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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter
+++ Vol. 6.01 | Oct 31, 2009 +++
Of Mice and Tentacles
It's my 20th anniversary as a published author, and this issue launches the SIXTH volume of The Goreletter! To celebrate, I'm giving away a free e-book: SPORTUARY, an electronic chapbook of sports-related horror poetry, long unavailable and out-of-print, now expanded into 54 pages in a new and improved 2nd edition!
The ebook is available in .pdf and .mobi/kindle format, so you can read it online or on your hard drive. To get yours, just pretend you're subscribing again to the goreletter using any of the sign-up forms on http://gorelets.com …and you'll instantly get instructions.
I've also posted a few fun audio samples online, taken from a recent reading I gave to students at Seton Hill University at a Halloween event. Listen to some of my new unpublished pieces and share in the laughter here:
THANK YOU for reading and instigating my bizarre imaginings all these many years. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Blather. Wince. Repeat.
Return of the Son of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Cthulhu the Obscure
A Connecticut Devil in King Arthur's Inferno
The Golden Bowl of Blood
The Isle of Dr. Moreau and Mr. Hyde
As I Lay Resurrecting
Creature from the Walden Pond
Of Mice and Tentacles
A Midsummer Night's Scream
Oedipus Rex: The Boy With the X-Ray Eyes
Uncle Tom's Cannibal Cabin
A Poison Clockwork Orange
Rabid Animal Farm
Lord of the Giant Flies
Clone King Richard the Thirtieth
A Morgue of One's Own
With irreverence for Quirk Classics: http://www.quirkbooks.com/
1980's Bad Guy: Gene Simmons
For your next movie night, rent:
Never Too Young To Die (Bettman, 1986)
Wanted: Dead or Alive (Sherman, 1986)
Runaway (Crichton, 1984)
H.C. Zuerner won an autographed copy of Audiovile for being my 500th follower on twitter. Scott Colbert, Joshua Byrnes and Will Prescott all won signed copies of Skull Fragments for responding to a shout-out on twitter. Follow my tweets and you never know if I'll throw up a prize (figuratively and literally)! http://www.twitter.com/MikeArnzen
Last issue, I asked you to post your own “Pithy Morbid Thoughts” – i.e. unpleasant but quotable quotes, just like the one that ends every issue of this newsletter – on the Goreletter blog, with collectible prizes going to winners of a random draw. Congratulations go to WD Presscott, EA White, Chris Valk, John Pupo and Ron McGillvray. Ron's post was among my favorites:
“I want to die like my father, peacefully in his sleep, not screaming and terrified like his passengers.” – Bob Monkhouse (died December 2003)
Read them ALL here, for your personal edification and/or deadification:
Time for a new contest.
The prizes are VERY rare collector's items…
1st prize gets one of the “test design” pressings of the “Live and Vile” audio disc – a CD that was released in only 26 lettered edition copies, bundled with the leather bound edition of my novella, The B*tchfight, from Bad Moon Books in 2008. This CD features a live reading at the Zombiefest convention and demo versions and outtakes from my recording sessions for Audiovile. Only 26 people in the country own these tracks; and only three copies of this particular test pressing exist. It's signed. The winner will get this PLUS a signed copy of 100 Jolts for read-along fun.
2nd prize gets a signed deck of Play Dead playing cards. These cards feature art by David Liscomb, inspired by images in my novel PLAY DEAD. They were included with the “Grim Grimoire” (sculpture-bound) edition of the novel. Not a lot of these exist! The winner will get the cards PLUS a copy of Exquisite Corpse, the film based on my short-shorts and poetry.
3rd prize gets a signed “advanced review copy” of my novel Play Dead. Unavailable anywhere, these bound paperback versions were sent only to book reviewers before the book's release. You'll get this PLUS a signed copy of my latest chapbook, Skull Fragments.
So what do you have to do to win one of these rare treasures?
Easy. Write a new “customer review” of ANY of my books/stories/cds/films at either amazon.com, horror-mall.com, itunes.com, or cdbaby.com. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with an alert or link to your review and you're entered. Simple as that. I don't care if you hate it, love it, or are indifferent…I don't care if the book is 20 years old or out this month…if your review is at least five sentences long it will get you an entry. Every review you write gets you an extra entry (but please don't copy the same review to different places). You can review my work as it appears in anthologies and collections, too – not just my single-authored books. You haven't read any of my books? Fine: write a review of The Goreletter itself on my Amazon Profile page here –
bit.ly/1wb2DR – located under “Customer Discussions” and it will count for an entry!
Every entry I am told about via e-mail will be assigned a number, and I will use the number generator at http://random.org to pick the winners on December 1st (you need to email me before the deadline on Midnight eastern time, Dec 1st). Winners will be posted to The Goreletter and on Twitter.
Nothing to lose! And it's easier to win than you think. Here's the kicker:
THE FIRST 30 REVIEWS GET A FREE AUTOGRAPHED/NUMBERED BOOKPLATE! Limit two per reviewer, first-come, first-served. Postage-paid. See this photo for what it looks like:
Darkness on the Edge – tales inspired by Bruce Springsteen songs – will be out soon. It features my story, “The Hungry Heart,” alongside other great tales by Sarah Langan, Gary Braunbeck, Lawrence Connolly, Elizabeth Massie and many more. Sure to be hit. Wrap your legs round its velvet ribs and strap your hands cross its engines here:
WEIRD FOR CHARITY
Last Drink Bird Head is the title of a new anthology of flash fiction edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer that's not only a great collection of surreal and strange short stories, but also a donation to a charitable cause. Contributors include me, Peter Straub, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Brian Evenson, Gene Wolfe, Hal Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, Stephen R. Donaldson, K.J. Bishop, Michael Swanwick, Ellen Kushner, Daniel Abraham, Jay Lake, Liz Williams, Tanith Lee, Conrad Williams…over 80 writers in total! The design of this collectible is great (it even features a neat flipbook in the margins) and the cover art by Scott Eagle is phenomenal. Here's the kicker: all proceeds go to proliteracy.org, an organization that is supporting reading and literacy skills across the globe. Do the right thing and give your bird head its last drink: http://wyrmpublishing.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=20
LEARN THE CRAFT OF THE CRYPT
The Writer's Workshop of Horror is a great collection of non-fiction (already in its second printing!) from a truckload of masters in the horror genre, who are not only dishing out some remarkably savvy advice on how to craft scary stories, but also revealing quite a bit about their own fiction and the great tales in the genre itself. I think any fan of horror fiction and film would enjoy its insights, from the contributions, from the great essays by Gary Braunbeck and Brian Keene to the interviews with Ramsey Campbell and Clive Barker…and way more than I can list here. I've contributed an essay to the book called “Stripping Away the Mask: Scene and Structure in Horror Fiction” – which I recently learned will also be featured in the January issue of The Writer magazine! Get it now:
Speaking of teaching, I'll be running some writing classes in the year ahead that might be of interest to some of you. For one thing, the graduate program in “Writing Popular Fiction” where I teach horror writing is now officially an “MFA” granting program (it used to be MA). The difference is moot to some, but important to many, so if you want a writing degree, this is a great opportunity. Not interested in a degree, but want to learn more? You can catch me next summer, where I'll be making the “Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop” a little “od-der” as a guest lecturer (along with top writers like Gregory Frost, David Hartwell, Alexander Jablokov, Elizabeth Hand & Laura Ann Gilman). Or if you're under 20 years old, catch me at the Alpha SF/F/H workshop for Young Authors (also featuring guests like Holly Black, Timothy Zahn, and Tamora Pierce). Scary! Links:
Check out Karen Newman’s new interview with me at The Black Glove review website. The questions get personal, and I talk about being born in Amityville, my amateur writing days when I was in the Army, zombies (always zombies), and more: http://the-black-glove.blogspot.com/2009/10/stabbed-in-stanzas-feature-poet-michael.html
SPEW AND SPEW AGAIN
Look around and you might spot my work in some new books coming out this Fall. I'll appear in the “spoon river horror poetry anthology,” Death In Common, edited by Rich Ristow, out soon. And two of my critical essays on The Exorcist will appear in Studies in the Horror Film: The Exorcist, which promises to be a fantastic — if not the definitive — collection of studies of this seminal shocker, from the always exquisite publisher Centipede Press. Other books in production include Nostradamus' Fate (Dark Regions Press) and Armageddon Lightshow (Bloodletting Books) and Miskatonic Falls (Shroud Publishing). Keep watching The Goreletter for news.
I want you to buy a Kindle – well, any of the new ebook readers coming out, like the “Nook,” will do, but I prefer the Kindle.
I explain in detail why I think you should get a Kindle here:
Keep watching these pages for available ebook versions of my work in the future:
Arnzen e-books at Amazon:
Arnzen e-books at Fictionwise: fictionwise.com/ebooks/a1527/Michael-Arnzen/
We Have Band music video
James Kuhn's Unbeatable Facepaint Videos
The World Bodypainting Festival Galleries
Tap-tap-tap. Class, pay attention. I'm going to teach you a new word today.
It's called “gavage.” Say it out loud. No, not like “savage,” Little Jimmy. It's pronounced like “garage.” That's right, Mary: >guhvahzh<. Really resonate that last syllable in your mouth. What? No Patty, “garvage” is not a word.
Gavage. Do any of you know what it means?
No, Jimmy, it's not the trash you run over in your garage.
No, Mary, it's not a battlefield dressing invented during the French revolution.
What's that, Patty? No. Absolutely not. That's not even humanly possible.
Take notes, class. “Gavage” is a French term for “force-feeding.” Surely your mommies and daddies have forced you to finish your dinner at one time or another, but it's not quite that. Gavage is what people do when they insert a tube down another person's throat and – often with a funnel – pour food and liquid down into the gullet.
I don't know what a beer bong is, but I highly doubt it. Gavage is a technique used in emergency rooms, not pubs. A gavage can save the life of the malnourished. On the other hand, it has also been used for despicable reasons. Does anyone here know what foie gras is?
No Jimmy, it's not frog water.
No, Mary, it's not force feeding people frog legs in France.
Yes, Patty! My gosh, you're right! It's the liver of a goose that has been force fed grain over and over again – through gavage – until the organ is bursting with rich, buttery flavor. I had no idea you were such a gourmet!
Because it relies on gavage, foie gras is extremely controversial. Animal rights activists protest the practice, while some chefs argue that all the animals we feed on are already subject to…
[Sigh.] Yes, Patty? What's that? You call it “moi gras”? I'm not sure what that means, but see me after class, please.
Okay, everyone. Let's move to the next lesson. Open your books to page 96, “Slaughterhouse Law.”
“Delicacy of Despair”:
History of gavage:
“La Gavage” Restaurant: http://www.randomscripts.com/humor/gavage.htm
Scuttlebuggery is a stylishly steampunk online promotional game for the goth band Johnny Hollow, brought to you by the geniuses at My Pet Skeleton Productions (maker of “A Murder of Scarecrows” featured here awhile back). In it, you play a scuttlebug – a round beetle who must figure out how to push bubbles of absinthe toward a drain, dodging beetles and flittering moths along the way. It's like soccer for scarabs. And though it sounds like child's play, it is a Sisyphean challenge that will likely make you appreciate the vast labor of the insect world, scuttling all around us when we're not paying much attention. Happy Halloween:
Thanks to Blue Tea for calling attention to this game in their Halloween Roundup: http://deeplyblue.com/bluetea/2008/10/fourth-annual-halloween-roundup.html
According to google, I now blort 4.8 items a day to twitter, when I probably should be writing something more meaty and less tweetie instead. But sometimes what I blort is, upon reflection, worth reblortitating here, all over again. (If you want to get short blurts like these live, 4.8 times a day, join twitter.com and search for “@MikeArnzen”.)
What's worse: your doppelganger, or an army of your clones? I say doppelganger. (No, >I< say doppelganger!) [We all say you're both wrong!]
Nothing worse than a SAD zombie clown. Especially the kind in a velvet paint-by-numbers portrait.
“While Brushing”: in the morning mirror / an insect worms out from the bush / of your right eyebrow / you grin and leave it / work to do
@wdprescott Good post. I say we are ALL “the balloon animals of horror.”
I have a coaster by my computer that says “Sam Adams: Don't Be Afraid of FLAVOR!” Yet there ARE flavors to fear (and not just flavor flav).
An ad at Amazon pointed me to “Gerber” brand knives and tools and, of course, I imagined 2 infants bound by wrist, engaged in a dagger duel.
I am disturbed by the slogan in Unisom sleeping pill ads: “Melt to Sleep”. Might as well say “Boil Your Dreams.”
#badproverbs Birds of a feather get shot together.
What is the etymology of the phrase “drop off”? It sounds horrifying – like something Wyle E. Coyote would do, rather than a schoolbus.
Why isn't Imagination the name of a country? In fact, have we stopped naming countries? What – have we run out of …imagination?
#homem : “The Final Buzz”: bees eat penguins / on cool mountains / above psychotic oceans / of hot water
“We are the Knights who say….Nyarlothep!”
@BrianKeene @Tweet_Shrieks HELL IN A CELL >should< be a college subject. Or at least the name of an AC/DC song.
#oneletteroffmovies Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the sushi bar…“Raws”!
All Chocolate is Chocula
all chocolate is Chocula –
it seduces with its riches,
wraps your desire in the cape
of your mouth, and invites
the sink of teeth. we never bite
gently; we always suck it
to vapor, feeding on its potency
until we are left only with the empty
pang for more and more and more.
we are undead with diabetes,
obese with our obsession,
while we dwell upon
the mortality of the melt.
A Double-Take on The New Uncanny
Last year's Shirley Jackson Award winner for “Best Anthology” – The New Uncanny: Tales of Unease, edited by Sarah Eyre and Rah Page (Comma Press, 2008) – is a knockout example of genre renewal. The book features some of the best British horror authors alive, including Ramsey Campbell, Nicholas Royle, A.S. Byatt, Christopher Priest and many more…even Matthew Holness (whose comedic double from the BBC, Garth Merenghi, is echoed here). The book definitely deserved the Jackson Award for its ambition, because it makes for an interesting literary experiment.
The book, essentially, was an assignment. All its contributors were challenged to read Sigmund Freud’s seminal essay on horror aesthetics called “The Uncanny,” and then write a fresh fictional interpretation of the ideas within it, in order to explore what the Uncanny might mean 100 years later, in the 21st century. The goal: “to update Freud’s famous checklist of what gives us the creeps.”
If you're not familiar with Freud's “Uncanny,” the introduction by Ra Page is an excellent survey of its key components in its own right, discussing how Freud provided a “literary template…a shopping list of shivers” that horror writers have managed to return to again and again over the past century. That template includes such icons as “the double” (aka doppelganger), living dolls, evil robots, recurring numbers, dismembered limbs that move on their own accord, animals that speak, the living dead, and more. Page explains the meaning of Freud’s essay in one of the most clear and careful ways I’ve ever seen in print. Thus, the introduction is a must-read, and it establishes the premise of the book perfectly.
What happens, though, is that the reader is put into an evaluative frame-of-mind, constantly asking themselves “How is this writer working with the source material?” and “Have they contributed something original to the concept?” This almost lowers the book to the status of a writing contest, of sorts, as the reader will inevitably begin to compare each author's treatment side by side, looking for the best interpretation. This is fine, but it also makes us less susceptible to the emotional impact of the stories, since we're inherently put into this judgmental distance from the worlds imagined by the authors. The best writers, however, thoroughly succeed in pulling us into their haunted characters' worlds, forgetting about the “uncanny” altogether so we can experience the tale in an immediate fashion.
When discussing the tales in The New Uncanny, Page interestingly notes that the majority of the stories feature either the double or the doll most often. This is true, but it does not diminish the quality of the writing. There are “playful” types of dolls chosen, like Adam Marek's “Tamaogotchi” or Nicholas Royle's “The Dummy” – but even A.S. Byatt's more traditional children doll story is thoroughly enjoyable as a work of terror. One of my favorite tales in the collection, however, transcends the usage of dolls AND doubles, and manages to be a gritty little gross-out number, to boot: Matthew Holness' “Possum” is a thoroughly raw and psychologically scarring story about a puppeteer who uses an animal head to scare children (among other things) – it is unsettling because it uses an unreliable narrator in an unstable manner, and the icing on the cake is that you can never quite tell if Holness is earnest in his narration or if he is playing the role of Garth Merenghi writing horror fiction – which would be laughably outrageous if the writing weren't this talented. I loved it.
Another quirky original is Jane Rogers' “Ped-o-Matique” – about a foot massaging device that seems to have a mind of its own – and the story gives us a great psychological portrait of a woman “frozen” in place. To say much more about stories like these would give too much away.
Because writers are all offering variation on a theme, without knowing what each other are up to, there is some redundancy among the stories. Gerard Woodward's “The Underhouse” – about a man who constructs an uncanny “mirror image” room in his basement, for example, is an ingenious story, told well. But it closely echoes Ramsey Campbell's opening tale, “Double Room,” in which a hotel guest discovers that his every action is echoed by identical sounds in a neighboring room, but with a hostile intent. These “mirror room” stories feel “strangely familiar” in their own right. But the redundancy isn't too worrisome; the latter shows why Campbell is a master of psychological suspense, and while the idea is a little too similar to Woodward's, it is more chilling, while Woodward's is a wee bit more clever and whimsical in its conception. Drawing comparisons like these is part of that “distance” I was talking about in the outset of this review: the structure of the book both enables and gets in the way of its enjoyment. But on the whole, it is an excellent study in the Uncanny, and a fun – albeit disturbing – read of new British horror fiction. Compared to many anthologies in the horror genre, this one has a very clear literary purpose, and I recommend it very highly.
I also recommend it for teachers of literature. I actually assigned this book in a recent course I taught in Psychological Horror fiction at Seton Hill University. I asked students to review a story from the book on my other blog, The Popular Uncanny (these include MANY spoilers, however, so read the book before you read their thoughts) at http://www.gorelets.com/uncanny/
The New Uncanny is an attractive and rich 226 page paperback, available for about $8 from amazon:
bit.ly/4eTSM2 Or order from Comma Press (8 pounds) in the UK: http://www.commapress.co.uk/
+ Describe an operation or autopsy that transpires in total darkness.
+ Reveal a secret during an open casket funeral.
+ Discover a “pattern” among the gravestones.
You can post whatever this instigates – or news of any publication that results – here: http://www.gorelets.com/dept/instigation/
If you liked PROVERBS FOR MONSTERS …
you'll like FUTILE EFFORTS by Tom Piccirilli
If you liked HE IS LEGEND …
you'll like THE BOX: UNCANNY STORIES by Richard Matheson
If you liked PLAY DEAD …
you'll like JAKE'S WAKE by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow
If you liked SPORTUARY …
you'll like BLOOD LITE edited by Kevin J. Anderson
If you liked PARATABLOIDS …
you'll like MORBID CURIOSITY CURES THE BLUES edited by Loren Rhoads
If you liked WRITER'S WORKSHOP OF HORROR …
you'll like BOOKLIFE by Jeff Vandermeer
If you are curious about any of the Arnzen books that I mention above, just visit the handy-dandy bibliography page at gorelets.com (which include cover art, contents lists, reviews, excerpts, ordering info, and more): http://gorelets.com/books/
Here's some exclusive coupons and discounts on horror-related merchandise – your reward for scrolling down!
Director Jim Minton has some extra copies of our movie, Exquisite Corpse, available for Goreletter readers at a great Halloween discount: just $8.99 + $2 shipping while they last. You can get one without the case for $5.99 + $2 sh. But you'll want the case.
Trailers and more at
Make payable to Jim Minton, c/o Jim Minton Design Studio, 3339 Merrell Road, Dallas, TX, 75229.
Get a mint, signed hardcover of my out-of-print novel, PLAY DEAD, for only $22, ppd. Paypal to email@example.com
FREE SKULL FRAGMENTS!
Didn't run out of copies last time so I'm running this deal again (last time!). I'll bundle a free SIGNED copy of my new French-English chapbook, Skull Fragments, together with a sealed copy of my cd, Audiovile for just $15 (outside the USA, $20). That price includes shipping. Paypal me at firstname.lastname@example.org and don't forget to include your delivery address.
Last issue I recommended the “myspace site for horror fans” called The Haunt. The site was a lot of fun, but it's reducing its overhead by transforming into a bulletin board for the Horror Mall. It's still a great hangout for anyone interested in Indie Horror and collectable editions, but note that The Haunt will soon be, literally, a ghost town. Visit the Horror-Mall here:
All material in The Goreletter is © 2009 Michael A. Arnzen, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward the entire contents of this newsletter as a whole, without alterations or excisions. Direct links to articles in the archives or the weblog are permitted and encouraged, so long as credit is given to Michael Arnzen or gorelets.com. For permission to reprint individual pieces, please contact email@example.com.
Delivered free since Sept. 2002. Issues to date: 41. This newsletter is a past recipient of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Alternative Forms from the Horror Writers Association: http://www.horror.org/stokers.htm
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With apologies to latitude 53,41667, longitude 27,91667.
Help spread the strange. Forward this issue to your weirdest friend! And if you'd like to link me, you can find bizarre buttons for your website here: http://www.gorelets.com/demos/goreletbuttons.htm
My Heartfelt Thoughts
“Could it think, the heart would stop beating.” – Fernando Pessoa (died 1935)
* 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/
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