Archive for the ‘select’ Category

Reeling in the Years

Published by SGJ on March 5th, 2014 - in craft, news, select

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  . . . → → →

Scared Straight: The Conjuring

Published by SGJ on August 5th, 2013 - in movies/tv, select

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  . . . → → →

Cabin in the Woods intro/extro

Published by SGJ on July 1st, 2013 - in movies/tv, select

[ 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  . . . → → →

Look What the Cat Dragged In

Published by SGJ on January 9th, 2012 - in music, select, SGJ

Don’t be afraid to embrace a song, or how it makes you feel. Remember the person you were when it touched you, or where you were — Brian Azzarello At the end of December 2011, I finally read Robert McCammon’s A Boy’s Life. One of the more amazing reading experiences I’ve had—maybe I’d somehow known to save it for the month before I turned forty? Anyway, somewhere in it the grown-up narrator says how important it is to always keep listening to the new music, how that keeps you alive in a very important way, and then he goes on to list a lot of bands I’d never consider listening to. It flashed me back to one of CJ Box’s Joe Pickett books, where Joe’s daughter accuses him of getting off the music train at one comfortable station, and never going anywhere else, and what we get from this is that Joe’s kind of stubborn and stuck, is afraid to move forward, is using what he grew up with like a security blanket. And then, on the radio some recent Sunday morning, a DJ was playing this clip of a Michael Stipe interview, where he was saying the day Patti Smith’s Horses dropped, he listened to it all night, ate a bowl of cherries, threw up, and was never the same again, that he knew now what he wanted to do, to be. It really hit me, that. I mean, not the Patti Smith—I just had to look up how to spell her name (the obvious  . . . → → →

e-booking: a summation

Published by SGJ on June 28th, 2011 - in bookish, select

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  . . . → → →

A Dog-like Individual: on Teen Wolf

Published by SGJ on June 15th, 2011 - in etc, movies/tv, select

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  . . . → → →

Tonight’s Cage Match: Fiction

Published by SGJ on December 30th, 2009 - in bookish, craft, select

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,  . . . → → →

The Ruins: Poison Ivy (postdate:2008)

Published by SGJ on December 30th, 2009 - in bookish, select

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  . . . → → →

Where the Camopede Roam

Published by SGJ on August 3rd, 2008 - in craft, select, SGJ

Though The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti‘s not officially released until early September, it looks to be slipping through Amazon already. And that seems to me to be a good time to explain it a bit. Or, not explain it, but explain around it. And not like this, but with this running journal-thing (my first ever) I kept for the seventy-two hours it took me to write it. That Three-Day Novel Contest, yep. Which, if I could find a way to make a living doing one of those every weekend, then I guess I’d do pretty well for about a year, at which point I’d of course have to die. Anyway, the week after that contest, I read this journal-thing, and my knee-jerk reaction — pretending, say, I was reading a journal-thing somebody else had been keeping — was that something wasn’t right. At some very fundamental level. And also I kind of knew that I shouldn’t show to this to anybody. Nevertheless. Here it is. All I’ve done’s correct a couple of typos, pretty much, and erase one name, so as to protect the innocent: My 3-Day Novel Journal Days -6 through 0: —  read no fiction, write no fiction, knowingly listen to no fiction. Day -1: —  3pm: hand-deliver contest registration to post office, then make sure the postage is right for Canada, then mail it and become absolutely certain I’ve again forgotten to sign the check. —  9pm: finally, while reading HORTON HEARS A WHO, figure out all at once what the  . . . → → →

This Much I Know Is True Works

Published by SGJ on February 20th, 2008 - in craft, select

So a while back, I started a list like this but it got all out of hand, yeah, turned into that House of Fiction thing, which was really just a version of this other post, I suppose. When all I really wanted was something short, to pin up by my monitor, help me keep it between the lines, all that. Except of course writing ‘rules,’ I mean, Vonnegut‘s laid them down, Elmore Leonard‘s done it, Twain‘s got them, Palahniuk‘s messed around with it, and Orwell has too, and of course Stephen King has. And then there’s stuff like this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and of course this, and I agree with just about all of it (except the bad talk about mutants; sand mutants rule), even down to stealing some of them (‘incorporating’), but still, I guess, am either vain enough or blind enough — and I’m thinking vanity and blindness aren’t that unrelated, really — to think that I have to have my own list. Maybe just for me, for that little empty space by my monitor. Something like this: 1) Start as close to the end as possible. 2) Don’t get too fancy. 3) Don’t be smart. 4) Only ever tell us what we can’t already assume. 5) The main character has to be in some kind of jeopardy. 6) Always remember that your audience can walk away at any point, even while thumbing through a table of contents. Don’t let them. 7) Endings are earned, not rigged. And  . . . → → →

© stephen graham jones