Monthly Archives: March 2012

Portraiture

Circa 2005? Charcoal

Okay, so question: If you wanted a commissioned portrait of you, by me, along the lines of this, how much would you pay, realistically? I’m curious.

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And, it’s not content, so much — describe his work by content, and you pretty much get ‘horror’ –it’s the shape of his stories, how they kind of wyrm their way into the back of your brain, and spell it like that while they’re doing it, which is somehow worse, and better, and more permanent…

For me, what horror hopes to do is scare the reader, to instill dread or terror, to plant a seed of fear in them that they can’t shake. Which is very honorable. Those few times you zing your arrow past all the baffles and obstacles and get it right in the reader’s head, such that they leave the lights on at night? That’s what it’s all about You’ve changed them, you’re a part of them now, and, and: horror, I wonder if it’s one of those genres that’s functionally incomplete without closing the circuit, without getting a reader? I mean, if I write something, it’s not scary until it scares somebody, right? Anyway, horror’s dynamic, its intent, it’s similar to weird fiction’s, I think, but … I think what weird fiction tries to do, it’s unsettle you to some degree. But it also wants to make the world bigger than you ever thought it was, or could be. And, sure, Lovecraft’s the standard-bearer for all this, but it’s still happening, too. Just in less tentacly ways. And sometimes with tentacles intact.

Stephen Graham Jones, from his interview with Weird Fiction Review

In Less Tentacly Ways

Big Announcement!

I maintain, it’s a funny thing, this paranormal field.

After GHI producers let me go in the spring of 2010, I met Callea Sherrill and started to work at the Stanley Hotel, leading the public ghost hunts on the weekends and did this for about a year, ending this past November, where I was again without a team or opportunity to investigate.

So I finished up my penultimate semester of college and dove headlong into my seven-year novel project Hallowtide, doing a full rewrite of the work I started in high school. This took me a good three months of the winter, writing late into the morning hours, before sleeping until noon and going to classes in the afternoons. Just this week, I finished the rewrite and now intend to let it sit for a few weeks before diving back into revisions when I have free time.

But in the way that doors open when another closes, as I’ve found is especially prevalent in the paranormal field, after the Stanley and then the chance to write the latest update of my novel, I’ve now signed to a new offer, to write the Colorado installment of Clerisy Press’s America’s Haunted Roadtrip series, which is a fantastic series of books exploring the cooler locations in your favorite states across the country. Whether you’re road tripping it with some buddies or you want a tour of the sites from your own living room, these books do both. Already the series has some fourteen installments. If you’d like more information on it, you can check out Clerisy’s website here; https://www.clerisypress.com/

The book is tentatively due out Fall of 2013, end of the world or not!

Which means that this summer and into the fall I’ll be traveling about Colorado, laptop in one hand, voice recorder in the other, crawling about in and researching some of Colorado’s most haunted and interesting public locations.

But now I also need your help. I’ve been compiling a list of notorious and little-known Colorado haunts and I always love good personal recommendations. Whether the coolest, prettiest, tastiest, or most importantly; most haunted, I want to know if you have a cool Colorado haunt. Fill me in by leaving a comment, sending an @reply on twitter, hitting up my facebook, or contacting me through my website. The only requirement is that it’s haunted, awesome, and open to the public.

GHI Gets Controversial

Got around to watching the controversial GHI episode a bit earlier tonight, and despite the late hour, felt the need to chime in.

If you didn’t see the episode, the team went to investigate some Mayan ruins in Belize. Due to reports of activity escalating after a bloodletting ritual (the site was a place of ancient human sacrifice thousands of years prior), the team decided to repeat the ritual to see if that activity would increase the way it did in the reports. The ritual involved cutting the volunteer, Susan, with an obsidian blade on her forearm to draw a bit of blood that was then mixed in an incense bowl and lit aflame.

When the episode aired, Twitter blew up. Concerned parents expressed their distaste, Kris Williams spoke out about her thoughts and people supported and rebutted and the team seemed divided and general drama ran downhill.

But it’s never so simple. Here’s my breakdown on what needs to be considered:

Cultural Differences.

This is an international team of Ghost Hunters studying different cultures, ancient history, and various supernatural occurrences.

We in the West have this inherent popular notion that we know better, that our science is more accurate, and that other cultural customs are barbaric and uncivilized, by our own lenses and standards in how we view the world. (It’s this kind of thinking, I might add, that leads to the eradication of culture in western colonialization of such continents as Africa and Australia and the Americas.) But there’s more than one way to make an omelette. And some seem pretty strange to us, yet may well be no less valid.

We cannot call unfamiliar thinking ridiculous or inappropriate simply because we do not understand it.

So when you take a team of western investigators and look into different cultural traditions and beliefs, we have to considers them as valid as our own. We have to consider that indeed, we may well (in fact, do not at all) know everything. (In fact, what we know as science will be turned on its head in another hundred to five hundred years. Already Newtonian mechanics and Euclidian geometry have been radically modified by the work of mathematicians like Albert Einstein).

The team even stated that they intended to compare the different ways, the modern versus the more ancient, and see which got more activity. This is the work that needs to be done, especially as it applies abroad.

We also have to consider the efforts of teams to recreate circumstances of eyewitness experiences. Where the event happened, what time of day, who was present, what was happening. Here, a ritual was taking place that might well have drawn the activity, if it’s harmless, why not recreate it?

Which leads to my next point,

Was it harmless? 

Physically, for Susan, it was only a small cut. They weren’t sacrificing the poor girl.

Is conducting cultural occult rituals that we don’t know much about possibly dangerous? Quite likely. But such is the risk you run not only as an international investigator, but a ghost hunter in general. You are absorbed in a world quite possibly very dangerous to yourself and your family. This fact has been exploited by many shows and popular representations of the field, but just the same, taking personal protective precautions are always important, and mindset and intention are key when exploring unknown territory.

And I happen to know personally that Barry is a very aware and safe investigator when it comes to darker forces in the field, and is someone I feel very comfortable with standing over my shoulder.

But what about the children? 

Many parents expressed objections that such a ritual was shown on a family television show. Also valid.

Teenagers are likely enough to hurt themselves, one twitterer said, why give them another reason?

The sorry fact of teenagers hurting themselves these days has little to do with the occult and more to do with acceptance, community, self-image, respect, and mental disorder. Watching a ritual for bloodletting on GHI won’t effect that.

If your children now decide to hurt themselves to call upon spirits, well, that’s certainly very dangerous and likely situationally inappropriate. But this is really not so different from any other part of a ghost hunting program. Controversial techniques are often used. Provoking being one of them. Opening one’s self up to possession or other various forms of witchcraft or occult methods that might make appearances can lead to harmful consequences.

The consequences that come from (your children, or even you yourself) doing these actions at home (or anywhere else for that matter that is not safe), come not from the awareness of these actions happening on their television sets, but from the misunderstanding of their purpose.

If your children watch this episode and think that cutting themselves is a great way to contact their great uncle, then they probably shouldn’t be watching the show in the first place.

But harming yourself is stupid.

Indeed it can be. Blood is gross and makes many people very uncomfortable, and if they want nothing to do with being a part of, or being around, such a ritual, that’s of course fine.

But that’s a big difference from objecting to it on principle. The principle of it is a very layered debate that can take a deeper form in any of the categories I listed above.

I beg you think though, that if it’s only the fact of a bit of blood for an otherwise good cause (granted, debatable on the spiritual safety, yes), then what’s so bad about that? We give blood by day in the west to save people after various tragedies and accidents. If you’re not into blood, fine, but don’t condemn the act.

Because then people get upset

If people want to express their opinion over it all on twitter or facebook, that’s also fine. It’s just a shame when it gets personal and people feel attacked or thrown under busses or whatnot,

but as with everything, there are deeper reasons, deeper considerations begging to be mentioned, and it’s never as simple or as personal as it might look.

But those are just my thoughts.

Think I’m off base on any one of my points? Sound off in the comments down below.

What’s Wrong With This Place (part 1 of 4)

Read this article today http://www.aikenstandard.com/story/0315Followup-with-school–3862406 over at the Aiken Standard.

Not sure how many of you are familiar with the young adult novel, Ender’s Game, but it’s, in a word, fucking brilliant. (Two words. Sue me). About a kid who was genetically engineered to be a genius, taken from his home to live in a space station and learn how to become one of the greater military commanders of all time.

It’s a book about finding a deep inner will and strength of character when the entire world is out to break you. It’s about cleverness and leadership– in fact, I often argue, it’s THE book on leadership. Hands down, your one stop shop.

Many would disagree with me, finding it difficult to read about children treated in such a way, and that it’s not leadership but barbarism. A debate not for my blog, but I find it wonderful, and at least intellectually enriching.

So I read this article, which has a teacher being investigated by the police and the school board in South Carolina for reading parts of this book to his middle school class.

I’m appalled. This is ridiculous, and speaks not only to the way the school system has been forced to tiptoe around every single word they teach our kids, but in the way that we’re raising our kids to begin with.

They called this book pornography, which are concerned adult-types most favorite buzz-word. Pornography is explicit description of sexual organs or activity DESIGNED TO TITILATE. There are no sex scenes in Ender’s Game. Children run around naked, SO WHAT?

(This post is going to spawn a series of blogs this week, blogs that have demanded to be written and might now see the light of day, and I’ll link them here as I go, if you’re reading this later. But this goes back to these bigger issues of American’s terror about nudity, the way we’re coddling our children and not letting them grow any toughness at all, and the problem with our public school system)

I give you John Green, famous children’s novelist, on a similar situation of his book a few years ago:

We’re conflating minuscule and overblown issues here to instead ban books, and not only regular paper and glue books, but BRILLIANT books too, that teach our children how to be strong in this painful place that is our world. And that’s so inappropriate, it’s deeply offensive to me.

More to come on Saturday.

From the Supernatural to Storytelling?

Tuesday. Need to blog. Just wrote five thousand words through the big climax of Hallowtide and am le tired. But I wanted to get a blog up.

And I thought, I tell people all the time in vague and mysterious (and usually sexy) tangents about how my two biggest passions, the supernatural and storytelling go hand in hand (Yep. Super sexy, that), and I never wind up accounting for this connection. Naysayers say they go hand in hand because the supernatural is just a bunch of made up stories, but I’ll do you one better.

And I’ll explain it in terms of how I arrange part of my bookshelf. Ready? Ready.

Alright, let’s start with Astrophysics. From that we go to Quantum Theory and to parallel universes to a little bit of science and religion to paranormal technology to ghost hunting to GHOSTS to ghost stories to destructive haunting to possession to interdimensional beings to men in black to aliens to crop circles to astrology and tarot to psychics to meditation and astral projection to mystical experiences to philosophy of mysticism to alchemy to Taoism and Buddhism and Hinduism to philosophy of religion to Christianity to Islam and Judaism to Jungian theory to classical mythology to mythological structures, to Joseph Campbell to (side section here on all my research on Hell), to literary theory to deconstructionist theory to WRITING!, books on writing, how to write better, theory of writing, etcetera. (From there to how to write poetry to poetry to plays to canonical literature to fiction and off to all the directions that fiction will take us)/

Paranormal study is connected beyond events simply being odd, I trace through them and then start to make the link to mysticism, which lies at the heart of religions; the stories of religion are myths (which are not, as is commonly believed, necessarily fictitious; see “a traditional story, esp. one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically (but not necessarily) involving supernatural beings or events”) and from myths we get into storytelling and writing.

Do you have a satisfying collection of paranormal books or theory of how it all starts to link together? Think mine is bunk? Fill me in down below in the comments:

Crocotta Production Vlog

Back to work on another night of principle photography for Crocotta last night. If you don’t know about the project by now, my buddy AJ, who’s directing the film for his senior thesis, is keeping a running blog over here.

Last night we lit up the forest with a couple floodlights running of a generator, got some more wonderful shots that AJ will likely post in the coming days, and got the cops called on us.

And I shot some vloggity;

And of course, if you haven’t read my short story that started it all, Dreamland Crocotta, you can download it here, for free.

There might just be hope yet

It was short enough to tweet, but I thought it deserved a blog in itself, since most of my posts are about industrial disappointment.

Damien Walter over at the Guardian is, with hope in hand, calling for weird fiction stories from the dregs of the growing wasteland that is indie digital publication online these days. He believes that there may be some gems. To find someone out there, published, who people listen to, who supports indie digital weird story publishing, well,

that’s a hero in my book-

well; blog. Still.

The article is here; http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/mar/09/weird-fiction-electronic-universe-ebooks?commentpage=last#end-of-comments and Walter welcomes input from you guys, the fans of the genre, to find them. Godspeed.

 

 

OMG lit peoples are writing SF

This debate is still happening?

If you’re not familiar, the debate is between highbrow academic types who like to pick out canonical works of realism and call it “literary,” of having intellectual merit, and condemning “genre” work, that of horror, fantasy, and sci-fi as being for the masses, moneymakers whose only purpose is to entertain and is so the work of the lesser folks. Which of course is bullshit, always has been, with many “genre” works defined in the canon as literary (see, Dracula, Frankenstein, 1984, Slaughterhouse Five, and more), and many modern “genre” works serving deep, powerful, intellectual value.

It’s a popular argument amongst we college undergrad types who fell in love with the work through such genres and are now met with academic professor types who belittle the works.

Neil Gaiman tweeted today, pointing me toward an Atlantic article on just this distinction.

He linked to this article here; http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/10/how-zombies-and-superheroes-conquered-highbrow-fiction/246847/2/?single_page=true#slide3

In this article a highbrow type expresses his surprise at the success of genre and pats us on the head as intellectuals finally branch into these, apparently once hollow genres waiting for fulfillment by the edumacated.

How Zombies and Superheroes conquered highbrow fiction… they’ve always been there.

In the article Benjamin Percy says that of “the best literary fiction, you see three-dimensional characters, you see exquisite sentences, you see glowing metaphors.”

I believer what we have here is a failure of labels.

Wait, labels failing, I’m so surprised.

Literary fiction is not a genre, it’s a way a text functions; in the best of ANY fiction, you see three-dimensional characters, exquisite sentences, glowing metaphors, and should I go so far as to add, a kind of deep running cultural or philosophical commentary that speaks towards the times and the human race, and our existence as a whole.

Literary fiction is then a success, to which any genre can hold.

We fell into a rut of the eighties and nineties where, at least according the article’s author Joe Fassler, realism hit its stride, echoing Hemingway in the likes of Foster Wallace, and the genre, enjoying it’s literary success, became synonymous with its poor label. It’s not.

The best horror novel can be literary. The best sci-fi novel can be literary. And it’s damn presumptuous to say that “literary novels” can still be literary even if they suck.

I propose a redefining of terms, or even better, to throw these labels out entirely. After all, culturally, there is no literary genre, and never has. You walk into a Barnes and Noble and there is no “literature” section. Wallace is found in fiction. A couple aisles down from King. And both are most excellent.

Watching Me

We watched you last night, they said.

I said, wait what?

My roommates said, on Ghost Hunters.

Last night I was writing until three in the morning at that place with paintings on the ceiling and where they serve coffee and stay open all night. At home, we don’t have cable, nor were there reruns of old GHI episodes on a Tuesday night. On YouTube then? My roommates? Who care as little about ghost hunting as my couch does? Going out of their way to watch me, their moody, socially uncomfortable friend who lives in the basement, on TV?

On Netflix, my roommates said.

On Netflix, I repeated. Old GHIs are on Netflix?

Indeed they said. And we watched.

So, it seems, can you. Like me. Every day, should I have only a mirror. And an England to wander about in.