Archive for the ‘ select ’ Category

We Could Be Heroes


Society Isn’t Doomed

mix Buzzfeed‘s “23 Things that Prove Society is Doomed” with Salon‘s “War & Peace on the Subway: How Your iPhone is Saving Literature,” then angle it through my publicists’ rose-colored glasses, and you end up with something a lot  like: 1. Sitting together and reading still counts as socializing: ↳ Via, once upon a time. 2. It’s considered polite not to read over your date’s shoulder: ↳ Used to be via 3. Fill the steps between class and the bus stop with a book: ↳ I wonder if these kids know they’re in the original of this image from 4. Books, for all the many time-outs and half-times of the sporting events you attend: ↳ Somebody here forgot their book . . . (Originally via  5. “There’s such a glare in here, we’re all having to hold our phones at odd angles to see the pages of these books”: ↳ Used to be from, but the internet broke because the URL was too long. 10. Sometimes chivalry is a race. She’s trying to gift him the book before he can buy it himself: ↳ Originally via, which has to be either a radio station or a cigarette. 11. Sure, Thomas Cole is good, but if you want zombies, you’re going to have crack a book open: ↳ Originally via  12. When you don’t know what to say, maybe a book can help: ↳ Used to be via And no, I’m not getting paid for the product placement. Though I am now thirsty. 16. They’re reading so fast  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]

Reeling in the Years

Back in the late nineties, I’d see Stephen Dixon stories all over and flip back to his author bio at the end of the journal or whatever not because I didn’t already know it, but for the rush: it always said he had some three hundred stories published. I had maybe six at the time? Three hundred was an amazing, impossible, never-get-there kind of number. And I’m not there yet. This isn’t that post. Though I did just total up my stories from print- and e-mags and anthologies and best-of-the-years and textbooks, meaning there’s some doubling, even some tripling, and maybe a ‘forthcoming’ or three sneaked in (I did manage not to count novel chapters that ran in different places, anyway), but still, sitting at 201, looks like. Since my first publication in Black Warrior Review back in 1996 (well, ‘first’ would be this little mag MindPurge, then there was North Texas Review. But BWR was the first I got a check for. And checks matter). Still chasing Dixon, though. And, as anybody who’s ever requested a bio from me knows, that’s the thing I suck at the most. I’d far rather just write another story. Or make up a bio. Just because I can’t keep track. But, near as I can tell, here’s the count as of early March, 2014: fifteen novels (just counting ATBS once, though it’s now two way-separate novels, and including Not for Nothing, already on some shelves), five collections, one e-novella that’s soon to be print, and another novella going  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]

Scared Straight: The Conjuring

I keep thinking about these two kids who left the theater early. Say, ten minutes shy of the end, right when things were at their goriest, most sacrilegious frenzy. I mean, first and of course, eight- and ten-year-old girls shouldn’t be seeing The Conjuring. Boys either. I’m not even sure I was old enough to see The Conjuring, really. But I did stick it out all the same, and, because I stayed, I was processed through the horror. I saw the daylight at the end of the tunnel, and I moved toward it. Not those two girls. When their parent or sister or whoever it was finally got responsible and shepherded them out, it was only after they’d had all these images grafted onto their psyches forever. For them, now, this family’s still in that haunted house, the evil’s still out there, the nightmare’s never over. So, parents: if you take your kids to a horror movie for some insane reason, please, don’t wimp out three quarters of the way through? I don’t think that promotes restful sleep. Anyway, yes, The Conjuring. Yes yes yes The Conjuring.  It’s cool to watch the pendulum swing in horror, isn’t it? Last year’s breakout horror was Cabin in the Woods, which was crazy and fun and smart and aware of itself—it was every bit Scream’s inheritor, and put the slasher on everybody’s map again. This year, however, we’ve got The Conjuring dark-horsing The Lone Ranger, of all things. And, The Conjuring, while it definitely shares some stuff with  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]

Cabin in the Woods intro/extro

[ this is the script of the pre- and post-words I gave for a charity event Cabin-screening Friday night, down in Manitou Springs ]   wolf kisses and bear traps The slasher. We can all make a list of our ten favorite, yes? Which of course we consider the ten best. So . . . that list starts where? Psycho, Peeping Tom? Bay of Blood? Maybe, maybe not. Definitely Black Christmas in seventy-four, anyway. And let’s not forget Texas Chain Saw Massacre from that same year, which gave us a mask, that all-important signature weapon. And you can’t ignore Jaws, either. Which, no, didn’t involve masks or signature weapons, unless teeth can count, but there was plenty of stalking the nearly naked, there was plenty of blood, plenty of looking through the killer’s eyes, and, for about the first time, plenty of what would become so important exactly four years later: theme music. A lot of people say seventy-eight’s the real birth of the slasher, anyway. And maybe they’re right. That’s when it got codified, anyway. Which is to say that’s when John Carpenter gathered together and pioneered a set of suspense techniques and narrative developments and character types that, with people trying to clone Halloween’s success, got turned into conventions, into, as Randy would say in Scream nearly twenty years later, a list of rules, a formula. And that’s a formula we’ve all benefited from, isn’t it? Plug a killer into a group of licentious teens, and wait for the least licentious of them to not just  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]

e-booking: a summation

Just a rough list of the e-book issues I can think of. And, I should say up top here that I’m pretty much addicted to my Kindle. So this isn’t an attack on e-books (which — a lot of of those are taking the form of nostalgia, right? like when we went from cassettes to CDs?). At the same time, I see nothing wrong with the already-proven technology of the paper book; I’m fairly addicted to them as well. And, yes, a lot of times this pro/con argument, it’s eviling up e-books in defense of brick & mortar bookstores, yes? So I discount most of those. I’m all for bookstores, of course, but I’m also all for the on-line retailers, or direct-purchasing from the press itself (makes them more money). Anyway, enough preamble: How e-books are changing publishing: ‘print run’ is no longer that useful a term book contracts don’t hedge against returns as aggressively ‘remainders’ and warehousing aren’t issues anymore advance reading copies work differently covers matter less, as most readers start you at page 1 (often even skipping the epigraph and TOC and dedication, which kind of sucks). though, as for the retailers’ listings on the digital ‘bookshelf,’ yes, the cover matters there collectibility and signatures aren’t so much an issue marginilia (your own scribbles in the book) are significantly more difficult, thus, less instinctive footnotes more or less suck, digitially (a roll-over pop-up would be far preferable) innovative typography’s undependable, e-reader to e-reader the blurbs on the back cover, which sometimes give you  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]

A Dog-like Individual: on Teen Wolf

Adolescence and lycanthropy are the chocolate and peanut butter of the horror world. All this strange body hair, an insatiable appetite, late hours,  sleeping at all the wrong times, nights you can’t really remember, can only piece together flashes of. A pretty sincere distrust of what are seeming to be your instincts, and everybody looking at you like they know, so that you feel pressured to only hang out with your pack, with who you can trust, those who share your affliction. Uncontrollable drooling. Your body’s asserting itself, reminding you that you’re an animal. So, the same way that we tell ourselves ourselves zombie stories to deal with the looming specter of our own mortality, we’ve been telling ourselves werewolf stories to try to navigate our own various liminal states. Werewolf stories poke and prod at the boundaries of what it means to be human, what it means to change, and, after the crib, where we change the most, that’s high school, isn’t it? It’s where we figure out who we are, who we don’t want to be. So, yeah, the hook of 1957’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf — a redundant title, yes? — was that this Michael Landon kid’s going all Lon Chaney in the halls, but, unlike The Wolf Man (1941), he’s using lycanthropy to navigate his social space, a dynamic that really came into its own with 1985’s Teen Wolf update, where Michael J. Fox can, with his newfound wolf powers, suddenly slam the basketball, win the game, become the hero  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]

Tonight’s Cage Match: Fiction

not based on a true story So I read more fiction than non-fiction. It’s a moral failing, I know: I prefer the make-believe. Too, though, I mean I write fiction. Makes sense to read it, yeah? Where else am I going to learn technique, cue into little narrative shuffles this or that writer pulled off, all that? To take it a little further, if I want to be part of the ‘dialogue’ of fiction, then I need to be listening to what the other writers are saying. But this starts to feel like rationalization just real fast. Really, with me, I think it’s just that contemporary non-fiction doesn’t deal much in werewolves or aliens or zombies, all elements I think pretty vital to a good story (here’s the recipe: alien werewolf beams down to earth, dies, then comes back as a zombie. sprinkle liberally with laser guns and cool music). Which is itself probably just a leftover from the fifth grade, when stories were or at least had the poetential to be cool, whereas essays were inherently boring, as they felt just a suspiciously lot like learning. Nevermind that, if there was a girl on the cover, the chances of her wearing a chain mail bikini were exceedingly low. There’s a bit more to it, though, I admit. Pretty regularly, somebody, in suggesting a book to me, will preface it with how they ‘know how I feel about non-fiction,’ but still, I should maybe give this one a try. And I bring this on myself,  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]

The Ruins: Poison Ivy (postdate:2008)

In Five Words or Less: Boring title, good movie. In More than Five Words, with / without spoilers: In 1998, Sam Raimi adapted Scott Smith’s debut sensation A Simple Plan (1993) for us, and, though a lot of the narrator’s nuances were lost in the compression, still, Smith had written a strong enough dramatic spine that his story survived the transition, and made Paramount some money. Ten years later, now, Ron Howard has adapted Smith’s sophomore novel The Ruins to the screen, and though he didn’t have a Billy Bob Thornton to anchor the cast, still, the finished product is perhaps even more compelling. Not to slight Howard here either, but it’s really Smith that deserves the credit for this, as The Ruins, though a largely ‘internal’ novel (as was A Simple Plan—it was Hank’s desperate rationalizing which led us to identify with him), owes a lot more to Aristotle’s rules of drama than most novels on the shelf: it’s got unity of place (one hill); unity of time (three days); and economy of character (six). Which, yes, should tell you something. To back up a bit first. Why would Howard be given this project? Granted, that’s a backwards question—really, it should be, after The Da Vinci Code and Cinderella Man and A Beautiful Mind, why wouldn’t Howard be given this guaranteed success?—but bear with me for a bit. Because I think it has something to do with marketing, with the image the studio wanted for The Ruins. And of course you only push one  . . . → → →[ READ MORE ]