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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter
+++ Vol. 2 #7, Apr. 6, 2004 +++
Blather. Wince. Repeat.
I was at the convenience store the other day and I saw a man buy ten sticks of beef jerky. I made a funny face at him. He chomped off a chunk with a violent tug. “It'z Atskinz,” he said, slurring his reference to the Atkins diet. But I thought he said “rat skins.” So I nodded in understanding: jerky has the taste and texture of rat skins, indeed. It's man's version of the dog biscuit. Like a fob of leather, it's something we like to teeth on. And apparently jerky is in high demand like cigarettes and candy bars, all tempting to seduce you into making an impulse purchase, right there at the point-of-sale. Who can resist? Who doesn't drool at the sight of dried and salted flesh?
I'm no vegetarian, but I have to admit I have an aversion to jerked meats. Heck, I blush just saying the words. And I probably don't need to tell you how sick “snapping into a Slim Jim” really sounds in my ears. All puns aside, I'm not even sure what jerky really is. All I know is that it's a form of “cured” meat, but even that doesn't sit right with me. Why do they call it “cured” meat, anyway? I mean, it's dead already…so what's to cure?
Don't get me wrong: I understand the appeal of beef jerky. It's nature's convenience food, passed to us long before there ever were Seven-Elevens and Mini-Marts and roadside gift shops called “Buckskin Charlies.” Beef jerky is a throwback to the frontier days, when Native Americans taught bear trappers how to cure strips of meat so they wouldn't have to take up so much space packing the whole dead cow on the back of their burro. This allowed them to eat the rotting carcass at their leisure and not have to gobble the bloated festering corpse in a panicky rush before the maggots beat them to the good bits. Salt, smoke, and sun shrunk the meat down and cooked it up like bacon. The invention of jerky was a breakthrough that turned the decomposing body into a salty bite-sized snack, handy enough to fit all your favorite bits and pieces into one small saddle bag. And why not? Eat the jerky on the way to the mine. Eat the burro when you get there. Dietary planning at its finest!
On the day jerky was invented, dead meat became fun. Like salt water taffy. Only meaty. What's more entertaining than champing down on salted animal tissue and shaking your head from side to side like a dog on a chew toy? Very little. Except doing so naked with a friend. Or something as simple as saying the word itself: “jerky.” A truly snicker-worthy term if there ever was one. All its connotations are quite bizarre and unseemly. Does jerky crassly refer to the method of stripping the meat off the bone? To the ugly body motions necessary to tear off a bite? Or is jerky a term of affection, like “Petey” or “Billy” – something you call a little jerk? Or is it simply just a term for the last (dying) action performed by the very same muscles and sinew you're chawing on?
You'd be surprised. My research tells me that “jerky” is actually a bastardization of the term “charqui” (pronounced “sharkey” in Spanish) – not to be confused with actual shark jerky (which is pronounced “yuckie” in English) or with a certain argumentative butter substitute with a smart mouth. “Charqui” used to be cut in large strips that were dried and cured and later cut up and put into stews – and back the days of yore it still resembled meat to some degree. Jerky probably had nutritional value of some kind then, too. But today, it's mostly all “formed” from whatever strange meat still clings to the bone after the slaughterhouse has had its way with old Betsy the cow. Modern jerky is a lower level of hotdog. Nothing in nature is so perfectly shiny and cylindrical as the meat sticks I've seen at the convenience store.
Of course, you can get organic jerky made of 100% USDA Grade A beef, hand-twisted and custom-jerked by some unknown farmer in Muskogee who probably doesn't wash his hands very well. You can flavor it up in exotic smokes and rub it down with mystical spices. You can jerk exotic animals, too, from koalas to kangaroos. But no matter how pure the meat, no matter how cute the critter, it's still just a glorified dog treat when all is said and done.
Sure, jerky has its benefits. It's high in protein. It's preserved so well you can take it camping or hunting with ease. You can store it in your survival shelter for eons. One dead cow can feed a family of twelve without the modern convenience of a refrigerator for months and months. It's a miracle food! It's even been sent with astronauts to the moon and back. Sounds as neato as Tang, right?
Not to me. For one thing, lots of crazy things have protein in them – from parrot parts to pavement puke. Protein alone is not reason enough to eat jerky. And the very idea of jerky in space is a scary science-fiction story waiting to happen. What sort of message would it send the aliens who discover it? I can imagine a capsule coming back from the stars, with strips of astronaut jerky dangling inside. And a message from the stars: send more.
Which raises the question: Is man-jerky Atkins-approved? Only Jeffrey Dahmer knows. The serial killer experimented with preserving techniques and used to snack on his cannibal candy between meals. I know he was crazy, and he ate a lot of people in any number of taboo ways, but I also know the man-eater wasn't exactly fat when they arrested him. He looked rather fit, actually. Lean, even. Low on carbs, for sure. Mmm.
Be the first Goreletter subscriber to post a reader review – pro or con – of my new book, 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories, at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com and win a free signed copy of one of my recent poetry chapbooks: Dying, Gorelets, or a printout of Sportuary (your choice). Two separate prizes (one for each site) will be awarded – but you can only win once; consolation prizes might be offered to contenders who get reviews up quickly. E-mail me to alert me if/when your review appears.
You can get 100 Jolts at the launch party at World Horror Convention this weekend or at Shocklines books here (anytime):
If you're looking for some light – yet dark and twisted – reading, then you'll enjoy Denise Dietz' quirky erotic horror-comedy, Fifty Cents for Your Soul (Delphi Books, Apr 2002). Dietz draws her inspiration from her sister, Eileen Dietz – Linda Blair's “demon double” from The Exorcist – to put together this hilarious black comedy about an actress who gets cast in a schlocky horror film, Forever Asmodeus, only to find herself possessed by a lusty and murderous demon who has dreams of stardom all its own.
The play with the demon double in this book is genuinely fun, and there's a lot of raunchy laughs in this book, but what really makes this novel a page-turner is Dietz's penchant for snappy one-liners and witty turns of phrase. She's not afraid to go over-the-top – as in the opening line (“The woman who straddled Victor Madison had hiccups.”) – or to drop a witty metaphor in passing like it was easy (“My mother, of course, thinks my logic is as twisted as a French cruller.”) Dietz pulls this off by telling the story through the first person perspective of Frannie Rosen – a narrator whose voice sounds something like a young Bette Midler if she'd been cast in an episode of Sex in the City directed by Tim Burton. At one point, for example, Frannie witnesses a murder and notes two things: one, that blood is brown when it coagulates, and, two, that “In the Rosen household, blood never has time to turn a rusty brown. Immediately, if not sooner, it's soaked in white vinegar, club soda, and/or salt water.” And so she tells the cops to try that little household hint. But sometimes the joking gets downright ludicrous. Take, for example, Frannie's description of the demon:
“Call it a doppleganger, call it a dybbuk, call it a nudist who stuffs beetles inside its belly without swallowing. I only knew that if a tree fell in the forest and hit a mime, no one would hear (or care), but if it hit my demon, the echo of its eerie screech would reverberate left and right, up and down, from the Bronx Zoo to Bloomingdales…”
Yes, the demon eats beetles by shoving them directly into its flesh – and that's pretty neat when Dietz depicts it. But Frannie's voice allows her to pull a mime joke out of the blue where others would be drop dead serious. The humor refuses to take a back seat to the horror. When Frannie gets serious, it's only when the demon possesses her – in dream visions akin to rape fantasies – that dramatize her seduction into the dark side. Her demon is indeed quite randy, and the sex jokes are frequent. But the light-hearted approach to the horror is what kept me turning the pages, waiting for the next humorous jab, whether zinger or groaner. Die-hard horror fans be warned: Dietz is predominantly a writer of romantic suspense novels, not supernatural horror, but in my opinion this only enhances the creative approach she brings to the genre, making this one of the quirkiest “demon lover” books I've ever read. Granted, I haven't read a lot of them. But as a fan of The Exorcist, I found Fifty Cents for Your Soul worth far more than two bits.
Denise Dietz. Fifty Cents for Your Soul. ISBN 0966339754. 283 pp. Hardcover. Delphi Books, April 2002. $22.95. Delphi Books, POB 6435, Lee's Summit, MO 64064.
For your next movie night, rent:
X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (1963)
They Live (1988)
Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
The Uncanny Face
It's so simple, it's unsettling. Dominique puts a face on your computer monitor. Sure, any large photo of a hairless, ear-less, square-headed person gazing back at you from behind the glass will always be a little freaky. But it's Dominique's playful smile and glinty wink that will truly freak you out. She's new media flesh, so be sure to tweak her features with your mouse, clicking on the skin like pinching clay, and see how uncanny she can really be. (Hint: this might make for a fun “Active Desktop” in Windows).
+ Describe a heart attack in first person viewpoint…one that occurs while the character is driving.
+ Write as if under duress.
+ The moon is full, but for some reason a lycanthrope is having enormous difficulties transforming. Dramatize.
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:
Decoction of Man
bent awkward inside the cargo net
our hot sweat slickens our bony
frenzy of knuckles and nails
as the cold giant immerses us
steeping our screams in his tea
+ BRAM STOKER AWARD FINAL NOMINEE
It's official (twice)! The Goreletter, is now a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Alternate Forms. My poetry collection – Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems – is also on the final ballot for the Stoker Award in poetry. The winner of the award is chosen by the Horror Writers Association and celebrated in a black tie banquet this June.
I'm speechless right now, but very honored that my fellow pro horror writers deemed these titles worthy. Thanks, HWA! And thanks to all of you reading this for your support over the years. Keep reading. [Collectors take note: There may be a few signed/lettered editions of Gorelets left in the Fairwood Press coffers or at shocklines.com…better act quickly!] http://www.fairwoodpress.com
+ WORLD HORROR CONVENTION
If you're attending WHC in Phoenix this week (4/8-11), be sure to drop by my reading on Thursday at 3:30pm or the debut/signing of my short story collection, 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories, outside the dealer's room on Saturday at Noon. I'll also be on two panels – “Common Mistakes in Writing Horror” and “Dark Short Fiction” (unrelated topics, I assure you) – and in the Mass Autograph gathering. Come on by.
+ 100 JOLTS
Even if you can't make it to World Horror Convention, you can get your hands on 100 Jolts right now at your favorite online bookseller or – if it's not on the shelves – by ordering it through your local store. I recommend shocklines.com. If you need to special order it, the ISBN is: For more information, visit the publisher's page. http://www.rawdogscreaming.com
+ GRAVE MARKINGS X
If the limited hardcover edition of my Stoker-winning first novel, Grave Markings: Tenth Anniversary Edition, isn't sold out yet, it will be any day now, as publication is immanent. Now is probably your best chance to reserve your copy. Only 150 are being bound (the leatherbound edition has already sold out!). So take that tax refund check and contact the publisher, Delirium Books, right away. (Or use the exclusive Shocklines coupon elsewhere in this issue!)
Since Gorelets is currently a contender for the Stoker, I thought I'd mention that the e-book version (which includes 21 bonus gorelets!) was just made available at Fictionwise.com, my favorite e-book distributor. Enroll in their clubs for great bargains (see boo coupons below).
No, it's not a new freakadelic denture adhesive paste in day-glo colors. As I've reported before, Freakcidents: A Surrealist Sideshow is a knock-out poetry book coming from Shocklines Press in March/April in a limited “remarqued” hardcover and standard trade edition. The “remarqued” edition is not only a signed collectable hardcover, but it gets customized by the book's artist, the eponymous GAK – who is redesigning the cover for the book (that means it will be a little different than the b/w version you may have already seen). In his review at feoamante.com, Mikey Huyck called Freakcidents “one of the most bizarre collections of anything I've ever pawed through.” ( http://www.feoamante.com/Stories/Reviews/DEF/Freakcid.html ) Wanna paw through it yourself? Preorder the mutancy here:
+ DEAD AGAIN
I've acquired a batch of my chapbook – Michael Arnzen's Dying – a quirky little poetic parody of Martha Stewart's Living. Ed Bryant applauded this book in Locus magazine last year, writing: “Arnzen's a crackerjack poet of the dark fantastic…[his poetry] whipsaws the reader from giggling to guffawing to cringing, often all on the same page.” If you'd like to get your hands on a signed copy of this crazy collectable, it would be “a good thing.” Or maybe a very bad thing. Or, perhaps just a very, very sick thing. To get yours, signed, postage paid, just send me $8 via PayPal to email@example.com. Limited to my supply on hand. If you want to order without using online services, you must e-mail me first to make arrangements (and to see if I have any copies left!). Don't worry – I'm not sending any of the proceeds to Martha's attorneys.
SPECIAL CONTEST EDITION 2004
According to my web host, all but one of the following keyphrases were entered into internet search engines (like google.com) by strange people who subsequently “clicked through” the results to land on my site since January:
girl on crutches
she is now a mannequin
softness of swelling brain
dead moldy monkey cheese
hot zombie love nest
once my friend pooped herself at school
poems about sick babies
splitting the brain
I've only made up ONE of the twelve phrases in the list above. Can you guess which one? The 1st subscriber to e-mail me the correct phrase (pick only one) at firstname.lastname@example.org will win a signed copy of 100 Jolts or Fluid Mosaic (your choice). The 2nd place winner will get a $3 gift certificate to BitPass, which will give you access to pay-per-view content (like my own Sickolodeon here:
You only get one guess. You must be a subscriber to play. It is likely the winning entry will arrive while I am away at World Horror Con this week, so your patience with the results is appreciated. I will post the name of the winners on my blog (
blogs.setonhill.edu/Arnzenews/ ) when both have been chosen and the contest will be officially closed at that time.
If you somehow managed to find your way to this newsletter by entering any of the above search phrases, well, shame on you, sicko.
+ Hot on the Ho-Tep
After the last issue was distributed, I received a flurry of e-mail suggesting that Joe R. Lansdale already launched the “Geezer Gore” subgenre with his novella which was the basis for the film, Bubba Ho-Tep. My oversight. I hear the DVD for this movie will be released on Memorial Day – keep your eyes peeled for it, and buy the book just released from Night Shade Books.
+ Help Charles L. Grant
Three-time World Fantasy Award winner Charles L. Grant is suffering from pulmonary disease and his family is in need of financial assistance for his care. A “fresh air fund” in his name has been created, and it's accepting donations via mail or PayPal. He's contributed so much to the genre of horror; it's time to give a little back.
I keep telling you: It actually pays to scroll this far down.
Shocklines – the best horror bookstore online – is offering an exclusive new discount coupon on my novel, Grave Markings. Enter the coupon code GOREGR6 upon checkout to knock $6 off the Grave Markings limited edition hardcover from Delirium Books. Act now – offer only good until May 5th!
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
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 talents like Jason Brannon and Eric S. Brown. Do a search for economical Arnzen titles, like Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems, while you're there!
+ FAIRWOOD PRESS
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. http://www.fairwoodpress.com
+ ASMODAY 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/
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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Forward this issue to your weirdest friend!
“I believe in compulsory cannibalism. If people were forced to eat what they killed, there would be no more wars.” – Abbie Hoffman (died 1989)
* 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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