Thursday, December 31, 2009

Arrogance Incarnate

Damn near everyone else has put up a “best of 2009” list of some sort, so why not me? After all, I’m important. I know that all of you look to me and my reviews on so that you know what to read next. I owe you this, and, as a beneficent overlord, shall provide. In the interest of brevity, I’ve kept my list down to my favorite books from this past year. My criteria was simple: if I remembered it well enough without having to pick it back up and thumb through, then it must have made an impact on me and is therefore worth consideration. If you want to know more about one of these fine products, then feel free to look up my review on the previously mentioned website as I am too lazy to bother linking them here.

Dead of Night: Devil SlayerSlayer by Brian Keene:
This was certainly my favorite graphic novel of the year, a classic storyline brought back to life in a thoroughly modern context and sensibility. Yes, we’ve got the creation of a superhero and yes, there are tons of demons getting their asses handed to them. This is to be expected. What made this series so special was how well the styles of both the artist and the writer (Keene) complemented each other. Both took a simple, lean approach that gets the hell out of the way of the story. Because of that, there are no great, quotable lines or iconic, full page scenes but there is a hell of a story, steeped in the sense of personal tragedy Keene is known so well for.

A Writer’s Workshop of Horror, edited by Michael Knost
I wear many hats in my geekly domain: dorky fan of all things horror, Literature and English teacher and occasional planter of word-farms. This book managed to single-handedly give all three aspects of my personality the kind of wood that is usually reserved for the combination of my wife, Switchblade Symphony and a marked lack of clothing. There is no reason for any writer of any genre to not own this, as it is about as comprehensive as you can get. The teacher in me loves the way each section is designed around specific topics of interest and import, practically drawing out lesson plans for me. Most importantly, the drooling fanboy was in awe at the opportunity to look into the minds of some of my favorite authors and incredibly impressed with the easy, conversational and entertaining style.

Chimeric Machines by Lucy Snyder
Yep, I’m a poetry nerd too. At the same time, who can deny the power, glory and utter amusement of a talent like Lucy’s, eh? She had already floored me with the now classic Installing Linux on a Dead Badger, but I had no preparation whatsoever for this. Erudite yet accessible; emotional, yet intellectual; witty, yet gut-bustingly funny. Oh, and there are a couple REALLY filthy little numbers to be found here as well. I had a poetry prof a few years ago who told me that there were no truly great poets any more and I wish I knew where to find him so I could shove this book down his throat.

Malpractice, edited by Nathaniel Lambert
The first anthology put out by one of my new favorite magazines, Necrotic Tissue, kicked its way screaming into my brain tissue. I tend to prefer anthologies with some type of common element to tie the stories together but this one goes one step further by having its entire medical horrors take place within the same hospital. That little touch turned what would have been a nearly flawless collection into something that felt more like a single tale as told my several tellers. One of the few antho’s I’ve read that did not have a single unenjoyable story present.

Dead America by Luke Keioskie
In a market flooded with walking, shambling, obnoxiously similar corpses, Dead America blew me the hell away. It isn’t a survival/siege tale, it doesn’t outline the end or near-end of humanity and the neccers present are not naturally cannibals. Instead, this is a detective story of the Sam Slade variety that just so happens to be centered in a world where the dead get up a few hours after expiring and go back about their unlife. Dark, dreary but not quite nihilistic, this is a wonderful, wonderful work. Without a doubt, one of the treasures of the year.

Near misses: Devil’s Marionette by Maurice Broaddus, Under by Bradd Quinn and Mama Fish by Rio Youers

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Damn Zombies

Seriously, can we stop now? At least for a minute or two. Look, I love the rotting, shambling monstrosities as much as the next guy. I had The Zombie Survival Guide on pre-order before it was originally released and paid an ungodly sum for Fab Press’ Book of the Dead. The mention of zombies brings to mind some of my favorite memories and I’ve even written a couple myself. But I need a break.

The last several books I’ve been sent for review as well as the one that’s on the way are all zombie based. Probably 2/3rds of my total reviews have been of Zombie novels and several of the have been REALLY friggin good. Still… back off a bit. I’m actually longing for some emo vampire action, if that gives you any clue as to my mindset. Just… grrrr.

Dear Nyarlathotep in the great empty beyond, why can’t Lucy Snyder’s book come out sooner?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

For Dave

I found out earlier this week that an old friend of the family had died. For various and sundry reasons that are none of your damn business, I haven’t seen or talked to him in at least a decade. I would’ve thought that, given the lack of contact, this news would be a mild curiosity to me at best. Hell, I knew him mostly as my parents’ drinking buddy. Instead, I’m finding myself incredibly affected.
Then I began to think about it more.

Dave bought me my first bike back when I was seven or eight. It was cobbled together from bits found at the trash dump, rusted all to hell and waaay to big for my size at the time. Just getting onto the damn thing was an accomplishment and pedaling was practically Herculean in scope. But, it was my first bike and I loved the damn thing.

Then there was the Halloween he dressed up as Frankenstein. Already a tall bastard, he nailed a couple inches of wood onto the bottom of his boots to add that nice, clompy gait. He also squared off his head with a nice chunk of putty (sometimes, being bald has it’s advantages). As I said, he was naturally a big guy, but in that getup, he loomed. Yes, there are people out there who have done much more extravagant costumes, but to my young eyes, he was practically a god for that day.
Remember the old Bud Light “Ladies’ Night” commercials, the ones with balding, fat, hairy men dressed up in drag to get cheap beer? He did that at a couple bars, even though he seemed to have an almost preternatural ability to miss each bar’s respective Ladies’ Night. I wish we still had the picture of him and a local radio Sports DJ during one of those outings.

None of this should mean anything to any of you, but his fearlessness in the face of fun, especially given the crap that he put up with over the course of his life, has profoundly effected the way I live mine.

The world is a poorer place without him and I really wish I had picked up on that sometime when it could have mattered more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cheese in the hour of rot.

I’m coming across a bit too self-aggrandizing, given that my last post was about this self-same issue but I’m going to toot my own horn a bit again anyways. Bet you didn’t know I could do that, did you?

Today, my copy of Shroud 7 was waiting for me when I got home from yelling at, and being yelled at by, the screeching, mindless, post-Lovecraftian insanity that we call middle school students. Now, I’ve seen my name in print before, sometimes even without paying for it, but this time is special for some unnamed reason. Maybe it’s because it is in a successful publication this time. Maybe it is just the glossy cover. Maybe I’ve invested much more worth into it than is appropriate. But I’m happy for the moment and everyone I know will get very sick of seeing the damn thing real soon. Then I’ll show it to them once more.

I’ve been stressed out over money, annoyed over the fact that I can’t seem to get off of my ass and push my career farther and way too tired for all of this shit. But for the moment, life is kinda pretty and nice. Now I just need a couple rejection letters for the stuff I intend to send out in January to knock my ass back down to earth.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Giggling like a little girl

Excuse me for a moment while I dance around in abject joy, even though my dancing would be better described as arrhythmic convulsing.
I’ve never considered myself a writer so much as someone who occasionally likes to write. The difference is more than semantics; it could span gulfs of intellectual intent. Even when I was running Generic Magazine and Publishing, I put my own work in more as filler than anything else. That said, I find myself perplexed and elated to have made my first ever actual sale.
Some time in the relatively near future, Shroud Publishing will be releasing an anthology of poetry (the working title has been “The Terror of Miskatonic Falls” but who knows what the future will bring) that will feature two poems from the glory of me. The basic idea of the anthology is a Spoon River-esque tale of a town’s mysterious desolation and desertion during a freak snowstorm as told through a series of poems. With the Mistaktonic name attached, expect Lovecraftian horror galore. I’ll let both people who read this know more details as they arise.
I have also had a piece of flash fiction win a runner up position in one of Shroud Magazine’s flash prompt contests. This will appear in issue number seven along side of an entry from a good friend of mine whose work never ceases to enthrall me.
Life is fun sometimes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

In defence of Halloween

Much to the consternation of raving and foaming fanboys, Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 opens tonight. As it stands, I was and am completely perplexed by the moaning over what was described as an absolute bomb of an opening weekend for the first one. How the hell does anyone put “only” and $4 million” in the same sentence? Sure, that isn't Transformers 2 cash or anything, but for the movie that it is that is a hell of a draw for two days. Especially since many fans of the raw brutality he was aiming for tend to just wait for it to hit video. That bit of bitching aside, I wanted to take a moment to defend that film against the apparent hordes declaiming it.
Regardless of your opinion of the film as a whole, pacing issues, you being pissed off that Michael is too big or his background in a stereotypical white trash home, there is a moment of absolute genius that raised it far above damn near everything to to roll through theaters this decade:
The First Kill.
We all know the drill. We're shown a complete douche that no one in their right mind would bother defending. In this case, it's the standard school bully who makes the mistake of talking shit about poor Mikey's mom. The guy might as well have had “dead” tattooed across his forehead.
No-one is at all surprised when he gets ambushed in the woods (especially with those F13th esque camera angles) and the entire theater erupted in cheers and laughter when that first whack fell. The little shit had it coming and we NEED to see him pay. This is a fairly standard trick that allows us in the audience to enjoy brutal slaughter guilt free. We came to see some people get fucked up and dead, but we aren't sick people because they deserve it. This is precisely what everyone paid for and we are all comfortably happy.
The pure genius that I mentioned before comes in how the scene plays out. Normally, no matter how brutal, a kill scene in a slasher will be over quick. Slice slice, splatter splatter, we're done and on to the next. But Rob just keeps going with this. We see this dickhead turn from belligerent to cowed but he just won't fucking die. By degrees, the noise in the theater faltered and by the end everyone is dead silent. This boy who is probably just as miserable and fucked up as the kid we were siding with is pathetically begging, pleading for his life and Micheal just keeps pounding away while we sit and stare. This ride isn't fun anymore mommy, I want off.
For the first time in my life, I'm in an audience that is truly horrified.
Sure, most of them have seen worse than what just happened on the screen. The scene wasn't particularly gory. The horrific aspect isn't the image or even the act itself but the fact that we wanted it to happen. This bastard made us feel safe in a trope that we all knew and then forced it down our throats. The effect was similar to the ages old approach of forcing young Jimmy to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes on after the other because he thought he was old enough to handle smoking.
That stunned, absolutely silent audience experienced true art and they probably never even noticed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Super-deep Bhuddist-like Ruminations on the Lawn

Mowing the lawn yesterday (after a three week bout of laziness that resulted in the creation of a new ecosystem in my yard) got me thinking bout why it is that I actually enjoy doing it.  It isn't exactly mentally engaging, it's repetitive and it uses up time I could be spending napping.  In theory, this should be torture of a near taking-the-trash-3-feet-out-onto-the-back-porch degree, but I actually enjoy it.  Stranger still, I'm not alone in this.  I've asked around and quite a few people LIKE mowing their lawn.  Why?
I'm not going to fall for that typical crap of the peace of working the land.  The simple, repetitive nature of the act creating a Zen-like state?  Then why aren't factories across America producing the most enlightened workers on the face of the planet?  Yes, there is much to be said about any work where you can see immediate results but I can see the same kind of immediate results cleaning and I'll be damned if I ever do THAT willingly.  I would say that they are all bullshitting me, but the mania with which some people approach lawn-care stands as proof against that.
I can only go with what know from myself and just assume that it applies to everyone.  If it worked for Ayn Rand then it has to be a good approach, right?  My reason is simple: control.  Any moron can lay absolute waste to nature.  Little kids burn ants with magnifying glasses and my own local P&G has been dumping all kinds of marvelous plant and animal killers into the ground and water supply for generations now.  I could easily turn my lawn into an easily manageable wasteland of flat concrete, but where would the FUN be in that?
With my grass, I get to allow it to live its life as if it is a free being of nature but only in the ways that I wish it to.  First off, only the types of plants and grass that I deem worthy are permitted to survive in my yard.  Anything so common and unappealing as Dandelions or Clover fall beneath the wrath of my chemical doom.  Further, those plants are only to exist in the places I want them to.  I will go to any extent to destroy an uppity Yucca that has the nerve to pop up outside of its designated position.  But here is the best part, where the mowing comes in:  I let them live, but only so long as they don't have the nerve to grow higher that a couple inches.  It's like random imprisonment of an entire species. 
The exceptionally ingenious and cruel take it a step further by actually encouraging rampant growth.  They feed their grass and other plants only the best  food possible.  Food that is designed to promote full, luscious growth.  Then they cut those little bitches down. 
An uncle of mine takes it a step further by growing grass and other plants where they don't even belong naturally.  He lives in the desert and spends an inordinate amount of money on soil, water, fertilizer, etc.  Then, once all of that begins to work its magic, the choppin' starts and it is truly something to behold.
The Glory of it all is astounding.  Nothing else exemplifies man's subjugation of nature to his iron will like a well manicured lawn.

Friday, August 7, 2009

What thell right does he have?

So, I just saw the video for the new Eminem and it brought up a question about the role and rights of the artist. Yeah, I know what you're thinking... Eminem, an artist, seriously? But it wasn't his work itself that got me thinking. Instead, it was the placement of himself among the atom-bombed wasteland of Detroit as if that is still the life that he leads.
I have to admit that I was inordinately pissed off at the presumption that he retains the slightest inkling of what it is like to no be obscenely rich. Until I starting thinking about the fact that that is what artists do, when they are doing it right.
Yes, anything an artist creates is a reflection of themself, but anyone worth their salt has to start looking outward at some point. As obsessed as I am with fiction, what pulls me in about it is that desire to place myself in another's world, to understand them and their life. All of my favorite authors have made their careers out of placing themselves in the heads of people entirely different from themselves.
To be pushy about it, maybe that is the role of the artist: to show us the lives of others as refracted through themselves and to open up our view of the world.
I think this whole thing was a tad self-indulgent.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Existential Quandary of Being a Whore

So, with Context coming up, I decided awhile back to use the opportunity to help promote my wife and a good friend of mine. Both of them are great writers who have very little willingness to promote themselves, which means that they will be doomed to killing themselves writing work that no-one will ever read. Such is the fate of the shy, introverted writer. So I wanted to help by putting together some promotional chapbooks to hand out during the con to fans, writers and possibly even a few of the publishers that will be there (because no-one ever does that, hehe). So far I am being completely altruistic, if slightly economically stupid.

The problem is that now, I can't seem to keep myself from putting in some of my own work which makes me feel like a bit of a douche. Now, instead of being a damn fine husband and friend, am I using them to whore myself out more? I'm not certain. Also, It makes it a tad more uncomfortable handing out copies because now I am one of those “self-published” authors that everyone makes fun of. The whole thing is making me self-conscious of my own idiocy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I'll still go ahead and do it. Really, why the hell not?

Monday, June 29, 2009

The start of something no one really cares about.

Let's hear it for self-depreciating titles, eh?
As I'm sure you'll figure out, I'm not too sure about this whole thing. In all honesty, I have no idea why anyone would give the slightest bit of a rat's ass what I think or what I have to say. At the same time, I have been finding that I occasionally have worthwhile thoughts and I am in the process of whoring myself out something offal (yes, the spelling is intended).

So, I guess I should tell you a bit about myself: I'm a complete dork with very little in the way of marketability to my dorkdom. There, that is what you get from me.

As a small note: I think the world may very well have already ended. I noticed this while watching the video for "White and Nerdy" for what is probably the 100th time when I realized the Weird Al can actually rap better than many of the "serious" rappers out there. This is not a good thing. The old Jewish guy is winning. And "Stuck in the Drive-thru" had more passion to it than almost anything on the radio. I am very, very afraid.

That and Faderhead's TZDV is probably the funniest damn thing I've heard in awhile. Thanks Chuk.

Talk to the one person to read this later.