|Posted by DriveGoddess on November 26, 2010 at 12:15 AM||comments (1)|
Several times I was gonna die....several times I did not die. It was only years later that I realized that death is inevitable (of course it fucking is), one of those fucking truths that cannot be disputed. Yeah, when we are young we are immortal, impervious to the vagaries of death. We just jump into situations not giving a flying fart as to what may happen....
That latent attitude is one that I still possess but that being the case these days being an older person I have this sort of appreciation of the inevitable that my peers who are younger may not possess. Yes, WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE! So, suck it up bitch.
Adrenaline.....it can be good or bad depending on the sitrep.....Yes, "sitrep" as in situation representation....a very military term. I had many of those having covered the fuckery of Bosnia and Kosovo and Guatemala but the first ever near death experience, the one that made me believe in nothing, happened in Tokyo or rather happened at Narita Scareport.
It was a matter of a plane and a subsequent trip that I had booked to Osaka. I had been in Tokyo already for a month and was getting tired of the formality.....i wanted to get back over to Seoul, Korea. So taking that into consideration I cashed in my prepaid ticket from Tokyo to Osaka....I grabbed the next flight to Seoul.
Well this was all back in the day, pre-FaceCrack - no way to let anyone know what the fuck I was up to...no cell phones, nada......I was just bored and antsy. I flew to Seoul.
By the time I got to Kimpo Scareport there were all my friends......I had not called them. They were very upset because on the news that night that flight to Osaka - well, there was only one survivor and that was a wee babe. The plane had shattered like most big jets do.....scattering parts of the plane and humanity....it turned out that several friends in Canada had tried to establish whether or not I was on that flight...I spent at that time the princely sum of around 20 bucks to call folks back in Canada to let them know that YES I was in a safe place.
Moral of the story? There is no moral. I am alive. I still have much to tell. And yes, certain things are inevitable....like death.
But guess what? I DODGE IT.....on occasion.
More later....maybe....if I am still alive.
|Posted by JoeMynhardt on November 24, 2010 at 11:30 AM||comments (9)|
Let’s get serious for a moment. If you want to write horror, you’d better know what it’s about. And I’m not talking about knowing what the newest blockbuster is called.
If you’re serious about your writing, be serious about your genre.
Get out there and find out what has been done in the genre before you decided to pick up your pen, or open that first empty word document, or subscribe to that free online email course.
I’m sure you’ve heard all this before, but how serious did you take it? I take it very serious. When I’m not writing, I pride myself on studying a bit of the genre. If you’re a true horror fan, it should be just like writing: Hard work, but worth it.
Take time to read the classics. M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, Conan Arthur Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Henry James; the original idea weavers. Even poems like Lord Byron’s The Giaour should not be missed. These legends broke the ground we build on today. A great place to start is Horrormasters.com.
Here are a few other writers whose work every horror writer should study:
• John Connolly
• Stephen King
• Clive Barker
• Bram Stoker
• Robert Louis Stevenson
• Graham Masterton
• Richard Laymon
• Joe R. Landsdale
• Robert Bloch
• Jack Ketchum
• Peter Straub
• Ramsey Campbell
• Richard Matheson
• Harlan Ellison
• Robert Weinberg
• J.N. Williamson
And it doesn’t end there, because horror is not only available in written word. Watch the classic movies from Ray Bradbury, Alfred Hitchcock, Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Strange Tales. See how the masters did it on the silver screen: Nosferatu, Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein and The Haunting of Hill House. See what has been done before so you can know how to do it, but in an original way of course. Let’s call it “paying your dues”.
I’ll never forget that late night episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents where the prisoner hitched a ride out of the prison in a coffin, only to find out the man who was supposed to dig him out lay in the coffin with him. I was hooked on the macabre ever since. By the way, if anyone can recall the name of that episode, please let me know. Still haven’t found it.
I know the list is endless, but here are a few older movies every horror writer should be familiar with:
• George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
• Friday the 13th
• Texas Chainsaw Massacre
• The Shining
• Rosemary’s baby
• The Thing
• The Fly
• The Birds
From short stories to movies, poems and late night episodes, see how things were done and ask yourself, “Why did they do it that way? Why did this specific scene work so well?” Then use these methods in your own arsenal of writing tools.
But it doesn’t end there either. Horror comic books, especially from the 50’s, are a treasure trove waiting to be reopened.
If you haven’t tried them yet, get your hands on:
• Dark Horse comics
• The Mammoth book of horror comics
• Tales from the crypt
• Vault of Horror
• From Hell
• Essential tomb of Dracula
For a more mystique, noir type comic, try Sandman Mystery Theatre.
And you don’t have to look much further than life itself to find horror in your own backyard. Study serial killers, history of haunted mansions, castles and graveyards, urban legends, disappearances, mass suicides and old folk tales. Watch crime shows, unsolved cases and paranormal investigations. Open yourself to a world of experiences and awaken your imagination. Make your best weapon the “What if” question.
Now I’ve mentioned earlier that the key is of course to be original. Which will definitely be a problem if you stick to one author’s books.
It’s getting more and more difficult to be original. Or is it? Look at the world today and find out what consumes people. What plagued people in the 70’s or 80’s hardly concern us now. Today’s people are more concerned about the supposed end of the world in 2012 and dealing with stress. Great authors have always been able to accurately represent their times through their stories. Why do you think there were so many American super heroes during the Second World war, or toxic born heroes and villains after the war?
Our times and point of view is so much different from those legends who wrote before us, so of course our stories can be different. No one else shares your exact life experiences. But if you don’t know what came before you, you might just fall into the pits of cliché that so many publishers know about and watch out for.
So if you’re able to tap into the fears trending the world today, you’ll not only be writing literary fiction, but you’ll also be grabbing the reader by the throat and pulling them into your stories. Why? Because they can relate. And that’s why people read horror. Because it’s someone else’s ordeal. And while they read your story, and hopefully a while after that as well, they’ll keep on talking about it and forgetting about their own horrors.
To help you do this, you should keep an eye out for what is trending at the moment with publishers. But then you’ll have to choose.
Do you write only what publishers want?
What they pay for?
Or do you write for the art of story telling? Isn’t telling the story more important than being paid for it? I guess that’s a question every writer will have to answer for themselves. For me, I like to follow one of the most important rules of writing, always try to sustain a balance.
With the arrival of the internet, researching your genre has become so much easier. Not just to find treasures of yesteryear, but to keep up to date with what’s happening right now. Read blogs and newsletters and subscribe to online as well as printed magazines. Join facebook and befriend other writers. Check their status updates regularly for blog entries or horror fiction news. And if you can, attend conventions and chat with other authors, publishers and agents. Writers forums are also vital, but be careful you don’t end up spending more time chatting than writing.
So be active in your genre. It will give you a world of knowledge and the confidence that comes with it to write good horror. Who knows, after all this research, you might even find out you’re more interested in writing for stage, radio, comics or movie scripts. There’s more money to be made in horror comics anyway.
So start helping me and other writers by adding a few more great movies, books, short stories or genre tips in the comments box below.
All the best,
|Posted by TomHodden on November 22, 2010 at 4:34 PM||comments (2)|
A short look look at understanding evil (or the lack there off)
from a witer who always struggles with convincing
I just read two sentences in the same forum post that made me choke in astonishment. A guy called Ray from Australia (or so he claims, on the internet he could be anybody) started his post by telling me the thing about Christians was they were morally aware enough to love everybody, even those of us who don't believe in Christ as God. This would have been a wonderful sentiment it's just he went and ruined it by explaining how his version of God was love and understanding, while the Muslim version of god was Satan. Very loving and understanding. This, by the way, is a man who was supposed to be talking about if religion was essential for somebody to make moral judgements but had decided not only was religion essential, it had to be Christianity as “other religions” use suicide bombers, stone each other to death, hate women, hang gay people, and only Christian nations take in refugees (not entirely true), which does not make it hard to guess which “other” religions he meant.
Now mindless bigotry aside, his core argument as this: Christian nations are more moral precisely because they are Christian. And the people who grew up in this environment owe their moral guidelines to the religion. I pointed out I find this insulting for two key reasons: First of all, I do not follow a religion, and no I don't count “atheist” as a religion because no two atheists share exactly the same principles, and I would like to think that more or less I am a good person. Or at least no worse than anybody else. Secondly, for every accusation you want to throw at Islam (or Christianity, or Hinduism, or well, any religion) there is something that can be thrown back at you. Now Ray implied that I attacked his Christianity when I listed examples of how and why Christianity could be seen as harbouring immoral people in their ranks. Now I can understand this point of view, and I will go into the examples I gave shortly, but if anything the defence of the Christian should be more than enough to question if the view of others was unfair.
Now, do not fall into the same trap. Do not mistake this as a missive against the Catholics, or the Anglicans, Mormons or any one else who has faith, Christian or otherwise. I have no doubt that religion can be a great tool for encouraging discussion of your morals, and can offer community support. If you have a faith I whole heartedly hope it brings you happiness and makes you take a peaceful attitude to life. I just do not believe it is the only path to morality. People with or without the guidance of your religion or any other, can be perfectly capable of love, hate and the spectrum of morality.
So my main question, and one of the key foundations of my personal view is thus: If your religion is the only way to know right from wrong, does it follow that anybody who lived before your chosen flavour of religion was created or reached your shores incapable of morality? Does it follow that anybody who did was religious but still indulged in sin mistaken, not as moral as you, or a statistical anomaly? Now this again, is not an argument against a religion, it is a discussion of where good and by extension evil hold root, a discussion that I think is a valuable one for those who intend to write in our chosen genre of horror. As although evil is by no means essential to horror, it is one of the strongest themes. Sooner or later we all find ourselves trying to fit in the head of an evil character we are creating, and knowing how and why they are evil will mean understanding not just how they see themselves, but how others see them. And by “others” we mean the society around the character. No evil dictator believes they are a tyrant, from their own perspective, but those who live under their tyranny will think differently.
This leads to an even bigger question, that cuts to the very root of the statements made by Ray from Oz. We have to ask, has Christianity formed the morals and laws of the “English way of life”, or has English society caused Christianity to mutate and evolve. I am using England, and Christian history as an easy example, for reasons of familiarity from both me and you dear reader.
So let us start at the beginning. Before Christianity, there was a lot of history in the UK, and a lot more pre-history. Now, I am not going to pretend that the Celts, Britons, Romans, Angles, Saxons or Vikings were part of some utopian society, but all had law, all had order, in some form or other, and it is not hard to imagine from the evidence at hand, that all had their own forms of morality. It is easy to concentrate on the violence and brutality of the ages, but let us remember: Those did not go away any time soon once the bible arrived. Those blood thirsty Vikings? They had a vital role to play in converting the land to the cross. Canute is a thoroughly misunderstood soul. Far from being a dim witted thug who could not stop the tides rolling in, he was an astute politician who knew full well he was going to get wet feet. Canute was an early convert to the cross, and his court did not appreciate him ceding power to the church. He should be as mighty as any god. So Canute offered to put it to the test, to humiliate his advisers and prove God would always be mightier than man. By the time England was unified under a Christian banner, what was the moral state of the nation? The Christianity of the time was with out a doubt very different from our own. It apparently endorsed a feudal state, where you and I would be serfs, owned by our lord, scraping a pittance to care for his land. Slavery of the most humiliating kind, with restricted rights and law and order at the hands of few oppressing the many. This too is a state of play that would only slowly change piece by piece.
Was that because Christian values were dripping into the society? The church of the time would hardly think so. The church was an important part of the society, and made no great cries to change the status quo. It may not have shared the views of the monarchy all the time (Thomas the Becket, for example never being afraid to get to the point in an argument-baddum tsh!) but neither did it petition for universal suffrage and incapacity benefit. Look at the freedoms we take for granted now. We can not imagine the modern Catholic or Anglican churches supporting torture, or slavery, or serfdom. And yet these were perfectly accepted for great swathes of our history as perfectly acceptable in a society generally considered pious. More than accepted, utilised. If we look for the strongest case we are drawn to the Witch Trials, the crusades, and the worst of all cases. I am sure there were people who did not enjoy these facts of life, but we have to wonder: If the church imposed its values on society, why did those values take so long to be met. And in the mean time were the general population not yet capable of moral judgement because they were not yet the modern view of “Christian”?
Of course not. The people alive at that time were perfectly capable of knowing right or wrong.
But those views were, and are, changing. As society changes the views of the church flow and change too. The church being made from members of the society (and not always vice versa). The serfs and peasants and yeomen knew no other way of life and to assume the church had a higher view on the long game may be true, but no more than the villager dreamt of being the lord. The church grew roots in the UK as the calender neared one thousand AD, it was the seventeenth century before William Wilberforce made his historical declaration to the house of commons to start the wheels turning that would end the slave trade. And he faced fierce opposition. Let's not forget that the Russian Orthodox Church was the religion of choice while the tsars debated the emancipation of serfs in the decades before the revolution, and the American Civil war is often (wrongly) characterised as half a country fighting for the right to retain slaves. This were major events with ramifications that echoed throughout all of society. Such events still happen today. It is not fair to characterise the Irish catholic faith as child molesting monsters, but it is as wrong to pretend these people simply did not exist or were in some way mistaken. They were Christian and they still carried out a terrible crime. More than that, they were responsible for guiding their flocks moral judgement. Once more, I do not characterise an entire church community based on isolated case, but I do see them as a compelling proof that your faith is no assurance of morality.
For myself I choose not believe in any given faith for strictly personal reasons. In part it is as simple as this: I need neither the carrot of a reward in the next life, or the brimstone of punishment to convince me to do the right thing. The very fact it is the right thing should be enough. I would like to think we all have a basic potential for common human decency, and yes, it will be influenced by the society around us, but so do we influence the course of history. The church, like it or not, is a part of that history, and yes, it has extended influence, but so to has it been influenced. Name a religion and there will be communities across the globe that worship it in different ways, with different lore and law. There will be people in that society who stray from the nominal worshipper to the extremist. No society remains static, the core values (if we agree with them or not) become rooted and grow deeper and stronger if idolised, or wither and die if rejected. The trick, for writing a villain or understanding a new point of view, is to start with the moral common ground, and then to ask why the rest is seen differently, looking at those differences in terms of history, culture, and belief. Rather than just condemn them as being “because that is what they are like.” Our hypothetical tyrant has reasons and justifications for his actions.
The trick is to put them into a model you can understand if not condone.
|Posted by Shaun Hammel on November 22, 2010 at 10:21 AM||comments (0)|
I'm leaning towards writing my next blog entry on the subject of 'fear of death'. And maybe how that helps shape and form a certain kind of horror writer. Had a little facebook discussion with someone on this subject and now I want to get my ideas on it out in a clearer more precise manner. So look for that post upcoming Wed or Thurs.
Also, anyone want to post something up between now and then go right ahead. The blog will dead otherwise for a couple days.
After the first week, it's looking good. Highly pleased with how it looks and what people are contributing.
|Posted by RossWarren on November 22, 2010 at 4:37 AM||comments (4)|
Sorry I'm a bit late with this week's blog, for once it wasn't down to procrastination as I have been working at the day job all weekend with no internet access. Ok that's the apologies out the way now on with the blog.
Whenever I attend a family function, be it a wedding, christening or emigration party, you could bet serious money on me being asked the following question or some variation of it:
Are you still writing your silly little stories?
I should at this point give you a little background to my family and the first thing to note is; they are not on the whole patrons of the arts. They are practical minded folk with practical occupations like builders, plumbers and shop keepers. The only writing they do for pleasure is Christmas Cards and the only book that features in their day-to-day lives comes with a date on each page. Even my wife, chosen from millions, is an engineer who considers every minute I spend at my laptop writing as a minute spent not doing the housework or one of the million little jobs she considers needs doing around the house.
However, as my opening blog mentioned, I prefer to look at things from a positive angle so I'm going to talk about my little sister instead. Lisa is the shining beacon amongst the rocky sea shore of my extended family. Always supportive and enquiring of what I've got on the go at any particular time. A couple of years ago, for my 30th birthday, she secretly collected several of my stories together, including one that was the completion of an Ian Rankin story for a competition, and had it printed up into a little booklet and we had my first ever signing session at my birthday meal. She is always awesome at birthday and christmas gifts. In recent years these have included a signed first edition of 'The Name of the Wind' by Patrick Rothfuss and an inscribed first edition of 'The Warded Man' by Peter V Brett as a thank you for recommending the book to her.
So Lisa I want to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thanks and say that when I eventually finish my novel, 'The Frozen', I know what the dedication is going to say.
|Posted by TreSart L Sioux on November 20, 2010 at 5:23 PM||comments (9)|
JASON, FREDDY AND LEATHERFACE
This is my first entry. I will be doing longer and more detailed in the future. I just wanted to get a little something out there and of course get to meet some wonderful folks!
The horror industry has been one that has had it's ups and downs. We've seen the fascination with Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, Pinhead…I could go on. Now, I'll admit I'm a huge Jason Vorhees fan. Why? There was something about the character that I simply loved. He doesn't talk, and over the years his movement has sped up. While I don't find him scary, I just find the movies to be light and fun!
Over the years there has been sequel after sequel. While I enjoyed them all, I still will never understand of why sending Jason out to space or having him take Manhattan. Do I think they suck? No, but why mess with something that seems to be working? There was also Jason Goes To Hell. I thought the special effects were pretty cool, but the plot was a bit on the silly side.
Freddy VS Jason was a flick I truly was waiting to come out. After so many years of being teased they were working on it, finally the true battle was witnessed before my eyes. What did I think of it? Absolutely enjoyed! The final battle scene between those two was non-stop action with some really gore scenes to satisfy my appetite. Of course they left it clearly open for another one, but then that is what was to be expected. There was also a very dark rumor of possibly a Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers movie. This I'll believe when I see.
Now for the recent remake of Friday the 13th I really didn't expect much, but was surprised that it was actually pretty good. They of course had to add harsher language and sexual situations, which I feel is not necessary in a horror flick. I'm there to see the horror, not the sex.
Overall, these movies will be around forever and I seriously doubt they are done with making more.
I was thirteen when A Nightmare on Elm Street came out. My friends and I tried our best to go and see it, but each time we went to the movies it was sold out. Later, after it was released on VHS, I instantly rented. I truly will never forget being home alone, in a dark basement and out in the woods! Just the first few scenes scared the crap out of me!
As the movie went on, I became fascinated with Freddy. The storyline kept your interest during the entire movie. The fact that if you fell asleep, this burned man with a sharp blade glove could bring your nightmares into reality was a damn good idea!
Sadly, they decided to turn Freddy into a comedian with the rest of the sequels. I felt if they would have kept him more on the serious side the movies could have continued to have that creepiness.
Nightmare on Elm Street flicks are fun to watch with creative images for the viewers pleasure.
I have yet to see the remake, but the thought of Robert Englund not playing Freddy kind of scares me, and not in a good way!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has to be one of my favorite horror films. Although I was only three when it came out, years later I was able to enjoy.
For years people thought this was a true story when in reality Tobe Hooper based Leatherface on Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein. The actor Gunnar Hansen was perfect for the part of the large killer who moves very fast through the woods.
I think what is really scary about this is you think it could actually happen. Couldn't there possibly be a family that lives out in the middle of nowhere and are cannibals?
The movie moves along at a nice pace and although I know it by heart, I can never get tired of watching it. Hey, for a budget of less than $300,000 that turned into a profit of $30.9 million just in the United States, it's a keeper!
Of course there were sequels and a remake. The sequels were very different from the original. Absolutely more gore and language, but they each had something about them that I enjoyed.
The remake I found to be pretty good. It didn't really follow on the lines of the first one, but was a smooth running film and worth spending my money on along with a coke and some delicious popcorn.
There is a possibility that Tobe Hooper is considering doing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 3D. Ya never know.
Thanks to all that entered my poll on who would you hate to have to face. Looks like folks are afraid of our beloved Freddy!
If by chance I have made a mistake, feel free to chime in!
Slice and Dice!
|Posted by TomHodden on November 19, 2010 at 4:01 PM||comments (1)|
People have always assumed some strange things about me. Ever since I was at school I have not bothered to hide the fact I like horror and science fiction, fantasy and comics. What struck me as strange was that people seemed to think I had no idea where the line between fiction and reality was. I thought Sylvester McCoy was an underrated Doctor Who (I mean, come on folks, the moment he ponders causality over a cup of tea in Greasy Spoon? A kids show has no right being that smart.) but that does not mean I believed in UFOs and men from other galaxies. If people were going to assume that, they could at least have based it on the fact the X-Files was making Sci-Fi popular (Millennium was better, but never mind) or Close Encounters (a brilliant film close to the allegations). Amazingly enough I did not think Star Trek was a documentary. I was under no illusions that the guy from I Claudius had somehow travelled into the distant future to hunt aliens with Whoopie Goldberg who was sending records of their journey to a magic box in my living room. I must admit, the fact that at least some of the people who made the accusations that I believed the freaky stuff happened to have no capability for telling the difference between a character in Eastenders and the actor who happened to play them (“Dirty Den would never kill a man! He is so nice on TV!” and ignored the troubling fact I could name the writers and directors of my favourite shows, while they have no idea who writes or makes their shows. Yet I thought it was “real”. Great.
Sometime after puberty people stop judging by TV show, and start judging by belief, and all of a sudden something very strange happened. All of a sudden the same people started making the same snide comments and assuming I am silly for not believing in all those same things. I don't believe in ghosts, UFOs, or a lot of other things. My beliefs and faith are in strictly abject ideals such as hope for peace, the basic goodness of man, fairness and freedom for the majority, responsibility, and so forth. For more defined ideas, like a god, the spirit of nature, fad diets and crystal healing, I wont dismiss them out of hand, but I will need convincing. Convincing that the claim is correct in practice (it works) and principle (it works how it says it works). Ghosts and aliens are no different to that principle. Now, I should clear something up before you get the wrong idea. I don't always assume that anybody who claims to have seen, heard or felt a ghost is telling porkies. Far from it, I have had a few strange experiences myself. I do not however assume that what I saw was the soul of a dead person. I don't know what it was, or how it works, and to claim I did would be irresponsible of me. I like to think that one day science will have an understanding of the laws of physics far wider than we can see now, as we are familiar with concepts far beyond the ken of our ancestors, and I thoroughly dislike it when I am told “science does not know all”. No, it doesn't or science would be meaningless and would grind to a halt. But that does not mean you can fill in the blanks with what ever you think “everybody knows”, or pass moral judgements about what I do or do not believe. If you have your own subjective belief you are welcome to it, but I ask you don't try and convince me it is an objective truth. For me truth is what I can and can not see proven, not what is true for you.
There is an element I should also address of those who, for what ever reason, believe that science should bend to their beliefs and that unless I accept their world view I am closed minded and a stooge of the corrupt world we live in. Many of these are well intentioned individuals who perceive a danger with fluoride, cows milk, vaccines, modern medicine in general or they truly are convinced that crystal healing, ancient remedies, filtered water or wheat grass is an effective cure for their ailments and that if only doctors would listen to them lives can be saved. These are good folks who are willing to have an adult discussion and take an objective look at the benefits or flaws in their idea, some don't understand how controlled testing works, or think the truth is being kept in secret by corporations or the government, or somebody else. Either way it is a personal thing and they have a different idea, so no big deal. If any of you feel this way about ghosts, I'm sorry, the article that follows is in no way intended as an insult to you and I have no intentions to upset your feelings. You friend, are a person who has looked at the evidence and reached a different conclusion. Please do not mistake my view of you, for my view of those who are genuinely closed minded. Who will not look at real evidence as they have already decided what is true, and will stick to that ideal blindly and hate anybody who does not share it. Nor should you be mistaken for those who are “anti” something because it is “anti”. Who would rather believe in organic farms not because of the convincing evidence that it improves the produce or is less risky to environment but because it is a counter culture to Big Agriculture or Processed Meat, or Toxic Chemicals. Who believe cows milk and vaccines and medicine and politics and anything else is tainted and corrupt because they simply are. These people annoy me because they tend to assume I am closed minded, and refuse to have a discussion. They wish to dictate what is, and what is not real, and often have no understanding of how to prove their views or how to persuade others of their stance, because they have no interest in the science or the reasoning. You are either with them, or you are against them, and although it is clearly their right to believe as they want, they will call others closed minded or sheep following the herd to their doom with out thinking. Now to me, if I just accepted their truth with out question I would be a sheep and I would be closed minded. You friend are not that person, if you have read this far with out threatening to kill me you are willing to accept we are both open minded, and although we may not convince each other of our points of view, we are open to the opportunity to be persuaded, should a convincing argument be made.
So you may be asking the obvious question by now; if I do not believe a ghost is real, in the sense that the dead walk the world of the living, why am I typing this rather rambling piece? Well, like I said, I have had some spooky experiences, and I would like to share my thoughts on the ingredients that produce a haunting. Now, I am no scientist, and I am not claiming to know what a ghost is. Think of this more as an examination of some, but by no means all, of the symptoms of a haunting. I am wary of discussing some aspects, so I'm going to state them now, at the beginning so they don't feel like a cheap rug pull at the end: Friend, we have to face the fact that some people, for good natured reasons or not, tell lies. I know how that feels and I don't want you to think “Oh, so any ghost he can't explain is a lie?” No, of course not. But some are. And it is a possibility we must face. Taking a reference point that is fairly likely to be recognised by a lot of people, I was discussing the Bell Witch with a friend. And she asked, “Well, if it isn't true, how do you explain the guy describing how THIS happened?” The answer being: If the story is not true, and we only have the guys word that happened, it is fairly likely that it didn't happen. Same with the Amityville Horror, if we only have one persons word that he saw strange footprints, and other aspects of the story have been shown to be lies, we can't trust the footprints were there to be seen. Sorry, it's a hard truth, but sometimes people make things up. I do not choose those two cases out of hand, bith have good reasons to be considered from a sceptical stance, and I recommend a look here: http://skeptoid.com/episode_guide.php?cat=7.
Another aspect that must be considered is assumed wisdom. When people see a UFO, or even hear the phrase we think “spaceship” or “alien”. We have no reason to do so, it is an Unidentified Flying Object. If it was an alien space vessel, it would be identified. To assume an outlandish identity for the object despite having no way of knowing what it is seems strange to me. It may be possible that the object is indeed a spaceship, but surely we would have to discount a lot of other possibilities first. It is the same with ghosts. There is a certain willingness to interpret some illusions or experiences as contact with a ghost because it is ingrained in our culture, and it offers a comforting answer to one of the big questions we can never prove. If ghosts are real then there must be something after life. Even some of the pseudo science answers like “psychic imprints on the fabrics of building” or “echoes of distant time” are deliberately vague on details because they are nice ideas masquerading as a theory. How those echoes work, or what form the “psychic energy” takes is never explained, but again, if that is a personal subjective belief it is no less wacky than most. We assume that if an idea is old, and shared by a lot of people, this negates the need to prove it because “everybody knows it”, and yes, everybody knows what a ghost is. If it looks like a ghost, feels like a ghost, and scares us senseless like a ghost we find it hard not to assume the obvious answer is wrong. Or at least not while we are standing there frozen with terror, our hearts trying to escape our ribs, and adrenaline surging through us like hot wax. Seconds or hours later cool heads may prevail, but right then, in that moment, we don't want to think. Our instincts are driving us, not our minds, and primordial mechanics kick in.
Ah yes, the primordial mechanics. I have no idea if it is the right term, and for gods sake don't go looking for it in a text book. This is purely subjective stuff folks, so take it with a pinch of salt. Humans are complex, and it took us a long time to get this way. We thrived because we evolved, and even the simplest stuff we don't want to think about evolved for a reason. Children crying when they wake up or are in pain evolved to draw the attention of protective family members around a vulnerable infant. Our senses evolved so that unhealthy stuff like bad meat or, erm, bodily functions that are not sanitary , smell bad to us. We feel nervous in the dark, because we know dangers can lurk in the shadows. We have a lot of our genetic ancestry in our DNA, and it lingers in the programming of our minds, the fight or flight instinct being the most obvious example. My personal feeling that in my own case one of those lingering instincts that has etched itself to my mind is a real glass half empty kind of instinct. I am a rational guy, but I am a total wuss, a supreme Big Girls Blouse. I am pretty damned sure that the back breaking potential of cracks in paving slabs is a myth, but I still avoid them. Put me in a dark, shadow filled graveyard, lurking with that unsettling atmosphere and the looming gothic graves, and that instinct will sense faint movements and stirring branches and err on the side of caution. If there is a chance of a threat it will assume there is a threat and make me terrified. You know the crawling feeling on your spine. The same one you had as a kid when you thought the monster was under your bed. Maybe that is a good example, you lay alone, you have a big open space beneath you, or next to your wardrobe. The shadows are too dark to see, so some part of your brain thinks: Woah, a predator could hide there. Then it thinks more and gets you ready just in case there IS a predator there. Maybe that is why so many kids worry about the unseen creature in their room, it's a primordial instinct bubbling away in our DNA.
The next factor to consider is expectation. Ever noticed how you never pay attention to a particular type of car until you are considering buying one, then you notice each and every one you pass. You are thinking about it, so your sub-concious flags it up. The same thing happens to me when I am going somewhere reputed to be haunted. My mind picks out the little details that might be a ghost, because it is looking for them. All the stuff it wouldn't normally notice. And if it sees anything suspicious it is more willing to interpret it as a footstep, a groan or a wisp of breathe on the back of my neck. It works retroactively too. We may not be aware we are doing it, but when we think back to events, to remember them, we include in the context stuff we learned later. “Well at the time we just saw this blinding flash before the crash, but I know now it was the other car with its beams on full.” Our mind does it now. We see a vague shape we can't interpret, and if we know the house is meant to be haunted, or find out later it was haunted, and somewhere in our mind we have a shape we can put on the shapeless shadow. Our minds don't like to have gaps they don't fill, and if there is an explanation to hand, in the right circumstances old stories about what somebody thought they saw will fit. There was a time at primary school when kids in my class thought there was a fox living in the bottom of the playing field. Some were sure, beyond any doubt, they had seen it. And they could describe it in absolute detail, down to the rabid jaws. It was just the ginger tomcat from the house next door, but they saw an orange blur, and their minds filled in the gaps. Because somebody said “fox”, they saw a fox. People saw more UFOs when the X-Files were at the top of their popularity, and we are all more open to being scared once we have seen horror films.
But what are these strange signs we pick up on? It doesn't matter how sensitive we are if there is nothing to sense. So what physical effects can cause ghostly apparitions?
Well, some of these may sound like old hat, but that is because they have been noted on many occasions. Flickering lights, shadows, vegetation moving in the corner of your eye and other hackneyed disturbances of the air or surroundings can cause indistinct shapes that our mind tries to seek out patterns or meanings in (simulacra). It is why we see faces in rocks, trees, or the surface of the moon or Mars. There is a comparable effect with sound, pareidolia, where the body tries to make sense of random sounds as voices. This episode of the Skeptoid podcast features some fine examples while discussing the idea of backwards talking. As I mentioned, if you are expecting there to be a ghost near by,or if you are aware of the idea of a ghostly legend, your mind may well use that to make sense of the odd sounds from the wind, or it may hear pipes and floorboards settling as footsteps or groans.
But it is not just the sounds we can hear. Sounds we can't hear, called Infrasound, of certain frequencies can have some unusual effects. Around the 17Hz range, our bodies interpret the sound in some very strange ways. Also check out these links: richardwiseman.com and this bbc news article on Organ Music. It can give you a spooky or unsettling or even religious feeling in different uses, from the pipes on old organs that dont seem to make a useful note, to the infamous “brown noise” experiments . With such powerful effects giving you heebie jeebies for no reason you can put your finger on, air movements from fans, or even from an old window or a draft, could certainly add to the sensation of a haunting. There are even some reports of industrial fans causing people to have the uncomfortable feeling of being watched, and vague shadows forming in the corner of their eyes.
Temperature is another factor. We are so used to hearing that ghosts make a cold spot that television hunters have taken to waving infra red thermometers around to find cold spots in a room. Not that the IRTs work like that. They are great for measuring the temperature of a point on a wall, but in the middle of a room? There would be nothing to bounce the IR light back. Sometimes I watch “Most Haunted” and ponder if the ghost hunters ever read the damned instructions. Of course, the better question is if the cold spots are there because of a ghost, or if we are more open to an idea of a ghost because of a sudden chill that raises our heckles and gives us goosebumps. We all have those feelings as though somebody walked over our grave. We all know that it can put us on edge. Add it to the other threads described above and it becomes a tapestry that could very easily be described as a ghost.
|Posted by Shaun Hammel on November 18, 2010 at 8:27 PM||comments (4)|
How often are you scared by words alone? Disembodied threats aren't particularly menacing, unless you believe in ghosts, or suffer severe mental illness. It takes someone in your face, with angry eyes and sick intent, for you to feel the precise nature of a real threat. And then within this broad range of enticed fear there is an arbritary scale, and everyone has different reactions to the same stimulus, complicating matters a bit. Some say they are merely, 'creeped out' but not scared. As if being 'creeped out' is like grime you can take a shower and wash away, but somehow the idea of 'being scared' is more ambiguous and longer lasting. I don't know. Arguing semantics perhaps. And well, some people take horror more seriously than others.
Can any writer's prose truly scare someone, in this classical sense, in a deeply psychological and damaging sense? Does it take a weak and fragile mind to be forever affected or changed by the carefully constructed darkness of some writer's verbal passion? Think of all the bleak and damaged souls that inhabit the fictional worlds of Edgar Allen Poe or Thomas Ligotti-- does any of that really scare the fuck out of you, like maybe 'The Ring' did when Samara crawled out of the television set? Or the scene in the original 1974 'Black Christmas' (one of my personal favorites and a truly disturbing horror film classic), where Billy's frenzied murder of Margot Kidder's character, Barb, with the glass unicorn is counterpointed by the singing of the Christmas carollers? A wonderfully twisted arrangement of disparate moods, lighting, sound. These are the types of blendings that produce geniune scares and not the stupid gimmicks of cats jumping out of closets in a lot of less worthy Horror films. The thrill ride scares. Hey, fun's important in life, but.. You can view this scene in the youtube clip down below; it happens about midway through the longish clip. This is surely at the top of any murder scene afficionado's list. (Ah, a future blog post perhaps: Top Ten Murder Scenes in Film.)
Can your own imagination while reading work the same magic of a movie special effect? Or are other factors involved. Kind of a time-release capsule of fear working more slowly on the brain, but eventually lasting longer. Words have a power to do damage, to cut a psychological wound, weave a tornado path of destruction, perhaps more profoundly than any movie. Surely.
These questions and more I will be exploring in future blog posts on this subject. I'll blather some more on Hollywood horror gimmicks and how they manipulate your fear and shock, and try to distill out the more original and genuine film effects versus these cliched ones. And I will also try to pinpoint how exactly a writer can instill fear. How he must cultivate a sinister atmosphere, or bring out the shadowy, monstrous side of a character, in a very careful manner similar to the craft of tree shaping. The horror writer as brainsick gardener. Yes, good metaphor. Nod to 'Rappaccini's Daughter'.. Maybe it takes a damaged writer himself to really induce fear in a reader. But the fear comes from outside too. Maybe the reader needs to be more sensitive to these stimuli. Is fear as entertainment all a grand experiment in classical conditioning? Or can there be something more lasting and darker here. A more or less unintentional effect, or sickness, created out of a pure obsession with horror. What are we after exactly? Let's try to pinpoint it together, and have some common ground. Let's feel all this shit and succubate together, shall we? Why suffer alone. Am I beginning to 'creep' you out yet?
The main thrust is this: does a book have a greater potential to instill a lasting more 'satisfying' fear? A movie has the advantage of immediately attacking your senses, but words can perhaps dig deeper, be infinitely more subtle and malignant in their ability to create cancerous menace. This is the question I will try to answer for myself. And also, why I am so attracted to all this darkness, all this violence, destruction, mayhem, supernatural wonderment, evil, failure and melancholy... I cannot get horror out of my mind, and most times, I like it there. Does it make me a bad person? What do I get for all my trouble?
Anyway-- this is just a basic framework for now of what I want in the future to explore more deeply, and with better precision.
Also, I want to thank again all the other bloggers participating here. I truly appreciate your involvement and really think this could turn out to be an interesting and varied collection of blog posts. I hope we attract a good audience and get some good comments going as well.
|Posted by DriveGoddess on November 18, 2010 at 12:26 PM||comments (1)|
Machetes.....moonlight......hot countries.......hot tempers.......chicas calientes. Man, I have seen some major damage inflicted with machetes, the weapon of choice in some locales and becoming oh so popular in my city these days - hey, bigger can be better right?
I remember quite clearly that one night at a popular club in steamy San Pedro Sula, a gritty Honduran shit hole not known for being a tourist destination but then again what the hell would I be doing in a touristy area anyway as relaxation to me is finding a sleazy bar replete with the requisite shady characters - wait a minute, that was a time-share presentation? Dayam!
I was out with some friends, local business dudes who loved having la Gringa la Rubia in tow.....guess I was a status symbol of sorts for them.....the drinks were flowing and it was Sabado Chiquito, litte Saturday - FRIDAY NIGHT to you foreigners. The music was great, heavy salsa interspersed with the American hits of the day. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and then I heard it, we all heard it - right over the music - the fighting call of PUTA MADRE TU ERES MUERTO!!!!!
I don't know where the hell the machete came from as we were asked to surrender our weapons at the door but out it came and in one rapid arcing motion it slashed across this one dude's face, blood spurting out in all directions just like scene from Monty Python's Holy Grail when Arthur cuts off the Black Knight's arm only this induced vomiting and screaming rather than raucous laughter.
Transfixed I was and not able to take my eyes off the scene until I felt my arm being grabbed and next thing you know we beat a hasty retreat out to our vehicles. Of course we went to another club only this time a fancy one where only glocks were used when a fight would ensue over women and/or drugs - you know, the high class "chit, Mang".....think Al Pacino in Scarface and you get the picture which is not that far off the mark in some of these places.
The next morning one of my associates met me for the requisite poolside cafe con leche y pan brandishing the local tabloid. I could have seen the lurid headline from twenty feet away so large the typeface was, promising very graphic photos in the centrefold. Of course we looked.
In a photographic style that would have been worthy of a nineteen fifties ambulance-chasing hack there were the black and white photos of the victim before and after he received 120 stitches. He was pretty messed up. His assailant was grinning in his shots as if to say hey Chico besame culo pendejo!
Man, you just can't get quality images like that back here in the land of "Caution some viewers may be shocked at real life images" media.....shit, folks go to theatres and watch Freddy rip apart cute girls but heaven forbid they see an actual dead victim of war or crime displayed on their widescreen or in the Sunday paper.
Growing up in the seventies it was those images from Vietnam and Cambodia that stirred not only my imagination but pointed me in the directions that I followed as a photojournalist, writer and adventurer. Many of those images became became iconclastic and when seen even by individuals half my age who were not influenced as such they can still shock and disturb because the events actually happened.
Yes, it is something I will explore, those often blurry lines between the real and imagined......oh by the way, did I mention that the machete incident was during Semana Santa - EASTER WEEK? No? Oh well, American Thanksgiving is next week so sharpen up those axes and chop a few birds and by all means, have fun!
|Posted by Shaun Hammel on November 15, 2010 at 9:33 PM||comments (0)|
Nice Line up for this blog it's turning out to be.
Sundays will have UK writer and owner of Dark Minds Press, Ross Warren.
I will be posting every Wednesday or Thursday, or both. God knows what about.
Fridays will highlight the Canadian blogger/adventurer, DriveGoddess.
Saturdays will feature artist and erotica writer, TreSart L Sioux.
The line up could change, with possibly an additional 5th blogger and guest bloggers on occasion. Stay tuned. It should get at the very least, interesting for a while. Eclectic is not only the word, but the fucking truth. Sell it.