Friday, May 30, 2008

Dante Timeline

Here's the timeline I'm putting at the front of Valley of the Dead:

Timeline of Dante’s Life

1265 Born in Florence, Italy

1274 Sees Beatrice Portinari for the first time

1283 Marries Gemma Donati, with whom he has four children

1289 Fights in the Battle of Campaldino

1290 Beatrice dies

1292 Begins writing The New Life (La Vita Nuova)

1295 Joins the guild of apothecaries and begins to be active in Florentine

1302 Banished from Florence under pain of being burned alive

1302-1319 Exact whereabouts unknown

1321 Dies in Ravenna, Italy

Of course, the crucial entry that sets everything up is the "whereabouts unknown" one!

Official Release Date

The official release date for Dying to Live: Life Sentence has been set as October 25, with a launch at ZombieFest in Monroeville, PA!

New LOTT-D Post

Fellow League of Tana Tea Drinkers member Max Cheney (no relation, I hope!) posts a rare interview with actor David Patrick Kelly:

Be sure to check it out.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Send up of the Parody of the Exaggeration of the Insult

Or something like that!

Horror fans have a skunk stripe of anti-intellectualism that, like Pepe Le Pew's, does not easily wash off like the poor lady, black cat who squeezed under a freshly-painted white fence at the beginning of the cartoon. This got out of hand on the Shocklines forum with a thread that has (at the moment) stopped at TWENTY-FRICKIN-FOUR PAGES, slamming any lit crit type who would try to analyze or evaluate popular horror fiction. A few of us pointy-headed types jumped in and started criticizing the anti-intellectuals, one of whom retaliated in full melt down fashion by (among many other things) denying that evolution was real, and we were all a bunch of Godless atheists, jealous of the success of hard-working, Christian, conservative writers and their simple, unadorned prose. Then the wag over at Up from the Underground did his spoof of it. That's the background, though the whole debate has been ongoing for a long time.

Oh No! The Suspense!

Took the big step and sent sample chapters to a literary agent (virtually the only way to secure a contract at a big publisher). As I looked them over, in good authorly/artist fashion, I became completely convinced that I'm a talentless loser and will never amount to anything and I might as well forget it. But, I sent them anyway (my insecurities do not paralyze me as thoroughly as they do many others). So we'll see!

A Different View of Christianity

Wow, I hadn't heard of this dude till a friend sent me the link, but I think he's got the right idea:

We got such a skewed, one-sided view of Christianity in this country, in the media and in the popular culture's depiction of Christians, that a voice like his is so refreshing. When I was at the Cornerstone Festival last year, we saw some of this side of the church, but it definitely isn't as visible, loud, and obnoxious as the religious right.

Updating the Classics

I was thinking about the process involved in writing my Dante novel. (I also did a short story that was a retelling of one chapter of Moby-Dick, but moved into the Lovecraftian universe of Cthulhu, it'll soon be out in Cthulhu Unbound.) What's fun and challenging about the exercise is that it makes the author revisit and rethink what he thinks is important and interesting in the original classic, and think how to move that into a different idiom. And even (gasp!) at some few points, what he might find lacking or deficient in the original, and how he would change that. It gives me new appreciation, both for the classic, and for artists like, say, Kurosawa, who could update and revision other people's work very effectively to create new art.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Burned Alive

It's the scene I'm writing now. Never having undergone the experience, it's all imagination, but it's very strong, symbolically, a lot of images of hell and eroticism.

Shocking Allegations!

That's the phrase CNN keeps shouting at me this morning from the other room, in reference to McClellan's statements. Shocking? To whom, at this point? I suppose I'm a little shocked that he'd actually come out and say it, as opposed to stonewalling right on through to his deathbed, but people do sometimes develop a conscience and some guilt at the part they've played in a tragedy. So, good for him.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What Do YOU Like about The Inferno?

I was thinking this morning, both based on my teaching of Dante's poem and my current attempt to retell it, about what elements would carry over to the retelling, and what elements people like or remember from when they read the original. So I thought I'd ask. Here are the main categories of images and characters in the original, and which would carry over:

The Punishments. The whole conceit on which the retelling is based is that Dante actually saw this shit happen in real life, so it's just a matter of how to depict the gruesome violence w/o the mythological and Christian trappings. "Deallegorizing" you might say, or "demythologizing," to hearken all the way back to my grad school days when I first read Bultmann.

The Guides. Dante's interaction with his guides (Virgil, Beatrice, and St. Bernard) and with one fellow traveller (Statius) carry a lot of the narrative, and especially for Virgil and Beatrice, it's where a lot of the heavy-duty theorizing comes in, as they have long talks about whatever scholastic topic Dante wants to address at that point. Dante will also have three fellow travellers in the retelling, and two of them roughly correspond to Virgil and Beatrice, so I'm mostly keeping this intact as well.

The Sinners. Dante talks to a representative sinner in each circle. This is where I'm having trouble seeing how or whether this will carry over, since the people suffering in the retelling are not necessarily sinners, but more often victims of what's going on around them. I'm thinking that's where the sin will come in - people are suffering in these particular ways because of what they or others have done (lust, violence, betrayal, deceit, etc.). I was also wondering how important it is that Dante interacts with famous people in the original (mythological, historical, or contemporary). Since most of these allusions are lost on modern readers anyway, I'm thinking it won't be a big lack in the retelling.

Fear Zone Review

I posted Gabrielle's review before it was published on FearZone, but now it's LIVE, as they say:

Greg's got a great lookin' site and I'm thrilled to be featured back on there.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Horror of Pregnant Women

While penning my next opus, I have already introduced a pregnant woman into the narrative. It's practically a running gag of my stories, that there's always a pregnant woman in them. But, let's not dismiss me too quickly. In zombie films alone, the pregnant woman has a tradition as venerable as perhaps the ultimate zombie heroine, Fran in Dawn of the Dead. Add to that the horrible scenes of alien birthing in the Alien franchise, or in The Thing, It's Alive, or The Brood.

So, what's up with pregnant women?

I have nothing too outlandish to offer, but I'd make a couple observations.

First, unless one works in the medical profession, and especially in trauma, birth is one of the few times you're going to see that much blood and other fluids flying around (and yes, they are airborn for parts of the process), or when you'll see so much excruciating pain, and pain in someone you know and like. And all of this is conflicted, as you're supposed to be happy at a birth, yet the woman is screaming in agony. So a birth scene and all the conflicted and scary feelings that go along with it is more real to us than a scene of torture or dismemberment, since for most all of us, those exist solely in our imagination.

Of course, usually in horror movies, this very natural, beautiful scene goes horribly awry. This increases the terror, by presenting it as a perversion of something beautiful. This is increased even more, because all of us who have witnessed a birth have memories of how tense and anxious we were during the process, with all our fears of what "normal" things can go wrong - never mind aliens, demons, or zombies bursting from the gal's guts.

And that anxiety points to one final observation. Even before the birth, even without the horrible twist that ends in monstrosity and death, a pregnant woman is somehow a liminal and hybrid being - two people at once, fully alive and potentially alive, but with something that might kill the host in the process, and all of this while being filled with hormones that can send her into uncontrolled furies (designed, probably, to help her defend her young from adult males who would be inclined to kill and eat them, the way lions do). I think a pregnant woman really can only be an object of numinous awe at the mystery and fragility of life.

And good horror, at least, traffics in the same intuitions of numinous awe - at life, death, beauty and pain.

New Poll!

To the right, and here! Help me entitle my next novel!

I guess I should give some rationales for the choices.

Valley of the Dead has the whole "...Of the Dead" tag quality of all zombie films/fiction.

Valley of the Damned is good because, well, Dante's all about people being damned. It does have a slightly odd, 70s B movie sound to it, though.

Valley of the Doomed - I don't know, it sounds kind of nice, and all the people there are doomed.

Damnation Valley just embraces and advertises the B movie angle and I think it's a hoot.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Indiana Jones

Meh. Presentable action flick. A lot like either of the two National Treasure films, with less puzzle solving and more unbelievable action sequences with physics and gravity calculated by Wile E. Coyote. Oh, and a healthy dose of CGI bugs and disintegrating people a la The Mummy. Come to think of it, kind of a great big pastiche, all in all. Oh, and bringing Indy up to the 1950s and having him survive an atomic blast while being investigated as a possible red, after a long, successful career as a frickin' government agent?! About like bringing Sherlock Holmes up to investigate the Oklahoma City bombing. Doesn't feel right. Especially since the best known Cold War agent nails every woman he sees, and Indy's sexual scruples would make any Victorian proud at their chastity and discretion.

So, remember - Iron Man remains far and away the one to beat this summer. Previews? The Dark Knight one is showing a lot more of Dent and Batman and it's looking more and more intriguing. Also, I'm not sure Hancock will be anything but vulgar and stupid, but the preview made it look kinda funny and appropriately tongue in cheek.

Death of the Critic

Great little discussion of a new book, The Death of the Critic, by Ronan McDonald. (Thanks to Scott for alerting me to it over on Shocklines.)

As someone coming to fiction writing after a long career as an interpreter/critic, I definitely see the value of the critic, and would lament his death. I do think that the democratization of the process is a big obstacle to its continued success and relevance, but, like the discussants, I don't think it's insurmountable, and I do think there will always be readers, and all readers can be (not necessarily ARE, but CAN BECOME) intelligent, discerning readers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

First, Big Step!

Took it finally! I've been thinking of and outlining several novels at once, but nothing was getting written down. So I sat down and tried a first chapter for one, to get the process going. This will begin Valley of the Dead: The Real Story of the Inferno, in which Dante fights zombies! (Two of my favorite things, together!!) Let me know what you think! (And yes, I know you're supposed to not start with exposition, but with an action sequence, but that is one of those rules I just don't agree with.)

Chapter 1

Dante was not lost in a dark wood. A forest sulked silently far off to his left. Beyond that, enormous, black mountains rose up, angular and defiant. But the road where Dante sat astride his grey horse was awash with sunlight on that autumn morning. It might have seemed cheery, were he given to such a mood that day – though like most of his days since being driven from Florence, he was not. But even neglecting the rider’s dour mood, the whole countryside seemed to lack something: light abundantly overflowed, but there were no sounds beyond the horse’s footfalls – and even these seemed small and muffled, though the horse was a big, plodding beast – no smells, and the air didn’t carry to Dante’s tongue the woodsy tang it should at that time of year. He looked to the mountaintops and thought it right to withhold joy from a scene so unnatural, flat, and soulless.

Dante was also not midway through our life’s journey. He had been wandering Europe for several years already, and he had started his exile at age thirty-seven. So even with the rather generous, biblical estimate that our lifespan is set at three-score and ten, he had more years behind him than ahead of him. But a life of exile had its own, special indignities that could age a soulful, sensitive man like Dante even quicker, making him more weary and despondent than a happy and content man would be at a much more advanced age. Most days, Dante felt very old indeed.

Never a handsome man to begin with, sometimes when he saw his face since leaving Italy, Dante wondered if its ugliness had been exacerbated and turned inward to fester and poison him in some more permanent, irreparable way. Often when he contemplated the afterlife – or even worse, the resurrection, with its more complete, perfected forms of retribution – this fear froze him and all he could do was repeat the prayers of childhood, the mantras of innocence and hope that corresponded so little to frightened, cynical middle age. For it turned out that crawling to some petty potentate’s frigid, ramshackle castle to beg for supper was the least onerous or embarrassing part of Dante’s new lifestyle. Far more demeaning and debilitating was the dance of dependency and sycophancy that would then ensue, the doggerel he’d have to write for the ruler and his court, celebrating all their munificence, bravery, and nobility: given how meager were their various accomplishments, Dante had to take poetic license all the way to outright, culpable lies in order to compose the verses they wanted, and for which they would tolerate and support him. And dear God, if they fell in “love” and required poetry to aid them in their pathetic quests to copulate like the beasts they mostly were: that had to be the worst of all – the actual, literal whoring of ideas and beauty, so that others could pander and seduce in their ugly, wretched flesh. There is humility, and then there is humiliation; worse, there is the humiliation one actively longs for, pursues, and embraces, like a dog returning to its own vomit. That was Dante’s life, and he loathed himself for it.

If there had at least been the satisfaction of being able to produce something good, true, and beautiful, while whoring himself to these illiterate barbarians, it might almost have seemed worth it – a kind of devil’s bargain, in which the value of his “real” art would outweigh and counterbalance all the sinful trash he was forced to produce in order to survive. Dante had thought like that at first, as the exact contours of his life in exile became clearer to him, but lately it had seemed like a useless evasion. Better just to own up to the sinful wretch he had become and beg the Lord to forgive and heal him.

On that nondescript road on that featureless day, Dante once again burned with shame at the compromises, lies, and pandering he had willfully perpetrated in the name of survival, knowing these were far worse and more culpable than any of his wrath against that monster Boniface, or even for his blinding arrogance at his own talent, for which he was sometimes not sufficiently grateful to God. He prayed to God for punishment for all such affronts against Him – not with the hope of childish prayers, but with the steady, sober resignation of middle age.

Dante dragged the gaze of his small, hard eyes from the mountaintops and fixed them on the road ahead. And on that day without savor, Dante finally smelled something: he smelled smoke. Not the pressing, earthy smoke of burning wood and leaves, not the heady, rich smoke of roasting meat. Those kinds of smoke would be black, and their odors would be alive. Up ahead to the right, the smoke was white, thin, and sickly, and its smell was dense but piercing, something raspy and malignant. That silent day was then filled with similarly harsh, diseased sounds – an explosion, shouts, and the high, long shriek of a woman. For all his harsh judgment of himself, Dante was no coward, and he automatically nudged his horse with his heels, urging it ahead faster.

The stench increased and the tumult rose as Dante rode forward, though the intensity and clarity of the sun did not change in any way at all.

Self Publishing (Again)

The long, arduous trek of someone who learned the hard way:

(I don't remember what PA now calls their form of publishing - "subsidy" or some such obfuscation - but it boils down to self-publishing.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

LOTTD Roundtable

Another activity of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers will be roundtables, featuring comments from several of us around a central topic. This week marks the first, a discussion of torture porn:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Guest Post

As part of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers, group members will be posting guest blog entries by other members of the League. This week's comes from Arbogast on Film ( For my regular, gentle readers, please note it's much longer than my usual blog entries, but I found the analysis quite engaging, and I hope you enjoy it:

There Will Be Blood Libel

My first reaction upon seeing photos of the cast of the 2008 remake of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was "Funny, they don't look Jewish."

I consider Wes Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) to be one of the great unintentional blood libels of the latter half of the 20th Century. I don't think for a minute that Craven is anti-Semitic but rather that he, like all of us, carries with him learned associations that exist apart from his conscious mind.  Just as David Lynch has in the past identified a sense of evil in effeminacy (BLUE VELVET) and ethnicity (WILD AT HEART), Wes Craven particularizes in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT his perception of pure evil with a distinctly Hebraic flavor. Though none of the characters identify themselves explicitly as being Jewish, David Hess' Krug is depicted as an obnoxious cigar-smoking "Jew Yorker" whose perpetual stubble, curly hair, olive-colored skin and outer borough accent code him as an obvious Heeb. Add to that, Krug has been convicted for the killing of a Catholic priest and two nuns.

Cast in the role of Krug's accomplice, Weasel Podowski, Fred J. Lincoln wears the slate-colored hair and slack suit of a Lower East Side alter cocker while both Jeramie Rain (as Sadie, a common Jewish name that also brings to mind Manson killer Susan Atkins, aka Sadie Mae Glutz) and Marc Sheffler (as Krug's schlemiel of a son, Junior) have "difficult" ethnic hair. Weasel's rap sheet identifies him as a child molester, which fits the historical blood libel that slandered Jews as sacrificers of children. The quartet is shown to be "animal-like," to inhabit a dirty tenement (a dwelling associated with foreigners) and, while transporting their kidnap victims from the city to the country, Krug and Sadie engage in rear-entry sex (coitus more ferarum, or "sex by way of the beasts"), a form of copulation frequently associated (however unfairly) with non-Christians.

The transition of the kidnappers/killers from the city to the country is a key element of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, illustrating an old white Anglo-Saxon fear of the contamination of suburbia's assumed purity by ethnic types (as Fairfield County, the film's location and setting, became a destination for upwardly mobile urban Jews post-World War II).  The waspy surname of one of the victims and her parents, Collingwood, is eerily similar to Sadie's imaged alias (Agatha Greenwood), suggesting that Krug & Company aspire in some part to assimilate even while they shred the very fabric of Christian society.

In the film's most disturbing sequence, Krug, Weasel and Sadie kill their captives after stripping them and humiliating them sexually.  When Phyllis tries to escape, she is run to ground, stabbed and then butchered in a scene that can't help but evoke shechita, or Jewish ritual slaughter.  Phyllis' intestines are pulled out of her oozing abdominal cavity and examined, as a shochet would do to determine if a slaughtered animal were fit to be declared kosher.  Obviously, Phyllis' disemboweling is not genuinely kosher but does suggest that Krug & Co. are operating on auto pilot, as if by collective cultural memory, in the same way that their earlier torment of Phyllis and Mari echoed the treatment of Jews bound for concentration camps.  The kidnappers seem to be maltreating their captives as a form of confused racial self-hatred, channeling ritualistic acts that both glorify and slander their ancestors.

Having killed Phylllis, Krug rapes Mari... but not before he uses a switchblade to carve his name into her sternum.  This gesture reminded me of Rabbi Lowe scratching the word "EMET" into the forehead of The Golem. (With his helmet hair, Krug even resembles Paul Wegener's iconic 1920  interpretation of THE GOLEM.)  As EMET is the Hebrew word for "truth," Krug's mutilation of Mari might be said to be his way of sending a wake-up call to WASP society, announcing both his arrival and his intention to destroy their four-square, missionary position world. (In this regard, Krug also bears a resemblance to the character of Berger from the musical HAIR, who comes to his position of iconoclastic hippie king from a distinctly urban Jewish environment.)  And can it be mere coincidence that Krug comes to his decision to shoot Mari after having overheard her reciting the Lord's Prayer, as she wades into a woodland pond in a cleansing act of self baptism?

At this point it's worth remembering that LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a remake of sorts of Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960), a Medieval morality tale set at a time when Christianity was waging war against Paganism for world and spiritual dominance.  LAST HOUSE hews closely to the VIRGIN SPRING template by having its spree killers (who pose as salesmen, and in so doing aligning themselves with Jews via the merchant class) taken in by Mari's parents, who feed them in a scene that mimics da Vinci's The Last Supper (while leaving an empty chair in the foreground - for Elijah?).  Over the course of the evening, the truth comes out and Mari's parents turn on her killers.   While the ensuing slaughter is strong stuff, the third act's oddest/most brutal bit of business is Mrs. Collingwood's oral castration of Weasel in a scene that seems to mock the Jewish rite of circumcision (thus explaining the chair left empty for Elijah).  It should also be noted that she performs this act after first using Weasel's leather belt to bind his hands in what could be construed as an allusion to the philactery, the calfskin box containing Hebraic scripture that some Jews wear strapped to their heads and wrapped around their left arms during weekday prayers.

Again, I hasten to add that I don't believe ex-Baptist Wes Craven set out to slander the Jews with LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT but the Jewishness of the killers he created cannot be ignored.  My feeling is that Craven was writing/casting/directing instinctively from a series of societal and cultural presets and prejudices.  Certainly, living and working (first as a taxi driver and then as a young filmmaker) in New York, Craven would have had plenty of negative experiences with people of all ethnic persuasions. I half suspect Krug was modeled on a particularly noxious distributor who blew fetid cigar smoke in Craven's face while cheating him out of profits.  However it all came together, these textures (real or imagined) give the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT intriguing layers of meaning.  You won't find this kind of subtext in a New Millennium remake claiming to pay homage to 70s cinema while pissing all over a glorious, difficult and demanding decade that was never afraid to get blood on its hands.

The Decline of Literary Horror

Ever since I started moving near the edge of horror circles, I kept hearing the refrain that the genre was dead (usually made into a joke in which one person accuses another of "You killed the genre!!"). But now finally I've found some detailed reporting of what all that refers to:

The first one's a short version, the second a scholarly article on it.

The short essay argues that it boils down to a phenomenon I have been able to observe on my own: horror literature apes horror films. This often results in atrocious writing, because what's scarier or evocative on film (e.g. graphic violence) isn't necessarily what's scary on the page (where descriptions of graphic violence can often be clinical, detached, sort of blah). So, with blockbuster horror movies in the 70s, horror lit tried to jump on the bandwagon, it got taken over by a bunch of hacks churning out stuff for the higher demand, then a lot of it disappeared.

The longer, more scholarly essay looks at the loss of midlist authors that occurred during the decline, overall economic downturn, and over-exploitation of the genre (including the possibility that horror is not a genre at all, which I've been wondering since I started).

So I guess I'm laboring in a much smaller market, and it's been fine so far, for my meager plans and desires.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Prince Caspian

Ugh, it's like they sucked all the life out of the first. Since the kids know their place and role in Narnia, there's no sense of wonder. It's like they just have to figure out how to manipulate the various rules of magic and tactics of warfare in order to prevail. No sense of danger, either. The brief "temptation" scene is tepid and unthreatening. The battle scenes (probably to get in a PG rating) were pretty lame too, paling after LOTR.

One bright point, which I can confirm now that I checked on IMDB and saw that Anna Popplewell (did anyone ever have a more British name?) is 19. Stone cold hottie. I haven't seen such beautiful lips and dimples in a long time, and the glimpses of cleavage were few but all the more delectable for that.

I avoided Speed Racer after the bad reviews, but now I'm thinking I made the wrong decision.

Friday, May 16, 2008



Well, you just got to keep trying. This one's so massively pwning me that I'll put it on my wall of shame to the right, lest I ever get all full of myself.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bucket List Is One Shorter!

Woohoo! I just bought my tickets!

Can't wait!

UPDATE: My friend Doug informs me that the cheap seats I bought are in fact the ones where the girls might actually come flying into you full tilt!! Cheap?! Hellfire, I would've paid EXTRA for THAT!!!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Interview on Horror Fiction Review

Man, I give good interviews! Wish I could channel some of that intelligence into other endeavors, but I'll take what I can get:

And thanks to Nick Cato, with whom I've locked horns on message boards, but he's always been a real sport and I appreciate it!

No Anonymous Comments

No more. I'll post most anything after I look at it, but this is my online "house" and I think if you're going to tell me how bad my writing is, or how bad my taste in music is, you can either do it on your own blog to your heart's content, or you can identify yourself if you post it here.

Intriguing to think who it might be. A Legionnaire? A random detractor? Hmmm....

Okay, got it narrowed down to eight suspects. Now it's time to go do something more useful. But it's fun trying to guess!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Horrors Roll!

I'd heard this sport was making a comeback, but I had no idea that it was being played right up the road from me:

I'd never forgive myself if I had the opportunity to witness such a spectacle of American pop culture and missed it. But I need someone to go with me. An enabler, if you will. I'll get to work on that right away.

Great Review in The Tomb

A nice little one of Orpheus and the Pearl that's very careful to avoid spoilers:

Okay, I'm actually starting to believe the hype!

But seriously, if one calculated the time spent per word, it's probably the highest for me in that story, as I went over it time and time again to get it right, so it's not surprising that it's more elegant and tight than some of my other stuff. Hard work pays.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Great Review!

Over at Mark Rainey's blog!

Thanks! I like the heart comment; someone said one of my other stories had "brains, and not just in the sense of 'a zombie's lunch'" (or words to that effect). So I guess I'm hitting all the major organs. Paragraph 3 was very nice too, as it underlines what I was trying for.

Crows = Scary

They are. They're probably the biggest bird around here that struts around on the ground, since hawks and eagles and buzzards usually perch in trees. And man the racket. A bunch of them were going off really early this morning, like 6am, and it sounded so ominous and weird. And here's your word lesson for the day:

While other animals get cute names for their group like "pod" or "shoal" or "gaggle," the croaking crow gets a couple very odd ones (the literary one I hadn't heard of before, but it makes sense, like they're perceived to be telling each other something mysterious).

Iron Man

Probably the best comic book movie yet. Perfect cast. Less emo-whining than Spiderman, less dark angst than Batman, less cute quips than a lot of such movies. Solid action sequences, but also the pleasures of seeing the training and building scenes that a lot of films cut as not exciting enough, but which really are a lot of fun on their own.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

First Real Review!

A very enthusiastic one by Gabrielle Faust, to appear soon at

BOOK REVIEW: “Orpheus and The Pearl”
By Gabrielle S. Faust

My first encounter with Kim Paffenroth’s work was early last year when I was asked to review his post-apocalyptic zombie novel Dying to Live. Up until that point, I had never been a tremendous fan of the zombie genre, or at least, so I had thought. However, I was so enthralled by the world Paffenroth painted in Dying to Live that I suddenly found myself devouring every zombie novel I could get my hands on, and all thanks to Paffenroth’s brilliant storytelling abilities and his innate ability to blend horror with philosophy. A professor of religious studies, a Bram Stoker Award Winner for his book Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth (Baylor, 2006) and the author of several books on the Bible and theology, Paffenroth constructs his writing with a certain elegant sophistication and literary intelligence which is often painfully absent in many modern works of literature. No matter whether he is slaying zombies in a grim and terrifying post-apocalyptic world or pondering the disturbing philosophical and spiritual ramifications of reanimation, as in Orpheus and the Pearl, Paffenroth manages to transcend the stereotypical, and often self-inflicted, boundaries of the horror genre which often restrain an author from exploring the extent of their writing abilities. Along with the pure inspiration of the tales he weaves, his range as an author is one of the many exciting aspects of his work, one that keeps you wondering just what he will come up with next.

When I first heard that Magus Press was sending me one of the limited edition copies of Orpheus and the Pearl, I was instantly intrigued by the title. Orpheus, one of the most famous figures of ancient Greek mythology, was one of the chief poets and musicians of antiquity and the inventor of the lyre. Through music and singing, it was said that he could charm wild animals and coax the very trees and rocks to dance for him. Orpheus was married to the beautiful Eurydice. One day, while fleeing from Aristaeus, the son of Apollo, Eurydice stepped into a pit of snakes and was fatally bitten. So consumed by pain of his loss, Orpheus played such sorrowful songs upon his lyre that even the hearts of Hades and Persephone were softened. Hades and Persephone gave Orpheus a chance to leave with Eurydice. The only catch was that Orpheus must walk ahead of his wife and not look back until both had arrived safely in the upper world. So full of happiness upon reaching the upper world, Orpheus turned around too soon, forgetting that they both had to be out of the Underworld, and Eurydice vanished forever.

With this Greek tragedy as a reference, I could only imagine what unique interpretation Paffenroth would sculpt for his readers. I was utterly delighted when, once again, I was swept up into a chill, gothic world, but this time in the eloquent Victorian macabre vein. In the style of Dracula or Frankenstein, Orpheus and the Pearl transports the reader instantly into a world of severe taboos and social restraints, where medicine and psychology are still, in large part, unexplored territories and the very human psyche the vault of the darkest horrors. This new tale of a doctor desperate to save the wife he has resurrected from the dead, is captivating, drawing you in and refusing to release you until the final page has been turned. Truly, I must say, Orpheus and the Pearl will go down as one of the great works of short horror fiction. Another fantastic achievement for author Kim Paffenroth.

Scream Contest

For best creative scream - one shot, no edits, 2 minutes or less, taken on a camera phone:

Big money by the standards of such contests - $250 grand prize, along with runners up.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

To Blurb, or not to Blurb? - A Writer's Dilemma

In the last couple months, I've gotten ever so slightly famous enough that I'm starting to be approached by fellow writers asking for blurbs for their books. I have accomodated several. With several others, I have read through the manuscript and then declined to blurb it. I'm now wondering how delicately this should be handled. I mean, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and inevitably someone, somewhere down the road is going to be someone whose help I might need (i.e. writers often turn out to be editors and reviewers as well), so I don't want any hard feelings. But I do foresee two possible problems with praising everything:

I get called into the Dean's office. "I have in my hands a copy of Pedophile Cannibals in the Chipotle Jungle of Doom, Dr Paffenroth, in which a busload of children and nuns are raped and killed by rabid lamas before being pushed over a cliff into an active volcano. Can you explain why you are quoted on the back cover as saying, 'Best thing EVAH! I laughed my ass off!!'"? (There is a "moral turpitude" clause somewhere in my contract, I believe, not that I usually give it much thought.)

More generally, I want my name to be trusted. Not like George Washington or Honest Abe level of trust, but I don't want to endorse things I don't believe in, things that I wouldn't want to spend my own money on, partly because I'd fear a backlash and a reader not feeling like buying my books, if he feels I've misled him with a blurb.

Is all this too idealistic? Am I being a dick to fellow, struggling authors?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Shirley Jackson Award Finalists

The new award for horror literature is off to an auspicious start with their announcement of finalists:

2007 Shirley Jackson Awards Finalists


Baltimore, Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden (Bantam Spectra)
Generation Loss, Elizabeth Hand (Small Beer Press)
Sharp Teeth, Toby Barlow (William Heinemann Ltd)
The Terror, Dan Simmons (Little, Brown)
Tokyo Year Zero, David Peace (Knopf)


12 Collections, Zoran Zivkovic (PS Publishing)
Illyria, Elizabeth Hand (PS Publishing)
The Mermaids, Robert Edric (PS Publishing)
"Procession of the Black Sloth," Laird Barron (The Imago Sequence and Other Stories,
Night Shade Books)
The Scalding Rooms, Conrad Williams (PS Publishing)
"Vacancy," Lucius Shepard (Subterranean #7, 2007)


"The Forest," Laird Barron (Inferno, Tor)
"The Janus Tree," Glen Hirshberg (Inferno, Tor)
"The Swing," Don Tumasonis (At Ease with the Dead, Ash-Tree Press)
"The Tenth Muse," William Browning Spencer (Subterranean #6, 2007)
"Thumbprint," Joe Hill (Postscripts #10, March 2007)


"Holiday," M. Rickert (Subterranean #7, 2007)
"The Monsters of Heaven," Nathan Ballingrud (Inferno,Tor)
"A Murder of Crows," Elizabeth Ziemska (Tin House 31, Spring 2007)
"Something in the Mermaid Way," Carrie Laben (Clarkesworld, March 2007)
"The Third Bear," Jeff VanderMeer (Clarkesworld, April 2007)
"Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse," Andy Duncan (Eclipse One, Night Shade Books)


The Bone Key, Sarah Monette (Prime Books)
The Entire Predicament, Lucy Corin (Tin House)
The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, Laird Barron (Night Shade Books)
Like You'd Understand, Anyway, Jim Shepard (Knopf)
Old Devil Moon, Christopher Fowler (Serpent's Tail)


At Ease with the Dead, edited by Barbara and Christopher Roden (Ash-Tree Press)
Dark Delicacies 2, edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb (Running Press)
Inferno, edited by Ellen Datlow (Tor)
Logorrhea, edited by John Klima (Bantam Spectra)
Wizards, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois (Berkley)

New "Cool" Cover

With "Chilling" stories! (Groan...)

Seriously, it's more graphic goodness from the awesome Bob Freeman and it looks great!

My name's on there, really. Way at the bottom. Look closely!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Final Edit - DONE!

The indefatigable D. L. Snell and I have finished all final edits on D2L2: Life Sentence! It's done! Finally, blurbers can be asked for their endorsement, ISBNs and copyrights can be applied for, and production can proceed!!

C.V. - Does Size Matter?

In academia, rather than call that piece of paper that lists what we've been up to a "resume," we use the rather pretentious name curriculum vitae, or C.V. for short. And unlike the convention in business that the resume must be kept to one page, no matter what, you can add to your C.V. indefinitely and its size need have no bounds.

Today, mine hit a lucky THIRTEEN pages.

On the one hand, when I apply for a job or a grant, how can they turn down such massive accomplishment? On the other, who the heck would do more than skim such a monstrosity?


Had two of the best last night! The details hardly matter, but I got to reconnect with an old girlfriend and the first car I bought with my own money. Here's a pic of one:

Isn't she beautiful? And so devoted to me. Purrrr. I was in heaven.

Oh, the lady dream was nice too, but I think it'd be ungentlemanly to post pix of her. Let's say she was as beautiful as the car, smaller, and less angular and more curvy.

Man, did I love those two beautiful creatures. So much it hurt, as the saying goes (which is an expression I think I've used too many times in my stories). And with dreams like that, what exactly would be the advantage of waking up?


Triumph of The Walking Dead