it.

I collect pirate Legos. I thought Cutthroat Island was a decent flick. I think Pirates of the Caribbean is a work of inspired genius (minus the superfluous undead subplot). I’ve even seen the movie Ice Pirates more than once. I have studied pirate history both colonial and recent and still find it endlessly interesting. (I recommend Pirates on the Chesapeake, an interesting read about pirate attacks during the mid-Atlantic’s colonial days, and since I live in the Chesapeake, it’s extra special.)

And don’t get me started on privateering. I even own a privateering coloring book.

These days though, pirates in fiction are passed off as rock stars, leading rock star lives (Johnny Depp ran with this idea, but he didn’t create it). Back in the Errol Flynn/Captain Blood days, pirates were savvy gentlemen, Robin Hoods with sailing ships. To each era their own pirate, I guess.

And real pirates have gone from comical to outright murderers. Until they started killing people, the Somali pirates were kind of interesting. Interesting in that these folks stole a ship that had Russian tanks on board. Did they know that ahead of time, or did they react like, OMG, check out what’s under this tarp!

What about space pirates? They are a sci fi trope, prominently featured in kiddie sci fi. But other than that, they are nearly invisible as far as a trope goes these days. David Lee Summer’s anthology was a recent exception, but a good chunk of that is campy. They are little seen in print, TV or movies. Usually the only show up as offscreen savages in military sci fi, little more than scenery that merely gives the hard-assed protagonist with a heart of gold a thirst for revenge, an injustice to right or a tragic upbringing to struggle against (Elizabeth Moon’s Sassinak, for example). Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And in fiction you rarely see any sea-based or space-based pirates actually, you know, pirating. It’s more the characters are portrayed as pirates as a fashion statement, or as an exercise in self-labeling. Jack Sparrow doesn’t pirate crap, other than fantastical McGuffins that belong to no one (making him not much worse than Indiana Jones).

Isn’t the most exciting thing about pirates the actual pirating? The carefree nature of being beholden to no one, and yet striving to bring home the loot? Throwing off the yoke of an increasingly suffocating authority and seeking revenge, while having fun and becoming rich? The older I get, the more attractive the idea seems of throwing it all to enact revenge on those who would throw us under the bus as soon as the faintest sign of an opportunity appears.

I brought all this up because I’m working on a project about a modernized, rebooted concept of space pirates. A new take that puts them front and center, grounded, funny, realistic, and likable. No kitsch or camp or shirts with ruffles. And they pirate things, threaten financial markets, and get tangled up with gangsters and explorers. Space pirates can be exciting, and funny, and their potential seems largely unexplored. Stay tuned here for more.