What April Was, and Is Still Being

Published by SGJ on April 14th, 2014 - in news

Man, the links and updates get away from me. I can usually remember to stuff them to the right, here, under Interviews/Stories/Off-Site, but I don’t always remember to put them here. So, doing it now, here. What I can recall from the last two weeks or so (will try to make all the images links):              

Not all Births are Pretty

Published by SGJ on April 11th, 2014 - in movies/tv

We need a new designation: there’s movies about the apocalypse, and all our valiant efforts to stop it from happening, from Armageddon to The Hunt for Red October, and then there’s the post-apocalyptic stories, from Mad Max to The Book of Eli and way beyond. There’s stories that are kind of both, too, like Twelve Monkeys and Terminator, where the apocalypse has ‘already’ happened but can still be undone. Adding time-travel to the mix kind of escapes these movies from the usual taxonomy, though. Then there’s movies like The Divide, which is a title I initially didn’t go for, as it seemed too thematic and portentious, and maybe not catchy enough. Now that I’ve seen The Divide, though, I get it: it’s a story that’s straddling that thin line between the apocalypse and what comes after. That thin, bloody line, I should say. That violent, dark, messy, inevitable place between the way it was and the way it is now. This is where The Divide lives. No, this is where it seethes. And, the odd thing is, for most of the first act, you’re pretty sure you’ve seen this movie: a screaming comes across the sky, resets civilization, and, like rats scurrying across the deck of a sinking ship, a ragged, random group of society’s leftovers dive for the last safe place. Like we see over and over in The Walking Dead, then, a group dynamic establishes itself, and power struggles cause that dynamic to crumble over and over again, Lord of the Flies style.  . . . → → →

Real or Memorex?

Published by SGJ on March 28th, 2014 - in movies/tv

Ten Bulletpoints re: Oculus 1) This is probably from The Exorcist, but where I remember it from is Hysterical: one priest telling another not to listen, that the devil will lie to you. But then one of the Hudson brother’s pants are actually at his ankles. It wasn’t a lie, surprise. If you could turn that into a feature-length movie—and you can—then you’ve got Oculus, pretty much. 2) Horror lately is really getting good at making its ghost-women kind of legit-creepy, yes? I thought Mama made its ghost-woman about as scary as could be—just visually disturbing, and moving something like that ghost-girl from Stir of Echoes—but this Pennywise-eyed ghost-lady in Oculus, she’s Mama‘s cousin, I’d say. Or maybe they’re all taking from Legion, what with the CGI-jaws kind of dropping inhumanly low? Not sure. But it works, and in the same way the Grays from X-Files did: by stranding us between recognition and revulsion. That face has all the same features, but it’s wrong, too, isn’t it? Isn’t it? 3) Mirrors are to horror as peanut-butter is to chocolate. First time a mirror in  horror really got to me, I suppose, was Skeleton Key. But this mirror in Oculus, it’s more like the Erised Harry gets entranced by in The Sorceror’s Stone, yes? Or maybe a horror reference will be more on-point: Supernatural 1.19, the one with the haunted painting with a ba-ad history. But, tempting as it would be, Oculus never becomes an episode. It stays a feature—possibly a first installment, but still, the story’s  . . . → → →

After the People Lights Have Gone Off

Published by SGJ on March 20th, 2014 - in books2

Fifteen horror stories: Introduction: Joe R. Lansdale Thirteen Brushdogs Welcome to the Reptile House This is Love The Spindly Man The Black Sleeve of Destiny The Spider Box (original) Snow Monsters Doc’s Story The Dead Are Not Xebico Second Chances (original) After the People Lights Have Gone Off Uncle Solve for X “If I’ve read better horror writers than Jones, I’ve forgotten them. He’s at the apex of his game. After the People Lights Have Gone Off is the kind of collection that lodges in your brain like a malignant grain of an evil dream. And it’s just going to be there, forever.” —Laird Barron, author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All   Pub date: October 2014 Pre-order

Not for Nothing: the Dirt

Published by SGJ on March 18th, 2014 - in craft

I wrote Not for Nothing right on the heels of a second read of Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress. And that read was because the movie showed up on some ninety-nine cent shelf, to remind me, to impress me, to lure me. And I’ve been telling anybody who asked that that was probably right around 2006 — I was pretty sure Not for Nothing was the last novel I wrote before Flushboy, in 2007. Just looked at the timestamps on the old files, though, and: And that’s kind of forever ago. Specifically, going by that date, it’s right about here, when I was carrying Spillane around in my pocket all the time: And, when I wrote it, I was pretty sure I was the first to pull off this second-person PI shuffle. But ‘first’ only matters if you say it out loud, right? Robert Coover beat me to the punch with his Noir in 2010, which broke my heart in all the usual ways. But, really, of course there’d been second-person PI stuff before that, in the choose-your-own-adventures mines. So we both got beat, I figure (but I got beat a lot worse). As for why Coover did it, I can’t say. As for why I did it, I half-suspect I cribbed the trick from those occasional drops into the rhetorical second-person you get in the old stuff, the Spillane and Marlowe and Chandler; when those narrators want to get really gritty but are trying to hide it so as to be not quite so abrasive, they can  . . . → → →

The Rashomon Effect

Published by SGJ on March 10th, 2014 - in craft

I’m pretty sure the first rashomon I ever saw, at least the first where the on-the-fly construction of the story really set me back on my heels, was this one: After that I was hooked. Completely. Forever. Happily. Now I keep a running list of rashomon stuff, which I’ll annotate below some. But it also strikes me that every single first-person story is basically being told as ‘counter’ to the version that ‘really’ happened. Yes? Or undercutting it, embellishing it, fleshing it out—taking whatever rhetorical strategy is necessary for our estimation of this narrator to be ‘good’ rather than ‘bad.’ I mean, in the stories that are obviously rashomon, each character’s version of events is that wonderful kind of selecting an offense that anticipates the defense, yes? From Nick Carroway to Patrick Bateman, there’s not a single narrator we can trust. And that indeterminacy, that’s where fiction lives. Without it the process of creating a narrative is really just stacking bulletpoints one after the next. Without self-aggrandizing selection, we’re left with the illusion of non-fiction. Which can be fun in itself—those are fertile grounds to lie in, if you can adopt the right ‘journalistic’ pose, and keep from grinning too obviously, and if you don’t get seduced by research or correspondence to facts or, though I hesitate, “truth”—but what I’m talking about here is conflict. That’s what’s at the heart of every rashomon. As readers, we know almost immediately that all of these versions can’t be the way it really went down. They’re not just  . . . → → →

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  . . . → → →

States of Grace

Published by SGJ on January 8th, 2014 - in books2

Exactly fifty stories, none longer than a thousand words, a couple just a sentence or two. SpringGun  |  SPD  |  LitReactor  |  Do Some Damage   If we had to choose one writer to rebuild American literature after the apocalypse, the smart money would be on Stephen Graham Jones, who is in the process of reinventing literally every genre from the ground up. In States of Grace he offers up lean, deftly composed short-shorts that seem effortless but inflict a surprising amount of mayhem considering their size—like a deadly gang of smurfs.  – Brian Evenson    

Z Lives

Published by SGJ on January 7th, 2014 - in craft

I can’t remember if I wrote The Gospel of Z right before or right after The Least of My Scars. They were right next to each other, anyway. Oh, yeah: I wrote the first draft of Z before Scars, then the next draft after Scars. I’m pretty sure. And, it wasn’t the first zombie thing I’d written. My first zombie novel was It Came from Del Rio. Which I’m thinking was 05, maybe? -ish? I know I did Zombie Bake-Off in 07, anyway. And, coming into both of them, I knew nothing about zombies. I mean, I’d seen the zombie movies, of course, and read some of the stories, but I hadn’t thought about the zombie in any real way. This is probably why Dodd in Del Rio has a bunny head, and keeps a journal. And why the zombies in Zombie Bake-Off are molting into stage after stage: I was making it all up as I went. It was the same with The Gospel of Z. With that first draft, anyway. Which was huge-long and twice and three different kinds of unwieldy. I’d given myself no page-cap, so just kept throwing down word-as-patches, as you do, and the story kept going and going and going. What I was doing, I realize now, was world-building: going down each blind alley of this post-apocalypse, then backing my way out, looking to map the next portion of the terrain. That doesn’t make for a tight, compelling story, though. Obviously. The people I gave that draft to either  . . . → → →

The Elvis Room

Published by SGJ on November 19th, 2013 - in books2

a novella What if you weren’t looking for evidence of the supernatural, but found it all the same? A true research scientist can either hide that evidence or tell the world. Either way it’s going to haunt you. Either way your life is never going to be same. Find out what’s always on the other side of the door. It’s the Elvis Room. pre-order  |  Amazon  |  first word  |  Goats in the Machine  |  Shadowlocked  |  Popcorn Horror  |  LitReactor  |  Booked Podcast    |  DreadCentral  |  Tor.com    

© stephen graham jones