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Once a week the Tales of the Con crew takes an unfiltered look at Comic-Con culture and all things nerd & geek, while cracking jokes and telling real-life stories. No topic is off-limits as we discuss video games, movies, anime, comic books, and more. Mature language and salty attitudes guaranteed.

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Evil’s Unlikely Assassin – Red’s Reads

Evil’s Unlikely Assassin  By Jenn Windrow

Review by Red


When I first heard of Evil’s ​Unlikely Assassin, the synopsis sounded interesting. I have always had a soft spot for dark urban fantasy novels with tough, dramatic humanity back. She is contracted by an angel for fifty years to go out and kill other “things that go heroines. I tend to think of them as guilty pleasures. And while many in this genre are plagued with predictable tropes, I thought it sounded fun enough to give it a read-through.  

The story of Evil’s Unlikely Assassin is that of a vampire, named Alexis, who wants to get her humanity back. She is offered a contract where she has to hunt things that “bump in the night” for 50 years. This must be done every night or she dies. She agrees to the contract, begrudgingly, but doesn’t know that with the contract also comes a human sidekick, who cannot stand anything that has fangs, and the spirit of another vampire inhabiting her head who occasionally is able to take control of her body.

Two years into her contract, vampires in Chicago (which is the setting of the story) are starting to become a major problem. They are mass feeding, not cleaning up the dead bodies, and obviously thinking they are the superior race and humans should take a back seat. Until this point, the vampire population has been kept on a tight leash with feedings and cleanup to not incur the wrath of humans or have the newly developed VAU, or Vampire Apprehension Unit, sent after them.  To solve the new vampire horde dilemma Alexis, our unlikely heroine, must get to the root of the problem, kill all the evil she can, and not lose herself in the process.

I was a little disappointed in the book that Alexis didn’t seem to develop beyond the badass, overly sarcastic, hunter. Many of the other characters had interesting personal developments. The only development that seemed to happen to Alexis was very early on in the story and didn’t really add much depth to her character. And while there are great characters and action-packed parts, it was slightly on the predictable side with many characters not wanting to be supernatural beings or even just the bad guy not being who you thought. With that said, supernatural beings hiding or running from who they truly are seems to be a favorite of the author, as it becomes a recurring theme in the story.

There are so many parts to the story that I found refreshing. A rather imaginative setup was the vampire hierarchy. Similar enough to other versions of Vampire mythos, but different enough to catch my attention. Many other vampire stories have either a coven who make the rules or a royal family to which everyone answers. This version uses a combination of the two. It sticks with Vlad the Impaler being the start of the vampire line and royalty, which I actually prefer to having it be a virus or mutation.  The Vampires have a royal line, but then there is a governing council who decide how to manage the race as a whole. Much like the British royal family and the Parliament. Another favorite part and a highlight was finding out who the spirit in Alexis’s head actually is. The knowledge was dropped so suddenly it made me pause before nodding at the choice. I would not have guessed the person, but it’s a perfect counterpart to the heroine. Then there is another character named Nathan. Oh Nathan, my favorite of the whole story. Without giving spoilers, I’m hoping he’ll get his own book. Nathan has the most unpredictable story arc in the whole book. For such a small self sacrificing start to his role in the book, he had the biggest impact and the most memorable personality.

I would like to add this is probably not a book to read if you can get easily embarrassed. There is a very descriptive sex scene in the second half that I was not expecting. Not entirely out of place for the characters or situation, but far more detailed than I would have expected.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for the straightforward dark urban fantasy that it is. I’m looking forward to a sequel, but I hope it can avoid some of the more predictable (and overused) tropes of the genre.

 

Visit the author’s website and grab a copy!  http://www.jennwindrow.com/

Phoenix Comicon 2017

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Article: When Nerdy Gets Dirty

Our Washington DC correspondent David wrote in about 18+ panels, Nerdlesque shows, and the sexy & empowered side of Comic-con culture.  

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When Nerdy Gets Dirty

     Three years ago I attended my first comic convention and, thankfully, had certain aspects of my worldview entirely obliterated. For one, I become acutely aware that nerds, geeks, and fandom freaks aren’t the socially awkward, reclusive, introverts that the vast majority of mainstream mentality assumes them to be. Instead, I discovered that they are a wildly social, inclusive, friendly, and often times incredibly risqué and naughty group of people (when set in the right environment). Three years and many conventions later, I find myself entirely captivated by how dirty nerdy can actually get and how open and accepting this subculture within a subculture really is.

During my first Con, I ventured into an 18+ panel around midnight on my groups second day at the convention. That panel was called the “Anything Goes Dating Show” and by “Anything Goes” they really meant Anything Goes. This panel dramatically changed how I felt about the comic convention scene for a number of reasons and continues to be one of my favorite convention memories. First of all, it made me more comfortable in my own skin and completely dashed out the discomfort I felt by being at a comic convention in the first place (at that time I hadn’t completely embraced my inner nerd). Secondly, it changed my opinion of everyone in the room and of comic convention culture in general. I no longer felt like I was sitting in a room full of introverts and recluses with weird comic obsessions. Instead, I saw this as a room full of incredibly confident extroverts who were amazingly vocal about their many kinks and fetishes. At the time, I found this experience completely shocking. Today, I still find it completely shocking but have a much better understanding that there is a vibrant subculture of dirty nerds within the subculture of traditional nerds (however you want to define traditional) and I find this totally fascinating.

Now, let’s get on to the good stuff. The “Anything Goes Dating Show” was structured exactly like the ABC television show The Dating Game. Three potential suitors were separated from their potential date by a thin visual barrier and were asked a series of questions until the date decided which of the three to meet face-to-face. Now, the difference between ABC’s The Dating Game and the comic convention’s Anything Goes Dating Show was that the questions, as well as the behavior, at the comic convention were excessively dirty. For example, one girl asked her group of suitors “if I were any type of food, what would I be and how would you eat me?” The question alone was obviously met with a roar of laughter from the audience but the answers were even better. One guy said “you would be an ice-cream cone and I would slowly lick you until you started to drip down my chin” and another guy said something disgusting about spaghetti and slurping and sucking until the bed was covered with sauce. Both answers were of course gut wrenchingly hilarious and, for me, entirely unexpected. Keep in mind this was in a room full of cosplaying nerds in the middle of a comic convention. As the show went on, the debauchery went much further than just dirty questions and answers. Eventually, the questions turned to actionable requests which were met, confidently and shamelessly, with actual action. One guy asked his line up of three women “will you strip for me?” and, sure enough, all three said yes. The panel moderators pulled a chair into the center of the room and each woman gave their best lap dance. Charizard was the first to give it a go and within moments she’d taken her top off. Several gyrations and grinds later, she dropped her panties to the floor, did a tushy exposing twirl, and dropped into a full split in the middle of this crowded room. The crowd was roaring. Next up was Michonne from the Walking Dead and again within moments, totally unprovoked, her top came off and the lap dance went on. I can’t remember what the third cosplayer was but I do remember that she too ended up topless and fully committed to giving the sexiest lap dance she could muster…amidst a room full of hooting and hollering nerds.

I like this story because it shows a completely different side of nerd culture. It shows the unashamed side of cosplay, it shows how comfortable and safe cosplayers can feel amongst their peers. From my point of view this wasn’t a simple peep show full of horny nerds looking to see a pair of breasts. This was direct testament to the culture of safety, understanding, acceptance, and inclusion found at comic conventions. Once you look past the obvious veneer of perversion, you see a celebration of body confidence, a lack of judgment, a total embrace of differences, and a deep respect for personal space and decision making. None of these women were forced to do anything they weren’t comfortable doing. They all chose to participate because they felt comfortable with their body image, they knew they were in a safe space free of judgement and harassment, and they knew at no point would they be putting their safety in jeopardy by engaging in this type of risqué behavior.

To further my point that nerdy can get dirty; we’ll fast forward to a different comic convention roughly a year later. After wandering around all morning, dropping oodles of cash at various vendors, marveling at the artist’s alley, snapping tons of pictures, and bouncing between panel discussions, the day bled into night and the 18+ panels took hold. “Joysticks and Button Mashing: Sex for Geeks” was of course a crowd pleaser but my favorite was “Nerdlesque: Bringing Fandom to the Burlesque Stage.” The nerdlesque panelists ranged from semiprofessionals to total amateurs and were a mix of both male and female. The discussion was incredible. Not only did they discuss the sexy side of nerdy dirty dancing but they all individually explored their reasons for pursuing nerdlesque as a creative outlet. Some discussed their previous body image issues and how nerdlesque helped them overcome those issues, others discussed how free they felt when they could let go of reality for a night and totally take on a character, and one even discussed the sense of community and belonging they found within the nerdlesque scene that they had never experienced anywhere else. Each panelist also discussed how empowering it was to take their favorite comic or fandom character and explore them in an entirely new way. They also all emphasized that to choreograph a burlesque show around a characters persona, ultimately ending with that character wearing nothing but pasties and panties, takes a huge amount of creativity, confidence, and skill to actually bring that show to stage. After going to this panel I was immediately interested in seeing an actual show and I’ve been to two separate nerdlesque shows since. The first was based entirely around Joss Whedon and his various works. It was very interesting to watch Buffy, Spike, Captain America, and Buzz Lightyear all get naked in the same evening. The second came during the height of the Pokémon Go frenzy. So, of course, Pikachu and Venusaur did some dirty dancing, Misty showed her jiggly puffs, and Ash exposed his pokéballs.

My third and final example of dirty nerds comes from my most recent convention. The panel was called “Intermediate Rope Bondage” and the scene was just like all the others. A room filled to the brim with cosplaying nerds all ready to get dirty. This panel, however, was particularly interesting because the panelists took volunteers to either play with some adult toys or be bound by rope. The various kinks in the room became very well-known and I, again, was shocked by the level of confidence and security that these nerds felt amongst their peers. Both men and women were throwing themselves at the opportunity to be bound by rope or teased with an electric sex toy in front of a fairly significant audience. Never in my non-convention life have I heard or seen such cavalier and nonchalant discussions and engagements of nerdy kinks and fetishes… even among my own group of incredibly nerdy and degenerate friends. This, in my opinion, simply goes to show how wonderful an environment a comic-convention actually is.

So, to conclude, I would like to emphasize a few things. (1) Regardless of what you may think, nerds can, and do, get dirty and likely have better sex lives than most “normal” people, (2) cosplay is not consent, obviously nothing you have just read gives you the permission to touch, photograph, speak to, or even look at a cosplayer in an inappropriate or sexual way without their consent, and (3) nerd culture, comic-convention culture, and the dirty nerd subculture are all incredible things. Convention goers, nerds, and dirty nerds know not to disrespect one another, they know not to judge or disparage one another, they openly embrace each other’s creative spin on their particular cosplay, and they often welcome you into their fold if you are legitimately interested in learning and asking questions. I’ve learned a lot about the dirty nerd subculture over the last few years. And I will say that I am in no way confident or comfortable enough with my own body image or sexuality to partake in a nerdlesque show, or openly discuss my kinks and fetishes in a crowded room, but I do truly respect and envoy those who are.

 

– David in legal