Monday, September 15, 2014

The Gamergate thing and Proof of Videogames as a Viable Art Form

Really, people. This is an issue to you. Okay, let’s do this. And no, I don’t really give a shit whether or not someone fucked someone else for a good review. Maybe I would care if someone was doing that for book reviews, but only in the case that it may benefit me. Let’s stick to the “SJW’s are ruining games” argument.

I like games. I’m not a huge gamer and would probably be called a poseur by those who consider themselves such. I don’t care. I enjoy them. It’s another way to experience a narrative that allows me to see the world in new and exciting ways. And kill stuff. I fully admit to enjoying digitally killing digital stuff as much as I enjoy verbally killing imaginary stuff on paper. But there are times that the killing stuff turns into honest to goodness world-view changing experiences and that is goddamn awesome in every fucking way imaginable. Holy shit is that sweet.

Here’s the problem I have with people having a problem with videogames being used to advance or even discuss any sort of social idea or agenda: That is what art does. It comments on the human condition. You may agree with the commentary. You may disagree with the commentary. That doesn’t matter as long as it gets you to engage in some level with the ideas at work.

The same damn people that have been screaming that their beloved videogames are not simply junkfood entertainment churning the brains of the masses, but honest to goodness art are now yelling that videogames should just be junkfood entertainment and nothing more. Excuse me while I growl for a moment. I had a great time with Katamari Damacy because rolling around a ball to pick stuff up was more fun than I had any reason to believe. I respect the hell out of Manhunt because, by the end, the gamer is forced to acknowledge that the horrific bastard forcing people to brutally kill each other for their entertainment is, in fact, themself (even if I suck too much at stealth games to actually be able to play it). FTL got me invested in beings I couldn’t even see minor representations of*. It is entirely possible for these things to occur in the same universe without physics collapsing all around us while Azathoth pipes Aqualung.

There’s a part of me that thinks referring to them as “manipulatable media” instead of games would possibly end this argument over what constitutes something these people should be reviewing as a “game”. However, if that would honestly make a difference for you, you should probably hide in a cave before you infuriate me more.


All the same, there is a good side to all of this. The fact that people are arguing over it proves beyond doubt that we’ve made it. If you can argue about the validity of intrinsic commentary folded within the confines of an art form, then it is definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, honest-to-goodness Art. Suck that, Roger Ebert.

*yes, with the possible exception of FTL, I cited horridly outdated games. I already admitted to not being a "real gamer" whatever the fuck that means. Feel free to mock me if you wish.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Damn, do I need this.



If you know me, you know the past few weeks have been rather shitty. If you don’t know me, you now know that. Either way, Context is in a couple of weeks and I fully intend to have a damn good time while I am there. 

If you happen to wish to give me a pity hug or a pity beer (I am particularly fond of the pity beers, they taste of salt and desperation which sits very well against the hops and barley) or just yap about dorky bullshit, here is where you can readily find me:

MCing the OPENING CEREMONIES (6pm Friday), because I am either awesome or a total sucker but probably both.

Rambling incoherently on the TEACHING THROUGH WRITING panel (2pm Saturday), because I’m still spending way too much money on that lit degree and the Education Certification to not do something with it.

Reading bad novelic rants in worse slam-poetry style for the NAME THAT TERRIBLE NOVEL contest (8pm Saturday).

Telling you HOW TO GET YOUR BOOK REVIEWED (1pm Sunday), because sometimes people make silly mistakes when dealing with reviewers.

I’ll also be everywhere else there, because I need fun and noise and joy right now. If you are coming, stop by the Stormy Soaps table and say hello to my wife. Buying some nice smelling soap from her would be cool too, but I won’t push you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Put Yourself in Context.



We’re coming up on just about a month before this Year’s Context (September 26-28) and I would like to try to coerce you into coming. Nope, I am not directly involved in the convention (though I will appear on a few panels) and have very little to gain by getting you there. At the same time, I am a big fan of things that kick ass and very much enjoy sharing those experiences with others.

Don't think Ben Thompson will be there, but, come on, it is a book called Badass!


1.)Books are badass. Meeting other people equally into them is more badasser. Hanging out and talking about their badassness with those people is the badassest.


2.)That brings me to The People. Over several years of attending Context, I’ve met a large number of great people that I consider myself privileged to be able to hang out with. Yes, that includes the authors and publishers and artists, but it also includes the regular schemes like me who are just there because we are huge dorks and being huge dork is kinda fun sometimes. The organizers do a great job of making a comfortable environment for that to happen and it has always turned out well for me.


3.)However, if we are going to mention the talent on hand: Jonathan Maberry’s pretty fucking cool to have on tap. So is the newly roboticGary Braunbeck. And the slightly filthy, but I mean that in the most complementary of fashions, Lucy Snyder. Let’s not forget the Penguin Queen herself, Mrs. Janet Harriett, fresh off a recent sale to Weird Tales (the jerk). Sarah Hans is usually a boatload of fun and smiles and pretty snappy outfits. I have a well touted crush on Catherine A Callaghan, for very good reasons. Jason Sizemore will be bringing his soft voiced southern charm that is always well balanced against Maurice Broaddus’s exuberance. There are more. Many, many more. But I don’t want to spend too much time listing names.


4.)The lack of prima donnas. I’ve never met anyone at Context, regardless of their status, that acted like they were above anyone else. This isn’t one of those conventions where you have to pay, or even buy a book there, to get an autograph or picture with someone. Hell, I’ve had several times where I’ve been able to grab a beer or burger with people I’ve considered to be heroes. If nothing else, everyone is willing to hang out and bullshit.


5.)You don’t have to be a writer (or aspiring) to enjoy yourself. Yes, a good portion of the panels and all of the workshops are geared at writers. However, there are discussions about homebrewing, classics we may have missed out on (finally, I get a chance to tell everyone how sad I am that they are reading Stoker, but not LeFanu), the ways in which comics are changing and a slew of other geeky topics. Plus, there’s a coloring contest. 


6.)I have been told that the Funky Werepig himself, Greg Hall, will be there, promoting his new book from Stygian Press, Everyone Hates a Hero. There are rumors circulating about a live opportunity to pet that piggy and a possible return of the Big Boy Dance-Off, a spectacle not seen for at least four years.


7.)Did I mention that I will be there? If none of these other reasons convinced you, that should. Right? Please tell me I’m right. Now I’m feeling defensive and lonely. Hug me!



Monday, July 14, 2014

On the PG-13 of Madness


Of late, there has been much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over Guillermo Del Toro’s announcement that he is in talks, again, over filming an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness as a PG-13 film. The big uproar, as usual when that particular combination of letters and numbers is uttered in conjunction with a horror film, seems to be over whether or not the film will be neutered. Of course it fucking won’t, but that isn’t the real problem with it anyways.



If you’ve read the book, it comes across fairly tame. Even those autopsies Guillermo mentions in interviews are clinical and detached. There isn’t anything shocking because that isn’t how Lovecraft wrote. The massive sex and gore we saw in adaptations were added entirely by the people adapting the stories. If filmed as written, they would come across as PG-13 without a flinch. Hell, his characters don’t even curse.



The real problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is that no one in their right mind would film any of his stories as they were written because they would make horrendous films. His stories are dry, insular and detached and usually hinge more on reading about the past than the actions of the present. They make for some interesting reading, but not good viewing.



That’s why Stuart Gordon added so much raunchy sex and over the top gore to his filmic approaches to Lovecraft, as well as a shit ton of humor and absurdity. The different medium requires different approaches. Sure, the HPLHS did a great job with The Call of Cthulhu, but only for people that like watching dry, black and white and silent films with a small budget.



The financially successful Lovecraft adaptations were b-grade grindhouse fun. The faithful adaptations were doomed to failure, at least from a money point of view. This will never be the type of story that will attract blockbuster numbers. But I’m okay with that. I’d rather just read the damn book, anyways.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Now, You Have Your Answer

To read anyone's sincerely written horror is to view secret manifestos. Having to stick out our diseased tongues to see the dust there. If we open those mouths far enough, you will spy the blood between our teeth. We grind them together daily, nightly. Sometimes we spit it in the sink, usually it is our favorite ink. Writing horror doesn't evoke hell. It invokes survival from it, expiation of sins revelations jealously guarded against burning by those electing themselves the Guardians of Light. The Downfall of these guardians comes with coveting the sense of (ghoulish) rapture their short-sighted passions will never permit them.
-“Essay III: Decay”, Charlee Jacob

I've been reading Charlee Jacob's The Myth of Falling (which you can and should buy here), where I got the above quote. I can't think of a better explanation for that age-old, really frigging annoying question that regularly comes up when people find out you write, read or voraciously devour horror fiction. Harlan Ellison, the great and mighty, and declaimed even the name of the genre because nobody wants to feel that emotion.

Of fucking course nobody WANTS to feel horror, or experience it in any way. We would all rather cozy up in a nice comfortable bed with a plate of cookies and milk, our favorite puppy at our feet (or kitty at our side, if you prefer) and some wonderful, warm person cuddled up next to us. But sometimes, many times, way damn too many times, we have no choice.

And maybe we need some help processing it. Maybe we need to know it is not just us. Maybe we need to see it through a different lens to understand. Maybe we just need to lance the boil and let what was hiding beneath the skin come out into the open air.

When it comes to writing, nothing brings out stronger emotions than extreme horror. To write on subjects of rape and child abuse is, at least in my case, to dredge up the worst things of which I am too personally familiar. I don't intend to exploit broken bodies or shattered souls. This work depresses me, forcing me to re-experience that which I've fought to put behind me. But memories have a way of not letting you hide them, as it is generally better to face your fears in order to conquer them. To create a cathartic path through to bridge the nightmares with... or you can live in denial, and through a rigidly puritanical delusion, cause other victims to undergo more suffering.

That which is never spoken of becomes a dirty little secret. Nobody wants to get involved, except possibly to isolate the victims, making them more outside of the group of self-professed 'normals' than the original crimes against them did.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Power of Assholes in Attaining Unity


So, I noticed this on Blabbermouth*, and find myself huzzzahing Aaron Lewis and Dez Fafara (vocalists for Staind and Devildriver). As much as I believe Aaron has a damn good voice, I agree with the horn-handed majority in saying Staind kinda sucks . Coal Chamber was horrid, so I haven’t given Devildriver a chance. I’m too damn metal for those silly boys, but still I huzzah. Goes to show how a little sexism can bring people together, eh?

While I was a teen, I remember things like this being a huge problem. I even remember assholes yelling out that it “serves them right” for getting in or near the pit. Seriously, there were people that thought that was a reasonable response and that it justified their behavior. Even though I don’t recall a single time I ever got my balls cupped while playing a little pass-the-dude. I never understood the idea and its prevalence was why several kick ass ladies I knew hated to admit their love for metal.

But, it seemed to have slacked off. During the early 2000’s, the most I usually had to contend with was the xXx cowboys kicking girls in the face for about the same reason, but those guys were jackwads in any situation and were at least just as willing to kick me in the face. Point is, it makes me sad to see this making a comeback.

So, let’s get a little something straight here, buckos: You don’t get to grab up on somebody just because their fun bits are near you. I don’t care about the place or time. I don’t care about your stupid sense of entitlement to the silly machismo of the pit. And don’t you dare try giving me that “it’s just where she landed” bullshit because I see how careful you are about where your hands go with any passing guys. You are a piece of shit and will be treated accordingly. Please remember that there are plenty of us watching and that it is very easy for a little good natured moshing to turn into a serious beatdown if you aren’t willing to listen to reason.

*as a bonus, do yourself a favor and look for Liam O’rly’s response to an idiot comment. I want a bumper sticker with that shit. Now!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Super Dork Day



Yay! I have good news. Someone out there is facilitating my self-righteous dorkdom and providing me with a platform to tell you all how right I am. And, they are paying me money to do it. How kick ass is that? 

You can thank Paul Anderson. I have already.

It appears that the Summer edition of Jamais Vu will contain a short analytical piece on the hidden
this is what it looks like. pretty.
truth of Shaun of the Dead. I’ve only read their first issue so far, but I highly enjoyed it. Heck, they had poetry by Bruce Boston and Marge Simon and the very first story was from Gary Braunbeck. I also dug the non-fiction pieces they presented, something that is hard to find in many current magazines. So I’m damn proud of this and will be bugging you all to buy come post time.


 So much wow to be had with the yay and the woo hoo and the oh my god get out of my brain!

This whole thing kinda makes up for the fact that I received a rejection from Maurice Broaddus, who writes the kindest rejection notices I have ever experienced.  I imagine legions of women not lucky enough to be his wife still holding onto the delicate way he told them to please stop hanging out on his porch.

In the mean time, I found this lurking in my email and thought it fitting to share:

I noticed this question come up fromsomeone else who crowdsourced the answer. Since I haven’t rambled on anything in awhile, why not this. Hell, gotta do something with that fuckin BA in English and Comparative Lit and it sure ain’t makin money. Or using grammar properly, apparently.

Short and overused response: Literature comments on the human condition.

We’ve all heard that saw, but it works for me. It’s what defines something I enjoy and forget  versus something that sticks in my skull and rattles around in there for awhile. It’s also a lot stickier than it seems on the surface. Of course, that’s the fun for me.

Some traditionally trashy and downright stupid novels and films do this. They may not do it well, but they do it. Similarly, some of the most erudite works out there do not. They wrap dense prose around obtuse events and call it a day. Thereby making smart stuff stupid and stupid stuff smart. Yay stupid.
The real entertainment value in all of this is that the decision cannot ever be reached in consensus. All of this hemming and hawing and splitting of hairs occurs in the interaction between the words on the page and the neurons in your noggin. Since our own experiences of the human condition vary, we all process them differently against the expressed representations of someone else's experience.