Writers: Your Weird Obsession Will Become Fodder For Future Grad Student Thesis

8 04 2017

“…it’s what happens in the United States when a truly radical ideology takes over.” This is George Romero’s answer to the question of what his film Night of the Living Dead is about. To me, this is a most thoughtful and complete assessment, and perhaps what explains the movie’s enduring success. Of course, on […]

via The Importance of Theme in Horror… and Zombies… and Dogshit — S.E. Casey Author





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.





“Body Horror and Psycho-Sexual Transcendence”

12 12 2015
 

CHAPTER TWO: THE MOTHER AND THE WORM

We were in our places, Olivia at the door and I in the wicker basket. The windows were concealed with heavy curtains to keep out the afternoon sun, but oil lamps pushed back the gloom. The lady who entered our study first was the old friend of Olivia’s family, who embraced Olivia, then introduced her guests. The other matron wore black; she was the hopeful patron. The men were young, one balding and mustached and the other dark and intense. They were surprised by her frank smile, by her firm handclasp, and smirked to each other.

The basket that hid me was a cubit square. Within it, I sat naked on a thin cotton mat, waiting for my cue.

After brief pleasantries, Olivia bade everyone sit at the mismatched slat chairs around our worn table. Slowly, not without drama, she turned the gas lamps down.

“Everyone take hands, please. This afternoon, we speak with the spirits. I need for everyone to speak these holy words of the Hindu. Om mani padme hum.”

Her resonance and theatrics gave the others confidence. The older ladies intoned with Episcopalian reserve. The men seemed strangely comfortable with the trappings, and joined in.

The chant rose in pitch.

This was my cue, as thespians say. I lay back and breathed deep, humid air inflating my months-old lungs. As I inhaled, I imagined the proper yantra symbol. I exhaled my own mantra to release my spirit from my misshapen flesh.

“Come to us, Alecsandri. Come to us, spirits.”

I continued my chant and let myself drift, imagining myself in warm black oil. As she implored, the study was swallowed by the warm oil. My spirit rose from the basket. My hands glowed, my fingers lithe.  My spirit body shone golden and tall, like before I had forced myself into Thomas Spalding’s brain and was reborn in the manikin shape.

The bodies of the attendants glowed with auras of life. Rainbows flared along the older women. The bald man’s was a healthy bronze. The young man’s was odd. The flares were violet and tight, like a gas burner pressed by a weight. Olivia’s lavender opened and extended across the room as she entered her trance, so that she could communicate with the spirit realm.

Unseen by the others, I drifted to Olivia and caressed her neck. Touching her spirit was like touching soothing wool on a winter day. Feeling me, her head eased back and magenta sparks streaked her neck after my fingertips.

She said, “My spirit guide is with us. Are you ready to help us, Guru?”

Her head fell forward and she affected a deeper, thicker-tongued man’s voice, an impersonation of me when I was human. “Olivia, I am always pleased to make new acquaintances. These are charming people.”

She sighed and rolled in her seat, as if buffeted by forces within. In her voice: “I sense a presence with you, Guru. Who is with you?”

I had been too distracted by Olivia to notice. A disembodied glow had appeared by one of the women. It was the size of a grown man, and boiled red. It pointed to the older woman.

 

“I love ‘The Flesh Sutra’!” – Nancy Holder, NYT Best Selling Horror Author

My debut novel was on the preliminary ballot for the 2015 Stoker Awards.

“In this excellent novel, the writing is crisp, the characters sharply drawn, the plot engrossing; as a result, this tightly written and propulsive narrative addresses postmodern angst about humanity and spirituality in the context of body horror and psychosexual transcendence with literary flair and at times deeply disturbing imagery.”

Order it below.

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How thinking about mortality can lead to a good life

21 04 2012

How thinking about death can lead to a good life.








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