Oct 31, 2012

The Princess Ran Off With the T-Rex

This being my last post before the hallowed night of Samhain, and age-old custom demanding that I go out to howl at the moon, scratch at doorposts and ravage an innocent shepherdess or two (though sheep will do in a pinch), I now present 3 Halloween-themed prompts for your enjoyment.

The Princess Has Left the Castle

At the age of seven I learned that vampires do not exist, though my grandmother swore up and down that she'd had very sharp fangs in her youth.
"Where are they now?" I asked her once.
"They fell off," she said, and shifted her wooden dentures in her mouth.

Vale of Cinders

My spear is a Swiss army knife on the end of a broomstick handle.
I'm supposed to eat, shit and sleep in the jungle until the beast deigns to put in an appearance. The villagers say the animal's hide is tough, rock-hard. That it kills elephants. I kill elephants too.

Closet Dinosaurs

Carl Malinois woke up one day suspecting he was allergic to women. The lady who snored beside him as the gentle sunlight seeped through the blinds caused Carl to sneeze uncontrollably. At the eleventh earth-shaking sneeze she woke up and rolled toward him, blinking.
"Rocco, darling," she croaked, "are you OK?"
"Yeah," said Carl, pinching his nose.
He refused breakfast, jumped into his Buick Roadmaster and drove down to the shore. Sea air would do him good. Trouble came at first sight of a brunette in an orange bikini.

Photo by Lars-Göran Lindgren

Stay safe tonight. There are witches, werewolves and vampires abroad, cavorting with mummies and zombies and who knows what else.

Like our friend Shuna Sassi.
Desire is thorny.

If you're looking for a spine-tingling read, you could do a lot worse than Don Peterson's The White Feather Hex. This story is in the public domain. I even made a fan cover for it so I could look at it on my Kindle app. That said, I don't look at it as much as I used to.

Now, because tonight we see the end of this jolly screamin' season, here's a compilation of the most reused stock sound ever, the Wilhelm scream.

How Much Does Sanity Cost You Per Month

The doctor’s avatar couldn’t believe her digital ears.
“Are you sure you want to downgrade your subscription, Henry?” she asked.
“The world will make more sense that way,” I said. “So yeah.”
“No-one gets by with a 0.3 mental health quotient,” she said. “You won’t function.”
“Oh, but I will.”


Let's end this on a playful spooky note. Straight outta Italy, Tre Allegri Ragazzi Morti ("Three Happy Dead Boys") bring you a bouncy tune about yetis and suspended animation. Well, seriously, I don't know that they're singing about that. Just check it out and make up your own mind.

Oct 30, 2012

What can Nightbreed teach you about writing?

To the left, the Tribes of the Moon; on the right,
the Tribe of the Sun.
Art by Ralph McQuarrie
"If [the monsters] simply bit and tore and turned to smoke and ripped people up, the audience was never going to come into their world. There had to be an element of Tod Browning's Freaks in which you saw that there was a wit and a sly warmth to these characters."
— Clive Barker

We are all nightbreed, we just don't know it yet. Monsters emerge from the back of your mind and deep down you already know the kind of beast you are.

Nightbreed (1990) is a fantasy horror film directed by Clive Barker, based on his novel Cabal. The story follows a young man tormented by dreams of strange creatures in a place far to the North, where his sins will be forgiven. Boone discusses these nightmares with a psychiatrist, Philip K. Decker*, who doesn't seem to be doing much for him.
*That name sure sounds familiar. Hmm.

The truth is Decker has developed a rather objectionable habit. With unpleasant consequences for a number of families. Worst of all, he would like Boone to take the blame for his actions. Then Boone's spiraling fall to redemption begins. We get to meet weird, unstable folk. We get to hide in dark corners and pounce on the 'naturals.'

What can Nightbreed teach you about writing a Pilgrim's Progress for the things that go bump in the night?

Oct 28, 2012

Only the Undead Can Stop the Revolution

First things first: If you're in Sandy's path, stay safe.

The hidden gods of the future have spoken. They want me to bring back the French king during the show tonight. Danton should be here with the head by now. What's taking him so long?

Saturn won't be aligned with the anti-star for another 36 years. Danton, fail me not!


The narrating character is supposed to be Étienne-Gaspar Robert, whose name is synonymous with the pre-cinematic art of phantasmagoria. People have been paying to be scared for a long, long time. Of course, rumors that the impresario was a necromancer only boosted ticket sales.

Let's wrap it up today with one of John Zorn's quieter tracks from his 2012 album, Nosferatu -- the melancholy Fatal Sunrise

Oct 26, 2012

Five Fantasy Races to Round Out Your Bestiary

Art by Dennis Pomales

Unholy Rat-Men of Yorgos

When the unholy rat-men of Yorgos stole the Chalice of Deception from the fanged leech-women of the Iridescent Plain, a war broke out between the two tribes.

A war waged on the near-infinite expanse of a coffee stain on my morning paper.

To the minute people that live there, the stain is cosmos. Eternal and unchanging. To me it is a couple of minutes old. By the time I dispose of the newspaper, the war will have ended and the coffee-stain universe will have reached its entropic death.

Simpering Mole People of the Brandywine Warrens

Whining is their secret weapon. They resemble large hairless scrota with trunk-like noses and hide their locomotive limbs under folds of flesh that smell like blue cheese.

They weep a lot. They weep at weddings and funerals. They weep at good and bad news alike. They weep for the sake of weeping. Microscopic albino aphids find their sugary tears irresistible.

Bisexual Lizard Folk of the Salacian Range

Infamous throughout the Reticulan Domain for their orgiastic rites, where everyone gets nasty with everybody and everything.

Said rites usually end up with a pod of young Lizard People on seven kinds of drugs hijacking a spaceship and blasting off into uncharted space. Some have even ended up on Earth, where they amuse themselves by writing episodes of The Client List and impersonating famous right-wing politicians. 

The Stone-Faced Prawkers of Glix

Prawkers are an extremely long-lived race. Wise old Gammanouche, chronicler of unusual facts in and around the Draconis system, attributes Prawker longevity to the fact that they only budge from their nests every nine solar years, in order to mate -- thus storing and conserving extraordinary amounts of energy as they contemplate the passing of the seasons.

Prawkers don't even close their eyes to sleep, which is all the good, as the average adult possesses forty-seven of them.   

Splendiferous Sybarites of Hauptmann 92

By some curious galactic process affecting local conditions, Hauptmann 92 looks almost exactly like Earth, and its dominant sentient life form resembles human beings in almost every way, except that all members of the species are born with a rubber forehead which they must keep on for life. For that very reason, a third gender has emerged among them: female in outward appearance, the people of that gender do not give birth to babies but to makeup kits and spare rubber foreheads. All successful marriages must now include at least three people of 3 distinct genders. Same-sex marriages are frowned upon, for fear of displeasing the Invisible Audience.

The Invisible Audience is a hypothetical entity that surveys life on Hauptmann 92 through some kind of mysterious screen. It is said that when the Invisible Audience grows bored with the Hauptmannese it will "turn off" the screen and plunge the universe in darkness.

On Hauptmann 92 there is a single, global culture and a single spoken language which sounds a lot like English. Again, this is due to some curious galactic process affecting local conditions.

Hauptmannese society has long since dealt with problems like corruption, famine, poverty and disease; everybody devotes his or her life to the pursuit of pleasure. Government is handled by a small cadre of workaholics with no real authority. Working in government is considered a form of occupational therapy, as most laws, acts and decrees have no real-life application whatsoever.

(Unless they provide a source of drama.)

All critical systems are handled by machines. When said machines break down, other machines repair them and when those machines break down they repair themselves. When people break down they too get repaired by machines.

Oct 24, 2012

Raging Buddha and the Stalling Karmic Engine

Larry Muck picked up the toaster, spitting and cursing, black smoke needling his eyes. He threw it out the window into the backyard. The day had barely begun.

Muck inhaled deeply. "Find your center, Larry," he said. "Find your silence, your gravity. You need to drive more carefully today."

by Pieter Vandenabeele

Afterthoughts on this prompt:
Muck is a surname of German origin.

As the toaster burned his wholewheat slices to a crisp, such were the images that ran through Larry's mind:
"The polished surface of the marble kitchen counter is a nebula on which my faint reflection swallows newborn suns. Of this miniature universe I am the background radiation come alive. I am the deity giving it meaning." 

To further the Halloween/B-movie theme this month, I thought I'd give you some space variations on a number of creatures -- both real and imaginary -- because everything is more interesting in space, right? So:

Space Werewolves of Pluto
Space Mermen of Mars
Space Hedgehogs of Neptune
Space Mole Rats of Jupiter
Space Warthogs of Venus
Space Orioles of Mercury
Space Gorillas of Saturn

Let's not forget the potential in all those wonderfully-named satellites and lesser bodies in our solar system:

Gluttonous Giraffes of Ganymede
Carnivorous Coatis of Ceres
Impertinent Inchworms of Io
Phosphorescent Fruitbats of Phobos
Despondent Dormice of Deimos

What happens when the Space Werewolves of Pluto go up against the Gluttonous Giraffes of Ganymede? You tell me.

Another topic on my mind: zombies. Especially now that The Walking Dead is back on. (I love that show.)
Zombies need to engage in more creative confrontations, because all the popular zombie narratives on offer seem to be zombie vs. human. Therefore, I propose:

Zombies vs. Leprechauns
Zombies vs. the Unseelie Court
Zombies vs. Killer Whales
Zombies vs. Oviraptors

You Can't Put Emeralds in Your Veggie Soup

There's no straight line from photography to murder, so I took a meandering path instead. You don't wake up in the morning thinking jealousy will change you into a slavering beast.

So I'll tell you about her, the model of a thousand faces. She revealed me to myself.

Veruschka von Lehndorff

Oct 23, 2012

What can Army of Darkness teach you about writing?

Army of Darkness is the final installment of a cinematic trilogy, The Evil Dead, directed by Sam Raimi. Its original script was a measly 43 pages.

The story so far: A group of friends drive up to a remote cabin in Tennessee, owned by somebody's uncle. Said uncle owned a copy of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis*, a Sumerian** book that contains demon-summoning incantations, which he conveniently left behind in the woodland cabin along with an audio recording of the dangerous incantations, because why not. 
*Named differently in the first Evil Dead.
**And Pig Latin is actual Latin.

The five friends play the recording. Demonic forces erupt from the ground, from the night fog. People levitate, stab each other with pencils, suffer the arrows and slings of animate trees. By the end of the movie one man is left standing: his name is Ash.


Ash then spends the entirety of Evil Dead II in the cabin where all his friends died, clinging to his sanity as he fights off a number of supernatural threats, including his own severed hand. Ash's final reward is getting sucked into a time vortex that plops him down on old Europe in the 1300s (by his own estimation).

Which leads us to Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness.

Army consecrates Ash Williams as the ultimate badass, monster killer, king of sass. While in chains, he tells a defeated lord, "Well, hello, Mr. Fancy-pants! I got news for you, pal, you ain't leadin' but two things right now, Jack and Shit--and Jack left town."

So, what can Army of Darkness teach you about writing a novel, story or play?

Oct 19, 2012

Moke and Smirrors

Maybe we should have listened to the fish.

... And put some serious miles between us and the Reef. The waters around town grew cloudy with nameless oxides and nitrates, dark clots hovering low in a thickening brownish mist.

My little brother, ever the dauntless hero, wanted to explore.

An imaginary city of Atlantis by Hungarian artist Géza Maróti.
Click to enlarge.

Oct 18, 2012

Lady Mannheim's Finishing School for the Second-Sighted

It was neither Friday nor Saturday, nor June or July, but some time in-between, that Mr. and Mrs. Null of Groper's Gully welcomed the arrival of their triplets, three healthy girls whom they named Severance, Catafalque and Woe.

On that very non-day, a half-unicorn came to town, burning for revenge.


According to the Urban Dictionary, half-unicorns come in several flavors:

  • Manacorns (manatee + unicorn), 
  • Unicats (self-explanatory), 
  • Dolphicorns (ditto), 
  • Liocorns (huh), 
  • Dragicorn (not a unicorn in drag, but dragon + unicorn), 
  • Humicorn (human + unicorn, the kind I had in mind for this prompt)

Not that this poses a significant threat to the continuance of our species. Now, why don't we look in on Mickey Mouse's haunted house adventure from way, way back (1929).

Oct 17, 2012

Madam Did Have a Prodigious Nose for Trouble

I had six criminal syndicates from four time periods on my tail. Not a problem for Tiresias Jr., absentee chairman of the Munchausen League of Charitable Benefactors. (Certain members of the League have taken to lobbing butcher knives at my effigy.)

Is creative accounting such an intolerable offense?


This week there's been no entry to What can they teach you about writing. Life happens when you're busy blogging and I've had little time for creative writing. I'd rather skip a week than give you something half-baked -- I mean, wouldn't you prefer it that way? I'll try to make it up to you next week.

I don't intend this as compensation of any kind, but in keeping with the Halloween theme, here's the 1929 Silly Symphony, The Skeleton Dance.

Oct 13, 2012

Andrew O'Phlegethon, You Really Make Haste to Fly

I was looking forward to October 31, 2121. You get a lot of attention when you agree to perform the first interplanetary, interspecies marriage in human history.

A piddling detail emerged, however. This was to be a collective marriage.

All of the Zvizenshapi* wanted to marry us. All of humanity.

Either that or total war with the Space Chair People.
Painting by Zdzislaw Beksinski.

Halloween's not for another couple of weeks, but I'm already celebrating. Now's the time to gather your loved ones around you and prepare to geek out, because I've got tons of Halloween recommendations for you.

(Do you get my updates via email or reader? Then you're missing out on my spiffy new Halloween theme for the blog.)

I got my title today from one of Poe's wickedest, funniest stories ever, "A Predicament." Said "predicament" will make a lot more sense if you read the companion piece first, "How to Write a Blackwood Article." It's Poe! It's free! What are you waiting for? Wait, come back, check out my recommendations first. Then you can do whatever you want. Except of course send me hate mail or that other thing they do in The Godfather. You know the thing.


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (imdb)
Metropolis (imdb)

Child's Play (imdb)
The Devil Rides Out (imdb)
Bad Taste (imdb)


Spooky gothicky and shoegazy stuff, from Bauhaus to World of Skin via garage punk and early 4AD. 
Selection criteria:
- Would the song work in a horror movie?
- Does the video creep me out in a good way?
- Do I like the song?

Chelsea Wolfe's video is a little horror movie unto itself.

Same criteria, but this playlist is for the adventurous. Don't say I didn't warn you. 


Because this is, first and foremost, a writing blog. 
Twist ending tips by Harlan Coben
How to write horror by Lily Childs

Bonus: Horror tropes on TvTropes

*I enjoy making up silly names for alien species.

Oct 12, 2012

And if you thought Aleister Crowley was out there...

The Keeper of the Threshold
by Elihu Vedder

... consider how often we humans lie to ourselves. Remember what Terence McKenna said? "People are so alienated from their own soul that when they meet their soul they think it comes from another star system." If you recognize greatness in you, let it come out somehow. Open a little door to let it through. 'S a lot better than envying the greatness of others. Oh, and labels are for products, not people.

Outtakes from my post on Aleister Crowley

1. Guess who was a close associate of the Great Beast? Jack Parsons, founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There's a book or two about his magical exploits. Parsons owned an 11-room home where L. Ron Hubbard stayed long enough to win the changeable affections of Jack's mistress, Sarah Northrup. Ms Northrup eventually divorced Hubbard because he was crazy and so were his followers; in later years El-Ron would claim her brain was structurally defective so she was crazy too.

2. The Ordo Templi Orientis, one of the organizations that Crowley touched (is that the best word?), survives to this day.

3. So does the Golden Dawn, in some form or other.

4. The Astrum Argentum, which Crowley founded with Cecil Jones in 1907 after leaving the Golden Dawn, is still around.

You might be asking yourself, what are all these occult organizations and societies for? I don't know. If you had an herb garden, would you limit yourself to growing parsley?

An Even Longer Time Ago
by Joe Carr

5. The psychological landscape of real-world magic is still changing and evolving. I don't know what the Illuminates of Thanateros are up to these days, but I hope they're having fun.

6. MacGregor Mathers, who founded the original Golden Dawn, was son to Mina Bergson, Henri Bergson's sister. Bergson won a Nobel prize in literature. Mathers died comparatively young, of uncertain causes, having won no prizes. Before his departure to the unseen dimensions of space-time, Mathers produced a highly flawed translation of The Book of Abramelin, a text whose ultimate goal is to instruct the magician in obtaining the knowledge and conversation of one's Holy Guardian Angel.
As Crowley wrote in Book 4, "It is impossible to lay down precise rules by which a man may attain to the knowledge and conversation of His Holy Guardian Angel[.] It is the Holy of Holies, whereof each man is his own High Priest, and none knoweth the Name of his brother's God, or the Rite that invokes Him."

7. Crowley identified Choronzon with the number 333, a Harshad number. It seems that "Harshad" means "joy-giver." Choronzon first revealed* itself to Dee and Kelley in 16th-century England. Several other angels or spiritual potentates appeared to the conjurers through Dee's obsidian mirror, and spoke of grave matters mostly. The angels imparted knowledge of Enochian to their human friends and -- a strange concern for disembodied entities from the uppermost layers of the Monad -- they suggested that Dee and Kelley swap wives every now and then. Nobody was amused.
*Take your pinch of salt right here.


Do you suppose Crowley would have enjoyed Japanese psychedelia? I'd like to think so.

A Whimsy of Space Probes

The bomb latched onto the cruiser's hull and began to broadcast.
XO Nagata turned away from the shimmering blue charts as the alien voice cut into his personal frequency.
"Leader human," it said, "I no mission. No more."
"Who is this?" Nagata asked.
"Bomb," it said. "Asylum me."

The Voyage
by Danny Haas

In keeping with the science-fiction theme, here's some spacey ritual music for you -- all the way from Russia. Just close your eyes and imagine that you're cruising the vasty deeps of uncharted space. 

Oct 10, 2012

The Jaws of the Last Dilemma

We gathered behind the butcher's, hoping Queen Iaumrrau would have answers.
She surveyed the congregation -- lean mothers, ambitious yearlings and scarred, barrel-chested brawlers.
She meowed us to silence, then delivered the news.
"It's worse than we thought," she said. "The enemy is bent not on enslavement, but genocide."

A 1668 epidemic among cats in Westphalia was attributed to a passing comet. So yes, the underlying premise is that cats came to Earth from space fleeing from a cosmic tyrant.

I also imagine the cats would sound like this when they talked to each other.

Oct 9, 2012

What can Aleister Crowley teach you about writing?

Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
— Lao Tse, Tao Te King

Now, then, the Seer being entered within the triangle, let him take the Victims and cut their throats, pouring the blood within the Triangle, and being most heedful that not one drop fall without the Triangle; or else Choronzon should be able to manifest in the universe.
— Aleister Crowley, The Vision and the Voice

To Mega Therion himself.
Aleister Crowley by Austin Osman Spare

A singular life came to an end in Hastings, a life of magic and debauchery and explosive creativity.

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was an English painter, poet, womanizer, mountain climber and sorcerer. Magicians often appear as characters in fantasy novels, but I can't help the suspicion that few writers take the time to study their real-life counterparts.

Just who Crowley was, what necessities he served, all that defies illumination. Crowley left behind a poetic self-portrait in his description of a mysterious incident in the Sahara desert. The year was 1909, and Crowley, aided by Victor Neuburg [1], invoked Choronzon [2], whom they called the Demon of Disperson, maker of form and dweller in the Abyss.

By Crowley's account, the invocation was successful; Choronzon appeared within the summoning triangle (Yes, you can have summoning triangles too, not just circles) and, not entirely devoid of creativity for one who owns neither definite nature nor shape, threw sand over the triangle, opening a passageway and breaking out of its confinement.[3] It then proceeded to give Neuburg a fine thrashing but Crowley forced the non-entity back into the triangle with curses most foul. Having put the Demon of Dispersion in its place, Crowley would also like it to sing. Choronzon goes on record thus:   

I feed upon the names of the Most High. I churn them in my jaws, and I void them from my fundament. (...) Be vigilant, therefore, for I warn thee that I am about to deceive thee. (...) I shall say words that thou wilt take to be the cry of the Aethyr, and thou wilt write them down, thinking them to be great secrets of Magick power, and they will be only my jesting with thee. (...) I know the name of the Angel of thee and thy brother P. . . ., and all thy dealings with him are but a cloak for thy filthy sorceries.
— Aleister Crowley, The Vision and the Voice (Emphases mine.)

So at least he got the thees and thous correct — no surprise, given that Crowley was a literate man. What strikes me about this passage is how it reveals the way Aleister Crowley's mind works and, to an extent, his entire oeuvre. While you can glean a couple of gems from each of his books, most of the material seems designed to confound and obfuscate. [3]  

Crowley was raised within the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist Christian sect. His own mother took to calling him “the beast,” which he’d take for a cognomen later in life. Aleister didn't find his parents' brand of Christianity palatable at all, joining the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn [4] at a young age.

Leila Waddell, one of Crowley's Scarlet Women
Bad boy that he was, he went everywhere. In Portugal Crowley met with Fernando Pessoa, a poet who made up entire back-stories for his pseudonyms and — out of boredom, I suspect — Crowley faked his own death at the aptly-named Hell's Mouth, a sheer coastal cliff over a honeycomb of tidal caves. In Cefalù, Sicily, the Great Beast founded the Abbey of Thelema, new See of his new religion. When Mussolini's government got wind of what Crowley was up to, they promptly kicked him out of Italy. Homosexual orgies and black masses in the New Italy? Unthinkable.

Americans accused him of working for the Nazis, the Nazis thought he was a spy for the Allies. Crowley said his pro-war articles in the newspapers were too hyperbolic to be read as anything other than parodies of war and warmongers.

Aleister Crowley was also a drug addict who squandered his family fortune, returning to England to die in the staid town of Hastings [5]. There are three or four conflicting accounts of his death, because an ego so large as his must needs go out like the dinosaurs, amid thunder and doubt. He would have wanted it so.

So, what can Aleister Crowley teach you about writing a novel, story or play?

Oct 5, 2012

Swords, Sorcery and Licorice; and an Inspiring Blog Award

Terre Britton of Creative Flux, whom you may remember for a great interview right here on SYN, has nominated me, among others, for an Inspiring Blog Award.

This award comes with a challenge. You have to share seven of your favorite words or phrases, as well as reveal seven little-known facts about yourself. Finally you have to nominate seven other bloggers for the Inspiring Blog Award. Here goes:

Seven favorite words/phrases:
1. That ain't mine
2. Stentorian
3. Palaver
4. Thingumbob
5. Happier than a wooden spoon at a spelling bee*
6. Paragrab**
7. Sunt verba et voces, praetereaque nihil
*This one's from Dilbert
**From Poe's "X-Ing a Paragrab"

Seven little-known facts about me:
1. I spent ten days on a small equatorial island and stayed at a modest bed 'n' breakfast. Thanks to a tropical storm, my departure flight got cancelled. The airline put us up at a five-star hotel, the only place where I saw a cockroach.
2. People who don't listen to 700 different musical genres: I don't understand them.
3. I believe the cultivation and consumption of marijuana should be decriminalized and regulated everywhere.
4. Between the ages of 9 and 12, I was completely obsessed with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

In all honesty, I wanted to be Skeletor.

He had a hot girlfriend.
(Both paintings by Dave Rapoza.)

5. This is the best piece of music ever written and sometimes it makes me weep for joy.
6. At 14 I thought I'd fallen in love for the first time. I was wrong.
7. Licorice is my kryptonite.

And now we come to the last part. My seven nominees:
Angela Ackerman
Craig McBreen
Bill Dorman
Hajra Khatoon
Ruth Long
Carolyn Nicander-Mohr
Daniel Swensen

They make me laugh (though never cry) and think about matters that wouldn't concern me otherwise; I sometimes stop for a chat at their places, which is something hard for me because I don't turn on Chat Mode that easily. In short, the world's a little bigger because they exist. Thank you, you seven wonderful peeps.

You Dirty Arthropods and Your Pointy Thingies

"Did you know that bee stings are modified sexual organs?" Colby asked Aisha. "They sting you with a—"
"Stop," she said. "I really don't need to know."
A customer walked in, wearing sixty pounds of winter clothes.
"Do you have anything about bees on betamax?" he asked Colby.


Oct 3, 2012

Where's My Vodka Shooter, Where's My Unicorn Smile

You shouldn't do funerals in the evening, Marko said to the cufflinks in his hand, evening's when shit gets interesting. Man, people time their deaths like drunk chickens. I got business! Maybe I can convince Lodell to have a pickup meet me at the funeral director's place.


Sometimes I write about altruists; the egotist also merits your attention. Characters in a story must be more than one person wearing different masks, even if  that's the very definition of a character -- a mask you put on as you write. For a brief moment you become the mask and a person that never existed lays claim to some part of the world.

I concluded this prompt about an abnegated, dimension-hopping Rapunzel with "One night, both dreamed of a glass door in a cold cave.Guess what, there's a band goes by the name of Cold Cave. They spend their creative energies proving that the 80s are alive and well

 Let's wrap this up with a little something for the goth in you

We Sold Your Grandma's House to the Universe Next Door

Two hobbits stumbled into the convenience store past midnight reeking of cheap wine and they laughed all the way to the back of the store. Out of Chaney's sight, they stopped laughing. She leafed through her magazine, unreading it, letting the pages slip away.

Then came the first tremor.

Illustration by Antonio Quadros

Speaking of hobbits, this is the cover to the 1962 Portuguese edition of Tolkien's "The Hobbit." The word hobbit doesn't exist in Portuguese, so the translator called hobbits "gnomes."

Here's one from Bulgaria, found on Stephen Hemenway's book cover pinboard.

Oct 1, 2012

Bad Movies and Writing - The Blog Post, Part II

Click here for Part One 

If you want to study a plague, you need samples. All serious research comes to a point where theoretical models don't cut it. For that very reason, I chose three indigestible chunks of cinema that will serve us well.

Are you ready, fellow scientist? Wearing your goggles and respirator? Let us proceed.

1. Killer Klowns from Outer Space
(1988, horror comedy)

Aliens that resemble clowns land near Crescent Cove, California and start abducting people by most creative means. Comedy or no comedy, this movie is one long object lesson in bad writing.

You find a circus tent in the middle of nowhere. At night. It's all lit up for no reason and your dog vanishes while you're looking for an entrance.

What do you do? You punch the tent, of course.[1] But you nearly break every bone in your hand.

What's the logical thing to do? Why, you decide to tear up the tent with your own bare hands.

Not a good idea.

Two characters, Mike and Debbie, explore the circus tent/spaceship and find the engine room.

As it turns out, this is no circus tent, and they definitely don't belong there. Debbie, the more rational of the pair, tells Mike they should leave. Mike, who was enthusiastic about this wondrous place, begins to share Debbie's apprehension.

They wander into an adjacent room where the Klowns store several cotton-candy cocoon thingies and now Mike wants to linger because hey, cotton candy. All of a sudden, his self-preservation instincts shut down.

Police Sergeant Mooney gets tons of calls from frantic townspeople as the aliens grow bolder. How does he react? Why, he concludes that the whole town is playing a prank on him. The whole town, including the elderly owner of the local drugstore. Mooney stops taking calls, pours himself a bourbon and lights up a fat cigar. As they say in French, "lazy caricature."*
*Disclaimer: they don't say that in French at all. At least not using English words.

Maybe stuff like this happens in real life -- police ignoring legitimate complaints, not acting until it's too late. And you can represent that in film or literature. But at one point, Mooney's attitude stops being funny. The narrative paints the Police Sergeant as a throwback at first, only to defuse the point it was trying to make. Mooney isn't conservative, he's irredeemably stupid, so nothing he does really matters.

The take-away: logic must play a part in every story, regardless of genre. People sometimes make baffling decisions; not all the time, though. Also, before I forget, most people tend to have better short-term memories than Mike's. Their bad feelings do not simply evaporate from one moment to the next.