I thought Nannette Croce's "The Foundations of Churchill" was particularly well written. Croce's atmospheric piece is a commentary on the shifting nature of safety and security in America. It's well paced and the narrator is perceptive, if a little ineffectual.
Also, I visited the horror section of the video store today and a question occurred to me: What's the creepiest original score out there in the world of cinema?
How about this one?
I don't care how much they bug me, I won't let our children join a creepy choir...
Or maybe this one?
What about this beauty?
Yeah! Here's another:
Of course, this is maybe the gold standard:
Whoa! Play them all at once and let it rip. That's...well, that's weird.
You ever feel that way?
Well, here's a short summary of the stuff I've seen in the last few weeks. Probably more tricks in this bunch than treats.
I'm paraphrasing, but in the letter she mentions that the capacity to commit violent acts against others is one of the truest qualities we possess. She writes that moments of senseless, explicit violence reveal our truest, most authentic selves more than almost anything else in life.
That's no epiphany, of course. O'Connor's sentiment forms the narrative essence of Fight Club. It's there in Faulkner's work--in Carver's work.
But her thoughts on the subject were interesting and certainly worth getting a look at if you're working on a piece that has violence at its center (in terms of theme, and not mere plotting).
But actually, I'm writing this post about replicating authentic dialogue. In O'Connor's story, the antagonist is a murderer called "The Misfit." He waxes philosophical in a couple of sections and O'Connor paints him with some broad linguistic strokes:
"I was a gospel singer for a while," The Misfit said. "I been most everything. Been in the arm service both land and sea, at home and abroad, been twict married, been an undertaker, been with the railroads, plowed Mother Earth, been in a tornado, seen a man burnt alive oncet," and he looked up at the children's mother and the little girl who were sitting close together, their faces white and their eyes glassy; "I even seen a woman flogged," he said.
Considered a master of the Southern Gothic, O'Connor's got her phrasing down pat, but it becomes distracting in spots. I think there's a very fine line between believable and over-the-top on this subject.
Sometimes, King's folksy Maine feels spot on (Bag of Bones and "Rainy Season" come to mind), but other times it's too much ("It Grows on You" and "Home Delivery").
There are some unique speech patterns in Oregon that have found their way into my work. But, more often than not, I find myself pruning the "pert nears" and "up tos" in the revision process.
Composition theory question: How much is too much when it comes to replicating speech?
- I want to work with these people for the long term. I want them to understand that I respect them and their business.
- It keeps me writing. I had a dilly of an idea today on a jog, and I'll get to work on it soon. Eleven short stories hardly qualifies as prolific, but I'm spending a lot of time with a novel as well.
So what do any active submitters feel about the policy? Any opinions, one way or the other? Any awkward stories out there?
As an aside, the heat has finally broken out here on the peninsula. We had cool air and low humidity, and I jogged out to the Round Marsh. And you know, when it cools down like this in October and the smell of woodsmoke is thick on the air, you can almost see the Confederate Ghosts in the mangrove swamps, slogging through the muck on their futile mission.
Look closely. They may not be dressed in Confederate greys where you are, but America is filled with ghosts and this is their busy season...
Sure, Romero's shuffling horde has its charms. They're relentless and single-minded. They look much scarier. They tend to move in packs and I love the groans.
And you don't feel quite so bad about offing them as you would one of the true zombies of Haitian lore. These zombies, whose souls have been captured in the interests of politics, greed and personal vendettas, maintain a semblance of who they were in life. Relegated to slavery, these tortured individuals must do the bidding of the bokors who have corrupted them.
This is the central plot device in The Serpent and the Rainbow. It's a nifty little film, and Wes Craven's debut at the helm. The piece features a young Bill Pullman, full of piss and vinegar as he scours the island for a bokor (played engagingly here by Brent Jennings) who helps him attain the coup padre (zombie powder) to bring back to the states for medical testing.
The film has a creepy undertone, and Craven shoots the exotic Haitian culture with obvious delight, lingering on the Carnivalesque pageantry of the natives. There are glass eaters. Fire eaters. Human pin cushions. Possessed inmates in an insane asylum.
The film began shooting on the island of Haiti, but when political unrest threatened its production, the principals moved it to the Dominican Republic to wrap. Whatever the case, the setting is pretty in many of the shots. Craven does a nice job of making the environment stand up here as a strong aspect of the storytelling.
The effects are ok. Craven intersperses dream sequences with the residual hallucinatory effects of Pullman's Dr. Alan, who is pursued by a grotesque corpse in an old wedding dress. She creeps into his dreams, spewing a python from her decaying jaw in one chill-inducing shot.
Dr. Alan falls for Haitian doctor Marielle Duchamp. This romance brings him back to the island, despite a local general's warnings to stay away. It's here that Craven's film gets a little interesting. It dabbles, briefly, with Haiti's long history of political corruption and turmoil.
Zakes Mokae plays General Dargent Peytraud. He's impossible not to watch, stealing every scene he's in here. Those eyes! Dude might want to pop them back in his skull when he's done with a shot.
But it's a good little horror film. It's draped in mystery and menace, and although there are some corny moments, it definitely deserves a place in the discussion for inclusion in the pantheon of influential American zombie movies.
Run out and rent it, but don't let anyone blow that coup padre in your face, man. As Louis Mozart so eloquently puts it, "There are no second chances."
You get your Tales from the Darkside. You get your Monsters. Of course we get treated to scads of The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone.
By the way, I really enjoyed the mid-'80s run of The Twilight Zone. I have a dozen copies of the magazine and I recently re-watched all of the episodes from that short run. The directors were eclectic and talented, and the stories in that period slanted decidedly more toward horror tales. I think they are well worth another look for those of you with Net Flix or Blockbuster Online accounts.
I love the influx of horror films (I have high hopes for Quarantine, though I probably shouldn't). I love the perfectly timed release of anthologies and novels in the genre. And I love the ubiquitous Halloween-themed issues of speculative magazines.
I love rooms of the undead nonchalantly munching on human forearms.
I eagerly await the fall issue of Cemetery Dance over at the college. It's always packed with six or eight top-quality horror yarns. I'll keep an eye out for Arkham Tales and Electric Spec, a couple of online magazines that promise to serve up tales of the macabre right around my favorite holiday (how nice is it that Halloween is on a Friday this year?).
So I think it's pretty interesting that lots of these magazines call for submissions early in the summer. The lead time is usually late August or early September. The guidelines always ask for Halloween-themed stories, but that's pretty vague, of course. So I guess the question is, what makes a great Halloween story?
Do we need witches? The occult?
How about madmen or psychos? Stormy night slasher tales?
What about ghosts and haunted houses?
When I think about the stories I like around Halloween, I think about tales that are:
- unsettling in tone, style and theme
- set in the fall, and which use the holiday itself as a backdrop
Bradbury (I know, I know, I like the guy--it's not a crime, folks) played on this well. In The October Country, the title is more than just an orientation point. It is, literally, the setting for a number of the stories.
King has written a number of memorable Halloween stories, and I'll put Champion Joe Lansdale up there with the best of 'em. I'll toss the question out there if anyone is inclined to mull it out loud here: what makes a good Halloween story?
Special thanks to Lyn Perry for publishing my story.
I hope to have some very good news (I don't want to jinx it) for all of you soon about a number of projects that have garnered some flattering attention. I'll have more updates later in the fall.
As always, I appreciate all of you reading and, if you feel so inclined, please drop me a note on "Dust Country."
I love day baseball.
Decades ago, men played professional baseball playoff games in the afternoon. The stadiums they played in were still largely outside the realm of corporate influence (I know, irony of ironies that the photo above is of Wrigley Field). People listened to the games on the radio.
But the nice thing about it was that kids could run home and watch the games before they had to go to sleep.
I was happy to see portions of a ballgame this afternoon. It was like seeing an old friend for an hour or so.
Sure, it wasn't on network tv; it was waaaayyyyy out there in the Yukon of satellite television (DirecTv 247, and yes, I hate that cutesy corporate spelling). Sorry if you can't afford cable or satellite. And it was so filled with commercials and sponsorships that I could never completely tune out the clutter. That stuff gets to me sometimes.
But it was still nice to think that kids might be able to look at a game. It was nice to watch all of those happy people on a three-hour vacation in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, watching a Milwaukee Brewers game, for the love of Odin, and letting all of the weight of America's present crises go for a day.
I'm excited to see Tampa's game tomorrow against the Sox. Go Rays. And I'll have to content myself with some good action until the games go to 9:30 EST starts on FOX in a few weeks and they turn the announcing duties over to the dreadful Tim McCarver.