Athena Scalzi

Kings Island: What to See, What to Ride

Ohio is known for its theme parks, Cedar Point and Kings Island. We’re kind of the king of roller coasters around these parts, to be honest. So if you love coasters and various smaller, but still fun, rides, I would recommend going to Kings Island or Cedar Point, however I have never been to Cedar Point (a tragedy, really), but I can vouch for Kings Island, which is what this post is all about! So buckle up and get ready for an exciting ride (get it?)!

In my opinion, the key to riding roller coasters is to start out small, and work your way up to the big ones. So, upon entering the park, you should start with Adventure Express, or The Bat. Adventure Express has a sort of Indiana Jones theme to it, and has some awesome dark tunnel moments. However, it does not have any big drops, and certainly no loops. It does go pretty fast, though, so I think it’s the perfect way to start off the day of coaster-riding. Alternatively, you could try The Bat, which starts off with a medium sized drop. It’s one of those hanging ones, but still has carts, so your feet aren’t dangling. It doesn’t go upside down, but it goes severely sideways, so it really feels like you’re flying for a minute.

After your starter coaster, I recommend either the Backlot Stunt Coaster, or Mystic Timbers. The Backlot Stunt Coaster is another themed coaster. It’s based on The Italian Job, and the carts are little mini coopers. This one has some awesome elements, like cool props and actual fire, and has a mild drop in a dark tunnel. Mystic Timbers, on the other hand, is a little more intense. It’s their newest addition to the coaster family; a wooden coaster that goes over 50 mph, though it has no major drops or anything, it’s a great way to get some wind in your hair. Smooth ups and downs, nothing too crazy.

Alright, now we’re getting to the big ones! Next on your itinerary should be Flight of Fear. This is an indoor coaster that launches you from 0 to 55 mph in four seconds, sending you into pitch black chaos. It’s got loops, twists, turns, and a corkscrew, all fit into an awesome Area 51 style building with alien and spaceship props. CAUTION: this ride does have a strobe effect. It may trigger an epileptic attack.

If you want to take a break from a coaster but still want a thrill, try Delirium.

This spinning wheel goes 137 feet in the air, so be sure not to ride this bad boy after eating. No surprises here, what you see is what you get. If you’re feeling more of a coaster vibe, no worries, there’s plenty more to come.

Next, I’d go to the best ride in the whole park. The Diamondback. Fly through ten acres worth of coaster at 80 mph and plummet down the biggest drop of any coaster in the park. This thing is as smooth as butter. I cannot recommend this coaster enough, you will want to ride it again and again and again. Diamondback is the one in the photo at the top.

Right after that one, you should check out the Banshee. It is the world’s longest inverted steel coaster, with seven inversions. It also has an excellent drop and goes almost 70 mph. This one is one of the few hanging coasters, so if you don’t like your feet hanging, don’t ride this one.

Taking another break from coasters, the Drop Tower is an enthralling experience, worthy of any thrill seeker’s attention. It is the tallest Gyro drop in the world, making you fall 315 feet at over 60 mph. The view from the top is really amazing, and the fall is even better. DO NOT WEAR FLIP FLOPS, YOU WILL LOSE THEM.

Alright, so, you’ve had a fun day of coaster riding, maybe had some Dippin’ Dots, and you’re ready to go. But before you leave, you should go on Invertigo. This is a coaster that gets right down to business. This is the only coaster that goes forwards and backwards in the same ride (The Racer has one cart that goes forward and one that goes backwards, but not both at the same time). You drop, you do two loops, and you drop again, and do another two loops. It’s a pretty short ride but still a lot of fun. And right after you’re done, you can leave with ease, because it’s right next to the exit!

There are a couple coasters I would not recommend, those being The Vortex, The Racer, and The Beast. These are all extremely jerky and not at all worth it, you will end up with bruises for sure. As for the only one I have not mentioned, Firehawk, I have never ridden that one in all my years of coaster riding, so I cannot speak for it, though I have heard that that one is jerky, as well.

There you have it! My rundown/guide of coasters at Kings Island. If you have kids, they have so many cool kids’ rides that I didn’t mention here, and some pretty good food places, too. Do you have a favorite ride from Kings Island? Or a favorite theme park in general? Let me know, and have a great day!


An Addendum to An Addendum

(Looks on the Internet)

Huh, seems some Harlan Ellison fans are very angry about this addendum to my piece in the Los Angeles Times about his passing. Well, fair enough; so, let me offer up some further points about it.

1. Why is it an addendum here rather than in the LA Times piece proper? Mostly because I asked what length the piece should be and was told it should be 900 words, and decided this bit was cuttable there and postable here. The piece was always intended for print as well as online, so writing to a specific length was a thing.

As someone who worked at newspapers before online versions of papers were around, writing to length is fun and a challenge I don’t usually have anymore (save for hitting a contracted length for a novel, which is a very different dynamic). Part of the challenge is self-editing, i.e., deciding what parts to keep and what parts to trim. This addendum was trimmable, but still said something I wanted to say, so I said it here. This is why the blog is here in the first place.

2. If it made you angry: That’s fine. To paraphrase another writer on a similar matter, hate to shake you up, but I write to suit myself.

3. Likewise, for those complaining that I did it to “virtue signal” or appear “woke”: lol, okay there, friend. Bear in mind I did this five years ago now — literally five years and a day ago — and I didn’t do it to for any other reason than I was sick of friends being harassed at conventions and having to put up with bullshit. I have a long history of writing things like this. And yes, as it happens, Ellison groping Connie Willis was on my mind, among many other incidents involving harassment at science fiction conventions over the years, when I made that my official convention attending policy.

And when people mewled that I was doing that to be seen as virtuous and woke, this is what I wrote:

I would be perfectly happy if women/minorities/queerfolk of all sorts feel like I fully support their right to go to a convention (and, in general, go through life) and not get harassed for it. The problem is not that I would be happy about this. The problem is the people who think being happy to be seen that way constitutes “sucking up.”

To the extent that my public opinions and personal ethics make other people happy, that’s great. To the extent they irritate or annoy other people, that’s their problem, not mine. In neither case do I have public opinions and personal ethics for those reasons. I have them for me.

4. I do think some Ellison partisans are not aware — or possibly don’t want to be aware — how significant and fundamentally damaging to Ellison’s reputation that the Connie Willis incident was to much of a generation of science fiction and fantasy writers and fans. Regardless of Ellison’s reasons, rationales or intent, it came across to a whole group of people as I get to do this, in front of thousands of people, and you have to take it. It would have been bad enough to do that to anyone, but to do it to someone as personally and professionally admired and beloved in the community as Willis gave it an extra dimension. It made the point that no woman, not even a best-selling, multiply award-winning, brilliant and beloved woman, could expect more from her male peers, publicly or privately.

But that’s not why Ellison did it! Well, I’ve heard lots of reasons why Ellison did it, but no matter why he did it, a lot of people took away something else from it.

But he apologized to Willis! As he should have, and good for him. But other people, including the literally thousands of people he did it in front of, get to decide for themselves how to feel about the incident. Lots of them are still angry about it.

But Ellison was a feminist! Sure. And also, he groped Connie Willis on stage in front of thousands of people. And that moment goes on the permanent record, along with all the other good and bad things he did over the course of a long and interesting life. People get to decide for themselves what it means, and what he means, to them.

5. Now, some of you may not like that some other people in your opinion overweight that single incident. That’s fine, and be aware there are plenty of people who don’t like that you in their opinion appear to want to dismiss it as inconsequential. For me, it was literally my first encounter with the man, so, you know what? It looms large in my memory and it colors my thoughts about him. Harlan Ellison was a brilliant, argumentative, cranky, romantic (in the Byronic sense of the word) volcano of a writer and person, and I loved much of his writing, enjoyed speaking to him, and admired much about him. And also, the very first time I saw him in the flesh, he groped someone I like and admire, personally and professionally, in front of an audience. I laughed when it happened because I thought it couldn’t possibly be serious or unplanned. I was wrong about that, and wrong to laugh.

And for better or worse, that moment — that action of Ellison’s — was a signal moment for me. Both in thinking about how men treat women, and also, how women were treated in a community I had started to call my own. It helped to define me, and who I wanted to be in relation to this community. I don’t want to overstate things here, and there were lots of other moments in terms of my own relationships with women and my community that mattered as well to get me where I am today (and I’ll be the first to note I am a work in progress). But this was one of the first, and it sticks out in my brain. And it sticks out in my perception of who Ellison was. You can like that or not, but it doesn’t change the fact.

6. So, here’s the important thing about all of the above: You don’t get to tell me how to feel about Harlan Ellison or what he meant to me. You also don’t get to tell me how to write or talk about him. Or, more accurately, you can, but I’m not obliged to listen or care. You can complain all you want about what I say and think, of course. And I happily acknowledge that your own personal thoughts on Ellison may be different than mine, and substantially so, based on your own experiences with him. I don’t pretend Harlan Ellison and I were great or even good friends; I was someone he called when he wanted to complain about things, and I was happy to be so. But I do get to take the sum of my experiences with him, and with them craft a Harlan Ellison in my brain, consistent with those experiences and my other knowledge of him.

This version is necessarily incomplete in terms of the whole of his character, but that’s the case of anyone who was not him (and note well that in general, our own versions of ourselves have massive gaps and elisions, because ego is a hell of a drug). This version of Harlan Ellison did any number of things I deeply admire, and also a number of things I don’t, and, obviously, one thing I consider very bad which sticks with me. The Harlan Ellison in my head is complicated, and I am content to let him be so.

7. Corollary to this, you don’t get to tell other people who are not me how to feel about Ellison, either. They’re going to have their own version in their head as well, and you are unlikely to change that. Speaking as someone who gets to see all sorts of fantasy versions of me out there in the world — I particularly enjoy the fantasy version of me who is a failed writer, propped up by my publisher, which is itself on the verge of imminent implosion, for byzantine reasons that would confuse even the Illuminati and the Bilderberg Group — raging against these various homunculi does little good. They scurry about anyway.

What you can do, and what I actually encourage you to do, is speak about the version of Harlan Ellison (or indeed any other person) that you know. Your testimony in this regard is almost certainly going to be more persuasive than yelling at another person about their version of Ellison. If you make a good case, what you know of the man may be incorporated into that other person’s view of them. Certainly, my version of him has been influenced by those who knew him who have written about him, both before and after his passing.

I’m glad to know about these other Ellisons I did not get to meet, and now never will, except through other people’s eyes. He’s not boring, that’s for sure.

Big Idea

The Big Idea: Francesco Dimitri

Friendship, magic and a sense of place: All of these are important to Francesco Dimitri, and are the foundation of The Book of Hidden Things, the author’s first book written in English. He’s here to discuss all three, and his novel.


We live in a world full of darkness and grace. There are immortal jellyfish floating in the sea and thousand-year-old woods thriving within cities, friendships which last forever and others which break over a tabletop game, weird legends and even weirder scientific finds. It is a world made of magic, of the good and bad sort. We use rationality as a glue to keep together all the things that we can’t figure out, and it is an important, precious glue, but the building blocks of our world are still all the things that we can’t figure out – the hidden things.

I wanted The Book of Hidden Things to make you feel the magic in the same way that a good joke makes you laugh. I wanted to write an entirely human story with magic as a base note: jokes are about people doing funny things, but they are rarely about people laughing at jokes. Tolkien said that fantasy authors create ‘secondary worlds’, which is a beautiful way to put it. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to play a variation on my own world.

I love books with fireballs (one of my Italian novels had the god Pan, gender-fluid fairies, and flying folks), and yet when I am reading a story and a fireball appears, I am reminded that is a story. This is not bad by itself: if the story is well-crafted, I will still believe that it is true in another world, and I will cry and smile with the characters. But I will not believe that it is true in mine, whereas, when I am reading, say, John Fante’s Ask the Dust, I can believe that the same things might happen to me (absurd as it is). I wanted that. Only, with the supernatural.

TBOHT follows three men in their mid-thirties, friends of a lifetime, who look for the fourth member of their gang, who disappeared. More than investigate, they sniff around the way you would do if there were no trace of your mate and you weren’t sure what to make of it, even considering that your mate has a history of oddness. They set in motion personal consequences they are not ready to deal with, and they find out things about each other which they had tried to keep, well, hidden. You can find a lot of summaries online, but these are the bare bones of the story. There is something about friendship, there is something about the troubles created by a sexist culture, there is something about how hard it is to grow up for real. And there is a sense of magic.

I set the story in a wild, strange, corner of the world: the part of Puglia where I was born, and which I left at 18. Italy is shaped like a boot, and Puglia is the heel of the boot. It is a stark landscape where the reds are very red and the blues couldn’t be more blue. It is as beautiful as unforgiving, blessed and cursed by long hot summers, strong winds, hail. It rarely rains, but when it does, it is often a storm. I wanted this story to convey the landscape, the food, the sex, the wine, how sensuous and excessive everything is down there, and get to the magic through that.

Google ‘Campomarino di Maruggio’ and look at the beaches on which I grew up. Then try ‘ulivi secolari Salento’ and you will see how uncanny olive trees can be. And there is more than visuals. The first warmth in March wakes up the wild flowers and the herbs, and in the smaller villages the air itself is scented throughout spring, 24/7. In summer, you feel the heat on your skin like a physical weight. Flavours are very sweet and very bitter. Not all is good: when Sirocco, the wind from the sea, blows, the air gets damp and your mood too. As local lore has it, Sirocco blows for three days, and for those three days you will be miserable. The sea is miserable too, and the sky. Humans and landscape are joined by breath.

If nature is intense, culture is no less so. There used to be an ancient civilisation, which has been almost entirely wiped away, except for vague traces surviving in ruins, names, folklore. There are small churches and shrines everywhere, in vineyards and barren fields and olive groves, and statues of the Virgin Mary by the beach, with fresh offers left by who knows whom. The local music, la Pizzica, is based on an exorcism ritual which used drums and dance and was still practised in the Sixties. On years even drier than usual, people (well-educated people) will still work what can only be called a magic ritual, dragging tree trunks for miles in the name of Saint Peter, who, so the legend goes, visited there and found a secret spring. It is a place that the Joker would understand: if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stranger.

All I wanted to do was turn up the volume of reality – of friendship, of magic, of pleasure, of fear. I set the story in a place where reality is already loud: I took a land which already borders on the fantastic, and made it slightly more. There are things in the book which might seem made-up (the local mafia called Sacred United Crown) but are real, and others which look real but are made-up (no, I won’t reveal the trick).

And this is all; I won’t say more, not to ruin the punchline.


The Book of Hidden Things: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Follow the author on Twitter.

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