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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter
+++ Vol 1 #12, July 5, 2003 +++
Some Hypnotic Suggestions
Blather. Wince. Repeat.
You're Not Getting Sleepy
You're not getting sleepy. Why not? I've tried every trick in the hypnotist's handbook. From the swinging gold watch to the spinning spiral top to the repetitious patterning of my deep, monotone voice…and nothing works.
How dare you test my mental dominance? I have degrees in parapsychology AND television advertising. I have studied ancient unbound manuscripts in libraries that are kept secret from even the real magicians, like Doug Henning. But I have gone farther into the mysteries of the mind than most; there is no hypnotic method I have not mastered. I have memorized trade secrets from how-to books by used car salesmen and I know all the tricks from every “How to Get a Person in Bed” book ever published. Yet you seem impenetrable to every mind-bending technique.
You think you're so smart. You believe that no one can bend your freewill, except, perhaps, brain surgeons who know how to trigger reactions by prodding the scarlet sponge with their cold instruments. Uncivil brutes! I can manipulate your nerve endings without even touching flesh. I can seduce you with my eyes in a stare that puts Bela Lugosi to shame. I can lull you into a waking dream state with my voice in a way that makes nursing mothers and day care workers jealous. When I pull and your aura with my electric fingers, you will feel me in every way. I can seduce your optic nerves into seeing things that aren't there – indeed, Hollywood wishes they could market me. When it comes to the trance state, I'm more potent than a pill or a history book. My methods of persuasion require no technology. My power is genuine.
So why do you still resist? Why do you not succumb to my charm?
Don't you understand?
I will not simply put you to sleep. I will make you dream that which is not possible within your puny perception of the world.
But still you resist.
I will not make you cockle-doodle-doo like a chicken whilst flopping your elbows. I will serve you a fricassee of air that you can taste and swallow and actually feel hot in your gullet. In fact, I could even get you to cannibalize other people who I >have< transformed into a chicken, and relish the taste of their meat. My powers are that strong.
But still you resist.
Look into my eyes. Deeply. See the vast expanse of the universe – the galaxies of sparkling stars, spiraling into the center of two blacker-than- black black holes. Feel them pulling you into their vacuum, gently – like a raft of driftwood pulling slowly away from shore. Feel the genuine release of your worries as you cascade around the swirling shower of light. Your mind is free from the bindings of your heavy body. Your eyelids are losing their power as you swirl in the vortex of my abyss. Freedom waits around every turn and twist. You are getting sleepy, sleepy….
When I snap my fingers, you will believe that this job interview was the best you have ever conducted. You will not only want to hire me, you will give me the maximum salary and benefits and turn the other way when I seduce secretaries and charm accountants and beat the boss at golf.
Oh, come on! Please?
Where the Bodies Are Buried
Dig it Deep
Paint it Black
Clean it Up
+ Feeling generous? Add a link to gorelets.com on your website with these new clickable graphic banners and buttons. All the code is provided and there's nothing to download: just copy and paste into your HTML!
+ I get a lot of requests for my out of print horror novel, Grave Markings – and I'm no longer selling them from my private stock. There are now two ways I recommend to hunt them down: 1) get GMX – the Extreme Edition – coming out in hand-tooled leather from Double-Dragon Publishing in November 2004 (YES! I don't mean to brag, but this is the epitome of a COOL BOOK. Only 13 copies will be printed!); or, 2) use the handy-dandy new page I've added to gorelets.com for a “Super Quick Search of Bookstores for New and Used Arnzen Titles” (you can always get there via the “writing/demos” page, too).
+ Dramatize a pet turning on its owner with deadly intentions.
+ Torture a character who has been falsely accused of a crime.
+ Describe the journey of an earthworm as it writhes its way through a recently buried carcass.
Instigation is now a WEEKLY department in Hellnotes newsletter:
[ Look for a discount code elsewhere in this issue of The Goreletter! ]
For your next movie night, rent:
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Grosse Point Blank (1997)
Maybe you've read medical thrillers by the likes of Robin Cook or Tess Gerritsen. Sure, they're good nail- biters, but they're also a little too mainstream for my taste. The life-and- death nightmares get blended down into a something of a dark smoothie for mass consumption. They're high on suspense thrills and medical ethics, but otherwise low on imagination and fantasy, often written with a desire to educate or impress rather than confront taboos or horrify you in the gut. After all, most of the writers are doctors – people with a clinically detached, observational viewpoint on the body – who have learned to port their bedside manner into profitable fiction but refuse to entertain the fancies of the supernatural or the madness of unreason. The narratives are all ultimately about salvation through science and the re-institution of comfortable domestic bliss.
But If you're looking for a >real< nightmare in the operating room, you might have to snoop around in the small press, where genuine horrors can still be found. To get your feet wet in the extreme creativity of the horror genre operating on the margins of publishing, I recommend a recent book called “PAIN and Other Petty Plots to Keep you in Stitches” by Alan M. Clark and several collaborators. PAIN is part of a relatively new genre which might be termed “medical dark fantasy” – stories that stare in hallucinatory wonder at the agony of the operating room, the icky-ness of illness, and the surrealism of surgery. If such a genre exists, then Clark's PAIN is a classic of its kind.
Although it's actually an anthology of stories and art, PAIN is centered around a novella and most of the work in the book is collaborative in some way. The opening novella – “PAIN and Other Petty Plots” – is a collaboration between Clark and writer Randy Fox set in the Facility – an imaginary hospital where nightmares are probed via the body in search of emotional truths, ranging from the absurd to the profound. The tale is essentially an “escape from the madhouse” narrative, with many interesting twists and turns as sick doctors do sick things to not- so-sick patients. Laced with an IV drip of humor as black as a body bag, this novella is a carnival ride through a surreal series of sick surgeries, banking off Clark's gloriously bizarre full-page pieces of art – a series of paintings which inspired the writing.
It's a crazy collection – disturbing but also funny. And even though much of the art is reprinted from various sources (esp. the rare collection, The Pain Doctors of Suture Self General, a progenitor of sorts to this later project), PAIN is highly original. You just don't find books like this on the shelf and Barnes and Noble. While the narrative vacillates a little unevenly between the existential angst-ridden mood of Kafka's The Trial to the splatterpunk silliness of Peter Jackson's Dead Alive, the sheer imaginative risk that this novella takes makes for compelling reading. Reading through the stories and perusing the art makes every page of PAIN a page of demented pleasure.
PAIN not only dramatizes hospital room anxiety like no other book I can think of, it's also an art book (the sort you might toss on the coffee table in a waiting room in Hell). Clark – a renowned, multiple award-winning artist of the outr‚ – not only designed this full-sized (8-1/2 x 11“) book for his own press (IFD Publishing) but also created all of the dark and disturbing illustrations that are copiously scattered throughout the book – about 30 total, from my count. Even the borders and frames and dingbats throughout the book – mini-drawings of scissors or scalpels or rib-spreaders – are fun to look at. Since the art inspired the stories, the art has been “literated” as opposed to stories being “illustrated” (see Fairwood Press' brand new book, Imagination Fully Dilated: Science Fiction to get an idea of what this means at http://www.fairwoodpress.com).
The wrap-around cover (featuring the grim reaper standing above a body on the table, surrounded by twisted demonic-looking “surgeons” in an operating theater of the damned) is the only rich color image; the interiors are a monochromatic black-and-white that really delivers – each of Clark's paintings is a marvel to behold. From an extreme close-up rendering of a virus in action to an apocalyptic image of the medical “Facility” towering in a sky full of bleeding clouds, Clark's creative range knows no bounds, no limits. Indeed, PAIN is a testament to this artist's lifework, as many of these images come from a variety of sources that he's kindly reprinted here.
After Clark & Fox's novella, the second half of the book consists of three short stories “To Keep You in Stitches” by Clark collaborating with writers like Mark Edwards, Jeremy Robert Johnson and Troy Guinn. These are all good gross-out stories which go way over the top in depicting bodily excess, terrifying transformation, and phantasmagoric torture. There's a wicked glee that these writers take in diving into Clark's dark imaginative universe of catheter tubes and body fluids. But as Dr. F. Paul Wilson (MD) puts it in his introduction, “This is not fiction – this is what really happens” psychologically when you enter into the terror of any hospital visit. You give your body over to some alien system where your life and identity are at risk.
The only disappointment with PAIN – aside from the b/w art which makes you want to see it all in color – is a minor one: the book's readily apparent reliance on reprints. There's enough credits to fill the 8-1/2×11 acknowledgements page. The art pieces are from everything from biology textbooks to limited edition hardbound books – and two of the stories are reprinted from hard-to-find sources. But this is not really a fault; unless you're a Clarkophile, most of this book will be new to you – and if you are already a fan of Clark, then you'll get to see some work you never knew he created. Besides, Clark created at least five brand new paintings just for this book – what more can you want?
In addition to the fantastically imagined novella, the closing memoir by Alan Clark makes the collection well worth the price of admission ($16). “The Unseen and Unknowable” is an autobiographical piece as shocking as anything else in this already very shocking book – and perhaps it's the most memorable entry. Here Clark talks frankly about a near-death experience that in some ways accounts for his aesthetic as a well- spring of inspiration. It's an honest report about a very scary hospital experience involving brain abscesses and a wrestling match with alcoholism that you'll not easily forget. Reading this memoir makes you turn back through the pages, lending a new level of appreciation to the artwork, which seems to purge his demons while sharing Clark's unflinching curiosity about the mysteries beyond everyday life.
PAIN and Other Petty Plots to Keep You in Stitches: http://www.ifdpublishing.com
Buy Clark's artwork, personalized: http://www.shocklines.com
Demon of Hendrix
these six strings distort time into a red
chiaroscuro of hallucinatory painsound,
a pink crisp and blue crackle under
the warlock's conjuring bonefinger blur,
gasolined heat muffling voices that
drown in their wooden orchestral pit of
despair; the shriek of soundsputter
as he hammer-pulls an agony of souls
from the beast before lifting lambent
instrument over his head, high enough
to pick at the fiery wires on its neck
with the tines of his own metal teeth
“The Virtual Autopsy”
Sure, there are plenty of “virtual” body dissection and mutilation kits on the internet. But this one from the UK makes a serious challenge out of it. You cut up the limbs, you weigh the organs, you probe and poke and YOU get to choose the cause of death. Featuring real world case studies! It's like CSI for the common man and woman.
+ Several of my poetry books will be coming into print as the summer winds down. My publisher promises me that Freakcidents will be available within the next ninety days (probably less) and apologizes for all unforeseen delays. My new e-book, Sportuary, has been tentatively slotted for an August 15th release from Cyber Pulp. And the long-awaited Gorelets: Unpleasant Poetry series is destined for a late October publication from both Fairwood Press (print) and Double- Dragon Publishing (e-book with bonus section!).
+ Self help for the strange: Two weird “how-to” guides are now published and available for free online. A sad memoir of sorts, called “How to put a Cat to Sleep,” is at Literary Potpourri. And a much less depressing – but far more morbid – piece called “How to Grow a Man-Eating Plant” just went online at The Eternal Night. Follow the directions closely.
+ I was humbled by Ed Bryant's kind review of my Martha parody, Michael Arnzen's Dying, in a recent issue of Locus. He wrote: “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.” Yes – I like to saw people and make them cringe! It's a good thing. Dying is just $5.95+postage from Tachyon Publications; inquire via e-mail at email@example.com if the book isn't listed on the website at:
+ My fun game show parody, “Who Wants to be a Killionaire?” will appear on Horrorfind.com within the next month. Your final answer indeed. [Note that I'll also be attending the Horrorfind Weekend in August (my reading is on Sunday)].
+ The reason this issue is a teensy bit late is because I just wrapped up a week of intensive teaching in the MA in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University. If you're a writer of any genre and thinking about working toward an advanced degree, you might want to look at our web site:
Studies in Decomposition
“Each specimen at Skulls Unlimited International is carefully prepared with dermestid beetles, also known as carrion beetles…With over 25 years experience you can be confident that we will prepare your specimens worry- free without shrinkage of bone, teeth cracking, or falling out, softening of the bone or damage from over-boiling.” – skullcleaning.com
“The priest first made a small incision down on the left side of the abdomen. The organs were then removed through this aperture to be washed, salted, and bandaged in the same way as the rest of the body. The brain was removed through the nose. A metal probe and small chisel were used to break through to the cranial cavity through the nostril. A long, thin bronze hook was used to liquefy the brain so that it could be poured out through the nose.” – ukm.uio.no/utstillinger/mumien_lever/english.html
“Well-sealed caskets EXPLODE daily in mausoleums throughout the U.S., blowing the liquefied body parts out of the caskets – explosions so strong that they sometimes blow the heavy crypt fronts off the crypts, with the danger of killing persons who are in front of or below the crypts. Families need to be warned not to picnic beneath outdoor crypts, as families are frequently seen doing.” – funerals-ripoffs.org
Last issue, I mentioned that horror writer Tanya Twombly was conducting a survey of “Top Ten Fears” for her graduate research. Here are the overall results of 300 people surveyed:
1. Death of a family member
2. Living an insignificant life
4. Death/The Dark (tie)
7. Fatal car accident
8. Slow death/long illness
9. Being alone
10. Harm to a family member
Given the distance between #1 and #10, I conclude that we don't mind harming our family members to the brink of death so much.
It actually pays to scroll this far down.
NEW FICTIONWISE EXCLUSIVE
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Coupon Code: Arnzen2003 One time only. Expires 9/29.
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NEW HELLNOTES OFFER
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. Use the code GORELETS in your order by August 31. You can subscribe via Paypal (payable to JRohrig@aol.com); otherwise, check the website for more information:
FLESH AND BLOOD
Get all available back issues of Flesh & Blood magazine for 30% off and any of the F&B book titles for 35% off. Free shipping and handling on all purchases. Please send payment made out to Jack Fisher with a note mentioning the “Goreletter discount” to: Jack Fisher, 121 Joseph St., Bayville, NJ 08721 NOTE: Jack Fisher also has a new e-mail address, effective immediately: HorrorJackF@aol.com
DARK ANIMUS MAGAZINE One of the best new horror magazine's of the year – Dark Animus – will give you $3 off a postage paid subscription (from Australia). That means a year's worth of dread for only $15! DA contributors have included myself, Graham Masterton, Mark McLaughlin, Tim Curran, and others. You can begin your sub with back issues, too. To get your discount, include the phrase “goreletter” in your correspondence or the order form available at:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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“Our fear of death is like our fear that summer will be short, but when we have had our swing of pleasure, our fill of fruit, and our swelter of heat, we say we have had our day.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (died 1882)
* 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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