Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Oh, the horror!

Humanity's fascination with our darker natures, with our primal instincts and the vile acts that lurk inside merely sleeping, with our intellectual and emotional frights, our boogeymen both real and imagined, shunned and purposely cultivated, our folk beliefs that we've transformed over centuries into old wives' tales, post-modern good luck charms, urban and rural tales of degradation and horrors hiding from the light, our deep-seated psychological fears and our love of being scared shitless; all these wonderful things are wrapped up in one night rooted in the ancient Gaelic belief in "a time when supernatural forces were especially to be guarded against or propitiated" - thanks, Professor Hutton. Slap on top Christian festivals of the dead, et voilà, spine-chilling terror.

So what scares the hell out of me more than anything else, save perhaps the Vice President hungry for blood and wielding a double-barreled shotgun?

Writer's block.

Why can't I, on today of all days, think of a single goddamn thing to write about? Oh sure, finding a topic was a piece of devil's food cake with the richest chocolate frosting so thick you'd need a knife to slice it. Which is probably what was clogging my pen, come to think of it. So many classic films that I've watched seemingly thousands of times and hold very dear, so many brilliant works of literature that have transcended the uneducated, highbrow insult of being "just horror" to shock, impress, amuse, sadden, scare, so many dead bodies, their crimson blood glistening in the flickering candlelight, their lives insulted by the the stench of the charnel house and mocked by the shadowy danse macabre on the slate-grey stone walls of my basem - anyway, I'm wordlessly adrift on a mute sea with my fingers having been broken by the ghostly crew of a long-disappeared pirate ship, starving and ready to die on a boat that's rapidly taking on water.

Therefore, in the spirit of the day's - and night's - devilry, I cheat and take the easy way out, submitting to you a series of links - six, to be exact, because, you know, that's evil - by bloggers better than I. Read on, potential serial killer victim.

One man's brilliant take on the history, horrors and homages of the legendary Halloween. Okay, this one's by me. So I lied. What better day than today to be a diabolical bastard?

Speaking of homages, and that one in particular, Dr. Zombie tells us why his distant cousin Rob's version isn't all that bad. Though spot-on with the good and the bad - I have my own similar quibbles with the movie - he's 100% correct, iron-shackle guaranteed, with the one flaw that, unfortunately for me, was fatal.

Speaking even further about homages, remakes, pick the word you wish, when I heard there was going to be a new version of quite possibly my favorite George Romero flick, Dawn of the Dead, I had my reservations. I have nothing personally against remakes, reinterpretations - which, if you read my Halloween post, and I can see whether you did or you didn't, you'd know - but could Zack Snyder pull it off? Though it doesn't have the same charm as the original, I think he did. It's good, bloody, violent fun. Old Dark House isn't as enthusiastic as I am, but read his take anyway lest I report you to DHS. They have some haunted houses in beautiful Eastern Europe that have perfected the mindfuck, if you catch my meaning.

What foolish human hasn't seen the granddaddy of zombie flicks, The Night of the Living Dead? Mr. Romero would be most displeased if you were to say that you haven't, and I'm sure Evil Mommy would be as well, and she lays out the reasons why this film claws above mere gut-wrenching chills and thrills.

Arbogast speaks profoundly and pointedly about a highly-anticipated yet flawed, though nowhere near as vomit-inducing as most, 'zombie' sequel, 28 Weeks Later.

I've watched this movie I don't know how many times. If it had been on VHS, I would've worn it out by now. Or maybe that was my stash of porn. Regardless, I'll perhaps one day write something on it, but until that glorious event is sanctioned by Satan through one of his babely, scantily-clad lieutenants - please don't send Cheney this time, you fucker - you'll just have to read a riff by Becca, one of hell's heroes, on The Ninth Gate.

It's Halloween. What scares the Hades out of you?

[insert blood-curdling scream of your choice]


La Belette Rouge said...

Your writer's block is better than a lot of writer's flow. Chocolate frosting blocking a pen's flow is a rich visual image that I am putting in my psychic scrapbook.
As for what scares me, hmmm, I seem to be experiencing writers block in regards to my fear. Off to check your scary links and see if anything comes to me.

Mary Ellen said...

Aw heck, the video on your first link isn't available any more!

Personally, it takes a lot to scare me. I've gone to movies that people have sworn would keep me up all night and nothin'! Maybe it's because I raised three girls through their puberty. That's really scary! Or, maybe because my older brothers made it their life's goal to scare me till I wet my pants when I was little. I feel immune to anything that jumps out at me on the big screen.

What does scare me is when I read stuff about real hauntings. Yes, I do believe in ghosts and the afterlife. I also believe in demonic hauntings. So, when I see a video with what seems to be real images of ghosts or poltergeist activity, that will keep me up at night.

The website, Cryptic Media has a lot of good stuff (some of it not so good), but this one is creepy. The ghosts seem to like to harass dogs, too! Check out this video. Poor dog!

I agree with la belette rouge, your posts are amazing. I have writers block every day, and I'm embarrassed by some of the crap I put up on my blog. But I have an excuse...I was taught by nuns.

Randal Graves said...

La belette rouge, writing a blog post is far easier than writing a poem, for example. That might take me days, even for a dozen lines. And it's a good thing I had some chocolate cake the other day, though I now reserve the right to cheerfully purloin any such images from your blog, as well. C'est juste, non ? :)

Mary Ellen, those MGM/whomever-owns-the-rights-to-
Halloween bastards! It was merely the trailer to a movie you've no doubt seen, so no great loss.

I'm with you about the movies. Nothing truly frightens me. I've been moved temporarily by some of the torture scenes in Saw, for example, but that was purely a physical revulsion. Such a feeling hasn't resonated with me like a good psychological play could. Hellraiser, for example, was much more effective because instead of the camera lingering on the violation of the flesh, you caught glimpses. Then you were all but forced to think about it happening to you. When you can see step 1 through step 72, it loses some of its staying power.

This video is taking forever to load. Stupid internets! And you shouldn't be embarrassed. My "Fucking Yankees" posts weren't exactly literary masterworks. I've probably had up three posts with decent writing which I balance out with anti-Bush snark. And La belette rouge had the guts to put a poem on her blog. I'm too much of a chickenshit to ever do that. :)
And I had a nun in sixth grade! What an angry old broad she was.

La Belette Rouge said...

There are plenty of dark night of the soul moments when I realize that what I need to do is run to my laptop and edit that post so as to minimize my shame and remove my one attempt at poetry. I have yet to do it---as I seem to have a high capacity for creative suffering.
And please, I encourage and welcome your cheerful purloining of my imagery. Quite sure that I have never strung those words together in a sentence before.

Randal Graves said...

You absolutely cannot remove that attempt. Why? Because someday you will be inspired to write another one, and you will want to chart your evolution. How do I know that? I don't, but it sounds nice. Et bien sûr, you more than likely have it saved on your laptop or on a piece of paper carefully tucked away amongst other loose leaves, but this way it's a permanent imprint of a singular moment(s) of your creativity.

I'm not sure anyone has strung those words together. Think of it as an electronic Mad Lib that worked out fabulously.

PoliShifter said...

Writer's block? Writer's Block?

You call this writer's block?

I have writer's block my friend...all I have been able to do is post damn that's writer's block...

Randal Graves said...

Think of it as taking a break, rest and relaxation under the sunny electrons of the tubes. You were posting 3, 4, 5 substantial articles a day for a good stretch of time.

I'm already thinking of tossing up another Fun With Captions! post. Commenters do all the work for me. Now that's blogging.

FranIAm said...

I know what you said about a post and a poem, but if this is writer's block,I might want to be you!

I really do love the way you string so many thoughts together and so evocatively. Thank you.

Now the notion that you had watched something that wasn't porn so many times got me chuckling.

I saw the first one- 28 Days and loved it. Never saw the second.

My notion of horror BTW - having martial law declared and no 2008 election.

My Inner French Girl said...

My idea of horror....hmmmm...discovering the horrible truth that, as I've suspected all along, I really can't write. In the meantime, I plod along in happy ignorance.

Have you ever read any of Colin Wilson's books? I discovered The Philosopher's Stone when I was in high school and have since read it at least once every two years or so. It's so well-loved that it's now having to be held together with a bloody rubber band. Anyway, a blurb by Joyce Carol Oates on the back of the book inspired me to pick it up at a long-forgotten used book sale:

"The Philosopher's Stone is a peculiar, quirky, exasperating and ingenious variation on a theme by Lovecraft, one of the rare works of science-fiction that uses horror not as an emotion so much as an IDEA [emphasis Oates'], the stimulus for forcing the reader to think. Wilson has said that he will leave to other writes the challenge to make people feel emotions; he believes they feel too often and think too little. It is the intention of The Philosopher's Stone to make us THINK [again, emphasis Oates']."

La Belette Rouge said...

Thanks for your kind entreat. For now, I will not remove it. But if I have to keep it up, it only seems fair that you should have to put some of your poetry on your blog. :)

Becca said...

Thank you ever so much for the link!

And it's great to find another fan of the Ninth Gate. I saw it originally in a crowded theater and just fell in love with it. When the credits began rolling and the house lights switched on some guy 2 or 3 rows back stood up and very loudly said...

"Did anyone else here understand that movie? Cause I didn't understand that movie.""

He just seemed so offended it made me laugh. I got a good look at him before he left, typical jock two ditzy blondes on either arm...probably just hopping for some mindless horror but instead got one of the best mystery horror films ever made. The book is pretty fab too.

Randal Graves said...

Fran, merci, but if I may state for the record, being a sensitive, modern man, I am unfamiliar with this "porn." The first 28 Days is definitely the superior movie, but the second has its moments. And stop it, damn you. I'm talking haunted house horrors, not stuff that actually scares me, too.

My inner french girl, I think we all feel that way. I can talk about writing, but I'm terrified to show it to anyone. I have to muster up the courage to show a new piece to my wife! And I've heard of that book, but still haven't read it. You know how there's an imaginary pile/list/database of books to be read, and that's one of those that's been filed for awhile. One of the fears of getting old, running out of time to read all the things I want to. But I digress. Thinking vs. emotions is a tricky balance. A writer can go overboard in either case, but the former is much easier to do. To do well? Completely different story. I stick to that because I couldn't plot my way out of a paper bag, but to read a skillfully penned horror tales that forces the reader to use the brain? I might have to read it sooner rather than later!

La belette rouge, if you search, you will a truly dreadful sonnet that can be appreciated in the mildest of terms if you're familiar with the works of HPL. If not, it's geeky gobbledygook. :)

Becca, de rien ! "Heh, heh, Beavis, where's all the fighting?"
"Heh, heh, I don't know Butthead, but there was boobs! Heh, heh! And fire! FIRE!" Ah, the typical American movie patron. :) But that's precisely why the movie works so beautifully. The tension is purely psychological and given how Corso is presented, any physical dangers are more realistic. Plus, when ruminating on the idea that these old books, words have power, it's given weight by their age, centuries of history, even something simple like the slowly-decaying house in Portugal, mirroring the fought-off decay of these old books, all-but-hermetically sealed with these collectors. It's just a great movie.

My Inner French Girl said...


Randal, I remember reading an article in some business magazine many years ago (when I care about such things...sigh) the not-all-that-uncommon feeling of feeling inadequate for one's job/position. I think the author termed it the "impostor syndrome," i.e., you fear that someone will finally figure out that you're not as good as they thought you were.

I'm sure writers, being the sensitive souls they generally are, suffer from this malady in spades. But we keep writing anyway!

(Or blogging. Damn, I have to get back to my NaNoWriMo.)


Randal Graves said...

We have to keep writing, it's in the blood. Now, perhaps NaNoWriMo isn't. Have you tried that before? Churning out 1700 words a day is something I'd find impossible to do without spending far too much time going over them!

My Inner French Girl said...


I've heard of NaNoWriMo, but have never attempted the insanity myself. Of course, I don't have a full-time job, so that makes it infinitely easier. I already have a novel in progress that I'll use as my project this month, which I realize is against the rules, but it's just for me anyway. It's a massive historical novel that needs a jumpstart, and this hopefully will provide that.

And remember: the motto is Quantity over quality! I am going to force myself to shut out that inner critic and just bulldoze my way to 1700 words a day. A little coffee and a lot of stubbornness should help. ;-)


Randal Graves said...

You know for a fact - well, not officially, but I'd be willing to wager - that a lot of entrants do exactly that, going from a work-in-progress. But change that from a little to a LOT of coffee and I'm on board. :)

What about this novel that you're working on? What time period? Where? I assume Paris, but one never knows!

Candace said...

"Why can't I, on today of all days, think of a single goddamn thing to write about? Oh sure, finding a topic was a piece of devil's food cake with the richest chocolate frosting so thick you'd need a knife to slice it. Which is probably what was clogging my pen, come to think of it. So many classic films that I've watched seemingly thousands of times and hold very dear, so many brilliant works of literature that have transcended the uneducated, highbrow insult of being "just horror" to shock, impress, amuse, sadden, scare, so many dead bodies, their crimson blood glistening in the flickering candlelight, their lives insulted by the the stench of the charnel house and mocked by the shadowy danse macabre on the slate-grey stone walls of my basem - anyway, I'm wordlessly adrift on a mute sea with my fingers having been broken by the ghostly crew of a long-disappeared pirate ship, starving and ready to die on a boat that's rapidly taking on water."

You call that writer's block?
I'll have some of whatever you're having!

A friend of mine is doing Na-No for the second time. He brought his planning notes to our last writers' meeting just to talk over some ideas about the plot. I really admired his integrity, because it is okay to do some thinking ahead, but no writing ahead. Maybe next year I'll get up the courage to try Na-No. This year I'm still bogged down editing my YA historical (Japan.)

Have you thought about joining or starting a critique group? Maybe that would help you get over the fear of showing your work to people.

Randal Graves said...

Um, you did see today's post, right? :)

I hope the lack of comments doesn't mean I'm going to have to be consistent with more literary posts instead of snark. The latter is so much easier.

Is your novel essentially finished, you're just in the process of cleaning it up?

Have you thought about joining or starting a critique group? Maybe that would help you get over the fear of showing your work to people.

No. I'm too afraid to.
Thank you! I'll be here all week! Enjoy the veal!

My Inner French Girl said...


You're probably right. I'm sure plenty of others use their works-in-progress as their NaNoWriMo project. That's actually what I've been doing most of the afternoon, working on my 2,000 words. (I decided that, since my novel is so massive, 1700 is just not enough. Besides, if all we're doing is writing like fiends without the fear of editing, then another 300 words doesn't seem so difficult, especially when you're already on a roll.) I've resisted the very tempting call of the many blogs I have on my feedreader and have yet to read today.

Er, I'm not really ready to share my novel's plot, not because I don't trust you, mon ami, but rather because I write about it in my professional writing blog and would prefer not to mix the two just yet. I will say that it's not set in Paris or anywhere in Europe, and that the time period is World War II. I had about 130 pages of it finished several months ago before I realized that I hated what I'd written and had to start over again. It's a struggle.

Oh, and please don't censor yourself! Snark, literary comments, profanity-filled porn...don't let us moody and obsessive writers get in the way of your writing output. That'll just increase your writer's block. (Uh, I was just kidding about the profanity-ridden porn.) I do like Candace's idea of your joining a critique group. It would be a shame if you did all that writing but never showed it to anyone. Remember that our writing is never as bad as we think it is, and that if you'd read any of our comments here, you'll realize that there are people who think that you're actually quite good!

In any case, I hope your writer's block passes soon. If nothing else, you could pretend that you're in NaNoWriMo and write like a fiend!



Randal Graves said...

my inner french girl, if those are the circumstances, then certainly don't tell me! But starting over after 130 pages? 'Ouch' is about the best, most concise word I can find. Best of luck with this attempt and let us hacks know when it's about to be published as you start your whirlwind book tour. :) I will say this though: I hope you haven't completely tossed those 130 pages. You never know when you might be able to mine them for future use. Many times I've written a poem whose root was a discarded line for 2, 3, 5 years ago, merely reworked. Trash during one emotional state or time can be treasure during another.

As for NaNoWriMo and any such large-scale endeavors, I'll pass for a while and leave that up to you. It's quite draining!

Candace said...

Ooh! I'm brilliant! Here's a great idea, Randal, for overcoming the fear of sharing your work with others:

Writea piece entitled "What's the Worst That Could Happen? [if you showed your work to others]

Use your considerable snarkiness to carry the consequences to the absurd extreme (i.e., if you showed your work to others, someone would punch you, knock you down, whereupon you would poke your eye out, catch pneumonia, and die.) Really lay it on - you get the idea.

See how brilliant this is? You'll be writing snark AND doing this Gestalt thing to get over the fear!

Five cents, please.

My Inner French Girl said...

Candace, that's brilliant! That totally deserves a dime.

Randal, I think this particular post has just been hijacked by friends who want to see you write. Or have others see what you write.


My Inner French Girl said...

Oh dear, no. I kept the original 130 pages, bien sur. Mostly I didn't care for it because it introduced too many background details unnecessary to the plot. However, I kept them because I knew they'd come in handy as I develop the character and storyline, even if they never actually make it to the final draft.

I agree that one should never toss unused literary works, although it's taken me years and years to learn that lesson! If nothing else, you can always look back on them and realize how much your writing has improved, and how something that you were so chest-beating passionate about ten years ago, you can't even remember anymore now.


Randal Graves said...

Candace, bloody hell, here's a dollar. That's a ridiculously wonderful idea. Which I will save for a later date because that sounds like too much work. :D

But the peer pressure is piling on. Jeez, you people are pushy! I need a drink. Perhaps I'll post something tomorrow. If, IF, you two do the same in the future. And Candace, that snippet you posted a couple of weeks ago doesn't count! Well, I suppose that an independent arbiter would declare that it would, but since we're not before the NLRB, ha!

my inner french girl, I'm glad to hear that! And you're right about past works. I look back on some of my early stuff and cringe. Though I'm not too sad that nothing from my high school days has survived. That was some grade-A dreck.

La Belette Rouge said...

Would like to add some weight to the peer pressure.

My Inner French Girl said...

Sorry, Randal, you're in our sights now. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, lots of things to write. And hey, we're puttin' in the hours, gettin' that word count up. You're not allowed to sit on the sidelines anymore, snarking away. We're pullin' you into the deep end of the pool with the rest of us writing geeks!

And yeah, we're pushy. That's what happens when you add the insane challenge of writing a full novel in the space of 30 days. Who wouldn't start getting, uhm, snarky? As a matter of fact, we just might join you in that drink.

On a different note, I remember entering some poetry contest when I was a senior in college that never even made it to my school finals, much less the city competition. I don't remember anymore what it was about, but knowing what masterpieces teenage angst usually inspire, I suppose it's best that I don't.


Randal Graves said...

La belette rouge, um, yeah, thanks for that. One more vertebrae cracking.

my inner french girl, bottoms up. Careful though, the worm in your tequila might just snark back.

Oh, those are the pieces alright. Unless one is a Rimbaud, one really has to wait until they've aged a bit to successfully frame such feelings. Getting older isn't all that bad.

Wish I had brought Symphonie fantastique to listen to on the bus back home. The Marche au supplice feels quite appropriate this evening.

Candace said...

Inner French Girl, thanks - let's see, now I've got a dime and a buck. Woot!

Okay, Randal, I'll post another snippet (although I just posted something for Friday.) When I see yours, you can see mine. :)

I admire you people who write poetry. I hate to admit this, but ... I just don't get poetry. (I don't get jazz, either.) I know; I'm a peasant...

So, get to writing that "What's the worst that can happen" bit. [cracks whip]

Candace said...

P.S. I keep a "dump" document for each project on the word processing software. That way, instead of tossing away whole paragraphs, pages, or even chapters, they're saved somewhere. Ya never know ... I wrote a chapter introducing a new character for my YA historical, then decided not to use her, after all. But, I liked her so much, I put her in the dump file for perhaps another story some day.

Randal Graves said...

Alright, fine, I better dig up something for today, a piece that'll induce the least amount of choking on laughter. :) And don't feel bad, I don't get jazz, either. Of course, I vacillate between Scandinavian death metal and 19th century French song, so I don't know what the hell that's about.

And that really is a great idea for a post, but I'd want to do it justice, so on the back burner it goes for now.

And that's something I should get to doing (in addition to figuring out why I start each paragraph with 'and') instead of having the bits and pieces scattered in various notebooks. Plus, my writing is atrocious. Shrunken Carolingian miniscule is about the best approximation I can think of. Get the magnifying glass!

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