Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Apologies for my overall silence in this realm and others. At its core, the real reason for this is the fact that there has been nothing overtly astonishing to say. There has been a bit of a lull on the HorrorScope front because – although a plethora of material is being read – too much of the material doesn’t quite fit under the HorrorScope banner … a publication devoted to the Australia’s dark literary underbelly.
After returning from a spiritual Retreat on the Gold Coast in February, I suddenly found myself on speaking terms with my long-suffering muse … enough so where he answered the phone occasionally, anyway. And this led to the start and completion of two shorts: one currently untitled that just sits under the heading: Situated Deep in the Woods. And a thirty page extravaganza about a subject I’ve wanted to write about for some time: Body Integrity Identity Disorder. An affliction that makes the sufferer feel the need to amputate otherwise perfectly healthy limbs and appendages. This has always fascinated me, and the build up and occlusion of plot-ideas for fiction are ripe. Countless possibilities present themselves (as the disorder branches off into many other sub-disorders), and after some substantial research (mostly for personal interest – I have no interest in boring a reader with particulars), and a junction of waking dreams and thought processes, I sat down to write. The end result is a working title Kitten Push Cushion and Teddy Bear Prongs. Which might sound almost juvenile … until readers are shoved in the face with the wet and disparate subject matter. Both stories I have in mind for Afterburn Sf, and I’ll be submitting when that particular publication is open again.
WorldCon is being held in Melbourne from September 2 – 6th. And although my piggy bank is low in regards to this I plan on going even if I have to hitch-hike, car-jack, or rob a financial institution. So I will be there no matter what … and it seems everybody else in the Speculative dominion will also be there. I’m very familiar with the guests of honor having read Kim Stanley Robinsons MARS quintet or whatever the hell it is when I was seventeen and really branching into the realms of science fiction after taking up post in horror’s apocalyptic wasteland for so long. Anyway, this is something very special and I am greatly looking forward to seeing not only Australian but international friends with whom I have developed long-standing internet relationships with …
There are a lot of other things to harp on about, so hopefully I can make these entries quite regular. I’m very grateful to all the authors, artists, guitarists and drummers that give me a reason to wake up in the morning. Without your images and words decorating the walls of my skull there would be almost no need to pull back my mummifying sheets every morning and go about life’s business …
Currently reading: Quake by Richard Laymon. You Come When I call You by Douglas Clegg and Night School by Bentley Little.
Pilgrims by William Elliot is coming to me from over the border – the perfect piece that falls under mire of Australian dark fiction to review for HorrorScope.
Monday, April 5, 2010
The dedication in The Burning is interesting, and gives a fascinating insight into the roots of stories and how they can manifest and evolve. In this case, Bentley dedicates it to his son, who asked for a story that included a haunted train and two graves marked Mother and Daughter side by side together. Taper this with his formula and Bentley Little delivers a simple, elegant Horror novel that has no pretensions about its grassroots influence.
At the centre of this group, and slowly peeled away through their strange encounters, an eternal hellish Train raised from the bowels of history carrying the departed souls of different races seeking reprisal. Those that have been wronged by Caucasian man since the Civil War and beyond.
At its heart, The Burning is primarily a revenge novel, seen through the eyes of very disparate characters trying to connect the dots before the inevitable showdown as the train finally pulls into its metaphorical station. What I liked about this novel – as apposed to Bentley’s previous forays – was the more worldly aspect to it. Too often, Bentley concentrates on the small town mythos, and although this is a perfectly honorable way to tell the tale, it was utterly gratifying to see things like the White House being laid waste to eternal powers. Moreover our trips back in time to witness the decrepitude and heinous acts committed by those before the turn of the last century. And it does this without being too preachy or trying to shove a message down your throat.
There is another Horror review site that likes to give stars based on the smell of a book. A little eccentric, but one eccentricity I think we all can relate to. I give The Burning 5 out of 5 in relation to this; it’s the perfect little horror book to take on your next flight interstate … or Train ride, perhaps.
Regardless of never having tackled one of his books I do know that Jack Ketchum is held in very high regard amongst the collective tribe. His fans include the prolific and the not-so-prolific writers, as well as commanding a dedicated and loyal fan base of readers. The Girl Next Door has been adapted from a 1989 novel of the same name and stars a bunch of relative unknowns who give charm and sophistication to this harrowing study of human innocence that delves into dark regions that so far have been relatively uncharted in cinema …
To call this movie ‘harrowing’ is an underestimation. And a little too simply put as it does not fall neatly into the realm of horror. We begin our journey with the introduction and narration of an adult David Moran living in the present day. We can plainly see emotional demons assail this man as he lends the audience his account of a sequence of advents from his childhood where he bore witness – and participated in – unspeakable acts against an innocent girl. Think the same formula that King has used with IT or perhaps Hearts in Atlantis. Tapping into the nostalgic era of the 1950’s to present how inarguably terrible and magical puberty can be. This, however, works -- and Ketchum and the filmmakers have their fingers pressed firmly on the button of bringing this period to life: The cars, fashion, hairstyles and politics are like a metaphor for what’s really going on; that beneath the veneer of plastic suburbia beats the malicious human heart just waiting to come to the surface and take over.
A typical teenager, David is introduced to a new girl who has recently moved into the neighborhood whilst catching crawfish. Megan Loughlin and her crippled little sister have come from another town to live with their Aunt Ruth Chandler (David’s next door neighbor and an eccentric divorcee). Ruth has three sons of her own and her house is like a relaxed beacon to the neighborhood kids during the summer: beers can be drunk within; cigarettes can be smoked. However, her authority and discipline can be just as far reaching as her philanthropy. At first her chastisement of Megan for relatively benevolent or even nonexistent crimes is subtle – this is, after all, 1958. But when her unconventional ranting on why punishments must be dealt out to Megan fan out into madness, she takes the children on an odyssey of torture and clout where adults write the rule of Law and anything they say is permissible.
There are so many ethical and emotional questions raised in this movie that it would be foolhardly to list them here: discover them for yourself. Answer them for yourself. The Girl Next Door is a devastating picture you will not easily forget.
It is out now on DVD.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
You always come to these sorts of films filled with slight trepidation. On one hand the intellectual screams at you that you must not enjoy this kind of horror. Only dullards subscribe to such campy schlock where there is more female flesh on view than blood and the plot is derivative from a thousand other such outings in the past. On the flip side there is an amateur child within that recalls those outings as a horror novice with such unalloyed fondness you yearn to be dazzled by such mindless romps again.
One of the principal celluloid horror directors of all time has taken a break from gargantuan blockbusters and returned to the genre that sparked a revolution amongst the dark faithful. The Evil Dead Films basically showcased the genesis of a new and fantastical way of low budget filmmaking: a trilogy that sparked thousands of imitators and set the bar for what can be achieved when natural, creative genius is given free reign. Drag Me to Hell is a fictional nod to many influences, but still stamped with Sam’s unique brand of inventive camera work and strong visual style …
The opening stanza of Barker's The Thief of Always, and oh - how apt they are for these dreary, rain sodden days. Winter is romantic, don't get me wrong. It inspires. It has creative, driving force, lent strength by a harried wind. But after a while the imagination stirs, and longs for a sweeter, hotter light where the mind's eye can wander out in the open -
Supernatural was quite entertaining the other night, and got me thinking.
Thinking about vocations and life - the person I am. The episode, in particular, was about the brothers taking up yuppie jobs in an Office Space atmosphere. The 9-5 hum drum. And they weren't aware of their true identities. A bit like Adam Lavas in Dark Meridian, really. J
In real life, when I see successful yuppies walking down the street, I'm sometimes jealous, sometimes repulsed. It's not who I am - (and yet everybody thought I was a yuppie at school). And I'm also studying to be an IT consultant. But there is a certainly an element of me that finds it attractive: I mean, they obviously get laid more often -
And yet when I heard Dean call individuals like this 'ass clowns in monkey suits' I laughed hysterically. I sometimes feel guilty about spending most of my free time immersed in the Cimmerian world of ; a landscape of horrors and fantastical wonders. But would I really prefer spending it in some 9-5 nowhereland of fake smiles and pretentious banality? No-siree. I wouldn't. It's not who those characters are. And it's not who I am.
In case anyone is wondering no this isn't a collection of ghosts stories, the title refers to a theme that unites a number of independent tales. There are ghosts on desert worlds they just aren't what you think they are and don't take centre stage in an overt fashion.
Ready to open the covers and see what might be lurking there in the dark?
Ghosts in A Desert World arrived on my desk courtesy of an unpublished manuscript presented as a blog on the internet. See below for a link. Author Matthew Tait has self published via the web in order to get his tales out there. In all honesty I would get in and read them sooner rather than later, at some stage a Publisher is going to option the collection and force the web site off air. You read the collection like a normal blog, each story is a published article, though I must admit I copied and pasted everything into a single word document in order to write this review. Please note at the completion of this review the document will be deleted from my computer to avoid potential breaches of copyright. So let's get down to it.
The first point I jotted down in my review notes was that the collection needed a good editing. What you are reading I believe is a preliminary version of the finished work with at least one more Author edit required to get things ship shape and
Matthew Tait's style and composition should be readily accessible to most readers. Some of the more philosophical stories take a bit of nailing down, but overall you wont be re-reading paragraphs trying to decipher what the author has just stated. The stories flow naturally and nothing is left up in the air. Like any good horror writer Tait is laying the groundwork early in each story to lead naturally to that dark attic room where the screaming is coming from at the completion of the story. As stated previously there is the odd jarring moment in a few stories, but nothing a quick re-phrase isn't going to sort out toot sweet. In particular I liked the Author's handling of the blood work, I keep saying it and no one is listening, good horror writers have an inborn ability to limit their own prose without rubbing a readers nose in the visceral. Matthew Tait on the evidence in this collection is a good horror writer.
Tait's characters are pretty much your ordinary people, the folks that live next door, I'm excluding the serial killers and people influenced by the elder gods here. There's a slight hint however that the Author may have spent his formative years reading publications like Tales From The Crypt et al as a sizeable proportion of female characters are slightly over ripe and one step away from that inheritance by dubious means. And here we're not talking the sort of chick who would run a "Dark Crib" horror museum! Oh the bright side of the knife Tait can write a believable character, and here I am including the serial killers and people influence by the elder gods.
Strangely many of the tales included in Ghosts In A Desert World are set in the
Highlights from the collection are Car Crash Weather that amongst other things raises the theme of a horror writer being made by childhood trauma, Terrica with not only a decent pun in the title but a pretty Laymonesque view of serial killing in rural U.S.A, Future's Kingdom: The King's Dome which presents hell on earth courtesy of a fallen angel, and The Chronicals of Trent Randell that promises to be an ongoing story arc that might very well rival the Dexter books.
Ghosts In A Desert World is certainly value for money, you can pop over to Ghosts In a Desert World and read it for free. Once again I would urge you to do that sooner rather than later, though for sure I'll be picking up the collection once it finds a publishing home. Matthew Tait has also put his novella Dark Meridian online so I'm looking forward to getting down and dirty with that in the near future, review to follow folks.
Thankyou so much, Jeff. If you haven't already, take a tour of www.scaryminds.com, Jeff is doing a great job promoting the local stuff - you can tell he really cares about the scene ... and wants to see it flourish.
My 2006 novella Dark Meridian now has a home online. The blurb can be found in the first post. Just click 'Next Post' to read it in all it's installments. This is also in conjunction with Ghosts in a Desert World. Both can be found at these addresses:
Secondly, I am tackling the book again for over the tenth time, and find it every bit as delightful, sickening, insightful, gruesome and funny as I did the first time around. It's obvious there is a reason Stephen King became who he became. Although written just after high-school, we find within the pages smooth and structured intent: someone who was born to take up the pastime. The story of Ray Garraty walking for his life in a post-neo fascist gameshow
Copious coffee has been prepared, and I've blown up the television. I just heard a bell ringing in the small town of
Wednesday April 8th 2009
I finally got around reading Issue one of the Australian Horror Writers magazine: Echo. My mistake when submitting myself was handing in pieces that were positively ancient (in time elapsed since composing them but also my immature syntax) and only really doing it because they adhered to word Content.
I know it's a little boring to crap on about Clive Barker all the time, but last night I finished reading SACRAMENT for the third time. It's obvious there is a reason others stick out of the crowd on such an epic scale - because we go back to these books when others just aren't cutting it.
I love Clive Barker's art; like a lot of people I didn't at the start. But there's something about it that speaks to you. It works on you, demanding attention. Years ago ... back in the day, as they say, I was a little miffed to find out he was gay. Here was a guy who was my mentor: almost a father figure. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not homophobic). :) His words are beyond beautiful. Intelligence reigns in his work. No wonder Stephen King felt the way he did when he uttered the words: I have seen the future of Horror.
But you get used to it ... just like his drawings. And eventually you wouldn't have it any other way: because it suits him. He is the King of alternative ... and represents everything that goes against the grain.
And he's still like a father figure to me.