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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Highlights of interview with Game content designer Rob Wyatt and Filmmaker Ben Dobyns

A candid interview between TLG CTO, Rob Wyatt, with renown geek filmmaker and content creator, Ben Dobyns of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment.

Why should I trust you? Do you have the skills to pull this off? Will I receive what you’re promising? Do I want you to succeed?

Crowdfunding at a high level is a full-time job. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting. Asking for money is hard and asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars is even harder. It’s also personal — a pledge is an emotional investment in a person or team who you believe in. Building that connection means being vulnerable, open, accessible for the equivalent of thousands of miniature interviews, and piercing internal monologue questions.
I’m in the studio when my phone rings. It’s the final week of a massive Kickstarter campaign and we’re live streaming like it’s a PBS pledge drive, celebrating every dollar as we inch closer to our $430,000 goal. The last thing on my mind is designing and running another campaign. But I take the call and listen to the pitch… and the more I listen, the more I realize that I’m going to say yes to help bring the Gameboard-1 to life. Why? It involves legendary engineer Rob Wyatt. If you’ve ever used an Xbox or a Playstation, you’re familiar with his work. He helped design them. And now he’s designed a console for tabletop gaming that’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.

It’s one thing to talk with the Gameboard-1 team and plan a crowdfunding campaign. It’s another entirely to learn about the sheer scope of the vision from the person who helped make so much video game technology a reality. So I jumped at the opportunity to interview the man himself!

Want even more detail? You can read the complete interview here

What Rob Plays

Ben: I’m going to talk about the Gameboard 1 in a minute here, but I’m curious about the experience of actually playing games. Do you find yourself going in and playing on the consoles that you helped develop, or do you find that it’s more about, let’s get this functioning and then moving on?
Rob: I don’t really play games much anymore. I don’t like violent games.

Never really liked first-person shooters. For the most part, [that’s] all there is today in the AAA market. You get the odd oddball like Spider-Man, which was great, [but] the last games I really enjoyed working on were the Ratchet and Clank games at Insomnia.

Since then it’s always been like, too many first-person shooters, too much violence, and it’s not really my thing. If people make more casual games, more console-quality platform games, I’d happily buy then and I’d happily play them, but they don’t. So I haven’t played [those] games in a while, and I haven’t really been in the AAA game space for quite a while, I’ve been doing a lot of image processing and camera work. So the AAA space is now like, I have no idea what is going on to be honest.

But the casual games, and the fun elements of these small games: that’s kind of one of the driving factors that took me to the Gameboard, because that’s the sort of gameplay you’re going to get: board gameplay, interactive board games. You’re kind of going back to these smaller games, you’re not committed to violence for 80 hours straight. You might play for 80 hours, but it’s not violence for 80 hours.

Why Rob Plays

Ben: So do you find yourself with the time to play boardgames at all, or is this a case more of appreciating that people do it?

Rob: It’s a bit of both. I have a daughter […] and we play a lot of board games with her. She likes playing board games. It’s that social thing, I mean first-person shooters, although they have an online experience, they’re not social at all. The whole idea of social media isn’t social, because it’s locking you in your room, by yourself. Where, when you play games, or you play with your kids, or your friends bring their kids, it’s a full social experience. You could do so much better if you had digital versions of these games, where they’re interactive and they respond back, but you still get that social element because people have to be there.

You sit around one table, around one board, and you’re playing a game together. And it’s a real good family time, it’s good social interaction. It’s quality time for everybody. So that’s really, and I think if you combined the two, if you combined the core gameplay type systems that you got in the earlier console games, with the board game mentality, and the way you play board games, there’s a totally untapped market there, that no one’s ever even considered. You could do arcade style board games, what does that even mean, I don’t know, but you can.

How Rob’s work on Gameboard-1 is changing both game creation and experience
Rob​: There’s also lots of other gameplay mechanics that you could factor into this as well. The pieces have RFID but they’re compatible with NFC. You can interact with them on your phone. You can have a piece, you can have a customized app for your phone where you can, imagine it to be like a pet, where you can keep it alive, you can program it, and you can do all things, feed it XP, from your phone, not even using the tablet. But this piece is now, the piece has the XP in it, not the server, or not some logged in account, it’s actually in the piece. So you could trade these pieces, you could build with the XP wizard, and then trade it. Because your wizard looks like this wizard, but it’s unique because it’s got a different XP.

The physicality and the way we can deal with the physicality fits very much into some of the D&D type play, and some of the mechanics that are required. And it doesn’t need to be online, that’s another big feature. You could be in the middle of nowhere and it all still works.

Another example of gameplay here, would be, I want to cast a spell, but I have the spell on my phone, so I’m going to take my wizard off the board, I’m going to program, the wizard with the spell, on my phone, where it’s all private, it’s on a private screen, you can’t see what’s going on, and then I’m going to play the wizard, and you guys don’t know what that spell is going to be until I actually play the wizard piece.

There’s lots of mechanics you can do. And then you build this into the high-speed play, and you’ve got turn-based play, you’ve got board game type play, you’ve got high-speed arcade play, you’ve got interacting with your phone and these physical pieces, where you can program them offline and program them on the board.

How you put it together is up to you, as a developer, to make the game you want to make. It’s not, we’re not saying every game has to have a physical piece, every game has to be a board game. We’re saying, we have these tools.
There’s a long way to go to get there, but I think you’ve got to start somewhere, and that’s where we’re starting. And that’s one reason why we’re letting people program their own games. We actually want it to be an inclusive thing.
Right now, [prototyping] a board game is really expensive. We’re going to make a construction kit for the Gameboard 1, where you can use a PC or a Mac, or Linux or whatever, or maybe the Gameboard itself, to make an actual game board, and you can program tags. So you can prototype your game board on the Gameboard 1, for your new custom boardgames, without having to print things. So the whole idea of construction kits and making new board games, and new gameplay experiences, is all part of the scope of the platform.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

THE VAULT OF HORROR from EC and Pocket Plot

EC Comics Presents: THE VAULT OF HORROR Audio Drama

(October 31, 2019) Pocket Plot, one of the leading production companies of high-impact full-cast audio dramas, announces its collaboration with legendary comics publisher EC Comics in the form of the audio drama EC Comics Presents: THE VAULT OF HORROR, starring Kevin Grevioux, creator of the Underworld film franchise, as “The Vault Keeper”. The books is live on Audible and is free with a 30 day free trial. Download TODAY at

The sister title to EC’s legendary comic book series (and HBO television series) Tales from the Crypt, the first season of THE VAULT OF HORROR will feature adaptations of the first six issues of the original series for a total of 24 spine tingling stories. Adapted by Pocket Plot Co-Founder Lance Roger Axt and former MAD Magazine writer Butch D’Ambrosio, and directed by Pocket Plot Co-Founder William Dufris, each piece brings to life the over-the-top fun and fright of the original comics, updated with modern sensibilities that reflect today’s diversity.

In addition to Mr. Grevioux, an ensemble of over 60 actors is featured in the first season, including Phil Proctor (co-founder of the famed comedy team The Firesign Theatre), and the voice of MTV’s Æon Flux, Denise Poirier. And, as always, Pocket Plot signature soundscapes are employed through two of the finest sound design firms on the team - David Chen Sound & O'Shea Creative Media - offering listeners an immersive experience that draws them deeper into the action like never before.

"We’re so excited to crack open the Vault with Pocket Plot" remarked Corey Mifsud, grandson of EC Comics publisher William Gaines. "These audio adaptations breathe a whole new life into the classic EC horror tales. And frankly, it’s about time the Vault Keeper got his own show!"

About EC Comics:

EC Comics, also known as ENTERTAINING COMICS, is considered one of the most celebrated publishers in comics history specializing in titles covering horror, crime fiction, suspense, and satire from the 1940s through the mid-1950s. EC's horror titles (Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, and of course The Vault of Horror) have been cited as an influence on writers ranging from Stephen King to RL Stine to Joe Hill. In addition to EC celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020, two of the company's properties are in development for television and film: an adaptation of the comic anthology Weird Fantasy, and a biopic about William Gaines. Visit them on Instagram/Twitter at @eccomics.

About Pocket Plot:

Company founders Lance Roger Axt and William Dufris launched their multiple-award-wining audio drama production company Pocket Plot (formely Pocket Universe Productions) to create the finest quality audio dramas on the market. They produced the recent X-Files audio dramas for Audible Studios starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, as well as the Locke & Key audio drama for Audible featuring Tatiana Maslany and Haley Joel Osment. Their work includes producing numerous podcasts including Midnight Matinees, AudioComics Redux, and the first season of Sight Unseen for Wondery Media, created and co-written by Lance Roger Axt. All productions were directed and designed by William Dufris.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Robert E. Howard Considered

By Alex Ness
October 25, 2019

I recently read a high brow writer's article wherein the writer said that while Robert E. Howard had written many characters and had a great imagination, he was nothing more than a hack.  His works were evidence of a writer creating a high volume of work,  but the writing was performed with a rather modest level of quality.  I possess a book titled "And Their Memory Was a Bitter Tree" with stories by Robert E. Howard and art from Gerard Brom, Frank Frazetta and numerous other fine artists.  The introduction written by Arnie Fenner for the book gives a similar assessment of Robert E. Howard's writing.

"The blare of the trumpets grew louder, like a deep golden tide surge, like
 the soft booming of the evening tides against the silver beaches of Valusia. 
The throng shouted, women flung roses from the roofs as the rhythmic 
chiming of silver hoofs came clearer and the first of the mighty array 
swung into view in the broad white street that curved round the golden
-spired Tower of Splendor"   Robert E. Howard

There is a remarkable gulf between the opinion of actual writers and those writers who write about writing, and write about other works.  A greater gulf can be found in the readers who vote with their dollars who is actually effective when it comes to writing.  I am not suggesting anyone is wrong for having an opinion.  I am relatively certain the writers about writing would suggest what I just said is wrong.  It isn't.  It is an opinion.  My overall opinion is, when I read I have a great many reasons to do so, but due to hours spent writing and researching, I tend to not have time to read for pleasure, though it is something I enjoy doing and I enjoy reading Robert E. Howard.  When I read Robert E. Howard, or Alan Dean Foster, or Clark Ashton Smith or H.P. Lovecraft or Lord Dunsany, I get to enjoy what it is I am reading, I moved by it, and I am restored by it.  It is more than comforting, it is refreshing.  I read high brow works, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Søren Kierkegaard and even Friedrich Nietzsche, or Yukio Mishima, while these edify me, make me mentally grow, I don't read them for pleasure, I read them as an intellectual medium for growth.  I think Robert E. Howard was rather brilliant, and his words on paper move me.  Those who see his work as being unpolished, or, ineffective, or dull, must really have such active imaginations that they are constantly seeking stimulus from various sources.  Or they are lying.  I am not suggesting they are doing one or the other, just that, Robert E. Howard's work defies their opinion.

Now, an entirely different avenue would be to say, he wrote in genres that are not respected by the high brow culture as serious genres.  That would be entirely true.  It has nothing to do with the quality of work in that genre.  As such, my main argument about those who dislike or give feint praise to Robert E. Howard is this, because he didn't write in serious genres, and because he wrote in genres and sales formats that appealed to every day buyers rather than high brow academics, he was not given fair treatment by those in the more educated realm of readership.  I've often said Stephen King would be seen as a great writer, even academia had he chosen to write "serious" fiction.  As such we need wonder if 50 years plus passed his death, will King ever receive praise for being a great writer, or will he forever be viewed as, a good horror author.

Robert E. Howard sold work at a time when few could afford to buy works.  His works sold well.  In retrospect, there is an odd manner in which a myth has risen.  Due to his complaining about not getting paid, it is perceived as his not having sold works.  But that is false.  He sold many, but the buyers of fiction in his day, were crushed by the Great Depression.  And they didn't always follow through to pay for what it was they had purchased.   But even with the measure of partial payments, he sold works far more often than most other similar writers of the day. Anyone reading my commentary over the last fifteen years knows I do not equate sales to quality.  Those are different beasts.  But I am absolutely saying, in times of financial disaster, when people pay money to read your work, instead of eating well, or paying bills, it makes a statement.

"Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank 
Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the
Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining 
kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath 
the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyberborea, Zamora with 
its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, 
Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands 
of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose 
riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of 
the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming 
west."  Robert E. Howard

And I do buy Robert E. Howard books.  I make precious little money, but when I have it to spend I do spend it on authors I like.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Dark Tale from before the Age of Terror

When you write for 20 years or so online in a popular culture area, you develop both weak spots and strengths. I usually succeed sharing works that others might have missed. My weak spots are that I become blind to the others I have to deal with, as will be noted. I have often been asked what comic book did I love but thought, perhaps, was so weird, or esoteric or truly odd or different from the norm, that others might not get.  I think that my first book using those parameters is the Flaming Carrot, and for numerous reasons.  However, I don't think I should choose that book because it is comedy and absurdity in art that doesn't often work when I share it. Also, since that property is still being created, however sporadically, I thought I'd go with one that is not in production, but if it were I could imagine it being quite amazing. Despite the fact that I feel out of touch with most readers of comics, I consider myself at least a voice who thinks people should consider my offerings, so I am hereby choosing The Black Terror from Eclipse and created by Beau Smith, Chuck Dixon and Dan Brereton.

It was a comic that the physical design was beautiful.  I've encountered people who aren't fans of the style of art, but that is not what I am referring to. The pages were slick and composed of higher quality paper.  The covers were made of much more than the comic book soft cover pages, these were slick, sturdy and able to be read without putting a dent in them.  Ultimately when you took this book in your hands it had a context of being different, and high quality.  It was also expensive.  But as happens, if you searched hard, you could get a deal, from somewhere for a better price.  Rather than describing the overall creative work, I am saying that the design is great.  How about the overall quality of the creative work?  I'll get to that.  First I should let my initial biases be known. 

The world of fans and industry members of the comics familiar with me, are a very small number of people, but most of them would know that I am an avowed fan of Chuck Dixon's writing.  I also was at a time a great fan of his co-writer upon this project, Beau Smith.  That seems like a pregnant comment, because "was a fan", means I am no longer.  That isn't actually the case, more that, while his work hasn't changed my outlook has. The work of Beau Smith remains what it always was, balls to the wall straight forward action, a bit like a solid R movie without the naughty bits and such.  He and I stopped being friends when I'd been naive and even an idiot who assumed about certain things that were in fact false, and Smith was too polite to let me know I'd been the kind of fan who became annoying. I've made many mistakes in life, but rarely so brilliant and openly displayed was my mistake here. I was someone who had great desire to be a friend but instead I had intruded upon his life.  That was all my fault.

Getting back to question what about the overall quality of work... Beau Smith had been a fan of the Golden Age comic either as a kid or had a relative who had copies, and had developed a concept of his own for that character, Black Terror, that was brilliant, original, and Smith and Dixon established a world that could have been fully fleshed out, and succeeded as a flagship title of a larger concept of a world.  Depth of development of this world by Beau Smith, as well as his work upon the basic plot, and the action oriented and dialogue rich writing of Chuck Dixon compliment each other, rather wickedly.  Smith and Dixon created a rhythm that was especially noticeable.  There was set of dialogue, character growth and establishment, action, and most lush, there was a palpable sense of betrayal about to happen, at any time. Tension is technically not the right word for what I am trying to say, but when I describe the story you'll see.  Perhaps, anticipation of deceit. I've never met Dan Brereton, but I do like his work.  However much I LIKE Brereton's art, it is decidedly idiosyncratic.  It has a look that is distinct, but isn't necessarily one that would be perceived as "pretty" or normal.  It has aspects of darkness, mood, and danger.  But it is also true that one might be perceived as different than what fans might be used to.  That doesn't bother me, and I offer the covers of the books and some page art to demonstrate, whatever you want in comics, this is a powerful collection of art that illustrates the crime war going on. One aspect that is perhaps overlooked regarding Brereton's art on Black Terror is how the palette used by the artist was new, if not unique masterly used, and worth buying the series if for no other reason how beautiful it looks.  Even when depicting violence in all quarters.

The world described and written is one where the United States and government have been overtaken by corruption, and the crime gangs of the 30s have become the ascendant power in the US.  This is an alternate history and dystopian future that has rarely ever been realized in this depth or, frankly, darkness.  Violence is the actual currency of the day, and, there is little that can be done by subtlety or intrigue.  The reason for this comes from the many layers of deception and fraud, and the bearer of the seed of disaster is the Black Terror.  He at times appears to be the savior of the Crime families, and other times, he represents the rarely seen and oft mocked, justice, and law, and order. Without going into details that might spoil this work, despite it being very much a work of the past, it feels of the moral decay that we perceive so deeply in our present world.  How different would our world be if our leaders weren't assumed to be moral, or kind, or polite, but powerful, and respected for their ruthless will?

I think that one, this work is criminally underestimated.  Next, the lack of respect from the collector world and publishers does come from how comics of worth or variously representing a chance to make money.  Third, this was a project that had potential for world creating, but it was a series without links to other works and was easier for readers to let it fall by the wayside. 

It isn't collected in TPB format, and most readers who would enjoy it, are not aware that it exists.  This series moved me on numerous levels.  It was written with a style and wicked grace that made me regret my slow reading skills.  I wanted to absorb the world in one swoop.  Each month it came out, I was excited to buy it at the local store.   So you might ask, why is there no TPB of it?  I don't know.  A) I've heard rumors that the film for the pages were sent to Europe for a translated copy.  B) I was told by someone in comics (not by any of those who worked on this book) that Todd McFarlane owns the not creator owned series of Eclipse and has no interest in releasing it. C) And someone told me that the films for the book were acquired by a private collector who hasn't an interest in publication.  D) And someone who might know better said, no one knows, it is a small project few ever read, no one gives a shit.  I disagree, manifestly, that no one gives a shit.  I believe that good works deserve being remembered, and being packaged to introduce them to new audiences.  I wonder then why others don't agree.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

An Interview about Life as a Writer with Abberant Literature's Jason Peters.

I met Jason Peters online on the site Twitter.  Over time I really looked forward to his posts, his positive outlook.  He was among the most supportive creatives I've met.  I did a review of a couple works from his company Aberrant Literature Here. I can tell you that he is very talented, both in terms of his writing, and his leadership of his publishing house.  His personal kindness made the decision to interview him rather easy.  He has many important ideas, and you'll hear more about him and Aberrant in the future.  So here are the many fine answers from Jason to my questions.

As Aberrant Literature is not yet a household name, describe it, if you will, and tell us what has been released so far through that publishing company?  When you are prepared to go to print is your upcoming novel going to be released through that same imprint?

JASON: Aberrant Literature is a small indie press that focuses on creative fiction. We don’t really stick to any one genre, and tend to drive in the lanes of science fiction, modern fantasy, horror, adventure, or some combination of those genres. We’ve published two works so far, a multi-genre anthology called Aberrant Tales, and an acerbic action/adventure called Whiteout by author Ashton Macaulay. We are actively preparing four novels for publication in 2020, and will be releasing a novella and accompanying audio book set in the Whiteout universe later this year. My novel Preconscious is one of the four novels slated for 2020 release under the Aberrant Literature umbrella.

Tell us more about you?  Are you married, kids? Where do you live, favorite things outside of writing that you do?

JASON: I’m married and have a daughter. We live in a suburb of Los Angeles, CA. I actually grew up two blocks away from the house my wife and I purchased close to nine years ago, which I suppose indicates that I’m one of those sorts that doesn’t like to stray too far from the nest. My interests are pretty varied; I’ve done everything from working as a PA on indie films after graduating film school at 23 (being from LA dictates that you have a foolish belief in being destined for filmmaking to some degree) to performing standup in Burbank. I enjoy/depend on music; rare is the day that I don’t listen to something, and I’m also an adequate drummer.

Horror, weird fiction, science fiction and more are genres that I love, and I know you do as well. What was your introduction to these works?  Do you prefer prose novels for the genres or do movies, games and comics equally serve you in your enjoyment?

JASON: I’m equal opportunity when it comes to forms of media. As a child, I loved video games, television, film, and books. I didn’t actually read many comic books back then, but I did enjoy collecting Marvel trading cards. Remember those Marvel Masterpiece cards? They were expensive, but I used to adore the artwork. Generally, I found comic book writing a little hackneyed as a kid, which is odd because I’ve since come to understand and enjoy comics as an adult. I’ve noticed most of what I read these days is published by DC or Dark Horse, but I don’t have a ton of historical knowledge of the genre.

I didn’t listen to much music when I was young, but I discovered it during high school and never looked back. I enjoy most genres except for the really poppy stuff. Hip-Hop/EDM/Metal/Classic Rock/90’s Rock tend to be my lanes.

Video games and film are my first loves and the mediums I have invested the most time and attention to. I went to film school in college and made some short films, but nothing of note. I’d like to one day make a little RPG to accompany one of our books and try my hand at the form, but that’s probably very far down the road. I still expect to make a movie someday as well, but that’ll probably be twenty years out after my house is paid off. If George Miller can write and direct Fury Road at the ripe old age of 70, I’ll still be able to make bad-ass films when I’m in my late fifties.

As a young reader what writers did you initially prefer most? Which book or book series did you read then, and what are you reading now?

JASON: As a kid, Goosebumps was my jam. I loved those books and consumed them at a relentless pace. From there I went through a pretty solid Michael Crichton phase, which is funny because I don’t really consider him one of my favorite authors to any sort of degree, and I kind of forgot until  just now how many of his novels I read during my 10-12 years. After that I tried to get into Stpehen King, but his books were just way too long for me at the time. I do remember loving Misery and Four Past Midnight, but my King fandom didn’t really start in earnest until about five years ago, when I discovered The Dark Tower. That was the book of his that really won me over. As for what I’m reading now, I just finished Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks, which was an incredible sci-fi adventure; it’s the first in the Culture series, and a friend recommended it. There’s something like 13 books in the series, and I look forward to reading all of them in time. After that, I blew through Poking a Dead Frog in like a week, which is a compilation of interviews with really great comic writers, from Mel Brooks to people you’ve never heard of but are probably quite familiar with their work. Just this morning, I picked up The Shining by King, go figure. I heard they’re making a film of Doctor Sleep, and that it’s a sort-of sequel to both the film and the book, which you may or may not know have many differences in the story, especially with regard to the ending. So having seen the film dozens of times, I’d like to read the book, then the book Doctor Sleep, so that I can watch the film of Doctor Sleep.

I did the same thing with King’s It last year. I like reading the book first, because I find that if I watch the film before reading the book, it’s really difficult not to paint the imagery of the book with the same brush strokes as the filmmaker did. The Shining is a perfect example of this. I’m only 50 pages in, but already, it’s clear that King’s Jack Torrance differs greatly from Kubrick’s/Nicholson’s Jack Torrance. So while I would never picture Nicholson as King’s Jack based strictly on the characterization and description present in the book, I can’t picture anyone else as Jack Torrance, which does create an interesting juxtaposition of sorts, but I prefer my own interpretation first, followed by the filmmaker’s.

What life experiences led you to become a writer?  Did you get a writer centric college education or did you dive in sans higher ed?

JASON: I’ve realized recently that I’ve always simply been attracted to storytelling as an art form. Whether through film, television, novels, video games, or even just telling stories in person or through stand-up comedy, I just love the art of story and how much it really allows us to say about ourselves and the human condition, which sounds pretentious but stupid horror stories about blood-spattered zombies wielding flame-throwers trying to overtake Reagan’s White House can tell you just as much about the human condition as anything by John Steinbeck or the Bronte sisters.

I went to college as a film major in the Cal State system, but got frustrated by the lack of being able to do anything in my actual discipline. Three years later I was still taking weather and biology classes, and had only taken two film-making related classes: one for still photography, which was not a film-specific class, and one screenwriting study class. That was it. So I bailed and went to a one year film intensive at NYFA at Universal City here in Los Angeles. We actually got to film our shorts on the same backlots that the tram ride takes you through. It was without a doubt the most satisfying year of my life, regarding work and art. My actual writing training, though, is anything but formal.

Do you believe that the ability to write is something anyone can fashion into one professional quality standards, or do you first have to have a gift you are born with, to do so?

JASON: One of the crushingly humorous aspects of life is that everyone has a talent for something, but it’s not necessarily the discipline you would like for it to be. So I do believe that everyone has the pure ability to write, but I do not believe that everyone has the temperament to succeed as a writer. By the way, I should clarify that my definition of success as a writer is merely being able to consistently create content that is at least halfway decent, and has nothing to do with profitability, which is an entirely different animal. Authors can take many years to be discovered; Poe infamously died in a gutter, penniless, and Philip K Dick’s estate has probably made more money off of royalties for recent film and television adaptations of his work than he ever came close to seeing during his life; most people don’t realize he lived much of his life in near-poverty, though amphetamines most certainly played a large part in that.

Anyway, while Dick probably would’ve appreciated that tangent, I should get back on track. So everyone can write, but not everyone can write everything, you know? It’s like acting; every now and then you get a Tom Hanks who can play anything, but most people have a very specific character that they are good at playing, and attempts to stray form that character prove far less successful. I think art and writing is that way. Every now and then, you might get an author that can cross genres, but generally, King does horror, Patterson does mystery, Sparks does romance, and there’s a reason that you don’t see them straying too far outside of what they do well, and that’s because they don’t do that as well as they do this.

But at the end of the day, you need to be able to effectively communicate, and also self-isolate and sit your ass in a chair and consistently write. Many people can write, but the percentage of people that can do so for long enough to churn out an actual book, let alone multiple books, are relatively far and few between. It’s not a pleasant process, at least not for me anyway. I do find it important and gratifying once the work is done, but it’s always a painful birth.

Let us say someone wants to become a writer and might have a talent to do so.  What would you recommend they do to improve and possibly become a professional writer?

JASON: Well, that all depends on what you mean by becoming a “professional” writer. Is a professional someone who practices the craft with consistency and dedication or someone who makes a living by writing? It’s not necessary that the two be mutually exclusive, but the reality is that it’s often the case. A lot of people don’t realize that the number of sales required to make the New York Times bestseller list is 20,000 copies. 20K copies! That’s nothing. Books tend to have a profit of about $5 a copy, so if you’re a bestseller with 20K in sales and have a standard 30% with one of the major publishers, that’s about $33K pre-tax. That’s barely above the poverty line and you’re a best-selling author! Now, it is true that you can become a Stephen King or James Patterson or JK Rowling that just print money with each word they type – and all of the lucrative merch licensing that goes with such properties – but the reality is that you won’t. Those few are the 0.000000001% of the authors writing today. So this is not a discipline to pursue if you’re doing it for the money.

But if by professional, you’re referring to my former example, then it really just comes down to writing consistently, and then forging partnerships with editors and publishers who will support you and offer guidance and story help when and where necessary. You can also self-publish, which is a fine option, but you can’t underestimate how much work goes into the elements of publishing and marketing, so just be prepared to take off your author’s hat consistently if you’re going to self-publish. Also, if you do self-publish, make sure to pay for an editor. Every professionally distributed manuscript has been professionally edited, and yours cannot be made an exception simply because you wrote it and don’t have the funding. I know for a fact that if you shop around, you can have you novel edited for $400-$500, which is not a drop in the bucket, but it’s also a fraction of monthly rent (at least, out here in Los Angeles), and even if not’s not the most polished of edits, it’s better than nothing, and you’re audience deserves it. At the end of the day, that’s the most important facet of being another and releasing a book; that everything be in service of the reader.

The reader owes you nothing and you as the author owe them everything; it’s a very one sided relationship, but at the end of the day, if a reader is going to pay a premium for your self-published novel, when they could get a novel by Philip Dick or Stephen King for the same price or cheaper, you owe them the best, most stellar reading experience you can deliver. There is no shortage pf choices for people, and it should be taken as honor when someone decides to pay actual money for your book. Respect that and your reader’s investments of time, money, and energy; I believe that’s the best attitude you can have to effectively work toward a goal of becoming a paid professional in this industry. Check back with me in ten years and I’ll let you know how well it worked out.

Where do you see books, ebooks, paper books, audio books leading? Will we eventually, if we survive 100 years from now, possess only digital works, or, do you see paper products as always having a role in human literature?  Why or why not?

JASON:  Man, I have to admit, I’ve never considered a future where bound paper books don’t exist. But it’s absolutely possible. Kind of a bummer to start off on, don’t you think? Just like people with extensive vinyl record and compact disc collections, I’d like to think my preferred medium of paperback novels will stand the test of time. I know a lot of people have gravitated toward the ease and convenience of e-readers, but this is one of those moments where I get to be Old Man Peters and talk about with paper, there’s just an intangible magic that can’t be replicated digitally. Plus I’ve always appreciated cover art, and the many different interpretations and varieties that come with it. And I’m not talking about modern-day indie covers that feel like posters to straight-to-video action or erotica (or sometimes both), but rather original artwork. I adore the psychedelic, tripped out sci-fi covers of the 60’s and 70’s; artists and publishers took pride in their covers during that area and really embraced the “art” in cover art, whereas I feel today’s covers are generally looked at through a lens of, “how can we best market our wares in a cost-effective fashion.” It was probably always that way, and I’m just romanticizing a very specific niche.

Thinking big, what is your publishing map, what do you perceive as the path that will be followed? Do you see movies and television eventually?

JASON:  Well, I can only speak by way of conjecture, but I think Aberrant Literature will eventually become a sort of multi-media conglomerate, albeit one that embraces art and resists trends. As such, we’ll operate at a loss until the day of my untimely and sure-to-be-gruesome death (insert investment opportunity plug here), when someone much smarter and more capable than I will take the company into the black within three years. But yes, I do see us one day making films; maybe when the house is paid off, so T-minus 22 years and counting. I do think we’ll make some short films along the way and release them digitally, maybe write some screenplays that get optioned or *gasp* even produced. Is Nic Cage available? He seems to do a lot of direct-to-DVD stuff these days, and I think he’d dig our irreverent, assured personality. I’ll hit up Ashton, one of our writers; he has a very Hollywood Blockbuster approach to storytelling. If anyone wants to throw in funds and make this thing happen, I’ll hook you up with back-end points.

I do think you’ll see us operating heavily within the audiobook space. The aforementioned Ashton Macaulay, who wrote Whiteout, the first book we ever published as a legitimate entity, has written a novella set in the universe of Whiteout, and the audio telling of that story is weeks away from being finished and will be released before the end of the year. We were super fortunate to hook up with this Australian cat (not a literal feline, used in the Sammy Davis Jr. sense of the word) named James Croft, and he has produced and narrated a full-on audio drama. It’s fantastic, with actors (James does most of the acting as well; he’s a triple threat!), sound effects, background music, sound design, editing…I’d put the production up against any other I’ve come across so far, and if he doesn’t get a ton of attention as a result of his hard work, it will only demonstrate that the universe is indeed harsh and unfair. Ashton wrote a helluva story, James acted the crap out of it, and everyone will be richer for having experienced the drama. Not to oversell it or anything.

Are your published authors a group with similar levels of success, similar interests and talents so far untapped, or, do you not look at those Aberrant has published as similar outside of, having been published?

JASON: Oh yeah, we’re all cut from the same cloth and in more or less the same position: people with day jobs and dreams of writing for a living. While none of us are close to that mark yet, we remain steadfast in our dedication not just to our work, but to the craft itself in terms of producing work and not just talking about it. There are currently four authors including myself that either have or will release the first novels of our careers with Aberrant Literature. I like to think of us like an indie record label or film production company; we may not have a ton of resources or recognizable names, but we more than make up for that with hutzpah, grit, and a general reverence for and commitment to the art of writing and storytelling. The four authors are Ashton Macaulay, M.T. Roberts, Daniel Kurland, and myself, Jason Peters. Of the four of us, the only one with a published novel is Ashton, but all four of us are featured in our published anthology Aberrant Tales. Each one of us has talent and a unique voice, and will all be releasing novels through Aberrant Literature in 2020. I hope the response is favorable; I’m really excited to see what everyone thinks.

Who is John Galt?

JASON:  I don’t know, you’ll have to ask a libertarian.

A joke, to whit:
Q: How can you tell if someone’s a libertarian?
A: They never stop telling you.
or the slightly ruder version
A: They won’t shut up about it.

Damn.  Now we'll need to set up the security cameras for those Libertarians.

If successful as a publisher, how would you change publishing in general, and what things about literature would you like to evolve into something better and new?

JASON:  It’s quite hard to make money right now. We’ve done this to ourselves with the glut of self-published novels, and as with so many industries of late, it’s been something of a race to the bottom, with many pricing their books well below market value just to entice readers. It’s now gotten to the point where authors will legitimately receive a one-star rating for priding their book above $2.99. Imagine! That’s the price of a medium Red Bull – the large is another dollar or so – and people are complaining about selling a piece of work that took literal months-to-years to create for over $3. So it would be nice if some sort of equalizer came along, or a new distribution platform that allowed newer writers and publishing entities to turn a profit, however small. We pretty much killed the music industry at the turn of the century with Napster, so we’ll have to see who among us are still out there writing books once the money’s gone, which at this rate should be about Thursday.

As far as literature as a whole is concerned, I just hope that the reading audience broadens. Right now, literature in terms of sales has been reduced to YA fantasy novels and little else. You’ll always have your Stephen King’s and James Patterson’s that will get people’s attention, but even Patterson has been slapping his names on other people’s YA fantasy novels for at least a decade by now. Science fiction seems pretty much dead in the water; it would be fantastic to see the genre get some love and renewed interest. There is a lot of good indie horror out there if you look around, but it can sometimes be hard to distinguish from the werewolf erotica it sits next to on a digital shelf. At the end of the day, I just hope readers continue to be interested and invested in books. If not, I’m sure they’ll at least have strong opinions on the next Netflix Original.

Tell me about Preconscious , how long did it take to complete, how do you know when a novel is complete, and what is your general feeling about it?

JASON:  Preconscious was a difficult birth, as all of my stories are. I’m definitely not one of those prolific writers that can just churn gold out of a mill on a regular basis, to mix up metaphors. Ashton is that type of writer, but I suppose I’m still ultimately working on finding my voice, and the confidence of writing that accompanies that. I think I may have found it over the course of this book, though, so I’m looking forward to seeing if the next one goes a little smoother.

I actually started Preconscious probably about 4 years ago, but I stopped after getting through about ¾ of what is now the complete novel. It was originally planned to be about 30-35% larger, but I didn’t want for the book to be too bloated given that it’s my first. There’s a now common perception that you want your first book to be between 60k to 90k total word length, as you want to make it easy for potential readers to invest their time in your work, and I find that to be sound advice. I doubt that anyone is going to invest their time or money in your giant 225K opus without knowing who you are unless it has strong reviews and word-of-mouth, and those tend to be far and few between outside of the traditional publishing circuit.

I believe a novel is like any other work of art; it’s done when it tells you it’s done. In this case, I foresaw Preconscious as having more adventures and scenarios for the protagonist to undergo, but the arc of both the plot and character was constructed in such a way that I didn’t have to sacrifice any of the integral structural elements to satisfy the shorter word length. So after I trimmed some of those aspects of the story away, I ended up at about 73K words, though that will undoubtedly lessen before release and after final edits.

Is there a sequel in the works or in your mind for Preconscious and should there be do you see more books in a series to follow?

JASON:  No, I have a commercially unfortunate disposition, in that I don’t foresee myself as the type of author to ever do a series. I can’t speak for other authors, but by the time I finish a book, I’ve spent so much time in that world that the thought of spending any more anytime soon fills me with a sort of mild dread. This is also reflective of my personality, though; I rarely read the same genre twice in a row, though I will sometimes get on little kicks. Recently, I read two science fiction books back-to-back, but now I’m reading a horror novel. To me, art and entertainment is like a sushi dinner; you want a little bit of this and a little bit of that to keep the experience fresh and exciting. Can you imagine going out for sushi with someone who just ordered five plates of spicy tuna roll? “That’s not how you do this!” you’d scream in your head, you would. Normal, interesting people get five different plates of sushi. That’s how art should be. And no, I make no apologies for assuming five orders of sushi is normal for the average human being.

To illustrate, the first long-form work I ever completed was my first and only screenplay Obsidian. It’s a weird genre shake-and-bake of horror, crime thriller, comedy, and drama. From there I did a short story that was a kind of sci-fi adventure mash-up, like a Star Wars meats Game of Thrones type of deal. From there, I did a short story that was a dark fantasy adventure, and then Preconscious is a sort of surreal, modern-day fantasy adventure, so I think that my career is a series of creative stepping stones, and I’m on two or three of them at any given time as I progress one at a time toward the next story.

Was that a confusing metaphor? It feels like a confusing metaphor.

I've been told young people don't read any more.  I think that is wrong, they just don't read the same things and they don't use books and information in the same fashion as the previous generations. How do you see the future reader, will that reader be reading for pleasure, or for specific purpose.  How do you make inroads to that audience?

JASON:  Y’know, I’m very interested to see what the adult reading community looks like in twenty years (and no, I don’t mean ‘adult reading’ but rather adults who read). What I see right now is that kids are the *only* one’s reading. I see very few adults reading in 2019. Now, of course, ‘very few’ is still a great number of people, but most people are shocked to know how many sales copies it takes to make The New York Times Bestseller list. Do you know how what that number is? Take a moment and think about it…

Twenty thousand. The answer is 20K. That’s an insanely low amount. Can you imagine if Kanye or Drake only sold 20,000 copies of their latest album? If only 20,000 people went to see the latest Avengers? That’s a low, low ceiling, my friend. And of greater interest is that if you look at the numbers, YA fiction is far and away the most profitable and generates the highest revenue. So either A) adults are getting dumber and can no longer read a full-on novel, which is plausible but just sounds rude to suggest, or B) kids be readin’, to use the common tongue. And if kids be readin’, you’d have to think that when these kids grow up, they be adults who readin’.

But life has a way of overworking us to the point where reading is looked upon as a chore, and I find that very unfortunate. Certainly, there are times where the thought of reading a novel is a bit much, say if I’ve had a stretch of busy days and I just want to plop on the couch and turn off my brain, but for the most part, I enjoy the immersion of reading. It can be easy for the mind to wander while watching television or zoning out to a song, but reading demands your full and complete attention, and so in that manner, it is among the more arresting mediums, along with video games.

I have arrived at the conclusion that I could in no way possibly know what the future of reading and publishing will look like. I do know that we’ve gotten to the point that many people believe that all art should be made free, which if that was the case in the past, we wouldn’t have most of our favorite music, movies, and yes, novels. Like it or not, art drives commerce and vice-versa, or at least it should. It’s healthy to have a lot of people and a lot of money flood a particular industry, so until that happens again, if it ever does, we can continue to experience a dearth of original material, then continue to bitch about how no one makes anything good anymore.

All I and we can do is write original stories that come from our hearts and our minds and our collective imagination, and hope that there are others out there that respond to the material. For one reason or another, myself and everyone involved with Aberrant has that innate burning desire to tell stories. It’s just that if we’re ever able to figure out how to be profitable along the way, we can tell a lot more. Here’s hoping, eh?

Wikipedia and file sharing sites are said by many that these sites have given the young the feeling that everything on the net is free. How do you, as a publisher, prepare for such an outlook?

JASON:  Damn, I should’ve read ahead. I feel like I answered a lot of this in the previous question. Yes, it’s undoubtedly true that most young people assume this to be true. I think the answer is that unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about for the moment, other than to really speak to the message of compensating artists for their time and energy.

Case in point, I was speaking with one of our authors recently about how it was brought to my attention that a self-published author recently received a one-star review on Amazon for a book that the customer didn’t even purchase; it was because she had the “gall” to charge $4.99 for her e-book. Five dollars and this guy’s getting upset! What is society coming to when you won’t bat an eye at an $8 plus tip beer, but $5 for an entire book that you’ll be able to enjoy for no less than ten hours is so outrageous as to warrant a negative review?

Now, undoubtedly, part of this is on us as representatives of the writing community. The fact is that yes, there are some people self-publishing books that absolutely have no business doing so. It makes the rest of us look bad. Additionally, people have participated in dramatic fashion in accelerating the race to the bottom with regard to pricing, so in large part, this is a mess of our own making, but I’m optimistic for the future, and I hope that we stand as a positive entity in publishing and literature when all is said and done.

Who do you write for, if you say yourself, who do you write to be read by others for?  Is there an audience for any well written work?  How do you know this?

JASON:  I definitely write for other people. Whether or not they enjoy what I write is debatable, but I certainly don’t write for myself. Writing is an atrocious, laborious, anxiety-ridden death march; certainly no sane person would ever put themselves through such a process. I’ve heard tale of authors that enjoy the process – I secretly think Ashton may be one of those people, but don’t let him know that I know, you know? – But writing is always a long, painful birth for me and my stories.

Now with that being said, I would never allow someone else to dictate the creative decisions of my story. I mean, unless a movie studio was paying me to write a specific vision or something like that, but that’s just a flight of fancy right now. So it’s fair to say that I write for other people, but I can’t imagine ever letting someone else dictate the content of what I write. I think you just have to tell your stories that you feel compelled to tell, and hope that people respond positively. Even bad ideas sound amazing in your head; it’s not until you release them out into the world that you can really tell if they’re any good or not.

If you are a prose writer or poet, comic book writer, screen play writer or political essayist, is there a common thread outside of type or hand writing that links each of them?  Is the desire to write a key to all forms of writing?

JASON:  Yes and no. I feel that the distinction between writing really can be split up between fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Now there are certainly common threads among writers; we all have to craft sentences to communicate ideas to our respective audiences, and indeed we will often borrow from one another’s disciplines and incorporate elements of one into another, but at the end of the day, I would argue that the approach of, say, you as a poet is markedly different from my approach to a 3-act narrative, and both of our approaches will differ from the political essayist.

I’ll admit to not being much a poet, but it seems to me that poetry is less about traditional narrative principles and more about the evocation of emotions through an artistic phrasing of language. When we undergo a project, we utilize 3-act structure to plot the story elements, and then weave in subplots and character development around that structure. I don’t believe that either poetry or political/non-fiction writing really has to worry about matters of character arc and satisfactory climaxes and backstory resolutions. But I’m willing to be proven wrong if challenged.

However, the one commonality through the disciplines is that all of us are attempting to connect with our authors and communicate a message or series of messages, consciously or otherwise, through words and phrases that we group together. That’s pretty wonderful.

I have a 20 year old son who thinks I have some dark ideas. I am not suggesting you do or will, but, is there a desire inside that you have to limit by virtue of who reads your work?  I found that my mom in her Alzheimer's was not happy with my tone, content or ideas.  But the only change I've made since her passing is saying the word fuck.  I tried to avoid it, in case she read my work.  I realize it is artificial but, do you place similar artificial limits in your work? Subconsciously even?

JASON:  Not really. I think Preconscious goes into some pretty dark places in certain ways, and my mom is always one of the first to read my work. My daughter is fourteen and only getting older, but I don’t have to worry about her because despite her being a vociferous reader, she never wants to read anything I write or publish. Dads are so uncool, aren’t we? My mom was very understanding early on regarding my content containing some more adult elements. But I mean, I’m 35 and my kids only a handful of years away from being a legal adult, so I think she probably understands that I’m not her little guy anymore, though of course I’ll always be here little guy in that maternal way. She’s great and I love her very much.

Sometimes I worry about audiences reacting negatively to some of the more controversial elements of the book, but then again, I wouldn’t know how to please people if I tried. I suppose that makes it easier to just do my thing in the first place.

You just won the lottery, and you didn't even have to play to win. You can't count all the dollars you received.  What do you do, as a writer, different now, than prior to having all that money?

JASON:  Nothing different, just a whole lot more of what I’m currently doing. I have a wife and a kid and a house in Los Angeles, which dictates that I make money to support all three. If I won the lottery, I would pay off the house and quit my 9-5 gig in sales, and just pour all of my time and energy into my work, as well as that of my authors. In addition to my own writing, I personally edit every manuscript that we publish for both story and grammar, and that takes a lot of time. Plus we’d have money for legitimate PR and marketing campaigns, which as of now is only an ethereal concept for us.

I’d also restore my front and back lawns, which have a distinctly white-trashy vibe at the moment.

One last question, what has been the most profitable, deep, interesting advice you've received as a writer?

JASON:  Very matter-of-factly, I have never received advice from anyone about anything in my life, let alone some transcendent, philosophical advice on writing. For one reason or another, I’m not the type of person that others take under their wing. I think I’ve got a lot of that “I would never be a part of any club that would have someone like me as a member” energy. There’s obviously something about me, right? I hear a lot of writers and authors talk about a high school teacher or magazine editor that took a specific interest in them and their work, and pushed them to pursue their talents. I certainly never had anyone or anything like that, and I’m at the point now where I realize that’s just not in the cards for me.

However, this has had a strong impact on my motivation to drive this entity forward. I know to my core that if I don’t make this happen for myself and the people I associate with, it’s not going to happen. In many ways, we’re sort of the forgotten authors of the world, stubbornly refusing to cease our efforts despite having no business doing so. I’ve learned to embrace our status as misfits and outsiders and wear it as a badge of honor. We’re just random people with a love for story, and whether anyone reads us or not has no bearing on the manner in which we will approach our work. We’re here to tell our stories the way we want to tell them, and by starting this entity on my own and partnering up with some really wonderful authors and human beings, no one will ever be in a position to tell us we can’t.

Publisher: Aberrant Literature 
Editor in Chief: Jason Peters
Twitter: Jason
Twitter: Aberrant

Monday, October 7, 2019

Quick hits from the KYMERA PRESS offerings of Mary Shelley Presents

As I've even recently stated, Mary Shelley is one of my favorite authors, especially for horror.  She is used as a sort of host of a story telling event, and is welcome here.  But I am glad in any event to have been able to read this three volumes of MARY SHELLEY PRESENTS.

“That night I dreamed of The Creature, pieced together from corpses, revived … and unloved. His tragedy has granted me immortality. Other women writers of my time have not been as lucky. Famous once, their ghostly stories now gather dust.”- Mary Shelley

Imagine if you will that one of the most renown female horror fiction writers of our time rose from the grave to lift up her contemporary female voices that would have otherwise been forgotten. It’s happening for real and the stories are here to haunt your dreams courtesy of Kymera Press as Mary Shelley Presents.  All the stories are adapted by award winning, NY Times Bestselling Author Nancy Holder (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  The original text of each short story is included in the back of each book, after the comic adaptation.

Issue 1 features Elizabeth Gaskell’s, The Old Nurse’s Story.  This story came to be after Charles Dickens’ asked Ms. Gaskell to write a story  for the 1852 Christmas special issue of Household Words magazine. It is a terrifying tale of evil and remorse.
This was an amazing story, filled with nuance and a feel like it was woven from the era it depicts.  The art is perfectly done, the colors made this look amazing.  The writing carried with it tones and notes of a hand that knows how to tell a story.  The organ playing, the ghosts haunting, the visceral feeling of fear and pain made this a particularly good read.

Issue 2  Edith Nesbit’s, Man-Size in Marble.  A young pair of newlyweds settling down into a small cottage in a quiet village are looking forward to a pleasant, pastoral life. The husband dismisses a superstitious maid’s tale. First published in the December 1887 issue of the Home Chimes magazine. The story was later collected in Nesbit’s 1893 anthology Grim Tales. 

This work was fooking creepy.  We, as well as the husband are made to dismiss the maid who tells the tall creepy tale, only to our own peril.   This is one scary ass book.  It revels in a certain lush detail, scaring for the shadows as well as the easily seen... The writing was perfectly done, letting the reader see it and hear it as much as telling it via straight forward action.  The art, as with issue 1, is superbly done.

Issue 3 Adaptating of Margaret Strickland’s The Case of Sir Alistir Moeran. Captain Maurice Kilvert returns from India to find his beloved Ethene is engaged to Sir Alister Moeran. First published in the July 1913 issue of the The Novel Magazine magazine. The story was later collected in the anthology Uncanny Tales first published in 1916.

In the day of the writing of the original work, it was commonplace to write about Africa or India, in the colonial empire of the United Kingdom as being a source of darkness, and mystery.  This tale tells that sort of tale with a great bit more quality than you might normally find, and it exceeded the source material it came from.  Having said that, the story is one where the reader feels a question burning, and a desire to escape it rather than figure it out.  We get to do both.  Fantastic art again, the writing was far better than most works adapting prose or poetry to comic book form.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

15 Books to Read to celebrate Halloween

As a person who likes horror and has written horror, not necessarily great horror, I get asked rather often what the best horror books there are to read.  I'd suggest that taste is personal and unique, what moves you does not necessarily move me.  What makes you fear, what is horror is something that doesn't usually come from fiction.

I am saying therefore, that horror is great, but I find it less worrisome than the horrors that real life gives us.  When someone tells me that they escape the real world by horror movies, I suspect that we are saying fake horror is best because we don't have to live with the consequences of it.

The world appears to be in peril for many reasons.  There are environmental disasters, most if not all caused by humans. We have fires in the Amazon.  We have overpopulation.  We have genocide and racial wars of lower levels, but tragic consequences.  We have pandemics brewing that will rip apart modern global societies. 

We constantly hear news and rumors about wars, and news from the actual wars that we are in. We've moved from a stasis of being in a permanent war footing of nuclear powered opponents to something more of lower level of constant worry. The Cold War was something we should be honest about regarding the consequence of if it had happened, and how it might once again threaten happening.  And we seem to be unable to convince ourselves how to live peacefully, in our own societies.

The 15 books offered in no way represent the only horror books of worth, only the ones I enjoyed the most.  And I should say, what was understood as horror in the 1800s is less horrific than that of the 1900s, and the 2000s...  but I like these all regardless of era written.

The House On the Borderland ::  William Hope Hodgson

A house that appears to be ancient and odd is discovered on a fishing trip, and the journal of a former occupant seems to raise suspicions. 

At the Mountains of Madness :: H.P. Lovecraft

An expedition to Antarctica with both academics and professionals finds trouble and experiences tragic discoveries. 

Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors :: Robert E. Howard

Expansion of the Cthulhu shared mythos with somewhat more power than the creator Lovecraft. 

The Compleat Crow :: Brian Lumley

Titus Crow is a bad ass, and his investigations into weird events lead him to fighting and experiencing other dimensional and Cthulhu related horrors.

Interview with the Vampire :: Anne Rice

Some might not place this work in a best, because Anne Rice writes so modernly, but her work, especially here is inviting and especially rich in detail and lavish in attention to sensations and thoughts.

Dracula :: Bram Stoker

I initially loved this book, but, thereafter lost my love for it.  I was disenchanted especially after watching the movies based upon it from the 30s and 40s.  But, the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula renewed my love for the odd and weird portions of the story.  There is nothing like it. 

Mary Shelley 

I love the concept that is bigger than most imagine, but, even the movies were generally good about the concept, humans by science seek to renew and create life.  That is, they seek to become like a God. 

Disciples of Cthulhu
Various authors

One of my favorite aspects of the Cthulhu mythos is how Lovecraft allowed and encouraged other writers to add to it.  This work combines an amazing cover with solid entries to the mythos. 

Cycle of the Werewolf
Stephen King

The story is less powerful than it might seem, but the Bernie Wrightson art gives a mental image to the darkness within.

Salem's Lot
Stephen King

I think Stephen King is a great writer.  I don't always like what he writes out of taste, but I always think he can write circles around most others.  Salem's Lot scared the shit out of me.  And when it came to television it scared my mom and myself too.

The Last Man
Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley again proves her intellect was huge.  She imagined a world where society collapses from the lack of people, due to plague.  Since humans had experienced plague it wasn't just a thought.  But her deft consideration of how human society would collapse from lack of numbers, and lack of interaction is brilliant.

The Great God Pan
Arthur Machen

Many readers in the present have forgotten how Arthur Machen scared the readers of the past.  He was called deviant for simply remembering humanity's pagan past.  The Great God Pan is a mythic work, that leads to considerations of bigger ideas, like, what if there are more gods than one's we like, and what exactly are humans in comparison to the beings of legend? 

The House of Cthulhu, Tarra Khash: Hrossak
Brian Lumley

These two books and those that followed, were more evidence that while Lumley's vampire books were spooky, his mastery of Cthulhu themes would never be approached by 99% of writers other than Lovecraft.  He understands horror but more, he gets the piece of the majesty of it all with his understanding of the place of humans in world occupied by beings of enormous power. 

The Call of Cthulhu
H.P. Lovecraft

The greatness of Lovecraft can be seen in full brilliance in Call of Cthulhu.  He creates a mythos of living gods who had been aliens and other dimensional beings who possess so much power that they appear as gods to the primitive human minds.

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of the infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”  H. P. Lovercraft

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

In October we celebrate Halloween


"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."  From the movie The Wolf Man (1941)

Some werewolves are hairy on the inside.” Stephen King

“But never in all her human days had her blood bubbled with such a golden exultation and such blissful freedom as now when she ran, a werewolf, across the marsh.”  Aino Kallas


“It is a strange world, a sad world, a world full of miseries, and woes, and troubles. And yet when King Laugh come, he make them all dance to the tune he play. Bleeding hearts, and dry bones of the churchyard, and tears that burn as they fall, all dance together to the music that he make with that smileless mouth of him. Ah, we men and women are like ropes drawn tight with strain that pull us different ways. Then tears come, and like the rain on the ropes, they brace us up, until perhaps the strain become too great, and we break. But King Laugh he come like the sunshine, and he ease off the strain again, and we bear to go on with our labor, what it may be.”  Bram Stoker, DRACULA


“I am malicious because I am miserable” Mary Shelley, FRANKENSTEIN

“With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.”  Mary Shelley, FRANKENSTEIN


“But the sun rises again when the night is past, and, as it begins a new life with renewed strenght and vigour, it became the type of the new life which the Egyptian hoped to live in the world beyond the grave.”   E. A. Wallis Budge

"The Eye of Horus protects you, O Osiris Khenti-Amenti, and it keeps you in safety; it casts down headlong all your enemies for you, and all your enemies have fallen down headlong before you."

Hymn To Osiris Khenti-Amenti Un-Nefer