Search This Blog

Loading...

2.04.2016

Turning to Peace



It's cool and rainy out. Feels a lot like Oregon today, and I had this kind of day at the word processor. Feeling good about the work, about the process, and about what the finished product might look like...

1.27.2016

The Sad (but Necessary) Outcome of the Oregon Standoff

Like many modern public controversies, there is a lot of complexity to the standoff that is now coming to a close in rural Oregon after almost a month of tension, intimidation, and public posturing. For many outside of Oregon, the perception of the state is directly influenced by shows like Portlandia and the bizarre news that frequently trickles out of what is, admittedly, an idiosyncratic place. 

What many aren't familiar with is the state's unbelievable diversity. There are arid high deserts in the eastern portion of the state and temperate rain forests west of the Cascades, which are themselves a series of active volcanoes. There are imposing mountain peaks, ancient sand dunes, coastal estuaries, and fertile plains. In short, the state is home to many diverse ecosystems, and the inhabitants of those various areas are just as diverse--politically, culturally, and socially. Folks think of Oregon as a haven of liberalism, and it often votes that way because of the large population centers in the Willamette Valley. But, there are also many areas of extreme conservatism. Eastern and southern Oregon are two of these regions, and these are sparsely populated agricultural areas in which a healthy distrust of government at almost any level runs strictly counter to the ethos in the valley.

The planned occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was not carried out by Oregonians, though there was definitely local sympathy for some aspects of the ridiculous aims of this cadre of self-styled patriots from Utah, Idaho, and Arizona. While many of these dangerous nuts were merely comical caricatures, there was a real sense of intimidation and fear in the close-knit community of Burns, Oregon.

The MNWR has been a federal steward of the land for decades in that part of the country, and many ranchers rely on its careful management to facilitate sustainable grazing permits for their cattle. The MNWR is also home to thousands of artifacts and archaeologically significant sites for the Burns Paiute Tribe, which voiced opposition to the federal government's handling of this standoff on multiple occasions.

The fact is, issues of conservation/utility, public/private, and federal/local have always been at the forefront of life in rural Oregon. I enjoyed my formative years in John Day, where militants had planned another session of public rabble-rousing before one of their leaders was shot and killed while charging at Oregon State Police. My father was a federal forester in a town with two sawmills--a place where federal logging restrictions created tension among the citizens that simmered up around dinner tables on on school playgrounds. 

Environmental terrorism has flourished in Oregon for decades, existing right alongside deeply held, hands-off conservatism; this has made for an often volatile public debate over how to use the state's abundant natural resources. 

My point here is that some of the tangential issues related to this stand-off merit scrutiny and public discussion. I say this as someone who believes in the stewardship of public lands, in environmental conservation, and in socially responsible employment. There needs to be a balance, and all sides of this argument have a different idea of what that balance should look like. 

But these gun-toting outsiders should never have been the face of change for creating this forum. None-too-bright and frequently unemployed, they came to Oregon with bad (and treasonous) intentions. Were they there for personally held beliefs, or to operate as the tip of the spear for the radical and dangerous beliefs espoused by the likes of the Koch brothers?

Again, many of the ranchers in the area have worked very productively with the BLM and MNWR for decades:
"It was interesting the number of ranchers who said, 'Why would we do that? Things are working pretty well. And we've been here 100 years. My grandfather was here. Take over public lands? Why would I want to take on that enormous expense when I can simply benefit from the government taking that on?'"
I graduated from Pendleton High School before heading out west to Linfield. One of my first jobs was working twelve hours a day, seven days a week, picking up peas on a combine at a farm out in Adams, Oregon. I rounded dinner tables with ranchers and farmers and cowboys for years. I watched as these battles played out in communities throughout our state. The fact is, there are legitimate issues to resolve as government, industry, citizens, and environmentalists work together to find a productive balance for Oregon.

But these protesters from out of state never had that in mind. 

They merely wanted publicity for a set of beliefs that even those in rural Oregon found abhorrent. And when they stated that they would leave and the citizens of Burns asked them to go, they lied and went back on their word. Ultimately, one has to ask: Did they want to become martyrs? The Koch brothers spent $122 million dollars trying to defeat Obama in 2012. They lost that battle, but I don't think their largess splashed blood on their hands. 

I'm not sure the same can be said for what happened yesterday in a narrow canyon between Burns and John Day.

I'm glad the Bundys are in jail. I'm glad the Paiutes will regain access to their lands. I'm glad that the MNWR's seventeen employees can (eventually) get back to their objectives of stewardship. I'm glad the people of Burns can feel safe in their town again, and that Oregon's state police can feel more comfortable about pulling over trucks with out-of-state plates again.

I hope things get back to some semblance of normalcy in that part of the world, and that productive talks about how to use the land create conditions where farcical political stunts like this one won't lead to bloodshed, intimidation, and treason in the future. 

1.20.2016

In the Walls and Other Stories

Friedrich Nietzsche’s prescient warning about gazing long into the abyss speaks to the very nature of the human condition. Whether we care to admit it or not, it’s instinctual to peer into the darkness from time to time—to question our mortality and the fabric of our world.

Stories are windows. Some open upon scenes of purity and goodness—on love and light. Others…well, others promise much darker environments, and horrific glimpses into the uncanny.

What voracious creature lurks in the waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge? What dreadful apparitions revisit the Florida jungle, when the golden moon is high and the autumn grows ripe? What rough beast stares out from ancient walls, and deep into the souls of man?

In the Walls and Other Stories offers eleven explorations of uncanny imagination and spine-tingling dread. There are frightful things, dear readers, and unspeakable visions.

Go ahead! Take a look. Take a good, long look into the darkness…


From the author of Cold on the Mountain and The Reset comes In the Walls and Other Stories, a collection of eerie short stories sure to chill the heart and quicken the pulse.

Pick up a copy with the following retailers:

1.06.2016

Whoo boy! Quite the Working Bibliography...

2016 is devoted to writing a longer research project. My initial bibliography for a project on horror culture in the age of digital diffusion is listed below. Feel free to send along any suggestions for texts and/or materials (films are purposely omitted here, though are in play for the project) that might fit the general terrain of what you see below!

Working Bibliography
Aarseth, Espen J. “Nonlinearity and Literary Theory.” The New Media Reader. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. 761-780. Print.
Asimov, Isaac. I, Robot. New York: Spectra, 2008. Print.
Bailey, Dale. American Nightmares: The Haunted House Formula in American Popular Fiction. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Press, 1999. Print.
Barker, Clive. “In the Hills, the Cities.” The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, eds. New York: TOR, 2011. 641-656. Print.
Barron, Laird. “Frontier Death Song.” Nightmaremagazine.com. Nightmare Magazine, Oct. 2012. Web. 6 Jan. 2016.
---. “Proboscis.” The Imago Sequence and Other Stories. San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2007. 101-18. Print.
Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Marxists.org. Marxists Internet Archive. N.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
Berger, James. After the End: Representations of Post-Apocalypse. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. Print.
Birkerts, Sven. “Terminal Reading: Into the Electronic Millennium.” Bostonreview.com. The Boston Review, 1993-2005. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
Bolter, J. David. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.
Borges, Jorge Luis. “The Garden of the Forking Paths.” The New Media Reader. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. 29-34. Print.
Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles. New York: Doubleday, 1950. Print.
---. The October Country. New York: Morrow Reprints, 2013. Print.
Brown, Rick J. “The Puppet Show.” The Best of Horror Library: Volumes 1-5. Winchester: Cutting Block Books, 2015. Kindle edition.
Burnard, Lou, and Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe and John Unsworth, eds. Electronic Textual Editing. New York: MLA, 2006. Print.
Bush, Vannevar. “As We May Think.” The New Media Reader. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. 35-48. Print.
Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. New York: Norton, 2010. Print.
Carroll, Noël. The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart. New York: Routledge, 1990. Print.
Carvajal, Doreen. “Long Line Online for Stephen King E-Novella.” The New York Times 16 Mar. 2000. ProQuest. Web. 28 Dec. 2015.
Chandler, Daniel. “An Introduction to Genre Theory.” 1997. Web. 18 Nov. 2015. PDF file.
Cheever, John. “The Enormous Radio.” The Stories of John Cheever. 1st paperback ed. New York: Ballantine, 1980. Print.
Clover, Carol. Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. Print.
Coover, Robert. “The End of Books.” The New Media Reader. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. 705- 710. Print.
Cruz, Clarissa. “’Riding’ High.” Entertainment Weekly 533 (2000). LINCCWeb. Web. 28 Dec. 2015.
Delagrange, Susan H. Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
Dinelo, Daniel. Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006. Project MUSE. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences. Reissue edition. New York: Vintage, 1994. Print.
Fraistat, Neil and Julia Flanders, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Textual Scholarship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Print.
Frank, Pat. Alas, Babylon. New York: Harper Perennial Classics, 1959 and 2005. Print.
Freedman, Carl. Critical Theory and Science Fiction. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. 2000. Print.
Gaiman, Neil. American Gods. Reprint ed. New York: Harper, 2002. Print.
Gergen, Kenneth J. The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Basic Books, 1991. Print.
Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” The New Media Reader. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. 515-542. Print.
Harms, Daniel. The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia: A Guide to H.P. Lovecraft’s Universe. 3rd ed. Lake Orion: ESP, 2008. Print.
Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Print.
---. How We Think: Digital Media and Technogenesis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. Print.
Howson, Leslie, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Print.
Irwin, Margaret. “The Book.” The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, eds. New York: TOR, 2011. 183-191. Print.
Jääskeläinen, Pasi Ilmari. “Where the Trains Turn.” Tor.com. Tor.com, 19 Nov. 2014. Web. 6 Jan. 2016.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Man in the Woods.” Newyorker.com. The New Yorker, 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 6 Jan. 2016.
---. “The Summer People.” The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, eds. New York: TOR, 2011. 311-318. Print.
James, Edward, and Farah Mendlesohn, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.
Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, 2006. Print.
Joshi, S.T. and Schulz. An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2001. Print.
Kaplan, Matt. Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite: The Science of Monsters. New York: Scribner, 2012. Print.
King, Stephen. Cell. New York: Scribner, 2006. Print.
---. Danse Macabre. New York: Everest House, 1981. Print.
---. “The End of the Whole Mess.” Nightmares and Dreamscapes. New York: Viking, 1993. Print.
---. “Graduation Afternoon.” New York: Scribner, 2008. Print.
---. The Gunslinger. Revised ed. New York: Signet, 2003. Print.
---. “The Lawnmower Man.” Night Shift. New York: Signet, 1977. Print.
---. Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing. 1st ed. New York: Book-of-the-Month-Club, 2000. Print.
---. The Stand. New York: Doubleday, 1978. Print.
Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 50th anniversary ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Print.
Lanham, Richard. The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Print.
Lansdale, Joe. “Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back.” Lightspeed.com. Lightspeed Magazine, Oct. 2010. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
---. The Nightrunners. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1987. Print.
LeGuin, Ursula. “The Critics, the Monsters, and the Fantasists.” Rc.umd.edu. Romantic Circles, 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: Penguin, 2004. Web. 17 Nov. 2015 PDF file.
Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives. New York: Random House, 1972.
Liu, Ken. “The Algorithms for Love.” Kenliu.name. Ken Liu, Writer. 2004. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
Lovecraft, H.P. “The Dunwich Horror.” The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, eds. New York: TOR, 2011. 159-182. Print.
Magistrale, Tony, and Michael A. Morrison, eds. A Dark Night’s Dreaming: Contemporary American Horror Fiction. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996. Print.
Mantooth, John. “Next Stop, Babylon.” The Best of Horror Library: Volumes 1-5. Winchester: Cutting Block Books, 2015. Kindle edition.
Martin, George R.R. A Game of Thrones. Reprint ed. New York: Bantam, 2011. Print.
---. “The Pear-Shaped Man.” Talesofmystery.blogspot.com. Web.
Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend. Reprint ed. New York: Tor, 2007. Print.
McCammon, Robert. Swan Song. New York: Pocket, 1987. Print.
McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Knopf, 2006. Print.
McGann, Jerome. Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave, 2004. Print.
McLarty, Lianne. “’Beyond the Veil of the Flesh’”: Cronenberg and the Disembodiment of Horror.” The Dread of Difference. Barry Keith Grant, ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996. Print.
McLuhan, Marshall. “Challenge and Collapse: The Nemesis of Creativity.” Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet, 1964. 72-84. Print.
---. “The Medium is the Message.” Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet, 1964. 23-40. Print.
---. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1962. Print.
Miéville, China. The City and the City. Reprint ed. New York: Del Rey, 2010. Print.
Mitchell, Robert L. “Y2K: The good, the bad and the crazy.” Computerworld.com. Computer World, 28 Dec. 2009. Web. 27 Dec. 2015.
Mumford, Lewis. Technics and Civilization. Reprint ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. Print.
Nelson, Theodore H. “Proposal for a Universal Electronic Publishing System and Archive.” The New Media Reader. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. 441-462. Print.
Nightmare Magazine. The H-Word column. Web.
Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Routledge, 1988. Print.
Paik, Peter Y. From Utopia to Apocalypse: Science Fiction and the Politics of Catastrophe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Print.
Padawer, Craig. “The Meat Garden.” The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, eds. New York: TOR, 2011. 867-875. Print.
Perrin, Andrew, and Maeve Duncan. “Americans’ Internet Access: 2000-2015.” Pewinternet.org. Pew Research Center, 26 Jun. 2015. Web. 27 Dec. 2015.
Poole, W. Scott. Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011. Print.
Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. 20th anniversary ed. New York: Penguin, 2005. Print.
Prucher, Jeff, ed. Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
Rabinowitz, Paula. American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Print.
Seed, David. Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Sieber, Mark. “My Life as a Horror Internet Junkie.” Cemetery Dance. 70: 82-4. Print.
Sobchack, Vivian. Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film. 2nd ed. New York: Ungar, 1988. Print.
Thacker, Eugene. In the Dust of this Planet: Horror of Philosophy. Vol. 1. Winchester: Zero Books, 2011. Print.
Turing, Alan. Computing Machinery and Intelligence. The New Media Reader. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. 49-64 Print.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.
---. Life on the Screen. New York: Touchstone, 1995. Print.
Ulmer, Gregory. Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy.
Vandendorpe, Christian. From Papyrus to Hypertext: Toward the Universal Library. Urbana-Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 2009. Print.
VanderMeer, Ann and Jeff, eds. The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. New York: TOR, 2011. Print.
Vogt, W. Paul, and Dianne C. Gardner, and Lynne M. Haeffele. When to Use What Research Design. New York: Guilford Press, 2012. Print.
Walter, Damien. “Transrealism: the first major literary movement of the 21st century?” Theguardian.com. The Guardian, 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Williamson, Jack. “With Folded Hands.” 1st Kindle ed. Dec. 2011.
Winter, Douglas E. “The Pathos of Genre.” Darkecho.com. Dark Echo, 2004. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
Yu, Charles. “Standard Loneliness Package.” Lightspeedmagazine.com. Lightspeed Magazine, Nov. 2010. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

12.16.2015

Krampus (2015)

Michael Dougherty's Krampus, a long-awaited picture for many in the horror community, is an interesting film. Many of the critical reviews that I've encountered chided the film for waiting so long in revealing this demonic figure of German holiday lore. I didn't think that was much of an issue, personally; overall, Dougherty's pacing was effective. The first act took just the right amount of time in establishing character and illustrating the antagonism that can sometimes surface in familial relationships during the holidays. It really didn't take long to build in the unsettling visuals, as the yard filled with wraith-like snowmen and the onslaught of the blizzard occurred in the film's first twenty minutes. 

Adam Scott (pictured above) is a good actor--likable and compelling--and I thought that the casting was a real strength in this one. Paired with the excellent Toni Collette, we get a couple trying to do the right thing by their family, and seemingly punished for no apparent reason by the vindictive Krampus. It is Omi's (the grandmother) brush with Krampus as a child (a fun animated sequence fills in the back-story) that actually seems to precipitate his arrival. Having the next generations pay the wages for the sins of their forebears rings true in terms of the story's horror elements. This is an uncanny haunting, and the visuals and mise-en-scene make this a holiday film that I'll probably watch annually.

It's not perfect. There is some ambiguity in the final acts, as little Max Engel squares off with Krampus. And that final scene, while creepy in its own right, leaves some unanswered questions. But, like Dougherty's other feature film, the excellent anthology Trick r' Treat (2007), this is a good movie and worth the effort to catch it in the theater.

11.23.2015

Movie Review: Motel Hell (1980)

Pretty odd picture, am I right?
Motel Hell (1980) is one bizarre piece of filmmaking. The production quality here is eerily reminiscent of 1979's Phantasm. The opening credits are piped in neon and set to a strange, haunting score.

The plot is simple. Farmer Vincent makes the best smoked meats within a 100-mile radius. He doesn't distribute nationally because that focused sales territory allows him to keep the food quality high and the prices reasonable. Farmer Vincent believes in quality, you see? The man is a visionary--an altruistic businessman withholding his gift from the world in the interests of his artistic integrity.

Actually, he lives with his deranged sister Ida and plants the travelers that he captures in a garden, where he feeds them through funnels before slaughtering them, smoking them, and adding them to the recipes he creates to make Farmer Vincent's Smoked Meats.

After all, it takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent's fritters!

Rory Calhoun is unreal. This guy...wow, the performance he gives here is worth watching this campy frightfest unto itself. That saccharine grin. Those glazed eyes. Those hands tucked just so into the overalls. All of it adds up to one unsettling viewing experience.

Throw in the crazy-as-hell marriage plot and the psycho tubing incident and you have an exercise here in the uncanny. Campy uncanny, but uncanny nonetheless.

Here is a clip of Farmer Vincent's garden:




High art this clearly ain't, but it's entirely compelling all the same. This is available on Prime video if you are a subscriber, and it's a fun, kooky, strange 100 minutes of vintage horror.

Give it a watch, friends. As ol' Grannie was fond of saying: Meat is meat, and a man's gotta eat!

11.04.2015

Win a Free Copy of In the Walls and Other Stories


Goodreads Book Giveaway

In the Walls and Other Stories by Daniel Powell

In the Walls and Other Stories

by Daniel Powell

Giveaway ends November 10, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway