Thursday, May 27, 2010
Basically, David W. Barbee knows the scene.
Carnageland was released as part of the Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Author Series. I remember picking up all the books in the series and plowed through each in one sitting. When I opened "Carnageland", I remember thinking (only a few pages in) to myself, "What the hell am I reading?"
There's not too much to the book. I felt bad saying so to David upon completing it. What I would take as an insult, David just takes as a compliment. I told him the character development was lacking, there's a repetitiveness to the action, and the story is so simplistic. Barbee just laughs. He knows that we don't stumble to a Michael Bay movie for character development or a James Cameron movie for it's complex layers. We go into it for an orgy of explosions, special effect, and "shiny" things.
Once I realized this and made this connection, I got it. The repetitiveness is appropriate - it reads like a video game, which it sort of is. Each chapter, or level, increases the peril and challenge. Invader 898, the star, has to battle tougher bosses to make it to the end. In that respect, "Carnageland" is really quite brilliant.
Since the summer blockbuster is upon us, I bring you an interview with David W. Barbee. Enjoy.
Eric Mays: David Barbee, author of "Carnageland", are you an alien, because you seem to have a solid grasp on the true intentions behind extraterrestrial actions?
David W. Barbee: Haha, I’m not an alien, though most of the time I feel like one. Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m normal or weird. Maybe I’m normally weird. Or weirdly normal. When the aliens get here and enslave humanity, they’ll figure it out for me. No worries.
EM: Why won't the aliens hurry up and get here already?
DWB: Stephen Hawking recently said that we earthlings better hope that the aliens DON’T hurry up and get here. The human race is about as fucked up as a football bat. We can hardly deal with our own problems, much less dealing with contact with another species. We’ve seen what happens when two cultures meet. Sure it’s historic, but it’s not long before one culture offends the other and things get nasty. Humans just aren’t ready for that step, but we have a healthy fascination with the subject of space and aliens, so maybe one day we’ll evolve to that level.
EM: Your book reads like a video game. Seriously. It's all non-stop action, and each chapter reads like the next "harder" level in a video game. Are you a gamer? Any intentions of taking 898's adventures to the Playstation?
DWB: I love video games, but I’m not a gamer. Many of my friends are, though, and they’ve turned me onto great games like ”Bioshock” and “God of War” and other stuff that’s just amazing. I definitely consider video games an influence on my writing. In fact, 898 started out as a video game idea. Some friends were trying to start a gaming company and they told me to come up with an idea that they could turn into a game. I came up with something that would’ve been similar to “Alien Hominid,” which was another game shown to me by friends. The guys’ gaming company didn’t get very far, but my idea stuck with me. I expanded it into a story and eventually it became Carnageland. I still think 898’s adventures would make a pretty good video game.
EM: Prior to this book you self-published two books. I've had the pleasure of reading them and really grooved on "The Superior", which is my kind of superhero book. It reads like someone's a "Watchmen" fanboy. Will these two books ever see the light of a book shelf again?
DWB: I grew up on comics, so they’re my primary source of inspiration. The Superior was sort of my tribute to all the stuff I love about the superhero genre. My other self-published book, Butcherface, was pretty good for what it was. I just have so many other good ideas that I want to make into books for the future. I’d definitely rerelease Butcherface for free one day. Hell, I might rewrite the Superior one day to make it even more insane. But for now, I have plenty of good ideas in my head and I really want to prove myself as a writer of bizarro.
EM: Most writers tend to write the stuff that they like. That said, I'm assuming you're very into ultra-violence and brain-numbing action scenes. Would that be fair?
DWB: Oh yeah. Some of the first advice I was given was to write what you like. And I LOVE violence. Sex too. Sex and violence are simultaneously natural and gruesome, and I love finding the beauty in ugly things. A guy getting his head sliced off can actually be a very beautiful scene despite the ugliness and gore. That’s just how I look at sex and violence in life. It’s the same as breathing and sleeping, just WAY more interesting and with far bigger implications. But that’s coming from a grown man who still loves comic books and cartoons.
EM: I think your book gave me A-D-D, David. Have any of your fans written to you to tell you that they now have A-D-D thanks to your book, "Carnageland"?
DWB: Carnageland can now be attributed to restless leg syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, bird flu, schizophrenia, morbid obesity, hypertension, syphilis, foot fungus, and port-wine stain. On a good note, Carnageland will also increase the size of your penis, guaranteed.
EM: When "Carnageland" is flipped into a feature film (probably produced by Michael Bay and slapped next to a crappy Brendan Fraser movie and Tranformers 7), who do you want to play 898?
DWB: I say we bring Billy Barty back from the dead, strip him naked, paint him green, shove a Doomshooter in his hands and a gram of speed up his nose. Whatever comes next is just meant to be.
EM: Do you still play with toys? See, it's that damn A-D-D, man. Sorry about the non-sequitar.
DWB: YES. When I was a kid, I was like Sid from Toy Story. I had tons of Ninja Turtle and X-Men toys that I took apart and reconstructed into characters and monsters of my own design. I’ve recently gotten back into it to promote Carnageland. People really like a custom made alien action figure with their book, and I like making new and useful things from my childhood junk. In recent years I’ve bought action figures just for shelf porn. My favorite one is my zombie Captain America.
EM: You live in Georgia, right? I heard that you guys got snow. Having gone to school in Georgia, I know that the state is not known for frozen precipitation. In fact, there's a Southern Baptist minister that consistently claims that snow in Georgia is one of the thirteen signs of the coming Apocalypse (sandwiched between men giving birth and chickens walking backwards). Do you contribute this phenomenon to your "sin-filled" book?
DWB: It doesn’t take much to make Southerners freak out. We’re extremely tough, yet easily threatened, so it’s not surprising that a little snow makes us lose our shit. But that’s the South for ya. I have a real love/hate relationship with the South. It’s the only home I know but sometimes it makes you want to gnaw your foot off to escape. I really want to write a southern gothic bizarro story one day. “A Town Called Suckhole” would be the title.
EM: Okay, I've got to ask, did Pixar studios sue you yet? Or are they in awe that you "manned-up" their aliens from "Toy Story"?
DWB: I couldn’t resist putting “The Claw” in the Impire world. I mean, what would little green alien men be like? I thought about that a lot while working on Carnageland and I came to this conclusion: Even if they’re soulless fascists, little green aliens are just so damned cute. As for Pixar, I know that Impire is threatening Earth with global extermination if they release Cars 2. So for the entire planet’s sake, don’t watch Cars 2, folks. It’s just a bunch of talking cars! Big effing deal!
EM: So, what's next, Mr. Barbee? Are we revisiting Inpire, Inc.? Anymore 898 adventures? I hear you're working on a comic book.
DWB: Yeah, I’m working on forming a comic strip with Jordan Krall called “CRISKEN”. It’ll be the sickest, weirdest, most bizarro comic strip ever. Jordan’s writing it and I’m drawing it, so everyone keep your eyes peeled for that one. Other than that, I’ve been promoting Carnageland and bizarro in general. I truly believe that bizarro is going to take the world by storm sooner or later. It’s building a lot more momentum and everyone on the scene is really passionate about it. There was a time when no one thought comic books would ever be mainstream and look at them now. Pop culture seems primed for something that’s not only weird, but definitively weird.
EM: Lastly, are there any warnings you'd care to issue to readers who have not experienced "Carnageland"?
DWB: Folks, if you like video games, cartoons, comic books, and movies, why not read a book? And if you’re gonna read a book, why not my book? Okay, seriously: I want to thank everyone who’s already bought Carnageland and done things like telling their friends about it and reviewing it on Amazon. More than anything I want to write stories that takes all the cool stuff we all love and mashes them together to create something bigger and grander than anything that’s come before. At the end of the day I’m just a fan who writes the stuff he wants to see, so I do my absolute best to not disappoint. I want my audience to get the most bang for their buck with my stories. When you buy my book, you’ve just signed a contract to be entertained, and it’s my job to uphold my end of that contract.
EM: Thank you for your time.
DWB: You owe me a steak dinner now.
So there you have it. The great David W. Barbee. The guy really clings to youthful folly. In fact, it seems that he's even working a very cool promotion over at his website, http://davidwbarbee.wordpress.com/. We've also got a Barbee promo cooking, which you can find here: http://www.theauthorsspeak.com/2010/05/free-stuff-two-excellent-promotions.html. Although it's ADD, and it's certainly not for every living soul, "Carnageland" is a great read. Plus, it seems rather appropriate for the summertime season.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Being a Choose Your Own Adventure book, this thing has endless possibilities. I thought I was a master decision maker, but Jesus, I died a lot. Maybe that's the poor side of placing myself in a city attacked by Super Giant Monsters.
This is pure FUN. If you're looking for soul-searching emotion, sweeping romantical scenes, serious character-development you won't find it. If you're searching for those things, I challenge you to load the mouth with Pop Rocks, kick your adult worrisome behavior to the curb, and remember what it's like to be a kid. You can be an adult AND have the fun you once had. If you're looking for a coaster ride that is considerable fun. Then pick it up!
Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Eraserhead Press, and fearless leader, publisher Rose O'Keefe, spare nary an expense to pull off this wonderful gathering. Primarily focused on the authors, publishers, and editors, few fans squeak into the conference in hope of snagging a few books and mingling with some brilliant (and weird) minds. Some of the biggest reasons to attend:
I found a strong safety net at BizarroCon, and I encourage anyone that is a writer (of bizarro or not), wants to be a writer, or is a fan of writers to start planning for the next one. Seriously.
...Comfortable, but still doubting my decision, the arrival at Edgefield Manor changed everything. It’s the perfect place to have a conference like this. I’m not going to go into detail here (you can check them out on the web), but trust me when I say it’s pure escapism, and it rids authors of common distractions like television. After I checked in, I was told to saunter over to one of the restaurants and join the authors that were already there. I walked in and was embraced by my new family. Every single person smiled and seemed happy to see me – me, a new author that none of them had ever met. And, Carlton and I immediately had a conversation about beers. It was a warm fuzzy feeling. It felt right.
Warm fuzzy feelings are grand, but there’s more to BizarroCon. BizarroCon is like no other convention or conference out there.
The comfort grows on Thursday as the writers gather at Edgefield. It’s basically sewing that “safety net” together. Cameron Pierce. Anderson Prunty. Garrett Cook. All the bizarro writers assemble. And not just writers – publishers, teachers, fans. Thursday is all about establishing that comfort level. It worked immaculately. After a few words from Rose O’Keefe, the party begins. Nothing spurs conversation and ignites relaxation like beer. And there’s a lot of it. And rye. I had more grand conversations (on very diverse topics) that night.
Now that I knew everyone the real challenges kicked in. The next 48 hours were made up of mind-taxing, creativity-boosting workshops and readings.
Friday morning started so early with a 3-hour workshop hosted by CM3 on how to develop high-concept bizarro. This was a very challenging workshop. There’s more to writing than just telling the story. You have to come up with a story people will buy. During the 3-hours, authors (published and not) critique your pitches with blunt honesty. Honesty is good, but can rattle some writers. That was okay because following this 3-hour workshop was another one…
…on responding to criticism, led by the wonderful Eckhard Gerdes. Published writers shared their worst reviews with the participants. We developed an artist statement – another very challenging thing to do. We reviewed those statements, again with peers offering blunt, but constructive, criticism.
You’re going to be hungover on Saturday, but you have to suck up the coffee and get back on your game. Saturday is filled with panel discussions on everything from marketing and promoting to comic book writing. It’s near impossible to take every single one, but the ones I took were insanely beneficial.
Simultaneously, readings are happening at the “bizarro bunker” at Edgefield. Talk about varied tastes and styles. Bizarro is so vast. At BizarroCon you have just about every writer reading samples of their stuff. You get to experience how people respond to certain works. You get to see what works and what doesn’t. And, it’s all in one of the most constructively critical environments. This past year the readings were vast – very animated readings that incorporated musical performance, costumes, ass juice, and puppets.
After the final reading (which I was privileged to be in the final group of performers), there’s still no stopping. I had about thirty minutes to get spruced up and get prepared for the Wonderland Book Awards.
The Wonderland Book Awards and banquet is incredibly inspiring. The award is an absolute beauty and, unless you’re completely emotionless, the sight of it and the words of acceptance speeches will ignite a flame in you. One day, perhaps, you’ll win one too.
Saturday, and the epic 48-hour “training”, all culminates into another party. This time, though, there’s a camaraderie amongst all those at the convention. You know them better than some of your friends back home. And, you know that they’re going to have your back as you progress your writing career. Saturday night, inebriated as I may have been, was when I totally had the chance to sit back and feel completely, 100% satisfied with my decision to come to BizarroCon.
The biggest thing, though, is building that network of support. It’s the one thing that satisfies me that I made the right decision to go. I can be socially awkward at times. I instantly fell in with a certain crew, though. Jordan Krall and I became fast friends and we email weekly to spitball ideas, offer inspiration, and constructively critique stuff. Kevin Shamel and David Barbee and I consistently help each other out via email. Sure, I could have done this without the conference. But, it’s easier when you have a bond. I’ve met these people. They know me. We aren’t just faceless names.
If you want to write – hell, if you do write – you have to go to BizarroCon. I’m still learning the marketing and promotions game. I’ve got a long way to go as a writer. But, at least now, I feel that I’ve established a core safety net. I know, beyond doubt, that if I’m true to the craft and cultivate the strong bizarre-bonds from the Con, that I’ve always got someone there to catch me should I fall.
For more information about BizarroCon, please visit: http://www.bizarrocentral.com/bizarro-con-2009.html. BizarroCon 2010 is scheduled for November 11 thru the 14th.
Friday, May 21, 2010
This is direct from David W. Barbee's website: http://davidwbarbee.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/carnageland-coloring-book/
Today’s the day to take charge, folks. Get more for your dollar! Now, when you buy Carnageland you will be signed up to recieve your very own 100% unique Carnageland coloring book! And, if you’ve already bought and read Carnageland, you can review it on Amazon to be entered. Reviews and sales mean a great deal to me and I’m ready to reward you guys for that!
Here’s how it works……
That's right, it's our first annual coloring contest. Entrants will be posted here and fans will vote for the winners. What does the winner get? Well, the grand-prize is a copy of "Carnageland", an original piece of artwork from the Naked Metamorphosis/Carnageland crossover, a coloring book, AND the chance to win an original alien sculpture from DWBarbee studios. What are you waiting for? Pick one of the images below and get to work!
Order your very own copy of “YOU MORBID WESTPHAL” from Amazon.com [ just click the link ] anytime between Wednesday June 2nd and Monday June 7th and receive a FREE pdf. of Reverend Rage’s brand-new 3 novella collection “BRUTAL BIBLE TALES”! Over 60,000 of the most offensive words to have ever been associated with the word BIBLE!
To stake your claim, simply contact the Reverend at firstname.lastname@example.org Tell him ‘YMWs” Amazon ranking at time of purchase and your FREE pdf. of “BBT” will be whisked at internet light speed to your in-box! A $47,000,000 value (in Monopoly Money)!!
Thank You So Much!!
So there's two excellent promotions that keep you scoring freebies. And, really, who doesn't like free stuff.
Coming up next week on The Authors Speak: David Barbee, author of "Carnageland", BizarroCon in the spotlight, bizarro book reviews...well, it's a regular bizarro hootenanny!
Coming up in the weeks ahead: Douglas Clegg talks Neverland, sans Michael Jackson; Jeff Burk, James Morrow, and Stephen Mark Rainey chat giant monsters; Chris Moore breaks downs the differences between vamps and zombies; Mary Doria Russell chats about Western bromances for her upcoming western; Garrett Cook's got a teddy for you; Eric Garcia wants you to know that he did not rip off "Repo: the Genetic Opera"; and Jodi Picoult stops by. No, that last one's not a typo.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Joe R. Lansdale, in my opinion, is one of America's greatest writers. He never seems worried about the expectations of others. He tells the stories he wants to tell, and never goes for the cheap gimmicks. As a fellow Texan, Lansdale's also a bit of a hero.
A few years back, the world was introduced to Lansdale via Don Coscarelli's "Bubba Ho-Tep". Based on a story of Joe's, the world was introduced to just a smattering of what you can expect from the Mojo Storyteller. But there's so much more lurking beneath the surface. The man's won major accolades and awards, and it's no surprise. He's good. Very, very good. In fact, if you've not read anything of his, stop what you're doing, step away from the computer, and race to your library or bookstore and pick something up. Go ahead...we'll wait.
I had the distinct pleasure to chat with Joe Lansdale - Texan to Texan - and discuss the Hap & Leonard books, zombies in the Wild West (I do love zombies), Jonah Hex, and Texas politics.
Eric Mays: You’re a Texan, as am I. What is it about Texas? The weather sucks, nature’s pretty wild, the bugs are bigger – it’s the perfect landscape for horror novel!
Joe Lansdale: Texas is pretty conservative, and I don't quite fit in that shoe, but I do like the basic nature of the people when they're not dealing with religion or politics. I do find people here very nice and generous and kind. Their independent streak is a two edged sword. It makes them interesting and strong minded, but it also on occasion makes them narrow minded and frustrating. Lately, I think, like a lot of the country, they've gone off their right wing nut, but then again, that's still interesting, even if it's something I could do without. East Texas is a pretty place, and not like other parts of Texas. It's wooded and full of water and has a lot of interesting animals, besides the people. But, just about everything here, sticks, stings, bites, or poisons. That makes it interesting as well, but watch where you step.
EM: You’ve got some pretty wide range. Your Hap & Leonard books are some of my favorite mysteries (along with “The Bottoms” and “Leather Maiden”). Then you’ve got some raw and visceral horror. Do you identify with a certain genre more than another?
JL: I do not identify with one genre more than another, and soon as I think I might, I switch. I do think in the next couple of years I'd like to move in some new directions. What those directions are I'm still considering.
EM: You know the thing I love the most about the Hap and Leonard books? It’s Hap and Leonard! How does a guy from East Texas create a “crime-fighting” duo that’s made up of a black, gay, Vietnam vet and an affable draft dodger who is fine being a laborer? It’s an odd pairing, but seems to reflect a much simpler life than most of us lead.
JL: Hap is a lot like me, and a lot of his past is similar to mine, though, not exact. Leonard is a compilation of a number of people I've known. One of them is very conservative, and has become so conservative now he's lost his sense of humor. But, at one time, he was a major influence. Not so much now. Several other people I've known, or just known of, influenced Leonard. I wouldn't call their life simple. I've done a lot of the jobs they've done, and they are boring and tiring and wearing and deflating a lot of the time. I think Leonard has come to accept it, but Hap never has. He felt he was destined for something better, but knows the person to blame for not full filling that destiny is himself.
EM: Fans were without Hap and Leonard for nearly eight years. Why did it take so long to revisit the pair?
JL: I was ready to have a break, for one, but then I moved from MYSTERIOUS PRESS to KNOPF, and MP had the rights, so they had the backlist of Hap and Leonard books, so it wasn't advantageous for Knopf to do new Hap and Leonard books without the back list. Now they have them. A new Hap and Leonard, DEVIL RED, comes out next year. After that, they may go on break again. Though I am planning a special treat for the Hap and Leonard fans, though I'm not ready to talk about it. I am also doing a screenplay of SAVAGE SEASON later this summer.
EM: You contributed to “Batman: the Animated Series” and, if memory serves, one of the episodes you wrote featured Jonah Hex, right? Jonah Hex feels like a Lansdale creation, no?
JL: I love Jonah Hex, and he was a big influence on my work, the Weird Western stuff especially. Also old Western Horror films like CURSE OF THE UNDEAD. So, me and him, we're a good match.
EM: You’ve been called a “mojo storyteller”. Mojo’s got many different meanings to many different people. What do you consider mojo to be? And, are you a “mojo storyteller”?
JL: Mojo just means magic, black or white, power is another thing it can mean, and it often has a sexual connotation. My take on it is it's clever, but Lou Bank deserves credit for inventing it. He runs my website and he came up with that, and it's catchy.
EM: A common factor in both your horror and your mysteries is that man is the scariest son of a bitch in the room. You use truly awful people rather than ghosties and goblins. True, you’ve used those in the past. Do people scare you more than the things that go bump in the night?
JL: Things that go bump in the night don't scare in the sense you mean, but I figure if something is making noise outside of my house in the night, it's possibly man. I hope it's animal, but if its man, yeah, that would be more troublesome. I think man is the best and worst creature ever created by the process of evolution.
EM: More often than not, I find myself belly-laughing at some of the sarcasm and humor in your books. Oftentimes, the humor is abrupt, in your face, and totally lacks political correctness. In dealing with uncomfortable situations do you find it important to keep the humor up?
JL: I use humor to deal with uncomfortable situations, same as Fireman and Police Officers, but I also use satire a lot. I learned that from one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain.
EM: I’ve heard you say that you personally created the Zombie Western genre. I believe it. You’ve also got an upcoming collection upcoming from Subterranean, right? Reverend Jedidiah Mercer? Why do we love zombies so much?
JL: Wow, I must have been feeling my oats that day. I don't know that I created it, there's probably something like it out there before me, but I think I sort of popularized it, and the Weird Western, though certainly from the standpoint of the weird western others had been there before me in both stories and books and comics and film. But I have no doubt I've been a big influence on, and the larger (though still small) popularity of the Weird Western. Them's just the facts, pardner. I like zombies, but the truth is, I'm growing tired of them. Once upon a time I loved vampires too, but many years ago, in the eighties, I burned out on them. Which is not to say I wouldn't still read a good vampire book if it came along. Brian Keene is the best at zombie fiction, but he does a broader take on the subject, and can write other things. That said, I don't read much in the zombie and vampire genre. But, when I think I'm through with it, I look up and I have a new one. A new one called CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD, a short story, is coming out from Peter Crowther later this year or next. And I have a partial zombie story in my word processor. But frankly, I think I'm through with that. I haven't actually written much about zombies comparatively, but I have written several. DEAD IN THE WEST, and a handfull of stories, and a comic that dealt with zombies. I think I became interested in them when I saw NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. I had seen older films about zombies, and read books and stories about them, but at the time, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was a new take. It was so powerful, it's become the standard take now, excluding the voodoo of earlier stories and films. I think zombies are just plain scary, and you don't have to like them, actually. You can kill them off. Few people want to be zombies. They might think it cool to be a werewolf, or a vampire, but a zombie, not so much.
EM: The publishing industry is in a weird way right now. Bill Fitzhugh and I discussed this not too long ago. It seems there’s a strange evolution underway for books. Even you have started offering free fiction on your website (which we thank you for). What’s your take on survival of the written word?
JL: I've been offering free fiction on my site for years. It's not new. I was doing it before it was cool, thanks to Lou Bank, my webmaster. It was his idea. People will always tell stories, and right now, and for some time, they will be the written word, or will be translated to film or games, or other forms of entertainment from the written word.
EM: Recently, the world learned of Texas trying to re-write the history books for schools. That sounds like a subplot in a Lansdale book. Was this an elaborate hoax that was concocted by your hands?
JL: Damn, I wish it was a hoax. The religious nuts, as opposed to religious people, though the difference narrows daily, are trying to take over the world and rewrite history and science in their narrow and ridiculous image. We have to push back. I'm glad to actually have a president in the White House that can read.
EM: Any plans to follow in, author and fellow Texan, Kinky Friedman’s footsteps and run for governor of the Republic of Texas?
JL: Oh, hell no.
EM: What’s next for the mojo-storyteller?
JL: The screenplay, a few short stories, and then I'm going to write fewer short stories. I have done too many in the last three years, and it's sort of put me behind on bigger projects I should be working on. But, the main thing is, I'm going to keep writing.
If you've never bothered to crack a Joe R. Lansdale book, definitely do so. High Cotton: Selected Stories of Joe R. Lansdale and Bumper Crop are two short story collections that I adore, and should serve as a solid Lansdale primer (I prefer the latter, as I feel the work is far more polished). If you're ready to take the Nestea plunge and dive in, well, partners, there's too many books to recommend. Obviously, as I sure is evidenced by my interview, I'm a fan of Hap and Leonard. However, my favorite Lansdale work to date is Freezer Burn. You can also crack open any of his dark Southern Gothic tales - The Bottoms, Leather Maiden (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard), Lost Echoes. Honest to goodness, anything you pick up by the man you're sure to love.
Just released (and if you want a really good treat you can just devour and come back to time and time again), The Complete Drive-In combines all the Drive-In stories into one omnibus. It's a sexy cover, and an even sexier read. Imagine, if you will, "Night of the Comet" if it were deep fried in a funnel-cake stand. If you can imagine that end product, you'll probably dig it.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
What appears to be a simplistic story is really kept under layers of storytelling. Most James Morrow stories seem to be simplistic in nature: what happens if God dies, what if Godzilla was real, what would the last witch hunter be like. It's what he does with these ideas that makes Morrow great.
In "Shambling", we meet Syms Thorley, a B-movie actor employed by studios producing WWII era horror flicks, who is known for his excellent skills at shambling. Whether he's playing a Karloff knock-offs like Kha-Ton-Ra or Frankenstein-esque Corpuscula, Thorley is reputed to be the best "shambler" in Hollywood. That's what the military has a strong interest in his skills. He's presented with an opportunity to aide in America's war efforts against the Japanese. How can an actor do this, you may ask? Well, that's where the pedal is pressed firmly to the metal.
Tapping into psychological warfare, the brains behind military strategy have stolen a plot from a B-movie: they will produce a short film displaying the destruction of Japan at the hands of a giant fire-breathing iguana. Syms Thorley is on hand as lizard (dubbed Gorgantis) and James Whale is on hand to direct the carnage.
At times this read is exceptionally moving. There's a very touching love story. The trials and tribulations of 40's Hollywood are spot-on and really give Syms some heft. And Syms regret-filled latter years establish the emotional coil of the novella. The military plotting on this hairbrained idea is oftentimes hilarious, and never once dull (it makes you wonder what Morrow would do with an Area 51 meets Hollywood story). All in all, this book has no shortcomings.
It's a quick read - quicker than Morrow's other works - but a solid one. If you're a fan of Hollywood, Godzilla, James Whale, classic horror films, or James Morrow, then pick this up. If you've never acquainted yourself with any of Morrow's previous works, then start with this one. I'm sure you'll be begging for more.
**I was also just informed that "Shambling Towards Hirsohima" was nominated for this year's Nebula for best novella.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Every so often I delve into a book of poetry. I'm not sure that it's an ingrained aversion to poetry, more that I don't think "poetry" when looking for the next thing I want to read. But, nearly every single time I get my hands on a book of poetry I find something to love about it. Let me introduce you to Craig Sernotti and his recent release Forked Tongue.
As with most poetry I read, Forked Tongue is a mixed bag. Some of the offerings I read and adored (those pages are dog-eared to revisit time and time again). Some of them weren't for me at all. And some of them (as is one of my qualms with poetry) I just didn't get. I think that's the main reason I don't actively pursue poetry collections. There's typically one entry that just ruins it all for me.
Let me say that in spite of a few faults, Forked Tongue delivers the goods. Sure there are entries I didn't like, but those are few and far between - "My Friend & My Sister" I felt was a little forced, for example. However, in spite of a few missteps this collection is a sparkling exhibition of a strong new voice. I'm very glad that I flipped through it.
Take for instance a line from "Waiting Room": There is a man sitting next to the man sitting next to me. He is about as unattractive and uninteresting as a dead governor. This line is the kind of description I get off on. Plus, I found it unusually hilarious. Craig Sernotti has a gift of twisting a phrase into something humorous. The entries "Invasion", "Cheater", and "Pillow Talk" had be laughing to the point that I nearly ripped the page out just to share it. Some other poems, while not on par with these three, work in spite of being a little juvenile. "Overheard" is an example of this.
If you're looking for poetry, this is a great find. At just under $10, it's also a grand way to round out an order from Amazon, so consider it. I realize that you may have a similar aversion to the genre as I do, so I'll give you a smattering. Sorry, in advance, Craig. I'm not trying to give your stuff out for free...just trying to give 'em a taste. You know what they say, right? The first one's always free.
"You're one of
the cuter kids
I've seen naked."
have you seen
"Miley Cyrus. Brad Pitt.
"You're such a d**k."
"Well, you are
what you eat."
Yes, it's a little juvenile. But it takes a special skill to take something so crass and juvie and work it into a functional poem without losing humor. Forked Tongue is available now through Amazon.com, or just click the links above (or the pic) and take a peek.