Monthly Archives: February 2009

This week’s project

Sorry I didn’t post anything yesterday. It was my birthday, and I spent the day banging away on the keyboard. I received word from a publisher that they have an opening for a novelette.  Never one to turn down a chance to get a book in your hands, I’ll be spending this week finishing up a story I started working on a few weeks ago.  With any luck, you’ll get to see a finished version in the future.

Take care this week.

A different kind of horror

Every few hours or so, somebody will talk about how horror as a genre is dead.  You don’t see it in bookstores anymore, nobody’s buying it, blah, blah, blah… Whenever I hear this I like to say something that sums up the argument nicely, “You’re right.  Horror is dead, provided you ignore all the ways it isn’t.”

The problem, as far as I see it, is the word.  Horror.  Look at it a second.  It’s not a genre; it’s an emotion.  It’s something you feel deep in your gut.  In the eighties, somebody got the bright idea to slap the word on bookspines (usually in dripping, bloody letters) and suddenly we had a horror genre. 

Nowadays, publishers don’t use those dripping letters, so people think the genre is dead.  Forget that books like The Road are getting critical acclaim and dominating the best seller lists.  Who cares if it’s a horrific post-apocalyptic tale brimming with terrifying scenarios.  It doesn’t have those dripping letters or a werewolf on the cover, so it doesn’t count.

Look, I’m not trying to blow smoke about how horror should be art or anything like that.  I’m just saying that if anything’s going to kill horror, it’s the constant attempts to pigeonhole it.  It doesn’t need to fit into a tiny mold for easy consumption.  You can find it everywhere.  All you have to do is open your eyes and look around a little.  You might find it in some unexpected places.

Here’s an example: this past weekend I rented the 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Now, this drama about a dance contest during the Great Depression isn’t just a look at a time when winning $1500 from a dance marathon was seen as the answer to everybody’s problems.  It’s also a terrifying look at human nature and the lengths we’ll go to in order to entertain and be entertained.  Watching it, you can see where Stephen King got the idea for The Long Walk.  I had trouble finishing the movie, because it really is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen.

So what about you?  What are some of things you consider horror that others might not?  No, American Idol doesn’t count.  I want to know, so chime in.

I can’t believe I liked that movie

Saturday afternoon, Shawna looked over at me between How I Met Your Mother episodes and said something few people in their right minds have said in the past ten years or so.

“I want to watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”

A little history…

Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, hit theaters in the fall of 1992.  I was a sophomore in high school, and I was convinced from the first television spot I saw that it would be the greatest movie in history.  Dude, it was fucking Dracula! It was supposed the be true to the novel.  It contained Anthony Hopkins fresh off Silence of the Lambs.  It sported Winona Rider somehow sporting cleavage.  Hell, that Godfather guy was directing it!  This thing would clean up come Oscar time!

I remember watching the movie for the first time with the rest of my black T-shirt and army jacket-wearing friends.  We were blown away.  One of my friends, a tiny girl I’ll call “R” for the sake of my legal safety, started breathing heavy and crossing her legs about twenty minutes in.  She finished the movie in a sweat and made me promise to make her a copy once I had the video tape.  She’d later confess to do terrible things to herself while watching that movie.  Still later, her boyfriend would break up with her, and I’d find her on my back porch screaming “I renounce God!” like Gary Oldman at the start of the movie.

What can I say?  We were lame fucking kids.

I tell you all of this so you can have some idea of how incredible my friends and I found Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  I probably watched the flick once a day for close to a year.  It was just a movie that we all loved.

Which is why it shames me to look at the movie with eyes older than sixteen years, because man, that is one fucking awful movie.

The accents, the rings of blue flame for no reason, the bad makeup and butt-shaped hair style, the over-acting, the gaudy set design, that one scene where they cut to a bedroom and then throw blood everywhere for no reason, the scene on the ship where they do the same thing.  Oh, it’s all just so terrible.  It’s probably one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen (not as bad as The Duo, but pretty close).

So Shawna and I watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula Saturday night.  We laughed.  We shared war stories.  And afterward, I took a hot shower and tried to scrub the movie off my skin.

So, what movies are you ashamed to admit you used to like.

The problem with awesome things

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been invited appear in an anthology of southern horror stories, Somewhere South of Hell.  What I didn’t tell you was the trouble accepting said invite caused my fragile, fragile psyche.  Sure, that’s overreacting and more than a little bullshit, but it’s my way of getting to a pretty good point.

I live in the best city in the world.

Sure, it’s debatable.  I’m willing to bet anybody living in New York, Chicago, Miami, or San Francisco could shoot my theory all to hell.  For me, however, there’s just no place better than Austin, Texas.

See, when Ronald Kelly asked me to be a part of the antho, I knew right away that I’d be writing an Austin story.  I even told him as much.  “I’m itching to write an Austin story or at least use an Austin protagonist.”  He didn’t boot me out at that point, so I have to assume that’s cool.

That’s when I ran into problems.  I sat down and started thinking about Austin and the story I wanted to tell.  I figured I’d throw in a dash of my city here, a dash there.  Surely I could narrow down the town’s better aspects into something fun, chaotic, and more than a little terrifying.

Right, but how do I narrow down Hut’s Hamburgers, Torchy’s Tacos, Casino El Camino, Beerland, Emo’s, Triple Crown Tattoo, Book People, South by Southwest, Leslie Cochran, Waterloo Records, Trudy’s, Dan’s Hamburgers, Top Notch, Austin Books, Pete’s Piano Bar, The Alamo Drafthouse, Uchi, The Belmont, The Driskell, Fantastic Fest, Satan’s Cheerleaders, Cruiserweight, The Asylum Street Spankers, Carousel Cabaret, The Flametrick Subs, Schatzi, Threadgill’s, The Clay Pit, STAPLE!, The Drag, La Zona Rosa, Austin City Limits, Taqueria don Chuy, Austin’s Pizza, The Saxon Pub, Zilker Park, and all the other things that make Austin amazing and still make it a story I want to tell?

They do say writing is about making choices, folks.

So I made a few false starts.  I have about eight first pages sitting on my hard drive.  Each one of them is an Austin story itching to be told.  I think I know which one I’m going to tell first, but keep your fingers crossed.  There might be too much awesome to contain.