Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Feeling Like an Outsider

I had originally titled this "Feeling Like an Outcast", but after careful consideration I realized that outcast implies that I had somehow been cast out of something, which isn't accurate at all. Sometimes I feel like I'm drifting further and further away from the norm, which means my understanding of modern life is suffering. I think much of this is a part of getting older, but I also realize a lot of it is me. I'm tired of walking around looking at life like some kind of alien, but that's the way it is. Might as well embrace it.

One of my big struggles is technology. I'm in my early thirties. Most of my peers have taken up the techno stuff pretty heartily over the years, but I just don't get it. It's amazing I can even run this blog. Thing is, not understanding technology can really hold one back. Kind of bums me out, you know. If I want to come up with a bookmark design for one of my books, I have to ask someone to do it for me. I've found wonderful people who have done this for me, but when will I outwear my welcome. We're all busy. I have to do this shit for myself and sometimes I feel I will never learn. I just don't have the time or patience, but more importantly I have an outdated computer and no money to buy a new one. Even if I wanted to download some program to learn design, all I would do is slow this old beast down. I have to keep my damn itunes thinned out just to preserve some of my gigs.

Another aspect of life that brings me down is the simple entertainment of television. I just don't get any of it anymore. Sitcoms are so fucking boring these days. I don't get the jokes. I don't get shows with shaky camera and silence. Call me old fashioned, but I like a live audience or laugh track or whatever. Not that I need a cue on when to laugh (I've watched the shows with laughter in the background and I'm just sitting there wondering what the hell was so funny), but I just don't get that particular formula, a la The Office or Modern Family. Another popular type of show is the serial drama/horror show. These are intensely popular. People discuss them on facebook like mad and I just don't get it. I've tried watching Bates Motel and The Walking Dead and American Horror Story and I can't do it. This is two-fold. 1. I have found the plots to be far fetched and unbelievable or just plain out boring, and 2. I have this issue with watching a show on the same night every week. I'm not all that spontaneous, but I always manage to miss a program I want to watch. And no, I don't have any of those DVR/Tivo recording things. (Costs extra money that I'm not willing to pay. Money's tight, you know.) And I'm not even getting into so-called reality TV shows.

I'm not one of those people who wants to drop social media or anything, but I've been scarce as of late. Well, more so than usual. Part of this is due to being in the thick of a new novel. I'm at the point where the gears are in full swing and I'm easily knocking out a couple thousand words a day (which is always a feat because I work full time and have a family). That makes me happy. It's been a long time coming with this particular story. I started it at least five years ago and eventually had to rewrite the first thirty thousand words. When I get this involved in a project, social media is the first thing to go. But there's one more aspect to why I've been feeling like an outsider. Publishing. This is one hell of a tough business. I struggle. And struggle. And struggle. There are publishers who don't have the decency to respond to pitches or short story submissions, which infuriates me. This is nothing new, and it happens to all of us, but that doesn't make it any better. I have a boatload of patience. I've waited over two years for a rejection from a pro zine after being shortlisted. Thing is, they responded to the few queries I sent during that duration of time. Is it so fucking difficult to be a human being, to have decency. Did some publishers forget what it's like to be on the waiting end? And don't get me started on not responding to queries. I can understand that emails get lost or sucked into the SPAM filter, but that excuse only works so many times. Everyone has their goddamned cell phones on them at all times, so how hard is it to write a simple message? By the looks of some people's facebook and twitter output, not hard at all.

I keep writing. I love this new story, and I'm editing a novel I finished at the beginning of the year that I feel optimistic about. Not sure how I'm going to shop it around, but I think I'll try something different. Thing is, whenever I have doubts about publishing I realize that I cannot stop. I love it. I may only sell a few short stories and novels here and there (a mere fraction of my actual output), but so be it. I'm getting better. I'm learning from mistakes and critiques and those leading the path ahead of me. Writing is a balm for my troubled mind. It's a place I can go when everything seems to fall in on me. Life can be a bastard, but I always persevere. This isn't a pity party, just a place I can get some shit off my mind. Better here than on facebook, right?

Keep on doing what gives you pleasure just so long as you're not harming anyone.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Robert's Random Musing #4

I Dig Real FX in Horror Movies

I'm a dyed in the wool old-school horror movie fan. As I get older I find myself less enthusiastic about new movies of any kind. I can't really say why, other than the fact that I hardly relate to movies anymore. Funny thing about it is that after watching the movie VHS a year or two ago I thought, "That was okay, but could have been much better." A lot of it made no fucking sense and the execution was mediocre, which really bummed me out because there was so much potential. A few months ago I watched an old movie called Garden of the Dead and thought, "Man, this movie is a total piece of shit," but I said it in an enthusiastic sort of way. I enjoy that kind of stuff a lot more than a modern effort with an equally flimsy budget, poor acting,
and Swiss cheese plot (all of which Garden of the Dead is chock-full of).

One of the reasons I'm not into modern horror film is the effects. I pretty much hate CGI with few exceptions. I agree, over the years CGI has improved (I recall a piss poor effect in the movie The Relic where a guy gets decapitated and a huge bubble-like glob of computer generated blood plopped out of his severed neck and I laughed out loud it was such a pathetic effort). My issue is that the CGI-heavy movies of today look like goddamned video games or ultra streamlined animated features. I'm just not into it, and I'm beginning to realize that I never will be. If I can tell that, in a Wintry scene, the snowflakes and the breath exhalations from the characters are fake, I get irritated. Yeah, I understand that the producers save money by inserting fake steamy breath instead of filming in a cold location or doing something crazy like creating an entire refrigerated set a la The Exorcist. But that's no excuse. You lost me with the first CGI snowflake and then I laughed when breath floated out of mouths like tiny ghosts dissolving into the air.

I figure if I cannot tell it's CGI, then the effects team did a good job. Once I can tell, I begin to lose interest. You can understand why I'm not a fan of action movies and all those super hero films that are so popular. I did enjoy Tim Burton's Batman, though. 'Course, it's almost thirty years old now.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, how is it Robert despises CGI so much and yet he likes old horror films with some of the most ridiculous and cringe-worthy ventures into latex and fake blood ever filmed? Oh, the fake blood--sometimes runny, sometimes syrupy and even orange (I'm looking at you, Dawn of the Dead). My simple response is that I grew up on that stuff. I devoured films like Dead Alive and Evil Dead and loved ever nasty effect, every drop of blood, every clay animated monster. I even dig the oatmeal faced zombies in I Eat Your Skin. My assumption is that young kids getting into film today feel the same way about CGI that I do about real-life latex and makeup effects. More power to 'em! Life won't last forever, so I'll just sit here with my DVDs and VHS tapes and watch all the old shit I love.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Is It Horror? Dark Fantasy? Urban Fantasy?

Seems that some stories cannot be labeled with a simple tag as clearly cut as other stories. What I call horror someone else will call dark fantasy, but where is the dividing line? I suppose a horrific story without supernatural elements could be classified as straight horror, whereas the same story with an element of the supernatural could be classified as dark fantasy. Some people use those very classifications (I recall someone referring to Stephen King's non-supernatural stories as his only horror stories--everything else being labeled Dark fantasy--which is ridiculous), but that doesn't sit well with me. Not at all. King's Pet Sematary is a horror story. Bentley Little's The House is horror. To label dark supernatural stories as dark fantasy would be to put all ghost stories under that label,
which would pretty much be a crime by my standards.

I've been wary of labels, however, to a certain degree, I like them. My issue is that micro-labeling the genres becomes confusing. This is something seen heavily in music. You have rap, hip-hop, gangsta rap, crunk, freestyle, yadda yadda. On the other hand you have heavy metal, groove metal, grindcore, nu metal, black metal, death metal, yadda yadda yabba dabba doo. It's just too goddamned much, and I wonder if the world of speculative fiction is on its way to having so many ridiculous labels. In trying to find out exactly what slipstream is, I ran across a website that defines a number of spec-fic labels, one of which was "paranormal". I've heard of paranormal romance (a label I'm perfectly comfortable with considering that I have absolutely no interest in that type of fiction), but I had never considered that a "paranormal" story was worthy of a category all its own. For me, that's cutting the deck to thin.

So that brings me to my own books. I've always called them horror, though in a blurb for my novel THROUGH THE IN BETWEEN, HELL AWAITS, Daniel I. Russel calls the novel "...a fat slice of urban horror." When I read that I thought, "Yeah, that sounds about right. I kinda like that." And the more I thought about it the more I realized that HELL AWAITS could be just as easily classified a dark fantasy as it could a horror story, perhaps even an urban fantasy, though a considerable hunk of the story takes place in an unearthly realm. It certainly starts out as an urban fantasy. Or perhaps a dark urban fantasy.

Take my second novel PEOPLE OF THE ETHEREAL REALM. It's a horror story, maybe even a ghost story, or perhaps it could be classified as a paranormal story. Well now, let's hold on a second. Let's think this through. It's a very urban story, much more so that HELL AWAITS, so maybe it could be labeled a dark paranormal urban horror story.

I have a love-hate relationship with labels. They're necessary, but can be over examined. I certainly
wish my local Barnes & Noble would do a little more categorizing, maybe bring back the damn horror section. Buuuut, that's another rant for another blog.

On a final note, the two novels above can be purchased from all major online retailers. I've noticed quite a jump in visitors to this blog from all around the world, so, in addition to the amazon links embedded above, here is a link to my books on smashwords, where you can find formats for a variety of e-readers including kobo and Sony. Why not give them a read and let me know how you would categorize 'em.

-- Robert