We lost filmmaker George A. Romero a week ago today. He was the zombie man, a figure of influence that cannot possibly be overstated. Millions tune in for The Walking Dead every week and only a small portion know or are willing to acknowledge that the show would not exist had it not been for Romero’s earlier creations. When Romero passed away, I saw an outpouring of love and support for him online and in horror circles. It warmed the heart. He scared us, amused us, and changed us, and we loved him for it.
Me, personally, it was not Romero’s zombie movies that influenced me the most (though Dawn of the Dead is his best film, in my eyes), it was a comparatively lesser known horror movie called The Crazies. The film told the story about a deadly contagion released in Small Town America that turns our neighbors into crazy killers. It’s nasty horror visited upon a neighborhood I felt like I knew. And it inspired me to write my first published original work, Brain Mold, which was also about a contagion that changes our friends and families into madmen. Romero’s Crazies and his other work in body horror were a big influence on me. I don’t know—maybe—but I doubt I ever properly mentioned how The Crazies and Romero served as an influence on my work in fiction. And that’s something I mean to change.
I don’t want to just write about an influential figure in my life after they’ve passed on. From now on, you’re going to see some posts about the artists in fiction, film, art, etc. who’ve directly influenced my work or made a difference in my life just whenever they’re on my mind. I’m too late to share how much George A. Romero meant to me on this website of mine but I hope he knew how much fans loved him. The man was a giant in the horror community and I will miss him.
I don’t normally go to conventions. But a convention devoted entirely to giant monster movies? Sign me up!
I spent the past weekend at G-Fest in Rosemont, IL, a fan convention devoted to Godzilla and all his monster buddies. This was the second time that I’d been to G-Fest and the first where I actually got a room at the hotel and spent more than an afternoon there. In general, I had a blast. It’s cool to surround yourself with the imagery and atmosphere of a theme you’re passionate about. Hmm, makes me think I gotta look up a nearby writer’s convention! I met many cool people there—including Shin Godzilla co-director Shinji Higuchi and artists Bob Eggleton, Matt Frank, Jeff Zornow, and Dope Pope—I only wish I’d taken more photos and had more time and money to spend! When not at a panel or an artist’s table, I walked the halls running into people with similar interests and always on the lookout for a familiar face. That’s a different feeling for me, because I rarely ever run into anybody I know back at home. One of the highlights was listening to Shinji Higuchi’s panel, which really could’ve gone on for another hour or more and he still would’ve had more things to share. Film composer Michiru Oshima also gave an informative and breezy panel. It was a lot of fun for this kaiju nerd.
One thought that kept coming back to me as I walked past the authors and artists is that I can’t wait to release my kaiju novel, In the Shadow of Extinction, and maybe get myself a table at a future G-Fest. It’d be great to sit beside these fellow creative minds that’ve turned their passion for kaiju into art of their own. One day!
You may (or may not?) recall that in addition to writing fiction I also write about film over at CityOnFire.com. In the interest of driving more attention to that film site… and in the interest in giving this here blog more content… I’m going to be dropping a few film review links here over time. I also plan to share more film recommendations in general more often.
Today we’re talking about Joon-ho Bong’s superpig epic, OKJA.
The film is now streaming on Netflix. According to director Bong, Netflix gave him complete creative freedom. And it shows. You’d be hard-pressed to find a stranger, angrier, goofier, more thought-provoking modern genre movie than Bong’s film about superpigs. The shifts in tone will put some people off, and others simply won’t want to acknowledge what Okja has to say. But for those who can handle a movie that goes in all directions and talks about some ugly truths, Okja is pretty dang special.
Read my full review at City On Fire.
It is the end of June and that means 2017 is now half over! ...Thank God. 2017 has been a whirlpool of suck. It seems to fly by at the speed of light but at the same time it feels like we’ve all aged a decade since January.
No doubt my, um, disapproval of America’s new administration has something to do with how I feel the year has gone. But I expect others on the other side of the debate will share the sentiment that 2017 has been an exhausting year.
It’s been a disappointing year for me personally as well. I’ve slowed down my writing in part because I can’t seem to unplug and detach myself from the endless cycle of BREAKING NEWS as well as I’d like. By slowing down, I’ve also been led to doubt my writing, and self-doubt never leads to anything good. So I’ve been in a crummy mood, both angry at the things I cannot change and just as angry about my struggle to change the things that I can (or at least should).
But I guess it’s not been all bad.
In 2017, I’ve made some good friends online. (I’m on Twitter and Facebook, yo.) To whoever said that you should not express strong opinions online, I say phooey. Sure, I’ve lost some contacts as a result of speaking out against what I thought was wrong, but I do not care. Or at least, not much. There is more unity in a shared viewpoint and more comradery in a resistance than there is in shutting yourself off from the conversation.
2017 has also given us some pretty fine pieces of art.
I will now talk about them.
LOGAN (available now on Blu-ray) is an emotionally charged superhero drama and a fine farewell to Hugh Jackman’s work as the gruff Wolverine. Rated R without feeling like it’s looking to justify that harder rating at every corner, it serves as further proof that there are new ideas and new avenues for superhero cinema to traverse.
WONDER WOMAN. Hey, more superheroes! A totally different film than Logan in approach and tone and still a huge success. It’s a movie full of heart, humor, adventure, and yes, wonder. I knew only the basics about Wonder Woman going in and fully enjoyed the feature. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the finale action is outdone by two earlier action sequences (including a No Man’s Land sequence that is fantastic). A wonderfully enjoyable fantasy adventure and a big step in the right direction as DC hopes to launch its news cinematic universe.
JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 (now available on Blu-ray) is amazing and I disagree in advance if you say anything to the contrary. Love the action and style but the thing about this series I really dig is the world-building. Every little thing has an idea, a little twist. It gives the films charm and a bit of heart, which is nice considering the rest of the time is spent blasting brains against the walls. Not enough films work in world-building to such a level. Wick feels like a beautifully realized comic adaptation. But there is no comic. Haha. Crazy. And that ending to John Wick Chapter 2 is PERFECT. Of course there are better films out there but even they may not have such a perfect end. John Wick Chapter 2 even manages to make a mirror maze sequence feel new again. Chapter 3 cannot come soon enough.
EAGLES OF DEATH METAL: NOS AMIS (OUR FRIENDS). A documentary about that fateful night in Paris when terrorists entered a rock concert and started shooting innocent people at random. The doc talks about the band’s history before making its way to the events of that night and is all the better for it. It’s an intense documentary, to be sure. Emotionally raw. I cried more than once. But I give it my highest recommendation, as it shows the spirit of togetherness overcoming great tragedy.
KONG SKULL ISLAND. Guys. Hey, hey, you guys. I am GEEKING OUT about the Godzilla shared universe with Kong, known as the MonsterVerse. So that’s reason enough for me to be a big fan of this movie, but then you consider the amazing use of color, the whizz-bang action, and the genuine sense of wonder and you get a monster adventure like few others. Bring on Godzilla vs. Kong. (And Legendary, I’m still willing to write a kaiju movie for free. CALL ME.)
And I also want to show some love for TICKLING GIANTS (a hilarious and important doc about satire vs authoritarian government), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (I’m Marry Poppins, ya’ll!), GET OUT (one of the most original horror films in years), and LIFE (space horror movie that deserves a bigger audience).
In TV, it’s been the year of weird. No, I’m not just talking about the news, but by God it’s been a weird year in the news. I mean new shows LEGION and AMERICAN GODS, plus the return of TWIN PEAKS. Love what they’re doing, changing what you expect from the TV medium. TABOO and BETTER CALL SAUL have also been great this year. Looking forward to checking out THE HANDMAID’S TALE and others at a later date.
In books, um, I must admit I’ve not read too many 2017 releases. I’ve been reading older stuff, heh. But there’s a lot of good stuff out there! I know it! In fact, if you’ve read any 2017 book you loved, feel free to share it. Same goes for your favorite art in other mediums this year. Share away!
So… again… 2017 sucks. In fact, I think we owe 2016 an apology for all that ‘Worst Year Ever’ shit. But just the same, it’s not been all bad. Artists continue doing their thing, giving us much-needed escapes into worlds unknown. And, perhaps more importantly, we’ve seen an awakening of a people unwilling to accept this horror show as Business As Usual. Marches… Defiant protesters… Passionate pleas… Free press… Proud Americans… 2017 sucks, guys. But amongst the suckage, 2017 has given us countless heroes. And I’m thankful for that.
Twin Peaks returns tonight. Let’s rock!
I discovered Twin Peaks sometime after the show’s original run, watching it all on DVD. And I loved the weirdo masterpiece. It’s a show about grief, mystery, and coming to terms with a shattered illusion of a perfect community. It’s also a show about a demon named BOB, interdimensional beings, a Black Lodge, and owls that are not what they seem. It is all over the place at times – at some point it will seem like a horror comedy spoof of soap operas, other times it absolutely is a soap opera, plain and simple. It’s not perfect, but it was a game changer, something both wonderful and strange. And sure, Season 1 is superior to the uneven Season 2, but I very much liked what they were trying to do with the show before its untimely cancellation. The film which came out next, Fire Walk with Me, is a remarkable thriller about young life cut short. (Plus it has David Bowie.) But I understand why fans were disappointed with it. Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger and the film was a prequel to the series, not a sequel. Well, that continuation of the story is finally coming, with David Lynch directing every episode of the revival (!!!) for Showtime. Fan favorite characters are returning (Gordon Cole, Shelly, Hawk, Andy, Dr. Jacoby, Audrey Horne, and AGENT DALE COOPER), plus some mysterious new cast members (including Laura Dern, Naomi Watts, Ashley Judd, Tim Roth, and… Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor?). I couldn’t be more excited. I also know that it’s very likely to be a wildly different show than the one that aired on CBS 25 years ago. Not only will Showtime allow the show to get more adult, but Lynch himself has changed as a filmmaker since the original series was on. One look at INLAND EMPIRE or Mulholland Dr. can give you an idea of how dark and strange the show might become.
But Lynch is not alone behind the scenes of Twin Peaks. Co-creator Mark Frost has also returned. And it looks like in addition to Lynch directing all episodes, Frost was in the writer’s room for each of the 18 new episodes. Frost has also given fans a couple extra goodies to go along with the revival: two new books. The Final Dossier is expected to arrive in late October, but The Secret History of Twin Peaks is available now, and I made sure to finish the novel before the new series starts up.
So, first thing’s first: this is an odd book. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the oddness of Twin Peaks, but yeah, totally weird. The Secret History is similar to S. by Abrams and Dorst. It is the discovered dossier compiled by a person known only as The Archivist, who gives details on Twin Peaks history, current events, strange happenings, and conspiracy theories. Written into the margins are the notes of an FBI agent who is tasked with studying the dossier and offering her findings to her superior, Gordon Cole. Some pages are full of redacted print. Other pages are torn out of centuries old diaries. Still others feature strange images of owls. (Note: the design and art direction of the hardcover is beautiful and would not translate well to ebook.)
The dossier goes all the way back to Lewis & Clarke, talks about a strange land in the west (we’re led to believe this is Twin Peaks region), and an all-important green ring. We move through history to the settlement of the town, and the strange occurrences that always happen there. Twin Peaks fans know there is something strange in the woods. We know about the Black Lodge. The Secret History finds an interesting way to expand on those ideas, offering us a few answers, while also presenting all new questions. The amount of time focused on UFOs was unexpected. As was the Richard Nixon cameo.
At times, I was reminded more of John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies more than what I’d come to expect from a Twin Peaks-related book. But that added some fun to the mystery of the fictional world, making the Peaks mystery appear more epic by taking on some familiar ‘real world’ concepts and then twisting them for the series’ intentions.
It is not a typical novel—I struggle to call it a novel at all, other than the fact that it is obviously fiction. It’s also not what you might expect from a Twin Peaks book. All I can say is that I enjoyed it. It mixes in character histories on important Twin Peaks regulars with all the conspiracy madness. You’ll get a detailed background about Big Ed and Norma and then you’ll be back in UFO territory. It’s crazy. And I kind of loved it for being so crazy.
What hints The Secret History of Twin Peaks might have for the revival… I do not know. It’s all canon, obviously. The show has been very careful not to spoil anything for fans. The Secret History is no spoiler. It adds to the mystery. It’s fun, elusive, and weird. I’m looking forward to reading The Final Dossier, just as I can’t wait to see the new show.
Twin Peaks returns on Showtime tonight. The Secret History of Twin Peaks can be bought today at Amazon.
I had never read 1984 before this week. I felt like I had, which is at least part of the reason why I’m slow to pick up many classic novels. 1984’s influences are far-reaching. We know what it means when a government plan is called ‘Orwellian’ and we know to be fearful. And the 1984 ideas are seen all the time in pop culture, from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil to more mainstream titles like V for Vendetta and The Hunger Games. So yes, I felt like I knew the book well before ever opening it. But even so, I must remember that that should never be the reason to deny oneself a good book.
I was of two minds as to whether 2017 was the year to finally read 1984. First off, you should know that I am not pleased with the results of the 2016 US election. (Warning: I have opinions.) Not just because my choice lost, but because I feel unsafe under the leadership of the man we got. Dude wants to be a dictator and it’s only because I doubt he’s ever read a book that I know he didn’t get all his ideas from dystopian science fiction.
Apparently, I was not alone in thinking of fictional dystopian regimes when our newly elected maniac started telling us what the truth is. 1984 became a bestseller again shortly after the introduction of ‘alternative facts’ to our daily discussion. (The Handmaid’s Tale and other dystopian classics also saw sales bumps.) I wanted to read 1984 in 2017 because I wanted to see what the book had predicted and wonder how we’d not seen it coming (also, hey, it’s supposed to be a good book). On the other hand, the current administration had left me flipping between rage and despair on an almost daily basis, and did I really want to explore more of that in fiction? Isn’t now the time for comedy and escapism? Well, I guess curiosity got the best of me.
So, yeah. Reading 1984 in 2017 was one of the strangest, most upsetting experiences I’ve ever had with a work of fiction.
Big Brother’s party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears in favor of their version of the truth. Does that sound familiar?
The first half, which detailed how the world of Oceania worked, was almost too much for me. I nearly quit on it. The book’s prose is brilliantly written, the world-building so precise it feels (all too) real, and the plot, though simple on the surface, is addicting to unwrap. But in my current mindset, I was not prepared for how submissive Big Brother had made his people. That the resistance forces only exist in rumor is such a hopeless concept. In the first act, our hero Winston’s biggest act of rebellion is to write in a diary.
It was not until Winston fell in love that I began to see some hope. The lover escapes to a little apartment for lovemaking and whispered secrets was a rebellion on a small, personal scale. That their romance was doomed from the start was always obvious to me, and that the rebellion never resulted in anything more than the defiance of dead men was also quite clear.
It is a dark book. It is also an honest book. When truth no longer matters, neither do consequences or rule of law. War is fought because that’s the way of things. ("War is Peace.") International conflict is constant, though the enemy is always changing, despite what the state news says (We are at war with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eurasia). It’s madness, but it’s a madness that’s been perfected for the purpose of beating the populace into submission.
Much of 1984 hits too close to home. It was not meant to be used as an instruction manual, but I suppose I see how it could’ve been helpful as such. (Sometimes I know I can sound like an alarmist, but isn’t the notion of living under a fascistic, truth-challenged dictatorship an alarming thought?) In the later pages, one of the high-ranking party officials comments on the failings of the Nazis, the communists, and so on. Big Brother’s party is successful because it is built on hate; hate for humanity, hate for the inferior, hate even, potentially, for life itself. “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake.” And that, it occurs to me, is something that our orange friend has in common with Big Brother. There is no effort to show they’re meeting us half-way. There is no real effort to show they’re doing what they do for the good of the people. For the Environmental Protection Agency, he hires a guy that’s suing the Environmental Protection Agency. To oversee contraception at HHS, he hires a woman who doesn’t believe in contraception. It’s chaos, yes, but it’s also about stomping out the things we once held up and declared to be true. It is about stomping on us, too. However, unlike Big Brother’s hate, which was cold and precise, our man is powered by stupid hate, a bully’s hate, and unless greed proves his undoing, then his emotional stupidity may yet.
Our resistance is a resistance that’s unafraid, one that’s raised its voices and clenched its fists. We may have to endure some unendurable shit before the end, but I don’t see our world going the way of 1984, no matter the stunning similarities we already share with that work of fiction. (The book, I want to remind you, is nearly 70 years old.)
I will just reiterate that 1984 is a brilliant piece of writing. Well deserving of five stars and its time-tested status as a classic. I’m glad I finally read it. I did not enjoy reading it – most of the book is unpleasant, made only more so in 2017. But I’m glad to have taken that journey to Oceania. I got a good story out of it, and I might’ve gotten a little extra fuel to rage against the lies and stand for what I know to be true.
2 + 2 = 4, y’all.
My new novel The Greater Evil is now available in paperback and to celebrate I’m giving away two signed copies over at Goodreads! (US members only, sorry.) I’m also giving away one signed copy of Death’s Good Intentions, because hey, why not? Both giveaways run until May 28th.
It took a few extra days, but I can now confirm that the Greater Evil paperbacks are available for sale.
It's Tuesday, the day when books enter the world of readers so that may be enjoyed, judged, and then nicely arranged on the shelf in the reader's sorting of choice.
Today is a special Tuesday for me because I have a book that's going off to join the crowd of other fictional adventures. *sniffles* Why, just a year ago this little book was a mess of notes and rage, then it came together, made up its mind about what it wanted to be, and now it's ready to go off on its own. BEST OF LUCK TO YOU, BOOK!
The Greater Evil, the sequel to the apocalyptic dark fantasy Death's Good Intentions, is now on sale in a variety of ebook formats. You may choose from a few favorites like Kindle, Nook, GooglePlay, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Greater Evil is not yet available in paperback but that should be rectified by the end of the week. I'll keep you updated!
For the next week, Book 1: Death's Good Intentions will remain free across the most popular ebook formats before getting a price bump. So if you want to grab them both at the cheapest price ever, now's the time!
I do hope you enjoy this book. Please tell me what you think in a review! And remember, the story doesn't end here. I'm hard at work on Book 3, currently titled Behold Star Wormwood, which promises to be the strangest entry of the story so far.
I have a book coming out on Tuesday. It’s a dark fantasy political thriller. Huh what? If that wasn’t a thing before then it is now! Listen: the book has a scene where a demon kills a couple dudes and sticks one guy’s decapitated head in the hollowed out torso of the other dude. The book also has a political prison, the smothering of the first amendment, and a look at how evil convinces us it is a force of good by suggesting that it’s doing all of this with our best interests at heart. So yeah, a dark fantasy political thriller. Can you dig it?
When I wrote the first draft of The Greater Evil, I knew it was my most obviously political book. I hadn’t exactly gone into it with that intention, but when you make the Antichrist the President of the United States politics are going to figure into the story somehow. That’s a given.
But that’s not to say that my other books haven’t been political. (I’ve come to think of Brain Mold as a horror story about the American health care system.) All art is political, on some level or another. The suggestion that art shouldn’t be political is in fact a political statement, because what you’re really saying is that you don’t want art that has a viewpoint contrary to your own.
The majority of The Greater Evil was written before the crazy 2016 election year. And since that time, I’ve detected some strange similarities between the dystopia I dreamed up for my book and the world we seem to be hurtling towards today. None of it was intentional. It was not meant to be a commentary on the happenings of today but rather a vision about how evil (disguised as something upstanding and just) would seek to obtain power through law and order. There’s that blah-blah disclaimer at the start of the book about how all similarities to real people are coincidental and I feel the need to stress that fact (which is kind of sad, if you think about it). My book’s villain President Carpenter is not based on any individual either living or dead. I threw bits of good and bad history into a pot, added my imagination, and the resulting stew is the character. The men who are aligned with Carpenter and those who oppose him are not based on anyone or anything, either.
Unintentional or not, the book has some extra purpose to it now beyond telling a story about monsters and madmen. It’s now my fictional stone to throw at the idiotic giants who loom over us all. And I’m more than okay with that. Because ya know what? I am freaking the freak out about what is happening in the world today.
I believe we should help each other, I believe we should practice basic human decency, and I believe that we’re stronger and wiser when we bring different voices into the conversation. The current US administration represents the opposite of those beliefs. I alternate between anger and terror whenever I think about how they’re handling world affairs. (You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook for less reserved reviews of their job performance.)
I’ve heard that celebrities shouldn’t talk politics. Well, I think that’s bull. They’re people, too, and in America our people are allowed to share their opinions. Now, I am not a celebrity, but I am writing fiction for your entertainment, so I guess some of that ‘shut up’ advice applies to me, too. But I’m not listening. I think it’s important to speak out for what you believe in, especially in times of darkness and uncertainty. Not everyone wants to hear it—some will vehemently disagree with you and even those on your “side” are not always open to further discussion on all subjects. (Speaking personally, I’ve made more friends while discussing the issues over the past year than I have lost because we did not agree.) And anyway, I cannot be one of those people who switches it off, pretends not to see the corruption and hypocrisy, and says nothing about the maddening absurdity of it all. I may lose some potential readers for being outspoken. Hell, I may gain some readers. I don’t know, but it can’t be helped either way.
I respect those who speak their mind and I gravitate towards those who inspire me. I don’t really take away anything from those who remain silent. So, I speak up when I can, I get angry when I can’t help it, and I stand up when I find the courage. I’m trying to do some good in my own way.
Art is political. So are artists. I had briefly considered changing pieces of the book so as not to draw any direct connections to our world today, but I wrote these things because I was afraid of them then, and I’m even more afraid of them now. The Greater Evil has a little something to say. And so do I. We’re not changing to make one part of the readership happy, because they probably weren’t going to like the book in the first place.
With all of that said, I do hope you enjoy the book. It’s dark, weird, and sometimes a little too familiar, but it also features unlikely heroes who choose to resist when the world would rather they remain silent. I’m proud of the novel. It’s my most mature, thoughtful, and angry piece of fiction so far… But of course it still features a few monsters. Because, hey... it’s me.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of books and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
Blog notice: mostly this blog is for sharing my thoughts and talking about my books. From time to time I will also comment on books, films, music, sports, and/or videogames. During these times I may use images of the creative works under discussion. I'm posting the images under the "fair use" allowance, for purposes such as criticism, comments, reporting, teaching, and research. If you have any issue with images used on this blog, please contact me and the images will be removed.
I am not paid for my reviews and I do not take book review requests at this time.