BLOT: (10 Dec 2013 - 08:26:24 PM)
gist. The world was supposed to an end at midnight GMT, at least that's what The Finalists said, and they were everywhere. Paul Slater wasn't able to worry much about it, he was having to fly back home after tending to his sickly mother who fell ill panicking over those very end-of-the-world predictions. After Slater gets back home and wakes up the next day, he is glad to be back with his wife and children, except things feel off. Authorities take people away who talk too much, the sun refuses to come out from behind the clouds, the trees seem to be reversing from spring back into winter, the general flow at work is missing a beat, and everyone is afraid to talk about the weird sensations they felt at the supposedly final midnight of the world. Keeping his family sane with promises of "finding the sun" on a weekend outing, he starts to feel the edge of reality slipping, the spaces in-between growing larger even as his family clings tighter together, but it will be ok if he can just hold on for a moment longer. Hopefully.
review. Kind of weird to remember the fuss and bother building up to December 2012, with a blend of earnest end-of-the-world panic mixed with profit-driven fearmongering. It ate up such a large swath of popular culture, with actual debates over a nonsense reading of Mayan culture, and yet it has gone the way of a breeze with very little circumstance. What if we played a little mind game, though, and blended the end-of-the-world with that most famous of [albeit misunderstood] thought experiments—Schrodinger's Cat—and we asked: what if the cat also doesn't know if it is alive or dead? How does it open its own box? And, is it insane to even doubt itself in such a way?
This is game that
Had it lasted any longer,
score. 6/8. +1 for those who didn't get enough end-of-the-world weirdness last year, fans of speculative horror, or those who fear social interactions more than serial killers. -1 for those who like strong endings or like their horror to have bad guys and good guys.
publisher's description. Paul Slater has been offshore to reassure his mother about the prediction that the media made so much of, but now he's home with his wife and children. Why should any of them worry when it's already the day after the prediction was meant to come true? Surely their life is the way it always was, and they just need to keep it normal—there's the school concert, and computers for Melanie to repair, and Paul's job in the bookshop music department. Surely the sun will come out soon, and if not they can go away to find it at the weekend. Paul doesn't need to worry about people interrogating him or anyone being taken away for talking too much. He only needs to remember what he has to remember, and then it will keep them all safe . . .
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: December 2013
BLOT: (26 Nov 2013 - 02:05:12 PM)
A Podcast to the Curious tweeted that the online versions of "An Evening's Entertainment" had an error. I asked what the error was, and got a reply that it was missing chunks of a story. I read through an online version, all seeming well until you get to the start of the story proper and around the introduction of Mr. Davis [in proper Jamesian multi-layered fashion, this is a narrator's retelling of a retelling of a great-grandfather's story by a grandmother], you find that a few chunks have been "timey-wimey'd".
Because I'm going to share that section, this is apt to be long [3 or so long paragraphs long, at least], so buckle up. Here is how the story reads, right now, on Thin-Ghost.org and on Ebooks @ Adelaide [up to you if you want to ignore the colors, but I figured it would jerkish to copy-paste it twice]:
Grandmother: Hush! hush! Very well then, I'll tell you all about it, only you mustn't interrupt. Now let me see. When I was quite a little girl that lane had a bad name, though it seems people don't remember about it now. And one day - dear me, just as it might be tonight - I told my poor mother when I came home to my supper - a summer evening it was - I told her where I'd been for my walk, and how I'd come back down that lane, and I asked her how it was that there were currant and gooseberry bushes growing in a little patch at the top of the lane. And oh, dear me, such a taking as she was in! She shook me and she slapped me, and says she, 'You naughty, naughty child, haven't I forbid you twenty times over to set foot in that lane? and here you go dawdling down it at night-time,' and so forth, and when she'd finished I was lonely place like that in the middle of the night.' And Mr. Davis smiled, and the young man, who'd been listening, said, 'Oh, we don't want for company at such times,' and my father said he couldn't help thinking Mr. Davis made some kind of sign, and the young man went on quick, as if to mend his words, and said, 'That's to say, Mr. Davis and me's company enough for each other, ain't we, master? and then there's a beautiful air there of a summer night, and you can see all the country round under the moon, and it looks so different, seemingly, to what it do in the daytime. Why, all them harrows on the down -'
And then Mr. Davis cut in, seeming to be out of temper with the lad, and said, 'Ah yes, they're old-fashioned places, ain't they, sir? Now, what would you think was the purpose of them?' And my father said (now, dear me, it seems funny, doesn't it, that I should recollect all this: but it took my fancy at the time, and though it's dull perhaps for you, I can't help finishing it out now), well, he said, 'Why, I've heard, Mr. Davis, that they're all graves, and I know, when I've had occasion to plough up one, there's always been some old bones and pots turned up. But whose graves they are, I don't know: people say the ancient Romans were all about this country at one time, but whether they buried their people like that I can't tell.' And Mr. Davis shook his head, thinking, and said, 'Ah, to be sure: well they look to me to be older-like than the ancient Romans, and dressed different - that's to say, according to the pictures the Romans was in armour, and you didn't never find no armour, did you, sir, by what you said?' And my father was rather surprised and said, 'I don't know that I mentioned anything about armour, but it's true I don't remember to have found any. But you talk as if you'd seen 'em, Mr. Davis,' and they both of them laughed, Mr. Davis and the young man, and Mr. Davis said, 'Seen 'em, sir? that would be a difficult matter after all these years. Not but what I should like well enough to know more about them old times and people, and what they worshipped and all.' And my father said, 'Worshipped? Well, I dare say they worshipped the old man on the hill.' 'Ah, indeed!' Mr. Davis said, 'well, I shouldn't wonder,' and my father went on and told them what he'd heard and read about the heathens and their sacrifices: what you'll learn some day for yourself, Charles, when you go to school and begin your Latin. And they seemed to be very much interested, both of them; but my father said he couldn't help thinking the most of what he was saying was no news to them. That was the only time he ever had much talk with Mr. Davis, and it stuck in his mind, particularly, he said, the young man's word about not wanting for company: because in those days there was a lot of talk in the villages round about - why, but for my father interfering, the almost too much taken aback to say anything: but I did make her believe that was the first I'd ever heard of it; and that was no more than the truth. And then, to be sure, she was sorry she'd been so short with me, and to make up she told me the whole story after my supper. And since then I've often heard the same from the old people in the place, and had my own reasons besides for thinking there was something in it.
Now, up at the far end of that lane - let me see, is it on the right or the left-hand side as you go up? - the left-hand side - you'll find a little patch of bushes and rough ground in the field, and something like a broken old hedge round about, and you'll notice there's some old gooseberry and currant bushes growing among it - or there used to be, for it's years now since I've been up that way. Well, that means there was a cottage stood there, of course; and in that cottage, before I was born or thought of, there lived a man named Davis. I've heard that he wasn't born in the parish, and it's true there's nobody of that name been living about here since I've known the place. But however that may be, this Mr. Davis lived very much to himself and very seldom went to the public-house, and he didn't work for any of the farmers, having as it seemed enough money of his own to get along. But he'd go to the town on market-days and take up his letters at the post-house where the mails called. And one day he came back from market, and brought a young man with him; and this young man and he lived together for some long time, and went about together, and whether he just did the work of the house for Mr. Davis, or whether Mr. Davis was his teacher in some way, nobody seemed to know. I've heard he was a pale, ugly young fellow and hadn't much to say for himself. Well, now, what did those two men do with themselves? Of course I can't tell you half the foolish things that the people got into their heads, and we know, don't we, that you mustn't speak evil when you aren't sure it's true, even when people are dead and gone. But as I said, those two were always about together, late and early, up on the downland and below in the woods: and there was one walk in particular that they'd take regularly once a month, to the place where you've seen that old figure cut out in the hill-side; and it was noticed that in the summer time when they took that walk, they'd camp out all night, either there or somewhere near by. I remember once my father - that's your great-grandfather - told me he had spoken to Mr. Davis about it (for it's his land he lived on) and asked him why he was so fond of going there, but he only said: 'Oh, it's a wonderful old place, sir, and I've always been fond of the old-fashioned things, and when him (that was his man he meant) and me are together there, it seems to bring back the old times so plain.' And my father said, 'Well,' he said, 'it may suit you, but I shouldn't like a people here would have ducked an old lady for a witch.
Presumably you noticed the colors, which alerted you to the weird breaks. Imagine if it hadn't been color coded? If there was a line meant to be read as, "...and when she'd finished I was lonely place like that in the middle of the night.'" and one meant to be read as, "...why, but for my father interfering, the almost too much taken aback to say anything: but I did make her believe that was the first I'd ever heard of it; and that was no more than the truth." It's like found E.E. Cummings poetry, you know.
Just in case you haven't figured it out, the order of the above bits are: red, blue, green, black. If you can't see the colors or that still is confusing, I have a text snippet for that bit, in correct order.
As an edition note, both the Ash Tree Press edition of
Well, off to contact Thin-Ghost.org and Ebooks @ Adelaide to suggest they change it.
Update: Contacted the sites mentioned below. Both Thin-Ghost.org and Ebooks @ Adelaide now have fixed the mistake, below. Looks like Wikisource/Wikilivres version is still broken (and getting an account to fix it now requires an additional step (or two) due to spam bots but I assume I will sometime this weekend).
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: November 2013
BLOT: (25 Nov 2013 - 12:42:13 PM)
Reading through 15 Forgotten Things Found Inside Books—a best-of of sorts from Forgotten Bookmarks, a blog/feed about things left behind in books—made me think of one of my own recent find: a poem/song left in a badly damaged and out-of-date book on the science of science-fiction that showed up on my cart of books to be checked for weeding status. The title of the poem/song is "Forever", and the author is unknown, but the last time the book was checked out was in the late 90s so it is likely at least that old, assuming someone didn't write it and leave it in the book, at a later date. The poem is in black ink on college ruled paper. Here is the text, as written, spelling and all.
Also, had originally planned to rewrite the poem just a bit, or at least remix the words, but so many of the themes/structures are so different than mine that it wasn't working for me. Instead, I have included what might have been a Doug-poem from the late 90s if I had been trying for something similar in vibe, but with my own themes and words and mixed-up emotions. Probably shouldn't go back to the past, so I regret this already...
Once in a while I start thinkin' about ya bāby Just wondering What I would do without your love Why can't you tell me What you're doing Why you're leaving me on the backburner heated over you (chorus) I-I just wanna get next to you Stay with you Just me and you Forever, in every way But when when we pray The problems go all away As we sit back And let the LORD be our guide We come closer As our faith goes into overdrive And we do no longer hide Our troubles from one another 'Cause'... (refrain/chorus) Our love will always stay Forever (faded repeat)
Click to see a larger version of the scan.
Midnight knocks, enters, leaves the door open and then has the gall to act surprised that, once again, I am alone and She chastises me, a tiny little puppy, for being such and I point out As best one can, to such a thing as Midnight and Her mannerisms, that if it were that I'm alone I'm alone because you, with paradox and metaphor and anger, have decided I am not Whatever it is That it is That you might want, And so we are alone, like a sidewalk crack on the off-street of a long Fall day When the autumn rains Flow over things Down into the sewers, with the time burned leaves, and the sticks and the old, red ragdolls, button-eyed and thread mouthed, again. And maybe out there, in the long dark deep, the night complete, there is a script, a hastily scrunched up sheet full of edits and rewrites and little notations, but full of heart, and maybe it has said that I and You—having passed on from You and I [having grown tired and one-sided] —are the gathered, too, but here we do not read the script and we do not play the game or take the stage so I and Midnight, with her sweet cold cloudy bright sparkling face and long sigh company, Awake with me, asleep beside me, Sit alone, Until even she is gone and 3am is quiet Forever. Again.
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: November 2013
BLOT: (17 Nov 2013 - 08:35:41 PM)
Gist. A meteorite slams into the ocean, witnessed by a luckless fishing boat crew soon wiped out by an unseen assailant. The next day, on Erin Island, we meet Garda Lisa Nolan [Ruth Bradley], who is spending some time off from her post in Dublin to sub in for a vacationing local. Here she meets, and clashes, with drunken Garda Ciaran O'Shea [Richard Coyle]. As the monsters come inland, foretold by a beach full of dead whales, one is caught in a lobster pot while the other starts racking up a death count. When an attack on a deeply inebriated man leads to the one creature's death, the garda and their friends realize that the bloodsucking otherworldly beasts find ethanol toxic, but even as a party brews, the deadlier of the two creatures shows up in a heavy storm, a magnitude more powerful than the one already killed. O'Shea and Nolan have to work together and, well, just maybe get it on.
Review. The description on Netflix, that a group of Irish villagers have to drink to stay alive, seems like a racist joke in the making, and there might be some of that at play, but for the most part the jabs and gabs are humorous and not terribly mean-spirited. In fact, there are many ways this movie could fall apart—the not-quite-chemistry between Doyle and Bradley, the oddly convenient locals including a posh scientist and a pair of fishermen and the pub owners, the CG-heavy monster effects—where, in essentially all cases, the Kevin Lehane script and direction by Jon Wright finds a way to make it work. Bradly and Coyle are charming enough that you feel wrong not rooting for them, the locals are just silly enough to endear, and the effects end up going big as something not unlike the RPG incarnation of Shub-Niggurath rolls across the island landscape. Even when it overplays Nolan getting drunk, a scene that could have wrecked a lesser movie, the sweet ballsiness of Bradley sees it through. In the end, you have a pleasantly humorous, pleasantly romantic, satisfyingly horrific horror movie that harkens back to the classic
Score. 7/8. +1 if you like your horror movies to be on the lighter side or Richard Coyle. -1 if you need a high, gruesome death count or for their to be an intricate mythos for them to work.
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: November 2013
BLOT: (10 Nov 2013 - 12:15:17 PM)
If you had to classify horror authors by their favorite senses to frighten with, M.R. James is prone to the sense of touch. There are a lot of linen things and brushing things and furry things. As a general horror tool, dislocated senses—sounds too faint or indistinct to understand, strange shapes too quick to identify, smells incongruent with their surroundings—is a common writing trope, and effective. In his story, "Hand to Mouth", located in the new collection
Some time later—how long I don't know—I was awake, or half-awake, or at least somehow aware of myself and my surroundings. I found that my cheek was rested against something rounded and firm and soft. It was not like my pillow: it yielded, but yielded less and it was very cold. Then the thing that touched me began to move restlessly as if alive. I pulled myself violently away from it and sat up in bed, letting out a stupid, involuntary, childish yelp.
I tried to find an explanation for my experience, but none came to me. I did not know what it was, but I knew exactly what it had felt like: a baby's belly, a baby's bottom perhaps, but a dead baby.
Well, damn. To show a similar usage from James' own pen, we have this bit from the excellent "Casting the Runes":
Either an economical suburban company had decided that their light would not be required in the small hours, and had stopped working, or else something was wrong with the meter; the effect was in any case that the electric light was off. The obvious course was to find a match, and also to consult his watch: he might as well know how many hours of discomfort awaited him. So he put his hand into the well-known nook under the pillow: only, it did not get so far.
What he touched was, according to his account, a mouth, with teeth, and with hair about it, and, he declares, not the mouth of a human being.
Both use tactile horror, the undefinable touch, in conjunction with having the protagonist stranded from light, by having no indication of sound or smell, and by thrusting the horror into the pillow so that part of discovery is finding out that even the place of rest is tainted. Whether inhuman mouths, with beards, is better or worse than dead baby bellies, however, I'll leave up to you.
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: November 2013
BLOT: (09 Nov 2013 - 10:28:36 PM)
This one A Softer World (#1033) comic so completely describes most of my undergrad love life, I just had to share:
In my high school days, I don't think I really liked girls all that much. By which I mean I had a couple of girls that I did like but there was a certain toxic feeling to dating girls from the same small town, like your long-time friends are now meant to be your sexual fetishes? It felt weird. A couple of half misses and a few near hits were all I had. It was, with the exception of one time when I screwed over one of my best friends to go after the same girl as he was interested in, mostly ok, though. I don't regret not going further with anyone in my high school, I truly don't. I have happy enough stories, as is.
However, in undergrad, especially years 2 through 5 (I went for about 6 years total, though a couple of those years were half-years for me), I was a dick of the "whines about girls only liking jerks when really the girls kind of like him but rather than be sort of honest and mature and ask them out would rather moan about stuff until some girl somehow accidentally falls in love with him" species. It is a hard habit to break, that. A certain type of guy, sensitive and smart and unconfident and convinced that what nice girls with nice breasts really like most is a guy who talks about dark and sad things and claims they are deep all the time even when they are not deep though I guess sometimes they are, migrates to that behavior. If that matches you, then you probably want to stop it. Girls like boys. Those that like boys, which is some. And if you are a girl, there are boys that like girls. Some boys. And there are some girls that like girls and some boys that like boys. And some of those boys and those girls like boys and girls like you. Ask her out, she'll say no, and then you'll meet someone in the library the next day. Or not. But that's fine, it'll be ok.
For me, it was mostly the Summer of Hell that made me decide that I probably should stop with the weird love-life-in-limbo game, and by the end of that summer I was dating my current wife. In the middle of the summer I was dripping candle wax on people and having some weird high-alcohol + high-caffeine infused nights. Let's not do that again, ok? Part of me wishes I had stopped being that sub-species years before and had more fun with certain things, but any changes in the past would probably screw up the beginnings of what became my marriage, so it's all good. I was a dick for years and then I became a man and then I put aside dickish ways. As the Bible says one does. Amen.
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: November 2013
BLOT: (08 Nov 2013 - 02:45:36 PM)
It was a recent Laird Barron post that alerted me to a alternate mix of Low's "Clarence White", originally from
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: November 2013
BLOT: (06 Nov 2013 - 09:03:59 AM)
Yesterday, I was looking around to see what people were predicting as the next-big-thing in overused horror sub-genres. The current overused is the haunted house story—and by current I mean "for the past couple of years"—as a direct offshoot of the possessed women stories and the various "real life ghost hunting" TV series, with
My guess is that we're going to see "girls with magical powers" horror come up next. With the growing reluctance of relying on disproportionate box-office ratios of low-budget outliers and/or found-footage titles, horror producers are apt to swing a bit towards PG-13 to pick up young-and-probably-female-people viewers. Not only does it help to counter some of the old-horror and new-Torture-Porn misogynies, but it gets into the cusp of
Searching around to see what other people were picking as their horse in the race lead me to this article: 5 Horror Story Cliches to Avoid. Seemed like a fun click, even if it is a couple of years old, especially since it is dealing with stories/fiction as opposed to movies, which puts it in the minority of articles-about-horror. Then I read the cliches the article maintains are to be avoided, and I'm having trouble telling what Juniper Russo is trying to say, partially because the article needs a fairly strong edit and rewrite, and partially because she uses a very lose definition of "cliche". Summarized and briefly quoted for those not wanting to click the page, we have:
#1 is a broad trope that borderlines on an overused cliche but, depending on your definition, can be applied to nearly all horror [the kids wanted to have an exciting time on the beach, they got killer sharks!]. #2 is too broad to even be a trope, covering a number of large sub-genres, and would be much like saying "People who don't immediately fall in love but then they end up falling in love!" plots are to be universally avoided in romantic stories. #3 is good advice, and is closest to an avoidable cliche, especially considering the potential harm in having people with mental issues be either go-to bad guys or magical cures for ancient evils. #4 is not a cliche and I don't even know what she wants. #5 (a) is not a cliche and (b) a lot of people don't focus on the setting over plot and it confuses me why she thinks this is a tired cliche. The whole thing is a lot of "do nots" rather than "You can add X and Y and Z instead", so it's hard to see if Russo is attacking broad horror themes outright, attacking specific modifications on them, or simply prefers vampire horror where there are no clear Big Bads and at the end people make out to techno music. It's an odd list, it is.
Anyhow, enough half-ranting, let's take a look at five things (not necessarily cliches) I would suggest people start avoiding in horror plots unless they have good reason to keep them in:
If my prediction about the next overused sub-genre, and it's PG-13 leanings, is correct, it will be interesting to see what cliches surround it. Bad-guy authority seems really likely, as does moral grandstanding, but I'm not sure what else.
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: November 2013
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