Image by SteveIrwinfan96, borrowed
First up, let me shout out to BigJack Films, a youthful youtuber who seems utterly fascinated by all things King Kong. He seems barely out of his teens, if at all, with a bad haircut and a reedy voice, which suggests that puberty was cruel. But he’s prolific as hell, and his videos ring with a level or research and genuine enthusiasm that can’t be faked.
And he’s got a lot of fascinating King Kong-iana. The skinny on abortive Kong projects, including the 1960’s Hammer films attempt which failed, but somehow resulted in Jim Danforth’s ‘King Kong’s Volkswagon commercial’, commentary on Universal Studios exhibitions, and surveys of giant apes generally.
He’s so comprehensive in his approach, that he even catalogues and reviews King Kong fan films.
Who even knew there was such a thing?
I’m interested in fan films, and I see them as relevant works in their own right. Fan films are seldom, if ever perfect, and quite often, many of them are flat out terrible. But every single one of them is made with love, and that counts for a lot. So I was very intrigued by his reviews.
Generally, King Kong fan films fall neatly into two categories.
Between Winnipeg and The Pas, there is a long and lonely seven hundred kilometers. There’s one stretch, over four hundred kilometers where there’s almost nothing. No off roads, no houses, no communities. There’s a gas station, a small community, Chemawin right in the middle, an intersection that leads to another community, Grand Rapids. But apart from that, it’s just emptiness, a lonely rambling desolation. Just the road winding on endlessly through the north, bordered by trees. I’ve driven that road well over a hundred times, in all seasons, all sorts of weather, including through blizzards and storms. A lot of people have wiped out on that road. Some have died. Me? Twice. This was the first one. I wrote this shortly after it happened.
I am pleased to say that there was no lapse of concentration that lead to the vehicle going out of control. I wasn’t trying to kill a pesky bumblebee, or changing radio stations, or fiddling with the CD changer. I wasn’t singing a song or answering a cell phone or anything like that.
I had in fact, turned off the radio twenty minutes before in order to focus on the road, my seatbelt was on, my hands were on the wheel and I was staring over the hood. None of it helped.
The car fishtailed and slid forward, and in a split second, I had gone from driving a vehicle to riding a five thousand pound toboggan careening at ninety kilometers an hour to a steep sloping bank and the stands of trees beyond it. There was a very good chance I was going to die in the next five seconds.
This was going to be about my third horror collection, What Devours Also Hungers. The others are Giant Monsters Sing Sad Songs, and There Are No Doors in Dark Places. They’re collections of old and new stories, and with each collection, I try to explore a different subtle flavour of horror.
Giant Monsters is melancholy horror, the sadness of monsters and victims, the absence of happy endings.
Doors in Dark Places dwells in fatalism, the relentlessness and inescapability of terror.
What Devours Also Hungers is about restlessness. It’s about evil that doesn’t stand still but reaches out. It’s hungry and aggressive, even relentless. It’s the evil of predators, expansive and robust.
Or maybe I’m pulling your leg.
What Devours is fifteen short stories. When I write these blog posts to promote these things, I try talk about some of the more interesting or significant ones. Where they came from, how they came about, why I wrote them. Sometimes it’s personal, sometime’s it’s a writing exercise, it’s about structural challenges and the writing journey. Sometimes it’s fun stuff, or some interesting bit about the story’s history.
If you’ve read the Doors in Dark Places blog post, I’m very personal there, and I talk about the personal energy, the personal darkness and fears, that can animate and drive stories.
But sometimes, hey, a story is just a story. You get an idea, spin it, and it runs off on it’s own. There’s no deep psychological root, no personal trauma. It’s just telling a good story.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched Fear the Walking Dead for a couple of seasons now. I understand that just about all the original cast of characters are dead, and while I celebrate this fact, it’s not enough to make me watch the show.
I really hated it. The only thing that kept me watching the first few seasons was utter hatred. Every episode, it just kept getting more loathsome. Towards the end, I’d be sitting there as it played, my lips drawn into a rictus of grin, teeth grinding, muscles seized up, ever fibre of my being screaming at the television.
The problem with the show, is that it’s the worst celebration of White Privilege, I’ve ever seen.
Literally, this was a show that had Karen before Karens were a thing.
And here’s the thing, as far as I know, they were all completely unconscious of the suffocating racism and classism that permeated just about every single episode. Literally, how could you be that offensive, and that consistently offensive, by accident? Who the hell was writing this thing? Didn’t any of the actors ever come up and say “Hey, we’re practically the Swiss Family Klansmen, what’s up with that?”
Let me back up a little bit.
[What you are about to read is true. It happened. One day, out of the blue, Cops broke into my home arrested me for trafficking and held me at gunpoint. Then it was over and they went away. If any of you wonder, I will quite readily admit that given the statistics, there’s a chance that if I was native or black, or if I’d acted differently, I could have been dead.
Ignore the picture by the way. That’s an illustrative image I’ve taken off the internet. The persons depicted in it had nothing to do with what happened to me.]
There I was, sitting back, in my bathrobe, checking my email, breezing through web sites, watching some saturday morning cartoons and unwinding a little before going downstairs to work on the bathroom.
And I notice, looking out my picture window, a couple of men in dark uniforms jumping out and running up my drive way. I had a big picture window, but the curtains were gauze. It looked like they were police officers running up my driveway with weapons drawn. But I hadn’t called 911, there was no emergency. Maybe they were ambulance attendants rushing up, and heading to the wrong house.
My first thought is that my neighbors are having some sort of domestic crisis. Maybe a heart attack. Or some domestic dispute. Their driveway is right next to mine, so sometimes on a quick glance, it can be a little confusing as to which driveway. But no, it definitely looks like mine. They’re heading to me.
So I go over to the front door to open it and see what they want.
As I get there, they burst in, screaming “Freeze, get down on the floor! You’re under arrest for trafficking in cocaine!”
They’ve got a shotgun pointed at me. The other one has a pistol in a two handed grip. They’re both screaming. And their orders are contradictory. That’s my first thought. Do I freeze? Or do I get on the floor? If I freeze, will I be shot for getting on the floor? Or if I get to the floor, will they shoot me for not freezing.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this: I’ve never seen E.T. I’ve picked it up of course. It’s a cultural touchstone, and the defining movie of the Spielberg era. I just figured Steven Spielberg didn’t need my eight bucks.
I think I might be a contrarian. Sometimes where everyone else Zigs, I Zag. It’s not a point of pride. I’m not out there in a black trenchcoat, pontificating about how much better I am than all the heathen masses. Sometimes I just don’t feel the need to follow the crowd.
And I find I’m interested in the hidden gems, the diamonds in the rough, the obscure beauties, flowers growing in the concrete. There’s a gentle sweetness to these discoveries, I want to share them, not crow over them.
Which brings me to one of the stranger things I’ve run across lately: James Batman, a full length black and white Batman movie, also starring James Bond, made in 1966, currently available on Youtube, in subtitles and everything.
Let me tell you, I was shocked at the existence of this movie, and I’ve watched the Mexican Batwoman, Turkish Star Wars and Turkish Star Trek, among many other cinematic oddities. But I’d, honest to god, never even heard of this. So I was thrilled to discover it, and to be able to watch it.
I’m going to talk about my collection of short stories: There Are No Doors in Dark Places. It’s part of my trilogy of horror along with Giant Monsters Sing Sad Songs, and What Devours Always Hungers.
Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m doing with this blog. Seriously, angry rants about Covid-19 and black lives matter, or biographical sketches, philosophical questions, thinking out loud as to what I’d do with Doctor Who or Robin, or really obscure reviews, it’s whatever seems to occur to me at the moment.
I’m sure that there are other writers out there with blogs that are just laser focused on the exigencies of writing, or the cutting edges of techno-pop culture, or whatever the hell. There’s blogs full of deep insightful book reviews, sophisticated discussions of the going’s on of the book industry, or a niche about comics.
Me? Who the hell knows?
I just write about… Whatever.
I’m I don’t really have much of anyone reading this stuff. That’s kind of liberating. I write, compulsively. If it was a successful blog, readership and everything, regular followers, I would probably need to be more focused, more narrow. I’d have to get my shit together. But here, I just write whatever.
Some people talk or think in terms of their writing careers.
For me, writing is not so much a career, but more a personality disorder.
Here’s a thought experiment. Try it on.
What if God came to you one day.
And God said, “I don’t like you.”
God goes on, “It’s just one of those things. It’s not personal, it’s not something you did, or didn’t do. There’s no reason for it. Sometimes these things just happen. I just don’t like you. I know the books say I’m ‘love’ and I’m supposed to love everyone, and that’s mostly true, maybe for everyone else. But not you. I draw the line. I don’t like you. I’m God, and I can do that. I don’t have to justify or explain. It is what it is.”
“So here’s the deal,” God continues, “your life will be meaningless and worthless. Nothing you ever do will matter. No one will ever care about you. Your existence will be pointless and meaningless. It will be that way every single day, every single moment. You can kill yourself tomorrow, or you can live a long time, I don’t care. You can rob liquor stores, or build cathedrals, or go to church every day, it won’t make a difference. You won’t make a difference to anyone or anything, you’ll have no accomplishments, no family, no legacy. Eventually, you’ll die, and I’ll be rid of you. But I really don’t care. That’s the way it is because I don’t like you.”
Back when The Mermaid’s Tale came out, I was attending a Sci Fi Convention called CanCon in Ottawa, Ontario.
Interesting story there. One day, I get an email from Lorina, my publisher, asking about the book launch for The Mermaid’s Tale. I replied back, that it sounded like a terrific idea, I was all for it. Then I learned there was actually a book launch scheduled at a convention called When World’s Collide in Alberta. Terrific! But then I found that When World’s Collide was sold out, both the convention and the hotels. I missed my own book launch. Kind of ironic, or something.
So I thought what the hell, and went to CanCon. It was nice. The problem for me is that I don’t attend these things regularly enough to be able to take full advantage of them.
If I have any advice for young writers, it’s this: Go to conventions regularly. You don’t have to go to all of them, but pick a few, and go a few years in succession. The first time at a particular convention you’re just getting the lay of the land. I think it’s the second or third time, maybe even fourth, that you can actually take advantage of the potential opportunities. Hell, if you go there three or four years in a row, then you may just keep on for the hell of it.
The first year, it’s up and down. You go to panels, you sign up for things, you say hello to random strangers. It’s all hit and miss
So anyway, at CanCon, I attended an absolutely terrible panel on Lovecraft and Racism.
How terrible was it?
Let me put it this way: One of the panellists, in the minutes before the panel actually started, had to google Lovecraft on her phone. Well, that’s a good sign. That’s preparation.
How about something a little different? Robin, Year One. This is another one of my “Hey, if I could get my hands on a Franchise – Doctor Who, Space Force, Stargate, etc., here’s the cool thing I would do!”
Yeah, it’s never going to happen. But they’re fun ideas to play with. The thing with being a writer is everyone asks you ‘where do you get your ideas.’ But the thing is, ideas are only the start. It’s what you do with them, where you take them, how you develop them. Behind any story, any novel, there’s this whole background. The story is like the tip of the iceberg, or the front of the stage. But there’s all this stuff underneath the water, or behind and below the stage, premises and assumptions, choices, arcs directions. There are all these elements which give the story shape, structure, energy. It’s all this backstage stuff that gets worked out, which really makes a story interesting… or uninteresting.
Call it backstage at the writers mind. The thing I like about these sorts of exercises, is that the reader actually knows the end product or at least the shape of it. People know Doctor Who, or Godzilla, or Stargate. People know who Batman is. So I can take that, spin, work it, and say “Here’s an interesting line of ideas, premises, arcs.” And I think that you can relate to it a little better than some random idea, you’re closer to being able to see what the end result would be.
So, Robin,Year One. Or Batman and Robin, Year One.
Here’s something I’ve been kicking around.