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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter
+++ Vol. 2 #10, August 19, 2004 +++
Blather. Wince. Repeat.
For some insane reason, last week I kept finding hair in my food. Whether at a restaurant or visiting with friends or even in my own custom-made bowl of oatmeal, there it was: a strand of human protein, resting in the potatoes or floating in the gravy. Most of the time it was brunette. Most of the time, it was short, like an eyelash or, well, something much worse.
I started to get upset. I felt cursed. Who keeps putting hair in my food? My food preparations were randomized because I was eating from different kitchens all week. And yet still I was cursed with hair condiments, sprinkled as rampantly in my dinners as cilantro appears in salsa. But hair is a far more disgusting – yet common – spice. “Unclean!” my dinner shouted at me. “Unclean!”
But then I realized: hair in your food is really not something to, well, pull your hair out over. For example, I have a full beard and I'm eating it all the time. Sometimes accidentally, if the tuft beneath my lip grows too long; sometimes on purpose, vacuously munching the ends the way a girl with pigtails might twirl one of them. When I was young, and I had long hair, I sometimes would chew on the long strands just because I could. I've kissed my wife's hair, and I've spit-cleaned the eyebrows of a child with the grooming habits of a monkey. It's only natural. Instinctive, even. So I think that so long as hair is growing on the body, it isn't as abject and disgusting as the strands that fall off. And into my food.
However, even those fallen locks and tresses aren't TOO grotesque, are they? Some folks keep shorn strands from their childhood or from loved ones as a keepsake. Others donate them to wig manufacturers for lukemia patients. Yet the unswept barber shop floor disturbs me quite a bit. Perhaps its the horrifying sense of dead tissue everywhere – the mixing together of a thousand different heads of hair like so much human waste, trampled there beneath a thousand more dirty feet.
But that's still my reptilian brain talking (and reptiles, you realize, smartly have no hair!). The fact of the matter is that most of that freshly cut hair on the floor is also freshly washed and shampooed in the basins in the back of the barber's. In fact, most people are civilized enough to wash their hair at least once a day – and many probably put more care (or care product, at least) into their curly locks than they do into soaping their skins or cleaning their nails or brushing their teeth. Yes, hair is probably the cleanest part of the body, even though it's clipped, broken, and sloughed off like fingernails (it's sister in protein).
So why the heck does it bother me so deeply when it happens to land in my food? Is it because I assume the chef is an unwashed brute? Or is it because I just don't know what sort of hair it is, and what sort of person lost it, and what sort of hygiene they had? It's often the sheer fact that the hair's origin is unknown. That little strand of protein could be a fallen nit from a nostril, a lost waxtrapper from an ugly ear canal, or the shedding from the natural filtration of some other bodily orifice. Most of our holes, after all, are hairy. As are our pets. And the rats in the pantry.
Or perhaps it goes further than simply what hair is or where it comes from. Maybe it all comes down to what it's matched with. The combination of food with hair seems taboo. How many hairy foods are there? No delicacy that I can think of off hand, but that's only because of hunters and butchers flay their game before it's prepared, not to mention the hygiene laws that make most restaurant employees wear hats and hairnets. But think about it: in the wild, as in my mother's kitchen, hair is everywhere. What kind of strange civilization do we live in where it's perfectly fine to bite into the tissue of an animal, but god help us if any of its fur is still in the meat!
In fact, hair could benefit us. It's protein after all. We might not need to floss so much. Maybe it's good roughage. I think I might like a large nest of Natural Red on my salad instead of sprouts. Sure, hair has only a micron of nutritional value, but, gee, if it can smell terrific, maybe it can taste terrific, too?
But still my gut says no, hairy food is sick, diseased, unclean, though my head knows better and it can't puzzle out the reason why we're so afraid of it. Are we worried about the potential of human hairballs? Is intestinal blockage the problem? The aftertaste of cheap conditioner?
Or is it subtly cannibalistic? I mean, if hair became a delicacy, what would stop us from turning on each other like monsters, harvesting it from each other's heads like scalpers? Nah, we'd systematize it all, tame our instincts, make it civil. Groom ourselves the way farmers rotate their crops. Barbershops would have back kitchens.
Imagine the menu. Armpitted Prunes. Bearded Clams. Ham and Wigs. Pork Chops slathered in Pubicue Sauce. Blondies. Mustache Muffins. Honey Combed Cereal. Crew Cut Steak. Hair Raisin. Hirsute snacks…oh, the possibilities. A rainbow wig of flavors!
Wait, I think I've figured out why it sickens me so. There already is hair in the esophagus…hell, all the way down the gastrointestinal tact! Cilia – tiny little cellular hairs in their tiny little follicles that move food through the gut. There's something uncanny about them. They move on their own accord, like an inside-out caterpillar. Maybe they don't want to be pall bearers to their own kind. Maybe they don't like the competition. Yeah, that's it.
A Handful of Hoaxes
Telegrams to the Afterlife
Cemetery Theme Park
Evil Villain Outfitters
The Most Anal-Retentive Collection Ever
+ PLAY DEAD: MY NEW NOVEL FORTHCOMING IN HARDBACK!
I'm very happy to announce that my next horror novel, entitled Play Dead, will be published in a very special hardcover from the same folks who brought you my flash fiction collection, 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories. Play Dead is a twisted story about pathological gamblers who play poker with photographs of their murder victims. Physically structured like a deck of chapters, with 52 chapters, four “suits” (parts) and even a joker or two thrown in the mix, Play Dead is a very different book – which makes it perfect for Raw Dog Screaming Press' “Grim Grimoire” line of sculpture-bound books. Sculpture-bound? That's right: a limited run of 106 hardcover copies (i.e., 2 “decks”) will have amazing covers made of hand-crafted resin. Each copy will come with a custom-drawn deck of cards, too – plus one original card to be signed and inserted into each copy. This is truly a novel novel! RDSP's first “Grim Grimoire” – Jeffrey Thomas' book, Everybody Scream, sold out in 36 hours. Play Dead will also appear in unlimited regular hardcopy editions. Raw Dog is planning several poker competitions at conventions next year to support the book.
Play Dead is slotted for a mid-2005 release. I'll keep you updated. For now, “roll over” to Raw Dog's web site for more information and some way cool photos of Thomas' first Grimoire or to read more about this wonderful book. http://www.rawdogscreaming.com
+ FLASHSHOT ANTHOLOGY
If you love flash fiction as much as I do, then you probably already subscribe to the free FlashShot Daily service, which delivers a new short-short of science fiction, fantasy, or horror every day to your inbox. If not, I highly recommend it for your daily dose of the strange. Ten of my contributions to FlashShot appear in the new FlashShot Anthology, which collects the first year of the digest in one volume. It's available NOW as an e-book from Fictionwise and a print edition will soon be available at Shocklines Bookstore, if not directly from CyberPulp Publishing's media providing service at Lulu.com.
CyberPulp Books at Shocklines
CyberPulp at Lulu:
Free Subscription to FlashShot:
+ SMALL BITES TO BENEFIT CHARLES L. GRANT Another new flash horror fiction anthology, Small Bites, is a charity book being put together in order to benefit the masterful dark fantasy writer Charles L. Grant, who is suffering from chronic pulmonary disease. All the stories in Small Bites are not only under 500 words – they also all involve teeth or eating or mouths in some weird way. My contribution, “Screwy Louis,” will appear in the book alongside writers like Matthew Costello, F. Paul Wilson, Mark McLaughlin, Jeff Strand and about 100 more!
Small Bites homepage:
Fresh Air Fund for Charlie Grant:
+ COLLECTORS: A GRAVE MARKINGS SPECIAL OFFER
My Stoker Award-winning first novel, Grave Markings: The Tenth Anniversary Edition has now SOLD OUT from the publisher (Delirium Books) in all editions. Last month I offered to sell a few of the extra signed/limited hardcovers I had on hand, and I appreciate those of you who took advantage. I still have a few left, If interested. PayPal $75 to email@example.com (or inquire about other payment methods) and I'll: 1) personalize your book with an Arnzen “freestyle tattoo” drawing on the page facing the signing page, 2) include a FREE signed copy of my trade paperback short story collection, Fluid Mosaic (which is soon going out of print); 3) add a BONUS signed cover flat of the Dell/Abyss paperback original from 1994; and 4) include the postage. What a deal! This deal is limited to three copies, so first come, first served.
Fluid Mosaic: http://www.wildsidepress.com
Sign up for PayPal: https://www.paypal.com
+ I'M HONORED
You should all pick up the just published collection, The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror XVII, edited by Ellen Datlow, Gavin Grant, and Kelly Link. And not just because my poem (from Bare Bone #4) received Honorable Mention in the back. It continues to be one of the best collections of horror fiction published every year, and it's thicker than a log, so you get a lot of contemporary classics for the price of admission. http://www.lcrw.net/yearsbest/
+ A REALLY SCARY MEMOIR
If you missed it last time, I thought I'd let folks know that “What Corrupted Me” – an autobiographical reflection on how my morbid curiosity and taste for horror fiction developed – is up at the Really Scary website. http://reallyscary.com/
+ Do something truly nasty with a liposuction device.
+ Kill a overly nice person with kindness.
+ Write about a character who is literally “trying to keep his head straight.”
Instigation is a WEEKLY department in Hellnotes newsletter: http://www.hellnotes.com
You can also buy collections of prompts for chump change at The Sickolodeon:
If you publish something instigated by this department, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll mention it here! Or if you're bold (and willing to forfeit electronic rights), post your response to a prompt at the new Goreletter weblog by clicking on the word “comments” underneath the “Instigation” section at:
Last weekend, I attended Horrorfind Weekend in Baltimore, sponsored by the genre's great search engine, horrorfind.com. I had a blast. It's a huge gathering of people in the scary business, from George Romero and Jack Ketchum to people who make funny black t-shirts for goths and bondage gear for everyone else. Horrorfind is more “multimedia” oriented than the usual “literary” cons I attend, but that only means the bar is even more crowded. You know a convention is cool if it's got an “Evil Dead Museum” and a dealer's room where you can buy (fake?) flayed human faces under cellophane with those little bar-code stickers on them just like at the supermarket.
I love horrorfind.com and I've even contributed fiction to the site. But I've always found the sponsored name – “Horrorfind Weekend” – kind of clumsy for a convention title. It doesn't have the grand ring of something like “World Fantasy Convention” and it doesn't even go for a catchy pun, like “ConNiption” or “ExCon.” So to puzzle things out, I decided to play journalist and run around all the late night parties, asking: “When you're not here, where do you find the horror?” Here's what people said:
“In all children.” – Tanya Twombly
“The bathroom toilet.” – Jack Fisher
“Pop culture.” – Jon Hodges
“In the people I watch in the streets of the city.” – Gerard Houarner
“Consciousness…within me.” – John Edward Lawson
“Everywhere.” – Deena Warner
“My VISA bill.” – G. Italiano
“The German toilets…stuff just sits there.” – Darren Speegle
“The Washington Subway – the press of bodies – the fat people with hairy moles – it's the worst.” – Matt Warner
“The fever depths of my imagination.” – Scott Allen Emerson
“In my fiance's bed.” – Kathleen J. Trimmer
“When I wake up in the morning and see what's beside me.” – Brian T. Rollo
“Where DON'T I find the horror?” – Mark McLaughlin
“In the newspaper office where I work.” – Jonathan Reitan
“All around us, everywhere.” – Jennifer Barnes
“In my kitchen…with three kids, it's the horror.” – Denise Herman
“I work retail. Think about it.” – James A. Moore
“In the basement in the pit where I keep the cast of CHIPs.” – Kevin Donihe
“In the eyes of religious zealots.” – St. Michael Amorel
“Everyday life.” – Oliver Baer
“In the mirror, baby.” – Nicholas Kaufmann
“The news.” – Dave Friscolanti
“A lot of conventions…Frightvision, Chiller Con, Cinema Wasteland…” – Dr. Satan
“Every. F**king. Where. I. Look.” – John Skipp
“In The Graham Norton Effect.” – Rob Swartwood
“The Nightmare Mansion.” – Ashe
“I'm also a criminal lawyer, so, in the cases I haven't written about yet.” – Michael Slade
“Where I work.” – Jason Brannon
“In the people who run our planet…the people who think they know what's best for us, the people who think they know what we should think.” – Tim Lebbon
“FOX News channel, fair and balanced.” – Christopher Golden
“The toilet.” – Richard SanFilippo
“You find it here <breast gesture pointing to logo for Horror Web.com>.” – Kelli [“HorrorWench”]
“In our schools today.” – Joe Branson
“In my pants.” – M. Stephen Lukac
“My naked body in the mirror…I've had two children.” – Meghan Fatras
“Everywhere I look.” – Geoff Cooper
“In my hotel room.” – Sean Wallace
“On the L.I.E.” – Adam Pepper
“Have you met my family?” – Marcy Italiano
“In the unknown…in the afterlife. I mean, what's after this?” – Shawn Brannon
“In my toilet after Indian food.” – Jenny Orosel
“In the stock market.” – Paul Melniczek
“Politics.” – Chesya Burke
“Anywhere outside my front door.” – GAK
“When I'm shaving and accidentally glance at my own eyes.” – James Futch
“My family's history…ya know, murder, that kinda stuff.” – Brandon Massey
For your next movie night, rent:
.com for Murder (2002)
fear dot com (2002)
+ Last issue incorrectly linked my Martha parody, Michael Arnzen Dying, to FairwoodPress.com. They were the publishers of Gorelets, not Dying, which actually was published by my good friends at Tachyon Publications. So be sure to visit http://www.tachyonpublications.com/ – or, better yet, attend their annual anniversary party Sunday, August 22nd from 2:00-6:00 p.m. at Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia Street @ 19th Street, in San Francisco. See http://www.borderlands-books.com/ for more info.
+ Did you kindly review my book, 100 Jolts, on Amazon.com? If so, your review may have gone missing and you may have to repost it. The Guardian (by way of Hellnotes Newsletter) reports that Amazon Bookstore – reacting to complaints of abuse – no longer allows reviews to be listed from “a reader” and that all reviewers must now submit credit card information before posting any comments. You can still use a pseudonym if you wish. Please repost your lost reviews! Writers depend on them.
+ Note that Write Again software has moved to:
write-again.com/ Goreletter subscribers can still get a 10% discount if they mention this newsletter offer.
incantation of pain #27
may your tongue twist
more than twenty times
while you scream
until your throat sloughs out
in a voice box afterbirth
as loose as your lying lips
Pick up the receiver and dial Michael Clague's bizarre AOOA Telephone before the clocks start melting. Every call leads to an uncanny little puzzle, but this isn't a game in the traditional sense. You might just reach the alien mothership. Or a sad clown. Or Satan himself. You never know.
Last issue, I ran a “Snippets of the Strange” contest which listed offbeat phrases found in my spam box – one of them was fictional and if a lucky subscriber guessed which phrase was the fake one, they'd get a prize. There were many good guesses, but there were no winners! This must have been a toughie, since all the possible selections were so bizarro. The correct answer was “voyeur blood boots.” I'm sad you lost, but I'm happy I fooled you all.
Okay, so guessing is difficult. But how'd you like to try something easy, like a fight to the death against my Battle Robot, “Hellboy”? Hellboy is a Robot that is fitted with metal pincers, a lump hammer and a soldering iron, runs on human blood, and has four metal wheels and a thin fiberglass hull. And he's waiting to kick your metallic butt.
Build your own robot (you must use your last name) to take him on here: http://thesurrealist.co.uk/robot?def=Hellboy
You only get one shot at this, and your robot must use your last name. If your cyborgian wimp manages to beat my Hellboy bot, e-mail the URL of the page that says you won – along with your mailing address – to
email@example.com – and you'll win a free signed copy of Dogwitch, the adult goth comic book by Dan Schaffer. (You copy an URL from the “address” window at the top of your browser). The FIRST one to beat Hellboy gets the Dogwitch trade paperback collecting the first issues in the series, autographed by me, too, because I wrote the introduction! Only the first four winners who contact me will get a prize. After that, you're just playing for kicks. I'll announce the end of the contest on the Goreletter blog before next issue if you want to see who won.
I really love Kevan's website, which hosts this game. Be sure to browse around: http://thesurrealist.co.uk
And if you're curious about the prize, visit my friend Dan Schaffer's website for Dogwitch here:
It actually pays to scroll this far down.
BRAND NEW CEMETERY DANCE OFFER!
One of the major publishers in the horror trade, Cemetery Dance Publishing, is offering a kind one-time 25% discount to Goreletter subscribers who use their online store. It's valid on everything except items that state coupon codes can't be used in conjunction with their purchase. When checking out, you simply enter the code GORELETTER25 into the “Coupon Code” field. (Note that this is NOT valid for phone, email, or PayPal orders). This one-time offer expires on Sept. 15th, 2004, so use it while it's hot!
A NEW SHOCKLINES EXCLUSIVE!
Get $5 off your order of The Devil's Wine, ed. by Tom Piccirilli. This hardcover limited edition from Cemetery Dance Books features dark verse by such notables as Stephen King, Peter Straub, Ray Bradbury, Brian Hodge, Steve Rasnic Tem, Ed Lee, and many more. Until August 31st, visit shocklines.com and enter enter coupon code GOREDEV5OFF to knock off five bucks from the cover price of this book, which has the extra bonus of being SIGNED by Tom Piccirilli.
RENEWED FLESH & BLOOD DISCOUNT
Get all available back issues of Flesh & Blood magazine for 20% off. Free shipping and handling on all purchases. Please send payment made out to Jack Fisher with a note mentioning the “Goreletter discount” to: Jack Fisher, 121 Joseph St.,Bayville, NJ 08721
Because you subscribe to The Goreletter, you can get a one year's subscription to the e-mail version of Hellnotes – the Insider's Guide to the Horror Industry – for just $18. That's FIVE BUCKS OFF the regular rate! Use the code GORELETS in your order. You can subscribe via Paypal (payable to JRohrig@aol.com); otherwise, check their home page for more information. If you like the “Instigation” prompts, now's your chance to get them every week at a discount! http://www.hellnotes.com
ASMODAY (FOR WRITERS ONLY)
Get 10% of the writer's submission tracking software, WriteAgain! Just tell Asmoday that you heard about it from The Goreletter when you register to get your discount. http://www.asmoday.com/
I've fancied up the weblog version of this newsletter (which I use as a working draft of the articles as I compose them). If you haven't dropped by the web site in a while, come on by and take a look-see. I try to keep uploading new material somewhere on the domain at least once a week…I aims ta please.
the website: http://www.gorelets.com
search the archives: gorelets.com/cgi-bin/mojo/mojo.cgi?f=list&l=goreletter
All material in The Goreletter is © 2004 Michael A. Arnzen, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward the entire contents as a whole, without alterations or excisions. Direct links to articles in the archives or the weblog are permitted and encouraged. For reprint permissions of individual pieces, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Read The Goreletter online as a draft-in-progress, post comments, and get extras:
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Our surrealist product endorsement: http://thesurrealist.co.uk/priorart.cgi?ref=The+Goreletter
With apologies to latitude 53,41667, longitude 27,91667.
Help spread the strange. Forward this issue to your weirdest friend!
You Know It In Your Gut
“Which came first: the intestine or the tapeworm?” – William S. Burroughs (died 1997)
* Due to the temporary nature of internet URLs, some websites mentioned in back issues of the Goreletter may no longer be live, or may also point to unscrupulous web servers. I will denote these with overstrikes as I discover them, but if you encounter a dead, changed or unscrupulous link, please feel free to inform me.
* “Boo Coupons” are expired in all but the current issue.
* If you are seeking a particular book by Arnzen mentioned in The Goreletter, try http://gorelets.com/books/
* Arnzen's blog is now located at http://gorelets.com/blog/ Visit it for breaking news and extras not appearing in The Goreletter.
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