Slasher Prerequisites

Working on a new slasher right now, and leaning towards making it a screenplay, mainly so the form can keep it reined in for me, somewhat. Too, this time, I’m doing what I’ve never done: thinking it all through ahead of time. Which has involved a lot of re-watching, a lot of thinking. And, on the idea that reasoning from first principles (or at least memory) is somehow a pure way to get to something at least in the area of truth, I’ve been intentionall ducking Carol Clover and all the other slasher analyses out there. Just because I want to figure out what the slasher is, not simply agree with people smarter than me. And, here’s what I’ve got so far — those pieces without which a slasher isn’t really a slasher, and in no really good order :

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I Won’t Be Back : What T3 Could Have Been

Third installments of a franchise the audience is in love with are very difficult to pull off. Nobody says Alien3 or Return of the Jedi or the third Scream are their favorites of the series, right? Even Godfather III, as good as it might be, is overshadowed by the first two. Granted, by the third installment, the success of the original and its sequel have given this latest incarnation a serious budget to work with, and all the marketing is in place, and some of the principal actors are probably even still signed on, but—for this sequel to the sequel to capture instead of divide the audience, it has to walk such a tightrope of formula and originality; it has to do what the original did and find a way of doing it which isn’t tired. This is why the two follow-ups to The Matrix, while pretty brilliant in their own right, at all levels—story continuity, effects, series escalation—still paled in comparison to the original. What The Matrix did, which just blew the audience away, was show how this reality we’d bought into was a construct. The next two installments could no longer surprise us with that, but instead had to assume it, and try to pull the carpet out in some other, more subtle way. In fact, the only ‘third’ that might have done for the audience what the original did was Friday the 13th’s, the one where Jason got his mask. Which Terminator 3, following the unapologetic slashers Terminator and Terminator 2 were, might should have paid a little attention to*. But yeah, I know: without James Cameron’s story sense, that is, with him saying the story was already told, what else could have happened, right? I mean, Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines, what it is essentially is an extension of everything Cameron laid down in the first two installments. So how could it have gone wrong?

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My Prose Comb

Was poring through some story or novel the other day, to submit it, and realized, now that the story was more or less in place, at least until somebody else jammed their hands into it, that all I was looking at were the words, the sentences. Which is nice, yeah, makes a piece feel ‘done.’ Like Carver’s supposed to have said, he knew it was time to step away from a piece when all he was doing anymore was changing commas (but yeah, look at the differences in his “The Bath” and “A Small, Good Thing,” which “The Bath” became).

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You might be a novelist if . . .

. . . you could never*say :

  • No, please, no — my book would make a terrible movie.
  • Actually, I never thought about if this book would outlive me or not.
  • Well, I mean, that book’s obviously better than mine. That’s the only reason it’s on the best seller list.
  • Of course I would only ever talk bad about a book I’ve read.
  • Man, if the reader doesn’t get it, that’s just all my fault.
  • Really, I think my publisher may have even spent too much on marketing my book.
  • No, I never call my agent too much. I completely trust him.
  • I’ve never stooped so low as to rearrange my books on a bookstore shelf, no.
  • My editor knows commas so much better than I do.
  • No, no — I’m sure that award committee knew what they were doing.
  • Novelists don’t really deserve the rock star treatment. I mean, that’s something I knew from day one.
  • I probably wouldn’t have even accepted a blurb from Her, no.
  • Yeah, it was a totally fair review. Whoever wrote it gave my book the same amount of time and attention I put into it.
  • Semicolons are for hacks.
  • Yeah, I probably could have lopped off twenty thousand words and told pretty much the same story.
  • Amazon has ratings?
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    12 Things I Won’t Do in Horror

    Man, if everybody doesn’t have a list, right? I’d guess, if I took the time to look, somebody’s already got one like this, I mean: things they’re tired enough of in horror to make a public plea that those things stop, lest the whole genre cave in or something. Or, really, those things we get tired of in our chosen reading areas (assuming we use the marketing terms [Western, Horror, Romance, Thriller, Mystery, Erotica, Historical, ‘Literary,’ etc] instead of just ‘Quality’ and ‘Not Quality’), without them how could the genre ever be parodied, right? And parodies, aside from being this big extended in-jokes that make us feel clever, they also tend to purge the genre of a lot of what’s become extra. SCREAM did this in 1996, say, BLAZING SADDLES in 1974, etc, though, stuff like DATE MOVIE or SCARY MOVIE, I don’t know: they’re parody, sure, but I suspect that, like with its cousin satire, there’s generative parody and destructive parody. The reason SCREAM and BLAZING SADDLES worked, I think–ie, added to the genre by critiquing it–was that, beneath the laughs, they were a horror movie and a western. Just funny, self-aware ones. This isn’t to say NAKED GUN was necessarily a parody of the police procedural, however; I’d say it’s more like just a comedy with cops in it.

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    T is for Title

    For a long time now I’ve gone to bed early

    For a long time now I’ve been writing “title shot” in the back of every book I read, along with a/the page number. Most, anyway. All it means is that this (page) is the first time the title of the book appears in the book itself. Just something I’ve been tracking for years and years, with the idea of going back someday, synthesing all the ratios (“if a title’s to appear in a book, it’s usually not before the seventy-fifth page,” etc). But I’ve got just thousands of books, and I’m always lending them out and forgetting where they are, so my data set here’s hopelessly jumbled, and I’d rather write stories than run numbers anyway. And, I mean, breaking a book down to numbers is pretty foolish too. Really, growing up I just played a lot of that Glass-Jawed-Joe boxing game on my old Atari or whatever, and would always get caught up against the ropes, the announcer saying over and over again, “Body blow! Body blow!” So now I scribble my book-version of that in the back of whatever I’m reading.

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    Open Letter to Publisher X

    Editor Y:

    In today’s trend-oriented publishing climate, you need to either be the celebrity-of-the-moment or you need to have a bulletproof plan to plug into what’s hot, what’s guaranteed, what there’s already an audience for. And, sir/madam/etc., that you don’t already know my name from the tabloids should suggest that, while not infamous for killing or raping or stalking somebody, which is pretty much the standard for literary potential, I know, I have nevertheless, through a thorough though necessarily shallow study, come up with a story idea that’s less of a gamble than 99% of the publishing opportunities you probably have sitting on your desk right now.

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    Against the Stet

    Was reading over a novel I’m about to submit, and kind of just mentally ticking off the things I was going to be writing ‘stet’ by after the copy editor and proofreader have had a go at it (assuming a lot here, I know, but hope springs, all that), so figured it’d maybe just be easier to go ahead and rig up a document-type affair beforehand. Or at least a list — things I always do, things to watch for, things to let slide:

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    Unrevised

    quickest of quick notes: new essay up at The Cult. On revision, of all unlikely things. I mean, of all unlikely things for me to be writing about. Anyway, it’s here.

    and, nope, no new DEMON THEORY news in the last few, sweltering, basketball-playing, story-workshopping, dog-tying-up-only-to-have-it-chew-through-the-rope, Daily Show watching hours.

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    Jack Bauer for President (&etc)

    and Dana Scully for surgeon general, yeah. really though, just here to post a cleaner version of that Demon Theory banner:

    [ it may take a bit to load, as it looks like those prior two banners are still down at the bottom of this page, trying to load as well. well, still down there as long as this is the top post, I think ]

    really, though, what all this banner-stuff has put me in mind of is revision. or, I should say, “Revision.” that which I never teach but always say is a pretty good idea, yeah. that which I tend to do incessantly–or, that which I do now: used to, I thought revision was tantamount to fear of never producing anything new. Thus, you mull over the same crappy 3000 words for three years. but, yeah, I got better. Anyway, if I can steal the time, I’ll see if I can cobble something together about the whole thing.

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