Three Years Later

September 24, 2008

Oxford American is marking the third anniversary of the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina with a special issue written almost entirely by New Orleans and Gulf Coast locals. It’s an amazing insider’s look at how one of the worst natural disasters in our country’s history came close to completely washing away one of our most unique treasures, and how its people are fighting to reclaim their homes and lives with dignity, imagination and unbelievable spirit.

Oxford American has long been a place I could turn to to hear the voice of my people. It embraces the grit and determination I see all around me on a daily basis, and shines a loving light on the traditions of a region that lives and breathes good music, good food, and good writing.

If you’ve ever been to New Orleans…if you’ve ever drank Black Voodoo beer while listening to a three-man band play the blues in tree-shaded courtyard…if you’ve ever eatem spicy gumbo and gnawed on a hamhock from paper bowls and plates…if you’ve ever wandered through a New Orleans cemetery, browsed a New Orleans record store or got your shoes shined on Bourbon Street, you need to read this issue.

And if you haven’t done any of those things, or any of the million more there is to do in New Orleans, you must read it. You’ll see what you’ve missed.

“Three Graves”

September 19, 2008
I’m thrilled to announce that my story “Three Graves” picked up an Honorable Mention in Shroud magazine’s Third MySpace Flash Fiction Photo Contest. The story will appear in issue #4 of the magazine, available soon.
This is my second Honorable Mention in the contest – my story “Danger Well” appeared in issue #3. Shroud is a fine up-and-coming magazine, and I’m proud to once again be a part of their lineup. I’ll be sure and post a notice here when the issue is available.

Eerie Archives Vol. 1

September 12, 2008
Dark Horses Eerie Archives Vol. 1

Dark Horse's Eerie Archives Vol. 1

Various (W/A)

On sale Mar 18
FC w/b&w, 240 pages
HC, 8 3/8″ x 10 7/8″

Slithering upon the heels of Dark Horse’s archive collections of the seminal
horror comics magazine Creepy comes its terror-filled cousin publication Eerie!
Collected for fans for the first time ever, and packaged in the same amazing
oversized format as our Creepy Archives, Dark Horse Comics has taken great,
gruesome care in presenting this groundbreaking material to readers who have
been waiting decades to get their claws on it. Eerie magazine, like its killer
kin Creepy, features work from many of the masters of comics storytelling. For
fans of spectacular spookiness, mind-bending sci-fi, and astonishing artwork,
the Eerie Archives library is a must have.
– Includes the work of Gray Morrow, Frank Frazetta, Alex Toth, Neal Adams, Joe
Orlando, and others!


Best news I heard all day!

Haven’t I Seen This Before?

September 11, 2008

Halloween. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. House of Wax. Prom Night. April Fool’s Day. Friday the 13th. A Nightmare On Elm Street. Amityville Horror. Carrie.

The above isn’t just a list of classic (and some not-so-classic) 1970s/1980s horror films. It’s a list of classic (and not-so-classic) 1970s/1980s horror films that either have been, or are in the process of, being remade.

It’s not that there aren’t fresh ideas out there: there are. But Hollywood loves a proven commodity. The names Leatherface, Michael, Freddy and Jason are guaranteed to sell a certain amount of tickets on opening weekend. Whether the movies are actually good, actually needed, doesn’t really matter. Never has. Greenlight a small-budget horror flick with a built-in audience and you’re bound to make your money back and then some. And unlike other horror trends like the torture porn of Hostel and Saw, remake fever doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

Here’s the thing for me, though. I don’t hate remakes. If it’s a different take on something I’ve enjoyed in the past, I’ll give it a shot. The original is still there, untouched, unmolested. (Unless it’s a George Lucas product, in which case the original will slowly disappear under a constant barrage of special effects tweaks and editing revisions.) Take Halloween, for example.

Rob Zombie's Michael Myers

 Halloween, the original John Carpenter version, is pretty much my favorite horror film of all time. (Jaws resides above it in my personal Top Ten list, but that’s more of an adventure film than horror.) So when I heard Rob Zombie was remaking it, I thought, “Okay, let’s see what you’ve got.” I didn’t join the hand-wringing over whether or not he would “ruin” Halloween. If he botched the job, nobody would ever have to watch it again, and we could always count on Anchor Bay to put out another “anniversary edition” of the original’s DVD.

So it came out, and I went to the theater, and I liked some of what I saw. I liked the faster, more brutal version of Michael. Liked parts of Michael’s expanded backstory, and the fact that Zombie stayed far, far away from runes, stars, and all the other garbage heaped onto the Halloween sequels as explanation for The Shape’s killing sprees. Yes, I prefer no explanation at all – the apparent lack of motivation was part of what made Original Michael so creepy – but if it has to be explained, I’ll take Zombie’s version over the other.

I also liked the way the movie looked. Zombie has a knack for capturing decay on film, and he not only does that in Halloween, but he also captured late fall in all its golden glory.

There were things I didn’t like, such as the girls. Laurie, in particular, didn’t work for me in Zombie’s version, mainly because we don’t spend much time with her. The other two were just stereotypical slasher film cannon fodder, and I really didn’t care when they were dispatched.

John Carpenter's Michael Myers

The fact is that Rob Zombie’s Halloween did not, and will not, replace John Carpenter’s Halloween for me. It’s an interesting side trip, nothing more. Ditto for all the others listed above (the ones I’ve seen, at least – in a few of those cases, the originals weren’t worth bothering with, and nothing about the remakes implied they’d be any different). And there are more to come.

Personally, I’m excited for a revamped Friday the 13th. Let’s face it – that first one doesn’t hold up well at all. The remake supposedly combines elements of the first three F13s into one origin story. Cool – we get Mrs. Voorhees and the hockey mask in one fell swoop. It might be great. It might be terrible. If nothing else, I’m betting it will be pretty to look at. And at the end of the day, we’ll all still have our DVDs of the original to fall back on.

In the meantime, let’s hope our support of horror films of all kinds keeps Hollywood digging for more material. Perhaps one day they’ll open a book by Kealan Patrick Burke or Gary Braunbeck and say “Hey! This would make a great movie!”

We Have Always Lived In The Castle

September 9, 2008

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson

There is more to Shirley Jackson than “The Lottery.”
You’ve read “The Lottery.” If you haven’t, you’ve heard about it. Small village. A drawing of names. Stones. It’s one of those stories that, when they made me read it in school, I was glad they’d made me read it. But I didn’t seek out any more of Jackson’s work, because, well, I was in school and I had other things to do.
Years later I discovered The Haunting of Hill House. Jackson’s opening paragraph is among my favorite novel openings of all time. I love the rest of the book, too. And yet, I still didn’t look for more of the author’s work.
Recently, I saw the above cover and was intrigued. Then I saw the author and snatched it up. Like the works mentioned above, this one didn’t disappoint. It’s a story filled with ghosts, but not the kind that inhabit Hill House; these ghosts are made of bad deeds and bad memories.
The three surviving family members of a mysterious poisoning have locked themselves away in a rambling old mansion, and have carefully constructed a fantasy life to keep themselves safe. Constance cooks and cleans and looks after her younger sister Mary Catherine, or “Merricat,” who spends her days burying talismans around the grounds and wishing for a life on the moon. Uncle Julius, poisoned also but not dead, spends his days writing about the fateful dinner that killed his brother and sister-in-law, but can’t himself remember everything that happened. These three live in solitude until forgotten Uncle Charles shows up, shattering the facade they’ve worked so hard to maintain.
Simple, short and direct, this is a powerful book; one that caught me off guard more than once. Jackson’s prose is both spare and poetic; lean when it needs to be, but not afraid to meander a bit when the mood allows. I enjoyed the language just as much as the plot and revelations it contained.
Suffice to say I’ve learned my lesson – I’ll now be seeking out all the Shirley Jackson I can find. I recommend anyone else with a love of a good story do the same.