Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Life-Partner, Larry

I would like to say I'm writing this under duress caused by an exotic experience or a great drug stolen by an herbalist veterinarian that does surgeries on priceless dairy cows.   But sadly, none of that is true.  The booze is generic, the drugs are readily available and mundane, and the only thing I can look forward to tonight is another rant from Larry. 

I wanted to sit back and read.  I wanted to pull out of my copy of Fear and Loathing:  On the Campaign Trail in '72 because I wanted to re-read the passage where Thompson gives a sermon in a hotel in the middle of the night.  It's classic and the sermon still holds true. 

But no, I can't.  Some mangy pigfucker of a human being, a semi-literate piece of shit in Freeport, stole two boxes of books from me.  Freeport--the wormy, festering bunghole of Illinois.  Freeport is why I cheer for tornado warnings.  Freeport is why I still light a candle in hopes of a nuclear exchange with Mother Russia.  Or the Chinese. 

Freeport is full of people who steal things they don't need or understand.  And nobody would have understood the Complete Collection of Vladamir Nabokov short stories in one of those boxes. 

The list of stolen titles makes me sick to recount.  All of my Calvin & Hobbes, my poetry books heavy with notes and annotations, my Russell Edson anthology.  It goes on and on. 

Had it not been for a text message from my herbalist veterinarian friend saying she was coming over with more goodies for me, I would not even have the courage to write this.  I feel queasy just thinking about it...

And Larry is busting my balls again.  He won't shut up. 

Spring is always when my houseplant Larry gets weird.  I call it the plant version of Der Wanderlust. 

Last spring I wrote about him just so he'd leave me alone.  And once again he's pestering me day and night about all kinds of weird shit.  It's times like these that make me regret stealing him from work.

"Kid," he says.  "You need a girlfriend."

"Aw, Geez!  Not this shit again?"  He's been on me about this for a while.

"You stay in this apartment too much," he says.  "You never go out."

"I know I'm going to regret this," I said.  "But what do you have in mind?"

"You should call Her."  He said it flatly, with authority.

"Nope!"  I started to walk away but in a tiny apartment there isn't anywhere to go.  "You and I have been over this.  I'm not calling Her."

"You need to, kid."

"Well, somebody is coming over tonight anyways, so chill."

"Drug dealers don't count, kid."

"She's an herbalist.  And not even the good kind, at that."

We were interrupted by a knock on the door.  She's here!  Now!

But what I really wanted to say to everybody is that this blog has reached over 6300 views total is little over a year.  I really appreciate the traffic and kind words.  In exchange for this support, I'll leave you with some advice--Fuck Freeport.  It's a shithole of a town full of carnies, thieves, whore and crackheads.  Just drive around it and pretend it's not there--that's what most folks in Wisconsin do anyways.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Monsters Do Not Equal Horror!

It must really suck being a vampire and knowing that some asshole thinks you need an image make-over so emotional teenage girls will buy your shit.  Some people won't leave a good monster alone. 

Many years ago, one of my closest friends was a biker from California named Mike.  Mike was a real biker.  He drove a custom chopper put together from a number of other bikes, none of them Harley-Davidson, and it had a real coffin tank on it that was so small he had to stop for gas every 35 miles.  He was pissed at the yuppies buying Harley-Davidsons and dressing up like bikers on the weekend.  Worse, it was how they were suddenly the darlings of the media. 

"They showed some asshole on tv yesterday," he ranted.  "It was a doctor and his old lady, who looked like a model.  The asshole said he was trying to improve the image of bikers.  Fuck him!  I love my image just fine!" 

I feel the same way about horror and monsters.  Creepy shit should not be watered down to make it nice for mass consumption.  And no, I'm not going to rant about Twilight.  Too many people have done that already. 

Instead, I'm going to simply say that there has been a movement in horror in the last decade to make monsters nice.  Maybe it started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that's for television.  My guess is it started with a comic book someplace. 

This entire basis is a simple statement we have grown to use in society.  Evil is in the doing, not the being.  You can be a monster but if you do good things, then you are a good person.  Or a good monster. 

Evil is in the doing, not the being. 

I sort of agree with this, but I hate it at the same time.  It's the root of social change.  We began to look at humanity differently in the 1950's and that really took hold in the 60's.

Just because a person's skin color is different, it doesn't mean they aren't like us.  
Don't judge a person by the color of their skin.  
People are people.  We're all the same.

This is how we got Urban Fantasy.  Horror without the horror.  Urban Fantasy can quickly turn into literary near-beer and often has.  

Oh, sure!  He's a vampire that loves to feed on babies, but he's reformed now.  I mean, yeah, he did that for only a couple hundred years, but now he's my buddy and we solve crimes together.  Because, after all, if you were 300 years old you would totally be into solving the murder of a pretty girl you've never met.  

I've grown so tired of nice monsters.  Worse, worlds so full of monsters you have to wonder why everybody doesn't realize they are surrounded by them.  Seriously.  If your MC has friends that are ghouls, werewolves, vampires and witches, then why is it special?  Sounds like an alternate reality where things are simply more diverse than here.  But it also means nobody in your new world can be shocked, amazed or even surprised to find out their neighbor is part demon. 

And this is another thing that thoroughly pisses me off to no end--the mixing.  Now we have half-angels and half-demons.  Always a product of a rape, too.  Worse, the character is so poorly developed we never figure out how this genetic soup was achieved.  If  farmer somehow mixed a pig and a goat, people would freak.  But in most urban fantasy, people just take it as fact and move along with the shitty plot driven by cliche characters. 

Horror is losing the purity so many of us have grown to love. 

I was reminded of this while watching Showtime's new series Penny Dreadful.  It takes place in Victorian England.  So far, in the first two episodes, we have vampires, Jack the Ripper, Dr. Frankenstien and a few other tropes.  Despite my adoration for Eva Green (oh, how I love my French actresses!) this show has been shit on toast.  It's Hungarian goulash made from Hamburger Helper served on a bed of generic corn chips and topped with cheese from an aerosol can. 

Don't get me wrong, I'll watch it some more just to oogle Eva Green, because I'm totally into her.  But seriously?  Another Victorian-period thing with vampires and Jack the Ripper?  When is Dr. Jekyl coming over for his nightly absinthe with a werewolf as they play poker and gamble for the heart of their beautiful housekeeper/ninja warrior/scientist/witch love interest? 

At least Stephen King has avoided this.  So has Clive Barker, for the most part.  Sure, King keeps using the same evil bad thing over and over again.  The same, unidentifiable Thing that doesn't have a physical form and doesn't really come from anywhere but still manages to terrorize everybody. 

But I'm guilty of liking some of this Urban Fantasy stuff, myself.  Steve Niles wrote a short story called "The Y-Incision" and it appeared in an anthology produced by Dark Delicacies.  I read that short story, put it down, and shouted, "fuck yeah!"  Then, I read it again. 

I even typed it up so I could get a feel for the pacing and dialogue.  It was the short story that made me realize I needed to come back to writing.  It made me realize how much fun I had creating goofy shit for people. 

Steve Niles provided me with the flash of light I needed to get me back to writing.  Joe R. Lansdale restored my faith in new American fiction, but Niles illuminated the corners of my imagination again, and allowed me to believe.  

I fell in love with Cal McDonald and the work of Steve Niles on that day.  But that world is just full of evil crap that gets blended into a hodge-podge of Weird Soup.  And for some reason I've found Steve Niles to be the only writer who can pull it off. 

Which always brings me back to what I need to work on most--character.  Cal McDonald is the only character I have read that could pull off that world and not annoy me with the cheesiness of it all.  Niles created a character with depth. 

Often times, I find other writers simply throw in a trope and hope that ingredient will stand by itself.  I mean, we all know what a werewolf is like, right?  And a vampire?  We know their limits, so really most of the real work is already done for me.  That leaves me free to work on the romance. 

A college prof who hated me always said, "Character is destiny."  This is true and if your characters are good, you can survive shitty plots and tired tropes with cliche monsters who are as predictable as sunrise. 

And as soon as I post this, I'm off to edit a short story that was rejected in a personal reject by an editor who took the time to tell me the character needed more depth.  I'm thinking I'll just make him sparkle and send it back to her. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Rumor Mill at Work

I work in an interesting place full of unusual people.  And let me tell you, if I'm calling them unusual, you can take that to the bank. 

Like every workplace, we have a lot of rumors flying about, and it can get pretty fast and furious at times.  Plus, it's a bit of a meat market and hook-ups are pretty common, so it can get crazy sometimes. 

I keep waiting for rumors about me and they just don't crop up.  I keep trying, too. 

It's a well-known fact that the drinking water at work will get a woman knocked-up.  Usually within a few weeks of working there a woman can expect to get pregnant.  It's worse than The Today Show. 

So, a few months back, a girl at work got her token baby as a sign of her employment.  Despite everybody knowing who her boyfriend was, the rumors flew as to who really was the father.  She was telling me all about it. 

"So yeah," she said.  "Apparently some people think so-and-so is my baby's daddy." 


"Yup.  There was a whole list of guys on there."  She proceeded to list off a bunch of totally improbable names. 

"Me too?" 


"Was I on the list, too?"  I smiled at her and fixed my hair. 

"No," she said apologetically.  "Sorry." 

"But we've had lunch together!  We've been seen talking!" 

"Nope," she said.  "Your name never came up." 

"Dammit!"  I was hurt.  I wanted to be on the list of imaginary potential baby-daddies with the rest of the improbably names.  Sure, we all knew who the real father was, that's not the point.  The rumor mill wasn't about fact, it was about potential.  And nobody thought we potentially fooled around.  I was disheartened. 

To correct this, I enlisted the help of some friends.  We were going to start a rumor about myself to get the dialogue going.  Hushed, whispered conversations in the bathroom about who I might be sleeping with and who is carrying my baby. 

What they came up with was this:  I live with a midget and cook meth. 

I know, I know.  But it was the best they could come up with and I know they really tried.  Bless their hearts, they tried. 

That rumor never really panned out.  I even tried to find a little person to move in with me.  That didn't go so well after one responded to my Craigslist post with a naked picture of himself wearing a leather mask and chaps and holding a can of spray cheese.  He had written "OBEY ME" in cheese on his chest.  I was tempted to reply to him just so I could ask where a person could find ass-less leather chaps in little person sizes but that would have opened a dialogue I just wasn't mentally prepared to have. 

About two years ago, I overheard a table of very young and very pregnant girls discussing how they didn't know who their fathers were and so it was okay for their babies not to know.  I was tempted to volunteer my services because having a small group of women knocked up would totally add to my street cred.  Then somebody would actually believe I was gettin' some so my name would come up in these juicy rumors and I wouldn't feel so left-out. 

I would have called them Ted's Breeders.  I would have gotten them t-shirts that had an arrow pointing down and lettering that read, "Ted-Spawn" or "Future Anti-Christ".  Then I would have taken a picture of us all together and sent it out on Christmas Cards. 

So no, there haven't been any rumors, yet.  I'm still working on it.  One of these days I'll have a rumor about me and that'll let me know people think I could be doing something fun and interesting.  I'm thinking that a rumor about me winning the lottery but working my job anyways so I can "keep it real" would be best.  That way I'll get the gold-diggers hitting on me and that will help start other rumors. 

Or I could go the other way.  I've been meaning to slam my boss's door and storm out crying while the entire workplace watches and tries to figure out what happened.  And he would totally love it if I did that.  I mean, I'm his favorite employee, and all. 

Should I wear a bit of eye make-up so it runs and really looks like I'm crying my eyes out?