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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter

+++ Vol 1.6, Jan. 19, 2003 +++



Blather. Wince. Repeat.


This week I've been in a perpetual wrestling match with my own nasal cavities. They're slippery suckers and they always win. In fact, they've taken over like something from John Carpenter's 'The Thing': I have become one big dripping sinus membrane with ropy snot tentacles that lash out at anything that moves, eager to find a new host.

That's what being sick with cold or flu is really like. Losing yourself to an unknowable alien, organ by internal organ. It's like Ebola Lite (waste's great; less killing). And you hate every night-time, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, achy, stuffy head, fever, cough, cold, so you can give it a freakin' rest minute of it.

[It just occurred to me that the excess of NyQuil's famous wordy slogan works only because that's exactly what we fantasize about when we're sick: we want every symptom in the book – even ones we don't even have – to just go away with one sip of a magic potion. They won't disappear. But in the mean time, we'll be happy just getting snockered on something noxious and syrupy. Plus anything that rhymes with “Might Kill” has gotta work, right?]

You probably don't want to read this, especially if you've been successful (so far) at combating illness all season. But like a really good sneeze, I'm gonna share my thoughts all over you, anyway. Because when you're sick, you have sick thoughts. And when you're on cold medicine, they're even sicker…but you'll forgive me, won't you?

Aside from all that green phlegm business, there are two primary things about the common cold that really freak me out. Perhaps you've already thought about them. If not, perhaps you should.

First freaky thing: having a nasty cold is a little like dying an ugly death. Not a “supernaturally crafty murder scene from The Omen” sort of ugly death. I mean ugly as in the way wild animal carcasses rot on the side of the road in the summer. When I have a cold, I feel as though my lungs are rotting meet, buzzing with flies. And they are, really - - little viral ones, little wet ones, little microscopic insects that tingle and slop around in the snot barrel that my chest has become. The coughing fits don't really help. They just transport those diseased little bugs around as if the throat were an elevator ride. Going up? Throwing up? Whatever. They spread. They seek the good flesh. And there's nothing you can really do to “cure” them.

Second freaky thing: these bugs inside of your body were once inside another body, doing the same nasty thing they're doing to you. And try as you might to primly cover your nose or fold your tissue or wash your hands with sanitary gel, you know damned well you're guilty at every turn for potentially contaminating another person's body. You'll never know for sure, and that makes it oh so easy to pretend you don't. But you're nothing more than a carrier to the sickness. You're a sticky marsupial pouch full of viruses, and you hand deliver them to your friends and neighbors on the end of a pencil or the rim of a glass. We pass these colds around like they're soiled dollar bills in a strip club. And getting a cold is like getting tongue kissed by a stranger while you were asleep. There's no rhyme or reason to it. We're helpless.

When I was a kid, I used to think that my cold ended only when I'd done my duty by passing it on to some unknowable but predetermined quota of other people. Viruses, my logic went, were working a pyramid scheme. But that's not it at all. Now I know the truth: like all parasites, they're really just lonely. Your cold just wants to be loved.

Enjoy your symptom, as Slavoj Zizek once famously said. I've read Zizek and I appreciate his philosophy. But I also made the sound of his name the last time I sneezed.

Gesundheit, all.


Two businessmen are chatting at a bar in an airport terminal. During the conversation, one notices that blood is seeping out from the cracks in one of their briefcases. Write the scene.

Walk around your home and make a list of three common household objects from different rooms. Now – choosing one item from the list to fill in the blank – write a horror piece entitled “I Was a Teenage _.” If the first stab doesn't work, try again with a different object. If it still doesn't work, try “Attack of the 50-foot _” instead.

Give a character a very bizarre scar. Now have that character tell its story.


Bundled Up

the skeleton inside me itches and
fidgets and uncomfortably twists
against the gum and spongy bindings
of my muscular prison – a sweaty kid
caught up in the sleeves of a big coat
careless of catching his death of cold
carefree and eager to know the snow


“On Writing Anxiety by Stephen King”

For your next movie night, rent:
The Shining (1980)
Misery (1990)
The Dark Half (1993)


“Spit on My Grave”

Guide a funny little “day of the dead” skeleton (dressed in poncho, straw hat, and sandals) around six open graves, chugging tequila and aiming his spit at burning candles, trying to put them out. This silly Macromedia Flash game – brought to you by the neo-country band “Lincoln” (out of the UK, not Nebraska) – is not as easy as it is in real life. In fact, I can't make it past the first level. I bet you can, though. When you arrive on the site, click on the top skull in the center of the page to enter the game.

[Requires “Macromedia Flash” to play. No worries there…it'll auto-install.]


Science + Art = Scart

Dream Anatomies

Ornithological Dejecta

Questionable Medical Device Museum


Tom Piccirilli is a powerhouse author, able to successfully leap from genre to genre, painting very different pictures but dabbing his brush into the same dark palette for each one he creates. And man can he create. He won the first Bram Stoker Award for Poetry in 2000 (deservedly beating out my own book, Paratabloids, with his rock solid title from Skull Job Productions, A STUDENT OF HELL). His imaginative novels are repeatedly published to much acclaim by Leisure Books. He's adept at short fiction and novellas. And he keeps on writing poetry. I admire that.

Pic's latest poetry collection, THIS CAPE IS RED BECAUSE I'VE BEEN BLEEDING (Catalyst Press, Dec 2002) is a finely produced trade paperback with a stunning cover of a haunted child and skeleton by Jeremy Caniglia. The 100 page collection is satisfying and ambitious, containing all original work. If our genre has a Walt Whitman, Piccirilli is it and this book is his gothic “Song of Myself,” horrific yawp and all. It's there in the style as much as the attitude: his lines are long, uncontainable by the digest-sized page; his meter is unrelentingly dark and psychologically brooding; his imagery is symbolically rich and at times shocking; and most of the pieces in this book border on prose-poetry, suggesting an uncontrollable horror seething beneath the heavy language.

The narrator of much of the verse has a voice so introspective that one can't deny its honesty; it feels confessional at times as Piccirilli muses about everything from the anger that leads to self-mutilation to the potential immortality implied by his own cremation. But for all its “goth” trappings, CAPE isn't a book of narcissistic melancholy; instead, it is the product of a distinctively dark voice that pulls you into a personal conflict and enables you to see the world through the narrator's eyes.

Much of the poetry is horrific. But CAPE reveals Pic's range in a manner that is really quite stunning. You can tell from the titles alone that the man means business. There is the comic turn of “My First Groupie and How Much I Love Her Despite the Failed Assassination Attempt” which is true to the craziness of fans during a public reading, but (hopefully) fictional in its dramatization of what its title suggests. There is the romantic cadence of “Twined Backwards Upon the History of My Heart” which is really a love poem to death personified as a woman sharing the narrator's bed. And there's the metafictional twist ending of “On Being Asked the Meaning of the Last Line.”

I don't want to spoil the surprising beauty of Pic's wonderfully apt imagery, but I will close with an excerpt that really embodies the way Tom Piccirilli confronts the realm of nightmare:

“I see that the night has positioned its nose/an inch from mine,/as we gauge each other wondering/who will bite first.”

Dark brilliance. Pic's got style…and he might just be up for another Stoker. I highly recommend this book to you. CAPE is a perfect bound trade paperback with a full cover cover. It's available for $14 from or you can order one directly from the publisher:

[Search this issue for a special discount offer on this book!]


%age of utterances by low-income workers that are swearwords: 24%

%age of Brits who expect to hear bad language in public: 80%

Number of times Tony Montana uses the F-word in Scarface: 206

Number of times Eminem says the F- word on his Marshall Mathers LP: 151

Rate of F-words spoken per minute in the film, Casino: 2.05

Number of times the F-word appears in Lady Chatterley's Lover: 30

Number of hits the F-word gets in a websearch on 35,200,000

Number of hits the actual phrase “F- word” gets: 78,300

*** Sources: Observer UK 1/02; E! Online 12/02; 1/03; 1/03; Time 05/74; 1/03


+ DarkVesper Publishing is reporting that the release date of my book, Freakcidents, may be pushed back a bit, due to a recent computer crisis. But the special offer still stands: if you buy Freakcidents AND The Psycho- Hunter's Casebook by Kurt Newton you will get a free mini-chapbook of extra poems and stories by both writers. (And, yes, this offer is retroactive for customers who already purchased Newton's fine book). Visit:

+ I've read the proofs of the upcoming 200-page hardcover poetry book, Cemetery Poets: Grave Offerings…and it's quite a twisted horror collection! I've got a chapbook's worth of new work in it, along with 16 other poets (some new voices, some veterans). The book also features a unique section containing 35 poems directly inspired by the “Fridge of the Damned” poetry magnets on! You'll be amazed at how different (and twisted) these poems are, even though everyone's working with the same word set. Double- Dragon Publishing is selling this hardcover tome at the worthy price of $33. Think about how many individual chapbooks that would buy. Then you'll realize how cheap that pricetag is. Get the e-book version and >really< save money. Check it out now, Funk Soul Brother:

+ Are you a freakshow addict like me? Or just really, really scared of clowns? If so, then you should step right up to the recently released SIDE SHOW: Tales of the Big Top and Bizarre. SIDE SHOW is a well-edited theme anthology with a super line up of writers and a knockout cover graphic of a clown juggling baby heads (by the great Chad Savage). I'm in there with a weird poem called “SuiSide Show.” Lots of weird fun in this one, folks!

+ The horror poetry webzine, Decompositions, surprised me by releasing my sick little poem, “Eviscerated Ghoul” in the January issue. My even sicker one, aptly called “The Gross Stuff,” will likely appear in February. Amazingly, neither were written this month while on NyQuil.

+ Spring is in the air. Not. But Arnzen buds are blooming. Over the next month, I'm scheduled to have short stuff appear in publications like Literary Potpourri, Champagne Shivers, FlashShot, EOTU, Macabre, and Flesh and Blood magazine. And I think it's okay to announce that I was invited (just today) to be the featured poet for the April 2003 issue of Sidereality magazine. Have you read them yet? You really should! Get unreal on the other side:

+ 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!


See, I'm not so crazy: An Australian man has framed the skin flayed from his father's back to memorialize the tattoos! Visit the website below for photos! [Thanks to loyal reader Brian B. for the lead.]

All right, all right, I take back what I said about skeletons in the last issue of the Goreletter. They ARE scary … and a lot of fun to write about. This issue's poem is one way to make amends. Writer Tanya Twombly told me I inspired her to try to prove me wrong, too. That's what I like to hear. Brian Rosenberger also wrote to remind me of Al Sarrantonio's excellent “end of humanity” book, Skeletons. Maybe, ultimately, bone boys fall somewhere between ghosts and zombies, and that's what was bugging me. When they capture the best of both worlds, though, they really work.


It actually pays to scroll this far down.

SHOCKLINES.COM offers Goreletter readers $2 off of Tom Piccirilli's THIS CAPE IS RED BECAUSE I'VE BEEN BLEEDING (reviewed in this issue). Use coupon code GORELETCAPE. Offer only good now through February 1st.

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:


All material in The Goreletter is: c 2003 Michael A. Arnzen, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward the entire contents as a whole, without alterations or excisions. For reprint permissions of individual pieces, please contact

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“The certain prospect of death could sweeten every life with a precious and fragrant drop of levity – and now you strange apothecary souls have turned it into an ill-tasting drop of poison that makes the whole of life repulsive.” – Friedrich Nietzsche (died 1900)

* 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
* Arnzen's blog is now located at Visit it for breaking news and extras not appearing in The Goreletter.

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goreletter/sick_stuff.txt · Last modified: 2013/11/29 12:10 by marnzen

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