Top ten green fictional characters of all time…

It’s not easy being green—especially if you are scaly, scary, kelpy, wrinkled, cold, slimy, or wise. I’m not sure when I first started liking green, but it was my mamaw’s favorite colour, so perhaps that had something to do with it. Inspired by the departure of spring, when everything here in Southern California starts turning brown, I’ve come up with a list of my ten favorite green fictional characters of all time.

(Actually, it was tough to narrow this down to only ten; I had to leave at least that many on the cutting room floor.)

10. Sigmund the Sea Monster

most likely to write a self-kelp book

Although not the only green character created by Sid and Marty Krofft, he is surely the cutest. Anything with an egg tooth is all right by me. Tormented by his older evil brothers, Sigmund could have written a birth order book.

9. Frankenstein’s monster

green is goooooood

Frankenstein was first published anonymously in 1818—almost 200 years ago! Mary Shelley was twenty-one at the time. I still can’t read this timeless work without crying at the end. According to the novel “he was the colour of dead skin,” which in the early films is black and white—but in our hearts he’s green.

8. (Release) the Kraken

best green character in a non-speaking role

Released by Zeus who obviously just doesn’t give a shit about his own children, the Kraken is one of the most memorable green fictional characters from one of my favourite classic films, Clash of the Titans (1981).

7. The Sleestaks

hot bod award

So retro. I suppose it was the scaly aliens from the Land of the Lost who are responsible for turning me to the dark side. Their big eyes, sizeable horns, heavy breathing and six-pack abs caught my full attention. These slow moving reptilian humanoids were hot. Pylon perfect, I no longer cheered for Chaka and the Pakunis. I was a sleestak girl.

6. The Great Gazoo

"Hey, Dum Dums!"

Okay, so The Flintstones did some serious shark jumping when they introduced the Great Gazoo. Nonetheless, I do like my aliens and he’s one of my favourites. Predator is my favourite alien character, but he’s not green.

5. Slimer

most likely to run up the dry cleaning bill

Everybody loves a summer blockbuster comedy with a goofy ghost. When I first saw Ghostbusters, Slimer reminded me of a green Tasmanian Devil. When was the last time you were slimed?

4. Gojira!

best green character in a foreign film

The first of many creature features my father took me to see as a child. Originally released in 1954, Godzilla (Gojira!) is a Japanese sci-fi film directed by Ishiro Honda and produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka. In the final scene, Dr. Yamane warned that if mankind continued to develop weapons of mass destruction, Godzilla may return—perhaps faster than you can say Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

3. Gumby

most likely to be gay, not that there's anything wrong with that

It was the little green slab of clay that stole the heart of my youth. Gumby would glide around town like nobody’s business (possibly because he was a bit light on the loafers). The theme song was cool too, and that voice. He talked all slow like. Those Clokey’s must have had their clocks permanently set to 4:20 when they created this little green gem. To this day, I don’t know if Gumby is male or female.

2. Wicked Witch of the West

tastiest villain

One of the best character theme songs ever written, Sugar. Chasing poor little Toto all through Oz. What a bitch. I love her. Margaret Hamilton (The Witch) was originally hired for 6 weeks of work. She ended up working 23 weeks and suffered second and third degree burns to her hands and face during the fire and smoke sequence. Now that’s one hot green villain! The Wizard of Oz (1939) was the first film I saw on the silver screen. But not in its original run—I’m not that old!.

1. Yoda

most likely to start his own religion

“Mudhole? Slimy? My home this is.” For someone so wise, one would think one would have better sentence structure abilities, wouldn’t one?

Bonus: Some Frog

tastes like chicken

Greenies surrounded me as a kid. Kermit was probably the first, but not my favourite by a long shot. Honorable mention only. He’s just here because everybody expects him to be. Just say no to singer/songwriter amphibians. His mellow personality lulled me into a nap-time stupor. It’s like he was hypnotizing the television audience with melatonin or something. Is that even legal?

A zombie culture club…

“All this video needs is for some nazi zombies to appear in the background, kind of like a bigfoot sighting…”

—Mike Pardue, regarding the snow day video on my previous post

So, my buddy Mike Pardue is a Zombiholic. We attended junior high school and high school together.

Brad Fliss, Me, Zombie Master Mike Pardue, Jim Miller

Tolerant Marjorie, Mike Pardue, Me

Combined, we’ve probably seen every flesh-eating movie ever to ooze its way onto the silver screen. In fact, we can talk about creepy Zombie scenes for hours. Just ask his tolerant wife, Marjorie. A while back we all went together to a screening of Dead Snow, the film which Mike references in the comment above.

The pulpy flick presented more nibbles, bites, and senseless gore than you can shake a lifeless limb at, which made the romp nothing less than bloody spectacular! Apparently, from that day forward, any time Pardue sees snow, he also sees Nazi Zombies. Zombie people are weird. Zombie people are demented and disturbed in a funny sort of way. They are twisted as tight as a donut and find humour in senseless acts of ultra-violence. The gangrenous and campy culture is so much fun in a grim sort of way that we decided to start a Zombie Slayer forum on Facebook where we could share our thoughts about the undead and how to defeat them.

Proud owner of a Dead Snow stub

I don’t know about you, but just talking about Zombies or thinking about Zombies gets my mortal creative juices flowing. Perhaps I should see a witch doctor about that, but until then, I’d love to see your comments about your favourite Zombie film or Zombie stories. Here are a few of my favourite Zombie novels.

Blood Crazy by Simon Clark. This was one of the few novels I read all at once as a kid. It freaked the shit out of me. On a dark and dreary Saturday night, every adult in the world turns on their kids (19 years and younger) and slaughters them. The kids band together to battle their beloved parents. Gruesome.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Perhaps the best mash-up of all time for those of us who could give a dead rat's ass about wealthy British romance. Add a few zombies for a geek fest you'll fall in love with.

I, Zombie by Al Ewing. This is a detective noir sort of tale about an undead dick. He solves head dropping crimes, but can't solve his own. Who turned him into a walking dead and why?

Dead in the West by Joe Lansdale. This cover art looks like super cheese, but it mixes two of my favourite genres. Every zombie outlaw shows up in a western town and the one person who has the know-how and balls to save them is a wandering preacher man.

Notes from the field: work, play, and murdering a yogi…

Joe, Tommy, Mike (my writing partner), me, and Tony the Destroyer

When I’m not working, one of the things I enjoy is backpacking. Mother Nature is the perfect muse for creativity. In fact, my writing partner and I came up with the idea for one of our award-winning science fiction screenplays, The Virtuoso, while hiking in the Sierras.

Mother Nature is overwhelming and surprising. She’s dangerous. She’s relaxing. She’s naughty as well as nice. She was all these things on a recent trip to Yosemite. Four friends and I climbed 2,000 feet from the valley floor to Little Yosemite Valley, where we pitched our base camp for five chilly days and nights. We weren’t afraid of the winter storm warning signs posted at the Ranger Station. Okay, well maybe Tommy was a little bit concerned about the bleak weather forecast, but the rest of us were prepared and up for the adventure. We convinced Tommy, who was ready to book a room at the Ahwahnee, that we were prepared for anything. We packed smart. We packed light. Our tents were strong enough, and we had enough polar fleece to wrap a bear in, foul weather gear, the perfect amount of food, and most important: an abundance of waterproof matches.

By the third day, the skies darkened, clouds formed over Half Dome and Clouds Rest, and four of us decided to take a five-mile day hike before the late winter storm arrived. We would be hiking to the Yosemite Valley overlook. The vista offers breathtaking views up Tanaya Canyon to the east and Sub Dome to the west, which Tony had to miss due to his unfortunate experience of pulling a hamstring the day before. He decided (with encouragement from our traveling massage therapist, Joe) to stay behind at base camp and relax his body parts and inner Buddha.

On the way back down from the valley vista to base camp, it started to snow. With two miles left to go, the four of us talked about how nice it was going to be to reach camp, fetch water from the icy river, boil it, and make hot chili and tea. Our stomachs were growling for something warm as our lips turned a nice shade of cyan.

A very happy and relaxed Tony greeted us as we arrived at camp. He announced with vigor, “I feel great. I have never been this relaxed. It’s so nice and quiet here. The bear never came back” —that’s a diffrent story for a different day — “I made myself tea and took a hot bath. I treated myself to a spa day!”

Other than the limp, I have to admit, he did look refreshed. As snow fell heavier, we prepared the kitchen area for cooking. I reached into my carefully protected waterproof matchbox and was shocked to find the box had been raided. But by what? Then I saw the grisly crime scene. On the cold, wet ground next to the rusty old bear bin were twenty or so matches with slight burn marks, the carcasses just lying there like a defeated army. Apparently, Tony had a difficult time following the “strike anywhere” directions on the box. He tried and tried again until … pfffffft. Ahhhh, the sweet burn of success. A spa day! Tea, Clif bars, and hot bath water for one coming up!

The realization that he had murdered the last match penetrated me like an ice pick. Our hope for a hot meal and warm tea on what would prove to be the coldest night on earth was dead and useless. The City of Compton girl in me wanted to beat the little yogi right out of him, but I ain’t like that no more. Instead, veggie boy was politely sent on a quest for fire. It took a while, but finally limping back to camp with a grin from ear to ear, he presented us with a spark of hope borrowed from one of the few remaining campers in the valley. We laughed, ate well but hurriedly in the rising storm, and woke early the next morning to this:

 

Floating souls

During the mid 1800s, the Pearl River region near Canton had a floating population of at least 100,000 people. On its rivers and waterways could be found sampans, great boats, slipper boats, cargo boats, coffin boats, passage boats, ferry boats, theatrical boats, flower boats, house boats, leper boats (ew), police boats, guard boats, customs boats, fishing boats, gunboats, steamboats, floating restaurants, steam launches, and brothels.

Like Venice, Italy, the Chinese city of Canton also contained a labyrinth of waterways in the 1800s. The fortress-like building, background center, is a typical Chinese pawn shop, according to the Flickr user Repo Man.

In addition to the flower boats, small boats and floats of various kinds were tied up and anchored closely together. This claustrophobic closeness of quarters was a disaster waiting to happen, attested to by a passage in the Memoirs of Robert Dollar [1918] WS Van Cott & Co., San Francisco, Pg 122. In it, he writes:

A few days before our arrival in Canton there had been a disastrous fire in what are called the “Flower Boats,” which are used as places of ill repute. There are a great number of them made fast in rows about fifty feet apart, extending out into the water about two hundred feet. The boats are broadside on the shore and each row is made fast, side by side, the whole secured by chains and anchored at the outer side to keep them in position. A lamp exploded in one of them near the shore and the fire speedily spread, first along the shore then out, so that the inmates had the choice of being burned or drowned. It was reported that six hundred girls and two hundred men lost their lives, but the bodies recovered exceeded one thousand. Strange to say, the police prevented any one going to the rescue and the victims died like rats in a trap.

No place in the world has as many boats as Canton. The number of people living in them is estimated now at seven hundred and fifty thousand. In the evening there is a solid mass of them about two hundred feet wide and six or seven miles long. Every small boat has one family at least living on it, and the large ones have several. Each family averages four children. The boats are their homes, and they make their living by carrying passengers and freight of all kinds. A great many of the boats are stern wheelers, the motive power being men on a tread mill. They run from twelve to forty men propelling each boat, and they seem to make seven or eight miles an hour. The river is so crowded with boats of all kinds and descriptions that it is with great difficulty a stranger can navigate through them, but like people in a crowded city street the natives get on without many mixups.

I’ve lived at the ocean my entire life and have a difficult time wrapping my briney brain around an overpopulated floating sea colony like the one described in so many old Cantonese journals. I’m sure the U.S. Coast Guard, California Coastal Commission and EPA would have had their hands full. I bet there were no beach clean up days in old Guangzhou either. Nonetheless, I find it difficult to turn my face away from a scene of floating souls. Here are some of my favourite sampan scenes. Some good, some bad, and some ugly.

The Good:

Floating market (taken from Three Seasons, the first film ever to be shot entirely inVietnam).

The Bad:

Sampan residence (taken from King of Masks, a gem of a film set in 1930s Sichuan).

The Ugly:

Monkey sampan (taken from the special features section of Apocalypse Now – the Complete Dossier)

Putting the cartographer before the horse

Before we set our characters loose in 1850s Canton, it was imperative to know what the city looked and felt like. Comparing current Canton maps with books and old journal entries, it was apparent that the city had endured vast changes throughout the years. We needed, but could not locate, a good map of old Canton. It was frustrating. For a while the best source we could find came from the archives of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand. We pieced together the available bits of their map to come up with this:

Canton, ca. 1860

The map shows some of the city walls and outlying areas, as well as the locations of the foreign factories that played such a big role in the Second Opium War (the events of which will kick off our story). Although in a work of fiction it’s not imperative that we get every detail perfect, we like to have as thorough an understanding of location and history as possible. The map above was sketched by Rev. Daniel Vrooman of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, who seems to have been one of the first westerners to get a detailed view inside the city after English occupation. Googling his name rather than endless variations of “old canton map” is what finally gave us what we were looking for:

Canton, 1860, mapped by Rev. D. Voorhees

This second map comes from the National Library of Australia. Where the first Voorhees map seemed to be little more than a rough sketch, this one goes into great detail inside and outside the city. Again, we’ve pieced this together from multiple parts. The scale of the original map is huge, but what we’re showing here is rather condensed. It’s worth following the link to see the detail of the original.

Nineteenth century Canton provides us with as colorful a setting as we could have hoped for, with its vibrant streets, markets, corridors, alleys, waterways, city limits, and treasures of utmost importance. Yep, old Guangzhou had it all. Partly surrounded by the Pearl River, partly surrounded by rice fields, the city boasted many temples, pagodas, parade grounds, foreign factories, a “native hospital,” execution area, a water clock, a road to a leper village, home for aged women, home for blind men, and right next to those buildings, a “depository area for the dead.” Nice place to visit, but I probably wouldn’t have wanted to live there—at least not without antibiotics.