I’ve got books…

…and you know you want them!

Second editions of A Thousand Little Deaths and Those Things’ll Kill Ya’ went up yesterday as well as my latest collection of short stories, Random Fears. All are on Amazon and, if you’ve got Amazon Prime, these books are free to download. If not, they’re only ninety-nine cents so there’s really no excuse not to treat yourself and buy a copy for your favorite eReader. Meanwhile, Noirlathotep (featuring a story by me) remains at the very reasonable price of $2.99 for a download and, if you’re a fan of old noir detective stories or cosmic horror you’ll love it.

So what are you waiting for? Read ’em. Love ’em. RATE ‘EM!

 

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Undertaker Cover

 

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Noirlathotep

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Danno DID DragonCon

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That’s right, boys and girls! I came. I saw. I ended up hungover. Danno Does DragonCon is now officially Danno DID DragonCon and it’s phenomenal. Where to begin? The costumes? The panels? The parties? I know. How about the traffic nightmare that was my trip to Atlanta? I left at 9am Friday morning, intent to get to the con around 1pm local time. Accounting for a quick meal and fueling up halfway there, I didn’t expect the ride to take more than four hours tops. I took into account everything…except for the fact that Murphy’s Law (If it can go wrong, it will) has always governed my life. I had a quick but underwhelming breakfast at a local café and got as far as Monteagle Mountain southeast of Tullahoma before the first snag in my plan. For whatever dubious reason -and I’ve had everything from downed lines and mudslides to piss poor timing of road construction- the mountain pass was closed leaving traffic on Interstate 24 completely shut down.

No worries. I, like almost everyone else in the 21st century, have GPS on my phone and quickly plotted a route around the unfortunate snare. Getting off the interstate at Pelham I took Highway 41 south intent to bypass the problem all together and be on my way in no time. What I didn’t know was that 41 and nearly every other path around the mountain were completely jammed thanks to the influx of traffic and the baffling inability of Tennesseans to drive on a sunny day. There were accidents everywhere and, after spending half an hour stuck on 41 I rerouted myself via Google Maps on what should have been a prolonged and harrowing journey along winding mountain roads to freedom. Instead, it turned out to be an eleven mile long detour that took me back to the overcrowded Pelham exit on I-24. Finally, in a move of desperation, I made one final attempt to cross the mountain via Gruetle-Laager, TN.

Ever been to Gruetle-Laager? Ever heard of Gruetle-Laager? Driving through a heavily wooded, underdeveloped part of Grundy County, the horror fan in me saw striking similarities in the area that would have been perfect for a slasher movie. Imagine the setting of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance had a baby. That baby is Gruetle-Laager and it was a bizarre drive to say the least. Even after escaping the mountainous, rural sprawl of Gruetle-Laager and crossing Monteagle Mountain, traffic continued to be a nightmare until I reached Rossville, Georgia where I stopped around three in the afternoon for a late lunch. I won’t recount the nauseating details of my Krystal experience.

Finally, after wading through one traffic jam or another, at about a quarter to eight I finally arrived at the Hyatt Regency where I picked up my press credentials and started on the journey that is DragonCon/

Bloody Cool!

So the first thing I decided to do after attending the annual parade was to go to the bottom floor of the Hyatt where the Heinlein Society and Life South were taking blood donations from any attendee or guest willing and able to give.

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Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston,  Corpus Christi, and much of the Texas coast days before DragonCon 2017 was set to begin in Atlanta, Georgia. Meanwhile, in La Tuna, California yet another wildfire is claiming homes and lives. These are just a couple of the bitter reminders nature offers regarding the fragility of human life and the brutality that sometimes finds us when we least suspect it. At DragonCon, it made the annual Heinlein Society sponsored blood drive all the more important.

This was my first year at DragonCon and, continuing this trend of firsts, I decided I’d give blood as well. I was incredibly nervous as I rode the escalator to the lower levels of the Hyatt Regency, not sure what exactly to expect. The folks from Atlanta’s Life South immediately put me at ease. A group of professionals who have devoted their time to collecting blood and plasma donations from some of the 80,000+ attendees, guests, and staff making DragonCon come to life.

When I sat down in the waiting area there were nearly forty other people in queue waiting to screen and donate. In a matter of minutes I was whisked away to a cubicle where a nurse spent some time asking me questions to make sure I was an excellent candidate. A painless prick of the finger and an awesomely cool blood test in which I watched my drop of blood begin to clot on a glass slide I was ready to go.

READ MORE…

 

Meanwhile, At DragonCon…

I met so many amazing people during my weekend at DragonCon. From the amazing cosplay of Eliot Thomas and Bella Mello (interview and article coming soon) to the guys at For All Intense Porpoises (also coming soon) and some very cool vendors, musicians, and haunted houses it was a full weekend of shaking hands and making contacts that are going to lead to some cool stories down the line. But coolest of all was getting the chance to meet some of my favorite musicians and filmmakers including Voltaire and Lloyd Kaufman!

I’m not a big crowd person. I usually feel uncomfortable in large groups because I don’t know anyone and a lifetime of being the weird kid in class has left me a little bit introverted. But DragonCon was completely different. For the first time in my life I dove head first into a teeming sea of strangers and swam through new waters meeting people, talking to them, and sharing in a way I never expected to be able to do. The tiny pink strip on my badge that read “PRESS” was a good icebreaker with some who were eager to talk about what they’re doing in terms of their fandom while my own wide eyed wonder at the encounters was more than enough to make most conversations come to life. There’s one area, however, where I never fail to make an ass out of myself.

I’ve talked to an astonishing range of people in my life. From my career in emergency service to interviews I’ve done for 52 Weeks of Horror and never once have I been genuinely intimidated or awestruck to the point where words fail me. But put me face to face with someone whose work I admire and I become a giggly child who can’t formulate a coherent sentence to save his life. It happened in 2005 when I met Bruce Campbell during his book tour for Make Love* The Bruce Campbell Way. I was 20 and absolutely ecstatic about the chance to meet my all time favorite actor. I knew everything I was going to say to him. I knew how cool and suave I was going to come across. I was going to shake his hand, get his autograph, and it was going to be a moment that would resonate in the annals of horror history.

Instead, I stammered and made some incomprehensible chin joke before his scribbled his initials in my book and moved on to the next person in line.

READ MORE…

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The first installment of the new It hit theaters this week and I had quite a lot to say about the reboot of one of my all time favorite Stephen King stories.

The Movie

I went up to the local Malco last night and watched the latest big budget horror reboot, It. We’ve covered ad nauseum my feelings about remakes so I’ll spare you the tired monologue. With a huge marketing campaign and a steady build up over the summer leading to an absolute frenzy in the horror community, there were a lot of mixed feelings going into this. Many, like me, have been jaded by the slew of shoddy, big studio remakes that have done little for the genre while others fretted that the new Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) would trample the memory of Tim Curry’s performance as the terrifying, titular monster. Some were also upset that the film was being made in two distinct parts, violating the timeline hopping narrative of the book and the 1990 miniseries. No one is more critical of a mainstream horror flick than I am.

That said, director Andy Muschietti’s It is quite possibly one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in the last year and, without a doubt, the best big studio horror production I’ve seen in a decade.

We all know the story of the Losers’ Club, a group of social outcasts who stumble upon the horrifying truth that a monster is kidnapping and eating children in the small town of Derry, Maine so I won’t bother going into a lot of detail about the overall plot. Instead, let’s start with everyone’s number one concern entering this movie. Bill Skarsgard is legendary as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. What he does in two hours with this character is nothing short of phenomenal. From his voice to his facial expressions to the general feeling of disquiet he breeds in the role is nothing short of a villainous masterpiece. Rather than trying to recapture the dry, sarcastic wit of Tim Curry, Skarsgard takes on a deceptively innocent persona marked by a steadily increasing feeling of menace and perverse pleasure in the torment of the children at the heart of the story.

READ MORE…

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The Clown

Clowns, man. It’s always been clowns. Since I was a kid, there has always been something that has simultaneously intrigued me and repelled me about them. I love seeing them on television. Watching Bozo in the mornings before school was one of the highlights of my day, when I was in grade school. Meanwhile, villains like the Joker have always titillated me and the clown antagonist in film and comic books has always been a favorite of mine. That said, Stephen King’s It terrified me the first time I saw it and now, some 27 years after the original adaptation of the book aired on television, I can say without a doubt that the idea of the clown as a villain is probably one of the most horrific and chilling concepts in modern horror.

Find whatever villainous Punchinello you like, none of them will ever hold a candle to Pennywise. In the 1990 miniseries, Tim Curry gave a chilling performance as the monstrous, child-eating beast of Derry, Maine, who lured kids into the sewers and devoured them all while hiding behind the façade of a clown. Curry’s booming, distinct voice and deft performance, coupled with a chilling, sarcastic dialogue made him a cultural icon that still permeates the horror genre to this day. Clowns can be scary and, in that great pantheon of blood-sick buffoons, none was more prolific in the nightmares of children than Curry’s iteration of Pennywise the clown.

READ MORE…

 

Women in Horror Film Festival

I’ve got a lot more DragonCon action still to hit this week before I gear up to go south yet again for the Women in Horror Film Festival. Being held in Peachtree City, Georgia (just a few miles south of Atlanta) it’s the first year of the festival which focuses on women both in front of and behind the camera. I’ll be getting a chance to talk to the founders of this incredible new festival, Samantha Kolesnik and Vanessa Ionta Wright as well as an opportunity to meet and talk to several other filmmakers participating in this inaugural event. I’ll also be meeting up with Ed and Melissa Lyons as well as Renaye Loryman of Alfred J. Hemlock for a chance to talk about the short film that has been amazing audiences on the indie circuit all over the world. Tickets are still available for the film festival which will also feature horror icons like the Soska Sisters, Amanda Wyss, Heather Langenkamp and Greg Nicotero (to name a few). With screenings, vendors, and discussion panels it’s definitely not an event to be missed.

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You can still get tickets here.

Meanwhile, I’m working on the true second edition of A Thousand Little Deaths, Those Things’ll Kill Ya’, and a new collection of short stories entitled Random Fears. I’m hoping that all three will be completed by the end of this year and ready for release by spring at the latest. The biggest issues I’m running into (other than needing more time in the day) are in creating new cover images and in my self marketing. A good cover is what’s going to catch a reader’s eye first and good marketing is what’s going to get this out there and sell copies. As I’m not much of a visual artist and even less a salesman, I’m going to have to hunt down people who are willing and able to help me on my budget which is, well, peanuts. If you want to help me out, please go visit my Patreon page and become a patron. For just a dollar a month you can help me increase my budget so I can climb out of obscurity and start producing regular works of fiction for you to enjoy. Subscribe here and make all of our dreams come true.

Updates on the Nashville Zombie Walk and other cool, horror related stuff coming soon.

 

 

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Atlanta Bound!

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By the time you read this, my gear will be packed and my butt will be on the road to Dragon Con 2017! I’m equal parts anxious and excited about this. I’m not a huge crowd/people person and with the promise of around 80,000 folks in the ATL this weekend I know I’m going to be testing my personal comfort limits like never before. I wasn’t able to get any official interviews with any of the guests but I’ll be meeting up and talking to attendees and fans and, if you happen to be there and want to chat or maybe end up in an article or video, just track me down and say “hello.” I’ll be the giant ginger with the bushy beard and the backpack full of crap.

I’ll also be handing out cards and some autographed copies of my story A Thousand Little Deaths so be sure to hit me up about those while they last.

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MC Chris and Danno 10 Years of Touring Tour Exit/In, Nashville, October 2016

I’m going to be focusing on the horror fandoms and events at Dragon Con and even there I’ll be missing so much because I’m only one man. Planning to see Aurelio Voltaire and MC Chris (pictured above with Danno) while they perform and I’ll definitely be there for the parade and zombie walks. I’m also going to be spending a lot of time at the film festival which will be cool to see all on it’s own but I’ve also been tasked with a job that, to me, is quite an honor. I’ve developed a friendship with the folks from Alfred J. Hemlock over the last several months since I reviewed their short film and,  a few days ago, director and co-writer Edward Lyons asked me to attend the awards portion of the film festival on Monday on behalf of Alfred J. Hemlock. I have been asked to accept any awards for the film on the cast and crew’s behalf which has simply blown me away. That’s right, boils and ghouls, if you’re very lucky you might just catch me wearing a tie!

So we’re on the road to Dragon Con 2017!

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A Song of Lies and Writers – A Game of Thrones Fan Theory Rant

I get sucked into Game of Thrones every year despite the exasperatingly long wait for a resolution to the previous year’s cliff hanger. When I first saw Best of Both Worlds or Who Shot Mr. Burns? I only had to wait a matter of months, almost literally the duration of my summer break to see the conclusion. But this was before the Internet Age had become the all consuming intellectual and cultural phenomenon that has dulled minds, desiccated imaginations and reduced attention spans to 140 characters or less. Admit it, you’re losing interest already because the paragraph is more than 3 lines. 

So, in this world where we’ve momentarily become obsessed with this season’s cultural tribute once again, a thought has occurred to me. A year or two ago George R.R. Martin turned over copies of all his notes, theories, and intentions for the conclusion of Game of Thrones. The series is based upon his novels and, in several aspects of storytelling and characterization is very true to those books. The problem is that G.R.R.M. hasn’t finished the final book. He’s been working on it for years and, as an author, I won’t fault himfor that. Writing so much as a flash piece can be a struggle at times and concluding a series with so much comlexity and mythos is daunting to say the least. Afraid he might die before finishing the final tale -a concern for anyone still building their legacy intheir 70’s- he handed the execs at HBO a road map to wrap up the show in line with his book.

But what if that’s not the truth?

Hear me out. What if George R.R. Martin’s end game is to let HBO write the story and then slap his name on it following the series finale? It isn’t too far fetched a thought. Novelizations and book tie-ins to blockbuster films have been popular for decades. Hell, I read Mars Attacks! long before I ever saw it on screen anc the book simply fleshed out the story on film with more dialogue and character development.  So what if that’s George’s game plan, to write a novelization of a series inspired by his books? It’d be a fan fiction by the author who created the fandom. Think about it. He’s been working on this for years now with no evidence in sight to support the notion he’ll ever finish it. Is it hard to believe that after years of struggle (okay, and making an easy fortune) that he might have decided to sit this one out and let some staff writers fill in the blanks? He’d still be doing the finalfleshing out, adding dialogue and concluding the characters not featured on television but, the main conflicts of the plot would be neatly wrapped up and waiting.

George R.R. Martin is the evil genius who makes us fall in love with characters he intends to slaughter when we least suspect it. Can we really ignore this as a possibility?

Game of Thrones will return in 2018 and I suspect his final novel in the series will follow in 2019.

Only time will tell.

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Where Are You, Charlie?

When I find that the wickedness of my fellow man is troubling my soul, when the weight of the ignorance and intolerance in our society feels crushing and I start to lose hope, I’m always reminded of a World War II era Charlie Chaplin film my grandfather watched with me when I was a boy. The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s way of speaking out against the terrible atrocities only beginning in Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s and, by the time the film was released, it was not only a political satire meant to openly mock Hitler and his regime but a rally cry to Americans that we must stand up against madmen and dictators and all the vile and unspeakable evil traits of the human condition that they stand for. The final speech delivered by Chaplin at the end of the movie as he impersonates the supreme leader of Tomainia, delivering a message to it’s armies, citizens, and the world that is more relevant today than it has been in nearly 80 years.

Below is the full transcript as well as the embedded scene.

-Dan

Transcript of Charlie Chaplin’s Final Speech, The Great Dictator, 1940

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women, and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. …..

Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

 

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Revisions, Delays, and Meeting Deadlines.

Ugh. I stress myself out more than anyone or anything could ever hope to do. I obsess, I over think, and I scrutinize unless I’m really excited about something in which case I can’t wait to show it off to everyone. This is great if you’re a toddler who just learned to write your name or draw a pretty picture of a pony, but it’s terrible when you’re a writer trying to bridge the gap between amateur and professional. Reading over some of my published works I cringe at the lack of editing that went into them not only on the publisher’s part but on my own. Most places now rely almost exclusively on the author to provide all the necessary proofreading and editing before submissions so they can save time and go straight to formatting and distributing the work. I feel it’s the major disadvantage that new and small press publishers have when it comes to the old school publishing houses and magazines. Where as the established, older companies and ‘zines have in house editors on staff who scroll through page after page to make sure that silly errors and typos are corrected and that the content coming out is not only free from mistakes but coherent and clear for the reader.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, especially when you self publish a serial from your blog into a novella only to read through and find a lot of those same mistakes that a professional editor would have slashed to pieces in the first reading. It’s why I’ve decided to print a true second edition of A Thousand Little Deaths later this year. I’m actively reviewing it now, taking a Sharpie and a red pen to the book as I revise it to make it flow much more fluidly while giving it a more professional look. The last remaining print copies of the original run of the book are coming with me to Dragon Con to be passed out as promotional tools because, let’s face it, everyone loves swag and even with the typos it’s still not a bad story. The new edition, which I’m thinking will still retain the same cover image, will be out likely by the first of the year on Amazon. After that, Those Things’ll Kill Ya’ will be getting the once over before I release the new collection of short stories I’m working on entitled Random Fears.

 

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Second Edition Coming Soon.

 

Then we come across side projects that I’m super excited about that I start talking on before I’ve got a firm groundwork in place. The Super Low Budget Podcast is exactly that sort of project. What I’m wanting to create is a B Movie style round table discussion about horror and geekery while adding in a dash of radio drama with some made up, horror related shenanigans. The very first episode has been written but the problem lies not only with technical difficulties -some of my equipment not being operational yet- as well as scheduling conflicts and finding the right guests for the right topics. Musician and author Ashley Avery and musician and gaming geek Tom Werth were both going to join me for Night of the Living Podcast but, as their expertise isn’t in the zombie genre I am retooling a different episode for them while still filling in the blanks on my other ideas. Between Dragon Con, Women in Horror Film Festival, and the Nashville Zombie Walk all coming up in the next two months and so much time and effort needed to get ready for all three, it will likely be the first of the year before the Super Low Budget Podcast officially launches.

I’m also in the midst of completing a total overhaul of my story for the newest PDI Press anthology that we’re putting together over at Psycho Drive-In and, while I can’t wait to tell you all about, there hasn’t been an official announcement on the title, theme, or any other details. Just know that some really amazing stories are going to be coming to you in the not too distant future. Mine might even be in that mix, provided that I can meet the September 8th deadline. Each time I look at my story, I find myself absolutely disgusted because there is so much more that needs to be said and so little time to write it all out. I’ve rewritten this story three times already and I’m still not satisfied with it. Paul, if you’re reading this, I promise you’ll have my draft on time, I just can’t promise that the author will be happy with what he sends you.

That’s kind of the curse of being creative, though. Some of your best ideas come after you’ve finished that final draft and you’re left with the terrible choice of having to do another draft or leave the thought in a notebook for another story down the line. Sometimes it’s just a matter of adding a few words here or there while other times you literally have to wipe the slate clean and build it back up from nothing. Patience is the key and, quite frankly, I’ve never had an abundance of patience. But enough about me.

I’m excited to talk about some very talented friends of mine who are attending the Action on Film Festival in Las Vegas this weekend. So what is Action on Film? I think the best answer comes right off of the festival’s website:

Now in our 13th Season, Action On Film (The AOF) is the go to festival for filmmakers, writers, producers, actors, DPs, composers and post production professionals to have their work recognized and honored. The AOF has launched a number of careers and continues to use aggressive marketing to bring even more attention and success to filmmakers and writers from around the globe. How do we do it? First of all, we care. It all starts with that. Next the AOF only screens your projects in the finest theaters in the world. Huge screens, lots of seats, great projection, and is in a beautiful location, Las Vegas, NV. And Yes, AOF even has great party places. The AOF works directly with some of the biggest sponsor partners in food, entertainment and hospitality. We’ve also launched a line of Books about our filmmakers and writers and we’ve even become direct distributors for a number of aggregators and even Shorts.tv. We feature our television interviews on the Del Weston Action On Film show which airs Nationwide. Action on Film honors our filmmakers with brilliant awards and prizes in one of the biggest and most exciting award programs. The AOF charity events include more than money. AOF makes sure that you and the kids we support really connect. Dollars are great, but the human experience beats them every time.

I’m happy to say that four groups of people I’ve come to know pretty well over the last year are all competing in some of the same categories with their short films and independent projects at AoF as well as my friend, editor, and screenwriting mentor Jeffrey Potts who is among several talented screenwriters being nominated separately for the work they’ve devoted to various scripts. While I have some admin powers on the 52 Weeks of Horror Facebook page, I’m not going to blow it up with this news because Jeff and Haley aren’t the sort of folks that want to brag about themselves on their own site.

 

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Congratulations, Jeff! Fingers crossed.

 

Luckily for them, I run my own page and I have no problem celebrating in the accomplishments of my friends and bragging to the world all about them. They’re short film Puppet as well as Mist Manor (created alongside nominees ProCo Production Company) are in the running for a couple of awards as well as the folks behind Alfred J. Hemlock and the Queen of Screams herself, Jennifer Nangle (better known to some as Malvolia) with Slit and Malvolia: Queen of Screams. Haley from 52 Weeks of Horror is getting some love too for her amazing make-up designs on Puppet. I really cannot tell you how much fun I’ve had getting to know all of these people and doing articles and interviews with them about these amazing independent projects. This is the new generation of horror, folks. These people and groups as well as so many others who will be at Action on Film are going to be shaping your entertainment experience in the years to come and, if what I’ve been fortunate enough to see so far is any indication, we’re in for a bloody good time.

I’m getting all of my gear ready and setting my itinerary for Dragon Con. With two weeks left before the event starts, I’m getting the jitters. Unlike the smaller conventions I’ve worked this summer, this is a pretty major league event and I’m as nervous as I am excited for it to come. Then, at the end of September, I’ll be going back to Atlanta for the Women in Horror Film Festival (which I will be posting a whole series of articles and interviews about after Dragon Con). Truth be told, I’m actually more excited about WiHFF than I am Dragon Con simply because it’s the first event I’ll have attended as a journalist specifically in the realm of horror and filmmaking.

But enough of my mind spew for one post. There’s a lot to be written and very little time to write it in. I get distracted on tangents, lose focus, and it bogs me down. I’ve got some cool new horror shorts I’m hoping to have out plus Act Two of my Plan 9 from Outer Space Tribute that I’m hoping to get up on 52 Weeks of Horror when I get back from Dragon Con.

Music City Zombies, news about the Nashville Zombie Walk is coming soon, I promise. Lucas is trying to nail down the last details of our sponsorship and, as soon as they get the money and logistics talked out, we’re coming at you with a time and a place to assemble. Plus, we’ll FINALLY be able to tell you about all the other cool stuff that is going to happen as we welcome back the strangest parade in town.

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Struggling to Find A New Hope

I went to a dark place on my days off this past week. It was a visit that I’ve really skirted the edge of more than a few times over the last couple of years but I dove head first into it and didn’t stop. See, I like to consider myself a very passionate person but the truth is a lot of my issues are that Irish temper I’ve inherited from my ancestors. When combined with the Ginger temper and some of my other, more misanthropic traits, this becomes a perfect storm of depression, despair, and Dan being asshole.  Over the weekend, the news was full of violence and recriminations that were made even more potent by their distillation through social media. It left me feeling utterly hopeless about the future of my homeland and the world itself. That said, I’m going to avoid making any political statements with the following photographic exception:

 

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The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property. -U.S. Military Flag Code

 

Meanwhile, as America continues to hemorrhage in a stream of blood and social chaos, I am going to try to make the best of things by throwing some fun horror news at you.

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At 52 Weeks of Horror we’ve been running a lot of interviews and reviews with independent filmmakers and actors and it’s been great. Talking to these creative talents about their projects is always a lot of fun but I wanted to take a break from just reporting on new and noteworthy movies and discuss other facets of the genre that are equally near and dear to me. This allowed me to explore some of the more terrifying elements of Japanese artist Junji Ito’s classic manga series Tomie.

Is a monster frightening because it can physically kill you or is it more terrifying when it robs you of your individual humanity? I’ve often wondered what makes a monster truly terrifying to me. Some monsters are relentless stalkers, hunting their prey the way a werewolf or vampire might. Others are relentless forces of nature in the vein of Godzilla and other kaiju who wipe out entire cities like volcanic eruptions before disappearing into the nothing. But these are monsters that can be overcome, triumphed from in their passing by the indomitable human spirit. But what about a monster that robs us of who and what we are at our core, that absorbs us into its very being until there is nothing left of who or what we were. There are lots of examples of hive minds and collectivist dystopian societies but the monster I’m talking about is more personal and unassuming.

Tomie is quite possibly the most perfect horror story I’ve ever read. Written by Junji Ito the manga series is the ongoing story of a creature that mimics a beautiful teenage girl who exudes a supernatural control over men that drives them so mad with passion that they eventually murder her and dismember her. Each time, however, the individual pieces regenerate and regrow into new Tomies, all of whom possess this ability to drive men to madness. It’s an ongoing cycle of lust, mania, murder and rebirth as she spores and spawns like a mushroom. The she creatures thrive on the genuflect and adoration of these men, feeding their own vanity and egotism while capriciously tormenting anyone and everyone they encounter. In many instances, the Tomie feeds on the flesh of hapless men and women alike and even uses their bodies to generate new Tomies. The idea of this creature in literature is absolutely horrifying on so many levels.

Tomie represents the perfect embodiment of malignant, virulent evil. Everything we fear about the unknown, about an inescapable, unstoppable force literally and figuratively consuming everything about who and what we are thrives in her very nature. She also represents those same fears on a societal level. The customs and niceties of society, the traits and unspoken vows that keep order and organization to our lives are swallowed by the vainglorious obsession with physical and social perfection. Ego and self image over true substance is personified in who she is. The idea of losing our individuality, being completely consumed into a homogenous and uniform mold cries out against every last fiber of human independence. Who we identify as within society is arguably what keeps that society alive and thriving. The evolution of our culture depends on individuals continuing to change and grow and create. But introduce a force so overwhelming, so maddeningly powerful that feeds on all the most puerile notions that mankind has been known for that amuses itself in the petty torment of others all the while choking out the individual spirit to replace it with the uninspired, incipient desire of a substanceless oneness horrifies like nothing else. It’s the Utopian ideal devouring individual thought and sensation until nothing is left.

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But, not everything is dark and foreboding. Despite the overall tone of Tomie and the current social upheaval in America, there is still some brightness and hope left.

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The Tick, another comic book that has made a huge impression on me through the years with its irreverence and tongue-in-cheek commentary has long been a source of great joy in my life. From page to screen in the sanitized, Saturday morning cartoon version than ran for years on Fox to the short lived live action series starring Patrick Warburton as the titular hero, the character has always spoken volumes about hope and the need to press on through even the toughest of situations. The nigh invulnerable blue super hero comes at every challenge with this child like naivety and persistence that makes it impossible not to root for him. When Amazon announced they were bringing him back in a grittier, live action series, I was skeptical but, after seeing the pilot episode, I think we’re going to see a lot more of the original Ben Edlund story come to life.

San Diego Comic-Con exploded with panels, interviews and all kinds of Tick love recently and, I mean, how could they not? I’ve been a fan of the nigh-invulnerable hero since I first saw him as a Saturday morning cartoon in the early ’90s. I quickly began reading all of the Ben Edlund comics I could find, seeing the evolution of a one-shot character, an escaped mental patient trying to do good into something beyond wacky, irreverent and altruistically heroic. With his sidekick Arthur, a neurotic everyman who wants to be a hero, the mighty duo has charged themselves with protecting The City from the forces of evil.

I even found myself being one of those scattered few who loved the short-lived 2001 live-action rendition played by Patrick Warburton. When I saw the pilot episode that ran on Amazon several months ago, I was hooked. Taking everything I loved about the characters and their universe, adding a little bit more grit and dark humor, and topping that off with a more involved backstory — specifically around Arthur — it was everything I had hoped for.

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Times are tough and it stands to reason that things are going to get worse before they get better. I’m trying not to get sucked into that black pit of hopelessness, to not lose who I am to this mixture of cultural ennui and manic depressive societal rage. I’m struggling against the Tomies who seem to be multiplying daily, flooding every facet of our lives with the poison of fanaticism and division. I’m waiting for that hero to emerge from the shadows, to stand aloft the rooftops and look out over our society with a promise of hope the likes of which hasn’t been known in my adult life. Who knows, maybe that hero is already out there, waiting for the right moment to charge into battle against the forces of evil, of intolerance and hatred, crying “Spoon!” as he guides us back to the path of truth, justice, and the American way?

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Until then, a man can dream.

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