Category Archives: Non – Fiction

Into The Dark – Birmingham Horror Con 2017

Hello!

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So, on the 4th of February this year I ventured to a UK city I’ve never been to before, Birmingham! Specifically, the massive Edgbaston Cricket Ground, the venue for the 2017 Birmingham Horror Convention. I’ve already posted some pictures of the trip (including the joy of finding a Primark in Birmingham!) on Twitter and Instagram, but the con itself was wonderful.

As always with these things, I had a few ambitions for the event: things to buy, people to meet etc. There were actually three of my fanboy crushes in attendance: those Divas of Dread, the immensely talented CL Raven had one of the traders’ tables, and although I’ve met them previously at Sheffield Horror Con in 2016, it’s always a pleasure to catch up with them and of course, always a bonus to get my hands on more of their books and merchandise. This time around I bought some badges (I love badges!), a copy of their short story anthology Romance Is Dead (which they very kindly signed), and a print and keyring of the cover of their novel The Malignant Dead. I’m reading The Malignant Dead at the moment, and I can thoroughly recommend it as one of the best, most unsettling Horror novels I’ve ever read.

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My other fanboy crush was none other than the beautiful and charming Caroline Munro, a genre legend who’s appeared in a lot of my favourite movies: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, The Spy Who Loved Me, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and of course my ALL TIME FAVOURITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME, the gaudy and insane genius of Starcrash, an incredible Italian Star Wars style epic in which Caroline plays Stella Star, the best pilot in the galaxy.

I’ll be honest, I could write blog post after blog post about how much I love this movie, but I should probably keep on-topic here (or at least try). When I met her, Caroline couldn’t have been any more gracious and charming to my swooning fanboy self, and I’ll treasure the moment where she asked me to whom she should sign an autographed photo. I told her, and she clarified the spelling by saying (in that voice!), so … “Babe, but with a J?” and to be honest I’m bloody signing EVERYTHING like that now!

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One unexpected reunion of sorts was with the exhibition of snakes and spiders that I first encountered at Sheffield Horror Con, and the photo here is of me making a new friend called Texas. Rather sadly, I learned that Willow, one of the beautiful snakes I enjoyed meeting last year, had passed away recently, and I was glad I got the opportunity to meet her.

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As always, there were lots of exciting things to see at the con, including this amazing scene in which one could share a sofa covered in human flesh with the likes of Chucky, Freddy, Jason, and Billy The Puppet, as well as some lovely SFX and makeup demonstrations.

I bought lots, of course, but some of my favourite Geeky booty was my Alien T-Shirt (I’m part of the Nostromo crew now!), my Hydra wallet (hoping that for every banknote I spend, two more shall take its place!) and my not-even-unwrapped yet Necronomicon Journal (Groovy!).

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There was some fabulous cosplay on display, and of course I couldn’t resist a selfie or several.

These last three photos are probably my favourites, the first because the trio of cosplayers were so nice and also their costumes were great, much more intricate than the photo shows. The second is with Tina the Polefit Vampire. Long story short, I had no idea she was going to bite me, and the world isn’t ready for my expression of shock and surprise. And the final photo … it’s a female Jason Voorhees … what’s not to love?

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Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading! Here’s to the next con 🙂

 

 

 


Halloween Update

Hello!

So … a tiny little update to some exciting stuff I mentioned on Twitter a few weeks ago, plus some more recent news.

A little while ago, this became my pinned tweet:

two-contracts

So this was kind of exciting for me for a few reasons. One of the contracts is for a story already written, scheduled originally for publication in an anthology on Halloween this year, but scheduling of one sort or another has pushed that back to early 2017. The theme of the anthology is top-secret but brilliant, and I can’t wait to see the other authors’ spins on such a delicious idea.

The second contract … well, this one is scary, at least to me. It’s scary because it’s for five (yes, FIVE!) stories that haven’t been written yet (though the ideas are percolating), so it’s a different (and thrilling!) type of creative pressure for me. Another reason that it’s scary is that the other authors involved are all these incredible creative powerhouses of whom I’m a little in awe, so yes, I feel like I’ll have to raise my game to earn my place in those pages beside them.

It’s maybe a little too soon to reveal the theme of the anthology *Trademarked Cheeky Geeky Northern Boy Teasing Wink* but … Just. You. Wait.

The more recent stuff I mentioned was this:

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This was really exciting, especially given the wonderfully high standard of the competition entries published on the Storgy site over the last week, in the run-up to Halloween. The story in First Place is being announced on the 31st October itself, and I can’t wait to be utterly terrified by the winning entry.

Should you wish to read my story, the link is here, but even if you give mine a miss, I really hope you read the other, excellent tales. They’re perfect Halloween reading!

Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading and Happy Halloween! I’ll be spending it in a bloodstained hockey mask and wielding a machete … nothing to do with Halloween, just what I do on a Monday 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dark and Depraved – Sheffield Horror Con 2016

WARNING! CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO ENLARGE … IF YOU DARE!

Hello!

So … On the weekend of 9/10 July 2016, I returned to Sheffield for another Con. The last time I was there was for the Yorkshire Cosplay Con held at the Sheffield Arena, and this one was a little bit different in that while the previous event was largely Comic and Anime themed, the latest was centered around the genre of Horror, and as such had a wonderful focus on the dark and the depraved.

The venue itself was the magnificent Magna Science Adventure Centre, located in a disused steel mill, and as such was the perfect environment for a event celebrating the sinister.


As if the venue wasn’t atmospheric enough, a great effort had been made to add to the Horror ambience. My favourites were probably the corpse outlines on the floor and the body bags suspended above the Information Desk, but of course every way you turned there was something to give you a scare.

There were plenty of activities at the Con, and although I didn’t indulge in the Special Effects Make Up stalls, I did venture forth into a tent to be attacked by a couple of zombies. They were genuinely scary, and they really did seem to be going for it in the struggle. Rather unfortunately, I ended up with a little (presumably fake) blood on my hand from the lady zombie’s boob, but she was immensely gracious about it and allowed me to wipe my hand on her hoodie.

I was thrilled to make friends with Vivienne and her larger relative Willow. They were both lovely, and I got the chance to stroke a tarantula’s belly, even though we were never properly introduced and I didn’t catch her name.

There were some great guests at the convention, including Kane Hodder (the original Jason Vorhees) and Horror Author Shaun Hutson. I managed to catch a talk from Pinhead himself, the wonderful actor Doug Bradley, and even meet Horror-Icon Linnea Quigley, upon whom I had something of a crush back in the day. Weirdly, a little while before I’d even booked my ticket for the Con, I’d posted a picture on Twitter of a sketch I’d done of Linnea, and so when we chatted I showed her the picture on my phone. Her reaction was … interesting, although she did agree to a photograph. See that smile? That’s ME STILL CRUSHING YEARS LATER!!! I should point out that the sketch isn’t just some weird imagining of mine. It’s based on a shot from the movie Night Of The Demons, and is kind of the Horror movie equivalent of the Marilyn Monroe white dress/subway moment.

Speaking of Horror Icon crushes, I also got a snapshot with the beautiful Emily Booth (star of the brilliant Cradle Of Fear and Evil Aliens, among other things). Weirdly, I bumped into her again at Sheffield Station as I waited for my train home, and she very kindly agreed to a quick selfie. I’ve censored my face on both photos because it seems that her superpower is to plant the most giddy fan boy smile in existence on my face, and the world isn’t ready for that. The one taken at the Con has me showing teeth and everything!

Of course, Linnea and Emily weren’t the only swoonsome Horror crushes I met that weekend. The Divas of Dread themselves, CL Raven, had a stall full of scary goodies at the Con, and I was absolutely privileged to spend some time in their company. They’re as charming and funny in person as they are online, and much friendlier than their brilliant and terrifying fiction would suggest. I eagerly snapped up a copy of their book, The Malignant Dead, which they were kind enough to sign. You can find their take on the weekend here.

They also introduced me to another writer I was familiar with from Twitter, Mark Cassell, and he too gave me his autograph on a copy of both his novel The Shadow Fabric and his short story collection, Sinister Stitches. Again, Mark proved the adage about the scarier the work, the nicer the author, and it was great to meet him.

As evidenced by my post about my last trip to Sheffield and also my escapades at MCM Liverpool, one of the most brilliant elements of a Con is the cosplay, and this weekend was no exception. The quality of the costumes was breathtaking, and one thing I noticed was that many of the cosplayers stayed in character for almost the entire event. For example, the zombie in the first photo below had been wandering the corridors of the Magna Centre snarling at passers-by, and the reason we got chatting was because I was the only person she met that actually snarled back. The werewolf in the second picture is actually called Francine, and we’d already run into each other previously at Yorkshire Cosplay Con. She gave me one of the best laughs of the weekend when, out of the dozens of cosplayers I got a snapshot with, she was the only one who asked to see the photo to make sure she looked okay.

One cosplay I wanted to make special mention of was THIS little guy. He’s … what? Five? Six? And dressed as Alex from A Clockwork Orange. I have seen the future of Horror and it’s this kid!

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Of course, even monsters and ghouls have to eat, and it was fun to see discarded masks scattered around the cafeteria …

Over the two days, I really enjoyed taking a look around the many stalls selling tons of Horror stuff, and I wish I could have bought more, but I still came away with a whole bunch of cool stuff. I picked up a copy of CINE by Stuart Keane of Dark Chapter Press, who I kind of know because my story FOUND FOOTAGE was published in their Flashes Of Halloween anthology. I got a Death Note Fob Watch and temporary tattoo. There was actually a tattoo artist working at the Con, and my friend (and it would seem now, official Horror Con Photographer) Louise almost talked me into getting some real ink, but it was either the needle or meeting Linnea Quigley, so the temp ink was as far as I went. This time.

I bought a “stitched flesh” t-shirt that looks MUCH more convincing in real life, and the COOLEST cushion covers ever! TARDISES and Superheroes and Lament Configuration Boxes! Oh My!

One stall that I really wanted to buy something from was the Ginger Zoo, which was kind of cute, knitted chimp-like figures reimagined as Horror Icons. I loved them because the mash-up was so gloriously inappropriate, ESPECIALLY the Human Centipede one!

So, a great weekend, and just because it’s so ace, here’s another pic of the water feature outside Sheffield Station AND the pianos there that are free to use. The next Horror Con I’m planning to visit is in Birmingham in February 2017. There’s probably a few more I’ll be enjoying before then, but if Birmingham is half as good as Sheffield it’ll be brilliant!

Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading!

 


Why I Write – Updated

I won’t lie to you – this IS and ISN’T a new post. Last year I was very kindly asked to participate in two blog hops, each of them inviting me to elaborate a little on my writing process. I’m currently doing a little housekeeping at The Ark Hive at the moment, and in reading those posts again I found areas where some of info was outdated. The works in progress or upcoming projects are sights in the rear-view now, so I wanted to post versions with those sections edited out, but if you’re of a mind to read the original posts (and I’d point you in that direction if only to introduce you to the awesome people who very kindly nominated me, and the equally awesome people I subsequently nominated) the originals are available here and here.

So … Why I write …

I know why I started. I think the creative urge is something woven into our DNA, a seed planted in the soil of wherever dreams are born. Sometimes that seed flourishes, nourished by the sunlight and showers of the imagination, and the mind becomes a garden of vision and creativity. Sometimes, the seed grows into something more fragile, little more than a teardrop of colour in the black soil, and the imagination runs to smaller endeavours. Sometimes, heartbreakingly, the seed is ripped viciously from the dirt or trodden underfoot or withered by the unforgiving winters of the real world.

Maybe I’ve been lucky, maybe I’ve been given a modest garden to tend. Yes, it’s often choked with weeds, and there’s the occasional square of disturbed earth between the flower beds where the bodies are buried, but its mine, dash it, and I think there are perhaps two elements from real life that brought it to bloom.

One of them was the thread of solitude when I was growing up. My childhood … Stuff happened. It’s not quite up there with the fate of Thomas and Martha Wayne, but suffice it to say circumstances allowed me the retrospective good fortune of being left alone to my own imaginary devices, unburdened by family influences so that I might tend to that creative seed.

The other element was comics, of course. I like DC, but at heart I’m a Marvel fanboy, and Marvel has always fostered a wonderful warm connection with its readership, breaching the barrier between creator and wide-eyed reader with its letters from the Bullpen (Excelsior!) and its fourth-wall breaking asides (Deadpool’s nods out the frame are the bastard child of these, I think) and its little boxes that namechecked the artists and writers but gave them amiable nicknames (“Marvellous” Marv Wolfman, “Live-It-Up” Len Wein, “Rascally” Roy Thomas). It’s one of the reasons that Stan “The Man” Lee is so beloved today, and why his cameos are such a fun part of the movies. Well, I call them cameos. Either that, or he’s actually playing the same character, a franchise-straddling, ageless immortal whose varied career path has encompassed Army General, a couple of stints as a Security Guard, and a postman. But I digress …

Another comic that showcased its creators in this way was the UK’s own 2000AD, the home of Judge Dredd, referring to its writers and artists as Script Droids or Art Droids, and again it was a glimpse behind the curtain that not only fed my imagination but reminded me that somebody, somewhere, was constructing these worlds. And even better, they were grown ups, and I suppose that was what decided me on the kind of grown up I wanted to be.

I know why I kept going, even when I was heavily discouraged from writing even as a hobby. I think a mantra sadly familiar to a great many aspiring writers is the one where people tell you that you can’t do it, or you shouldn’t do it, or you’ll never make a living out of it, or what will the neighbours think, or your words are no good. Yeah, like we need to hear that, when we’ve all considered these things and cast them aside, again and again? Bah! To hell with the neighbours! They can’t make me wear pants!

For me, being told that I couldn’t do it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me – I have something of a history of being unable to resist a dare (I once snorted an entire bag of Sherbet Flying Saucers!), and so I kept on writing (as we all must do, although I’d advocate avoiding the Flying Saucer thing). When I started to read Stephen King’s work, I found a friendlier, more encouraging voice, not just in the fiction, but in the many notes and intros that King includes in his books, the peeks into his creative processes. Again, it was that crack in the wall, that sense that the words on the page are one person talking to another, no matter the gulf of time and space between the writing and the reading, that reminder that You Are Not Alone.

Why do I still write? Hmm. What drives me to sit at my desk after a long day of dispiriting commutes and workplace politics and try to fill the page with words? Why have there been days when I’ve given myself headaches and heartaches, staring at a screen when I could be outside, enjoying the fleeting breath of an English summer, walking in the park and looking at real gardens instead of the one in my head? The easy (and honest) answer would be that I’m hoping against hope to make even a small living out of writing at some point, if only enough to leave that commute and the politics behind, but that might never happen, and even if that was the reason, then how do I explain the blog posts, or the stories that are written with no intention to publish, or the essays, or the journal entries? (I’ve discounted the #FPs, by the way, because I know why I do them – they’re beyond fun to write)

Certainly, the encouraging voices of fellow creators are still a factor – the writing community on Twitter is wonderful, and it’s fantastic to read the great fiction and inspirational articles of other bloggers, sharing their own sneak peeks into their creative processes.

So yes, of course, I want to make a living with this writing malarkey (and if I ever write for Marvel, I already have my nickname: “Jolly” Roger Jackson? No … no, perhaps not). But that’s not it, not really. I write because all this stuff in me … it has to get out. I wake up with another person’s thoughts in my head, a dream of a kiss or a punch in the face that I never gave or received, another person’s cares and concerns. Sometimes I have to let them take precedence over my own, because to not let the words out, to let the garden die when it’s weathered all those winters and stamping feet, to let those bodies stay buried … that’s not what we’re here for, any of us.

Why do I write? I think my answer is, ultimately, the same as every other writer’s would be.

I don’t have a choice.


My Writing Process – Updated

Another retooled post! Last year I was very kindly asked to participate in two blog hops, each of them inviting me to elaborate a little on my writing process. I’m currently doing a little housekeeping at The Ark Hive at the moment, and in reading those posts again I found areas where some of info was outdated. The works in progress or upcoming projects are sights in the rear-view now, so I wanted to post versions with those sections edited out, but if you’re of a mind to read the original posts (and I’d point you in that direction if only to introduce you to the awesome people who very kindly nominated me, and the equally awesome people I subsequently nominated) the originals are available here and here.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

At first I thought this was quite a tricky question to answer, but ultimately it’s as simple as “It differs because it’s me writing it.”

To me, writing is like seeing shapes in the clouds. You and I might lay back on the warm grass, watching those little crystals of water or ice embrace tiny particles of dust in the blue sky, and, wondrously, this cold and unstoppable physical law will inspire you to see unicorns or angels, cats or dogs, the famous or the infamous, whatever your mind is wired to see.

If your mind is wired like mine, or if you’re meeting me halfway by reading the ink on a page or the pixels I’ve arranged on a screen, all I can hope to do is use my own experiences and emotional view of the world to convince you we’re seeing pretty much the same thing. That’s all any writer does. All our work differs from others in its genre.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

As I say I’m wired to see what I see, and to imagine what I imagine. As a kid, my earliest stories were superficially science-fictional, cherry-picking concepts from my favourite films and TV shows and comic books and mashing them into tales that didn’t so much explore strange new worlds as recycle them … many is the story from that time that saw a Doctor Doom/Darth Vader hybrid commanding an army of “like Cybermen but not really Cybermen” against a brave band of Mutant mercenaries armed with laser swords (definitely NOT lightsabres). Incidentally, I used to draw fake movie posters for these stories, crazy, sprawling artwork crammed with all the elements I’d stolen from my influences. Thankfully, none of these drawings survive, but they tended to be a variation on this:

I have this album ... and it's brilliant!

I have this album … and it’s brilliant!

 

The thing is, if I was writing about a cyborg, say, I started to realise how much more I enjoyed writing about the seeping, decaying remains of his or her flesh than the sleek, mechanical aspects of the cybernetics. Eventually, I came to understand that my science-fiction efforts were Horror stories in disguise, and that if I was going to write, that was the territory in which I could have the most fun.

I’ve written elsewhere about my love for the Horror genre, but the short version is that I honestly believe it’s the most flexible field I could ever work in. I can have my zombies and demons and killers (oh my!), but if I want I can also have comedy or erotica or teen angst or political drama or whatever I need. I don’t think it works the other way. Any of those genres can exist brilliantly on their own, but make the President a vampire or the angst-ridden teens serial killers and the story’s heart begins to blacken, to turn to the Dark Side.

For me, the genre remains honourable and undiluted no matter what other themes and elements it can comfortably incorporate. That’s why the Horror element always comes first when people talk about mashing it up with another genre. Zombie Western, Zombie Romance, never the other way around. Horror defines itself, and the stories it tells, and that’s why I love writing it.

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Unfortunately, my day job doesn’t allow me the luxury of a fixed time to write, or indeed a great deal of free time at all, and so any creativity tends to be left to the end of the week for Friday Phrases, and as much novel-writing as I can manage to fit in over the weekend.

If I have a whole day, I’m at my most creative in the mornings. I’ll aim for around two thousand words of new stuff then, and spend the afternoon checking through what I’ve already written. I usually find this PM editing a relatively painless process, as I’m in the habit of editing the work as I write it. I know many writers might shake their heads at this, considering it a great sin against productivity and creativity. It’s far better, they might argue, to let the prose flow, to let one’s imagination spill unrestrained on to the page, and later to use craft and skill to shape the words into the best they can possibly be.

For the record, those writers are absolutely 100% correct, but generally speaking it’s not how it works for me. There is a reason for this, I think.

A few years ago, I tried my hand at a little stand-up comedy. I’d been writing a few jokes for radio shows and the like and thought it might be interesting to see how my material played to a live crowd. Believe me, though writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely endeavour, it can feel like a party compared to standing alone on stage in front of a cold audience daring you to make them laugh.

The material was a weird stream-of-consciousness thing which wondered what might happen if – and those of you of a sensitive disposition might want to look away now – an adult movie was created by the cast of Sesame Street.

It was strange. I fully suspect anyone still reading can guess the kind of things the beloved Count was so joyfully enumerating, and even deduce what appallingly inappropriate selection of letters and numbers my imagined episode was brought to you by. What role I speculated that the renamed Cookie Monster might play in these sordid events is perhaps best left consigned to history.

The material got a few laughs, but the guy behind the microphone was an idiot, so I stopped. The experience did leave me with a curious learning curve that informs my writing today, though. All those times when I stumbled over a line, or ducked a thrown beer bottle, or misplaced one of the events in my routine and had to backtrack in as naturalistically a fashion as possible … all those things meant that I learned to cut and paste my thoughts, and quickly. To edit and shape as I went along, rewriting “as live”, if you like. It’s one reason why the shoot-from-the-hip nature of writing the Friday Phrases really appeals to me. Many of mine share the same structure as a joke, I think, albeit a joke where the punchline involves a demon or a dismemberment.

So that’s about it for my Writing Process … thanks for reading!


A Devil On Both Shoulders

I’ve been asked by those good people over at Grey Matter Press to contribute to a VERY exciting blog tour, in which the authors of the mighty EQUILIBRIUM OVERTURNED anthology (a 5-star best seller, dontcha know) offer their thoughts on the origins of their tales and/or the concept of a Horror Author’s best friend … Evil.

If you dare, I’d thoroughly recommend seeking out the other posts in the tour, which can be found at the Grey Matter Press site or the author’s individual blogs. All of them are excellent, and I’m honoured to present my own post here to join their ranks …

A DEVIL ON BOTH SHOULDERS

The devil on his left shoulder told him to kill her. He looked to the angel on his right. The angel smiled and said “Use the big knife.”

The above is a breath of microfiction that I composed for the Friday Phrases (#FP) phenomenon on Twitter, and when I was asked to contribute to this collection of thoughts on the concept of Evil, that FP was one of the first things that slithered into my mind.

It would be nice to think that Evil was that anthropomorphised little demon on your shoulder, an impulse that could be swept away like dust on your jacket, but as we know it’s not that simple. The modern science of the mind dismisses Evil as a metaphysical entity (the views of a certain Dr Loomis, a visitor to Haddonfield, Illinois, notwithstanding) and so, without the comfort blanket of believing that our species’ unpalatable actions are governed by some unknowable external force, we’re left with the cold hard truth that People Can Be Bad. It’s a frightening thought, that the gurgling, smiling baby that your co-worker proudly shows endless photographs of has the very real potential to grow up into a serial killer or cannibal. I’d venture that the assassins that have ascended into grim notoriety, the one’s with a heart on the stove or a head in the fridge, probably had a family photo album tucked away in the same apartment.

If you looked through that album, the chances are you wouldn’t be able to see the eyes of a killer in the pages. But it’s there, a time-bomb in the psyche, submerged in the coils as deeply as is the potential for good, if you ascribe to Jungian theory. There has been research to establish that there are certain physiological traits present in studied psychopaths (structural differences in the brain, a low resting heart rate etc) but of course these conclusions have been reached after the psychopathy has already been confirmed, when the evidence of a catastrophic behavioural glitch is in the bloodstains on the floor, their own irrefutable Rorschach test. These are the people with a devil on both shoulders.

It can’t be foreseen. As far as I’m aware no DNA test exists that can predict psychopathy in the womb (and wouldn’t that change the nature of those Jerry Springer type shows, with parents-to-be squabbling over which of them the flawed impulse came from?). Ultimately, we’re all born with our own devil on our shoulder, our own killer’s heart. It’s an instinct for survival and defence gifted to us by our reptilian selves, the primal fury that makes the placid man turn to violence when his family is directly threatened. Thankfully, for the most part in our lives, the most extreme responses of that instinct aren’t needed, and the reptilian brain remains a vigilant shadow behind the Paleo-mammalian and Neo-mammalian brains (respectively, our emotive and higher-thinking cores). The devil on our shoulder remains largely silent, quieted by the angelic constructs of society and culture.

As a Horror author, Evil, in both its metaphysical and real-world incarnations, is a tool of my trade, and I’ve learned to listen closely when that little devil whispers in my ear. I’ve never written about Evil as an absolute, bad just for the sake of it, because Evil needs a motivation or logic, however twisted it might seem to Human sensibilities. In my view, fictional Evil works best when it’s fuelled by, or preys upon the traits of Humanity, when it finds a breach or amoral void to exploit.

To return to the views of Dr Loomis, the psychiatrist devoted to ending Michael Myer’s killing spree in Halloween (1978), there’s a moment in the film when Loomis voices his assessment of Michael:

“I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”

It’s a nice few lines in the script, and delivered with chilling elegance by Donald Pleasence, but there are clear metaphysical implications to what Loomis is saying. One might speculate that what he’s seeing in Michael is that amoral void I mentioned, a nothingness burned into him by the failed circuits of his psyche, and translating that in supernatural terms. On the (masked) face of it, Michael isn’t possessed. His inhuman resilience to injury aside (and again, that could be simply that he functions with his reptile brain in the pilot’s seat, the instinct that allows people to overcome the agony of a shattered leg and crawl away from a burning wreck), there’s nothing identifiably supernatural about Michael Myers. He’s presented as a kind of classic psychopath, finding a focus in the character of Laurie Strode, but content to leave a trail of random corpses behind him in his pursuit of her. He’s also somehow playful in his homicidal endeavours, taking a few moments to pose as sheet-wearing ghost prior to strangling one of his victims. His brief stint in a costume is there to provide a moment of tension and a slight amusement, but I like it because, intentionally or not, it contrasts the spooky trappings of the uncanny with the flesh and blood reality of Michael’s physical violence. He isn’t a ghost or a demon, he’s a man who just happens to be insane.

If there is Evil behind his eyes, it’s all his, and I think that gives us an intriguing perspective on how Evil might actually work, at least in fictional terms. What if Evil does exist as a metaphysical force, but rather than invading our lives from without, what if it’s infiltrating from within? What if something that each and every one of us is born with, our killer’s heart, our reptile brains, acts as a kind of lightning rod to our darker impulses? What if we’re all breathing the Evil in, absorbing it from each other in every touch or kiss or smile, never knowing the moment when it might reach enough critical mass to trip our kill-switch? What if the devil on your shoulder is calling his cousins home?

What if you have more than one?

 


Blog Hop – Why I Write

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Thank you to the splendid @amicgood for nominating me as a link in this chain of blog posts. You should know that I owe Amy BIG TIME for being the brains behind @FridayPhrases, a Twitter phenomenon of which I’ve written many times (some might say too many times … but that’s not going to stop me). Amy’s own post on why she writes can be found here, along with many other wonderful articles and her rich, surgically incisive prose.

So … Why I write …

I know why I started. I think the creative urge is something woven into our DNA, a seed planted in the soil of wherever dreams are born. Sometimes that seed flourishes, nourished by the sunlight and showers of the imagination, and the mind becomes a garden of vision and creativity. Sometimes, the seed grows into something more fragile, little more than a teardrop of colour in the black soil, and the imagination runs to smaller endeavours. Sometimes, heartbreakingly, the seed is ripped viciously from the dirt or trodden underfoot or withered by the unforgiving winters of the real world.

Maybe I’ve been lucky, maybe I’ve been given a modest garden to tend. Yes, it’s often choked with weeds, and there’s the occasional square of disturbed earth between the flower beds where the bodies are buried, but its mine, dash it, and I think there are perhaps two elements from real life that brought it to bloom.

One of them was the thread of solitude when I was growing up. My childhood … Stuff happened. It’s not quite up there with the fate of Thomas and Martha Wayne, but suffice it to say circumstances allowed me the retrospective good fortune of being left alone to my own imaginary devices, unburdened by family influences so that I might tend to that creative seed.

The other element was comics, of course. I like DC, but at heart I’m a Marvel fanboy, and Marvel has always fostered a wonderful warm connection with its readership, breaching the barrier between creator and wide-eyed reader with its letters from the Bullpen (Excelsior!) and its fourth-wall breaking asides (Deadpool’s nods out the frame are the bastard child of these, I think) and its little boxes that namechecked the artists and writers but gave them amiable nicknames (“Marvellous” Marv Wolfman, “Live-It-Up” Len Wein, “Rascally” Roy Thomas). It’s one of the reasons that Stan “The Man” Lee is so beloved today, and why his cameos are such a fun part of the movies. Well, I call them cameos. Either that, or he’s actually playing the same character, a franchise-straddling, ageless immortal whose varied career path has encompassed Army General, a couple of stints as a Security Guard, and a postman. But I digress …

Another comic that showcased its creators in this way was the UK’s own 2000AD, the home of Judge Dredd, referring to its writers and artists as Script Droids or Art Droids, and again it was a glimpse behind the curtain that not only fed my imagination but reminded me that somebody, somewhere, was constructing these worlds. And even better, they were grown ups, and I suppose that was what decided me on the kind of grown up I wanted to be.

I know why I kept going, even when I was heavily discouraged from writing even as a hobby.  I think a mantra sadly familiar to a great many aspiring writers is the one where people tell you that you can’t do it, or you shouldn’t do it, or you’ll never make a living out of it, or what will the neighbours think, or your words are no good. Yeah, like we need to hear that, when we’ve all considered these things and cast them aside, again and again? Bah! To hell with the neighbours! They can’t make me wear pants!

For me, being told that I couldn’t do it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me – I have something of a history of being unable to resist a dare (I once snorted an entire bag of Sherbet Flying Saucers!), and so I kept on writing (as we all must do, although I’d advocate avoiding the Flying Saucer thing). When I started to read Stephen King’s work, I found a friendlier, more encouraging voice, not just in the fiction, but in the many notes and intros that King includes in his books, the peeks into his creative processes. Again, it was that crack in the wall, that sense that the words on the page are one person talking to another, no matter the gulf of time and space between the writing and the reading, that reminder that You Are Not Alone.

Why do I still write? Hmm. What drives me to sit at my desk after a long day of dispiriting commutes and workplace politics and try to fill the page with words? Why have there been days when I’ve given myself headaches and heartaches, staring at a screen when I could be outside, enjoying the fleeting breath of an English summer, walking in the park and looking at real gardens instead of the one in my head? The easy (and honest) answer would be that I’m hoping against hope to make even a small living out of writing at some point, if only enough to leave that commute and the politics behind, but that might never happen, and even if that was the reason, then how do I explain the blog posts, or the stories that are written with no intention to publish, or the essays, or the journal entries? (I’ve discounted the #FPs, by the way, because I know why I do them – they’re beyond fun to write)

Certainly, the encouraging voices of fellow creators are still a factor – the writing community on Twitter is wonderful, and it’s fantastic to read the great fiction and inspirational articles of other bloggers, sharing their own sneak peeks into their creative processes.

So yes, of course, I want to make a living with this writing malarkey (and if I ever write for Marvel, I already have my nickname: “Jolly” Roger Jackson? No … no, perhaps not). But that’s not it, not really. I write because all this stuff in me … it has to get out. I wake up with another person’s thoughts in my head, a dream of a kiss or a punch in the face that I never gave or received, another person’s cares and concerns. Sometimes I have to let them take precedence over my own, because to not let the words out, to let the garden die when it’s weathered all those winters and stamping feet, to let those bodies stay buried … that’s not what we’re here for, any of us.

Why do I write? I think my answer is, ultimately, the same as every other writer’s would be.

I don’t have a choice.

 

And now to the part I’ve been looking forward to the most – nominating a couple of very cool fellow writers to continue the chain. I’ve chosen two people whose blogs are relatively new, but if their posts so far and their exceptional contributions to #FP are any indication, readers are in for many treats in the future.

KDYB6_8j@ElishaAshworth is a writer of enviable talent, as well as being a thoroughly delightful person to interact with on Twitter. In addition to her excellent geek credentials, she’s also a self-proclaimed Shakespeare nerd, and is indirectly responsible for the #jabespeare hashtag, as it was her infectious enthusiasm for the Bard that re-ignited my own interest. The stories on her blog show a great versatility of storytelling, and I look forward to reading her work for a long time to come.

 

@Larysia is a powerhouse of creativity, and I’m in awe of how driven she is in her dedication to her current WIP, the novel Lucidity. A proactive and supportive writer, she’s enriched her town by founding a writer’s group called The Scribe’s Society. She’s hugely engaging to converse with, and has the added bonus of being a committed gamer girl. Her ‘Let’s Play’ videos, where she and @WalkingCasino narrate their journey through various virtual dreamscapes, are a joy to behold. I can’t wait to read more of her work. Her blog can be found here.gJHBIMGK

 

 

 

My sincere thanks to both for agreeing to be nominated.