About me

I've been writing stories for years. I think I'm a good writer and I'm willing to bet you'll feel the same way. So here they are. Enjoy them, comment on them, tell your friends about'em, reblog them, retweet them, reread them. I have four stories in my archive so far:
"One day on the Mountain", a story of Lycanthropy, a father, and a son.
"The Boy", a story of a very ambitious and sociopathic fifth grade boy.
"The Easy Girl, A story of infidelity and unpaid sexual debts. This story is very dark.
"Brick The Mighty", a story of an aging superhero.
Although this is primarily a blog of horror, I also write about things that are important to me. I have more stories tucked away; they just need editing. There's even a few novels. There will be more to come.
PS. Feel free to leave a comment. I love comments.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Some Books on Puberty, Because I'm a Geek parent

A few days ago a package from Amazon came in the mail. There were some regular kids’  books, and then two not so regular: What’s Happening to Me? and Where did I Come From?, both by Peter Mayle. 
These two are classic texts in the puberty genre. They’re not too judgmental, and the facts are almost completely correct save for one notable exception - perhaps to reassure insecure pubertal boys, the book calmingly states that although penises may cover a wide range of sizes when flaccid, they are all generally the same size when erect. Any woman who’s been with more than one man, and any man who’s seen porn, knows this is not true. 

The night they arrived, my wife and I leafed through What’s Happening to Me? while our eight year-old leafed through Where did I come from? in his room. 

This, boys and girls, is a wet dream. Wet because he's in the
ocean, I suppose. 
I’m not complaining about these books. Not at all. I’m glad my kids are going to read them, and not get their sex-ed from the psychotic bed-wetter at school. There’s no religion in these books, no proselytizing. The explanation for masturbation is adorable - kids’ bodies are ready for reproduction at thirteen, but kids aren’t socially or emotionally ready for reproduction. Nature has invented a solution: Rub one out! It’s not bad, but sometimes you may feel embarrassed. To illustrate this point, there is a wonderful picture of a tiny, round-bodied little ginger-haired boy sitting in bed with his hands down his pants as a long and judgemental lighting bolt points angrily at him. The books covers feelings, curiosity, and even reassure us that having pubic hair that is not the same colour as the hair on our head is normal. I can’t really complain.

Except… this books makes sex look no different than your average kids’ book. It’s cute and acessible. The boys and girls are little caucasian cherubs that resemble Ewoks or cabbage-patch kids. It demystifies sex and while this is good on the surface, I wish I could tell my kids what I’ve gleaned. I wish I could tell them this:


Look. Sex is one of the three most primal things we do. The other two are being born, and dying. Being born is something you get out of the way quickly. But the other two are inextricably linked. They are tangled in a greasy Gordian knot that for most of our life-span we pretend does not exist. 

We try not to die, and in the time that we succeed in not dying, we’re trying to have sex. Evolution wired us so that we are fooled into thinking that we have sex for pleasure, but we do it to survive. It’s about passing on enough of your genes so that your death becomes moot. 

Got all this, I hope? This means that sex is complicated, and it’s powerful. We’re doing our best, through a combination of internet porn and female empowerment, to make sex seem like a recreational sport. It’s not. It’s both the most umimportant, pleasurable, and fun thing you’ll ever do, and at the same time it is a force that has enslaved populations and countries, toppled kingdoms, fomented mass murder, inspired car design, and was nearly the undoing of an otherwise brilliant and unbeatable American president. It’s spawned massive government-regulated sex industries and made countless innocent children disappear. If you look at someone under the age of thirty, there’s a good chance that he or she is thinking about it. It’s powerful. 

Is it something to afraid of, you ask? No. It’s a natural phenomenon, like wax and wane of the moon, or the vast sheets of ice that fall from icebergs in the Newfoundland spring. It’s not different than the leopard seal that hunts penguins, who are hunting food to feed their chicks. It’s life and creation, and I hope you have a chance to be involved in it. 

You don’t want to have kids? You don’t want to join the Circle of Life? That’s fine. I want you to do what makes you happy. You’ve been born, you’re going to have sex, and you will eventually (and I don’t want to think of this) die; you’re doing all three primal things anyway. But every day you will be interacting with people who are on their journeys from, towards, or through these three things. You have to be aware of that, and these earnest and funny little drawings aren’t going to be telling you any of this. 

Rather than have you read this, your mother and I are probably going to muddle through your sex education like all parents do, and you’ll recount the awful discomfort you felt when I try to lecture you on ‘taking the gentlemanly precautions’, or when your mother asks you if ‘you really like that girl or whether you’re just using her, because she seems really nice.’ 

We’ll make mistakes, because we’re trying to educate you on something ephemeral and elemental.

In fact, the more I go on, the more futile it seems. How about I change tack and just be practical?

Wear condoms, know where the clitoris and G-spot are, try not to cheat because you’ll eventually get caught, don’t be too smug to your friends if you find a Friend With Benefits, and above all be nice. Be respectful to strippers or the doorman will have legal reason to beat you up. Porn isn’t a bad thing but I learn to hide it, dammit. 
There. That wasn’t too bad, was it? 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Occupy Vancouver and the God of Greed

Occupy Vancouver disappeared today.
The city and the police came early in the morning when it was still dark. It had been raining hard, and I don’t think the protesters had much fight left in them. They moved over to Robson street to set up an encampment by the Law Courts. As I write this it is pouring rain, and a torrent of water is pouring off the corner of my roof where the eavestrough is broken. It’s a miserable night be be outside in Vancouver. But that is nothing; in Calgary and Ottawa it’s not wet, but bone-chilling cold. 
World-wide, the media has turned against the Occupy movement. They tell us the people have sickened of the protestors, but I think their instinct for a story has made then attempt to engender a conclusion onto what could have been history. 
Yes, the message was too amorphous, but the threat - the inequality lobbied in legality, the whole-sale theft of public funds by the very men who used to work for Goldman-Sachs - is amorphous. Mark Carney, the man who runs the Bank of Canada, used to work for Goldman-Sachs, and is now heading a technocrat cabal intent on ‘solving’ the Greek debt crisis. How does this Harvard-educated financial whiz plan to do it? The same way the 2008 crisis was ‘solved’ - billions in public money. That money will disappear. It will go away, and thousands of banking executives will receive bonuses, and send their high-performers on ‘seminars’ and team-building camps in the Caribbean. When the next crisis erupts, this will happen again. It’s a rescue operation for the rich. 
The amorphous message is stop. Stop the business as usual. We’ve been in league with a monster.
The derivatives, the high-finance machinations, are so complex that even the smartest financial minds in the banking industry can’t understand them. The market; the interconnected brokerages and exchanges, the fast-as-light system on everything runs, are nothing less than a massive body with a circulatory system, nerve endings, lungs, a stomach, and a vast appetite. Every trader has unwittingly become a cell, and every bank and firm has become a nexus in an individual system. We’ve tricked ourselves into thinking we’re farming our financial system like a crop, but it’s a monster to which we pay tribute. 
It doesn’t care about us. Through the science of incorporation, we’ve given it a brain that feels no empathy. It knows that if we kill it, its colossal corpse will rot and poison us all. So we feed it, and it gives us a meagre something in return. 
There’s this writer by the name of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Anyone who reads horror knows about him. But for those of you who don’t: he was a visionary author of the early twentieth century. He led a rough life, died in poverty, and left a body of work that became the most influential material in horror. He wrote of Forbidden Knowledge, and Elder Gods. What if huge, ancient and unspeakable creatures were watching us? 
But we don’t need Lovecraft anymore. We’ve had our own elder God all along; it merely needed us to become so interconnected that we unknowingly made a vast and virtual body for it. Then the Elder God moved right in. 
An old God, and a convenient temple
Its name is Greed, and now it’s as real as Wikipedia or Google. It’s a construct, but it’s more real, and more reactive, than anything present in the Judeo-Christian mythos, or Islam. It may as well be real. Our God is Greed. It’s ancient; it’s lived as long as Humankind has competed for the comeliest mate, or the ripest berry patch, or the fertile valley with a river running along the bottom.
 But now we’ve given it a home, and its disciples, its adherents, are impossible to fight or prosecute. So far, the only thing we’ve thought to do is camp out near Greed’s temples. 
So the next time you walk by your fading and embattled local Occupy encampment, spare a thought for these folks. They’re not perfect, but neither have they blindly placed their faith in the disciples of Greed to fix everything. They’re looking for a new way - you can see it in their Elder tents, their cookhouses, their communal organizing. 
My kids and I walked by there on Sunday. It didn’t look violent or filthy. All we saw were people camping on wet ground. They weren’t harming anyone. They certainly weren’t orchestrating the transfer of billions, and they don’t deserve this anger. They’re not the bad guys. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Two Reviews - 'The Last Werewolf', and 'The Caretaker of Lorne Field'

Just two quickie reviews. I used to do long ones, but the short form seems to be more appealing, and more in line with the ‘wham-bam-thank-you-man’ tastes of blog readers. 

The Caretaker of Lorne Field, by Dave Zeltserman - This short book has been viewed as Horror’s second coming by some. The reviews on amazon and on the Horror Drive-In were so effusive that I thought I had another The Passage on my hands, which meant I might be brutally disappointed. Also, the cost of the Ebook was almost nineteen bucks. But lately I’ve seen some collectible crud on sale for way more than that, so I thought I’d take the plunge.
It’s a quick read; I finished it in a day and half with what little reading time I have. It’s the story of a man who is the hereditary caretaker of the eponymous Lorne Field. The field is home to strange creatures called the Aukowies - plant-like monsters that are a melange of the Triffids, Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, and the legendary Mandrake plant. If left alive, an Aukowie will mature in eight days, pull itself from the ground, and destroy all life on earth. You don’t see much of the Aukowies; the book hints that mature they are nine feet high, move at about two hundred miles an hour, and are armed with what appears spinning thorns as powerful as industrial wood-chippers. 
The caretaker, Jack Durkin, is a man who gave up a pro ball career, happiness, and success, because a contract signed three hundred years ago makes him obligated to follow in his father’s footsteps, and his sons to follow in his. He has to pull the ‘weeds’ by hand from the field, for twelve hours a day, until winter comes. He gets free use of an old, dank house and eight thousand bucks a year. 
Here’s where the conflict starts: it’s present day, and all the respectful townsfolk who used to hold the selfless caretaker in high esteem, who used to give him and his family free food, are almost all deceased. The age of superstition has passed. Jack’s sons hate him and are embarrassed by him; his wife (whom admittedly Jack has used as a breeding sow to bear his sons and future caretakers) hates him with an almost homicidal passion, and the younger townsfolk think the Caretaker job is a ancient scam and that Jack and his descendants may have been having them on. 
This is a short book, but it works. The Aukowies, though barely described, are a constant and lurking presence. Wisely, the author doesn’t give an explanation, or an origin, and so the book takes on a mythic aspect. As the book progresses, the questions of reality, mental illness, and faith arise, and soon even the main character begins to question himself as much or more than the other characters. 
Top marks for this book, as long as you’re not expecting anything epic. It’s short, but it does everything a classic story should.

The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan - This is a tough review. 
Glen Duncan is a great writer, and uses his English classicism, his education, and his vast, incisive vocabulary to craft his brilliant verbiage. He’s clearly a fan of Nabokov, and although he pokes fun at Martin Amis in this books (‘Amis’s mouldering novelties’), he owes much of his style and many of his characters to Amis’s classic book Money. He’s technically a better writer than any horror writer ever. But is he a better horror writer? 
In the back pages of my cheapo edition of Moby Dick, there is a collection of essays. One is by DH Lawrence, and it’s a treat to read one genius as he dissects another. He pokes fun at Melvilles plodding pendantry, his endless lectures on history and biology, but admits that beneath all of Melville’s fluff beats the heart of a true mystic. 
So… I hate to do this. Glen Duncan is what this genre needs: Most horror writers could never in their life craft a sentence like he can. He’s a classically trained dancer in a field where most are outside shuffling on a sheaf of cardboard for spare change. It’s a pleasure to read this book. His insights into werewolf transformation, the nature of immortality (and I think he borrowed from Amis’s short story ‘the Immortals’), the lurking, flickering spirit of lust and hunger as it dashes between both states, are fabulous. But there’s… no there there. 
I was waiting for that pulse, that black throbbing pustule that makes great horror. But Jacob Marlowe, the immortal and titular main character,  is terribly bored. He’s seen it all. Duncan has made the mistake of deconstructing the werwolf myth too much. Jake is rich, constantly horny, and dealing with a zealous anti-supernatural agency that has destroyed all the werewolves in the world ( their greatest triumph was the making of a bait website that advertises lycanthropine hook-ups called Werewolf-fuckfest.com) and are zeroing in on him. There’s lots of action and gore. But I was never frightened, creeped out, or otherwise disturbed. I was looking for horror, and instead I got a comedy of wits and manners with werewolves. 
But read it. I wasn’t frightened, but a lot of horror books aren’t frightening. So many horror books are horribly written, but this was wonderful. Yes, there is a slight feeling that the author is genre-slumming to make a quick buck( or just a buck period, since it’s tough to make a living as a writer), but nonetheless his talent should be welcomed. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Monsters (2010)

  This movie gave me hope. Monsters, a simple alien invasion story, gave me hope. 
  I've been worried about horror. It's not just the zombies, or the publishing houses that are built on zombie fiction, that worry me. It's the fiction, the stories. Horror, film or text, is now horror first and story second. Writers approach horror first with the scare, blood, rape, or monsters, before they even think of a story. But horror is nothing without real people, real surroundings, real language. Good horror is a good story first. Some of Stephen King's best-known works aren't horror; he's a great storyteller who happens to like scaring people. 
   Monsters is about two people, a man and woman, travelling through Mexico trying to get home to the US. You can almost taste and smell the tortillas a young Mexican mother makes for them; you notice the dirt and grit on the government signs warning of restricted areas. You can feel the tension between the two leads as they try and fail to always show themselves at their best.
  They just happen to be travelling through a land colonized by 300-foot tentacled aliens who are dead ringers for Lovecraft's Cthulhu. 
    But it works. The monsters are on CNN, and in the US and Mexico, life goes on. Judging by the signage on the roads leading to America, we can see there is another government agency created to deal with the threat, and that agency has its own logo, and each of its initiatives has its own logo as well. On the Mexican side of the border, there are religious shrines built in honour of the victims (think of pictures of children in their Confirmation clothes). There are protest signs against the collateral damage the anti-alien bombing causes. In the background of almost every shot there is a gutted building, destroyed either by bombs or aliens; the movie is never clear in that respect. 
    The movie makes wonderful educational point for writers and directors: any disaster that does not utterly destroy our civilization will instead give us signs, walls, protocols, curfews, a new vocabulary to explain what we see every day, and a new economy to deal with all those people who need things, or need to get somewhere fast.  But we will still drink, eat, care for our children and each other, and get on with life. Describe those details and you tell a story the audience wants to hear. Describe those people, and you won't need the monsters all that much. We'll see them through the eyes of those characters you worked so hard to flesh out. That's how horror works. 
   Oh, and if you want to add buckets of gore after you've successfully created your character and background, that's okay too. Just thought I'd add that. I'm not anti-gore, I'm anti-suckage. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Horror Movie Review: Home Alone (1990)

 Home Alone is as edgy as extreme horror. 

    Friday night; there was still time before bed; so what to do? The kids are starting to punch each other and soon they’ll be grabbing blunt objects. I desperately check the movies we have in on the PVR. Lo and behold, there’s a Home Alone that my wife taped last year off of CBC. I get the kids into their pyjamas, make them brush their teeth, and down into the activity room we go. A classic of the early nineties. I’ve never seen it before, but I heard of it when it came out. I missed it; That classic face-palming shot by Macaulay Culkin was everywhere and I hate anything ubiquitous. But it’s a kids’ movie and I was sure they’d like it.
   Horror is, simply, the destruction of order. Cancer, war, murder, deformity, disability, helplessness, the loss of civilization, helplessness. If you can see horror as the destruction of order, of peace, then a lot of films  one might never consider to be horror become horror films, and a lot of horror films (Saw, anyone?) are just gimmicks. 

   The premise (for the three of you who haven’t seen the movie): The McCallisters, a large, extremely wealthy extended family, are on their way to Paris for Christmas. The evening before the plane leaves, the youngest brother (Culkin) annoys everyone so much that he is banished to the attic. In the morning, amidst all the confusion, the family leaves the boy in the house, and only realize their mistake once they’re over the ocean. 

   Back home, Kevin McCallister wakes up, alone, and convinces himself that he has magically wished his family into oblivion.

   I said horror is the destruction of order. It must be done on a great magnitude. Kevin, a downtrodden little underdog, immediately moves into his parents’ room, jumps on beds, eats junk-food all day, raids his older brother’s room for cash and skin-mags, watches violent movies before noon while eating cake and ice-cream, and makes a terrible mess of his upper-1% family home. A storm has taken out the phone lines. The concept of a wealthy family’s comfortable Christmas, the great privilege of the western world, is dashed as effectively as if zombies staggered out of the woods, or a meteorite thundered down and wiped out Washington DC.

  Then the burglars arrive. 

    Two thieves (Joe Pesci an Daniel Stern), collectively called The Wet Bandits (known for leaving the taps on and flooding the houses of the people they burgle. As a homeowner, that infuriated me), have arrived to rob the the houses of everyone who has left for the Holidays. Kevin’s home is the largest and most ostentatious on the street. Kevin has to defend himself and his home. 

 Beforehand, there is a brief and touching scene when Kevin sadly sits in a church pew and watches the choir rehearse for Midnight Mass. He meets his neighbour, an old man who is rumoured to have killed his family, and discovers that the rumours are false and that he is kind and wise. He leaves the church, that symbol of timeless order, and runs home to deal with The Wet Bandits. What follows is pure horror for the adults watching, and pure, anarchical delight for younger viewers.

    Kevin comes just short of killing the two burglars. He sends them crashing down iced stairs, makes them step on rusting nails, attacks them with blowtorches, shoots one burglar in the crotch with a pellet gun, bludgeons another with an iron. The invasion of a secure environment, the transfer of power into the hands of a violent little second-grader, the silent woods outside, the family marooned in Paris and trying unsuccessfully to contact their youngest - this is a horror film.  This is a breakdown of the ruling order. 

    When it is over, only Kevin and the burglars know what has happened. When he is reunited with his family, the grown-up little Kevin, that whirling dervish of destruction, forgives his mother for leaving him home alone. But it’s his choice to do so.

   For all of you who can find it, I would highly recommend Home Alone. It is a violent and unexpectedly  sophisticated film of rebellion. It has also become standard Christmas TV for stations who don’t bother to screen their programming choices. If your local station is blindly broadcasting it for the Christmas lull, record it and prepare for a wonderful ride.  

Friday, 4 November 2011


    I grew up reading Tintin and Asterix. It was quite a few years before I realized that both were originally French (and I had no excuse for thinking Asterix was created in North America; they were Gauls, for Cripe's sake).
    There are a number of animated Tintin's, and there is an brisk industry in making live-action big-budget Asterix films (with Gerard Depardieu as Obelix). So why not make Tintin into a grand film live-action film for the theatres?
  Instead, we have this strange mix of live people made into animated creatures, which is how The Polar Express was done. Tintin looks like a animated statue from Mme Tussaud's. I'm not sure why they're doing this, but I'll hazard a guess.
  Tintin is an immortal, timeless brand. He is a simply and brilliantly drawn character, and that doesn't work  with real people. Sure, you could get Shia Labaoef or Justin Bieber to portray Tintin in an instance of celebrity casting to get bums in seats. But could you imagine either of these guys with a cropped head and a little tuft of blonde hair sitting perfectly atop his head? Could you take seriously a real person with that hair, plus-fours (the Tintin pants), a blue sweater, deck shoes, and what is probably a dickey? Does anyone even know what plus-fours and a dickey are? Tintin dresses like this all the time.
    Captain Haddock wears an officer's cap and a blue sweater with an anchor stencilled on the front. Always. The Thompsons are two men (not identical twins) who look and dress alike, finish each other's sentences, and sleep in the same room. In some Tintin books, Snowy the Dog can talk. I don't think there is any way this can be done with real people. It wouldn't be taken seriously.
   I'm not sure why the Tintin books can portray amazing stories, real emotions, suspense, murder, Moon landings, treasure hunts, Lovecraftian Mayan conspiracies, and brilliant commentary on politics and power,  through these buffonish characters. But it works.
    Looking back at what I've written, I accept the decision to go the hi-tech animated way. This will go a long way towards suspending the viewers' belief. And if it doesn't, we'll always have the books. They'll never get old.
    The movies makes it to North America on December 21st. I'll probably be there with my kids. Here's the trailer.

Edit: From the trailer, this movie appears to mix together several Tintin plots into one convoluted mass. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'll probably see it anyway.