"This is Halloween, everybody make a scene!"

>> Wednesday, October 01, 2008

How in the hell am I ending up with three posts on a day when I normally just put up a music video? But I started to respond to a comment in-thread and decided it deserved it's own post. Jeri writes:

Um Eric? Speaking of photos, I prefer your previous header photo. I know it's makeup and all, but there's just something about dental hygeine challenges front and center that are unappealing. :P

Isn't it? It's hideous! It's a blurry picture I kept (in spite of the blurriness) and gritted up of a (stage makeup) bloody mouth on a (again, stage makeup) dead face, and the alt-text if you hold your mouse over it is "BRRRAAAAAAINZ!" because while George Romero's zombies don't eat brains (well, not specifically), Dan O'Bannon's do! It's awful, hideous, disturbing, a little funny (yes, I'm sick), and I really hope it doesn't drive away any regulars (please forgive me) or scare away any new readers (it's my liberal politics that should drive you away, not my bad taste--the bad taste of my BRRRAAAAAAINZ! Hahahaha!) Even the font used for the blog title and tagline is a font called Zombified, can you believe it? Is that not the awesomest awesome thing that was ever awesome! (Okay, I got carried away. It's not that awesome. But it's still pretty awesome.)

See, to quote Mr. Elfman's score for Mr. Burton's tribute to the best holiday ever, "This is Halloween, everybody make a scene!"

I thought about waiting until the week of or even the night of, and maybe it would have been more effective. But I was like a little kid on that other holiday mentioned in the title of Mr. Burton's movie, you know, the one that's garrishly consumerist and crassly religious? (Wait, did I just get that backwards, or do I have it right the first time?) I just love the monstahs too much to wait, so I went ahead and made the change right after midnight.

It's the month of ghouls and goblins, tricks and treats, falling leaves, pumpkins, the first whiff of real cold, the aromas of fall! I'm going to re-read some Bradbury I've been saving (Something Wicked This Way Comes and Dandelion Wine), and maybe I'll rewatch Romero's original "Dead" trilogy and I should totally do Robert Wise's The Haunting one night. I'm going to pull my collection of all of M.R. James' ghost stories off the shelf. And on Halloween, of course I'm going to watch Halloween, duh. It's going to be awesome.

I would love October and Halloween even if my sister's birthday wasn't the 31st--that fact is just icing on the orange-and-black cake.

If only I had enough local friends to play a good coupla games of Arkham Horror or maybe even do a Call Of Cthulhu session, one that ended with everybody failing SAN checks! Ha! Haha! Hahahaha!

I love this month. I clutch it to my warm, still-beating heart and breathe in its smell of dead leaves and feel its flattened spines stir against my chest as it rustles and moans like something underground and barely sensed.

Which reminds me: note to self--I owe Poe a visit this month. "Berenice" for sure and at the very least.

(I'm feeling giddy just writing all this! That's why it's a post and not a comment!)

I really do apologize to anyone who's too disturbed by the image at the top of the page. Forgive me, please come back, and I promise that on November 1st there will be a new header: I plan on a new one each month actually, and I already have about six made up, including the ones you've all seen so far. I hope to have something fall or winterish by the end of November, otherwise it will probably be the header based on "Bird" (sorry if that's a spoiler).

If it helps at all, the zombie is chained to a wall. You can't see it in the picture, but he is. Alright, I know that's not the problem--you're saying it's gross, not that it's scary. I know. I was just trying to help.

I just love, love this month. When you see that bloody, gore-filled mouth in that rotting, falling-away face, I hope you'll feel the love, too. Go ahead. Feel it. Love. Love for sweet, sweet BRRRAAAAAAINZ! Ha! Sorry! I can't help it! It's the love talking. The love.


Jeri Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 5:25:00 PM EDT  

I understand. I think.

I'm going to hijack your thread on a slight tangent - horror reading, since not many of the UCF share an appreciation for it.

Personally, I like atmospheric, setting and suspense-based horror, but not gore and gruesomeness based horror reading. I loved the Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock, liked the novella "I Am Legend" but not the vastly different movie, I like Shirley Jackson and Ray Bradbury. Lovecraft? I like some of his stuff but struggle a bit with the purple prose that's the hallmark of his era. ;)

I also enjoy fantasy with horror overtones - although not necessarily endless series stuff. CS Friedman, Kelly Link and Neil Gaiman come to mind. Although George RR Martin can write like a genius, his latest stuff also falls in the category of a bit gruesome and gory for my taste.

I am not a fan of most Stephen King, nor Clive Barker or some of the other more current popular horror authors.

Interestingly, I like writing horror-ish work better than I like reading it. Almost all of my writing has a touch of Twilight Zone or gothic fatalism to it.

So, all that said, can you recommend other non slice-n-dice horror authors?

Eric Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 6:13:00 PM EDT  

An off-the-top-of-my-head answer before I make a quick dinner and load up Neverwinter for tonight's session: I mentioned M.R. James, who contributed enormously to the modern ghost story. English writer, first half of the 20th century: atmospheric as hell, not too purple in my opinion (he didn't write for the pulps, as HPL and others did). His works are more-or-less public domain classics, so they're easy to find online or in inexpensive collections.

I'll see if I can come up with any others--and I'm happy to see this thread turn into a list of suggestions of horror lit and film for anyone and everyone who wants to contribute: it's totally appropriate, thematically, and I'm happy to find out who I ought to be adding to my reading list.

One last thought before I sign off for awhile: I've had two friends add a wink or semi-apologetic nod when slagging HPL--I'm a fan, not an apologist. A lot of his work was frankly terrible. ("Medusa's Coil," a story he ghost-wrote that now appears under his name, is a melodramatic, purple-prosed, hideous turd of a story that should be avoided by all but the thorough.) In other words, don't apologize for slagging HPL. Or King, for that matter: I enjoy his work, especially his earlier work, but some of his output has been craptacular (I recently got around to Insomnia, which is one of the most ironically and inappropriately-named books I've ever finished because I started).

Naturally, knowing how smart the regulars are, intelligent literary criticism is especially enjoyed even if I end up arguing with you!

So--I'm turning Jeri's hijack into an open floor for October reading (ha! the pilot was taking this plane to Cuba anyway!): horror authors! And let's include movies, too! Aw, hell, horror, generally: if you have a scary band you like listening to, a frightening TV show you recommend, or even a terrifying comic strip (and what the hell is wrong with those people in "Family Circus"--were they born in pods or something?)--feel free to share your endorsement!

Random Michelle K Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 7:49:00 PM EDT  


I don't like horror movies; I hate to be scared and I'm not a fan of gruesome. However, I've discovered that much of the supernatural/urban fantasy I read is often cross listed as horror.

Imagine my surprise--the genre I've actively disliked for years snuck up and became one of my more frequent reads in recent years.

I don't think this is the kind of horror that Jeri is talking about, but I have a fair amount to recommend nevertheless.

Much of the books that are cross classified as horror tend to have vampires or werewolves or witches. Usually from the point of view of the vampire or witch or werewolf.

In that category Patricia Briggs is one of my favorite authors, especially her Mercy Thompson series. There are a lot of okay authors in this category, like PN Elrod and Jim Butcher and Tanya Huff, but far and away Briggs is my favorite.

Sergei Lukyanenko probably fits best into this category, however his writing is so different from other magician/mage/witch books I'd almost place it in the second category, where the writing is far more varied.

The second type I particularly like are the demons/ghosts are on earth kind of books. This category contains some of my favorite authors: Simon Green, F. Paul Wilson, Rob Thurman, Kat Richardson, and Liz Williams. The writing these authors do is hardly comparable in anything other than subject manner. Liz Williams writing especially sticks out here, as she is writing books unlike anything else I've read.

If you wanted one author to pick up out of that list who is doing something different, I'd choose Sergei Lukyanenko. If you want two authors, I'd follow that up with Liz Williams. From there I'd go with either Kat Richardson or Rob Thurman, though you MUST read Nightlife before anything else.

I could really go on and on and on, but I'll save more for later. :)

Jeri Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 2:25:00 AM EDT  

What do you think of Shyamalan? I like him a lot, even if his quality and vision is a bit uneven. I actually enjoyed The Happening - I think it was unduly burdened by the weight of expectation associated with his name.

Michelle, I just bought the first Liz Williams book after reading through your Random Reading site. :)

Random Michelle K Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 8:06:00 AM EDT  

Yay for Liz Williams!

And give Sergei Lukyanenko a look. It's a translation, but a good one. So the style of the books are very different from what I'm used to reading. (Each book is composed of three related novellas.)

Arya Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 8:33:00 AM EDT  

Eric, I have a babysitter scheduled to watch Melody every Friday night. And plenty of interest in playing the games mentioned in your post.

Just get off your fat ass and come over! And find a couple extra. The games mentioned can be played by three - but are far better with five!

I simply can't find a reliable person for Saturdays.

And I love the pic. May I suggest a couple of ideas to improve it? Bring your laptop and your fat ass and any other games you want to play (except Twister, playing Twister with a paraplegic is either pathetic - when played as a group. Or really really fun - when played with just two people.) to my place Friday night.

Eric Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 11:51:00 AM EDT  

Lukyanenko sounds interesting.

I'm not a Shyamalan fan. I've only seen two of his movies to be fair: The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. I went to Sense having heard good things, knowing there was a twist, but not knowing what it was; here's the problem with it: if you figure out what the twist is during the first ten minutes of the movie (I did), the rest of it becomes nearly unbearable. As for Unbreakable: I enjoyed it, in a sense, except I don't think I was supposed to be rolling around on the floor with laughter. (Bruce Willis nearly losing a fight with a swimming-pool cover remains one of the most memorably funny things I've ever seen in an ostensibly serious film.)

I think Shyamalan turns cromulent Twilight Zone episodes into two-hour movies that really don't work. There are twist-based movies that work on repeat viewings--The Usual Suspects is one of my favorite movies of all time, because knowing the twist actually makes the interactions between the characters more interesting. Shyamalan doesn't do that for me, and he seems to be a one-trick pony to me. Sorry. But maybe there's something in his work I'm missing.

On the "monster biography" front, it's easy to forget that before Anne Rice became noticeably crazy and before she became an utter hack as a writer, she did turn out two very good vampire novels, Interview With The Vampire and The Vampire Lestat. If you missed them back in the day and have avoided them since because (a) Rice is insane and (b) the books spawned two bad movies and horribly cliched, eyeliner-obsessed subculture, don't. Both books are worth a read, and were groundbreaking at the time.

Speaking of vampires, and for those who like SF more than fantasy/horror but are looking for something appropriate for October: the anthology Weird Vampire Tales is, despite the bland title, a very good collection if you happen to see a copy up at your local used bookstore. It's a nice mix of SF, fantasy and horror with a well-selected spread of writers.

On a more contemporary front, I enjoyed Joe Hill's ghost story, Heart-Shaped Box enough, despite a weak final act, to plan on getting around to 20th Century Ghosts sooner or later.

I don't know why I didn't think of him the other day, but one of the finest stylists in popular horror (and not too gory) is Stephen King's good buddy and sometime collaborator, Peter Straub. I'd especially recommend one of his anthologies, probably Magic Terror or Houses Without Doors.

And speaking of gory: Edward Gorey's work is perfect for the season. If you don't have Amphigorey on your shelf, you should. Or at least The Gashlycrumb Tinies, the finest, sickest A-to-Z ever drawn.

Random Michelle K Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 4:08:00 PM EDT  

Both Michael and I really enjoyed Lukyanenko.

One of my random quotes is a riff off the Ghastlycrumb Tinies--E is for Erin who died of Ennui.

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