“How Does A Funny Guy Like You Write Horror?”

15 08 2018

I get this a lot when I tell people what I do. The path doesn’t seem obvious unless you’ve been on it.

Were your parents Monty Python fans? Mine were, and fans of Steve Martin, and Spike Jones, and that old Bloopers record, and Alan Sherman, and Mork and Mindy.

At the same time, I had a still-inexplicable attraction to the morbid. The teen next door collected “Creepy” and “Eerie” magazines, which I read. Sundays would be days of chest-tightening anxiety with the strange, dark color pallet of the ABC morning cartoons, the mind-bending appropriation of The Groovie Ghoulies, the creepy-ass music of the NBC Sunday Night Mysteries followed by Night Gallery.

I used my library card for Alfred Hitchcock anthologies, tales of the Strange But True, and through them discovered Fritz Leiber and sword-and sorcery.

The possibilities of the the supernatural being true mixed with my desire make life as funny as TV. I chased laughs and avoided free-floating dread all the way up into my 20s.

When you think about it, ’70s Humor is pretty unsettling. Drugs were a laugh riot. Pointing fingers or thumbs caused magic if you were alien enough or cool enough. Men skeeved on women on the regular. Everyone had compulsive catch phrases. Giant feet stamped on everything. All social institutions were corrupt. Giant hedgehogs persecute British criminals who nail people’s heads to the floor.

I had wanted to be a stand-up comedian.  A sketch comedy group later, I decided prose was less nerve wracking.

But in the ’80s, there were only “Spy” and “Mad” magazines. I wasn’t sophisticated enough for “Spy” or sharp enough for “Mad”. I tried dark-humored horror at “Weird Tales”.

So it went for nine years. Eventually I realized I was trying to write horror through a humor lens, which is different than writing dark humor. I was writing The Groovie Ghoulies when I wanted to write Terry Southern or Roald Dahl.

Then I sold a story about energy drinks and dance crazes merging people into carnivorous new lifeforms. I’ve been chasing that high ever since.

Nowadays, there’s McSweeny’s and all sorts of boutique pubs for humor, but I dunno. McSweeny’s has a repetitive formula and the other markets are so niche, I’d have to derail to learn their culture.

How did you get here? How did you get where you are?

Here’s a guy dealing with these questions.

How to Alienate People By Telling Them You Write Horror — Drew Chial

I get around, wheeling and dealing in my hip bohemian community. I’m a man about town, getting recognized in my seasonally inappropriate dark t-shirt and jeans. 1,091 more words

via How to Alienate People By Telling Them You Write Horror — Drew Chial





Stephen King’s Top Ten Rules For Success

23 06 2018





Which Would Be The Better Vampire?

1 06 2018

There’s a vampire who has existed for centuries. He is fluent in a dozen languages. He has traveled the world. He has been present at all major historic events. He is expert in the humanities and sciences. He plays several musical instruments so well he can move you to tears. He is suave, unflappable, and incredibly smug.

Would it better if he fed by ramming his head up his victim’s butt, or for his butt to expand cartoonishly to engulf his victim?

Update: I got one vote for each so far.





Love/Hate In SF/F/Horror: I Like Clowns.

25 05 2018

clowns

I love a good clown. Clowns are way underrated. They have deep history, culture, and skills. I believe an individual can fear clowns, certainly. The courophobia trend in our society is drummed up hysteria and a further example of how innocent love of art is shunned. You want to see a skillful, good human being? Harpo Marx, who is the tramp, along with his brothers in the above photo.

I hate when a character who is a Jesus analog has the initials “J.C.”.  Jesse Cutler of “Preacher”. The martyr/healer/magic black man from “The Green Mile”. Lots of others I have blotted out. Yeah, Garth Ennis, it’s all blasphemy, har har. Steve, we get it…he’s really Christalicious.

I love me an innovative monster design! “The Shrike” in the Hyperion novels. The elk-thing in the movie “The Ritual”. I’ll go to Days of Knights and read AD&D modules just to say “Holy Eff this is cool.”

I hate when a story’s Hell is lifted from Dante’s “Inferno”. I tend to be a stickler for reference material, in that a writer should use all of the material or not use it at all. Even Dante says “Inferno” is an allegory and not a roadmap. I can’t take “Inferno” seriously when Dante reserved the 9th Circle for some local politician he despised.

I love a good jerk who does the right thing. I am discovering they are tough to write. What if we replaced Elric with Ignatious O’Reilly from “Confederacy of Dunces”? Maybe Stormbringer could possess O’Reilly’s book of metaphysics or his stained bedsheet?

I hate when I write a draft and find all my characters are two dimensional, like the women are sexpots, or the minorities there to add “veracity” to the setting. To fix this, I give each character her own goals and character arc. I think of a person I know who fits this character and bring my love of that person to that character. But man, that first draft makes me disappointed in myself as a human.

(You may note that I say “love of that person”. I found that when I write a character based on someone I actively hate, or who supports values I despise, that character comes out flat, irritating, and unconvincing. So far, I’d say the trick to good writing is pitting good people against each other.)

I love a good caper. I haven’t read much Donald Westlake, but man is he great! Like Westlake’s stories, I love movies where doofuses pull together for the prize (“It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World”, “Kelly’s Heroes”, “The Ladykillers”).

I hate when the villain is a corporate toady or a mindless soldier. We are surrounded by business owners who are compassionate contributors to our society. We know men and women in the military who are intelligent, kind, and spiritually deep.

I love intimate, tight, even claustrophobic environments. I love stories where the magic or horror could be playing out next door and you’d never know it.

That said, not crazy about home invasions or serial killers. I like plausible, not Torn From Today’s Headlines.  That’s my quirk.

I love a well-written fight scene. Noir has them. Horror does okay by them. But Fantasy fights read like diagrams from Black Belt Magazine. Even martial arts experts will tell you that fights are bloody, clumsy, and usually stupid. Think of a fight you’ve seen. Was it a ballet of violence? Or a rugby scrum with livestock?

I hate that as I write this I have the voice of some grumpy old soothsayer going off in my head. Harlan Ellison. Or just about every other genre columnist who is 50+ years old. Can’t wait to pontificate in a voice I can call my own.

I love all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet. Just saying.

 

 

 





Deadpool Is More Edgy Than You Think. Your Writing May Benefit….

24 05 2018

 

 

 

deadpool

Does Deadpool want to be transgressive? Or does Deadpool just want a white picket fence with a beautiful breeder wife and family? Or does he want to do whatever’s funny at the time?

This article from The Guardian wonders.

Contrast it with this article from Film Hulk about creating emotional resonance.

Can Deadpool have depth? Can any horror comedy? For such questions, I make comparisons to “Shawn of the Dead”. Surely Shawn of the Dead was evocative and memorable.

But had Shawn of the Dead wanted to be a franchise like Deadpool, I could see only two options. It would have to put off Shawn’s maturing, which would have made Shawn a glib punchline like Ash from “Evil Dead”. Or each sequel would have to be a new life lesson where the character is changed, which could reduce DP’s zany energy to “The Addams Family”.

All of the movies are horror comedy, sure. But I worry that DP is going to burn out quickly cycling through cartoon shocks, like ED did. I like that DP tests boundaries, not only in breaking the fourth wall and its casual inclusiveness. What other superhero is enthusiastic about having children? What other hero fails with such spectacular realism? What hero isn’t a millionaire living in a mansion?

The DC Universe is gritty. Do you care about it? I have a hard time caring, because the heroes seem to care about so little. Is DCU’s grittiness realistic? Not when Superman destroys whole cities without carnage or remorse.

The only thing DP lacked was Negasonic and Yukio bickering. You know, the thing we never see superhero couples doing, especially teens:

Negasonic: “Just swing the chain.” Yukio: “But you like my Gogo Yubari kick!.” N: “We don’t have time!” Y: “You took like a year to power up!”

The Film Crit Hulk and Deadpool have given me a lot to think about.

  1. Back story creates empathy.
  2. Relationships must evolve.
  3. “Grittiness” is not the same as “realism”.

 





Lampreyhead the Mixtape

28 02 2018

I saw that the YA writer Maggie Stievater create music lists for her writing and I thought I’d give that a try.

This is what I listened to while writing. It became background noise that helped me trak when an hour of writing had passed, and frankly I got more done when the earbuds were silent, but listening to it helped me catch the mood of the book.

It has Pirates of Penzance, Bert Williams, Chick Webb, and Brecht to try to convey the burdens from Ned’s age. But I also needed music to remind me he is shallow and wistful, so I went pop. Heino, a kitchy German balladeer, helped remind me of Ned’s German roots. Robert Hazard, Motley Crue, Dinner, Hot Chocolate, Beach Boys, and Funkadelic reinforces Heino’s pop energy. Last, there’s the goth/punk with Nick Cave, Chelsea Wolfe, Xiu Xiu, Suicidal Tendencies, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and a cover by Brak for his pensiveness.

LAMPREYHEAD THE PLAYLIST





What I Learned On This Draft

22 02 2018

Hi guys,

I’ve finished the Beta draft of Lampreyhead: Blood Summoning.

I laughed, I cried, I learned oh so much.

First and foremost, I had always heard about writers having total existential meltdowns during redrafts. Not me. I’ve struggled with writing since 1989, sure, and I thought I’d run in the worst the writing experience had to offer.

Au Contraire! I had run into little baby struggles. In my first novel, I had spread the pain out over six years of writing. “The Flesh Sutra” started as published short stories. In my other short stories, the obstacles could be easily surmounted or shelved.

Lampreyhead’s Beta had a deadline, and man-oh-mannikin did I suffer! A day-long panic attack. Cold regret over every life decision since 8th grade. The veil of satisfaction torn away, revealing Death Himself exhaling putrid breath in my face, corpse hands raised to snatch me to a lonely pauper’s grave.

I put up a post on Facebook in this state, and got a couple of responses. One was from a guy from high school who has done remarkable things with his life, who essentially nudged me and said “I’m here, but knock off the whining.”

I took down the post within an hour of putting it up. The next day, a scene was moved to a different chapter and slowly my momentum returned.

So yeah, I learned I will provoke a panic attack to avoid working. I am not proud of this, but The More I Know.

Also, I was reminded that Tone Will Choose Itself. I can attempt to make the story like Clive Barker or King or some dark whimsical guy, but it won’t work. Stay true to the story and the feeling of the story will develop consistency and moral.

“Moral” developed through finding the recurring notes and realizing how I felt about them. What responsibility does a creator have toward a creation? What responsibility to have to your past? As it turns out, these will be recurring issues in the upcoming series.

I had thought I wanted something dark and funny that touched on these issues, and I thought of Monty Python. I re-read my Monty Python books (Big Red Book, Papperbak Book) and discovered they have not aged well. The movies now seem closer to the old “Carry On” films of the ’50s, but with better transitions. So I was flying blind. I’ll course correct as I go on.

The last item I learned was just that: “as I go on.” This is a series, and just as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld has weak titles, as does every series, nothing is going to appeal to everyone.

What did I fix? All characters have arcs with distinct points noted throughout the work, including the villain and the villain’s revealed flunky. All the characters have cause and effect which flow through the entire plot.

Descriptions are more lush. The setting is obvious at the first paragraph. Three sensory points per page. All words presenting action.

I am particularly proud of the character voices.

So. Now I begin outlining the two others in the series. Book Two will take place at a major electronic chain store, Book Three will take place at a comic book store on South Street in Philly.

You’ve read this far. Would you like to Beta read this 30K work? I’ll put you in the acknowledgements. I guarantee you that you’ll laugh. I guarantee you that you’ll be creeped out.

Send me word at Tim_W_Burke at H   O   T   M   A   I   L.

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