Category: Horror

Kafka & Lovecraft : Dreamlands and Nightmares

Kafka & Lovecraft : Dreamlands and Nightmares

Franz Kafka’s reliance on a dreamlike state of existence in his work is reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft. Whose work includes several stories based in a dreamlike state. While Kafka is more classically noted than Lovecraft the two share some major similarities in their use of dreams and nightmares in their works. Both have penned some of the most horrifying fiction ever written. Kafka mastery of what can only be called an absurdest reality shakes the reader to the core. You identify with the characters and come to feel his anguish and despair on a personal level that can break you down while reading. There is such a sense of depression associated with works like The Metamorphosis that they become infectious. This is the strength of his writing style. Kafka in his writing tapped into the ideas of Freud and  the symbolic nature of dreams to create works that touch us on a deeply emotional and primal level.

On the other hand  Lovecraft created stories that are horrifying and touch us no less deeply than Kafka but he does not rely on the Freudian symbolic dream. In fact Lovecraft often challenged the very idea that dreams were symbolic. Lovecraft saw dreams as meaningful  and almost as real as the waking world. While Lovecraft seems to reject Freud you can not help but to see the symbolic relationships between the creatures of Lovecraft’s nightmares and the mental problems he faced in his own life.

Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is probably the one of the most disturbing pieces of short fiction I have ever read. When reading a classic novel or piece of fiction I endeavor to identify with the protagonist or at least one of the major characters. Gregor Samsa’s plight in Kafka’s work hits me at home in so many ways that it becomes disturbing. At thirty-eight years of age I was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome. I had always known I was different from everyone around me. I am the only person I know that had to actively teach myself how to smile and I still don’t have a convincing one. I remember my mother’s constant admonition as a child to either smile or to stop grimacing when I tried to smile. So a story about a man waking up to find himself a virtual alien is a story that deeply touches me as someone who feels like an alien at times. I remember vividly realizing I was not like other people and how it felt to be an alien. This story brought so many memories back to me from my childhood that when I read it the first time a few years ago it stuck with me. My copy is now dog-eared and almost falling apart. I have sought to find meaning for my own life in the pages. To write something like this Kafka must have felt much as I have felt about life. This gives me some small comfort that I am not alone and leaves me with some mixed feelings about Gregor.

Unlike Kafka, Lovecraft was often dismissive of Freud and in at least one story mentions Freud in passing while dismissing the Dream symbolism in Freud’s work as “Puerile”. Lovecraft embraced the ideas of Carl Jung. To Jung dreams were based on real things not just symbolic and they represented shared archetypal information. Lovecraft embraced the idea of the collective consciousness that we have racial and subconscious memories that play out in our dreams.Lovecraft wanted to reader to believe that his creatures could actually exist in some dreamlike state or in some archaic half forgotten racial memory of eons past. Like Kafka Lovecraft touches me on a very emotional level. The idea that just beyond our limited perception is an entire world of horror waiting for the chance to step over and engulf us is at its heart the ultimate nightmare.

These two authors use dreams and nightmares to evoke a sense of horror and depression in their readers but they do so using different psychological mechanisms. I think it is important to compare their styles so that future authors can more easily understand the broad panoply of human psychological and subconscious fear. The mind is a wonderful and dangerous tool. Herein lie worlds of Freudian subconscious symbolism and  worlds of Jungian unplumbed instinctual memory. Who knows what may lurk deep in our primitive reptilian cortex.

 

The String of Pearls: The Power of the Serial Killer in Horror Fiction

The String of Pearls: The Power of the Serial Killer in Horror Fiction

 

The String of Pearls is one of the perfect Gothic horror novels of the Victorian era. Not only is the protagonist utterly vile and depraved he is actually horrifying. Sweeney Todd is one of the most iconic and terrifying monsters. The strength of his characterization is in the fact that there really are Sweeney Todds out there in the world. The boogie man is a myth, Frankenstein is a fantasy,  and Dracula is a will o’ wisp. Sweeney Todd on the other hand might live and work next door to any of us. He is  Jeffery Dalmer, and Ed Gein. He is the dark side of human nature and he is a stand in for every cannibal and serial killer that has ever existed. From the Greek Cronus to Hansel and Gretel the cannibal serial killer haunts our very nightmares. This is why The String of Pearls has stood the test of time even with a writing style that I believe many contemporary people would find daunting. This story still captures our imagination and haunts us over a hundred years later. I really could not help but think of movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre when reading this book and while it is supposed to be about the life of Ed Gein after reading this I can see how the story of Sweeney Todd helped flesh (pun intended) out the film.

As a simple metaphor Sweeney Todd stands for the indifference of men in society. The hustle and bustle of the industrial wasteland of our society where people, even hundreds of people, can go missing and no one raise an eyebrow. Sweeney Todd works on the fear that we can disappear into the crowd and be lost even in the busiest city in the world. In The String of Pearls he acts as murderer but he could just as well be a stand in for the a fear of losing ourselves and our individuality in the great throngs of people who inhabit our daily lives. This is a fear that can be understood by anyone who has ever stood on a street corner in a large city or who has been packed into public transportation in any city. It plays on a very real and instinctual fear not just of the predators among us, but the lack of interest that people can show their neighbors in urban settings.

Algernon Blackwood Master of Unspeakable Horror

Algernon Blackwood Master of Unspeakable Horror

When most people talk about the early writers of horror they invariably discuss H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft was the master of crafting tales of unspeakable dread, but he learned that craft from another. In fact Lovecraft’s entire body of work would have probably never been written without the influence of one man.

Algernon Blackwood is the English equivalent of Lovecraft and if you haven’t heard of him and you love the idea of eldritch horror or Gothic horror than you are missing out on one of the greatest masters.

If you are just learning of Blackwood and have not read any of his stories yet I would suggest you read “The Man Who Found Out” first. Some of his other fiction is more esoteric in nature and difficult to read. If you have read Lovecraft this type of story is very familiar. A character learns an unspeakable secret and goes insane. Blackwood mixes both science and magic in this story and suggests that the two are linked. I believe this attitude was very common in the period and the story plays on the fears of scientific revelation. The reader seeing this story in 1912 would have been inundated with new scientific revelations which had turned their world upside down. It was not unthinkable at that time that a scientist may discover a secret of the universe that could unhinge people or make them suicidally depressed. The horror of the story works very well on that level. I equate this type of horror with the rise of the science fiction horror movies in the mid 1950’s where the mad scientist creates unspeakable monsters or discovers some atomic secret that could destroy the world. This idea that somethings are better left unknown factors into horror tales in almost every generation.

 

After having read Blackwood I am almost tempted to call Lovecraft a literary thief. This is not to say Lovecraft wasn’t a brilliant author. In my estimation he is a much better writer than Blackwood, but many of the themes Lovecraft explored are found in Blackwood’s earlier works. Maybe thief is too strong. Lovecraft was a genius, but he wrote much of his fiction into the same universe described by Blackwood. Lovecraft merely fills in some of the gaps in that universe.

Horror Hosts- World of the Weird Monster Show

 

I love horror host shows. The bad production values, the horrible dialogue, and even the cheesy special effects. My favorite Horror Host show is currently  World of the Weird Monster  Show. They have been on for seven years in the Chicago area. I found them online and while I live no where near Chicago I have been able to follow them for the past five years online. Now they have moved to The Monster Channel an online 24 hour television station. Check them out on you tube or on the Monster Channel. I’m not sure the humor is to everyone’s taste, but I love this kind of outside the box production. They are not afraid to take chances. Sometimes it flops but more often than not their humor works well.

Wolves in Petticoats: The Victorian Werewolf

Wolves in Petticoats: The Victorian Werewolf


This is a rough excerpt from the introduction of a book on Victorian werewolves I am writing right now. It should be finished sometime around March 2013. (I have way too many projects to give it my full attention this year)

 

Introduction

It has been suggested that the vampire legend, largely created by Bram Stoker, is the most enduring and famous creature mythos to emerge out of popular Gothic literature. While this may be true the lowly werewolf must also be given a place of distinction. The literature of the Victorian era werewolf has nowhere near the enduring popularity of the Vampire, nevertheless during the period the werewolf was at least as popular with a score of books and short fiction to testify to its enduring legacy. In this book I will seek out the werewolf in its many forms and discuss its origin and evolution in the modern world. I will  break down werewolf mythology into several themes. The first will be the Supernatural curse. The second will be the “New Woman” werewolf or the wolf-woman as seductress. The third and final category will be the exotic werewolves of the Americas and India.

The supernatural curse appears throughout the werewolf literary genre. In the earliest werewolf stories these curses are almost always self inflicted such as in Reynolds’s, “Wagner the Wehr wolf” here the curse is the price Wagner pays the devil for his immortality and riches, in later works such as Kipling’s, “The Mark of the Beast” the curse is involuntary placed on the bearer because of his desecration of an Indian temple. I will discuss the varied methods by which the victims and often willing participants are transformed into a beast.

An intriguing aspect of the Werewolf during the Victorian period is the appearance of the female werewolf. When we think of female shape shifters wolves are often the last things to come to mind. There are literally thousands of books depicting women turning into cats or catlike creatures but not wolves; however the female werewolf was much more popular in European mythology and Victorian literature than in our modern literary tradition. The female werewolf while rare was a staple of several authors such as Clemance Housman and Frederick Marryat.  Housman was a writer, illustrator and a leading feminist of her day. She wrote several werewolf short stories and one novel. Her stories fit more in with the traditional folklore than some of the other Gothic horror novelists.

The idea of the werewolf is not just limited to Western and EasternEurope. The wolf-man is a universal human concept appearing in the folklore of almost every human society. During the Victorian period the West was being exposed more and more to the variety of world cultures. We can see this variety expressed in the werewolf fiction of the era. From Kipling’s Indian werewolves to Beaugrand’s Native American skinwalkers we see the werewolf in a multitude of aspects. The Victorians were fascinated by exotic cultures and exotic locales this made the foreign werewolf all the more intriguing as it paired a myth that people were familiar with to a more mysterious setting.

The classic werewolf literature of the 19th century has been long overshadowed by the werewolf of Hollywood. The original mythology is much more creative and innovative than the stock portrait of the werewolf that has been fostered on our modern sensibilities by popular film. In the Gothic horror novel we find a werewolf that is more than just the rapacious beast that comes out at every full moon. Instead the Victorians gifted us with a character as nuanced as the vampire and as full of pathos as Shelley’s Frankenstein. Modern authors would do well to seek out this classic creature and forget what Lon Chaney Jr. taught us about the Wolf man.

 

 

Gothic Monsters- The Litany of Fear in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau

Gothic Monsters- The Litany of Fear in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau

H.G. Wells may be known as one of the first writers of science fiction but his novel The Island of Doctor Moreau is one of the first modern horror stories and hits upon four of the greatest fears of the Victorian age. His work does this in such a subtle and inventive way that we may need to reevaluate Wells and name him one of the modern fathers of horror fiction as well. The four fears that Wells so intricately weaves into his story are the fear of science, the fear of internal corruption, the fear of reverse colonization, and the fear of social isolation. These four themes run throughout Victorian Gothic literature but few utilize all of these in one story. For instance Dracula is probably the best known of all the Gothic monsters but the story relies primarily on the use of the fear of internal corruption. In fact Dracula even fits the mold of the Detective story and uses scientific inquiry and deduction not as a negative but to finally destroy the title vampire.  If we look further afield we can see these four great horrors of the age used in many novels and stories of the period. For instance both Ziska and The Beetle utilize the fear of internal corruption, and reverse colonization as part of their plots, while The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde combine fear of science and internal corruption. Social isolation runs through many of these stories as an oppressive background to some but it is much more prevalent in The String of Pearls, here we find the Victorian mind petrified by the very society they have created. Alienated and alone a man could become lost in a city of millions. All these fears however are embodied in Wells story of men created from beasts.

Foremost in the novel Wells wishes to delve into the horrors of the scientific age. Doctor Moreau has set himself up as a literal God above the bestial creatures he experiments upon. He has even handed down a series of Laws in a parody of God speaking down to Moses.

“A horrible fancy came into my head that Moreau after animalizing these men had infected their dwarfed brains with a kind of deification of himself.” (129)

The audience of this novel was well aware of Darwin’s theory of evolution and I am sure they saw what Wells was suggesting through the character of Doctor Moreau. Here was a world turned upside down. Prometheus was unbound and God was now flesh and blood. Doctor Moreau represented the death of religion because if man could replicate the works of God what was God? Science had killed God and this realization could not have been lost on the Victorian mind. If men could command the powers of a God through scientific knowledge then what types of God would they be? Again Wells goes for the gut and here we see Doctor Moreau a mad God drunk with what he believe to be power over his creation, but just as Zeus over threw the Titans Moreau’s Godhood would end in tragedy at the hands of his creation. Science is at the heart of horror in this novel. Wells shows the reader that science unbidden by morals and ethics will run amok. This story is certainly a parable for the reader informing him of the dangers of science divorced from ethics and morality.

While a fear of science drives the story the twin fears of internal corruption and reverse colonization lurk just beneath the surface. Wells creates a microcosm of Britain on the Island. Here we have learned men of science, white men, civilized men but they have without knowing created the situation that will lead to their own demise. The beast men are creations of the Victorian mind but they are also stand-ins for those people that exist in the British colonies. Any Victorian would recognize in the dog-man the loyal Indian servant who graced so many wealthy homes in the period. This man brought from the savage Indian sub-continent would have been thought just as much a creation of British science and ingenuity as any man created from a beast. Here was a person, who through the prejudice of the Victorian mind would have been seen as having been raised out of a condition of savagery and into the light of civilization. What fear Wells must have produced in these minds when they read of the beast men raised in what could only be a parody of the civilizing hand of British society abroad. What little prick of fear would the fine gentleman have when laying down his head and knowing that his Indian servant could at any time revert back into a savage and kill him while he slept? This was the fear the Wells awakens in his novel.  So too did Wells awake the fear of internal corruption. We see this corruption creep into almost all the characters in the novel. Even the civilized Victorian was not immune to the effects. Wells pierces the thin veneer of civilization and we see the monsters and beast that lie beneath. Moreau is mad with his power. He has set himself up as a God before his creations. This internal corruption which can be seen as the loss of his soul is the price he has paid for his experiment. Prendick goes to live with the beasts and essentially becomes one of them while working on a means to escape. In the parlance of the time Prendick had “gone native”.

The last fear and one that probably sat heaviest on the hearts of those in London was that of social isolation. Prendick returns to London a changed man. His metal has been tested by his ordeal and he does not return the stronger for it. Prendick has been stretched to his breaking point and while he has not totally fallen apart his mind has been forever frayed by his encounters on the Island. Prendick cannot look at his fellow man or hear their voices without hearing and seeing the beasts. He is alone in a city of millions with his fear. Prendick comments on his fear that all men are like the beasts,“it seemed that the preacher gibbered “Big Thinks,” even as the Ape-man had done; or into some library, and there the intent faces over the books seemed but patient creatures waiting for prey.” (250)  To the fevered mind of Prendick God must have died on that island and science had killed him. Wells now takes the reader to the brink of real fear by asking a simple question. If Science has killed God and man evolved from the beast, are men not beasts? Here is the gripping fear. Civilization is just a façade it is merely the litany of the Law, a false set of beliefs that hold men back from their true inner desires.  Prendick finds the only inner peace that he can in contemplation of a God in which he no longer believes.

 

Wells, H. G. The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dover Thrift Editions. New York: Dover Publications, 1996.

 

 

Personal Hugo Reflections – Part 3 (90s to the present)

Personal Hugo Reflections – Part 3 (90s to the present)

2000 Hugo Award Trophy

 

 

 

 

The 1990s were a very challenging time for me.  Leaving my childhood and youth behind, I got married in the summer of 1989.  By that fall, I was enrolled at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, ND.  Within a month of arriving, my wife announced that she was pregnant with our first child.  Four years, two sons and a Bachelor’s degree later I was off to Seminary.  These were undoubtably the best years of my life in certain respects.  Ellendale is a small town. Even with the college in session it could boast only about 1500 people.  The nearest town of any size was across the border in SD and about forty miles away. Most of the time, the order of the day was entertainment. It is very lonely in Ellendale without friends but we had some close ones.  My time was divided between studies, reading (We had no TV) and playing Avalon Hill games with my friends.  No job, there were none to be had. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in those four years.

Seminary was a different story. Wilmore, KY is not to far from Lexington and I had plenty of things to do.  My father died in my second year but I finished just the same graduating in 1996.

From then till now, I have been the pastor of three churches and watched my kids grow up.  Through all that time, reading and watching science fiction and fantasy has been for the most part my comfort.  It has enabled me to cope in some of life’s toughest situations.

1990s (Including 2000)

I was for the most part a student and then an assistant pastor in the 1990s.  I didn’t get my first church until 2000.  My kids were born and grew up to being at the end of their elementary school days. In 1994 my father died and I had a real hard time of it being very depressed for most of the rest of the decade.

1. Movie: Total Recall 1990 (1991 nominee) I have to laugh in retrospect.  This movie was pretty cool at the time.  It has been recently remade and flopped badly as a remake. I saw this one the summer of 1990 when home on vacation.  My movie watching began to plummet mostly because of being in school.

2. Movie: Dracula 1992 (1993 nominee) I think this is still the best Dracula movie made.  It made me want to go and read the book.  In the days before CGI effects in movies like Twilight, the special effects were masterfully done. Summer of 1992 while home on vacation I saw this one.

3. Movie: Jurassic Park 1993 (1994 winner)  I actually didn’t see this one until a couple of years later.  One line still sticks with me “You scientists should quit asking yourself ‘Can we do this?’ and start asking yourself “Should we do this?”.  Of something like that.

4. Series: Babylon 5 1993 -1999 (four nominations over those years with two episodes winning) Babylon 5 was the first television science fiction series to abandon models entirely and go completely with CGI.  The first season you can tell they were doing the best they could but after that it got better and better.  You could tell that they were not sure that the CGI thing was going to carry things so they sey out to write a damn good story as well.  Babylon 5 has some special significance for me.  The summer of 1994 I watched it every chance I got.  I had moved my family back to Michigan and was traveling back and forth every other weekend to Kentucky to school.  In early October, I was heading back the next morning on a Monday.  Sunday I watched Babylon 5 and my dad talked to me afterwards.  He had to head out early Monday so we wouldn’t see each other for another two weeks.  He hugged me, asked how I was doing and said he loved me.  He then went to sleep, It was the last time I would see him alive. While in seminary the next week I got the phone call he had died.    I have always connected Babylon 5 and my dad.  Every time I watch an episode I think of him.

5. Movie: Independence Day 1996 (1997 Hugo Nominee)  I mention this one only because it was the first time I realized movie writers could abandon science fact with such reckless abandon.  If you have a ship a quarter the size fo the moon you only need to park it close to earth to destroy everything with the tidal forces.  15 mile wide saucer sections do not need a primary weapon.  Just fly over the ground, the added air pressure will flatten everything.  The list of this stuff goes on and on.  Good thing Will Smith was in it.

6. Three Movies: Men in Black 1997 / Fifth Element 1997 / Starship Troopers 1997 – Seminary had ended for me and I was working as a substitute teacher and associate pastor.  Movies were all I had time for most days.  Fifth Element was pretty good and Men in Black OK.  Thank God for Bruce Willis and Will Smith.  Starship Troopers however was a BIG disappointment.  More on that in another post.

7. Two Movies: The Truman Show 1998 (1999 winner)/ Pleasantville 1998 (1999 nominee): I loved both of these for pretty much the same reason.  One basic theme of both is that freedom means risk and it is a necessary risk.  In both movies the characters wrestle with that issue.

8. Movie: The Matrix 1999 (2000 nominee) That’s right nominee, not winner.  Galaxy Quest won the Hugo that year.  I love Tim Allen, but what the hell.  The Matrix singlehandedly changed the whole way science fiction movies were thought of and done. How did it not win?

2001 to present

Oddly enough, my science fiction and fantasy thirst continued into my professional career.  In this time frame I have pastored three churches, watch my three children graduate from high school and have a mid-life crisis.  In 2007, I had a crisis of faith but came out of it with a completely revamped way at looking at my faith and in large part thanks to science fiction and fantasy.

1. Harry Potter: The Hugo Awards first give a nod when they acknowledge the book: The Goblet of Fire in 2001.  The years have followed with this being one of those series of books and movies that has dominated the decade.  What can I say about it?  I can’t say much.  I have yet to read any of the books and I have only watched the very first film.  I find the ideas entertaining but not intellectually stimulating. Probably why I haven’t gone ape over it like the rest of the western world.

2. Lord of the Rings: (2002-2004) All three movies were winners.  Not surprising really.  The unique thing about this series of films for me was that me, my wife and my three kids all saw every film together.  It was a real family thing and a rare one because every single one of us liked it.  It was one thing during some very tough years professionally that our family could get a laugh about and talk about.  I read the books when I was still in elementary school and it was a series I read to my wife when she was pregnant with our first child.  I did dislike some of the changes the screen writers made, but all in all a great job.

3. Two Movies: Shrek 2001 and Monsters Inc. 2001.  Both nominees in 2002.  My kids loved these and so did I.  The idea of cartoons being done purely with CGI still causes me problems, but the stories were OK.

4. Pirates Of the Caribbean Series: (2003 – present) It still may be going on.  I liked the story on this one except the end of the third film.  Johnny Depp and Jack Sparrow are one and the same and that is what makes this series good.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia (2005-present)  Three films have been done.  I cannot underestimate how long this series in book form has been a part of my life.  This was definitely my first look at fantasy books and I read them at the age of six.  When the movies came out I was glad to see the CGI did not take over.

6. This next part I can only refer to as stealing my childhood. Remaking Battlestar Gallactica and Doctor Who? Sacrilege I say!

7. Movie: Avatar 2009 (2010 nominee).  One of the most overhyped disappointments I have ever watched.  Don’t get me wrong, the CGI was good, some of the best.  The story however was one of the most overdone in Hollywood.  Nature and those who hug trees are good; technology and those who love machines are bad.  Liberal crap from a story point of view.

8. Movie: Inception 2010 (2011 winner) As mentioned in a previous post, this is probably the last science fiction movie I saw in a theatre.  Loved it.  Dreams are not a new science fiction theme, but this movie took it to a whole new level.

9. 2012 winners – I have a confession to make about this year winners.  I have heard of some of the movies; I have however not seen any of them.  I also have not heard of or read any of the authors at all.  Have I fallen out of touch?

These later years, I feel that I have grown more as a person from science fiction and fantasy.  How can that be?  Well let’s be honest, lectures are boring but story is exciting.  The thing is both can have a message, but which one is more readily received?  The story-teller is always welcome, the lecturer is shown the door.  The stories always a have a point of theme just as much as the lecture, but one will be accepted and submitted to, the other resisted and rejected.  In a way science fiction and fantasy make the medicine of genuine thought and ideas an easier and more enjoyable pill to swallow.

Of course, there are many things I like outside the Hugo Awards in science fiction and fantasy I like.  However, every year I am reminded of all the past influences of these great genres on my thought and ideas and it is always a pleasant trip down memory lane.

Freedom, Imagination and Story – Essentials of Good Entertainment.

I am at a loss sometimes.  Here I am writing for a Science-Fiction and Fantasy site and I suddenly realized the last such movie I actually saw in a theater was Inception.  Maybe I am just getting old, but there has nothing that has inspired me to get up and go to a theater and spend the money to watch it.  I suddenly realized that I watched this movie with my daughter in Mackinac City on a vacation two years ago, I think.  I watched it not because I was particularly excited about it, but it was filler time before we were going to do something else. I liked it.  It had some originality and entertainment value.  I really felt they used CGI to tell the story and not be the story at least to a point.  I wasn’t sitting there saying ‘cool’; I was trying to follow the storyline which was actually a challenging thing to do.  It was a smart movie that made me think.  It also happen to have a high “Wow!” factor.

This whole situation and trip down memory lane got me to thinking, what then makes for good entertainment and what qualities does that entertainment have?  What causes me to like something when I watch it?  What excites me enough to drop money on something and go watch it?

Freedom – No writer of any kind should be constrained by — “you can’t do that!”.  There are many forces in Hollywood and the other entertainment meccas like New York that spend a lot of time saying “you can’t do that!”  Write a story that doesn’t have a woman or love story in it — you can’t do that!  Have a woman who is portrayed as weak and needing a strong dominant male to help her out — you can’t do that!  Have a strong male character that isn’t also sensitive — you can’t do that!  Add in the restrictions of political correctness and the rest of the touchy-feely atmosphere that exists and it is no wonder Hollywood has to turn to old writers and stories.  The most free writer I have ever read was Heinlein.  His books offend people and he didn’t care.  He was about people having a reaction, hopefully one involving thought, but a reaction nonetheless.  He would rather be free and write something that offended others than write something where people just shrugged their shoulders.  Maybe, that is why I find John Norman’s Gorean Saga so appealing to me right now, because it so cuts against the female dominated and wimpified culture we possess.  To be free a writer must make you want to think, not be worried about what you are going to think.

Imagination – I swear all the imagination in entertainment has left the writers and entered the programmers.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the possibilities of CGI to help tell a story.  Stuff in science fiction and fantasy that couldn’t be put to film before is now well within reach.  I also realize that there is truly ‘nothing new under the sun’ but for the love of God could you please at least try to find something better than Abraham Lincoln — Vampire Hunter.  A couple of people tried to get me to go see The Hunger Games and I balked as soon as they gave me a synopsis.  Hmmm. Same basic theme as The Running Man only without Richard Dawson as the host of the death game.  Sorry, I will pass.  Maybe when the DVD comes out. Imagination of course requires freedom to be genuinely imaginative.  You can’t limit yourself to what has done before.  You may have to build on previous stuff, but that doesn’t mean you are actually being imaginative just because you link Abraham Lincoln to Vampires.

Story – There are two sub elements here: plot and theme.  I like a plot that makes sense.  It can be complicated or simple; that is not the issue.  The issue is that it actually has a plot and that plot is sensible.  I hate any writer who thinks up his plot last.  I also hate something that falls too completely into the plot pattern where plot twists are predictable.  I don’t mind some predictability, but I like to say somewhere in the story – “I didn’t see that coming.”  Theme is the message of the story and I think this is where Hollywood is failing the most.  How many different themes are actually used? This goes back to freedom.  If you are not allowed freedom in being a writer, you then limit the themes available to you to create your story with and that is going to kill you.  If you never allow a story to have a positive theme about capitalism, guns, patriotism, etc. you are limiting yourself.  If you never go negative on socialism, gun control, lack of patriotism, etc. you are also limiting yourself. You force yourself into the same mind numbing path and trying to go somewhere different.  You become the living definition of insanity.

Of course, I could just be getting old. I simply could be in the pattern of ‘I have seen this before’.  I too, may just be getting nostalgic for the good old days.  Except, I was like this even in the good old days — there were some things I thought were entertainment trash back then too.  Maybe I too am trapped by what I think is good entertainment and I have gotten to the point I wish someone would show me something truly original and maybe it just is not to be found.

To my readers, I beg then your pardon.  You will probably not see much in the way of me looking at new things to review.  I like classic science fiction and fantasy because it is where I feel most at home.  I like writers from the era before the world-wide web made access to writing commonplace.  I think people wrote better back then because they were just thinking about telling a great story and not about whether there would be movie rights, merchandising or a great CGI scene. Forgive me, I happen to like good entertainment that makes me think.

American Horror Story Season 2 Premieres October 17, 2012 on FX

American Horror Story Season 2 Premieres October 17, 2012 on FX

The second season of the acclaimed series, American Horror Story is scheduled to premier October 17, 2012 on the FX Network.

It takes place in an asylum in the 1960s on the East Coast and is appropriately titled, American Horror Story: Asylum.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, and Lily Rabe will be returning from last season, but they’ll be in different roles.

Adam Levine, Jenna Dewan, Lizzie Brocheré, James Cromwell, Chloë Sevigny, Chris Zylka, Mark Consuelo, Clea DuVall, and Franka Potente will be joining the cast. Joseph Fiennes is also reported to be in negotiations for a role.

Video: American Horror Story: Asylum Teaser #9 Taste (HD)

More teasers


References:

Official site at FX

Wikipedia page

IMDb page

Metacritic reviews: Season 1

TV.com page

American Horror Story Wiki

Entertainment Weekly article: ‘American Horror Story’: See 4 terrifying images from season 2 ‘Asylum’ — EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS

International Business Times article: ‘American Horror Story’ Season 2 Spoilers: ‘Asylum’s’ Premiere Date, New Photos And Haunting 8th Teaser, ‘White Rave,’ Released [VIDEO]

Screen Rant article: ‘American Horror Story’ Season 2: Eerie New Promo Photos

Official Facebook page

Official Twitter page

Found Footage Paranormal Film by Daniel Knauf

Found Footage Paranormal Film by Daniel Knauf

Daniel Knauf is the creator of the HBO show Carnivàle, has written for the CW’s Supernatural, he writes for Marvel comics, and was a producer on the show Spartacus: Blood and Sand among many other projects. Recently Mr. Knauf came out of the political “closet” and announced to the world that he is a conservative and was a supporter of Andrew Breibart. This probably hurt his Hollywood career but we salute him for his courage and standing up for what he believes in the most liberal city in America.

Bxx Haunted is his latest project. It is a 32 hour fictional supernatural investigation. It includes video footage from several cameras and different perspectives so there is almost 600 hours of footage to watch. It does Bxx Haunted no justice to call it a show or even a season of episodes.  Knauf is seeking to create a new method of watching movies and TV through an interactive nonlinear experience where the viewer makes decisions about how to view the material presented and in what order. The viewer can focus on one character or view the actions of many throughout the experience. This is having an entire season of television put in front of you and you decide how you view it, from what angle, and whose story is most important to you. Nothing like this has come before and I have just scratched the surface of the more than 600 hours of video that is provided.

There is a tutorial on how to view BXX Haunted at the web site be sure to watch this before you begin your journey.

 

Start here. BXX Haunted Link

If you would like to watch the show as a normal full length feature instead of the interactive experience start below.