Kij Johnson on Good Ideas

13 05 2022




More Thoughts On WIP and Magick

11 05 2022

Currently figuring out the big climax. All the characters are in one location. I realized I could resolve the Doppelgänger character by having the protagonist realize her core personal conflict. But I’ve got unwieldy cursed tumors and a near-immortal antagonist. How do I deal with them? Rather than be overwhelmed, I waited. I gave myself space and took a couple of days off.

A random listening to the “Psycho Analysis” podcast about Frankenstein gave me an idea — maybe THE idea as to how to resolve them to gruesome satisfaction.

I’m starting to look at publishers and I’m feeling my chest clench again. So, one step at a time. Get it finished first.

It’s worth mentioning that when I began this novel, and was writing from Alecsis’s perspective, I was doom- scrolling seven websites every day, several times a day. My spiritual concerns were limited to “what version of Christianity will keep me out of Hell?” I gnawed at decades-old regrets. My mind had a constant drumbeat of “must do”, “get done”, and “be more”.

At the same time, I was painfully aware that I had only one life, maybe only one opportunity at anything, and I should NOT SCREW UP. Which made mistakes and learning curves difficult.

Now, writing from Olivia’s POV, I am down to doom-scrolling only political Twitter, still several times a day, but a vast improvement. I am accepting that I do not understand myself. I relax more in the moment and do more of what I enjoy. I am comfortable that each person is their own solitary religion, picking through everything that came before. I am a more comfortable and accepting person, and am trying to forgive my mistakes and misunderstandings.

Olivia quested after meaningful goals, while Alecsi worked toward redeeming a mistake that couldn’t be undone. Olivia and Alecsi had both killed Thomas, and both had pledged to improve the world to atone. But in time, Olivia settled into accepting what they had done and making the best of her situation. Alecsi still wanted to be perfect.

I wouldn’t have tried Olivia’s POV if it weren’t for my friends in Noble Fusion Eastern Court. Life dictates Art which guides Life.

Many people I know needed to change their lives so dramatically, they changed their names to allow for that radical growth. Patty put her traumatic childhood behind her by embracing her nickname Bunny. Al put his past behind him by using his middle name Randy. Pseudonyms allow exploration of personas uncomfortable for the artist. Artists performing under their own names talk about their “stage persona”, sometimes referring to that persona as a separate being. Performers talk about how the audience expectations shape their performances, even their performing styles.

This is all kind of Jungian. The story is outside and inside, waiting. It may not be an ingenious work, but it must be told for you to grow.





Is Writing Magick?

3 05 2022

As mentioned before, I am nearing the end of my first-ish draft of “Saints of Flesh”. My primary writing group Noble Fusion Eastern Court have been impressed at how I’ve kept a lot of plates spinning in the plot. The problem now is bringing the plates together while still spinning, stacking them together, then lowering them to the floor to rest in a satisfying manner.

Some days I look at descriptions of other books and think “damn, my stuff is a bit goofy”. Then I look at other books and think “maybe my book is supposed to be a little over the tops like these guys”. I can’t honestly say that I’m writing a book that I’d want to read. I am writing the book that is there in me right now.

There are so many small press publishers out there. I am encouraged by this because having read many small press through Kindle Unlimited, I know I have a solid book. We all know the trick with small press; get a publisher with a good track record. I had been interested in one publisher with a good track record, but then they published something controversial and now have gone to ground. I passed on going to the writers’ fest in Williamsburg VA because I have nothing to market quite yet and I have a reflexive aversion to try to work into existing social groups.

The good thing here is that I do enjoy writing every day. It’s becoming easier to focus on that. Writing has been fun lo these many years, but lately I’m wondering if my subject matter is harming my outlook.

I am anxious and depressed, less so than I used to be, but still it’s something I work on. I had quite an interest in writing humor. Over the years, though, as I discovered that good writing comes from the heart, I lost a lot of my mirth. Jokes still come when I talk with people, but not so much when I write.

Jokes were my way of distracting myself and being endearing to others. Placing a distancing TV frame around everything helped my anxiety. That frame is my earliest childhood memory. So I realized that joking was not so much a choice as a compulsion. Did I choose to daydream all the time? Did I choose to create? Maybe I did.

Humor has disappointed me in these past years. My stabs at sketch comedy and movie production lost their momentum when I needed to risk my ego by going to the next level. I could go on about how comedy in the U.S. relies way too much on improvisation, and how Lorne Michaels is killing creativity, and that I don’t laugh at movies because I can see the stitching in the fabric. I’m still sussing out how I feel, but it just may be that no one makes anything quite to my taste.

Horror became a means of being outrageous with catharsis.

I’ve realized that horror reinforces my anxious view of the world. Someone said somewhere that Horror is Fantasy for atheists, and I agree with that. Is writing horror bad for my health?

A last thing I have noticed: writing is cathartic, but it also helps to process problems at a less-than-aware level. Concentrating on Alecsi in “The Flesh Sutra” reinforced a doomed romanticist perspective. In this book, Olivia is more proactive and does a mind-bending amount of personal examination and growth. These reflect my states of mind during their creation. I would like to experiment with writing a Marty Lou for the purposes of hacking my own psyche, much like Grant Morrisson did with King Mob.





Nearing The End of Draft One, Here Is How My Supernatural Stuff Works

26 04 2022

I’m at 41K words into “Saints of Flesh”, a sequel novel to “The Flesh Sutra”. As I write, I’ve developed a working theory for superhuman capabilities, how they may be achieved, and how societies have appropriated stories of these abilities to support established religions. Join me, won’t you?

The Science of “The Flesh”

  1. Supernatural Ability Latent Within Humanity

Supernatural capabilities seem more created by discipline than by virtue. While discipline does encourage virtue, the powers of the holy seem prevalent among only a select few within those adhering to the discipline. Not all nuns come back as visions.

Superhuman capabilities can be learned. It follows that those predisposed to ability can have the ability enhanced through discipline.

Supernatural or numinous experiences can be provoked by specific stimuli. Magnetic fields, infrasonic sound, strobe light, extremes of exhaustion and pain, concentrated repetition of any type, etc. Religions use resonant spaces, patterns of color, group invocations, and other stimuli to create numinous experiences. These create changes in the brain.

Resistance to cold, heat, fire, fatigue, suffocation are well documented, as well as physical abnormality and genetic mutations that enhance these abilities.

Learned abilities and traits can be inherited genetically.

Generations studying an ability will create generations for whom that ability will be second nature or even enhanced beyond normal capability.

Genes can become latent or regressive.

The human record encompasses over forty generations.

Stories of the paranormal abilities have considerable consistencies that span cultures.

Stories telling of abilities outside these consistencies can be attributed to cultural propaganda.

An ability does not have to be understood by science for that ability to be valid.

Given these statements, we can assume humanity is capable of these abilities: survival of severe mutilation; resistance to fire, cold, suffocation, and electricity; precognition; post-cognition; generation of illusions; influence over people and animals; speaking with spirits; banishment of spirits; remote viewing; astral projection; levitation; bilocation; teleportation; communication with the dead; regeneration even of dead tissue; the curing of illness; revivification of the dead; reincarnation.

Many abilities did not make the cut: telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis, walking on water, control of weather, invocation of earthquakes, creation of matter. These abilities are not generally found throughout the world’s folklore.

Note also there is a difference between a human exhibiting these abilities versus the invocation of an outside force; Moses (who may have not existed and may be propaganda) did not part the Red Sea, but invoked God to do the work.

This is not to say that humanity cannot learn new abilities. That happens in this novel.

This is where writing has led me so far. I’m half-persuaded that this is the truth.

2. How Is It Cultivated?

Supernatural abilities are most often associated with those engaged in sacred rituals or working in sacred spaces. What do these rituals and abilities have in common?

Sensory discipline: the deprivation or over saturation of sound, sight, or activity. Monasteries deprive acolytes of stimulation and force repetition to subsume the ego. Cathedrals and mosques subsume the ego by overwhelming the ego with resonant sound, colorful patterns, and ritual. I have tiny knowledge of shamanisms and other religions, but can make a case the use of drugs or frenzied activity redirecting consciousness.

Inspirations: being told that others have achieved the desired abilities.

3. Conclusions

By distilling the most effective sounds and color patterns, an “ur-sainthood” could unlock latent abilities.

4. But Godhood? And Reincarnation?

Just as science can be mistaken for magic, this ur-sainthood would be mistaken for a supernaturally empowered superiority.

Gods, devils, angels, demons throughout history and all over the world behave like really dopey people. Because these beings are really dopey people who have achieved this ur-sainthood. Religions are attempts to understand these unwieldy, even dangerous beings.

Reincarnation beliefs around the world implies a spiritual realm similar to the Akashic Field or an astral plane, that is a nil-space of pure consciousness. Religions are attempts to understand this realm.

These ideas aren’t new. How do they fulfill the needs of the story?

Two tropes in fantasy fiction bother me greatly. The first is “achieving ability without sacrifice”. Gandalf seems pretty well adjusted to wielding Godhood, which he wields by being born into power. Hogwarts students study books and wave their wands, which works because they were born into it.

IMO, this is bunk. It implies that by luck of birth, the reader too could be supernaturally enabled. It implies that such an enabled person could become well-adjusted within a “Third Age Muggle” world.

It is bunk because in reality, anyone who excels sacrifices anything resembling a normal life. Olympic athletes socially stunt themselves, become exposed to abusers, become the focus of mania and vitriol. Garth Ennis’ “The Boys” better reflects how Gandalf and Hogwarts would be treated in reality.

Related to that, supernatural “sacrifice” is always some variation of something the average bookish person would really want. Gandalf is a loner? Hogwarts keeps to themselves? How are these sacrifices? I cannot speak to other magic systems from other authors, but even if a magician is cutting off body parts to empower themselves, these pains are all voluntary. Did he really need that finger compared to rearranging reality itself?

The second trope that bothers me is “Devastation, Oh Well”. How much carnage have we seen in superhero movies, in both Stars Trek and Wars, in even the Potterverse, and dang no one seems traumatized or shunned. The best example to me is “Supernatural” where as the seasons progress the writers have to up the ante of shock by killing families, then filled diners, then hospitals, then entire towns. But to create pathos, the writers ran out of ideas except for killing every woman character (until the fans got po’d and the two sheriffs were spared).

My preference is for power beyond reason, my characters should suffer beyond reason. For the story to remain plausible, everything should be so small and personal that the world will not notice.

I did that with “The Flesh Sutra” and I’m truly enjoying doing that with “Saints of Flesh”.





At 32K On WIP and A Step Closer To Understanding My Purpose In Life

1 02 2022

Hi guys,

At this point, I’m working on the first fight between protagonists and the Big Bad (who is also a Big Reveal and even a Big Protagonist Insight, lotsa layers here). The protagonist will come out the worse for wear, as you do. I had no idea how to set up the Big Final Fight, which had to happen on the Protagonist’s turf for it to be meaningful and use these neato set pieces I am itching to use. It took a few minutes mulling while making dinner for the answer to appear: Big Protagonist Insight is that Protagonist and Big Bad want the same things, so yeah, Big Bad will want to seize Protagonist’s turf. With a little goading and insulting, Big Bad would charge in recklessly. A little trite, but it works.

Am I being too abstract?

The take-away here is by giving clear goals to your characters can fulfill plot needs more easily. “Motivation” is a basic detail, granted, but giving characters relatable motivations is more satisfying and provides more opportunity. The Big Bad could just be Evil and destroy just for the heck of it, but that would be lame. My Big Bad wants because it is a second-tier replacement for the Protagonist, and the BB knows that. Best to eradicate the Protagonist, be saved that painful reminder, and become a step closer to being the optimum replacement.

As in all things in life, what does this have to do with me?

When I started personal counseling (this phase of it), my counsellor stated the goal was to get me back to creating things the way I had as a child, scrawling stuff in the corner just to enjoy it. My past couple of years had brought me to realize my perception of the world was warped, my goals were warped by my perception of the world, and I daydreamed-imagined-created to avoid the world.

My perception was warped. I wanted relationships, experiences, growth, and I self-sabotaged because I thought the world barren of compassion. Knowing this, shouldn’t I push myself into new experiences? Aren’t my existing goals inherently flawed?

I grew up entertaining myself. It may have been a coping mechanism, but is entertaining yourself bad? Does I need a relationship? I’ve met only a few people in almost sixty years who “got me” and who “I got”. I’ve been sitting in Panera Bread and writing for almost ten years now. Have I been wasting my life?

I feel myself becoming more comfortable with my cloistered little self. I think that’s a good thing. Maybe it will help lead to other experiences.





Writing In A Shitty Mood

26 01 2022

This month has been a wash. I got Covid, ran out of my pharmaceutical Vitamin D, worked in an understaffed job, and people my age are dying suddenly of natural causes. The more Bible I read, the more confident I am that There Is Nothing Out There. And I’m still scrolling thirst-traps and politics on TikTok and Twitter.

So anyway, I’m writing a novel. I’m at the point where I am straining to stretch the desired ending to meet the overwrought middle and tie them with an elegant yet strong knot. This does not help my mood.

So I did a trick I learned the last time I wrote a long form story. Feeling angry that everything is futile? Find the sections of the story that convey an angry, futile situation and write those scenes. I warm up with an exercise.

Political Twitter brought me videos of anti-mask people interrupting retail services with their protests. Man, I hate rudeness. Ever want to be somewhere like that and have absolutely no accountability for your actions? Oh yeah.

So I wrote a scene where I’m in this Twitter video with the other suffering people waiting for their sandwiches and the anti-masker brings herself and her camera in to refuse compliance. I Just Want My Sandwich, Lady.

The cool thing that happens is that writing this scene from third person allowed me to see the others as real people, and see my own flaws. The other people in line would obviously intervene. The protesters (two black women) are humans and maybe pretty scrappy. The sandwich guy is HUGE.

Writing the results of this scene realistically helped me get out of my head while focusing my mood. Some good descriptions appeared. “My shoulders tightened as if seized by a giant vulture.” “I sensed every muscle in the room focus on me.”

And why would I as a white guy be scrapping with two black women? Why did I choose this video?

Of course I got my ass kicked. The purpose of fiction is to be real.

And it is to reveal. I need some introspection re my choice.

With that venting out and a desire for humility, I worked on the scene with the sentient cancers. These are very angry cancers and they want to ruin the world. Their host is despairing and dying and playing wet-nurse to the cancers already born. Their host is driving a rental car distributing her children to neighborhood creeps all over.

One important thought that I had internalized, but only now remembered: Do NOT emote at maximum. Do NOT emote with everything you have in you. You WILL burn out within minutes. You SHALL ruin the rest of your day. More than likely, your writing will be overwrought.

“But Nick Cage says ‘There is no upper limit to human emotion.'” True. But Nick has to do multiple takes. He does not just lay it out there in one take like you have to and hope you will have it together enough to revise. I believe he is describing emotional expression, not the internal feeling.

Is this helpful?





Neat Writing Tricks From “The Ruins” (If you are from Ireland and usually read this, you are my sole reader from Ireland. Thanks for reading!)

13 01 2022

While I had COVID, I took a gift card I had won at a work-place raffle and I ordered some books. The first to arrive (used from ThriftBooks) was “The Ruins” by Scott Smith. A movie had been made and is available for streaming. I had watched the movie and was really impressed. Over the years, many writers I respect had claimed that the novel itself was a compelling page-turner.

They weren’t kidding! It’s 500 pages and I tore through it in 24 hours. I hadn’t read a novel so eagerly since I was a kid. Despite knowing how the novel was going to end. Despite the characters being obvious redshirt/victims and the monster being a Pottsylvania Creeper that can do impressions.

SPOILERS

The plot: six generic white college age tourists in Mexico go off the beaten track, ignore multiple harbingers, and find themselves forced to stay in Mayan ruins covered with vines that are predatory, carnivorous, and intelligent. The natives know the vines are dangerous and will not let the kids leave the ruins, lest a tendril hitch a ride on them. Lacking resources or means to call for help, the six die rather quickly. You’d think that this plot couldn’t last longer than a Tales From The Crypt episode. But Smith makes it a compelling read over 500 pages.

How did Smith do this? I studied the book as I read and have some answers. Let’s look at style and structure first.

The POV shifts in third-person limited between the six characters. The language is contemporary with little artistic flourish. There are no chapter breaks. There is very little to break the narrative flow. I skimmed the prose easily. Jumping POVs kept scenes from being too long and gave moments where characters could assess a situation from different perspectives.

The plot is a basic Four Beat Structure. The McGuffin for going to The Ruins was to find a missing brother. That drew the plot up to Beat One about 20% in. The brother’s body is found literally when a character notices the vines seems crowding him. The plot questions shifts from “Where Is?” to “How?”. Within that 20%, all the plot elements have been established: a phone ringing in a deep pit, birdcalls from within the vines, and the vines’ peculiar growth.

The other three beats are Reveals Of Horror and the characters’ reactions. Beat Two is discovering the vines are acidic and grow quickly to eat any meat. Beat Three reveals the starving characters discovering the bird calls are actually coming from the vines’ blossoms, and that the vines are as fast as snakes. In Beat Four, the ringing phone is also a mimicry to lure them into the pit to be digested. Characters die on the way, of course, and after each horrid realization there is a POV change where the next character summarizes anew the whole dire situation.

Another group of tourists is supposed to come looking for the doomed, but even that isn’t taken seriously. That group shows up at the end much too late, only to climb The Ruins to presumably seal their own fate.

I noted the McGuffin handoff when the missing brother is found dead. That handoff is made into a “What Is Happening” through the world-building of The Ruins themselves. The brother is found amid the wreckage of an archeological dig. No other bodies are found. There are notebooks, though, and passports and other documents. I was waiting for them to try to piece together the clues. But Smith quite rightly made the paperwork a tease to keep my attention and concentrated on the character interaction. It was the same when the archeologists remains were found, when the natives (rendered in ways sympathetic and distinct) organized, and in examining The Ruins themselves. Just enough world-building to create believability, then moving on with the plot.

The most important aspect of the novel comes with establishing the six redshirt/victims themselves. We learn about them through description and behavior. There is almost no dialogue for the first forty pages. This perspective one step removed shows that this is “an ensemble” so to speak and there is no main character. What is vital is that it sets us up as watchers and not sympathizers. We are set up to watch flawed WASP college kids get drunk, make a lot of assumptions, and Get What’s Coming To Drunk Assuming WASP College Kids.

One could argue that what kills them is White Privilege and this is addressed in the book. It’s touched on only briefly, because deep sociological reflection would create sympathy and ruin plot momentum.

The first forty pages also set tone really well. From the first sentence, the characters spend their time with churning hangovers, sizzling sunburns, bleary from lack of sleep, resentful of another’s actions, menaced by snarling dogs, unsettled by disease and poverty. I’m going to pay more attention to using environment to create tone.

The horror I felt for their fate came through the sensory descriptions. Tendrils squirmed under skin. Acidic sap burned hands. Hopes dropped into chilled horror. Amputations cracked and snapped. I found myself thinking “these guys were dopes, but day-um they didn’t deserve all this.”

This is a good book. The movie has a better ending, in that it follows a Main Character out of the six who becomes the sensory touchstone for the viewer.





This Week I Had COVID, So This Is What I Did (Hello DirtySciFiBuddha and Literary Titan)

8 01 2022

I’ve been looking through “Idea Book” by Jack Heffron. Heffron uses exercises to find personal experiences as inspiration. I like this and will let you know how this goes.

Here is a found footage movie review site. It is comprehensive and the reviews are thorough.

I won a raffle at my job and got a $50 gift card, which I spent on books, of course. First in is this anthology. William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki The Ghost Finder has been a favorite. Had no idea so many authors wrote occult detectives, including Robert Chambers and Dion Fortune. Many names new to me in the ToC and I’m looking forward to sampling in the coming weeks.





2022: In Which I Get My Career Up And Going Again (Hello to My Reader In India)

2 01 2022

Recently, one of my oldest friends looked at my bibliography.

“You have a lot of publishing credits! Good ones!”

They ended in 2014 and he knew why: my stab at self-publishing drove my self-defeating habits in way, way deep.

The last two years especially have been tough. I made huge progress with my counsellor and realized in full: I had grown up and grown old wanting to impress everyone, and I had been willing to destroy myself in the process.

People expect this from writers and comedians. Oddly enough, horror creators don’t seem to self-destruct. I can’t think of a horror creator who destroyed themselves aside from the old Universal actors and directors, and well, we can blame those bodies on Hollywood. Horror creators tend to live long lives.

That said, two years ago I had to rediscover what I liked. I had spent so many years pushing myself that I didn’t know how to just “like”.

I listened to music that made me angry. I watched movies to absorb ideas. I couldn’t read anymore because my ego said I should be reading The Great Books series while my gut wanted stuff like Liartown.

Have you read any Sean Tejaratchi? It is so funny!

Here is my usual Spotify playlist. Find a positive emotion. Find any emotion.

Now I am listening to 2nd Wave Ska and reminding myself that yeah, this is good. I like this.

Now, how did I get like this? Why did I stay like this for so long? My first impulse is to explain my need to share as a way to maybe help you. Maybe you do stuff like this too. Then I realize, what the hell, this is my page and I’m not embarrassed by this anymore.

Getting something out of your head makes room for new things.

My Dad was a terribly insecure man. He could not relax without alcohol. Mom grew up in a tense, phobic family. She felt overwhelmed by life. They found themselves in each other. Then they avoided their families by moving away, and taking a career where they might relocate hundreds of miles at any given time. It was an alcoholic family with all the markers, even if no one punched or screamed or missed a day of work.

It took thirty years of counseling to realize I had a lot of really bad personal habits. I could not make mistakes. I was irritable. I trusted no one. I took no risks. Catastrophe loomed everywhere. Most of all I forgave no one except my family. I marked my life not with joys, but with a trail of jaw-clenching regrets. I came to suspect all of this was interrelated, that there was a grand unification theory of all this.

I was the entire Adult Child of Alcoholics checklist. Every memory I had and I mean my earliest baby memory could be filtered through it. Even the things I liked about myself — my joking, my writing, drawing, creating — were in response to parents who just weren’t emotionally available.

Who am I? What should I want? I am almost sixty and I’m just learning to just say unexamined thoughts.

So why not jump start my career?

Writing fiction has helped me process all of this. Example: allowing myself to express my fixation with my high school bully (after thirty years) gave me a sellable story, with the additional benefit of seeing the true source of my fixation, and purge that fixation.

I really like the idea of Chaos Magick. If undirected writing could give me such benefit, what would methodical art provide?

So writing would help me. I do enjoy it. At this moment, it is one of about a dozen things I can say confidently that I enjoy.

Here’s to my career. I’m working on a sequel and I am enjoying that. I’d like to get back to short fiction, but time and energy are tricky. I just ordered a bunch of books (before, all books had to be writing related) to see if I like them.

Part of this includes reaching out and saying Hi! In this case, through the years, my WordPress stats have told me that my most reliable reader is some soul in India. I have no idea who you are, but if you get a moment’s kick out of what I share, okay. Thanks for reading for so long!

I’m going to post more regularly, if anything to vent like a lot of other bloggers do. I’ve some stuff to share later this week.





My Creative Process: Generating Ideas

8 07 2021

A stage magician’s soul is forced into a grub eating his mother’s corpse. An abused housemaid is drawn into a world within a kaleidoscope. A steamship doomed by the ghosts of colonialism and personal trauma.

Many people liked my novel “The Flesh Sutra” for the same reason I enjoyed writing it: it had a few digressive “Monsters of the Week” (or rather “of the Chapter”) which added depth and variety to the world, and frankly were also really cool ideas.

I’m working on a sequel and a re-release of an improved “Flesh Sutra”. The sequel’s plot has been fun so far. But the plot is moving too quickly and I think I and the characters need a breather. So I want a “Monster of the Chapter”.

The plot so far: A woman named Gretchen is possessed by Olivia, a transcended spiritualist. Olivia has had keepsakes taken from her and Gretchen is driving across country in a used car, from San Diego to Hartford, to retrieve an item. Olivia is a Strange Attractor and Gretchen sees into the spirit realm. What happens during the road trip? I didn’t want to play where anyone else had played.

The first thing I did was track that trip with Google Maps. I noted what was on that route every mile of the 3000+ drive. (I had decided to keep their car a safe space so as to not disrupt the actual progress). I came up with this list. Then I highlighted the places where I had personal experience. And noted items that would be seen along the way.

List of things along highways: 

Cemeteries, factories, grain silos, truck stops, suburban developments (if you lived here, you’d be home by now), South of the Border, Tourist traps, airports, bays and inlets, bridges (truck hanging off bridge, suicide attempt), railroad, military bases, prisons, rest stops, corn and wheat fields, dangerous turns, crumbling infrastructure, cities, slums, museums, gas stations, zoos, state parks, police barracks, refineries, overpasses driving over neighborhoods (car drives off overpass and disappears), billboard, fairground, racetrack, campground, reservations, recreational farms, casinos, horseback riding services, hospitals, Hard Rock casino, Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, Blue Gate Resaturant, university, wildlife area, Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay, sports complex, golf course, Splash Lagoon, little colleges, Veterans Administration, museum of glass, Howe Caverns, a museum for an author I found witty but penurious in outlook 

The yellow signifies places where I have personal experience. I put “billboards” in purple because it is a recurring sight and has some horrific potential. The “museum for an author” is the Mark Twain Museum, which Olivia would have an opinion about.

Then I mined TVTropes.com. This wiki is awesome. Its contributors drill down into all media, define their correlations, and link similarities. You can lose hours of your life just wandering through educational, witty, startling critiques. David Lynch talks about “gathering wood” for inspiration, that is, pulling together inspirations. Here’s what I gathered and may use.

An ad for The BBC had a head made of disembodied heads. People complained. 

This Duracell Ultra commercial accidentally evokes this trope. In some of those shots, those little pink Duracell Bunnies look more like a mass of squirming maggots. 

A public service announcement from the USDA APHIS regarding accidentally bringing in invasive species was spoken by a man made out of various insects wearing gentlemanly clothes. He talks to the camera about his desire to spread himself elsewhere, then lifts up an arm and disperses the insects it’s made of. This was intentionally played for creeps. He’s basically the Affably Evil spokesman for their “Hungry Pests” campaign. 

Downplayed example: Azhi Dahaka, a three-headed dragon associated with the Zoroastrian apocalypse, has scorpions instead of blood. 

The Portuguese Man o’ War looks like a floating jellyfish, but is, in fact, a colony of four organisms known as polyps. Its tentacles can grow to twenty metres in length (ten is the average) with a sting that can be very painful. Definitely not something you want to get tangled up with, especially since Portuguese Men o’ War are most commonly found in large groups. 

The Portuguese Man o’ War is one of a number of creatures in the order Siphonophorae, of which there are three suborders. Counted among them is the gigantic Praya dubia, which can grow to lengths of 130ft/40 metres, making them the second-longest marine organism on the planet. 

Clinic is a short film about a series of bizarre, Medical Horror-themed nightmares had by an elderly patient in a hospital. 

Zdzisław Beksiński 

Francisco de Goya‘s “Black Period”. 

Come and See uneasily swirls together the nightmare reality of war with the surreal weirdness of regularnightmares to very disturbing effect. Several sequences in the movie are implausible and downright surreal, and intentionally so. 

The Third Policeman is a darkly comic novel by Irish author Flann O’Brien, best known for his earlier work At Swim-Two-Birds. Written between 1939 and 1940, it didn’t receive publication until 1967, after the author’s death. 

The story concerns an unnamed narrator and his tenant John Divney, both of whom are in dire need of funds (the narrator wishes to publish a commentary on the writings of a philosopher named de Selby; Divney wishes to get married). Divney proposes killing the local miser, Philip Mathers, and stealing his cash-box. However, while the narrator is in the process of retrieving the cash-box, he encounters the ghost of Mathers. Thus begins a series of surreal, disturbing and hilarious adventures as he attempts to recover the money. 

sudden falling 

K-2 is synthetic marijuana that has been banned from Michigan. The drug seems to slow time like regular marijuana, but it gives an extreme high that lasts a short period. It can react poorly in some people and cause them to be confused and dangerous to themselves and the people around them. People who take it can still move freely (if they don’t faint) and can become easily frightened by the strange sensations they are experiencing. Non-violent people will suddenly assault seven people in half an hour. The experience messes with time perception and memory so badly, it can feel like a person has been trapped in some kind of prison for years. It can also cause a user to have periods of what feels like a panic attack monthsafter use. 

There’s also Salvia divinorum, which takes the horror to even more horrifying degrees than K-2. 

These invoked some dread and nausea. Some seemed related to the terrain being crossed, in that the US is steeped in drugs and war. I avoid social issues in writing, because I don’t do it very well. But the drug description had some potential and the war…well…old battlefields and old hatreds fuel a lot of ghost stories.

My next step is to explore this stuff until I’m bored with it. I set it aside and see what ideas pop up this week, next week, whenever.

If you’re interested, I ‘ll keep you posted on what appears.








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