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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter
+++ Vol 1 #10, May 2, 2003 +++
Blather. Wince. Repeat.
The Energizer Zombie
It keeps mouldering and mouldering….
Don't laugh: the Energizer Bunny is very creepy. An uncanny automaton, it doesn't just “keep going and going” – it keeps rolling and rolling on legs that don't really move, banging and banging on a bass drum like a Viking ship slavedriver from hell, leering and leering through shades that hide any semblance of eyes as its head cocks from side to side, scanning for souls. It couldn't stop if it wanted to. It's keeps coming and coming to get you.
That stupid electronic animal is programmed to outlive us.
Once Energizer decided to have the same rabbit appearing in various contexts, doing the same thing across different commercial spots at different times of the year, the advertisers started something that they couldn't stop. Truth in advertising be damned, it's implied that that bunny has been relying on the same batteries to beat its drum for over thirteen years.
Thirteen. Scary number. Not just because of the numerology. Think about it. There are people in this world for whom the Energizer Bunny has been “going and going” their whole lives. They're all teens, true, but this is a TV generation that's coming of age. They have never known an Energizer battery without a bunny icon. And before they even had a pulse, the hare banged its drum like something supernatural. And as they grew up on Saturday morning cartoons and MTV, the bunny followed them from commercial spot to commercial spot. It even pops up today in the strangest of places – lately, it bubbles up in a liquid grey plastic cocoon that would have suffocated any real animal – pounding away for the Energizer brand's slick new E2 batteries.
E2 as in “Energizer II – Return of the Living Dead Bunny Clones.”
It's pink as cotton candy. Warm and fuzzy, like soft slippers. Don't be fooled. Every time it pauses, twirls its drumstick, and turns to face you, you better run.
Think about it: the Energizer Bunny is a killing machine. What other lesson do we learn from its hellish rampage as the other toys spill over and fall silent, their batteries drained to death? In the battery-operated universe, the Bunny doesn't just outlast others – it kills 'em all. Each Energizer ad is part of a continuing story that reminds us of survival of the fittest. And this god of the gizmos has eternal life. The bunny will never, ever die.
I suspect the Viagra people and impotence pharmaceutical researchers wish they would have thought of it first. After all, bunnies reproduce like crazy, too. Hugh Hefner used this subtle allusion to generate much profit and his “bunny” logo is as familiar to 13 year old boys as Energizer's.
Do you have the bunny inside?
Ahem. I'm not going there.
Okay. So the Energizer Bunny is really some sort of zombie pimp daddy on a rampage. And we still think its cute and loveable, even though it wears flip- flops and Ray Bans like something out of a Huey Lewis video.
Hmm…maybe it's not the bunny that scares me. Maybe it's the way the 80's never die.
They keep mouldering and mouldering…. –
[Osama, avert your eyes:
Transform a musical instrument into a device for torture.
A surgeon has secreted something inside a patient during a routine operation. The time has come to remove it. At any price.
Frustrate a suicide.
spots on my sleeves
like a fashion statement
when I peel off my shirt
the blood still seeps
plasma divots the skin
in bubbling puddles of flesh
I wear a splatter of scars
which deepen like slow bullets
and not even our death
can wipe the stains clean
A lot of news this time around regarding my “Instigation” prompts from The Goreletter.
Brian Rosenberger's poem, “Pests” – inspired by one of the prompts from Goreletter 1.8 – has been published in October Moon:
If you publish a piece based on my prompts, let me know and I'll report the news here! (Yes, that includes you, too, John Edward Lawson – who mentioned to me at World Horror Convention that he's written enough stories based on the prompts to publish a chapbook! Way to go! He also said working title for the collection is “Michael Arnzen Programmed Me To Kill”! (Very cool, J-Law. Now put away that pen and await your next order…))
Last issue's “Raw Meat” was weird enough to generate the lead “quotable quote” of the latest issue of Hellnotes newsletter. The pithy quote? “Anything dead that's colder than me is not to be trusted.”
Around the same time, I entered into negotiations with editor Judi Rohrig to syndicate my prompts in their fine publication. So if you aren't getting enough “Instigation” for your prurient imagination already, subscribe to Hellnotes and get 'em WEEKLY. You'll get much more out of it than just story stimulants. This self-billed “insider's guide to the horror field” is among the best newsletters in the horror trade for writers and other dark imagineers and I think it's worth every penny of the subscription:
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this newsletter was reviewed in the latest issue of my favorite Australian magazine of “pulp horror,” Dark Animus. The reviewer, James Wardlaw – author of the excellent “sequel” to Stoker's book, DRACUL: The Vampire Returns – celebrated the “cleverness and creativity” of The Goreletter and then singled out the “Instigation” department in a remarkably apt way: “It might be the catharsis you need; a little Ex-Lax for the mind.” Hah! (Hmm…what starts with “C” and rhymes with “instigation”?)
I've learned that there's even a flash fiction writer's group online at Zoetrope Studios (called “The Horror Library”) that's using the occasional prompt from The Goreletter in a horror “write-off.” Cool, R.J.!
All this creative response warms the debacles of my heart.
“Killers with Cameras”
For your next movie night, rent:
Peeping Tom (1960)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
15 Minutes (2001)
A twisted poetry version of Stephen King's “Needful Things” is how I think of Mark McLaughlin's latest chapbook, Professor LaGungo's Exotic Artifacts & Assorted Mystic Collectibles. Throughout the book, we're lead through a tour of 22 hilarious imaginary objects in a curio shoppe you'd never find when antiquing on this plane of existence. In the introductory poem, “Welcome, Stranger,” we're led into something like hell, where “all sorts of terrors and delights [are] in stock…everything is extraordinary. Even the front door is haunted.” Right off the bat, McLaughlin's got us trapped inside his fantasy world.
And the objects are lots of fun. This book is pure McLaughlin: light verse working dark material to generate both belly laughs and repulsion. Although the poetry borders on reshaped prose at many turns, the irrepressible McLaughlin's creativity is truly in overdrive in this collection. Just look at some of the titles, and you know you're in for a clever treat. In LaGungo's shoppe, you'll encounter everything from “Dental Floss Used by a Vampire” to “A Slice of Bacon from Queenie, The Dancing Pig” to “The Obligatory Haunted Mirror” and “The Deli Killer's Deadly Thingamabob.” There's even “Half a Jar of Hitler's Hair Slickum.” Just the titles are enough to bring a chuckle to your gullet if you share McLaughlin's gallows humor.
Like all curiosities, the fascinating histories and mysterious origins these objects harbor beckon us to spend more time with them. The poems are all framed as sales pitches, of sorts, by the imaginary narrator, LaGungo, who gives us the backstory of each strange artifact. The text pulls the reader into the absurdity of their histories through a very real and familiar situation: shopping. Yet the brilliance of this book is that it moves beyond the mundane bathos of commodity fetishism and instead plays off the inherent draw of the fantastic. Like all fantasy, LaGungo's mission is to get us to believe in the unbelievable, and marvel in wonder at the possibilities made material right before our very eyes. Unlike what you might find at the mall, here every object tells a compelling story – it doesn't matter if he's lying or dreaming or mad.
At the same time, McLaughlin's goal is also to prod you in the belly to tickle you with a claw while you peer over the rim of the fantastic. This book isn't as disturbing or horrific as some of his other books (such as The Gossamer Eye, which is on the final ballot for the Bram Stoker Award in poetry as I type this), but it is an excellent collection of comic dark fantasy by one the genre's most unique humorists.
Take, for example, “The Skull of Eugene Weiderhorn.” In this poem, LaGungo displays the skull of “the most evil man who ever lived” who “drank the dreaded guuku juice, which is even more wicked than absinthe – and what's more, he drank it straight from the guuku carton.” Brilliant!
Professor LaGungo's Exotic Artifacts & Assorted Mystic Collectibles is a quality chapbook with a nice cover image of the mad Professor himself by Chris Whitlow. A bargain at $5 plus postage from Flesh and Blood Press.
[Search for a coupon somewhere in this issue of The Goreletter!]
Actual Phrases Overheard or Spoken during World Horror Convention 2003
“Ebola Beer – yum.”
“I'm a were-virgin!”
“We all have swinging, kinetic things.”
“Who's editing the Spam Anthology?”
“Look! It's The Illustrated Ham!”
“I need a caffeine catheter.”
“You know the look – Gothscara?”
“You can put anyone's ear on a dead body; who'd ever notice?”
“The Mysterious Kabala”
In the category of cutely bizarre, this online “Magic 8 Ball” is based on an actual freaky game from 1967 that combines the Eye of Zohar with a Ouija board and the Tarot deck. Steven Intermill's flash adaptation of Kabala is fantastic; but he forgets to mention one minor instruction. You must chant “Pax, Sax, Sarax, Hola, Noa, Nostra…” before you play! Visit the Museum of Talking Boards for this game's history and more Linda Blair action, Cap'n Howdy!
[Requires the Macromedia Flash 5 Player – it will auto-install if you don't have it already (you probably do)].
+ I learned that I was officially promoted to the rank of “Associate Professor” at Seton Hill University on April 15, 2003. (Tax day. Ah, the brutal irony…)
+ “FREAKCIDENTS TRANSCENDS HORROR… What is so brilliant about this collection is how Arnzen uses literal outside descriptions of the freaks to describe the internal alienation and awkwardness of humans.” – Mike Purfield, B-Independent.com
Feel the fiend. Touch the terror. Caress the carnage. Go to DarkVesper Publishing and order Freakcidents:
+ Michael Arnzen's Dying (With No Apologies to Martha Stewart) is now available from Tachyon Publications. Visit Borderlands Books in San Francisco and pick it up along with all your favorite horror books. Shocklines will be listing it online soon, too:
+ Have you petted the “Gentle Monsters”?
+ My microfiction collection, 100 JOLTS, is complete and publishers are currently considering it. Two new pieces from that book will be available soon in the UK's cool horror website The Eternal Night:
+ A memoir about my relationship with the Amityville horror house appears in the slick print magazine, Morbid Curiosity this month (issue #7):
+ If you couldn't tell from my review in this issue, Mark McLaughlin is among the craftiest, wackiest, smartest, writers working in the horror genre. And his newest, greatest collection – Once Upon a Slime – is one of the must-read books of 2003. If you've got a sense of morbid humor, buy it. “Slime” features a collaboration between Mark & I (called “Throb”) along with Mark's “gross-out contest” winning stories from the annual World Horror Convention, and many classics of dark humor and Eldritch dread. With titles like “Dracula has Risen from the Sofa” you know you can't go wrong.
+ I'm proud to have a disgusting contribution to a book which hasn't been placed yet, but is bound to find a good publisher: SICK: An Anthology of Illness. It's packed with quality authors and the preview I saw at World Horror Convention knocked my socks off. I wouldn't mention it if I didn't think it has a bright (if phlegmatic) future. You can preview this grotesque collection online and salivate until it lands a publisher:
+ 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 sink cleaner, silly. It's a hardcover & e-book deal (now with a prize of $500!) from Double Dragon Publishing for the best book- length work entered in its genre:
Cat in a Bottle http://www.bonsaikitten.com
It's been my policy to not “trade links” with writers, but I've decided to launch a special list of “subscriber's pages” as a way of saying thanks for reading. So if you'd like a link to your personal website listed on gorelets.com, send me an e-mail request with your URL and I'll add you! (And naturally, I'd appreciate a link back to gorelets.com).
It actually pays to scroll this far down.
Shocklines.com is offering a HUGE savings on Ray Bradbury's collectable book, A Chapbook for Burnt-Out Priests, Rabbis and Ministers. Through June 1st, enter coupon code COREBRAD and get another $12.50 off the hardcover edition, which brings the price down to only $10 each!
You already know that Flesh and Blood magazine is one of the best horror has to offer. But have you seen their chapbooks? Because you're reading this, you have the opportunity to take 30% off any chapbook F&B Press publishes – including McLaughlin's Legungo, reviewed in this issue! – by mentioning “Goreletter discount” in the memo field of your check or in your online order via PayPal. Thirty percent! Visit:
Take 10% off the new hardcover book, Cemetery Poets, by visiting this hidden exclusive ordering page on my site:
Fictionwise.com's 15% off page for Goreleteers is updated weekly. This week features the ebook, OF FLESH AND HUNGER – an “extreme cannibal” anthology edited by that man I programmed to kill, John Edward Lawson. I'm in this one, too, with a short-short about, hmm, well, let's call it “spoon feeding.”
Are you a writer? Try Write Again manuscript organizing software and get a 10% rebate when you register if you tell them that Arnzen's newsletter sent you! A very practical product.
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