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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter
+++ Vol. 2 #5, Jan. 19, 2004 +++
Oddly Chilling Thoughts
Blather. Wince. Repeat.
Oddly Chilling Thoughts
+ There's something beautiful about a snowman when it melts. I think it's the way the black button eyeballs sink in and blow smoke from their sockets while the pyre at its feet crackles and spits as the flame of vengeance climbs up the hitching post. Or maybe it's just the song we sing as Frosty burns.
+ Snow is a blanket. Ice is sheet. Winter is the earth's deathbed…and you gleefully ride your sled across it, blasphemer!
+ Freezers preserve meat. Thus, I believe hungry space aliens with a technology beyond our imaginations are responsible for the winter chill.
+ They say time and time again to never eat yellow snow. But I think it's the red snow you have to worry about.
+ Why do they call frozen body tissue “frostbite”? It's true that exposure to the cold produces pain, but frost has no teeth. In fact, it's the body that gets frosty, no? So I propose we call it “frostleg” or “icehand” or something even more appropriate, like “Body Pop” or “Iced Me.” If your upper palate freezes, then fine: frostbite.
+ The early symptom of impending frostbite is called “frostnip.” The early symptom of impending frostbite on your nipples is called “cruel irony.”
+ I don't believe in the Abominable Snowman. But I pretend to, just so I can say the word “abominable” without necessarily sounding like some character from a really melodramatic Victorian novel.
+ I don't trust the people who sing “Winter Wonderland.” Snow is something that buries us and we have to dig ourselves out of it, like dirt. I think “Inter Wonderland” is much more appropriate. (“Slain dead thing, are you list'nin'? Blood on snow, is a glistnin'…”)
+ I learned in science class that the best way to save someone from hypothermia is to strip and snuggle nude with them. I vaguely recall some point about the “body heat” being better than a blanket or a shot of cocoa. This explains why men die from hypothermia three times as often as women do in the US.
+ Why is a “fight” the only sport we've managed to invent for snowballs? And why is boxing a summer event, but snowball fighting not a winter event at the Olympics? And if snowballs are so innocent, why don't we have city-to-city snowball hurtling battles, using gigantic catapults, instead of wars?
+ If you dream of white Christmases and sing “let it snow” every season, I challenge you to spend your next holiday up on the North Pole. See if Santa bothers to offer you shelter. You'll change your tune pretty fast, I think.
+ Have you ever heard the term “chilblain”? The dictionary says it refers to the itchy and painful swelling of flesh that occurs when your hands and feet are overexposed to the cold. But it makes me want to suspend naked magician David Blain in a glass box from that snow-covered elm in my backyard right now.
+ Cryogenics sounds sad to me. But don't be sad, Mr. Icy Corpse…there's hope for you yet.
+ Avalanche is a great word. Its onomatopoeia is horrific. The very syllables bring to mind a Frenchman tumbling down a mountainside, until he meets his demise in a crunching vortex of snow and rock and ice: “Ahhhh…vahhh…laaaaaaaa…uNNCHHH!”
+ Sick torture idea #238: A murderer buries someone alive beneath a ton of snow, and then starts melting it rapidly with a blow torch so that by the time the victim starts asphyxiating, the melted water trickles down and floods their space just as they see light through the slush and begin to think they might break free. They drown, seeing their salvation through the gauzy snow. Or if they do manage to break free, well, there's always the blow torch.
+ If you can see your breath, you're still alive. But once your eyeballs crack like ice cubes, you're probably a lost cause, no matter how much steam you aspire.
+ Icicles are the roof's revenge.
+ Brains float in cranial fluid. Fluids freeze solid. Draw your own conclusions.
“Brains in Jars”
For your next movie night, rent:
Donovan's Brain (1959)
They Saved Hitler's Brain (1964)
The Man with Two Brains (1983)
Meet Gory Gary
Remember the good old Garbage Pail Kids? They're back and have their own animated website, complete with more juvenile scatology and bizarre behavior than you'd expect. You can watch “Bustin' Justin” turn a crank that pops an alien out of his belly. Or watch Cheesy Charlie cut off a slice of his pizza face and take a bite. The Kids site also features a cool gizmo that lets you create your own mutant children! The contest it was a part of has officially closed, but you can still have a lot of fun creating your own diabolically sick siblings. The only limit – beyond their stock clip art – is your perverse imagination. (You might want to browse what others have done first for inspiration before you start).
Hop right to the site and get started on procreating your own offbeat offspring:
Or step right up and see Gory Gary, the Gorelets Poster Child:
[Requires the Flash MX player, a plug-in which will auto-install in your web browser if you don't have it already.]
+ Begin a piece by describing an object that a character refuses to throw away.
+ You've been dead for ten years. If you somehow were able to return, what would you immediately do upon resurrection? Begin with personal exploration in first person – be honest and earnest. Once you run out of juice, start fictionalizing. You can change names to protect the innocent afterward.
+ Write about the surprisingly dire consequences of not following a common warning (mattress tag? street sign? washing label? it's up to you!)
Instigation is a WEEKLY department in Hellnotes newsletter: http://www.hellnotes.com
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:
If you were somehow dissatisfied by Stephen King's book, On Writing, you might want to try to hunt down a hardcover memoir by a horror author named Gary A. Braunbeck, published last May by Wildside Press. The book, Fear in a Handful of Dust: Horror as a Way of Life, is everything On Writing should have been. One part memoir, one part writing workshop and one part film class, Braunbeck's book may be more reminiscent of King's study of the genre, Dance Macabre, than it is of On Writing, because it is more interested in the genre of fear than in the craft of writing itself. But what makes Braunbeck's book succeed is the way he unflinchingly explores the relationship between genre texts and his own approach to both writing and the world – giving us insight into his horror “aesthetic” and elaborating on why reading in this genre means so much more than sticking your hand into goopy buckets of broken bone and blood.
Like so many writers in the genre today, the specter of Stephen King haunts Gary A. Braunbeck. In fact, the clever opening chapter of Fear is a film script that depicts a writer being chided by a copy of King's books on a nearby shelf, books which talk and dance and tease him for repeating what King has already done. It's an hilarious allegory for the contemporary horror writer's struggle for his own voice under the massive influence of King. It's just plain funny – like a Disney film gone horribly wrong. At the same time it allows us to not only empathize with the writer's plight but also bracket off King's similar book endeavors while we read ahead (and Braunbeck will go on later to deconstruct the films made out of King's books, among other things). I think what makes this opening chapter work so well is that it serves as a great example of how Braunbeck can process personal anxieties into good fiction. That's the grand lesson of this book and it's one worth paying attention to if you're a writer on the dark side. Reading this book made me rethink why I was so drawn to the genre as a young person. People assume that these texts corrupt the youth, but the truth is much more complicated than that: they give order to the chaos, they give a name to nameless fears, they empower us to confront nastiness, and they do so much more. In Fear in a Handful of Dust, we learn about this by tracing how horror fiction and film gave Braunbeck a way of understanding and managing the horrors and anxieties of his everyday life. His life experience, it turns out, has many lessons to teach.
Though Braunbeck can certainly be funny, the book is far more serious than its humorous opening chapter suggests. Fear in a Handful of Dust is an earnest – if at times, moody – exploration of the dark side, and this level of seriousness is what makes Fear more satisfying for horror fans than King's On Writing. Braunbeck confesses openly, but avoids the self-absorbed blathering of many other memoirists. He is searching for the hot nugget of truth buried inside the bologna like the best of them. At the same time, he celebrates the genre as a sort of personal therapy and grand social ritual. He writes like a teacher, discussing films and books which had a profound influence on his aesthetic, as he builds a case for why we should take horror seriously. His love for well-crafted writing is contagious. The chapter on “Opening Lines” and other matters of writing style ought to be required reading in any horror writing course. Braunbeck celebrates the craftsmanship of great genre writers – especially highlighting the work of contemporaries like Jack Ketchum or Richard Laymon – in order to illuminate what makes a work of dread a piece of literature. The analysis of his own stories and novels is equally compelling, giving fans of Braunbeck a lot of substantial meat to chew on.
One thing that made this book unique, I felt, was the close analysis of genre art films. Reading Fear made me want to run right out to the video store and spend more time with some classics. Braunbeck's film analyses are really smart, but he tends to focus on secondary films by American directors that aren't as accessible as most horror blockbusters – genre-bending films that pushed the envelope of cinema and took risks that weren't always popular. So you might need to do a little extra research to pass Braunbeck's class in Horror, so to speak, if you didn't take the Film History prerequisite. But Braunbeck's work is enlightening for all comers. He explains, for example, why Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses is “ingenious garbage” and why some almost forgotten films like Friedkin's Sorcerer or Polanski's The Tenant really deserve to be studied more closely. His lengthy discussion of John Frankenheimer's work (especially the film, Seconds) gave me a far better appreciation for this director than I already harbored and Braunbeck's treatment of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia made me want to host a Sam Peckinpah Video Marathon.
Even more compelling than the “lessons” in the book are the shocking autobiographical entries that Braunbeck crafts with an unflinching and dramatic flair. The tale of his alcoholic father's breakdown one morning – featuring a loaded weapon – is a painful look back at an episode in Braunbeck's life that will amaze you with its gut-wrenching honesty. The painful breakdown and recovery that close out this book's final chapters will touch you, too. I won't give anything away, except to say that the real world horrors that Braunbeck explores are scarier than a lot of the fiction I've read so far this year. And such excursions into memory explain Braunbeck's approach to horror as a serious avenue into understanding the human condition. This is why I say Braunbeck's writing is “earnest”: you never get the sense he's pulling your leg. Even when he's treating something lightly, he's got a serious purpose. And I think that's what I respect most about Braunbeck's writing: his emotional honesty. This is one of the most interesting and intense memoirs by a genre writer that I know of. I recommend it to writers and horror fans alike.
2 BRAINY HAIKRUEL
guilt jitters around
the maze of her lobes, a rat
scrambling for exit
sausages of brain
plunge through the hole in her head –
straightening out her thoughts
+++THE RETURN OF FREAKCIDENTS
I'm happy to announce that Shocklines Press is now publishing Freakcidents: A Surrealist Sideshow in a limited “remarqued” hardcover and standard trade edition this coming March/April. The “remarqued” edition is not only a signed collectable hardcover, but it gets customised by the book's artist, the eponymous GAK. I can't express how excited I am that the title I consider to be my best poetry book ever is getting such a special treatment. Look at all these advanced reviews and see if it's something you'd be interested in. The book went up for preorders yesterday and today it zipped right up on Shocklines' “bestselling preorder titles” for the week!
feoamante.com: “one of the most bizarre collections of anything I've ever pawed through”
Sidereality: “wonderfully-rendered gross-out imagery”
B-Independent: “Let Freakcidents be the first book of poetry you buy!”
Dream People: “wickedly fun”
Strange Horizons: “Raw meat, and raw experience….an effective poetry”
~see GAK run: http://www.gakart.com
+++THE BUZZ FOR 100 JOLTS
Back cover blurbs for my book, 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories, have come in and the book has finally gone to press (anticipate an April release for the trade paperback). Here's what folks are saying:
“Simply stated, there's >nothing< like this collection of ultra-short fiction. Arnzen continually impressed me with his punchy narrative style and endless images of grue, gore, and gristle. An evening with this book will leave you feeling like you've been guttted like a dead fish and hung out to dry.” – Tom Monteleone, author of Blood of the Lamb
“100 Jolts delivers far more than is promised by its title; with this magnificent collection of literate and disturbing short-shorts, some which are among the darkly funniest I've ever read, Arnzen can rightfully claim his place as the Donald Barthelme of horror. This book is a remarkable achievement.” – Gary A. Braunbeck, author of In Silent Graves
“Name your nightmare. Michael Arnzen delivers stories for every possible taste in horror. He can be witty and subtle on one page, then icky and overwhelming on the next. The subjects of these compact stories range from the beloved horror tropes that don't really scare us, such as vampires, to our real fears, such as alienation, to things we hadn't thought to worry about until reading the story, such as skeletal dis-articulation. 100 Jolts is a substantial library of horror fiction in one book.” – Bruce Holland Rogers, author of Wind Over Heaven
“Avant-horror is all about trespass (of narrative limits, of readerly expectations, of social decorum) and all about the disruption of what our culture thinks it needs to repress in order to remain whole and functioning. In these 100 wild-eyed fictive concentrates, Michael A. Arnzen, the wizard of outré, asks our culture to think again. And again.” – Lance Olsen, author of Hideous Beauties
You can preorder a signed copy of 100 Jolts now for just $12.95. Visit the publisher for more information http://www.rawdogscreaming.com or shop at Shocklines Bookseller
+++GRAVE MARKINGS SELLING OUT FAST
My Bram Stoker Award-winning first novel, Grave Markings, is being reprinted this April as part of Delirium Books' “Dark Essential” series of limited hardcoversCopies are selling out RAPIDLY because of the high collectability of this book. Visit Delirium Books, where you can get a glimpse of the excellent cover by horror artist extraordinaire, Mike Bohatch and buy either the leatherbound or the hardcover edition. I recommend you get your order in early if you want this. Only 15 leatherbound copies and 150 signed hardcovers are being produced, so don't miss out!
The Dark Essentials: http://www.deliriumbooks.com/
The Dark Visions of artist Mike Bohatch:
+++GORELETS: A PLEASANT SURPRISE
I was pleasantly surprised to see that my chapbook, Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems, has garnered a number of recommendations for the 2003 Bram Stoker Award… it might even make the final ballot with a few more. Thanks to all of you reading this who supported my work in this way. If you don't know what Gorelets is all about, drop by any of these sites to learn more about the book:
+++PETTING THE DOGWITCH
Imagine if Ash (from the Evil Dead series) was a woman. Even better: imagine she was a kinky goth with an exhibitionist streak – a witch, no less, with a pair of animated dolls for friends and a never-ending stream of demon suitors. Well, if you can imagine such an insane premise, then you have some idea of what you'll find in Dogwitch, UK artist Dan Schaffer's outrageous adult horror comic book. Although the early copies have long sold out, I'm happy to report that the first six issues are being re-released in a trade paperback called “Dogwitch: Direct to Video” next month, by Sirius Entertainment (publishers of comics like Brom and Gothic). I wrote the introduction to this collection, explaining why I think there's far more than meets the eye to this comic's wacky sexpot protagonist, “Shrieking” Violet Grimm. Dogwitch is clever, bizarre, and a genuine laugh riot. Elsewhere, I've described Dogwitch as probably the only thing I've ever seen capable of making the disgusting cute. If you're the sort of person who wishes that Alyssa Milano TV show, Charmed, was rated NC17 – or if you miss your fix of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac – then this book is probably what you've been looking for.
+++MAN EATING PLANT HONORED
My short-short story, “How to Grow a Man-Eating Plant” took third place in the reader's poll for “Best Horror Stories of 2003” at Preditors and Editors trade magazine online. This story will appear in my forthcoming collection, 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories, but you can still read it online free at The Eternal Night chronicle here:
Sick: An Anthology of Illness has been released by RDS Publishing and it's a fascinatingly morbid collection of short fiction. I've got a little piece in their called “On the Filthy Floor” – a disturbing look at cancer and hidden hotel room horrors. I think Forest Aguirre's review says its best: “The themes and execution of the stories in Sick display a sort of existential splatterpunk sensibility. Brainy and brawny, the authors and artists collected herein explore illness, not only of the human body, but of the body politic, societal structures, and consumerism. These explorations reveal the latent inner illnesses in us all…Curl up, brew yourself some broth, and enjoy this rich collection—but do keep a barf bag handy, just in case.” So get yourself a “queasy pop” and head on over to:
My flash fiction, “Brain Candy,” appeared in the quirky little newsletter, FlashShot: Daily Flash Fiction, on Jan 18th and I got a lot of positive mail about it. This story will also appear on the back cover of 100 Jolts, so I guess it's okay to reprint it here for those of you who not only read this far into this long, long newsletter, but who might enjoy a free taste of some:
BRAIN CANDY by Michael A. Arnzen
He was a goner. So I shot him in the face and his head burst like a flesh pinada, spraying the zombie kiddies with its brain candy. This slowed them all down as they raked inside the emptied husk of fruit on its shoulders. Then they tore at one another for the morsels on one another's shirtsleeves and collars. It almost looked like a birthday party from my distance. I took my time picking them off, one by one, from the rooftop.
To subscribe to FlashShot, send an e-mail to
For more on 100 Jolts, visit the publisher http://www.rawdogscreaming.com
Look for appearances soon in:
Flash Fantastic http://www.crazedfanboy.com/fiction/flash/
Yellow Bat http://www.yellowbat.com/
Mirrors in Flame
Carmel Coated Freakshow
It actually pays to scroll this far down.
SUPER SHOCKLINES SPECIAL
Until March 1st, 2004, you can get $3 off Harold Jaffe's new book, 15 Serial Killers, from bookseller Shocklines.com. Just enter the coupon code “GORESERIAL3” when you checkout online. 15 Serial Killers – the debut title from Raw Dog Screaming Press, the publisher of my forthcoming book, 100 Jolts – is a seriously disturbing revision of the “true crime” genre, offering fictionalized biographical sketches of famous serial killers like Bundy and Gacy, in what Jaffe calls “Docufictions.” Highly recommended for those with cast iron stomachs and a morbid curiosity. Includes great art by Andi Olsen and Joel Lipman. This book is everything true crime fiction ought to be: truly disturbing.
WISE FICTIONWISE DEAL
Fictionwise.com – the web's best sci-fi and horror e-book seller – maintains a special 15% off page for Goreletter subscribers, which is updated weekly. This week features e-book treasures by Darren Speegle (an upcoming cohort for Raw Dog Screaming) and Hertzen Chimera (who interviewed me for this book) in addition to classics by Toni Morrison, Anne Tyler, and more. Do a search for Arnzen titles while you're there!
HAPPY LITTLE GORELETS
Fairwood Press is offering an exclusive discount to Goreletter subscribers. You can get a $1.50 off the standard edition of my shiny new chapbook, Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems – or $3 off Gorelets with the purchase of any other title! To get the discount, browse around Fairwood's website and when you have your picks, PayPal your payment to publisher Patrick Swenson at email@example.com and include the codeword “GoreWood” in your order. Note that Fairwood Press' onine shopping cart will NOT work for this discount and that it doesn't count for the Lettered Edition of the book.
DARK ANIMUS DELIVERED
Mention “The Arnzen Special” to publisher James Cain when you subscribe to Dark Animus magazine, and you'll get a 5 issue subscription for a 4 issue price. Subscriptions costs $25 US and can be paid via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org. This weird Aussie mag has just released a special “puppet” issue that's sure to creep you out…and a new writing award with a prize that's wonderfully twisted!
WRITE AGAIN DISCOUNTED AGAIN!
Asmoday Enterprises has kindly extended their offer: 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.
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 email@example.com.
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The Simple Truth
“Life is hard. After all, it kills you.” – Katherine Hepburn (died 2003)
* 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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