Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Different Masks

Wednesday 21st April.

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

Review: Mischief by Douglas Clegg

Douglas Clegg is another writer who (like Jack Ketchum) has managed to go under my radar over the past couple of years. Recently, however, his presence seems to be felt everywhere I look: social networking sites, web-presences that deal exclusively in the realm of dark fiction, and of course having his titles pop out with ever-increasing dexterity in bookshops and bargain bins displayed out the front. And (like Ketchum), seems to be one of those writers who is still sculpting a stellar reputation, releasing a novel every year with timely precision and garnering high words of praise from the giants in the industry.  

Apparently Mischief is the first of a trilogy of books in the Harrow Academy series, which also features a previous e-serial prequel Nightmare House, and the entire thing does read like something you must have insider knowledge of. I must admit my ignorance in regard to this was frustrating; there were too many mysteries that lacked revelation – too many character reactions that were perplexing. However, it must be said there are other fans of Clegg’s work who will know the Harrow legacy involved in Mischief … and it seems to be written with these readers in mind.

Jim Hook is on a scholarship at Harrow, a prestigious prep school located in the Hudson Valley of New York. Years before his older brother Stephen and father perished in a car accident, and the wounds are still raw. Not only was Stephen the epitome of a perfect brother everybody looked up to, he was also a catalyst for shaping Jim’s philosophy and might have secreted a small supernatural pledge into Jim’s life in the aftermath of his death. We follow Jim as he adapts to the all boys school and are introduced to the people around him: Lark, his beau from a nearby all Girls school; popular Trey Fricker, his best friend. Underlying everything is an almost invisible threat, never clearly articulated. It seems that when his brother Stephen died, Jim unwittingly became the channel that would enable something malign to enter the world, and when Jim gets caught for cheating he is inadvertently thrust into the realm of the Cadaver Society, a secret fraternity who has been pulling the strings at Harrow for a long time. Facing the threat of expulsion and upcoming initiation rights, he becomes haunted by ghosts of the living and dead.

A favorable thing for me was the prose; Cleggs style is simplistic and easily accessible with shades of Laymon. But there are many puzzling aspects here that seem like signposts with no clear direction: plot-strands involving Harrow’s principal that is curtailed before it even begins – the mystery of his father and brothers death with allusions that the official story involved a conspiracy. As a reader, I felt as if I had been handed a pile of jigsaw pieces, none of which seemed to belong to the same portrait. Clegg puts a lot of effort into making the climax creepy – but for me the aim was much too lofty, and ultimately confusion ensues in the aftermath of it all. That’s not to say other readers won’t find things to like, and I can see it appealing to those who like their horror with a smattering of the juvenile.

As a novice to Clegg’s work, I just think I have stumbled upon the wrong book to get the juggernaut rolling. But he has piqued my curiosity, and I have the novels You Come When I Call You and The Halloween Man with reviews to follow. 

Review: The Burning by Bentley Little

Like many writers of Horror Fiction in the world today, Bentley Little has crafted his own style over the years and now has it down to kind of science. His books invariably follow a formula, but it is a well – practiced formula and no doubt keeps readers coming back again and again ensuring a dedicated readership and often imitated writing method.

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.
As with his previous novels, the author is heavily influenced by a Chinese mythological connection. In The Burning we have Angela Ramos, an Hispanic University student who has just moved away from home into a share house with a ghost. There’s Henry Cote, a Native American descendant Park Ranger who lives in the National Park and is plagued by perverse erotic dreams of Chinese twins who haunt the Canyonlands. Recently divorced Joylene has moved to Bear Flats with her son Skylar to start a new life living with her mother … and it will be them that come across the eerie graves of a Mother and Daughter. So too will they witness the gaunt, leprous face that peers in a Skylar during the night, grinning malevolently. And finally a Chinese American, criss-crossing the country on a journey of self discovery, being called toward something he only partially understands – toward ancient ancestors seeking redemption for past transgressions.

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.

Review: Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door

As a dark fiction aficionado for most of my remembered life, I am at pains to divulge the sad fact that I have never read a book by Jack Ketchum. From a distance I have followed his career on the peripheral sidelines, often frequenting his website and keeping myself up to date with his resume and celluloid adaptations. As I type these words I am at a loss as to the precise reason I have never held one of his novels in my hand. Marketing is a big factor—during a thousand entrances into a thousand bookstores his name has never popped out among the ranks of many others. Even when trolling through the horror or fantasy sections with an eye for detail has my index finger skated across his name. And there exists no rhyme or reason to not having purchased one online. Chalk it up to the same fate that has befallen authors like Graham Masterson or even some of the authors whose name appears with mine in the editors/reviewers list on this site. There exists a desire to eventually get around to them … once I have gotten through the myriad of tomes in a perpetual and never ending reading list.
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.

Review: The Box

Love or hate the work of Richard Kelly, there is no denying this writer/director has had a huge impact on the celluloid world. 2001’s Donnie Darko was the film hundreds of movie geeks the world over had been waiting for: an utterly original dark portrayal of a troubled youth (Jake Gyllenhaal) set in the 80’s that is now a cult phenomenon. Although it borrowed motifs from other films, nobody had seen anything quite like it before. The eccentric editing and camera angles, hallucinatory sequences, and the ability to raise more questions than provide answers all added up to an unforgettable movie experience and is rich enough for many repeat viewings. His follow up Southland Tales is an apocalyptic futuristic film that received less-than-stellar attention, critically and commercially, but does have a small cadre of admirers. It is apparent that with The Box, Kelly is trying to move out of the alternative and somewhat into the mainstream.

But his definition of ‘mainstream’ is probably not what you might think. Aside from having some familiar faces (Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella), this movie is utterly mired in weirdness. Based on Richard Matheson’s short piece Button, Button – things start of subtly creepy and delve into that weird and wonderful dominion where we try to decipher a challenging and complex series of intrigues like a Russian doll piece. And this is a good thing. The Box requires your unmitigated participation. Nothing is overtly ‘done to you’. It’s up to you the viewer to connect the dots and find your own way to revelation.

Norma and Arthur Lewis are happily married suburbanites in 1976 with a young son. They are awoken one night by their doorbell ringing and find nothing but a package that contains a small wooden box with a button on top. Initially, the bearer of the gift disappears, and we are slowly introduced into their lives. Author works for NASA in development; Norma is a teacher with a secret. While somewhat mundane as this progresses, I loved this aspect of it. It’s like taking a short trip inside Richard Kelly’s skull: his own father worked for NASA, and the decade is pulled off with precision: the houses, automobiles, and fashion almost induce aching nostalgia. Of course, the mysterious stranger returns, and informs the couple that if they press the button they will be awarded one million dollars tax-free. The price is that someone that they do not know will die. Simple as that. Except its not, and the consequences are more far reaching than either of them can imagine.

There is a slight carnival feel to The Box. Like King’s Needful Things we have the dark, forbidding stranger that is almost gentlemanly in nature but isn’t altogether human. If you’re familiar with Donnie Darko and Southland Tales you’ll see many of the same faces from those films. Toward the end the same effects are ratcheted up as we cross into other realms of experience. There’s a touch of humor … and the feeling of being in suburbia but ensconced in the otherworldly is hard to describe. Performances are solid, especially those of Cameron Diaz and Frank Langella. The music (composed entirely by Arcade Fire), is used to fantastic effect and becomes a pivotal part of the crescendo toward the end.

Before The Box terminates from our screens, I feel it wise to have one more screening. Richard Kelly has obviously designed it this way and there is still so much to explore …

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Different Masks

I guess most of us love hearing about our favourite writers: whether it be reading their blogs, listening to interviews, mulling over a snapshot in some tabloid fodder or even reminiscing with them courtesy of some bygone footage on youtube where the genius promotes some ancient text that shaped worldviews: we’re all the same in this regard; whether prolific or unpublished, hermetic or social butterfly, at a core level we all share the headspace of being fans.

But sometimes, I’m sure, there are times when we wish that we didn’t know.

For there is less mystery nowadays, and it is easier to discover how a magician does their tricks. With the advent of the internet that elusive signature doesn’t seem to hold the same weight. Readers are not prone to line up for hours in apocalyptic conditions to fraternize and speak with a beloved composer who made them think, for a fleeting minute, that the world is brighter and somehow more mysterious than previously envisioned. Greetings and platitudes can be exchanged in the comfort of one’s own writing dominion, with little sacrifice. Although this does not make the exchange any less pleasurable … we still jump for joy knowing that the individual liberator has taken a couple of seconds out of their existence to say they appreciated your support and your own existence.

These things led me to think about Stephen King’s short story Dedication … a harried attempt by the man to explain how such enormously gifted people can turn out to be such utter shits in person: women pawing sexists, racists, sneering elitists, or cruel practical jokers. Politics should never come into it, but I recently discovered Dean Koontz was a devoted Republican and had contributed vast amounts of money to candidates and in particular John McCain’s campaign. This should not make me recoil … and yet it did. I live on the other side of the pond in Australia and should not be concerned with how this talented man views his political system. However, it did sour my perception for a whole day and I was reminded of a sentence in one of his recent novels (I can’t remember which one), that describes a hairy spider as having the same characteristics as a hairy mullah of the Taliban. I was distraught as I envisioned this rich white man paling it up with Sarah Palin enough that it stopped me from purchasing his latest release Relentless. Of course, common sense eventually kicked in and I more or less discarded this revelation. Enough to get me to buy the book, anyway. But it did get me thinking about the personal conundrums these individuals have in the public spotlight. 

I’m glad to say that recently I’ve had by own small brush with someone whose work I love: Mr. Clive Barker himself. Over the years this master fabulist has garnered a reputation for being exemplary with his fans and the people who give him the opportunity to do what he loves as a fulltime job. And his brief sojourn into modern technology via Twitter is no exception. I’ve always felt an affiliation with this man; he has provided succor during some tumultuous times in my life. It was only fitting that I woke up one morning with the subject line in an email:

You have a personal message from Clive Barker.

He thanked me for my insights.

And I, in turn, proceeded to thank some nameless deity. 

Review: Sorority Row

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. 

I remember my sheer joy on my first screening of Scream many full-moons ago: my eyes glistened with happiness. There was a re-awakening in the offering – horror was now slightly reinvented and we had a shining future ahead of more films like it to follow. And follow they did: I know what You did last Summer, Urban Legend, Valentine, Final Destination and The Faculty. It kick-started mindless sequels and reinventions of past maniacs that strode across the celluloid sea. Did I garner enjoyment from these horror/thrillers even though there was now a trite formula and almost identical looking posters?

I did.

And that’s where Sorority Row fits in as well. The cast is young, American, and utterly beguiling with their beauty. The stage is Theta Pie – a Sorority House where Jessica, Claire, Ellie, and Megan are celebrating upcoming graduation. They have a motto and are sworn to trust, secrecy and solidarity. It opens up with a huge party: everyone drinking from the quintessential American Pie red cups that seems to be the only type of drinking cup in a thousand collage films. After discovering one of the girl’s brothers has cheated, they devise a revenge scheme in the form of a prank entailing that one of them pretends to be dead. Not everyone is in on the joke, however, and when the prank goes horribly wrong the audience is treated to some grisly moments and surreal tension There are quite a few similarities to I Know What You Did Last summer here. 

In the aftermath of their friends death the remaining girls keep their motto by swearing to never speak of it. Of course, such a plan is doomed to fail and the outcome warrants a trapezoidal odyssey of carnage as someone has taken to enact their own revenge by picking them off one by one.

Apparently the girls in this film are reality television stars making the leap onto the big screen. Their previous forays into the camera are not apparent as we are treated to witty dialogue and even grow to like their individual characters over the course of the film. As a collective audience we know what is coming but visibly jump out of the seat on more than one occasion. The body count and dispatching– although not overly huge – is lent some pretty creative drive as we see our over-sexed alcohol guzzling young adults terminated in new and interesting ways. The guessing game of who’s responsible comes into play … and is handled deftly and with intelligence.

Will Sorority Row be a mind-numbing and altering experience worthy of repeat viewings? No. Will it become a cult-classic? Probably not. But I do recommend taking your favourite thrills partner and enjoy it for what it is … as a film that pretends to be nothing but good entertainment. 

Review: Deadlight by Troy Barnes

Many of you might be aware of Troy Bares. In 2008 this native Tasmanian burst onto the scene with the self-financed debut Deadlight that is here under the microscope for review. The very next year he went on to publish MONOChromacy. Troy’s work is like holding up a mirror to some of the more archetypal horror stories of the past, but he still manages to find his own voice over the extended length of a supernatural thriller.

What has consistently drawn me to Deadlight over the past two years (and finally made me obtain it) has been the cover illustration. From a distance it always piqued my interest; the dynamic blue colour scheme by graphic designer Jessica Turale is like a beacon honing in all like-minded souls. After a quick perusal of the art and blurb, we have a very good idea of the territory we’re about to inhabit.

Carter City: Detectives Nathan Stone and his partner Ritchie Clements are on the trail of a female serial killer dubbed ‘The Messenger’. Over time, with no clues and no leads, the bodies start piling up and it becomes obvious they are dealing with a young woman of no ordinary ilk. With almost uncanny super-human strength and agility, Sarah is able to fight and ‘see’  the malignancy that inhabits a human spirit who has committed heinous acts in the past. This gift (or curse) was bestowed upon her after awakening from a coma. Her assignment on this side of the veil is to dispatch those who dwell within the Deadlight.

Right off the bat, we know we are dealing with a debut novel. Regular typos become apparent after a while and it can have quite a jarring impact. (Although I have noticed this with a few Australian publications over the past couple of years). Commas and question marks are missing, and general words like ‘and’ and ‘the’ can be found substituted for something else. There are breaks in the narrative that are missing three little asterisks at the bottom. That said, this is highly common, and should be easily rectified. It is obvious, however, that portions of the novel need an editor’s zeal and suggestions. Troy shows great promise, but seems to have been let down in this regard.

There is a great portion of the book that deals with police mythos and work. In parts it’s gritty and stylish, reflecting a kind of washed out sepia world of chain smoking detectives whose life is their work. In other parts, the banter can be loose and ill-fitting. It seems Troy has employed the tact of imagining with little thought to verisimilitude. Again, this is something that can be remedied. When reading, I was reminded of how Stephen King once achieved this. After completing a preliminary draft of From a Buick 8, he took it upon himself to spend some time with real-life troopers in Pennsylvania, thereby adding some real flavour that was not just guesswork and things cobbled together from watching reams of modern US cop shows. Of course, not everyone can have these resources at their disposal, so Troy is ultimately to be forgiven.

Things certainly crank up around page 120, as Sarah is more heavily introduced into the fray of the wicked. One of the positive things here is Troy is no slouch when it comes to blood letting: Sarah’s lack of conscience and irrational behaviour can be grating at the start, but over the course of the novel we see how and why she has been led down this path. Suddenly her more erratic behaviour makes sense as we are granted a portal into the genesis of her ‘awakening’. At times, her method of purging humanity’s dross happily reminded me of celluloid serial ‘Jigsaw’ from the Saw franchise. We have the same ethical conundrums that present themselves … and killing methods that are just as effective.

After completing the novel I was in two minds: on one hand the errors can be quite jarring and make the reader recoil. On the other we know we’re dealing with an author who is in career infancy. Troy Barnes is talented, there is no doubt about that. And you can tell he really cares about what he is doing. There’s heart in Deadlight and determination. I imagine that by his third or forth effort, he will have found a dedicated readership and a coherent narrative that will ultimately sell books. For this reason Deadlight is certainly worth its purchase.

Copies of Deadlight can be ordered from the author’s website. 

Review: The Birthing House

Christopher Ransom has burst from the blocks with one of the most astonishing debuts to emerge in recent years. He has created, with The Birthing House, a distinct and homely voice that will no doubt find a devoted readership. Although the story falls within a genre that goes beyond well-established, Ransom here defies the tropes with a kind of writing that only the most gifted writers can tap into.

Initially, I must admit to nearly bypassing this one. Etched on the bottom is the kind of mantra one wants to avoid when purchasing a novel: If you like Stephen King, you’ll love …’ Let’s face it: nine times out of ten these would-be Steve King’s fall very short on capturing anything but a swollen and pale imitation of a classic thriller. However, The Birthing House does not deserve such dime-store treatment. I will go as far as saying this book deserves the red carpet treatment with many other classics of the genre. Of course, there are comparisons to other books, but Christopher has shoved all of these together with such disparate and melting force that it reads like the ultimate homage … with Ransom’s unique voice shouting to be heard above the others …

Conrad Harrison is a man that likes new beginnings, fresh starts. The decision to pack up and move to Wisconsin from California seems a natural one after the death of his father. Although never close to the old man, his inheritance gives him an opportunity to move himself, his wife Jo, and their two dogs to a 140 year old Victorian house in Black Earth.  When his wife disappears for work on a training program, Conrad is left behind to soak up the house’s history … of which there is a lot. When the neighbors decide to hightail it for a holiday and leave their pregnant daughter Nadia behind, the house decides that it wants more history … this time featuring Conrad and his pregnant friend.

The Birthing House is the literary equivalent to Nirvana’s semaphore effort In Utero. That album’s music and artwork was themed with birth, babies, and new beginnings. Christopher Ransom’s book works in much the same way … inviting the reader to share with him an advent of existence that is steeped in blood and mystery. It’s full of life, the prose like that of a professional, and certainly not a debut.

To give birth to a novel like The Birthing House, to bring it into the world all bloody and screaming, Christopher Ransom had consulted that which came before him: The book falls under the umbrella of many novels like Bag of Bones, A Winter Haunting, The Stake, Misery and Secret Window, Secret Garden. But it fairly resonates with his own juxtaposition of the concept … and this is reason it has been so successful. 

Review: Drag Me to Hell

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 film starts off in a mundane world all of us know to well: the office space. Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), is a loan officer in a bank and adheres to the whims of her superiors in the hopes of landing a lucrative Assistant Manager position: this is great angle; Sam and his brother Ivan have written and then displayed a realm that’s so clinical in the details – the familiarity of the nine-to-five hum drum is so part and parcel with all of us that – knowing that there are horrors to come – we feel strapped in for a joyride. We know Christine’s world is about to be shattered, her cosy niche forever transformed by what we have seen and know of the plot.

And that (the plot), concerns one Mrs. Ganush, an old gypsy who is refused an extension on her mortgage by Christine, is ultimately shamed, and seeks vengeance by cursing her in an ugly stoush that has to be seen to be believed. Sam Ramai knows what repulses us, and he uses the character Mrs. Ganush to really get under our skin in this regard. For me, there is just something so ultimately creepy about old hags … especially ones that cackle and have a vendetta or score to settle. In the aftermath of her confrontation, Christine is visibly shaken, and persuades her boyfriend Justin (Clay Dalton), to consult a fortune teller … perhaps a way to gauge whether or not the cursing of her jacket button had any real ramifications. The seer is Rahm Jas, someone who is wise in the ways of dark arts and is, in due course, recruited by Christine to help understand the enigma she is dealing with.

To go into detail regarding this enigma is probably giving too much away, but suffice to say Rami, during the course of this dark excursion, gives us everything we’ve come to expect of him. There’s the horrific moments of possession laced with delicious slapstick comedy; scenes of pure relentless terror where nothing is shown and everything is only suggested or hinted at. An apocalyptic climax with genuinely repulsive advents … and of course no modern horror or thriller movie is complete without an unexpected twist. Here, the performances are solid, and the effects are ratcheted up to very decent levels. I have a feeling Raimi would have enjoyed working with limited budget that would not have produced the mind-numbing headache that an intricate franchise like Spiderman would have entailed.

Throughout its duration, there was at least half a dozen times that the audience visibly jumped or were rocked backwards … hackles raised in a crowd is sure sign an observer was viewing a future classic.  

Different Masks

The great grey beast of July had eaten Matthew Tait alive -

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 -

Such thoughts were with me today as I sat in a classroom, ensconced in the world of computers. Even these machines can inspire - but there is something cold about them: an aura of numbers that bridge a spectrum filled with plastic and encumbered by weight.

If I love anything about humanity, it's that yearning of the creative mind. It wants to unshackle; become free from restraint and bondage. Maybe even lent spirit. The flesh does that: it's like a kind of prison sometimes, and the main reason I have turned to writing and books is a way to persuade my mind that it will wander there one day. Not yet - but soon. Be patient. I think Clive barker summed it up more precisely, almost penning word for word how I feel on days like today:  

He'd always been a solitary child, as much through choice as circumstance, happiest when he could unshackle his imagination and let it wander. It took little to get such journeys started. Looking back, it seemed he'd spent half his school days gazing out of some window, transported by a line of poetry whose meaning he couldn't quite unearth, or the sound of someone singing in a different classroom, into a world more pungent and remote than the one he knew. A world whose scents were carried to his nostrils by winds mysteriously warm in a chill July; whose creatures paid him homage on certain nights at the foot of his bed, and whose people conspired with him in sleep -

Clive Barker. Writer. Showman. 

Different Masks

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 midnight; 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. 

Ghosts In a Desert World reviewed at Scary Minds.

Matthew Tait presents thirteen tales of the macabre with slight detours into fantasy for a change in pace. Ranging from tales of madness, though planet psycho, to the demons that haunt the dark places the Author presents his own view on what a horror collection should contain. Be prepared to be shocked, dial into some metaphysics, and to question religion as Tait delivers a diverse range of stories.

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?


"He suddenly felt covered with fleas, ants, and a tsunami of maggots." - Car Crash Weather.

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 Bristol fashion. Whatever in the hell that means. Naturally since the collection hasn't at yet been published it also hasn't been at the tender mercy of an actual Editor, who would no doubt have red pen in hand marking up a few things. So what you end up reading is a pretty raw manuscript, which all adds to the fascination in my opinion. How often do you get the chance to read an Author's original take on a story before it's polished for final publication? The downside is of course the odd stumbling block in a few stories, no one gets it right the first time, and some typos heralding the normal grammatically foibles that a word processor's spell checker is going to miss. There's nothing that will drive an English teacher into fits of hysteria however, and lets face facts here a few published works make you wonder if the Editor of the work in question didn't knock the book off in an afternoon after a particular long lunch down the local pub. See some of Gabrielle Lord's early published novels for example.

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 United States, though the characters in those tales are apt to use Down Under terminology and speech patterns. One of those quirks I guess of a manuscript still to be given a final spit shine before publication.

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. 

Review: The Grand Conjunction by Sean Williams

Adelaide author Sean Williams delivers, via The Grand Conjunction, the final piece of the Astropolis puzzle - a vast, many chambered volume that actually manages to surpass its predecessors Saturn Returns, Cenotaxis and Earth Ascendant.

With such a statement, I do not wish to inflict any spoilers here, for The Grand Conjunction falls into a category that is in and of itself. A continuation of those novels? Yes. The same philosophical and cordial prose we have come to love? Yes. But what lies at this novel heart is more layered in its transparency. Like a Russian Doll, the revelations slide away in a manner that the author himself probably found unexpected and even humorous.

Imre Bergamasc - now, I'm guessing, a somewhat classic protagonist in science fiction's pantheon, has come full circle. After taking up the mantle of ruler of the galaxy in Earth Ascendant, the end of that novel saw him shackle off the responsibility and head out into the abyss in search of his other murderous self - a being who may have converted into the galaxies most notorious intelligence: a Fort. The scene was set for an epic face-off, an accumulation of everything that's gone before , and Sean could have very well stuck to a tried and tested formula - had he not been utterly original.

The prologue in The Grand Conjunction is a gentle reminder of those previous advents you may have forgotten, things that ping on the edge of consciousness and make you smile. But it's the first part of the novel that will really blow you away; a dark, pulpy private-eye wonderland that will be keep you guessing and reading just to see where it all fits in. 

It's disconcerting how lost our main guy (or girl) can be here: the cysts of memory; the amnesiac, schizophrenic quality of advents. And finally the gargantuan amount of years that transpire between them. It all adds up to mind-dislocating factors , which, I guess, is what science fiction is all about. Like previously, the poetic language is apparent. You read, sometimes with veiled comprehension, but reading nevertheless, knowing that understanding will dawn after careful deliberation.

The second half of the book is like a family reunion, and all the major players come back to play: Render, Emlee Copas and Al Freer. These guys have been busy continuing the merry fight - a campaign that sees the now- ruler and Imre's offspring Ra MacPhedron doing battle with them. The parasite known as the Veil has not gone away. Quite the contrary: most of humanity now lies swindled in its embrace. And there are other eye-openers this scrounger from Dussehra will teach them before all is said and done. But, most important of all, The Luminous have finally dealt their hand and revealed themselves to be creators of a sort - in a realm where humanity itself is like the artificial intelligence. They are the Gods of the future vying for who sits on top of the food chain, past and present -

But the basic premise for Imre never really changed: Avenge the Forts. Find Himself.

And, in the final twenty pages: The War has begun -

Sean Williams, over the years, has proven himself to be quite the master fabulist. A reputation that started off subtle but, with a series like Astropolis, has now demonstrated he is in a league of his own …

Dark Meridian

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: 



Different Masks

The Long Walk by Stephen King (or Bachman, if you prefer), is probably my favourite novella/novel of all time. I say this for a variety of reasons: first of all, it is one of the first 'adult' novels that I ever tackled, and it came at the tender age of twelve. Therein lays an uncanny, portentous flavour within the pages that will never be equalled. It was read with a pure heart, a pure mind. No critical analysis or comparisons can be made, for the standing wave front that is the human mind has yet to develop a coherent narrative juxtaposition. I saw the world through different eyes - better eyes, if I can be truthful. Almost candy-flavoured senses that an adult brain would need drugs to enhance. In truth, I yearn for that transparency: but have to live with the verity that those halcyon moments will never come again -

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 America is a metaphor for life. Only the persistent keep walking, while others conk out and die. Some of them are friends; others enemies. But we're all on the Long Walk together, and I am enviable of Stephen King for grappling this finite concept at such an impressionable age.

It was drawn to my attention last night there is actually a website for devotees of the book. I couldn't believe it, and yet - I could. I'm not alone in my journey to keep walking and claim the ultimate prize - or Dark Tower, or whatever you want to call it. There are others all around me - trying to find the strength to run - 

One more thing: I think one the best things about revisiting our most beloved books is the smell of them. A scent can certainly transport you back, and if you have that same edition you read as a youngling, hold on to it. It's a fantastic tether to a purer past ... 

Shoot me an email if you feel the same. :)

Different Masks

My Blurb on the Back!!

I'll be attending the 48th Australian Science Fiction Convention (Natcon) held in Adelaide and beginning June 5th and running the entire long weekend. What can I say? It's shaping up to be a blast. A lot of cool book launches seem to be happening, a lot of great panels and a lot of great people - and all held right here on my home turf.  

It comes at a pivotal time. Remember a few posts ago I ruminated I needed a Sean Williams fix and The Grand Conjunction was being released? Well, said book arrived in my mail last week and I was flabbergasted to see the review I did for HorrorScope on the inside sleeve. Also there was a smidgen of it on the back. Natcon will be special because Sean himself will be there (of course), and I'll also get to see him do a spot of DJ at the ball thingy on Saturday night. My review of The Grand Conjunction will be up on HorrorScope by then so hopefully we can chat about that.

And is it good? Well, it's mind-bending to say the least.

In other related writing news, Shane Jiraya Cummings referred to some of my work as 'raw and powerful'. But unfortunately it didn't get reviewed .. 

Anyways, hope to see some of my fellow HorrorScoper's and everyone else at the Natcon .. 

Different Masks

I love the idea that people once thought that the world was flat, or that there was an edge to the world. It was limitless, eternal. A kind of supernatural dominion - not a restricted sphere full of boundaries, territories, and unimaginative laws.

Modern existence can be kind of monotonous and lacklustre.

My imagination can sometimes be feverish, longing for hidden realities and revelations …

It hit me today how much I miss Sean Williams work. I desperately need a Sean Williams fix, so it couldn't be more appropriate timing that the last book in his Astropolis series is coming out. Tentatively titled The Grand Conjunction. Expect a very detailed review of that on HorrorScope.

A friend of mine bought me a crime novel by Stuart McBride called Blind Eye. Now, this is where things get interesting because, well - I usually can't stand such a hard-boiled genre. But I've given it a go, and -well, I think I'm just becoming more mature in the head; more adult, so to speak, because I'm really enjoying it.

So much more to say; so much stuff happening in the world of fiction. Will certainly be back soon …

Different Masks

Monday 4th May 2009

My muse showed up on Friday night, and it seems the tale of Davey Ribbon wants to be told properly. Needs to be told. I think I've just never felt mature enough to handle it's characters - it as, after all, my personal attempt at small town mythos; a homage to Stephen King and , although I don't know much about this from my own upbringing, it's something that I have to get out of my system.

All the major players have been introduced and established; the boogeyman that is the dead boy Davey Ribbon has implanted his subtle evil in the collective consciousness of an entire municipal population. The unnecessary chapters have been scrapped - which basically includes the last third of the entire tome. Lightning stutters and flickers in the distance with the coming darkness, and some kind malign face-off ensues -

Copious coffee has been prepared, and I've blown up the television. I just heard a bell ringing in the small town of Cyclone Cove. Seems schools out for another day and twin sisters Miriam and Charlotte are on their way home. But I'm sure they're going to wish they stayed at school. Because when they finally get home they'll find that their Mommy just isn't Mommy anymore. Because Mommy has changed. Mommy has become scary. Now, for the fun part … 

Note: Illustration on top drawn by Tom Tait for Davey Ribbon. 

Different Masks

Life has many hidden layers - so many unspoken, secretive realms. When writers or anyone creates, there's hidden meaning everywhere. Look at DUNE? Look at DONNIE DARKO? I spoke to Richard Kelly (the director) briefly and he informed me that he wasn't quiet aware that his vision would have so much impact; I doubt, when he was composing, that he had any idea that God was working through him. That's what I adore about writing and creating: we have no inkling that we're just vessels for the infinite ... 

Different Masks

Tuesday 14th April 2009

It astounds me how a medical show like HOUSE really captures the imaginations of people in creative realms - those ensconced mainly in horror and Sc/Fi, it seems. Actually, it could just be it appeals to those with fantastic intellects, and I'd like to think the people involved in working and writing in said genre's have that in abundance. 

Well, I wish -

A person would think the quality would dwindle over the years, but somehow the writers (in my opinion) have managed to keep it savvy and fresh, with some of the best episodes just aired. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for LOST, although there are many out there that would disagree with me. Believe me, I tried to hang onto this wondrous show with the same vehemence as SK, but it ultimately drifted away -

Regarding the great god Stephen, it will never, ever cease to amaze me how much work this one man industry can put out. I deliberate on this issue for hours during the dark watches of the night. What is the secret? Many moons ago I thought it was pure passion; I had that in abundance but still couldn't muster his work ethic. Then I figured it was drinking alcohol (because it's no secret now that it was certainly his secret in the eighties), or so he claimed. But although that helped temporarily and produced some marvellous short-story visions, it ultimately gets ugly and in the way of life. Financial success? The time this gives you? Perhaps no success and the motivational spur? Smoking? Having a wife for support (which I don't), kids? Blah, blah, blah -

Whatever the case, none of it matters. What does is that I'm still chugging out words every day. Whether it be seven words or three thousand, at least they're there. And on some of those days, the magic works so well that it's this reality that seems like the lie -

A blurb recently emerged of his new up and coming Under the Dome, and it sounds like the premise for the Simpson’s movie. Still, can't wait.

Another I can't for is Kevin Anderson's TERRA INCOGNITA: The Edge of the World. Here's you're plug, Kevin. A writer who works as hard as you deserves it. And deserves to be read widely, too, of course.

Different Masks

Wednesday April 8th 2009

I finally got around reading Issue one of the Australian Horror Writers magazine: Midnight 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.
Instead of handing in paltry half-efforts because that's all I had in the trunk I should've just let it fly and submitted nothing - or sat down and wrote something else ball breaking and original.

Anyways, that's what I've learnt reading the stories: that the authors here would not have come to the table lightly. And I know that writers like Felicity Dowker actually compose with a specific anthology or market in mind.

So, just like Steve King does in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, the bottomfeeders will be carefully swept under the rug -and everything to appear from now on in any format will be relatively new in regards to writing style and date composed.

I printed out Midnight Echo in its entirety and carry it around with me in an old-fashioned satchel thingy. All I can say is thank Christ for this realm called the internet; I scorn the bloody thing at times but without it - I wouldn't know there were hundreds of other people out there just like me. People that don't think you're eccentric for carrying around, and dipping into, a collection of macabre stories by a bunch of Aussie writers. My mistake was once leaving it around as perhaps a conversation starter. Let's just say I won't be doing that again because it was almost thrown out with no more aplomb than if it were a dirty and shed snake skin. 

Different Masks

Friday April 3rd 2009

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 wept a little at the end, when the message blossoms out of the madness: a character is ruminating that she must remember the glories she's witnessing (the way the world really is) when unhappy times show up in the future. Because it's not that those glories aren't there - they're just hidden from sight.

It's a thought that's entered my cranium countless times over the years: and I love that optimistic side of me. It's just a pity I sometimes forget those glories ever existed, and have a very hard time recalling even snippets of them.

But its books like SACRAMENT that make us remember. Everything looks a little brighter afterward, the world a more magical place. Staring at the moon afterward, drinking coffee, I saw the clouds passing over it's globular face and felt a rush of wonder that my senses were perceiving it exactly as it wanted to be seen.

Wonder that wouldn't have existed had Clive Barker not taught me to see it …

Different Masks

When you surround yourself with Darkness on such a scale, it's sometimes entirely healthy to balance out the equation with laughter. (Although that's not entirely correct, it's true that horror has been prevalent in my celluloid entertainment, but I've become too much of a Sci-Fi nut over the past year to accurately call myself a horror/dark fantasy aficionado.) But the comedy must still come, and as a human being I don't know what I'd do without at least two doses of The Simpson's a day -

Over the weekend I watched the entire Summer Heights High DVD, that's the Australian mockumentary with Chris Lilley. Like Kath and Kim, it's utterly scary because that's how school used to be for me; there were fuckwits like the characters he plays everywhere. Suffice to say I watched it laughing my ass off but feeling utterly embarrassed at the same time.

The Chasers War on Everything should be back soon, I hope. That's just so my sense of humour - enough so I wrote a few of my own sketches for dumb fun that could probably find a niche with the gang. Headcases is pretty cool also. Actually, there's just too damn many to mention here ...

Reading: Chimaera by Ian Irvine.

Different Masks

Wednesday 18th March 2009

I've been working quite hard this week but the words have managed to come nonetheless. 5,000 so far, and this is good for me. I think I'm finally becoming a breed of composer that can write in the more public dominion: whilst cars hustle and bustle, and the human herd chatters, a halo of darkness can surrounded me - and sometimes the distractions can work to your benefit.

Even though I can't afford it, I'm going to buy books tomorrow. Because words are my everything - including food itself. What shall take my fancy I do not know at this point, and that is part of the impending anticipation. Revelation awaits me -

Reading: The Cellar by Richard Laymon and The Golden Torc by Julian May.

Different Masks

Sunday March 15, 2009

There was a marathon of Desperate Housewives on today - and I was just about to change the channel. A few episodes have amused me over the years, but there's been no overt pleasure in watching it. However, today I was enraptured. Whilst writing, of course. Can't just sit there watching the box without fidgeting with something else. Uh-mnn. Cough.

It reminded me of the Buffy marathons they used to have on a couple of years ago on Fox 8. Man, they were something - whole lazy Sundays spent with Buffy, Xander, Spike and the crew. An imaginative individual could be utterly immersed as if the show was produced specifically for he or she personally. Anyways, I don't feel that guilty about Desperate Housewives anymore. After all, I'm doing nothing but spending the afternoon staring at gorgeous chicks …

Re-reading: The Tommyknockers. And Yep, I have that cool edition. 

Different Masks

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. 

Different Masks

I miss Kurt Cobain. I really do. Not personally, of course. But I sometimes weep for those albums that could've been produced had the dude not put a bullet in his head. And a solo album that would've taken place about now in his career -

Sorry. I don't mean to sound negative, but I'm in a maudlin mood. You're probably thinking: Well, listening to Nirvana will do that too you. Well, I beg to differ. If it wasn't for Nirvana's music I'd probably be in the grave with him by now -

Currently reading: War in Heaven by David Zindell. (Well, re-reading)

Would someone tell this dude to get a website? He had one for a while, I think, but it's long since vanished. There's a couple of fan one's, I think, but that's all.

Back to music: I worry about the state of rock n roll when women are in charge: All they ever do is sing about their relationships; men are everything to them, and they rarely think about anything else. Hooning along in my automobile today, I heard the latest lyrics from Kelly Clarkson: My Life, would suck - without you. They're probably the worst lyrics I've ever heard for a chorus - and I've been a muso and guitar player since ... well, forever. I kind of know what I'm talking about.

Evanescence seemed to change this; here was a chick that could rock. She sang about philosophy, being depressed, and all kinds of shit. And then their second album came about, and, shock of all horrors, it was about her boyfriend. Lead singer of Seether. (Which is a fucking great band). Ahhgg - sorry dudes, I'm just venting.