My Favorite Things with Jason Ridler

They might not be raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but that doesn’t mean that we love them any less. Welcome back to My Favorite Things, the weekly column where we grab someone in speculative circles to gab about the greatest in geek. This week, we sit down with author and military historian Jason Ridler, who’s having quite the publication windfall this summer. Having just published FXXK WRITING: A Guide for Frustrated Artists earlier this month, tomorrow his debut from Night Shade Books hits the shelves: Hex-Rated: A Brimstone Files Novel. But what does he love when he’s not typing furiously away on his next novel or dispensing with writing advice? Spoiler alert: dragon wrestlers, British Fantasy nominees, short stories that turn shit to gold, and a non-speculative fave that Jem and the Hologram fans might find truly outrageous! Curious? Read on for more!

My lunchtime joy is watching grown men pretend to hurt each other, telling stories with their bodies in Boyle Heights. Robert Rodriguez and the crew at El Rey created Lucha Underground, a television series now streaming on Netflix about a cult-like world of pro wrestling with an emphasis on the Mexican tradition of the flying luchadore, crazy storylines, and over-the-top-rope characters from around the globe, including my current fave, Drago… who is part dragon! BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Aztec warriors! Super heroic feats of athleticism abound in a world of time travel, secret identities and magic masks! And it’s all set in East LA. Tell me this isn’t cooler than hobbits throwing jewelry in volcanos, rube. Plus, one of the valets follows me on Twitter (by which I mean some kid in charge of her twitter account found out I wrote Rise of the Luchador). Lucha Underground has more genre elements per episode than most opening chapters from new Urban Fantasies . . . but guess who gets snubbed EVERY YEAR AT WORLD FANTASY CON? I say it’s a fix! It’s a work (that’s rasslin’ slang for a fixed outcome, rookie)! And I blame the ref! Plus, wrestling shows up in the sequel to my debut novel, Hex-Rated: A Brimstone Files Novel. So, if you want a sneak peak into the world of Brimstone’s future, one way is to catch some Lucha!

But when not dealing the the shifting realities of pretend violence and real injuries, I like to curl up with a good book about shifting realities and the nature of identity. Simply put, Erica Satifka has written the best SF book I’ve read since Project Itoh’s Harmony (as you can see, I’m not an easy mark for traditional SF). Want a protagonist struggling with mental health issues? One faced with a diabolical fiend hiding within her awful day job at Savertown, USA? Want her allies to communicate through frozen goods??? OF COURSE YOU DO! And that means Stay Crazy is the novel for you! It’s well-crafted, funny, ridiculous, and moving, with a nice stab at corporate culture. If you love the everyday fuck-ups of Philip K. Dick written by someone who gets working class culture, mental health challenges and, thank fuck, isn’t some white dude like me, this is the book. Couldn’t put it down. And proving some works are recognized in their time, it’s up for a British Fantasy Award. Proving yet again I’m outside the ring of normal genre stuff.

Which brings me to my first love in fiction: short stories by people you have never heard of (yet). Justin Howe is many things, including my former roommate at the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He also may be the best-read fantasist of the freaky deaky you’ve yet to taste, so I was thrilled when his latest short story, “Behind the Sun,” came out from Reckoning, an enviro-punk-magic-realist-lit-mag from another Odyssey alumni and buddy, the incredible Michael J. Deluca. The story is about literally turning shit into gold, and it’s written in the tradition of many of Justin’s peripheral and central influences like Avram Davidson, Haruki Murakami, and Lewis Shiner. So read it.

Speaking of which, Shiner made his name in the 1980s as a punk rock slacker member of the cyberpunk generation, roughly at the time when my sister Shannon was hooked on Jem ad the Holograms, the sage SF girl-adventure fantasy cartoon series from maestro cartoon writer Christy Marx. Back then, I was a full-time wrestling junkie, but Jem was cool. And you know what else was just as truly, truly, truly outrageous, but filled with warrior-beauty queens who made this young boy in a feminist household feel funny in his . . . heart? The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling!

So, of course I watched the gang behind Orange is the New Black recreate and re-envision Glow to tell a tale of women, sexism, empowerment, and spandex in the 1980s world of pro wrestling. Yes, I loved it, all of it, every slam-bang part of it. Yes, it was strange to see all the sexy and powerful influences that creeped into my Id when I was eleven come raging at me, alive and in color, and much of it through the face of Alison Brie.

Ahem, it was also a very well done affair, and the team knows how to work an ensemble cast without losing the main thread of the series. In short, the aesthetic excellence is matched by strong writing and performances. Glow is Madmen for ladies who grew up on Jem . . . and the older brothers who watched Jem before WWF Superstars. For a guy writing a supernatural mystery set in 1970s LA, it’s fun to see what the following decade became!

Jason Ridler is a writer, left-wing military historian and improv actor. He is the author of Hex-Rated, the debut of his new series The Brimstone Files from Night Shade Press, as well as FXXK WRITING: A Guide for Frustrated Artists, based on his popular column of the same name for Flash Fiction Online. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, he is a teaching fellow at Johns Hopkins University, yet lives in Berkeley. You can check out his blog, or hang out with him on Facebook, because SnapChat scares him!


  • Shara White July 31, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    I’m really wanting to give GLOW a shot now. Alison Brie! Marc Maron! Also, STAY CRAZY is just waiting patiently on my Kindle…..


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