Colonel Sanders and the Demonic Lover

1 06 2017

I love the conjunction of genres and the taming of monsters that occurs in paranormal romance, and much of OGOM’s research centres on this. The demon lovers of paranormal romance range from vampires (of course), through faeries, angels, and werewolves; the odder candidates include mermen, gargoyles, and even ghosts and zombies. But the monstrous lover…

via Colonel Sanders and the Demonic Lover — Open Graves, Open Minds





Writers: “Weird Fiction” Via Movie “The Void”

6 04 2017

First the trailer:

 

Now the review:

If Stuart Gordon’s “From Beyond” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing” were to have a baby in the hospital from “Hellraiser II”,  that baby would grow up short of its potential and  be “The Void”. I don’t mean that in an insulting way, but if you like your body horror with a dash of Weird, then “The Void” is for you.

Describing the plot is difficult because much of the backstory is revealed as the plot unfolds. Two rural guys shoot people dead, one flees and is picked up by a sheriff and taken to the local hospital. This hospital is closing soon due to a recent fire. Which killed the child the sheriff had with his ex-wife the ER nurse. Speaking of preggers, a country teen is about to give birth and her grandpa is there for support.  A kindly doctor, another nurse, a trainee, and another patient are introduced. A state trooper arrives.

Then within fifteen minutes of film time, there is a three-way guns out stand-off, four of these characters are dead and one has mutated into part Grizzly Bear, part butt polyp. Lovecraftian hijinks ensue. In a place beyond time and space, pacing is a problem in “The Void”.

There are magic tomes. There is a sub-basement where none existed before. There are strikingly-clad anonymous cultists. There are double-crosses and mistaken motives.

The plot holds together. The magic system is kept as simple as possible. The actors do great work with an occasionally awkward dialogue.  However, the effects rule this movie. The undead polyp creatures are all practical effects and they are gooshy. Gourmets of  horror movies will see “homages” to “Hellraiser II”, “The Thing”, “The Fly”, “From Beyond”, “In The Mouth Of Madness” and probably more.

Was there anything fresh? It’s a hell of a thing to note, but frankly, cutting pieces off your face doesn’t have the shock it once had.

First time script writers and directors here, they kept to the tried and comfortable, yet kept out of the actors way, so the performances were quite good. Someone once said you can tell if a horror was written by guys in his 20s, because those horrors will have churning uteruses, and that’s because guys in their 20s are just finding out how gross pregnancy can be. And man do uteruses churn in “The Void”! It’s all within the theme of birth and fate, but still dudes, there’s a reason why men have a waiting room.

Wait for “The Void” on Netflix.

Now the writing blather:

Note that I noted “homages”. I do not understand “homages”. An artist’s job is to swipe ideas and before using them, file off the serial numbers. Filing off serial numbers is an art. If a reader can immediately recognize a reference, the writer has only mimicked, and not made the most of the reader’s time.

That said, what is “Weird Horror” or “Weird Fiction”, and what can we do about it?

Here’s Wikipedia.

You will notice in Wikipedia that Lovecraft’s definition is essentially “spooky stories where spooks can get you anywhere”. Noted editor S.T. Joshi’s academic sub-categories have diluted that dread further until it has become watery Red Bull.

The problem is that back in the 1930’s, the Weird creatures invented by Mr. Weird himself H.P. Lovecraft, those creatures were unfathomable. Now they make Cthulhu plushtoys. Non-Christian monsters are the norm now.

For me,  “Weird” contains these elements:

  1. Unknown forces existing outside our dimensions (“beyond Time and Space”).
  2. The questioning of reality itself (are we in a movie? Is that crazy guy actually shaping reality?)
  3. The interrogation of how consciousness fits within reality, especially within flesh.

For me, the goal is to create nausea, not just polypy-squid nausea. Existential nausea is the feeling you get when you consider that not only will existence go on without you, it has been without you for longer than you can comprehend both before and after, in a place that is the briefest flash in existence, if indeed “existence” actually has objective substance. Hold me.

The use of a nameless cult who know The Truth, or a scientist finding The Secret, or an artist who can shape The Universe, is how we get the reader to connect with nausea. The POV character has one assumption peeled away (like the real purpose of mission), then another (that his mission is safe), leaving to fall away the rules of society, of perception, of nature, of value, then finally, of comprehension.

If you want to learn more about “Weird”, try the movies mentioned above, especially “From Beyond” and “In The Mouth Of Madness”. Also try:

  • “Resolution”, like “ITMoM”
  • “Absentia”, for critters beyond T&S

In fiction, try:

  • Any H.P. Lovecraft, especially “The Whisperer In Darkness” and “The Color Out Of Space”. They would be standard Doctor Who fare now, but that tells you something.
  • “The Grin In The Dark”, as much as he bumbles in this book, Ramsey Campbell has some really cool ideas about the development of consciousness.

Do not try “The Weird”, a compendium by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. I love this book, but their definition spreads so far afield as to be nearly meaningless.  Read it for entertainment.

These brief lists are of media which provokes that feeling I described.

Are there books or movies that make you wonder if you are safe at all, or sane, or even exist?  TELL ME.





Some Intriguing Horror Prose Reviews

12 02 2017

Prior to launching Horror Novel Reviews some four or five years ago I knew a slew of amazing authors. Talents like Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, Robert McCammon, Joe Lansdale and Dean Koontz are kind of hard to miss. But what of the “little guys” – you know, the authors just beginning to hit […]

via The 10 Greatest Horror Authors I Discovered Through Horror Novel Reviews — Horror Novel Reviews





Best British Horror 2015 edited by Johnny Mains

11 07 2015

Best British Horror 2015 edited by Johnny Mains.





COULD A NEW TERRY PRATCHETT GET PUBLISHED TODAY? I DOUBT IT.

13 03 2015

The world has turned too many times. The era for the satiric British voice passed away last decade and the cavalier remark died in this one. My regret is not just appreciating Sir Terry while he lived, but that his like will not come again.

I have read very little Pratchett. I tried but my Brit humor nerve had been burned out long ago. People I admire admired Pratchett, though. I read the subjects he tackled and quotes from his work and I sorely felt the fault for my limitation.

I read the major publications and keep track of novel releases and for the life of me I can’t imagine who else examines the human condition, darts in, and tickles it. Would such a writer have a chance in today’s market?
Short stories? As far as I can see, the only venues publishing blithe and pithy humor are Asimov’s, F&SF, and Daily Science Fiction. Pratchett’s work was too Eurocentric and too lacking in florid or floral language for any other venue. Not enough pop culture references to get on McSweeny’s.

Who would publish his novel? Orbit? Baen?
Of his first three novels, the first was an ill-received fantasy and the next two were Niven parodies. What publisher would have stuck with him beyond those to take a risk on Ankh-Morpork?

I am not alone in my lack of appreciation. SFWA had many chances to give Sir Terry his due with Hugos and Nebulas. Not one nomination over decades, except for one near the end of his life. He refused the award. Good for him.
SFWA joins every other literary body and the MPAA in being too insecure to acclaim some joke-teller. He’d be too British to get a Twain.
Who growing in our midst could be a quasi-Pratchett? Alex Shvartsman? Grady Hendrix?
Neil Gaiman has reverted to formula.
Jeffrey Fford?
Esther Friesner? Another humor writer without a Hugo or Nebula.

The fragmentation of Genre markets have made a writer like Sir Terry almost impossible. The Genres are being crushed by seriousness. The vitality and irreverence that Sir Terry thrived on is fleeing into Young Adult and Romance fiction, or trying to define itself as Weird, Bizarro, or Superversive (google them).

It may be decades before we see the likes of him again, if ever.





“The Flesh Sutra” Chapter Is One Of The Best Of 2014!

9 01 2015

According to the blog “Diabolical Plots“, my story “The Metal and Its Mold” was one of the best on Pseudopod last year, in such company with James Tiptree Jr., Elizabeth Hand, Ferrett Steinmetz, and Charles Dickens.

That story is Chapter Five of “The Flesh Sutra”, available on Amazon.





Reading Ghost Stories As Research

15 10 2014

To prepare for a ghost novel I plan to write, I have read three contemporary ghost stories. “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters is the most classically gothic, set in a post-WWII English estate. “The Green Man” by Kingsley Amis takes the classical ghost story and updates it to swinging ‘60s England. Grady Hendrix brings the story to post-industrial Ohio to comment on our working world in “Horrorstor”.

“The Green Man” follows a traditionally alcoholic and rakish Amis protagonist as he runs a bed-and-breakfast in developing rural England. The character tolerates his family, drinks huge amounts of scotch, and works to connive ménage a trois with another man’s wife. He is turned into an anti-hero by his biting observations and the unsettling death of his father.
The B&B setting is haunted by a 17th century sorcerer. The protagonist’s obsession with the apparition drives the story to an end that’s more contemplative and less chilling. It’s an examination of death rather than the dead.
The book itself is only worth examination. The sorcerer is intriguing but Amis gives no thought as to what powers his work. Plot threads dangle and sway in the wind.
I found this useful only in how well Amis works with realistic characters.

I read “Horrorstor” all the way through in one sitting. I’ve enjoyed Grady Hendrix through Pseudopod.org’s readings of “Tales of the White Lodge Street Society”, farces in which a Carnaki-like adventurer spins tales of ghosts, booze, money, and racism. Hendrix also writes a very funny weekly takedown of CBS’ “The Dome” for Tor.com.
He brings his mix of morbid humor and social commentary to “Horrorstor”, a ghost story set in a furniture store styled like Ikea. As a ghost story, it owes more to Stephen King than M.R. James, with awesome effects over suspense.
I work in a Big Box store and sympathized with the young protagonist Amy in her retail job, dealing with customers, the cost of living, and corporate culture. In its own way, this book was its own cutthroat retail operation.
To keep the plot moving, Hendrix cut character development to the bone. For the plot to be plausible, he eliminated resources like custodial contractors, Asset Protection, and lighting to assist surveillance. To serve both humor and horror, the story effectively had two endings in which the villain is defeated but the innocent still suffer.
I’d like to be funny, chilling, and socially aware when I write. I like this book. It had some laughs and a few chills.

I learned that I want a conclusive ending and to keep as close to “real” as I can get. “Conclusive” can be tricky in the Gothic tradition, where hauntings could be ghosts, or hallucinations, or psychic projections onto reality. “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters uses artistic sleight-of-hand on the reader through limited and sometimes unreliable POV. A young man come of age in the shadow of an English estate, studies to be a doctor, and becomes physician and confidant to the estate family. The war has shattered the soul of the heir. The matron mourns a child long deceased. The independent daughter feels stifled by tradition. The house is falling into ruin. Who is setting the fires? Who is scribbling childish phrases in the most unlikely places?
Sarah Waters researches the hell out of her subjects. Her descriptions feel lush and full without slowing the plot. The suspense alone was enough to get me through the 500+ word novel, the first one of such length I had read in years.
From this book, I learned a couple of neat phrasings, and reinforced the idea of “adverbs should be placed after the modified verb, if they must be used at all.”

Overall, I think I gained only some focus through reading these novels. I discovered I want a conclusive, objective force powering the supernatural events. I gained a better sense of how to balance description and action. I still want to experiment with anomie versus physical isolation, and see if I can pull off the trick of “things walking in broad daylight”. I’ll be reading Peter Straub next, I think, and see what I can find.








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