RETRO REVIEW: The Last Starfighter


The Last Starfighter (1984)
Director: Nick Castle
Writer: Jonathan Betuel
Starring: Lance Guest, Catherine Mary Stewart, Dan O’Herlihy, and Robert Preston


I got this film on Blu-ray last Christmas, and just realized I still haven’t given it the retro review treatment. So allow me to correct that right here. The Last Starfighter is one of those nostalgia-drenched films that could have only come from the 1980’s.

Lance Guest stars as Alex Rogan, a trailer park kid and accidental handyman who dreams of bigger and better things. His only solace is in a videogame called The Last Starfighter, and he spends hours on end playing it, eventually beating it to the cheers of his trailer park neighbors. That’s when he is paid a visit by Centauri (Robert Preston), an alien trickster with a very strange business proposition. He invented the Starfighter video game as a recruitment tool for finding people from other planets just like Alex, who have a knack for blowing stuff up. Now Alex is a gunner in an actual gunstar just like in the game, defending the frontier against Xur and the Kodan Armada for real. He is teamed up with the turtle-like alien Grig (Dan O’Herlihy), who flies the gunstar and schools Alex in the ways of space warfare. Back home, his girlfriend Maggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) must contend with a beta unit, a kind of shape-shifting android that has taken Alex’s appearance in order to make the bad guys think Alex is still on Earth. When the rest of the Starfighter recruits are all killed during an attack on their base, it’s up to Alex, as the eponymous Last Starfighter, to save the universe.


This is one film that’s still just as fun to watch as it was when it was originally released. Sure, the early computer graphics are horribly dated, but just pretend it’s all a giant video game and be impressed with how meta you can be. Preston and O’Herlihy give real old school star power and gravitas to their roles, and Grig’s facial expressions and raspy laugh bring that character to quirky life.


The Last Starfighter is one of those 80’s classics that makes you feel like a kid, because it brings out the kid in all of us. It was one of the first films to touch on the emerging video game culture, and harkens back to a simpler, more original time when most new films started life as spec scripts and every movie wasn’t a remake or an adaptation of a book or comic. The Blu-ray version also includes a cool making of feature, the original theatrical trailer, and more. In a word, a must-have for any 80’s sci-fi movie fan.

How to Sell E-books at Conventions and Other In-Person Events


I love going to science fiction conventions. I love to share what I know and love with my fellow geeks. I love the rampant creativity, the barely controlled chaos, and the girls in slave Leia outfits. But what I love most about conventions is meeting new people, and maybe converting a few of them into new readers of my work. There’s nothing worse than sitting behind a table piled high with your golden prose as people idly glance at your wares but ultimately pass you by.

Last year, after coming home with a huge stack of books from a con, I climbed a skyscraper, hunkered on the rooftop like a gargoyle, wringing my hands at the heavens screaming, “There has got to be a better way!”

Well, it didn’t exactly go like that, but you get the point. Something had to be done. I had to do something different, or risk blending in with everyone else. I knew I could do it. I had the technology. I could make my publishing business better, stronger, faster.

The idea was simple. I had already been going great guns with e-books, selling far more copies of my work in digital format than in print. Why not carry that over into the physical realm? I could save on shipping expensive POD print books, finding a place to store them, and lugging them back and forth to cons until they were all sold out. I would dramatically lower my physical inventory, my cost per unit, and take over the world!

So how do you do it? How do you sell an e-book in the physical world? Isn’t an e-book just an assemblage of electrons?

Well yes it is, but it can still be done. Here’s how I did it, and how you can too!

1. Upload an e-book to Smashwords. If you’ve been e-publishing for any length of time, you are no doubt familiar with Smashwords, which will distribute your e-book to other retailers like Apple and Sony. But what you might have forgotten is that Smashwords allows you to download copies of your own e-book, in whatever formats you told them to publish in. That way you can give copies away to friends, family, or book reviewers. And that’s what you want to do here.

NOTE: Don’t worry about whether or not it is properly formatted for the Smashwords meat grinder. It will still create your e-book, it just won’t distribute it to Apple and the other e-book stores, which for our purposes here isn’t a big deal. You can always do that later.

2. Download the e-book file(s). I like to choose the three most common e-book formats: Mobi (Kindle) Epub (everyone else) and PDF (for everyone who doesn’t have an e-reader but still reads documents on their computer or other device). Download these and put them where you can find them easily.

3. Upload the e-book files to Google Drive. What’s that? Don’t have a Google Drive account? Then get one. They’re nice. Once you’ve got yours set up, just upload your e-book files to it. Next to each file in Drive, click on the share button, select ‘share with link’ and copy the link.

4. Add links to is a link-shortening and tracking site that keeps track of all your links for free, and even tells you how often each one gets clicked. Now shorten each of your e-book’s file links. also allows you to customize the URL, so make it something you can identify again without having to click on it. I use part of the e-book title as well as file type for mine, such as You get the idea.

3. Create postcards with the e-book’s cover art. I prefer Vistaprint, but you can use your printer of choice. I like Vistaprint because they’re easy to use, fast, and constantly offering special sales and promotional discounts.

On the front of your postcard, put the e-book’s cover art, and maybe a blurb or short review. On the back, add a brief synopsis along with links to each of the file formats you are offering.

4. Sell the postcards. Now just sell the postcards. Sell them for whatever the e-book is priced. I tried this out on a 99 cent steampunk story at a steampunk con, charging a dollar. If your e-book is $2.99, sell it for that. In my experience, everyone understood exactly what they were buying, and I never had anyone waver or question the process.

Have fun with it. Keep a Sharpie on you and sign the front of the postcard. That way they still get as much of the experience of buying a physical book from the author as possible.

And you can’t beat the investment and ROI. Depending on the number of cards you order, their size, and what specials Vistaprint has running, you’re paying a lot less for a big stack of cards than a big stack of books. I tried this experiment with 50 good sized postcards, at a cost of 26 cents per card, selling them for a dollar each. Sure, you have to sell far more of these to equal the sale of even one physical book, but it’s another option for folks who balk at $15.95 trade paperbacks, especially when they sublet their hotel rooms to ten other people and cook ramen in the coffee maker just to be able to afford to attend the con in the first place.

Later on, I plan on expanding my selection of e-books at conventions, as well as experimenting with smaller, less expensive paperbacks. But the e-book postcards are a cool trick in my arsenal, especially for conventions like Dragon Con, where I don’t have a table and do a lot of running around to different panels. Try this at your next event. I think you’ll be glad you did.

My Attempt at a Comic Book Spec Script

Rom Spaceknight

Rom Spaceknight

NOTE: During the summer I wanted to try my hand at writing a comic book script, mostly to see whether or not I could do it. I found the format somewhat restrictive at first, but as I envisioned the finished comic it just flowed out of me. I decided to write about established characters so I could focus more on getting the format and pacing right, so I can’t do anything with it other than post it here for free. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts in the comments. Enjoy!

Rom Spaceknight

Issue #1

“The Return” part 1

by James Palmer

raft 1.0-10/25/14
Draft 1.2 10/29/14

by James Palmer



In the center of a star field, a golden planet hangs, wreathed in clouds.


The planet Galador.


A forgotten world, it was once decimated by fearsome, shape-shifting entities known as the Dire Wraiths.


These creatures were eventually destroyed by a group of brave Galadorians and their leader, who gave up their humanity to become a powerful protective force known as…


Zoom in a little closer to reveal the outlines of magnificent buildings and spindly skyscrapers.


The Spaceknights!



Zoom in on one city to show the buildings in more detail, gleaming metal, sky bridges, and people, men, women and children, going about their day in bright, colorful clothing. They are talking, laughing, playing.


But now it has been reborn!


Exterior of a large golden building, with a wide walkway leading up to it. On the edges of the walkway, spaced at intervals, are tall, stone statues of the Spaceknights, standing as if they are still protecting the people of Galador. The last of the statues, standing taller than the rest and near the entrance to the golden building, is a statue of Rom.


The Palace of Galador, home to their leader Rom and his bride, the human Brandy Clark.


Cut to interior of the palace, in a vast room with a large window or balcony overlooking the Galadorian capital city. Two figures stand close to each other, looking out the window.

BRANDY: Oh Rom, it’s so beautiful. So peaceful. To think we built it up from practically nothing.


Rom places his hand on Brandy’s shoulder. He is smiling.

ROM: Yes, darling. It was an amazing feat. Of course, we had a little help from Galadorian science. But everything is now as it was before the Dire Wraiths came.



Close-up of Brandy Clark. Her curly brown hair is now long, and she wears a diaphanous golden gown.

BRANDY: It was worth it. All the sacrifices…


Her face takes on a sad look, and we see a panel of her fighting alongside Rom Spaceknight as Starshine, killing Dire Wraiths that lunge for them.

BRANDY: All the lives lost…


Rom takes his hand off her shoulder.

ROM: Some brave souls lost their lives, all so we could live on Galador in peace once again.


Rom walks away from her.

ROM: (thinking) But this peace may have come at a price. Once shrouded in little more than legend, Galador is starting to attract undue attention.


A robed attendant comes in, a tablet-like device in his hands.

VOREX: Rom, my liege. We have just received another communication from a race of beings calling themselves Skrulls. They want to enter trade agreements.



Rom waves his hand at the attendant, his face looking grim.

VOREX: Sire, what are Skrulls?

ROM: Just ignore them. As usual.

ROM: (thinking) I am afraid we cannot remain unnoticed forever.


Rom continues walking, followed close by the attendant, who hurries to catch up.

VOREX: Rom, the Watchers report no sign of Dire Wraith activity.

ROM: Good. Thank you, Vorex. That will be all.


Frontal view of Rom as he pushes open a set of double doors.

ROM: (thinking) My fear is not the Dire Wraiths…


Space. A close shot of stars with the curve of Galador in the bottom left corner.


Identical view to the one before, only this time there is a flash of bright white light.


Close-up showing the source of the flash, a wispy being with oddly bent legs and a long frill atop its head that goes down its back.


“…My fear is that there are worse things out there than the Dire Wraiths.”



Shows the glowing being in more detail.


Stardust, current herald of the world-eater Galactus.


Stardust looks down at the planet turning beneath its feet.

STARDUST: Another world ripe for the picking. The Master hungers. He will be pleased.


Stardust extends his right hand toward deep space and sends out a beam of white energy.


Stardust alerts his master that another suitable world has been found.


Pull back to show whole planet, and Stardust as a white streak that falls toward the golden orb of Galador like a comet.



Groups of people looking into the sky and pointing.


Several hours later: From all over Galador, reports of strange lights in the sky come flooding in.


Rom is sitting at the end of a long table, at which sit his many attendants, scientists, and advisors.


The brightest minds on Galador convene to discuss how to best deal with this strange new threat.

VARIOUS ADVISORS SPEAK: …like a white flame.

It destroyed a Watcher lookout post!

…perhaps the Wraiths have returned.


Close-up of Rom, raising his hand for silence.

ROM: Enough. I will have order in these proceedings. Vorex, have we attempted to communicate with the…phenomena?


Close-up of Vorex.

VOREX: Yes, Rom. All attempts to contact the entity have been met with violence.


A dark-haired man sitting across from Vorex.

TELDAR: Liege, the people are scared. They don’t know what to think. What should we tell them?


Shot from other end of the table, facing down the length of it to Rom. Every head is turned toward him.

ROM: Tell them not to panic. Remain indoors until further notice. That is all.



Stardust lands in a central square near the palace, people running away from him. He points to the sky.

STARDUST: behold, people of Galador. Your doom approaches.


Every head turns to the sky, where a large shape enters the atmosphere. It is a giant sphere, the size of a small moon. The sky turns dark.


The worldship of Galactus!

Close-up of the sphere, where we see a door open in the side, and a dark shape emerge, casting a shadow covering miles of buildings.


Galactus emerges, standing on a platform extended from his worldship. Pieces of impossibly huge and intricate machinery hover in the air around him, enveloped in energy.

GALACTUS: I hunger!


Shot from overhead and just behind Galactus. We see from his point of view as the people of Galador run and scurry like ants.

GALACTUS: (thinking) This world is rich with life energies. Unfortunately for its inhabitants, but they are no concern of mine. I shall feast like never before.


We pull back. Galactus’s hands are outstretched, glowing with the power cosmic as he assembles the machine he uses to suck planets dry. Tiny dots of people are running for their lives far below.

GALACTUS: (thinking) They will flee their world or die. The choice is theirs.


Unbeknownst to Galactus, a third option is in the offing.



Back in the palace, we see Rom and Brandy, huddled together, watching the scene
outside their window fearfully.

BRANDY: What is that thing?

ROM: Something I had hoped existed only in legend. Something I learned about from my days as a spaceknight. Galactus, destroyer of Worlds.

BRANDY: What are we going to do?


We see Rom walking away from Brandy.

ROM: Something I should have done long ago.

BRANDY: No, Husband. You can’t.


Overhead view. Rom is entering a long, dimly lit corridor, with Brandy close behind. There are clusters of barely discernable machinery cluttering each wall.

ROM: I have to. There is no other choice.


We see Rom and Brandy from behind. In front of them is a gleaming metal figure of Rom in his Spaceknight form, standing in front of a bulky machine.

BRANDY: No. You gave up all that you are to save this planet once, and almost lost it. I won’t watch you do it again!

ROM: No one is asking you to.


Above and behind Rom as he pulls a sheet from a large console.

ROM: Improvements will have to be made, of course. I just hope this equipment still works.


The long dormant machines hum to life.


Looking at Brandy’s face, washed in golden light. Her mouth is open, her eyes wide.

BRANDY: Please, Rom, no. Not again.



We pull back behind Brandy, Rom stepping into the large blocky machine, which has split down the middle and spread open, golden light pouring out of it. Rom is naked now, his clothes piled on the floor. But he is profile is black, shadowed by the enormous glow of light pouring out of the machine, Kirby dots coalescing around the machine’s opening.

ROM: What I do, Brandy Clark, I do for the good of Galador.


Forgotten for decades, the mighty machines of Galador hum to life once more, their single purpose to transform the planet’s bravest warriors into living weapons!



We’re looking down from above, as Stardust hovers over Galactus as he finishes his energy-siphon.

GALACTUS: You have done well, Stardust. The energies of this planet are like nothing I have yet encountered.

STARDUST: Thank you, Master. I live only to serve.


A beam of energy strikes Stardust, sending him spinning.


Stardust recovers, floating prone in the air, white trails of smoke or residual energy come off of him.

STARDUST: Who dares attack a herald of Galactus?!


Full body shot of Rom Spaceknight, hovering in the air, his right arm outstretched, the hand flat and shimmering with yellow energy. His hand coverings have fingers now, no more mittens.

ROM: I, Rom Spaceknight.


We pull back to see Galactus, Stardust and Rom, facing off in a semicircle. Galactus is turning a knob on his energy-siphon.

GALACTUS: So, the stories of the fabled Spaceknights are true. This must be your world.

ROM: It is. I command you to leave it at once.

GALACTUS: This planet has energies I require to function. I mean you or your people no harm, but this world must die so that I continue to live. Leave your world at once, or die with it.


Front shot of Rom, his arms at his sides.

ROM: I know who you are, Galactus. I don’t wish to fight you, but I will do whatever is necessary to protect Galador and its people.

(Art by Simon Oleny)



We see over Rom’s shoulder looking up at Galactus, as missiles zoom toward him from multiple sources. Some of them strike, hitting the worldship, the energy-siphon, and Galactus himself, as blossoms of fire and smoke erupt at each impact point.


The planetary defenses of Galador go into action.

GALACTUS: Very well. But I warned you what happens next…you die!



Back inside the Hall of the Spaceknights, we see Brandy Clark sitting at the console, her head down on it, crying.


Inside she can hear the concussions of missile blasts, and the drone of the palace’s warning system. Outside, she knows a fierce battle is taking place.


Above the city, Galactus makes adjustments to his machine, oblivious to the missiles and laser fire striking his massive body. Stardust destroys several Galadorian fighter ships as they stream towards him, while Rom is blasting at Galactus with all his newfound might.


The Galadorian military, spurred by the sight of their leader, press the attack.


Close-up of Rom as he flies toward Galactus, yellow energy beams erupting from both hands.

ROM: (thinking) This new spaceknight body is amazing. My dematerializer is built into my armor. I just hope it’s enough.


And in their midst, a new, improved Rom Spaceknight, once again defending Galador and its people.


Back in the Hall of the Spaceknights, Brandy looks up as we see a flash of light from behind her. Tears are streaming down her face.

BRANDY: What? Who’s there?


Brandy turns to see a large being stepping from a circle of light floating in midair.

BRANDY: Who are you? Guards!

THANOS: Fear not, Brandy Clark of Earth. I am Thanos of Titan.


Wide shot of the chamber. Brandy and Thanos face each other. The circle of light is fading away behind Thanos.

BRANDY: Titan? As in the moon of Saturn?

THANOS: Smart girl. I came to offer you a way out of your present predicament.

BRANDY: What do you want in return?

THANOS: Give me the machinery that transformed your husband into the greatest of all the Spaceknights, and I will expunge the planet-eater from your world forever.



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What I Tell Beginners


Every once in a blue moon someone will get in touch with me on Facebook and ask for writing advice. While I am far from an expert, I feel I do have some good advice for beginners. Below are the basic things I tell every new writer, whether they want to self-publish or land a traditional deal.

1. Treat it like a business. Writing is a business, especially if you want to do it in any great capacity. Don’t treat it like a hobby, even if it is for the time being. If you want it to be a sustainable business, you need to treat it like a business.

2. Get a dedicated website. Your writing should be separate from all your other online personas. That means having a website just for your writing.

3. If you don’t have a Kindle, get one. Or a Kindle reading app on a phone or tablet. Or a Kobo. Or a Nook. Ebooks are the future, and to be able to connect with your readers you need to understand how they consume your content. Plus, there are tons of really great, low cost writing how-to books available for Kindle, if you need the help.

4. Learn everything you can about your area of publishing. There is no one size fits all approach that will help everyone. Science fiction is different from children’s books is different from thrillers is different from erotica. Learn how to be the best writer of your genre as you can.

5. Find successful people who are doing something similar to what you want to do, and do what they do. Read their blogs and how-to books, listen to their podcasts, email them questions. Meet them at conferences.

6. Network with like-minded professionals, both online and off. Find others who want to do what you’re doing, or who are already successful, and network with them. Friend them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter.

7. Learn marketing. Even if you sell a book to a traditional publishers, the odds that they will spend a lot of time and money marketing your book are not in your favor. Learn to market yourself and your work. Social media, Bookbub ads, blogging, podcasts, any and all of it are necessary tools you need to get the word out about your books. Marketing isn’t optional. Learn it and do it.

The Publisher of the Future

Before we get into this, let me just say that I’m not the first person to say any of this. Hugh Howey has said some of these things, as have Michael Stackpole and Joe Konrath. Also, I am a micro publisher, and I’m not totally against publishers or want them to go away entirely. These are simply guidelines for both traditional publishers and any daring young upstart publishers that want to not only survive but thrive in the new publishing paradigm. These are a few things publishers need to do if they want to last another century.

The Publisher of the Future will:

1. Move out of New York City for cheaper rent. Today’s publishers have a ton of overhead, due in large part to paying rent on Manhattan skyscrapers. The publisher of the future will move out of New York for smaller, cheaper infrastructure elsewhere. Have editors and accounting staff that don’t want to move? No problem. They can still work for you remotely. The company of the future doesn’t have to have all of its employees working on site.

2. Actually compete against its fellow publishers. Right now, all the publishers are buddies. They have lunch together. They hang out at the same industry events. They have even illegally colluded to make e-book prices artificially high. I love that you’re all friends. That’s great. But the publisher of the future will be a fierce competitor, doing everything it can to increase profits while treating authors and readers with dignity and respect. It’s not show friends, it’s show business.

3. Offer authors higher royalties and fair contracts. Authors are not a necessary evil. They’re not “the help” that publishers have to pay a pittance to. They are the product. Without them, publishers will have no books to publish, and therefore nothing to sell to readers. The publisher of the future will give authors nice advances and fair and accurate accounting. They will pay authors monthly, like Amazon does. They won’t engage in unfair rights grabs. Doing so will allow the publisher of the future to attract the best and brightest authors.

4. Launch the e-book first. This will allow a book to gain some reviews and buzz in advance of the print release.

5. Launch hard covers and paperbacks at the same time. Give readers what they want. I don’t buy hardbacks. They take up more room and they’re more expensive. And I know plenty of other readers feel the same. Why should I be punished by being forced to wait a year until the paperback comes out? And where e-books are concerned, waiting a year or more for the price of the e-book to go down to match the price of the paperback?

6. Charge a lower price for e-books. Sorry. There is no good reason for charging $14.99 for an e-book. Sure, we’ve heard all the excuses used by publishers, but the real reason is to preserve their print sales, which are dying anyway. I’m not saying they have to be $2.99. The sweet spot seems to be much higher. As for myself, I’m comfortable paying for an e-book what a paperback costs. The publisher of the future will use that as their guide and experiment.

7. Take the long view. Focusing on short term profits versus long term growth is killing more than just the publishing industry. The publisher of the future will make plans to not only be around tomorrow but twenty years from tomorrow.

8. No longer treat books like produce that spoils in three months. The publisher of the future will realize that books are forever, especially e-books, and forever is a long time to find readers and cultivate authors.

9. Sell direct to readers. Many traditional publishers are already doing this quite well, but most could be doing so much more. With bookstores dying, the publishers’ customers are no longer book distributors and bookstores, but the people who consume their products, the readers. The publisher of the future will know how to reach this new customer or perish.

It isn’t that hard, and I think we will start to see publishers following some or all of these business practices. And the ones that don’t…well, they will simply cease to exist. What do you guys think? Do you like these business practices? What would you add to this list? Feel free to do so in the comments.

Retro Review: Forbidden Planet Blu-ray


There are several films universally regarded as classics, epics like Gone with the Wind and Ben Hur. But there is only one science fiction film that can be counted among them, and that film is Forbidden Planet (1956). Forbidden Planet is the Citizen Kane of science fiction films, a work that is as cerebral as it is visually stunning.

Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun is commander of a deep space vessel ordered to journey to the distant planet Altair IV to check on a shipload of colonists that arrived there years ago. What they find instead are the lone survivors of the colony, the egomaniacal Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), his beautiful daughter Altaira (Anne Francis), and a robot Morbius created from alien technology named Robby (Robby the Robot). Something savagely killed the crew, and only Morbius and his daughter were immune. Morbius has been busy unlocking the secrets of a long-dead race of super intelligent aliens called the Krell, whose machines still work deep under the planet’s surface, powered by Altair IV’s molten core.

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When something invisible sabotage’s the ship’s engines, and starts killing off the crew, the ship’s commander vows to get to the bottom of the mystery. What he discovers is beyond anything he could have guessed. SPOILER ALERT: What is attacking them is a creature from Morbius’s subconscious mind, a monster from the Id powered by the limitless energy supply of the Krell machines.

download (1)

This is a visually stunning film that looks as well today as it did when it premiered in theaters. MGM borrowed a Walt Disney animator for some of the visual effects, and the film sports the first all electronic music score and sound effects. And in spite of having star power like Francis, Nielsen, Pidgeon, and Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman), the real star of the film is Robby the Robot, who is one of my all time favorite movie or TV robots.

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MGM spent over a hundred grand on Robby, so naturally they wanted to use him again. He’s cropped up all kinds of places over the years. Included in the Blu-ray are two follow-up vehicles starring Robby: the film The Invisible Boy and an episode of The Thin Man TV series called “The Robot Client.” But Robby also made a cameo in Gremlins, guest starred on Lost in Space, Wonder Woman and the Saturday morning kid’s show Ark II. In that way, Robby was always a nice touchstone of my childhood.

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Also included on the Blu-ray is the Turner Classic Movies documentary Always Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s, and Us, as well as a featurette about the making of Forbidden Planet and one the creation of Robby the Robot. These make the Blu-ray version of Forbidden Planet a must-have for any fan of the movie or of classic science fiction cinema in general. I’m proud to have this on my shelf so I can watch it over and over again. It’s just that good.

Press Release: Local Artist and Writers Blend Photography and Story in Crowd-Funded Art Book


Celestial Studios Photography Contact: Fox Gradin
118 Main Street SW
Gainesville Ga 30501 678-989-0013
Inside the Main Street Market


Local Artist and Writers Blend Photography and Story in Crowd-Funded Art Book

GAINESVILLE, GA—Fox Gradin, photographer and owner of downtown Gainesville’s Celestial Studios Photography, is creating her first art book. Entitled The Forty, the book contains Gradin’s pictures and fiction by local authors Kathryn Hinds and James Palmer. The book will be available for pre-order during Art in the Square, which will be held September 20 and 21.

The book started as an art project that went on display during last year’s Art in the Square, which featured several of Gradin’s friends in the guise of each of Ali Baba’s thieves. “Everyone was intrigued by the characters and said they should be in a book,” says Gradin.

Gradin decided to make the book a reality, and recruited local authors Kathryn Hinds and James Palmer to write a short tale about each of the thieves. Palmer was also one of the thieves. The book was funded via crowd-funding site Kickstarter, and reached 137 percent of its goal.

“I was very surprised,” says Gradin. “I didn’t know if we would even meet our goal, let alone exceed it.”

The premise of The Forty is that Ali Baba recruited the thieves from different places and time periods, and the short, “flash fiction”-style tales run the gamut from historical fantasy to alternate history. Readers will encounter everything from genies and unicorns to Captain Nemo and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

“I think everyone will love this book,” says Gradin. “It has amazing artwork and great stories.”

A book launch party will be held at Avocados on the Gainesville square on Saturday, September 27th from 7pm to 10pm. Guests are encouraged to dress as thieves, gangsters, pirates, and bad guys. Copies of The Forty will be available for purchase and signing at the party.

“We want everyone to come out and see this amazing book,” says Gradin.


About Celestial Studios Photography

Celestial Studios, located on the downtown square in Gainesville, GA, is owned by artist Fox Gradin, who specializes in eclectic portraiture and fine art photography. In addition to Gradin’s photographs, Celestial Studios offers unique gifts, classes in dance and yoga, art meetings, and gatherings for meditation and drumming. For more information, or to book a photo session, visit



In 1993, director Joe Dante (Gremlins) gave us this charming sendup of atomic age monster flicks and loving homage to director William Castle (The Tingler). John Goodman plays Lawrence Woolsey, a second-rate schlock meister who is getting ready to debut his latest picture, Mant, about a man and ant who, after being exposed to radiation, combine into one monstrosity. And where better to premiere his newest creation but Key West during the Cuban missile crisis?


Gene Loomis (Simon Fenton) is a lonely Navy brat who bounces from town to town, his only joys torturing his little brother and perusing his huge pile of monster magazines. His father is on one of the Navy blockade ships around Cuba, and the fact that the great Lawrence Woolsey is coming to town helps keep his mind off things, and he offers to help the director get the theater ready for Mant’s silver screen debut, which includes rigging the seats with joy buzzers and hiring a juvenile delinquent to dress in a Mant costume and run up and down the aisles.


This film has a great cast, including Omri Katz (Eerie Indiana), Kellie Martin (Life Goes On, Christie), Joe Dante alum Dick Miller (Gremlins, Gremlins 2, The Explorers), and Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager) as the paranoid theater owner. Cathy Moriarty plays Woolsey’s long-suffering girlfriend who poses as a nurse and makes audience members sign a medical waiver in case they die of fright.


Matinee is by turns funny and charming, and juxtaposes the on-screen fears with the all too real fear and paranoia running rampant at the time. It’s also a great movie about movies, and if you’ve never seen it, I highly suggest you check it out.



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Mark Bousquet of Atomic Anxiety did a monster-sized interview with myself, my Monster Earth co-conspirator Jim Beard, and a few of our writers about BETRAYAL ON MONSTER EARTH. You can check it out here.

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