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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter

+++ Vol. 3.02, May 05, 2005 +++

The Birds are Fowl


Blather. Wince. Repeat.

Excerpts from a Psycho Bird Watcher's Notebook

+ Bird seed will not grow into birds no matter how much you water it.

+ If the early bird gets the worm, then that means the lazy worms who just sleep in every day are the ones left running the show.

+ I hear that God watches over us through the eyes of little birds. I suspect God also pecks our eyes out through the beaks of little birds, too.

+ Why do birds settle for the whimsical birdhouse, when the big kahuna is often right next door? Are they “bird-brained” or just modest?

+ Birds will fly directly into large windows and brain themselves if you don't use curtains. I like to trick them by taking out the pane of glass entirely and letting them in. Then I might swoop down from above with my frying pan, or throw the cat in the air from below and see what happens.

+ Man wishes he had wings so he could fly. Bird wishes he had hands so he could fly a plane, instead.

+ If the woodpeckers organized, we'd really be screwed.

+ Why do people panic when a bird gets free inside the house and flutters about? The house IS the cage!

+ Birds twitter and tweet at each other in some stupid sort of Morse code that has only three or four letters. This explains their curious look when they gather on phone lines.

+ If birds ate enough seed, in theory they could kill off the very plant kingdom that produces the seed in the first place. Are they aware of this?

+ Ostriches and other tall-standing birds that walk on two feet creep me out because they look too much like muppets made flesh.

+ Birds pivot and snap their heads to and fro instead of rolling their eyes. Beyond their little leathery talons and sharp little beaks, this is what truly makes them monstrous.

+ I can understand why birds fly south for winter, but I really don't get why they come back. And you'd think hunting season would give them a clue.

+ The world is the bird's toilet. They're kind of like children that way.

+ Some birds, predators like the hawk, eat other birds. They're cannibals, I suppose, but they're also just like us.


The Zoomquilt

You may have already seen this one, but if not, you're in for a treat. This collaborative art project is mesmerizing as you fly through a surreal tunnel of cascading bizarre art. For some reason I was reminded of The Phantom Tollbooth as I scrolled through its infinite recesses, but I can't explain why. (The “flash” version is best…check it out!).

[Thanks to Judi Rohrig for mentioning this one.]


Last issue I sponsored the “Mash Your Own Monster” contest, which asked subscribers to put any two horror icons together to create a “monster mash” of their own, with a brief synopsis of the movie's mayhem. Points went out for originality in the pairing, a Gorelets-flavored sense of humor, and a general appeal to my sense of “I'd love to see them pull off THAT!” The top three prize-winning entrants will appear at the very end of the entries below. Enjoy the madness! And thanks to all who sent me their inventive ideas – all of them sounded hilarious and far more entertaining than what we've been seeing on the silver scream lately. [Note: I had to edit a few entries to make sure this newsletter doesn't get snagged up in spam or censor filters; otherwise, these wacky plot descriptions appear as submitted and needless to say only reflect the twisted viewpoint of their creators alone.]

Trump progressively fires the classic monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula as he realizes that none of them can even match his comb-over in horribleness. Finally Trump decides to bring in surprise ringer Martha Stewart as the winner of his reality TV show prize – running for Vice President supporting Jeb Bush on the Republican 2008 ticket. – David Howell

Come and get your memories sucked out by Dr Eegor. Lose all the memories of those crappy dates and moments with the ex-wife. – Doug Arnold

Tagline: In space, no one can hear you phone home. Synopsis: The lovable alien from Spielberg's blockbuster is back, and he's being hunted for his cute little skull by everyone's favorite gang of interstellar sportsmen. Ouch! Drew Barrymore will reprise the role that made her famous, but this time she'll bare her ta-tas. Predators will ride flying bikes while eating Reese's Pieces. Plus, it's a musical. With an*l s*x. – J.A. Konrath

JOHN DOE (from Se7en) vs. PATRICK BATEMAN (from American Psycho)
John Doe: “We live in a world of sh*t and garbage. There is a deadly sin of every corner, in every magazine, on every TV station. The more grotesquely outrageous a sin, the higher the paycheck they receive. We applaud stupidity and banality, while shunning any and all forms of creative thought. We pay illiterate athletes millions of dollars to play school yard games, while begrudge teachers and police officers cost-of-living raises. Only in a world this sad and pathetic could one … (sees Patrick Bateman approaching, with an axe in his hand) Is that a raincoat?” Patrick Bateman: “Yes it is.” SPLAT! – Ward Mallon

ASH vs. LEATHERFACE: A Yuletide Battle
Three hands a-swingin', two chainsaws a-buzzin', and a partridge in a pear tree. – Aurelio Rico Lopez III

In this new Japanese black-and-white retro classic, who will consume whom? The winner will appear on The Iron Chef! Stay tuned for what's on the menu. – Terrie Leigh Relf

The Lost Boys wind up in the land of Romero and this necropolis is strictly SRO (Stiff Rotting Occupants). It's not about turf. It's not about immortality. It's about marketing. And best of all, everybody dies. Talk about spoilers. – Brian Rosenberger

Ever wonder what the mummy keeps under wraps? Wonder no more. Watch Edward Scissorhands cut through the tape. Or will he be cursed to cut off his own head instead? See a new classic battle coming soon to a theater near you. It'll tear you up. – Karen L. Newman

PUMPKINHEAD vs. THE CREEPER (from Jeepers Creeper): Vengeance in the Heartland
Pumpkinhead is resurrected by a vengeful love one after the Creeper kills for another body part, yet to Pumpkinhead's surprise, Pumpkinhead also has a part the Creeper wants to make its own. – Justin Orman Thompson

NIXON (from Oliver Stone's Nixon) vs. THE POD PEOPLE (from Invasion of the Body Snatchers)
Thrill to the adventures of the man whose blood-red horrors range from opening the west to “the Red Chinese” to pursuing The Pink Lady Helen Gahagan Douglas as he battles those Creatures of Conformity, the Pod People! Tricky Dick is resurrected from the grave by a secret cabal of both Blue and (!) Red Staters who, using a magical length of recording tape, send him on a bloody path of pupae-squishing destruction against the conformist-creating podoids…only WHO are the unquestioning pod people siding with – the Evangelicals or The Americans Are Always Evil-ers? – John S. Walsh

The two infamous hackers battle it out, each one seeking to cash in on the young college coed's favors before hacking her to pieces. They each discover that they aren't alone in their temptations and end up in a slash and bash battle to the death. Of course, the coed claims the trophies: the heads of each of her would be suitors. – James C. Wardlaw

Transylvania invades Pennsylvania Avenue when Blacula and the Blackenstein Monster masquerade as the Bush twins and wreak havoc at the Inaugural Ball. Which monster will end up in the oval office? – Steve Verge

JASON vs. THE KILLER TOMATOES (a.k.a. FRIDAY THE 13th part 16)
After developing serial killing dyslexia and hooking up with a cute (but partially blind) plastic surgeon named Nancy, Jason Vorhees lands a job in Jersey City at a local pizzeria after his face is brought back to a normal look. But his old habit returns when a crate of tomatoes (to be used for sauce) come alive and slaughter everyone in the kitchen…everyone, except for Jason. It's machete versus a legion of possessed produce in this future, blood and pulp-drenched midnight classic. – Nick Cato (3rd Place!)

Can chocolate soothe the savage mom? When Charlie dumped her after finding a Golden Ticket and subsequently inheriting Willie Wonka's factory, Nola went mad. Now she sits in Somafree birthing an army of rage in the form of small ski-jacket clad demons. Will the Oompa Loompas be able to defend Charlie's Chocolate Factory from The Brood? – Stephen M. Wilson (2nd Place!)

Tagline: “Man Is The Warmest Place To Hide Jelly Filling” Synopsis: After picking up the survivors of the Antarctic Research Station, the expeditionary team from a submarine crew is infected by The Thing and taken over in the first act. On the way back to the sub, they discover a packing crate containing the frozen remains of the Blob, and eat it. Hilarity (and perhaps romance?) ensues. Cast: Keith David, Chuck Heston, Steve and/or Butterfly McQueen, Brian Keene, George Kennedy, Noble Squirrel, & Tara Reid as the Blob. – Cody Goodfellow (1st Place!)

The top prize goes to CODY GOODFELLOW for his ingenious goopfest, “Thingamablob.” Cody gets a $10 BitPass gift card, a signed cover flat from Grave Markings (1994) and an autographed copy of Fluid Mosaic. I'll never eat a jelly donut the same way again. In 2nd Place: STEPHEN M. WILSON, who receives a $5 BitPass gift card and a signed cover flat from Grave Markings, but I'm keeping the Golden Ticket for myself. In a close 3rd Place: NICK CATO who's getting a $3 BitPass gift card to spend on as much online pizza as he likes. Honorable mention goes to Joe Konrath, who always cracks me up, and to everyone else for sending in some knock-out film premises. Hollywood, you just got served!

GORELETS: Unpleasant Poems


the demonic butcher
asked me how I liked
it sliced as he hefted
the dripping live squealer
out from the rotisserie
with his carbuncular carving
hooves and I noticed it was
pregnant when I answered
paper-thin, please, paper-thin


Creative Oppositions

+ Imagine an awful way to die. Now physically turn the victim upside-down. Write.

+ Describe a notorious painful experience (root canal, etc.) from the viewpoint of a character who finds it pleasurable.

+ Choose a common horror icon or trope. Put the word “Anti-” in front of it. Consider that your title. See what turns up.

Instigation is a WEEKLY department in Hellnotes newsletter: You can also buy collections of prompts for chump change at The Sickolodeon: If you publish or post something instigated by this department, let me know at and I'll mention it here!


I'm excited to announce that my book 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories is a finalist for the 2004 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection. This means that the Horror Writer's Association puts the book in the top five collections of the year, alongside such great books (that everyone should read) as The Machinery of Night by Douglas Clegg, Demonized by Christopher Fowler, Fears Unnamed by Tim Lebbon, and Fearful Symmetries by Thomas F. Monteleone.

Also worth celebrating: the very document you're reading now – The Goreletter – is a finalist for the Stoker in the Alternative Forms category. Sure, we won it last year, but being recognized once again means I must still be doing something right with this thing. I'm also very happy to see the weekly e-journal, Hellnotes, on the short-list for the award in Non-Fiction – my column in that newsletter, “Instigation,” is a spin-off of the same Instigation prompts I publish here.

Needless to say, I'm extremely honored – and humbled – by this recognition from my colleagues in the Horror Writers Association. The Stokers are arguably the highest accolade in the horror writing community. Other writers up for this year's award who I haven't mentioned include Stephen King, Peter Straub, Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Laimo, Gary Braunbeck, Mark McLaughlin, Andy Duncan, and…well, far too many other great writers to type, but let me just say I admire them all and the competition is so fierce that I'll be very LUCKY if I happen to win anything. But it isn't really a competition. Being short-listed for the award is an award in itself, and I'm very proud. Thanks, HWA!

At World Horror Convention last month, the “model” for the forthcoming sculpture-bound special edition (a.k.a. “Grim Grimoire”) of my novel, Play Dead, was displayed at the Raw Dog Screaming Press table. (You can see a photo at the link below. The resemblance is uncanny…hah!) The book is crafted to look like an evil Ace of Spades, with ruby eyes that follow you everywhere, and a realistic maw with actual teeth in its snapping little mouth. 54 copies of this book will be manufactured for the collector's market this Fall. Price is still TBA, but the regular hardcover edition is set at $27 and available for preorder at and Play Dead will be printed this August. I just proofed the dustjacket and it looks phenomenal. If you want to read the first chapter, it's up in the “Reading Room” at the Horror Fiction News Network.

Grimoire Photos:
Shocklines Preorder:
Project Pulp Preorder:
Play Dead excerpt:

This weekend, I'm signing copies of Freakcidents to ship back to Shocklines Press. Freakcidents (think “Freak Accidents”) is a collection of very twisted poetry featuring freaks, mutants, morons and sideshow splattractions. Come one, come all – see the amazing “Needle Baby” or the frightening “Spiderboy”; feast your eyes on the incredible “Human Scab” or the man who can swallow himself whole! Wonderfully illustrated by GAK, who really knows how to do the freak. This is a signed/numbered limited edition. Softcover is $9.95; hardcover is $50. Learn more at, where you can pre-order the book (you won't be charged until it ships).

I'm happy to announce that my next poetry chapbook – Rigormarole and other Zombie Poems – will be released later this year by Naked Snake Press. Tom Piccirilli, author of November Mourns and A Choir of Ill Children, writes: “Reanimated flesh, cannibalism, brain succotash…the stuff that great poetry is made of! Mike Arnzen fuses humor and gore with a poetic sensibility to create his own fun subgenre! Come in and take a bite!” An exciting celebrity guest artist – who happens to be a writer you'll probably recognize – is likely to contribute his vision to the book. This should be a LOT of quirky fun, and I look forward to announcing more about it here. Look for Rigormarole to see print around the end of the summer. I read some excerpts from the book at the “poetry jam” at World Horror Convention last month. If you weren't there and want a sampling of its flavor, pick up the latest issue (#7) of Bare Bone magazine, hot off the press, which includes my poem, “How the Zombie Holocaust Changed the Holiday Shopping Season” – or Dreams & Nightmares issue #72, which will include “Those Who Landed, Surprised to Discover that Zombies Had Taken Over the Planet.”

Naked Snake:
Bare Bone:
Dreams & Nightmares:

Horror-Web has started an open “Q&A with Michael Arnzen” on their discussion board for this week. My neck is on the chopping block, and already getting hacked to pieces. I'll be popping in from time to time answering questions. Feel free to drop by, but act soon. Other great authors doing interviews currently include Kealan Patrick Burke, James Moore, Brian Knight, Jeff Strand…more!

Horror-Web Boards:

My publisher for Play Dead, Raw Dog Screaming Press, sponsored a fantastic poker tournament for charity at World Horror Convention in NYC last month. I've posted coverage of the event on the Goreletter weblog. Congratulations to winners F. Paul Wilson, Valerie Thorpe, Jeremy Robert Johnson, and Thomas Monteleone. They played a wicked game and won about $1500 smackeroos for charity! (I came in 9th out of twenty players, going all in on an amazing straight but getting beat by a lucky turn on the river that gave Wilson a flush).

I'm running a little late with this issue, but there's lots to catch up on. Mark McLaughlin and I just sold a story we wrote together, called “Help Yourself,” to Cemetery Dance magazine. It will probably be out early next year. I just finished up an interview with Dark Discoveries magazine, which should be out this summer (see “Boo Coupons” below for a discount). I've also placed poems at Kopfhalter magazine and Mythic Delirium. You can now pick up the the small press anthology, Flashshot: Year One, from by GW Thomas' new Rage Machine imprint, which features ten short-shorts I contributed to the digest (most of which appear in 100 Jolts). An essay about the unexpected results of teaching horror in college, called “Grossing Out Teacher,” will appear later this month in The Broadsheet online.

Cemetery Dance:

Dark Discoveries:


Mythic Delirium:


The Broadsheet:


Worthy Causes

Saving Graves

Traffic Cone Preservation Society

Ripper Preservation


Inhuman Magazine (#2)

Allen Koszowski's new magazine, Inhuman, is all about one thing: the art of monstrosity. Its theme is the “inhuman” – the monstrous – and every story in the digest is a good old-fashioned monster story to the core. I say “good old-fashioned” because there's a nostalgic undercurrent to the magazine's approach that really sent me right back to the days when I would watch Creature Features on Saturday afternoon television. But that doesn't mean that the writing isn't fresh, original, or modern – indeed, Inhuman entertains while it also manages to call into question what it means to be human, from a variety of angles. It purposely avoids the trappings of the psycho killer story or the extremes of splat-for-splat's sake. In fact, its strong editorial focus on monsters is what amazes me about the magazine: it's admirably fresh while also remaining true to the entertainment value of a good monster story, and it's clear-cut focus gives the magazine a refreshingly assured identity, compared to a lot of other magazines that seem to make it all up as they go along. I know that any issue of Inhuman that I open up will fulfill its promise to return me to the thrill and wonderment of horror, by virtue of the monsters at its core.

Tightening its thematic bond is the supremely talented artwork, ALL of which is not only monster-centric, but also aesthetically centered on the traditional pen-and-ink craftsmanship of the illustrious editor, Allen K. himself. You don't have to read a lot of horror magazines to recognize his style: prolifically appearing all over the scene since 1973, Allen Koszowski has been virtually everywhere in the genre press, from Cemetery Dance to Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine to Weird Tales. I see his signature style in any number of collectable horror books I've got on my shelves, and even in many of the underground magazines I myself appeared in long ago. You can recognize his craftsmanship the instant you see the ominous stippling, the brash lines, the cinematic realism bent into surreal extremities. No one conjures creatures from a bottle of india ink like Allen K. and rare is the artist who can pull off a magazine like this, featuring entirely his own artwork alone. But Allen K. makes it not only look easy, but natural. Inhuman reads like an illuminated art portfolio without the trappings of an artist's narcissism; paging through it to see what he's exploring through his art nowadays is half the joy of reading the magazine. And the synergy between the stories and his illustrations is nothing short of brilliant. For you see, he's not only a master of horrifying pen-and-ink drawings of monsters…backed by years of experience, he's a master of capturing a story's mood and essence by illustrating a key object, character, or scene from the story world. He brings to life a lot of the monsters that are lurking inside the stories themselves.

And the stories Allen K. is publishing are all wonderful. You can tell how well-read this artist and his assistant editors are in the genre; the authors they choose are excellent examples of the best working in horror today (and in year's past). I already mentioned the magazine's nostalgic longing for classic monster stories, and Inhuman actually reprints vintage tales in the genre – often contemporary classics that deserve another look. In issue #2, Joe R. Lansdale's “Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man's Back” is presented alongside a simply awesome art piece by Allen K. that brings Lansdale's post-nuclear “flowers” to life in an uncanny way. The story definitely stands the test of time and like many of Lansdale's pieces it is a must-read. Also reprinted in this issue are wonderful stories by Ramsey Campbell, Thomas F. Monteleone, and Brain Lumley – a few of which I'd missed and was very happy to have had the chance to read. The illustration for Lumley's “The Spider in the Bathtub” is so striking that I would love to have a blown-up giant poster made out of it and put up on my bathroom wall. The original monster fiction in the magazine is also superb, and I was particularly struck by Elizabeth Massie's masterfully bizarre doppelganger story, “Donald Meets Arnold,” which does an expert job of making the protagonist's hilarious eccentricity completely unlikable so we'll root for the justice to come when his uncanny and monstrous “alterego” comes to life. Allen K's accompanying art for this story is surrealistically gruesome – and pulls you right into the story so you'll want to understand it. Also appearing in this issue with new tales involving everything from alien aberrations to tentacled terrors by Shikhar Dixit, Michael Laimo, Tim Curran, Don D'Ammassa and C.J. Henderson. All of them are entertaining and, well, scary! The magazine is rounded out nicely with film reviews, poetry, and essays on the genre.

Finally, it's worth noting that Inhuman attempts to do what is virtually impossible in today's horror genre: keep the content friendly for young readers, without lowering the psychological and literary depth of the stories. While the violence factor is high, sexuality is kept to a minimum and offensive language is virtually absent. This is a conscious choice, as Allen K makes clear in his introduction to issue #2, since the Lansdale story made him contemplate the matter of what's worth censoring and what's not. I applaud Allen K's integrity on this issue; monster stories are naturally appealing to the youth, and it just makes good sense to appease parents in order to show the next generation just how good horror can be. I know that a lot of my early love of the genre came from reading magazines that teetered somewhere between a PG and R rating when I was young. I only wish there had been a magazine like Inhuman around. Thankfully, there is now. And it's no kiddie mag. Inhuman is highly recommended to anyone, young and old, who enjoys monsters, dark art, and the best fiction in the genre.

Allen K's Inhuman is a digest-sized, perfect bound magazine, with full color cover and b/w interiors. Nothing short of a bargain at $6.95 a copy. Pick up a copy through or browse around on the publisher's website at Die Monster Die Publishing.


Nicolas UnCaged

For your next movie night, rent:
Vampire's Kiss (1989)
Wild at Heart (1990)
Kiss of Death (1995)


It actually pays to scroll this far down.

There's still time to get a discount on Steve Vernon's wacky Long Horn, Big Shaggy (reviewed last issue) for all Goreletter subscribers. Until May 10th, visit and enter coupon code GORESHAG when you check out, to stake your claim.

The publisher of my chapbook, Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems, has three great new deals for you. Subscribe to their magazine, Talebones, and get a free issue (either a back issue, or the first issue of the subscription – your choice). Order Tom Piccirilli's great new limited hardcover poetry collection, Waiting My Turn to Go Under the Knife – normally $27.95 – for just $20.96, postage paid (that's a 25% discount)! Or buy any other Fairwood Press product (like, say, the Gorelets chapbook) and get a free issue of Talebones. I don't believe you'll find an offer this good anywhere else. Take advantage of it asap! To claim your discount, mention the code “GORELETTER” when you pay thru (to: or or on the check you send in the mail to: Patrick Swenson, c/o Fairwood Press, 5203 Quincy Ave SE, Auburn, WA 98092. You won't be disappointed. For the full catalogue, visit:

Get all available back issues of Flesh & Blood magazine for 20% 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 NEW web address:

Dark Discoveries magazine is offering an exclusive discount to all Goreletter subscribers. Save 25% on subscriptions or single copies. That's 4 issues for $14.99 or single issues for $4.50 instead of $5.99 (shipping is free!). You can pay thru PayPal (to: ) or see the publisher's website for details on where to send a snail mail payment. Use code GOREDISC in your order to claim the coupon.


All material in The Goreletter is © 2005 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

Winner of the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Alternative Forms from the Horror Writers Association:

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Got Sanity?

“I am interested in madness. I believe it is the biggest thing in the human race, and the most constant. How do you take away from a man his madness without also taking away his identity?” – William Saroyan (died 1981)

* 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
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