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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter

+++ Vol 1.7, Feb. 9, 2003 +++

Nail-Biting Horrors


Blather. Wince. Repeat.


Why do we call them fingernails and not fingerblades? They're really like chitinous daggers that stab out from somewhere underneath the skin. They're constantly cutting. You can tell by the ridges and streaks across their surface, like the marks a serrated knife leaves in cake icing. Only it's a slow cut, so we're used to it. We forget. Except when the cuticle splits. Then we remember.

And they do cut other people, too. The arts of eye gouging, back raking, and meat cellophane splitting have fingernails to thank.

Fingernails are weird. The white moony part at the base of them (appropriately called “lunula”) is like another nail, just waiting to come out. Almost like a baby crowning or something. Only it's also part of the “live” nail above it – the generally clear screen over a bed of pink guts – and topped off with another white moonlike ridge of dead nail. Birth, life, and death, all connected in the same piece of tissue. And you stick it up your nose (and in other sensitive places) without even thinking about it.

There's no way to get all the dirt out from under the tips. You can scrape and boil but there's just no way. That's one reason why surgeons have to wear gloves. Some people use a white crayon underneath there, to make the dead ridge look clean. Others have long given up on mechanical oil and grime that permanently resides there. Both are foreign substances, so what's the difference, really?

I'm a regular guy, so much of the nail painting and pressing-on and soaking- in-Palmolive business seems pretty bizarre to me. What does a manicure cure? Long nails just seem like ten health hazards waiting to happen; red nails just look bloodier than the pink stuff that they're hiding. And the longer they are, the easier they break – it's not like they're talons, as much as we'd like them to be. So I don't really get it.

Don't get me wrong. I do understand that there's an aesthetic to it – and I give nail technicians a lot of credit for their art. It's hard to paint a trembling finger and I've seen some really awesome designs (gothed-up black nails are pretty cool!). But I've never found painted nails sexually attractive and I wonder why some people pay so much to have them professionally done. Indeed, when I see a set of overly done nails, for some reason I start to wonder if the person bearing them sports a plastic belly button, as well.

And painted little toes…well, those require a true artist do up right. Like, say, a cosmetic mortician, who can make any body look good. Pinkie toes rarely hold up to polish. The shellac crackles too easily and the flesh around the nail pudges up around it. After a good walk around town, they look like shattered hard candy pressed into a marshmallow or something.

When I'm bored or nervous, I sometimes pick my nails, but I don't bite them. I'm always trying to get them to match the arc of my fingertip. They make those funny little scissors and clippers that have an arc built into them, but I haven't found one yet that actually matches my fingers. Instead, I end up chipping away at the nail, looking in the end like a beaver gnawed on them.

My cats claw on scratch polls and furniture legs as a way of doing their nails. I sometimes find them on the floor or stuck in the shag. Wouldn't it be neat if humans did that? Maybe we did, in a way, before they invented those funky clippers to begin with.

All day long your fingertips put on a show for you. Grip a handle, play a guitar chord, press on the keyboard…there's pink and white kaleidoscope right in your hands. The fingerpad is nature's way of giving us a peek at what's really going on beneath the skin. Right there, at the part of the body you put the most pressure on, you're exposed.

They're insidious – and often powerful – body parts. If you don't eat right, if you bang your fingers up, or if you contract some bizarre mold, your fingernails will betray you. If you scratch the body of an attacker, you can collect evidence that might convict him or her. Fingernails are both weapons and defensive armor. They're signs of economic class.

They keep growing after we're dead, stabbing out from our dead fingers with a life all their own. If we could just figure out their magic….


Pick a word at random from the dictionary. Then add the word “kills” after it and write that on the top of a blank piece of paper. You now have a title for your next piece – run with it. (Randomly chosen direct objects optional (e.g. “Sausage Kills Pig”)).

Pick a fetish, any fetish. Now create a character who not only has that perverse predilection, but who also has the ability to hypnotize others. You figure out the rest.

Work with the following quotation from Susan Sonntag: “Cancer is a demonic pregnancy.”



He buys her plain pink sidewalk chalk
and uses his used carving knife to
carve the meaningless sticks into the
meaningful shape of little pink hearts.
He heartlessly etches valentine's
etchings into every single one: Luv Ya,
Kiss Me, Sweetie Pie. Then he inserts
them into her lips, one by one as
cautiously as a suicide sips suicide
pills. He lines them up in her bloodied
up gums side by side like thirty-two
teeth in a tombstone smile. He kisses
her lips then gnashes her jaws to make
her chew up the dust of his lust to dust.


Hunters Write Horror
(disgusting excerpts from postings in the usenet group, rec.hunting…)

“One quick chop with a hatchet for deer, three for moose. Once the pelvic bone is split it is much easier to remove the an*s.” (08/19/98)

“I was leery of gut hooks, but this knife really is like having a zipper on the animal. The knife stays sharp for a long time, (three deer and I have not sharpened it yet!) and the rubber handle is very easy to grip when its in slippery conditions (if you know what I mean).” (09/22/95)

“Somehow, either when I cut the throat or cut the ribcage, the contents of the stomach spilled out into the chest cavity. I did not find out until this morning when I went back to drag her out and finish gutting her…. And to top things off I just nicked the milk sack, and as far as I can see only a teaspoon worth spilled out but on to the guts, nothing else. How will the stomach contents effect the meat?” (11/08/99)


“Scared Straight Man”

For your next movie night, rent:
Ernest Goes to Jail (1990)
Take the Money and Run (1969)
Life (1999)


“Virtual Voodoo”

Want to curse someone with stickpins and tiny barbs of pain? will send your virtual voodoo doll tortures to a victim who won't be able to trace it back to the source. The custom messages and artful dolls on this site make it fun to play. I've seen plenty of cyber-voodoo in my day, but this is definitely the best. The anonymous curse-sending feature makes it more than a little edgy and spooky for the victim.


+ Poet Bruce Boston reports the happy news that his poetry collection, Pitchblende, has sold to Dark Regions Press for a 2004 release. I selected and organized the verse in this book in addition to writing the introduction, so I am very excited about this. Applause! You can still read my review of Boston's book, Quanta: Award Winning Poems, at Strange Horizons magazine:

+ There's a hunger inside you. Read my short-short, “Stomachine,” at Champagne Shivers webzine:

+ “Alma almost got away. Bailey was blasted bloody into the blacktop. Christa, conked unconscious. Dora, gored. Eddie bled as dry as Freddy…” Look death up in the “Obictionary”:

+ Attn HWA members: Stoker recommendation deadline is 14 Feb. Remember The Goreletter when you submit yours.

+ DarkVesper Publishing is hoping to release my book Freakcidents by the end of the month. Remember to pick up a copy of Kurt Newton's acclaimed “Psycho-Hunter's Casebook” at DV Pubs to get a free mini-chapbook of extra poems and stories by Kurt and I, tromping around in each other's world:

+ Mikey Huyck posted a “5-BookWyrm” advanced review of Freakcidents here:

“a foreign man in dire concentration/ walks awkwardly on his hands/ the bloody wristskin taut against/ angular whiteglass shards and coals…” – from my poem, “SuiSide Show” in the recent anthology, SIDESHOW:

+ Last issue, I told you I'd be the featured poet for the April 2003 issue of Sidereality magazine ( What I didn't tell you is that the feature will be a series of new poems called “Gentle Monsters” responding to the work of generous and friendly artist Matthew P. Schuster. Visit his gallery here for a sneaky peek:

+ I've been interviewed for the free “Flash Fiction Flash” newsletter … a wonderful resource for all short story writers. To subscribe send an email to

+ Along with Piers Anthony and Mike Resnick, I'll be judging the finalists in the first Draco Awards. What's a Draco? No, it's not a new James Bond villain, silly. It's a hardcover & e-book deal from Double Dragon Publishing for the best novel entered in its genre!


Gothic Martha Stewart

Corporate Goth

Gothic Real Estate

Goth Bowl

Christian Goth


Thanks to all of you who offered me get well wishes after sharing my “sick” essay last time around. Matt S. made me laugh when he wrote, “You make getting a cold sound very sexy in a bad sort of way…” And Sabina Becker opened my eyes (and nasal passages) when she recommended I get a fascinating contraption called a “Neti pot.” Thanks! Eekinacea for all!


I've decided to close the “Mutant Mug Shop.” This decision is not about sales; it's a matter of boycotting. The cup maker,, is getting into the vanity publishing game by encouraging folks to publish their own book (minus a cut, of course) through the site as if a book were nothing more than an iron-on t-shirt. I don't like that. So I'm pulling out of the cafepress game come March 1st. If you wanted a mutant mug, visit and get it now before I pull the plug.


It actually pays to scroll this far down.

FLESH AND BLOOD magazine offers you an exclusive discount! Subscribe for only $12 ($4 off!) or pay just $3 for one issue (1/2 off!). Make your check payable to Jack Fisher and put the word “GORELETTER” in the memo field. For contact information, see:

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Writers take note! You can get 10% off the unique submission organizer, WRITE AGAIN! Try it out and if you decide to register this great software, let them know that Arnzen's newsletter sent you and they'll refund you 10%! I've been using this program for about a year now and I can vouch for it – WA is one of the best databases for writers available. If you're a writer submitting without a “system” yet, this is a must- download. Includes a project scheduler, graphs, and a financial database. A very useful product.

FICTIONWISE.COM's 15% off special page for visitors is updated every week:

WILDSIDE PRESS – publisher of my collection, Fluid Mosaic – kindly continues to offer Goreletteers a one- time 10% discount coupon! Enter the coupon code ARNZEN at check out:

Didn't get a SHOCKLINES.COM coupon in time for this issue…if you were hoping for it, you should sign up for their newsletter for special offers:


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“Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfilment.” – Dag Hammarskjold (died 1961)

* 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.
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goreletter/nail-biting_horrors.txt · Last modified: 2013/11/29 12:10 by marnzen

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