Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

So today I have received, so far, four rejection emails. Some were quite disappointing, submissions I’d had my hopes up about a bit.  But that’s okay. One of the stories rejected today has already gone back out. Some of them will be waiting a bit for the proper market to get freed up to send them in. But they will all continue to circulate, sooner or later.

Also today I’ve finally gotten started on the actual writing of my Jersey Devil story. Its coming along steadily, if a little bumpily. It’s not a story I fully understand-I’ve worked out a lot of the backstory for it, but less of the actual events of the narrative. So many aspects, it seems, I’ll be doing seat of the pants style, this time. But I’m hoping the results will be something interesting and meaningful and maybe a little different. Also, look for the “Letter F” post in my A to Z series soon.

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Cthulhu is perhaps the best-known figure from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Indeed his friend August Derleth even used the name to refer to the world and stories collectively, calling them the “Cthulhu Mythos” a term which is now widely used by fans of Lovecraft’s fiction. According to the story “The Call of Cthulhu”, it lies dead but dreaming somewhere deep beneath the waters of the Pacific in the sunken corpse-city of R’lyeh, and is both high priest and cousin to the Great Old Ones. Though dead, as the couplet says “That is not dead which may dreaming lie, and with strange aeons even death may die” and so Cthulhu waits in his/its sunken city for the stars to be right, at which point it will rise again, bringing terror and madness to all of mankind.

Weirdly, I was having trouble coming up with a subject for my letter C post, until the obvious hit me. Its particularly strange given that a plush representation of Great Cthulhu is sitting on a shelf above my head even now. Cthulhu has become not only the most prominent symbol of and mascot for the works of H.P. Lovecraft but also an icon for fans of speculative and fantastic fiction in general and its darker, weirder more cosmic forms in particular. Indeed he/it has taken on the status of nearly a general counter-culture eidolon, being used in all manner of cultural satire such as the “Campus Crusade for Cthulhu” and various “Cthulhu for president” websites and merchandise, skewering religious evangelism and political foolishness respectively. Straight-up Cthulhu humor is also not uncommon, particularly involving Cthulhu transposed into various cute Japanese products and series such as “Hello Cthulhu” based on “Hello Kitty” or a Southpark episode featuring a Cthulhu based takeoff on “My Neighbor Totoro.”

Though I don’t know if it was consciously intended by Lovecraft or not, Cthulhu’s nature and circumstances echoes what seems to be a near-universal cultural theme of some sort of primordial and/or apocalyptic being residing beneath the sea who either will rise at the End of the World or who was present before it’s making. Other examples include Tiamat, the Kraken, the Beast of Revelations and the Midgard Serpent.  Some have also identified Cthulhu with “the Bloop”, an unidentified sound detected by hydrophones in the late 90s and matching the profile of a sound from a living creature, yet many times louder than even the sounds of a blue whale. However, although located in the Pacific, the sight of the Bloop sound is some distance away from the probable location of R’lyeh as described in “The Call of Cthulhu.”

Cthulhu stands (or perhaps lumbers) as one of the great mythic figures of weird fiction and a memorable creation of the imagination of one of the greatest creative minds in literary history. It is both disturbing and bleakly comforting to imagine Great Cthulhu dreaming in R’lyeh, sending out telepathic visions of madness and wonder to all those who are receptive.

Copyright Disclaimer: The images in this blog post do not belong to me. I found them via Google search and they are the property of their respective creators/owners, whoever they may be. If you are the creator/owner of one of these images and you wish your work removed please let me know and I will comply immediately.

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So, been a while since the last post. I’ve started working again, so that’s taking up a bit of my time and/or energy. It hasn’t been a total loss though…I revised my last short story, “Galateon” and after a run past a couple pairs of eyes to check for errors I’ll be getting it ready to send off, probably starting with Clarksworld.

My next trick will be to figure out exactly what happens next in “The Dawn Prism.” Actually, I know more or less what happens, I just need to figure out how and with exactly what.

At the same time I am mentally percolating the beginnings of a story involving the Jersey Devil.  I saw a Jersey Devil movie a week or two ago and while it wasn’t that great, it did inspire me. I plan to use the Mother Leeds legend and the Leeds devil to explore themes of shame.  In light of this, I ask anybody who is from New Jersey or has otherwise spent time in the Pine Barrens and/or is well versed in the legend to share any personal stories, insights, regional information or anything else you feel might be helpful for or should be included in a story set in the Barrens and dealing with the legend. I want to get the feel of the place right on all sensory levels, but I’ve never been there so its more difficult.

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So, the other day I was browsing Netflix, as I am wont to do. For some reason or other, I clicked upon the Common Sense Media rating of some movie or other. I’ve noticed those for a while, but never looked that closely. When you click the rating (which is described in terms of an age range and an appropriateness level, such as “Iffy for 13+”) you get a fuller and more comprehensive explanation of the movie’s content. I dislike that it is still a “rating” system, and I disagree with both many of the conclusions they come to and the overall perspective from which the comments seem to be coming. However, I really like the fact that what you get when you click is an actual disclosure of specifics-often even including comments for context-which, really, is what I feel we should have as a primary media guide  instead of any sort of “rating” system. I don’t think anybody should be trying to tell anybody what is or isn’t appropriate for them, for their children, or for people of a certain age range in general-rather, I think we should be able to know what kind of stuff is in a movie, and make decisions based on that.

That, however, isn’t the primary thing this post is about. The primary subject of this post is going to be me ranting about the Common Sense Media comments on a particular movie, last year’s “Red Riding Hood.” As some of you already know, I’m a pretty big fan of the movie. I saw it some months back, got it from Netflix and watched it twice, enjoyed it very much. It inspired me to write my own adaptation of the Red Riding Hood story, “Iron and Fire.” In the movie’s version of the story, the Red Riding Hood character, Valerie, is in love with Peter, a woodcutter like her father, but it’s been arranged for her to marry Henry, the blacksmith’s son. Along with the obvious werewolf issues, much of the movie is a love story centered around Valerie and Peter…indeed the first scene is a flashback to them flirting when they were about 12 and the second scene is Valerie telling Peter of her arranged marriage and the two of them making plans to run away together…until being interrupted by the horn-call from the village, indicating an attack by the Wolf.

So now we come to the Common Sense Media part. The article on the movie says various entirely valid and accurate things about the violence and other potentially problematic content, all presented, I think, pretty reasonably. Then, under the heading of Social Behavior it says that much of the movie’s message has to do with relationships, being focused on a message of “I’d do anything to be with you” which, they feel, is potentially dangerous for adolescents-that the message of love conquers all is dangerously mixed with the idea that a person should be willing leave their home and family for the one they love (I had previously posted a quotation of exactly what was said but I noticed it says “all rights reserved” so I removed it and paraphrased.)

First off, I think this is pretty out of context in terms of the movie. Valerie and Peter’s relationship is perfectly healthy and normal-until Valerie is told by her mother that she has to marry someone else. The reason initially given is for her financial well being-Peter is a poor woodcutter, Henry’s family is the wealthiest in town. However, we find out eventually that the REAL reason involves her mother trying to essentially clean up a mess left over from some poor life-decisions of her own (which, indeed, come about as a result of her being made to marry someone she didn’t love.)

Second, while I can understand why people might feel the “anything for love” message could be dangerous for young people who may be involved in unhealthy, even dangerous relationships…the thing is, that isn’t love. Of course I realize many people think young folks can’t tell the difference, but I personally disagree…people of ALL ages get, and stay, in destructive relationships for a variety of reasons. That isn’t what the movie portrays…it portrays two young adults one of whose parents are trying to force her into a situation that would in fact be unhealthy, to try and fix a problem of their own making. In the context of this movie, the message of “always do what your parents say” is the one that would in fact be dangerous. I don’t know much about the Common Sense Media people (I plan to research them eventually as I do like a lot of how the system works) but chances are they would find what I just said objectionable, and probably have issues with anything that suggested to young people that their parents may not know what is best for them. Now, no one is a bigger advocate for parents rights than I, but the simple truth is not every parent has their offspring’s best interest at heart at all times…and not all adolescents are ignorant, hormone-driven morons.

I must admit though that I may be a little biased…as I think many of us gay folks would be about this issue. I left home when I did (which wasn’t early at all, but it wouldn’t have happened when it did) because I fell in love with another guy and my parents (primarily my mother) were not about to let me participate in a homosexual relationship while living in their house…so I left. As with everything, it is about balance. Should a young person listen to and respect their parents? Of course. Should a person…particularly a legal adult…not be with someone they love because their parents (or society) don’t approve? I really, really don’t think so, and I think the real message of the movie is simply to follow your heart, which I don’t believe is ever bad advice.

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So, last night I was watching “The Dead Zone” on my beloved Netflix instant viewing and it got me thinking about a thing I’ve thought about before. Stephen King is (rightly) known as the King of Horror. However, a significant portion of his work is not necessarily, in my estimation, horror. Now as many of you know I have certain issues with the whole concept of genres, especially in their capacity as marketing tools. Horror is notoriously one of the most difficult in this regard because horror is an emotion, not really a genre. Any work may invoke horror or have elements that do so, and indeed many stories, books and movies have horror or horrible elements yet are not considered part of the Horror genre.  So, largely for amusement but also as an exploration of horror and the concept of genre, let’s talk a little about some of Stephen Kings works and why I don’t necessarily consider them horror (or at least not all horror.)

The Dark Tower series: King’s magnum opus and also one that most will agree does not fall entirely within the confines of the genre of horror, especially not into its specific sub-genres. While containing many horror elements, the series also has strong content of the Fantasy and Western genres as well, and even a number of elements that could broadly be counted as Science Fiction. Most particularly, the story is in large part a Quest tale, a structure or story type not usually considered part of the Horror genre.

The Eyes of the Dragon: A relatively lesser known work, The Eyes of the Dragon is set in a medieval-esque world and is primarily a Fantasy novel with a strong “fairytale” style and and plotline. It shares very little in structure or tone with what most folks think of as Horror, despite the presence of King’s oft-used, many-named villain who in this story is known simply as Flagg. 

The Dead Zone: Certainly more “horrible” in many ways than the last two, with a modern setting and with the relatively common, sometime-horror trope of psychic abilities, to me The Dead Zone is still not a story focused primarily on generating fear, terror or horror (though the sequences involving the Castle Rock Killer could be considered horror of the psychological/serial killer sub-genre.) I feel the term “supernatural thriller” would probably fit the story better. Really, the story has more political elements than horrific ones and could also, I feel, be viewed as a political thriller with a relatively light speculative element.

Firestarter: Like The Dead Zone, Firestarted is set in modern times (as is the norm for most works marketed under the Horror genre) and involves characters with mental/psychic powers. However also much like The Dead Zone there is little emphasis on creating fear, horror, or terror, though there are some scenes of such. Given the themes of government experimentation with drugs and the altering of people’s abilities it could, I feel, just as easily be classed as Science Fiction and/or Thriller as horror.

The Talisman(written with Peter Straub): Much like the Dark Tower series to which it is (even more so than most of King’s works) so strongly tied, The Talisman is, to me, more of a Fantasy Quest story than a Horror novel. While there are, as always, horrible occurrences and such, the book does not create a pervasive mood of dread or fear: the focus is rather on the achieving of the protagonists goals.

Rage: This hard to find short novel features absolutely no supernatural elements and, in my view, almost no horror elements; to me, it’s really more of a social drama.

I could add several more, but you get the picture. Now, before you say to me, “don’t you think anything he wrote was horror?” I’ll respond with a resounding, of course. IT is in my opinion  the apotheosis (a word King himself loves) of the “Kids face horror on summer vacation” story. Pet Sematary is unremittingly disturbing and chilling. The Shining and ‘Salem’s Lot are masterful takes on classic horror tropes (The Haunted House and The Vampire, respectively.) Most of his short stories that I’ve read are also much more squarely in the Horror genre (which is, I have to feel, always the most closely wedded to the short form.) But the thing that is so interesting to me is, I believe pretty strongly that if the books I mention above had been written by someone other than Stephen King, they would likely have ended up in a different section of the bookstore. This to me is an indication that genre is at least as much about marketing as it is about anything else.

Genre is defined in different ways by different people; by content (the definition I find most useful and easiest to understand) by structure, by intent, by (strangely to me) “audience.” To me, the main use of genre names is as a shorthand to quickly and easily indicate to someone a few general bits of information about a book or movie or story. However, genres like Fantasy and Horror are so broad and contain so many permutations that their usefulness in this regard, alone, can be limited. If I tell you I am writing a Fantasy novel, all that really tells you more or less for sure is that there is probably magic of some kind in it.  It could also have elves and dragons living in a world approximating the Dark Ages, but it could just as easily take place in near-future New York and feature punks with supernatural powers. So we have terms like High Fantasy, Modern Fantasy, Hard and Soft Science Fiction etc to help us communicate a little more specifically. However, trouble ensues when people try to set absolute limits on these concepts and end up still have miscommunication. Likewise some genres/labels, like Magic Realism or Slipstream are either so broad or so poorly defined and contentious as to create more problems than they solve.

This is why when asked what I write, I prefer to offer a sample, rather than trying to explain it in terms of genre, for each story is a mix of elements that no one word can describe.

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So, I’ve been sort of tagged by the lovely Meredith in one of these question-answering type things. Here are the rules:The Tag rules: 1. You must post the rules! 2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged. 3. Tag seven (because it’s a magical number) people and link to them. 4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

Like Meredith, I’m going to post all the questions asked by my tagger but answer only 11 of them.

  1. How many books did you read last year? What was your favorite genre? I’m not sure how many books I read last year, but it was quite a few.  I don’t really have a favorite much-of-anything but while I probably prefer various forms of fantasy and horror, last year’s book-binge did include a good bit of science fiction, mostly older stuff, and also some “literary” items like “On the Road.”
  2. Which popular genre have you tried and tried but can never really get into?
  3. Which literary character is most like your ideal spouse? Which is most like your actual spouse /  significant other? Why?
  4. Besides writing and reading, what is your favorite pastime? Probably some combination of watching movies/television shows/anime and music. However, to me its all basically part of the same thing.
  5. If you could play God and change one thing about the world, what would it be? Limitation: you can’t mess with free agency.
  6. Which writer’s conferences have you attended? If you had unlimited time and money, which conferences would you attend? I haven’t attended any and even if I have unlimited resources I’m not sure I would. I think arts are things you learn mostly by doing and consuming; I feel I get as much out of exchanging critiques and thoughts with my fellow writers as I would from anything like that.
  7. You’re on a talk show, talking about your newest bestseller. The host announces a surprise guest: the author you’ve always been inspired by, but have never met. Who comes out on stage? What is your reaction?
  8. If you could design the cover for your WIP, what would it look like?
  9. Which literary villain scared you the most Hmm…I’m not sure about scaring but as far as in recent memory, I think I agree with Meredith that Dolores Umbridge is one of the most evil and disturbing of villains. Though less powerful than Voldemort, she probably is, in many ways, more evil (and without even a good excuse for it.)
  10. Pantser or outliner? I’d say I’m a mix of the two. I started out more or less pure “panster” but as time has passed I’ve started to plan things out a bit more. However my “outlines” are often mostly in my head, or in the form of some basic notes and a lot of it depends on the story. I haven’t outlined my novel…I’ve basically been planning out each chapter as it comes, though I do know, broadly, some of what’s going to happen in the future.
  11. Which one of your characters would most benefit the world, if made real? Probably Emrys or Zerieth.
  1. Plotter or Panster?
  2. Who is your fave character and why? I couldn’t begin to answer this in terms of other people’s characters. As far as my own characters, right this second probably Zerieth, the sociopathic Red Road wizard turned Hierophant of the White Road, mostly because he is a character I find easy to write…his personality and motivations have similarities to my own and he represents an archetype I am quite comfortable with.
  3. Name 2 things within arms reach. My notebook, and “House of Leaves” the book I’m currently reading. Would usually also include my teacup but I haven’t had my tea yet.
  4. Date with a celebrity, who would you pick?
  5. What is your fave song? I don’t have one, but the Pink Floyd epic composition “Echoes” has a special place in my heart.
  6. What genre do you write in? There are three main, broad “streams” in my writing. One is “high fantasy”, including The Universe of the Nine Roads but I have and will again write high fantasy in other worlds. The second is modern-setting fantasy, ranging from relatively light-hearted adventures like my “T&H” stories to darker near-horror stuff like “Silent and Still They Wait.” The third is Dark Fantasy/”horror”/”Rustpunk.” Most of this stuff most folks would just call “horror” but I don’t see some of them that way…but some are pretty straightforward horror like “The Worm of the Waste.”
  7. Fave thing to do other than write?
  8. Coolest thing you’ve ever done?
  9. Coolest place you’ve ever been?
  10. Favorite quote? I’m not one for picking favorites, but a there is a quote…an exchange really…that’s stuck with me, between the characters Shinji Ikari and Rei Ayanami in “End of Evangelion” and it runs thus: “Where is my dream?” “It is a continuation of reality.” “Where is my reality?” “It is at the end of your dream.”

And now I hereby tag Daniel, Fridge-kun, Julie, Fred, redux, Ta-kun and Jennifer

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So, some while back I’d rented the actual DVD of the classic movie “The Wicker Man” which I’d never seen but knew I needed to. It’s a great movie that I also recommend, as long as you can handle the mild trauma of Christopher Lee in drag. Anyway, that movie put me in the mood for British horror and “pagan” rituals and so when today I decided to spend a little time, as I often do lately, simultaneously reading and watching stuff-mostly low-budget horror films-on Netflix instant viewing, my attention was attracted by a movie called Wake Wood, which I had noticed before and seen being compared to “The Wicker Man.”

So I watched it and I was quite pleased. The film isn’t life-changing, but for folks who like British atmosphere and Celtic/Brythonic “paganism” its very enjoyable. The story revolves around a couple who have lost their small daughter to a very vicious and somewhat graphically depicted dog attack. They move to the small town of Wake Wood and over the course of events come to learn that the residents of the town are familiar with an ancient ritual which can bring a dead person back to life-but only for three days and for those three days, the resurrected person must remain within the bounds of the township. 

Of course, things wind up going terribly wrong, but I won’t go into the details. The movie features a really great performance by the ever-wonderful Timothy “Peter Pettigrew” Spall as the leader of the town (who is also the one who performs the main parts of the ritual) and some interesting, if lightly touched upon mystical concepts. I didn’t find it especially scary, but then it takes a lot to have that effect on me, though the squeamish should be warned there are some relatively bloody scenes, some of them involving animals, children or both. I wasn’t bothered by any of them but I, usually, have quite a high tolerance. The story and the acting are very nice and the end, now I think about it, is pretty chilling. I definitely recommend it. It is also, I came to find out, the first film produced in 30 years by Britain’s venerable Hammer production studio, responsible for so many great horror movies in the 70s. I think this film lives up to its august predecessors well.

On a brief writing note, I made a bit of progress with a section of “The Dawn Prism.” I finished a 2100-word sequence which may end up being part of Chapter 6, all of Chapter 7, or part of Chapter 7, depending on how things go, and overall, I’m pretty pleased with it. Next up, a brief stop in the city of Vierlion and then, off to the land of Kazephyria!

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