Rob Zombie made two very interesting films in the early part of this century -- House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. He was given the reigns to the Halloween franchise (I fucking hate referring to movies as franchises, by the way) and decided to "reboot" one of the few movies in the history of cinema I feel should never be re-anything'd--Halloween. He took the mystique out of Michael Myers by showing a prolonged back story using all the cliches about serial killers (torturing small animals, coming from abusive homes, etc.) and, most egregious of all, he replaced the suburban setting of the original film with a "white trash" setting. These changes destroyed what made the original film so effective. Like the misguided sequels to the original film, he explained the unexplainable and gutted any chance for real horror to exist. Mr. Zombie followed that travesty with his version of Halloween II (the original Halloween II being a bad idea to begin with), an artsy-fartsy, violent LSD trip of a movie that made no sense and, seemingly, buried the "franchise" once and for all. In that respect, Mr. Zombie should be thanked.
But folks have been clamoring for a Halloween "III" (as opposed to the original Halloween III, which is the only decent sequel in the bunch, precisely because it has nothing to do with Michael Myers), or, for fuck's sake, another "reboot," or anything with Michael Myers running around slicing up teenagers. The project has struggled for over five years now, as discussions on IMDB will attest to, and the people who control the rights have finally come up with the one solution that should please die-hard fans of the series (that's a better word than franchise, isn't it?)--They've brought The Man himself on as an executive producer. John Carpenter will be involved with whatever they decide to do with this Halloween movie. I hate to be Bobby Bummer this soon in the game, but I just don't think another Michael Myers movie is necessary. What I wish would happen is this:
John Carpenter should insist on picking this series up where Halloween III: Season of the Witch was taking it, that is, an anthology series with a different Halloween-themed story in every installment. Halloween III "failed" when it was released because a large population of shit-for-brains insisted the movie was "bad" simply because it didn't involve Michael Myers running around killing people. Heaven forbid they be asked to consider a different story. Producers have since said the film should have just been called Season of the Witch. I say that's nonsense. What the film should have been called was Halloween: Season of the Witch. By eliminating the number three from the title, maybe half of the shit-for-brains who still piss and moan about Myers not being crucial to the film would have caught on ahead of time that the movie was going to be something different. Why not do that now? Why not create an entirely new Halloween-themed story and just use the Halloween name the way the Star Wars "franchise" is putting its name over these off-shoot movies like Rogue One? Has the general public grown up? Are we sophisticated enough to catch up with the very visionary idea Carpenter had back in 1982?
Nah, get ready for the guy in the Shatner mask to kill some more teenagers...
Just wanted to mention I recently contacted Marcia Clark on Facebook in the crazy hopes of convincing her to submit a story to Pulp Modern. In very little time, she returned the longest, most exhaustive, most convincing and polite excuse for not being able to contribute (she is, not surprisingly, very busy). It was the most gracious gesture any Big Time writer has offered to my requests for stories (though we must never forget Lawrence Block's agreeing to let me reprint a story of his for the very first issue).
How many other Big Time writers would have ignored the request altogether? I've never been so flattered by a rejection!
Recently, a student told me she'd had a dream about me after reading the first couple of acts of Hamlet. She said the quote, "To thine own self, be true," made her think of me, though she couldn't explain why. I thought about it for some time, and realized she must have been attuned to the fact that I am finally, after years of talking about it, writing horror stories again.
For a long time, I told myself not to write horror stories if I didn't think they'd be scary. I've come to the realization that that's a stupid reason not to try. What frightens some people amuses others, especially in these cynical times. People are so paranoid about things happening in the real world, they don't want to suspend their disbelief long enough to "get into" the world of a horror story. I can't be concerned with that; if you've allowed this shitty, fucked up century to deaden your sense of wonder, what can I say? Sucks to be you.
The very first story I ever wrote was a crime story. That was in the fourth grade. It was called The Tree and it was about a mad scientist who trains a tree to rob banks. It ended in horror, though, as the tree was cut down by law enforcement officials and the mad scientist put to death (I obviously didn't understand the parameters of the death penalty when I was nine years old).
The first time I sat down at a word processor, however, and banged out a thirteen page story (single-spaced, because I didn't learn about double-spacing until I was about twenty-seven years old!), it was a horror story. It was called The Mailbox and it was about a mailbox that wrote letters to its owner telling it to kill certain people. I was in the seventh grade then. I remember writing it late one Friday night and getting high off of freaking myself out.
Over the years, I have tried to recapture that feeling. Maybe it's like crack-cocaine--it only works the first time. Eventually, as a teenager trying to impress girls, I veered off into Kafka and Camus country, trying to sound more intelligent than I actually was (and am). While earning my BA at IU and IUPUI, my peers, who really shouldn't be called peers, convinced me that horror and science fiction were no genres for "serious" writers. Well, I took them seriously for a while. And maybe that was a good thing. I branched out and read Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski. Eventually I read Raymond Chandler and then Jim Thompson and found that I enjoyed writing crime stories because, I felt, they required no generic, middle class morality. In a way, the crime fiction I've written over the last ten years is not that different from horror. My characters usually make bad decisions because of the terrifying economic positions this country has put them in.
[And now for a digression]
I'd like to share, for reasons I don't even know, the experience I had at the MFA program at MNSU a few years ago. It was the first class meeting of the first workshop of my first year. I'd been writing for my whole life and was only getting the degree so that I could pay my bills teaching at the college level. I had no idea that I going to get sucked into the cult-like, insecure world of twenty-something / millennial grad students who despise anything they consider different. The first thing the professor did was go around the circle of students and have each of us talk about the most recent book we'd read (or were currently reading). I was right in the middle. On the way to me, I heard the usual grad school favorites--David Foster Wallace, Junot Diaz, etc., I thought nothing of it when I admitted that I was currently reading a collection of Robert Bloch stories because I edited a fiction journal called Pulp Modern and wanted to contact his widow to see if she'd let me reprint one of his stories for the first issue.
Well, not since Village of the Damned or Invasion of the Body Snatchers had I been met with such strong, collective disdain. The professor acted as though I hadn't even mentioned the word 'pulp.' He sort of grunted and moved on to the next student, who raved about the latest AWP meta-tome about boring, middle class suburban bullshit. While I had some friends in the MFA program, for the most part, I felt like an outcast the entire time I was there. I was made to feel old and stupid for reading writers who couldn't be schmoozed at the next AWP butt-kissing contest because the authors I was reading were dead (to many millennials--though not all; my students, for instance, who are mostly working class, do not think this way--anything that happened before five minutes ago is "irrelevant").*
This hostile attitude was made especially clear when I had the audacity to question the greatness of Jennifer Egan. A woman about ten years younger than me cornered me at the school coffee house and berated me for not slobbering all over Ms. Egan's book like a junky. She said, "We're trying to get into this thing," as though, a.) being published were some sort of secret society only a select few are allowed into and b.) my existence as a white male over the age of 12 was somehow impeding the progress of all the younger, more affluent white people in the program. I realized then that MFA had a few letters missing...
I bring all this up because these sorts of things have enabled my shying away from writing what I really want to write, which is horror. The only genre more difficult is comedy, and those who write comedy (that's actually funny, that is, not the toilet humor Hollywood calls comedy) have my total respect. At this point in my life, there's no reason I shouldn't do exactly what I want to do. I am not an intellectual, I do not aspire to win great awards. I just want to write stories that make people feel the way I do when I read a good yarn late at night that compels me, for no rational reason, look twice at any movement in the shadows.
What shitty year for important music people dying. Holy shit. Motherfuck the Grim Reaper and the hellfire horse that sonofabitch rode in on! I see the Grim Reaper walking my way, I'm gonna belt the piece of shit with an ungreased bicycle chain, see if I don't!
Anyway, on to other things...
Pulp Modern number 10 is out and looks great. If you got a copy, please read and review, even if you hated the damn thing. Thuglit is publishing its last issue. I don't know what the hell is going on with some of the other giants that were here long before Pulp Modern and even All Due Respect. Not a lot of places to go for real, hardcore crime fiction anymore (sure as shit can't rely on the commercial pulps you find at the Big Time Bookstore -- Those fuckers aren't publishing anything radical!). Help me keep this thing alive. The more reviews, the more Amazon will recommend the damn thing to people who haven't heard of it, etc., etc. (Also, the print price is awful close to the kindle price, so why not buy the print version?)
(PS -- Writers, the next reading period will be from August 1, 2016, to August 30, 2016; Also, anyone interested in participating in Revenge of Uncle B's Drive-in Fiction, get in touch with me ASAP).
What has turned out to be way more controversial than it ever needed to be, Unloaded: Writers Writing without Guns has been available for a short time. Those of you who know me know that I loathe and despise the so-called SJWs. Well, the gun nerds, as I call them, are just as reactionary and stupid. So far, they're the only ones talking about this collection in the media and it's a shame, considering not a goddamn one of these fucking morons has actually read the collection. I got a story in there called "Seesaw Sally."
I had a great time in April at Noir at the Bar in Atlanta. I met a lot of the Big Names in this pulp scene. The format was excellent--ten minutes per reader. Impossible to bore anyone that way (not that any of the hooligans who read are capable of boring anyone anyway!). I wish I'd attended more of these, but geography is always preventing me from being able to; I am supposed to move to the northwest in July, so if anyone is planning a Noir at the Bar in Seattle or Spokane, please let me know, I'd love to attend.
I should have a crime novella coming soon (relatively). In the meantime, I've taken up the task I set for myself a long time ago -- I've started writing horror stories again. Something clicked earlier this year and I'm confident I can do what I believe a horror writer should do, that is, scare the bejeezis out of the reader. More on that to come.