Category Archives: Entertainment

Fantastic Fest Report

For the first time since 2012, I made it to Fantastic Fest. Shane McKenzie convinced me to return, and I’m glad he did. I forgot how fun and exhausting the festival can be. Yeah, watching movies is exhausting. You forget what the sun looks like. It’s a very weird vibe.

So, what movies should you look for on the horizon? For me, the film of the week was 3Ft Ball and Souls.  It’s a trippy and emotionally affecting comedy about four people trying to commit suicide via fireworks.  I don’t want to give you too much beyond that admittedly ridiculous description, but I will say I was in tears at the end.

Other highlights included The Endless, the new film from Resolution and Spring directors Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead, the upcoming Stephen King adaptation 1922, and pretty much every short film involved in the annual Short Fuse program.  Five years ago, that block was the one thing I needed to see every year, and I’m glad to report the quality has remained incredibly high.

Time will tell what becomes of Fantastic Fest.  Hopefully, I can go back next year.

Mia Moja and One Summer

Happy Monday, folks.  I just wanted to take a second and bend your ear.  There are a couple of books I think might interest you.

The first is MIA MOJA, an anthology celebrating Thunderstorm Books’ 100th hardcover. Edited by myself and Michael McBride, this sucker contains novelettes from Brian Keene and Bryan Smith (reprints) and original novelettes by myself, Mike, J.F. Gonzalez, Mary SanGiovanni, Shane McKenzie, Gene O’Neill, and Ronald Kelly.  This one is a signed hardcover limited to 80 copies and should be considered by serious collectors.  Check it out.

The second book I want to tell you about is pretty personal.  I became a writer because of my older brother Mark.  He was one of the kindest, funniest spinners of stories I’ve ever known, and he could do great things with language.  For years, he wrote the satirical Mud Hollow News for our local paper.  He also wrote several novels, but none of them were ever published.  When my brother Mark died unexpectedly a few years ago, he left us as an unpublished writer.

Now, his sons have changed that.

ONE SUMMER is the book Mark considered his masterpiece.  Clocking in around 242k words (yeah, it’s a long one), ONE SUMMER of four friends who encounter a slew of trouble and terror while on a camping trip.  I never got to read the manuscript, so I’m very excited about getting a crack at the novel in its “closest to finished” state.  I hope you check it out.

Your Christmas time book update

December is here, and the Christmas shopping season is upon us. That means it’s high time I told you what I have available, what’s coming out soon, and where to get it.

Down is currently available as a trade paperback.  I’m told the ebook is on its way, but I don’t know if it will be out in time for Christmas.  This novel, about a rock band that crashes in a forest full of surprises both terrifying and a little surreal, was recently given a glowing review by Black Static.  It’s a little different than my other books, and I’m very, very proud of it.

Scavengers, the prose adaptation of my zombie graphic novel A Trip to Rundberg, is currently available as a paperback and for kindle. The kindle edition is currently available for one dollar.

Just Like Hell, by far the most hardcore of my books, is available as a paperback and for both kindle and nook.  It contains four bonus short stories.

Red Sky, a novel about a bank heist gone wrong, an abandoned factory, and the strange mutated things that live there, should be available in paperback from Deadite Press before Christmas. If you can’t wait, the ebook is avilable now.

He Stepped Through, which I’ve described as the Lovecraftion episode of The Shield, can be found used on Amazon.  It’s quick, but it’s a damn good read.

Winding down the year….

Hey there, folks.  I wanted to drop in and catch you up on all things Nate.  Or both things Nate.  We’ll have to start writing and see how many things there are.  Might be a few, might be a lot.

So this past weekend was Thanksgiving, and it was a good time.  Got together with my ex on Wednesday to watch Sons of Anarchy and drink bourbon.  I am thankful for a lot of things this year, but one of the biggest things is tht I’ve managed to stay friends with Shawna.  It means a lot to me, and the fact that it weirds out everybody we know is a fun little cherry on top.

I spent my Thanksgiving dinner with Wrath James White and his family.  The dinner was amazing, though incredibly filling.  I’m still working on my leftovers, which includes 99% of a pumpkin pie I took because I didn’t know the White family had already baked four pies.

Friday was spent with my family, wondering why my brother likes to bring up personal things in front of children.  I made a mental note to finally stop telling him personal things.  I broke that promise two days later.  Took the pie with me, and no one touched it.  Who wants a pie?  Er…most of a pie.

Sunday night, I made my second appearance at the Cap City Comedy open mic night.  It went amazingly, much better than the first time.  I still don’t know how far I want to go with this comedy thing (or how far I can go with what talent I have), but right now it’s very fun, and I’m looking forward to doing it again as soon as possible.

I have a few more things to announce in the coming weeks/months, but I want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row, first.

And now…bring on the holidays!

The “Get Yourself Killed” Static Broadcasts Contest

As regular visitors can see, my website has looked a little different this past week.  Last Monday, the site was hacked.  In order to fix everything, we had to update Word Press and wipe almost everything clean.  So we had to load up a new theme.  Because of that, my old graphics header is no longer compatible with my website.  That picture above of a forest floor?  I don’t want that to stick around.

So, I thought it was high time for a contest.

THE “GET YOURSELF KILLED” STATIC BROADCASTS CONTEST

Design a new graphics header for my blog, and I will make you a character in my next novel.  It’s possible you’ll survive, but I wouldn’t say it’s likely.  In fact, I’d say it’s almost impossible.

THE RULES

1. Contest Deadline is Halloween.  Any entries received after October 31st, 2012 will not be considered.

2. To enter, either post your entry in the specified thread on my message board (you will need to register), or email your entry as an attachment to southardcontest@gmail.com

3. Entries must conform to the following specs: 940 pixels wide, 198 pixels high, 96 dpi, JPEG format.

4. While you may use any graphic from my books, it is by no means a requirement. Get creative!

5. Winners will be decided by a panel of judges and announced on November 5th.

6. In order to win the Grand Prize, you must be willing to reveal at least some details regarding your life, physical appearance, and so forth.  Otherwise, I’m just using a name.

PRIZES

Grand Prize: I will make you a character in an upcoming novel.  Your header image will be displayed on my home page for a minimum of six months.

Second Prize: Signed copies of my books Something Went Wrong and This Little Light of Mine.

Third Prize: Signed Copies of my books A Trip to Rundberg and the German edition of Red Sky.

THE JUDGES

Nate Southard: Hi.  I work here.  I write books and things.  Usually, they’re scary.

Lee Thomas:  Lee Thomas is the author of The German, Torn, and The Dust of Wonderland.  He is a winner of both the Lambda Literary Award and the Bram Stoker Award.  He also possesses a keen and demanding design sense that has sent many a designer insane.

Maria Cruz: Playing the part of our “Civilian who likes pretty things” is my close friend Maria Cruz.  She plays a lot of video games and probably just wants to see something with Hello Kitty or a cartoon ninja on it. When she reads the bio I wrote for her, she might get angry.

Fantastic Fest Memories

In two days, I’ll be heading to the Alamo Drafthouse to spend a week at Fantastic Fest, the annual festival of scary, gross, creepy, hilarious, bizarre, and otherwise awesome movies.  Hard to believe, but this will be my fifth year attending. 

Fantastic Fest has brought me some amazing memories over the past few years.  I’ve eaten stirfry cooked via flamethrower, watched a Viking chorus/karaoke line, watched The Road Warrier outside, turned around to tell someone to stop jostling me only to realize said jostler was Bill Pullman, and listened to Thomas Haden Church explain how learning to roll joints is the only thing he picked up in college.

The best part of Fantastic Fest, however, is the movies.  Some of the flicks I’ve seen at the festival have gone on to become favorites of mine.  Even some I didn’t catch during the festival, but caught up with later, have become important to me.  I just wanted to take a second to run down some of my favorites and thank the festival for introducing them to me.  I owe you one….

Donkey Punch
Not the first movie I ever saw at Fantastic Fest, but the first one that thrilled me.  This drug-drenched story of vacation flirting gone horribly wrong has since become a go-to movie for several friends of mine in that “It’s late, and I want to watch something fucked up” kind of way.

Let the Right One In
After all the buzz that surrounded this one at the festival, I went to see it as soon as it returned to the Alamo Drafthouse.  Wow.  The best vampire movie of the last decade, and one of my favorite movies of all time.

I Think We’re Alone Now
In 2008, Fantastic Fest allowed some of their films to be viewable online during the festival.  This quirky, disturbing documentary about two different people stalking former bubblegum pop star Tiffany was one of the movies I watched that way.

Trick R Treat
Possibly the best horror anthology movie ever made.  This love letter to Halloween gave me the most fun I’ve ever had at the movies.

Clive Barker’s Dread
One of Clive Barker’s best short stories comes to life in a truly grisly way.  The beef scene still horrifies me.

Kidnapped
I suppose this one skates dangerously close to being torture porn.  Maybe it’s the long shots that never seem to end, or maybe it’s that opening scene that makes almost no sense, but this movie just drilled down to my core and infected me.

Rammbock
A man tries to win back the love of his life on a day zombies rise and attack Berlin. This is a zombie movie that made me cry. 

We Are What We Are
This amazing flick from Mexico plays like a family drama: the patriarch dies, and the family is left to pick up the pieces.  One hitch…they’re cannibals.

Drones
A romantic/sci-fi comedy filmed in a remarkably short period on a remarkably small budget packs a lot of laughs.  An office worker realizes his new girlfriend is alien…and that an interstellar war may be right around the corner.

Recent Reads

I’ve decided it might be a good idea to let you fine folks in on what I’m reading at any given point and whether I think it’s worth a recommendation. Sure, you might say that’s because I need blog material.  And sure, you’d be right.  Still….

YELLOW MEDICINE by Anthony Neil Smith

This one’s a few years old, and I just got around to it last month.  An entertaining addition to the “shit goes nuts” style of crime thriller, where things just get worse with each twist and turn and there’s little room to breathe, Yellow Medicine is full of cracking prose, frozen atmosphere, and some wonderfully ruthless villains.  A deputy is asked for help by a local girl he’s been crushing on.  Her boyfriend appears to have run into some trouble with some shady characters, and she wants the deputy’s help.  What follows is a roller coaster of meth dealers, severed heads, shootings, frame jobs, and terrorists, and every page of it is exciting. 

While I enjoyed the hell out of the book, I’m a little disappointed in the main character.  The book’s “hero,” Deputy Billy Lafitte is so crooked Vic Mackie would probably shake his head in disappointment.  He’s so thoroughly rotten that I can’t root for him at all.  Wanting the hero to fail isn’t a good sign, no matter how thrilling a book is.

THE BALLAD OF BALLARD AND SANDRINE by Peter Straub

Ballard and Sandrine are lovers and the stars of this gripping novella.  Their story takes place over the course of twenty-five years and largely on a mysterious yacht that’s motoring its way down the Amazon.  They never see the ship’s crew, and they can’t identify the wonderful food they’re fed.  Slowly, they explore more of the ship and learn some of its secrets, and what they find is truly horrific.  I’d tell you more, but peeling back the layers of this particular story is most of the fun.

Peter Straub remains an amazing writer because of his ability to let a story unfold in a way that’s both natural and ominous.  The more we learn about both the yacht and our protagonists, the deeper the horror takes root.  By the end of this all-too-short novella, I was afraid to turn the page.  I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

PEOPLE LIVE STILL IN CASHTOWN CORNERS by Tony Burgess

Depending on your point of view, this one is either a short novel or a long novella.  Either way, it’s a wonderful peek into the mind of a deranged narrator.  Using sparse language, Cashtown Corners tells the story of Bob Clark, owner of a gas station and a man losing his grip on reality.  When he murders a woman for what appears to be no reason, he sends his life hurtling down a new path, and he drags the reader along for every macabre step.

Burgess, who previously wrote Pontypool Changes Everything, tells this story with a voice that’s so measured and almost clinical that at times it feels like a true crime book.  It makes some of the book’s later developments, one of which is delivered by a chapter that consists of a single line, that much more shocking.  Grab this one as soon as you can.

Isolation and Hell’s Ground

This past week, I had a chance two see two very different horror flicks.  Both were great, but for different reasons.  I take great pleasure in recommending them both.

ISOLATION

First up is this Irish horror movie that saw a 2007 release.  This one took me completely by surprise, mostly because I saw the words “mutant cow” in the description and expected something ridiculous.  Instead, I got this wonderfully acted, tightly directed exercise in suspense.  The director makes great use of darkness, silence, and stillness as he brings about the horror experienced by a small group of fugitives and farmers quarantined on an out of the way farm, struggling for survival.

HELL’S GROUND

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the big, dumb fun of Pakistani horror flick Hell’s Ground. Watching this movie, I get the idea that the writer had an old VHS copy of Texas Chainsaw Massacre that broke before any of the good stuff happens.  What starts as five Pakistani teens getting stoned on the way to a rock concert turns into a wicked romp full of zombie, witches, and serial killers.  It’s a great example of throwing more and more stuff at the wall until it resembles a good time.

My 2009 songs

Last year, I didn’t create a list of my top songs of the year.  I really don’t know why not.  Just never got around to it, I guess.

Well, this year I’m going to almost give you such a list.  This isn’t a list of my top songs of 2009.  Hell, most of these songs didn’t come out in 2009.  At least one of them came out more than ten years ago.  Instead, this is a list of the songs that were important to me this year, the songs that got me through a really shitty 365 days.  They appear in no particular order and contain a sample lyric just for shits and giggles.

1) “Two Words, Mr. President: Plausible Deniability” by Driver F.  This high energy and goofy as hell Austin band delivered a very infectious record with Chase the White Whale.  This, the lead track, is one of the best, most pure pop rock songs since Buddy Holly and the Beach Boys were recording. “Hey Angel, won’t you shed your wings and stay a while?”

2) “Call of the Playground” by Shudder to Think.  Back in 1997, Shudder to Think released 50,000 BC.  To date, I’m the only person I know who loves that record.  “Call of the Playground” blends wonderful melodies with quirky dynamics and tempos.  Craig Wedren’s soaring, trembling vocals just make things perfect. “Is that a bruise or a kiss?”

3) “Summer, Man” by Taking Back Sunday.  I’ve dug Taking Back Sunday since their first record, and their latest continued to impress.  “Summer, Man” is the highlight.  From the tripping guitar intro to the thundering chorus, this could be TBS’s best song to date.  “The summer is over, and I doubt I’ll be seeing you around.”

4) “Word Forward” by Foo Fighters.  After a record so disappointing I can’t be bothered to look up the title, Dave Grohl and company recorded one of their best songs ever for their greatest hits collection (ironic, no?).  “Word Forward” isn’t just a semi-poignant meditation on growing old and up, but also a rock song that starts quiet and then builds into something just… amazing.  “Goodbye Jimmy, farewell youth….”

5) “The Bitch of Living” by the cast of Spring Awakening.  Sure, this song may be a rather coy discussion of masturbation, but there’s also a lot of lines in there that really ring true about just how fucking hard life can be.  In a year when I lost both parents and spent most of my time hating myself, it really meant a lot to me. “It’s the bitch of living and living in your head.  It’s the bitch of living, just getting out of bed.”

6) “Learned to Surf” by Superchunk.  I’ve been hoping for years and years that Superchunk would put out another disc.  Well, that wish came true this year with Leaves in the Gutter. This song is everything a Superchunk song should be: poppy, rocking, funny, and sung up high. “I can’t hold my breath anymore.  I stopped sinking, learned to surf.”

7) “Spread Like Fingers” by Cruiserweight. I’ll end on a more upbeat note and with another Austin band.  I’ve long been a fan of Cruiserweight, and when their record Big Bold Letters came out, I found myself listening to it for months on end.  This was my highlight, a slightly sad, slightly sweet take on love and friendship.  “Thank God we keep our roots close together, and I promise to keep your name where I go in big bold letters.”

Some Recent Reviews

Not of my stuff, but of some recent genre offerings that I enjoyed.  It’s October, so it’s the least I can do.

HELLBOUND HEARTS

This anthology is a tribute to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser mythos, which started back in his novella The Hellbound Heart.  I remember watching the first Hellraiser several years after its release.  I was a high school student at the time, and nowhere near smart or mature enough to understand the themes of pleasure and pain and how they might mingle.  Years later, I can see the Hellraiser mythos as the groundbreaking work it really is.

This anthology, chock full of short stories set in that mythos, is great.  The worst of the tales is solid, and several are absolutely tremendous.  The best tales in the anthology: Sarah langan’s “The Dark Materials Project,” Simon Clark’s “Our Lord of Quarters,” and the Chris Golden and Mike Mignola tale “Mechanisms,” flirt with the mythos without turning in the base tale of “Character finds puzzle box, solves it, cenobites arrive and torture ensues.”  More great tales come from Tim Lebbon, Nancy Kilpatrick, a short comic by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, and a story by Conrad Williams that was so good I went straight to the bookstore to find novels by the man.

TRICK R TREAT

Nowadays, the horror movie seems to be a lost art.  Filmmakers think shock and gore is the way to go, that audiences are jaded and want to be prodded rather than entertained.  Well, thank whoever your god is that Trick R Treat has finally been released.  Trick R Treat is a fun, deceptively dark tribute to the eighties anthology movies like Creepshow and Tales from the Dark Side.  Instead of being presented one story at a time, however, the tales here weave together, a character from one story brushing against a character from the next, passing the camera, in a sense.  The effect makes for great storytelling.

And the stories… The tales presented here aren’t gory or full of slashers.  They’re atmospheric tales that play off of Halloween lore in ways that are fun and frightening.  A friend of mine called it cute horror, but I’m not sure that fits.  It’s subtle horror, the kind you can have fun with and not feel the need to wash later.  Highly recommended!

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

By now, everybody and their mother has written a review of this.  Don’t pay attention to them.  Just go see it and decide for yourself.  Personally, I loved it. It’s a movie that settles in slowly and wraps its fingers around you.  The last ten seconds aren’t so great, but the sense of dread building to those ten seconds is incredible.