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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter

+++ Vol 1 #13, Aug 4, 2003 +++

Too Taboo for You


Before we descend into the usual madness, I'd like to brief you with a short update.

In September, The Goreletter will reach its first anniversary. In the name of superstition, I have decided that 13 issues a year will complete a volume. So in the future, issues are likely to come out every four weeks (with a break in June) instead of every three.

This issue features a contest open to all current subscribers (look for it in the “Snippets of the Strange” department). One reason for holding this is to thank you for reading. The other is to call attention to THE SICKOLODEON – a new “premium” content area on my website (, where you can plunk in a quarter or two and get a rare story, an offbeat interactive animation, or a helpful bundle of writing advice. I've joined such luminaries as the cartoonist Scott McCloud (author of Understanding Comics) and the Bat Boy musical troupe (yes – the icon from the Weekly World News) to beta test a cool new “micropayment” service called So if you're feeling charitable, visit the Sickolodeon, toss a few coins (literally) into my electronic hat, and test out BitPass. I see this as a fair way to help fund the free website and newsletter.

Thanks, as always, for subscribing. This newsletter has accomplished a lot in a year. I think I've only scared away five subscribers since beginning this thing, so I take that as a sign that the first year of The Goreletter has been a walloping success. It also received many Bram Stoker Award recommendations last year and has begun to receive them again this year. But it's the inspiration that means the most to me. Writing this newsletter keeps me on my toes, coming up with new offbeat material I wouldn't have written otherwise – some of which has gone on to be published elsewhere. A handful of subscribers have been “Instigated” into publication by it, too, and “slaying it forward” like that makes me very proud. I appreciate all of your feedback and many of the “Weird Web” sites you've recommended.

Keep it coming, folks. And keep your hands clean, too.

– Mike Arnzen,


Blather. Wince. Repeat.


There's only one good thing about the rating system that polices American film: it flags which movies are for kids. And that tells me which ones to avoid.

I think the whole ratings code ought to be inverted. I want to be “restricted” from ever having to watch the “Spy Kids” franchise, so I want those marked as “R.” And rather than rated R, anything having to do with the sex lives of teenagers should be PG-13 – pregnant at age 13. Indeed, I think “R” means “Restricted to those kids who know how easy it really is to sneak in, catch it on HBO, or rent it on video.

Although ratings were established by the Motion Picture Association in the interest of protecting kids from obscenity, it's been a marketing demographic more than anything else for the past twenty years. Ratings are a way of predicting who will likely be exposed to the advertisements before (and during) the film. I figured this out when I sat at Pirates of the Caribbean. All the trailers were for other Disney films and kiddie pics. This offends me. Just because I'm willing to get on one roller coaster in the amusement park of the mind, it doesn't mean I want to ride the tot train and the tea cup twirler, too.

There was a time when ratings meant something. “G” used to mean for “General Audiences.” It also has always meant, “Gee, isn't that cartoon elephant cute?” and “Gee, I wish I wouldn't have had four kids who make me take them to these godforsaken cartoons all the time.” There's nothing “general” about “G” films at all. They're certainly not “family” films. Indeed, they're the opposite: they're babysitting tools for when you need an escape from it.

“PG” is like the imaginary number. It never really existed.

“PG-13” used to mean “Parental Guidance Suggested for Children Under 13.” Now it means “films teenagers might put up with in the name of gallon drums of popcorn and soda.”

“R” means restricted, but what is restricted exactly is open to interpretation. If the children were totally restricted, then wouldn't it be NC-17? I think it really means “Restricted to the Waist Up” but I'm not really sure anymore.

I think “R” is the ideal rating for a horror film, by the way. If a horror movie isn't treading in taboo waters enough to make the rating board squeamish about the corruption of the youth, then it's probably not a horror movie to begin with. Take the Pirates of the Caribbean: edgy enough for Disney to get a PG-13 – way cool with scary images of undead pirates – but the horror was dulled by cutesy humor and sappy teen-level romance. I loved the film, don't get me wrong, but it could have easily been raised to the level of a >real< horror movie. The blood on the gold could have been more than just one drop spilled by one kind pirate. Imagine ALL of the zombie crew swarming over the treasure chest, tearing into the body with their sharp hungry hands….

But I digress.

What I am really concerned about is the NC-17 rating. I believe that all films should be rated this way – that way I won't have to listen to noisemakers in the theater anymore. But I know that it would never work. Because the NC-17 rating is flawed. If no children under seventeen are allowed into the theater, then what about the adults under seventeen? And isn't there something redundant about this awkward nomenclature? What ever happened to the U (of “U-nder 17”), anyway? All said, this ugly rating sounds more like a model number of the Starship Enterprise than an “adult” film label, and until I see some freaky alien sex action between Scotty and a time travelling empath in an NC-17 film, I'll not be satisfied.

In fact, I want the “X” rating to come back. Not because I'm a perv., but because I think the letter X just looks really cool on a movie poster. It says: “too taboo for you.” I remember seeing advertisements for Dawn of the Dead with the scarlet letter X branded on them. Nothing piqued my interest more – the X threatened me, instantly triggering my fear of the unknown. Horror film posters just haven't been as cool since. I think X should come back and kick NC-17 right out of the box office. Let it label the porn videos. Give the rest of us back our X.

Besides, a rating isn't necessary to flag porn, is it? I trust that anyone – even a child way under 17 – can guess a film's genre by its very title. Yes, even with those tricky porn puns on blockbuster cinema classics, like “Forest Bumps” or “The Codpiecefather” or “American Pie 2.”

Do ratings work? I used to think they might, until I realized that the ushers and ticket takers were themselves under 17. That's sort of like hiring a frat boy to check Ids at the bar – doesn't work. And the spread of home video makes the very concept of ratings moot anyway (since DVDs can release “unrated” versions in secondary markets). In fact, anything that a kid might pay $10 bucks to sneak into in the theater they could find on the internet anyway.

Kids have outgrown all this ratings stuff. It's probably parenting that needs to grow up. It's not about censorship or audience maturity or child development anymore: it's about target marketing and the best thing you can do is teach your child – if not also train yourself – to resist the onslaught of crass commercialism. So send them to adult films to subvert the whole economic system of big Hollywood.

Maybe a good horror movie for starters. Accompany them if it's rated R (like it should be). And then tickle them when the screaming starts.

I obviously don't understand the ratings and have given up on them. But to really learn more, go to the authorities:


Spam Radio

The Spam Letters

Spam Poetry I

Spam Poetry II

Cthulhu and the Spammer


+ Begin a story with the line, “It was when I died that….”

+ Write a piece featuring a skeleton and a dentist as primary characters (or as one in the same character).

+ Create a situation where one character explains a deeply disturbing town ritual to another.


“Exorcist Parodies”

For your next movie night, rent:
Hysterical (1983)
Repossessed (1990)
Scary Movie 2 (2001)

GORELETS: Unpleasant Poems

Strange Trout: A Microfiction

The freshwater fish flops on my fine china plate in a puddle of scaly gray water too hot to be pond scum. Slit at the belly and pried open in a fine fillet the trout still somehow manages to turn his silver eyeball up at me.

He thwats his bony white tail at my fork whenever I pierce his innards, spilling his steaming guts out all on his own. He is his own anchovy can key.

Meanwhile my cat impatiently waits at my feet, gently batting his own tail, curious about the strange new toy from which I feed him morsels to quench the anticipation clearly evident all over his drooling white skull.


“Meat or Accident?”

Disgusting. Hilarious. Brilliant! Play the game where you guess whether an image is “Meat or Accident” based on a partial glimpse of the larger photo. You'll be surprised how easy it is to confuse Chopped Ham with Chopped Hands.

This flash game (by the comedic Mantlepies group) is raw, not cooked, so be prepared for some graphic images. As the site itself explains, “There's a few images in this quiz that may offend sensitive, delicate or milky eyes, especially those of children” so consider this one rated R.


+ I'll be at the Horrorfind convention in Baltimore from Aug 15-17th. You're all invited to my fiction reading Sunday afternoon.

+ Take note sports fans: My new poetry e-book, Sportuary, should be available from CyberPulp Digital Paperbacks (exclusively in Adobe .pdf format) on August 15th. Cost? Just $3! Illustrated richly with new paintings by Marcia Borell, this book promises to be a lot of fun. Check out the preview page on, or go directly to CyberPulp for ordering.

+ Take a peek at the brand new webzine, Nerve Ending. NE not only published my weird story, “Limber”, but also got some great stuff from horror legends Monteleone, Spector, Silva, and Van Belkom all in their first issue!

+ Look for my story, “The Boblin,” in the new book SCARY! Holiday Tales to Make You Scream, edited by Paul Melniczek. This antho features thirty stories clustered around various holidays (mine is Halloween). You'll discover great writers in this book, like John Edward Lawson, Simon Wood, Sandy DeLuca, Nicole Thomas, Marc Sanchez, Kurt Newton, Jason Brannon…just too many to mention. The paperback will be out in September, but you can read it NOW in e-book form for just $4.99! Visit Double Dragon Publishing:

+ Tachyon Publications has fully updated their website and are ready to take orders for my Martha Stewart parody called Dying. Drop by to get a peak at the hilarious photo they uploaded (Arnzen in a chef's cap wielding some scary kitchen instruments). Or order through the front page and get a signed copy before I run out:

We're all still waiting for my book, Freakcidents, which has suffered numerous delays. I'm hopeful for a release soon. Pre-order it today at:



Strange Visitors

According to my web host, all but one of the following keyphrases were entered into internet search engines (like by strange people who subsequently “clicked through” the results to land on my site in the month of July:

“moldy refrigerator”
“i am in my casket”
“insane clown freaks”
“homepage with me naked”
“art worst fears”
“numb left nerves”
“knuckle piercing”
“naked cheese”
“crib death strategy”

I've only made up ONE of the twelve words in the list above. Can you guess which one? The 1st subscriber to e-mail me the correct phrase (pick only one) at will win a FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY of my Stoker-finalist poetry chapbook from 2001, Paratabloids >plus< a $5.00 gift certificate to enabled web media. The 2nd and 3rd correct submissions I receive will get $3 gift certificates to BitPass.

You only get one guess. You must be a subscriber to play. I will send out an announcement to the list once we have three winners and the contest will officially be closed.

If you somehow found your way to this newsletter by entering any of the above search phrases, well, shame on you, sicko.


INSTIGATED THIS MONTH by the Goreletter's writing prompts:

Ryan M. Williams “What Dragged the Cat In” published in Alien Skin Magazine:

Terry Leigh Relf “Cancer is a Demonic Pregnancy” published in Wordmaster Magazine:

Let's give these two a round of virtual applause by actually reading their stuff. And if you're a writer, too, I >challenge you< to respond to an Instigation prompt and get it published. Let me know if I've insigated you into a publication by e-mailing me the details and I'll publicize your work.

GOOD NEWS: The Goreletter has started receiving recommendations once again for the annual Bram Stoker Award. If you're an HWA member, I hope you'll send in your support to get it on the preliminary ballot in the “Alternative Forms” category.


It actually pays to scroll this far down.

NEW SHOCKLINES EXCLUSIVE! Get $5 off your preorder of a very important new book of horror poetry (coming out in October): The Devil's Wine, ed. by Tom Piccirilli. This hardcover limited edition from Cemetery Dance Books will feature dark verse by such notables as Stephen King, Peter Straub, Ray Bradbury, Brian Hodge, Steve Rasnic Tem, Ed Lee, and many more. Until Sept. 1st, visit and if you enter coupon code GOREDEVIL when you check out, you'll get $5 off this exclusive edition – which has the extra bonus of being SIGNED by Tom Piccirilli and Jack Ketchum!

FICTIONWISE ARNZEN EXCLUSIVE Enter the info below at check out and receive 20% off any Arnzen e-books in your shopping cart at

Coupon Code: Arnzen2003 One time only. Expires 9/29.

Otherwise, continue to shop for e- books at this special 15% off page for Goreletter subscribers, which is updated weekly:

HELLNOTES: INSIDER HORROR 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. If you like the Instigation prompts, Hellnotes features three new ones every week! Use the code GORELETS in your order by August 31. You can subscribe via PayPal (payable to; otherwise, check their official website for more information:

FLESH AND BLOOD PRESS 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 this discount to: Jack Fisher, 121 Joseph St., Bayville, NJ 08721

DARK ANIMUS MAGAZINE Get 20% off an annual subscription to Dark Animus – just $20/year! DA contributors have included Graham Masterton, Mark McLaughlin, Tim Curran, and even I have fiction in the latest issue (#4). DA is one of those magazines that has a lot of care put into every page – a great example of the small press at its best. To get your discount on a subscription, include the phrase “goreletter” in your correspondence or in the order form available at:

CEMETERY POETS: DYING SOON Take 10% off the great hardcover book, Cemetery Poets, by visiting this hidden exclusive ordering page. This offer will end in the next issue:


All material in The Goreletter is: © 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

This newsletter is formatted in one skinny column to accommodate handheld computer users. If you own a PDA, try The Goreletter as a free Mazingo channel at:

Subscribe, unsubscribe, and shout out about The Goreletter at:

Our surrealist product endorsement:


“Man is the only animal that can remain on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them.” – Samuel Butler (died 1902)

* 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/too_taboo_for_you.txt · Last modified: 2013/11/29 11:35 by marnzen

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