The Top 10 British Comedy Horror Films

By C.M. Saunders

That time of year again, eh? I was going to write about the history of Halloween and how it’s mired in ancient Celtic folklore. But all that stuff is freely available online and not very exciting. I wanted to do something special for you instead. So how about a Top 10 Horror Movie List? Not special enough? OK, how about a Top 10 BRITISH Horror Movie List? Still not good enough? Well, taking it to the next level, you know how us Brits are renowned for our unique, irreverent, occasionally wacky yet sophisticated sense of humour? No? Well, we are. Sometimes it can be as subtle as an autumn breeze. Other times it can be fast, bloody, and brutal. Like a good bout of period sex. So… how about a Top 10 British COMEDY Horror Movie List? Yeah, let’s do that.

 

10: I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990)

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Once upon a time, in a faraway land called 1980s Britain, there was a very popular comedy drama TV series. Boon was its name, and it was about a courier service-cum-private detective agency. It was so popular that at its peak that a shrewd production company hired its two main stars, Michael Elphick and Neil Morrissey, to appear in a riotous low-budget horror romp in an attempt to capitalize on its burgeoning success. They only partially failed. In the beginning there are satanic rituals and rival biker gangs, climaxing in a motorcycle getting possessed and then purchased by an unsuspecting Noddy (Morrissey) who, coincidentally, is a courier by trade. And then, people start having terrible ‘accidents’ and it appears the motorcycle is to blame. This is like Boon with the gloves off and the volume turned up, with blood, gore, dismemberments, swearing, lewd behaviour and even a talking turd. I shit you not.

9: Inbred (2011)

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This late-night Horror Channel stalwart sees a group of thuggish inner-city young offenders taken to an isolated Yorkshire town to do some community service. During a run-in with a group of local louts, one of their carers, Jim, falls and cuts open an artery in his leg. In a panic, the young offenders take him to a nearby pub to get help. Unfortunately, the locals (aka, ‘inbreds’) don’t like strangers in them parts. Not at all. They quickly decapitate poor Jim with a meat cleaver and lock the young offenders in the cellar, until they are taken out one by one to provide the village entertainment. Daft, disturbing and deeply offensive, the most puzzling thing about Inbred is just how far the makers managed to stretch a measly £109,000 budget, which is about half the cost of the average house in the UK.

8: Doghouse (2009)

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It’s got Danny Dyer in it, and it’s about a boy’s night out gone terribly wrong. Therefore, you just know it’s going to be crude, filthy and unashamedly misogynistic. What did you expect? At its core, it’s a parody of lad culture riffing on men’s supposed inherent fear of women. Luckily, it’s funny enough to compensate for all the Cosmopolitan schtick. Dyer, helped out by Noel Clarke, Stephen Graham and a few other less famous faces, head to a fabled town where women allegedly outnumber men 4-1. When they get there, they realize this is by no means a good thing as every female in sight has fallen victim to a biological toxin that turns them all into frenzied, blood-thirsty zombie types. It’s a battle of the sexes for sure.

7: Carry on Screaming (1966)

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Apparently, very few people outside Britain have heard of the legendary Carry On films. Quite frankly, this appals me. The films (all 30-plus of them, including such gems as Carry On Teacher, Carry On Behind and Carry On Doctor) are a British institution. Where else are you going to get fart jokes and edgy one-liners about hard-on’s and knockers on terrestrial telly at Sunday tea times? This particular outing is a parody of the Hammer Horror films, which were peaking in popularity at the time, and tells the story of a series of mysterious disappearances in the English countryside, which ultimately leads police to a mad doctor in a castle and a monster called Oddbod. Admittedly, the plot is a bit thin in this one, but the gags are timeless.

6: Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

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Before James Corden became a late-night TV host (or got his driving license) he starred in films like this. The critics hated it, with some bloke from the Times calling it an, “Instantly forgettable lad mag farce.” But that isn’t really saying too much. This was an era when it was fashionable to lamblast lad mags at every opportunity and besides, the Times don’t like any films. Even today it’s rare to see a film get more than two stars out of five, unless it’s an artsy fartsy French drama you need multiple degrees to understand. Personally, as far as low-brow humour goes, I thought this unofficial companion to Doghouse was a riot. When Jimmy (Mathew Horne) is dumped and Fletch (Corden), is sacked from his job as a clown for punching a kid, the duo decide to escape for the weekend to an idyllic village in Norfolk. A village which, unbeknownst to them, has been cursed, leading to a sizeable percentage of lesbian vampires. And you thought Eastern European immigrants were the problem.

5: Grabbers (2012)

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This is one of the more slick, big-budget entries on this list. Most of the time you just wouldn’t think it, which I guess is the point, as self-defeating as that is. Grabbers is essentially an alien invasion creature feature, the comedy aspect fueled primarily by the fact that alcohol is found to be toxic to the invaders, which encourages the inhabitants of a small Irish village to lock themselves in the pub and get rat-arsed as a defense mechanism. Think of this one as Father Ted crossed with the Blob and garnished with a liberal sprinkling of Cloverfield. It’s not a feckin’ lobster!

4: Severance (2006)

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Severance mixes humour, bravado, and some of the most brutal body horror this side of the Saw franchise to great effect, making it one of the stand-out Brit Horror films of the past two decades. The plot revolves around a group of office staff who are sent to Hungary on a team building exercise. As you would find in any office, the cast is made up of an eclectic and varied group of characters, all living up to certain long-held stereotypes. Danny Dyer pops up again, playing every-man caner Steve, who sees the getaway as the perfect opportunity to get off his tits. He’s munching magic mushrooms and puffing on a spliff in the toilet before the coach even stops (“Have I pissed meself?”). All in all, Severance comes off like a mash-up between Hostel and The Office. Brill.

3: Dog Soldiers (2002)

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There haven’t been many British horror films over the past decade or two more worthy of praise than Dog Soldiers. From the opening scenes, when a couple camping in the Scottish Highlands are ripped apart by a ferocious beast, you’re left in little doubt that this is a werewolf flick. If you like your horror bloody, funny, and gore-tastic, you can do a lot worse than this. You’re probably never going to see another northern bloke holding a flare aloft and singing, “Come and ‘ave a go if you think you’re ‘ard enough!” to a group of rampaging lycanthropes ever again. That man, incidentally, was played by an actor called Chris Robson, and he’s a French teacher in the north of England now. One of the few genuine, undisputed cult classics. Miss it at your peril.

2: An American werewolf in London (1981)

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Some films you see during your impressionable formative years make an impression on you. Others scar you for life. For me, An American werewolf in London belongs firmly in the latter category. The subway chase scene gave me nightmares and years later when I first moved to London I remember going out of my way to incorporate Tottenham Court Road station (where the scene was filmed) in my daily commute. It never failed to give me chills, largely because the only thing about the station that has changed in the past 35 years are the fucking posters on the walls. The story goes that when director John Landis first started touting it, he had trouble securing finances with most would-be investors claiming the script was too frightening to be a comedy and too funny to be frightening. Eventually, PolyGram Pictures put up the $10 million, and were glad they did when it went on to become a box office smash and win an Academy Award for its special effects (Rick Baker went on to win six more from eleven nominations. A record). The story? It’s about an American werewolf in London, innit?

1: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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Could any other film really take top spot in this list? Not on your nelly. This, the first instalment of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s so-called Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (the others films being Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) is a bona-fide modern classic. Whilst dealing with feuding housemates, a demanding girlfriend and a shitty job, Shaun (Pegg) wakes up one morning with a hangover to find he’s in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. We’ve all been there. Naturally, the only place to go to wait for the world to restore order is the local pub. Brilliant performances by the cream of noughties British comedic talent and commendable special effects, topped off by a hilariously witty script. The perfect introduction to a positively booming sub-genre.

Honourable Mentions:

Cockneys Vs Zombies (2012), the Cottage (2008), Sightseers (2012), Stitches (2012), Boy Eats Girl (2005), Horror Hospital (1973), Nina Forever (2015) Stag Night of the Dead (2010), The World’s End (2013), Ibiza Undead (2016)

Human Waste: A Short Splatterpunk Story by C.M. Saunders is out now.

human waste

 

 

And don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny. You can also to enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

 

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THE EXORCIST SCARRED ME, AND I’M OKAY WITH THAT

By Katrina Monroe

 

When it comes to horror films, my worst fears are many and specific: creepy kids (and now that I have my own, this goes double), sharp objects near or around a person’s neck, demonic possession (I’m a recovering Catholic, so, duh), and jump scares (because I’m gullible as hell). In spite of ALL THAT, when theaters re-released The Exorcist in 2000, at the maddening age of fourteen, I gladly went along with my step-father and my two brothers (aged thirteen and twelve at the time) to see it.

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Don’t ask me what possessed (har-har) my step-father to bring a trio of barely teenaged kids to an R-rated film guaranteed to scare the pants off us. Maybe he thought it would be funny. He’d only just married my mother a year before (and she subsequently popped out child number six), so the dynamic between my siblings and Raul were in the “testing” stage. We tested him, he stared at us like we’d grown a second head, and we moved on to the next experiment. To my memory, he’d never tested back; Raul was (and still is) the calm-headed type. Experience and retrospect, though, have proved that the calm-headed ones are the craftiest.

So with what I can only assume was a blessing from my mother, I, my brothers, my step-father, and his best friend, Harley, went to the movies.

It was a disaster from the beginning.

I sat on the end next to an aisle with burned-out floor illumination, and the shadows played tricks on my already rattled mind. It didn’t slip my notice that my brothers and I were the only under-eighteens in the theater, though, and it was my first clue that something was amiss.

“So this has devils and stuff?” My brother, Danny, asked.

Harley chuckled. “Yeah. Stuff.”

Raul shushed him as the lights dimmed and the movie started.

By the scene in which Regan was being “treated” by having needles plunged multiple times into her neck, I was dry-heaving in the aisle. The world spun and I dripped coke-soaked ice down the back of my neck to keep from passing out. Once the feeling passed, I figured all would be well. If I could live through that, I could handle anything.

Four words—Let Jesus fuck you—and I was so wrong.

The End couldn’t come quick enough.

My brothers and I ran from the theater and waited by the car for Harley and Raul. We didn’t look at each other. Didn’t talk to each other. But I’m sure we all shared the same thought—it’ll be dark soon.

Danny—either in a show of bravado or stubbornness—slept in his room that night as usual, while my other brother, Buddy, and I slept in the living room.

We spent the night watching Disney movies—our favorite, Hercules, played no less than three times—while battling over who would risk getting off the couch to rewind the VHS (yes, we still had those, and no, there was no remote).

“I did it last time,” Buddy said.

“And you were fine. Obviously, you’ve got some kind of luck on your side.”

“That’s stupid.”

“You’re stupid.”

“I’m telling Mom.”

“Go ahead. Hit the rewind button on your way to her room.”

I have no proof, but I firmly believe Raul sat by the bedroom door and listened to all of this, snickering like Snidely Whiplash.

By the next day, Buddy had gotten over it.

Daniel, however, had gotten worse.

My mother paced the kitchen while on the phone with my grandfather, a devout Catholic. “Can you just come over and, I don’t know, talk to him?”

See, Danny believed that since he and Regan were the same age, it was only a matter of time before HE would become possessed, too. Despite my still lingering fear over the film, I found the notion of Danny spewing pea soup all over his Power Ranger bed sheets funny.

My grandfather spent the next several days quoting scripture and comforting Danny in the fact that, yes, the Devil was real, but no he wouldn’t possess Danny because the Devil had more pressing things to deal with like plagues and the End of Times.

I did mention I am a recovering Catholic, yes?

Anyway, I dealt with my fear the only way I knew how. I made deals.

If I didn’t move all night, The Exorcist (because I had to name my fear and, though it made no sense, I went with the movie title) wouldn’t get me.

[I’m sure there’s a twisted Freudian reason that, in naming my fear, it was a name that associated more with the religion side than the horror side of the experience. I’ll jot it down for my therapist, but we won’t be discussing it here.]

Then a week passed.

If I didn’t move all night, except moving my feet out of the blanket when it got too hot, The Exorcist wouldn’t get me.

Then another week passed.

If I didn’t move all night, except moving my feet and getting up to pee, The Exorcist wouldn’t get me.

This continued for months. Years.

Now, I’m allowed to move all I want, but The Exorcist will probably get me if I go into the bathroom before turning on the hall lights, or get into bed without a running start.

I’m thirty and, if I were to watch the movie again, I’m sure I would find it enlightening, compelling, and revel in the scare-factor. But there’s something about childhood trauma that drives me. Without it, I’d have no stories to tell and you’d be stuck playing Pokemon Go for the fourth hour in a row.

There is a moral to this tale, though.

They don’t give an R rating for fun, guys. Maybe don’t plop your twelve year old in front of Pennywise and expect to get her a clown for her next birthday, yeah? Glad we had this talk.

 

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny.

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You can also enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

 

Book News!

by Renee Miller

Hello, Dolls! Halloween is approaching and we’ve been busy. Get ready for Deviant Dolls Publications’ first-ever anthology, ECHOES AND BONES, which will be available as e-book and paperback on Wednesday, October 11th. But you can pre-order your copy now!

echoes and bones final kindle

The Florida Keys, a psychic, and a chipped teacup; not very interesting on their own, but together, they weave dark, sometimes twisted tales of secrets, death, mystery and fantastic discovery. Join us as we listen to the echoes and wade through the bones, to unearth the treasures hidden in our deviant minds.

CONSTRUCTIVE DISMISSAL – Michael Keyton
Cheating a houngan is bad news. A classroom won’t save you.

THE LAST READING OF MADAME SHAHRAZAD – Steve Wetherell
Stacey James makes a comfortable living pretending to talk to the dead, but a dangerous stranger is about to put her talents to the ultimate test.

THE PAST ENTOMBED – C.M. Saunders
Amanda has a tragic past. She also has a gift. Or maybe it’s a curse. Psychometry. The art of ‘reading’ inanimate objects. It’s something she has struggled with her entire life, but learned to accept. Until one morning, when she stumbles across an object at a market which brings the past and the future crashing together. There will be consequences.

WASHER WOMAN SHOALS – Liam McNalley
Between her part time job mixing drinks at her landlord’s bar and deceiving tourists as Madame Ezora, Belle earns enough money to allow for a simple new life in Key West. A strange object found on the beach, though, turns her world upside down. Now, the only way to avoid certain death is for Belle to actually contact a spirit from the other side.

MISBEGOTTEN – Frank E. Bittinger
Haunted by a memory or haunted by an actual spirit, that is the question. Even in paradise, it seems you cannot outrun the past. Will turning to one who communicates with those who have passed beyond the Veil provide answers or will it only lead to a dead end?

THIS ONE IS MINE – Katrina Monroe
Patty will look into a stranger’s past for a small fee. Now, it’s time to confront her own.

KEEPER – Renee Miller
Ford’s dusty pawn shop in the Florida Keys is full of both trash and treasure. The items he hides in the room behind the store, though, are his most prized possessions, and definitely not for sale. Rare beauty, exquisite gifts; each worth a price only Ford comprehends.

The anthology also includes bonus content like book excerpts and original short fiction by the Dolls.

To celebrate this and the many new things the Dolls have coming this month, we’re writing a series of Halloween/Horror themed blog posts, and we’re going to give away two paperback copies of the anthology, as well as two e-books, as well as other goodies.

To be entered to win, just go to the book’s Amazon page on or after the 11th of October and look for the “enter the giveaway” option. (Sorry, U.S. residents only, because Amazon’s not big on international giveaways, apparently, but there will be more chances for non-U.S. readers to win here and on our personal blogs). Stay tuned to the blog and our Facebook page for more Halloween posts and chances to win cool bookish things.

Five Thoughts with Renee Miller: Publishing Edition

I already did a five thoughts post, but lately I’ve had a lot of writing/publishing thoughts that I think should be shared. So, as I did the first time, I’m just going to free write the first five that come into my head. Cool? You know it is.

Here we go.

  1. Is ANYTHING fair? Seriously, life isn’t fair. Publishing isn’t fair. The average pay rate isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that every time I want something sugary in this house, someone else has already eaten it. I hate everything. Most of all, I hate that I bust my ass and see just tiny fragments of success while that piece of shit over there doesn’t work half as hard and he’s all “Oooh, look at me on the bestseller list.”

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Fuck that guy.

  1. I think submission guidelines are the publisher’s revenge for all of the shitty writing they have to read in the slush pile. I mean, sometimes the things they ask for are just ridiculous. I get that they have to weed out the lazy fuckers, but damn, guys. Just damn. Sometimes the ones who aren’t lazy are all “I don’t have time for this shit when you’re paying me less than 1 cent per word.” But I’d totally do it for the pro markets. Cut off my left arm? Okay. You got it. Sacrifice a goat on the fifth Saturday after the first quarter moon? Done. Do a triple back flip, followed by the two-step, and end with a downward dog on a bed of knives? Pfft. Hold my beer and make note of my PayPal email.

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I got this shit.

  1. Why am I writing all of these things? I’m just going to have to submit them somewhere or decide whether or not to publish them myself. I’ve got SO MANY THINGS. Should just quit. Take a holiday or something. But if I stop, even for a little while, I might, I don’t know, never start again. And then what? What if I never have another good idea because I stopped using the other ideas? What if I stop and the world keeps going, because we know that’s exactly what will happen and my special bubble will burst and I’ll have to accept I’m not the shit at writing. I’m just another cog in the wheel of publishing that is easily replaced when it breaks.

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  1. I’m exhausted like 85% of the time. Maybe even 90%. Does anyone else roll their eyes when a new writer comes along with his “Ooh! Everything is so shiny and I’m so full of hopes and dreams. Can you help me get started?”

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But seriously, new writers are great You’re wonderful. Just… stop being so… happy all the time. God.

  1. Rejection letters that begin with “We loved the writing and the characters are fantastic” or “your story made it to the final round,” and end with “But it’s just not what we’re looking for at this time.” You know what, editor person?

no

Just say no.

Don’t tell me how close I came. Don’t let me know that if I’d just chosen another genre, setting, whatever, I’d have sold that fucking piece of shit I sent to you. Just tell me no. “Sorry. It’s a no.” That’s all. Don’t open the door to ‘what might have been’ with your “you’re just awesome and we almost said yes” nonsense. I can’t take it.

Bonus thought: This industry is great, though. Really, it is. I mean, you get to meet new, fascinating people. You’re always learning, so it almost never gets boring. Sure, it’s hard on the pride. Makes you cry from time to time. It’s sent a few people across the border of Crazy Town. Maybe ended a few relationships. Blew up some families. But all-in-all, it’s pretty awesome.

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Five (More) Thoughts with Katrina Monroe

by Katrina Monroe

  1. I can’t science.

I like science. Science makes things blow up and makes my phone cooler and takes care of animals. I appreciate science. I do. I just can’t do it. I started going back to school this year to finish up an English degree I’ve been drooling over for over a decade, and part of it is taking an environmental science class. I read the chapters and cry when I can’t make them stick in my head. I take quizzes that don’t make sense. But, at the end of it, I’m coming for you climate change denying mother-fuckers, so WATCH OUT.

 

  1. Academic writing bores me to tears.

Okay, yes, more school stuff. If I have to obsess about it, you have to hear about it. My required writing class is led by a professor who thinks stylized writing is “confusing.” (I can’t wait to see what he thinks of my rogue italics and one-word paragraphs in our first paper. *eyeroll*). At the beginning of the semester, he emphasized that we would be reading non-fiction. That’s fine. I read A LOT of great non-fiction. Except, in this class, it’ll be academic essays from the medical field, to appeal to the eleventy-billion nursing students in my class. Gag me.

 

  1. You’d think momming got easier once the kids started becoming independent. Guess what, losers. It doesn’t.

When my kids (now ages 9 and 10) were smaller, it was easy to write off their little eccentricities and forgetfulness as a result of their being little. Of course she won’t remember to pick up after herself, Katrina, she’s a toddler for fuckssakes. Now, they still don’t clean their room; they still forget things at school; they still leave behind little trails of pizza cheese and homemade slime, except NOW it’s willful. I have no point other than I’m losing my god-damned mind. Send help.

 

  1. Get your flu shot.

Otherwise you’ll be stuck chain-sucking sugar-free cough drops so you don’t hack up a lung in the middle of class. Oh, and those cough-drops? They give you the runs. Your PSA for the week, kids.

 

  1. Sometimes strangers will sniff your furniture.

This week, I sold our old recliner on the Facebook market because I figured it’d be safer than throwing it up on Facebook and attracting creepers. Facebook users have pictures, right? And you can totally tell a creeper from a non-creeper by their photo (yeah, I’m laughing too). After dodging a few bullshit offers—“I’ll give you twenty bucks and that’s being generous,” fuck off, bro—a legit offer came through and someone showed up to pick up the recliner. Which he sniffed. Allllllll over it. The seat. The back. He said he was looking for mold, but he paid cash so I didn’t ask questions. The chair’s gone now, and so is the sniffer.

Writer’s Toolbox: The Notebook

by Renee Miller

We decided to challenge ourselves to step outside our usual writing aids, methods, tools, etc., and try something that’s either new, or that’s an often-recommended thing we usually don’t use. We’re going to try said aid/method/tool for 7 days and let you know how it works for us. Does that even make sense? Not really. Let’s move on.

I chose the notebook. Back in the day, like about ten years ago, I used a notebook all the time. I had several, actually, and wrote all of In the Bones, The Legend of Jackson Murphy, Bayou Baby, and my first ever novel that shall not be named here, in a notebook. By hand. Every single one of the 80,000+ words for each was scribbled onto paper before I typed it into our ancient, temperamental desktop computer. That’s about 400,000 words handwritten. Yikes.

And then I got a laptop and I said, screw this notebook shit. Never used one again aside from when I have ideas and I’m not at home (although, I often use my phone instead of pen and paper) or when I’m editing or outlining. However, I know a lot of writers who swear by using pen and paper in early stages, so I decided to give it another go.

Supplies: Notebook (I went with the one below, because they were 47 cents at Walmart), brand new pen

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It says “Mom’s Writing Shit” so that the hooligans don’t use it for their own writing.

Day 1:

This thing is so new and white. Just smell those crisp, clean pages. I LOVE that. Ugh. I don’t want to write in it. I must, though. Got this new pen and everything. Here goes.

First entry: Ideas I’ll never use.

Filled three pages.

Day 2:

Wrote a bit of a story in my nifty notebook. Four pages, front and back. It’s kind of okay. My hand hurts and I’m hungry. Because I don’t want to take up story pages, I made a few notes in the back of the notebook. I think this is going to get confusing.

Also, watched a documentary about haunted places. Mentioned the Cecil Hotel. So, this happened…

Day 3:

Lost the notebook. Edited a finished project instead. Stop judging.

Day 4:

New notebook. Tried to rewrite the shit I wrote in the first notebook, but I know I forgot shit. Spent two hours writing beginnings and endings. Forgot how fun that was. My hand hurts again and there’s a new season of Bones on Netflix. What? I have to let these new prompts marinate.

Day 5:

Lost my new pen. Why does writing in pencil bother me so much? Can’t find a pen in this house. Kids must eat them or something. The pencil is REALLY messing with my head. It’s just not right. Wrote a couple of chapters anyway, but I don’t like any of it. Might be the pencil, though, so I’ll sit on it.

Day 5, part two: Found a pen. Wrote over the pencil stuff. Is that OCD? I don’t know. I feel better about what I wrote now. It’s a comedic horror thing, with witchcraft, creatures, sex (of course) and lots of killing. I think it has potential. I need to research and do some outlining, but I like it.

Day 6:

Found the first notebook. I must’ve put it away, because I found it in the junk cupboard. No way anyone else in this house put it there, because they don’t put anything away. And I clearly used it at some point to make note of vet appointments for the cats…

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Anyway, I did forget a lot of stuff. Day 5’s idea about the witch comedy thing is in it, sort of. I just wrote “witches, comedy, horror.” Also, a grocery list.

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Hmm. Anyway, wrote some more in the second notebook, and I’m itching to get on the laptop and “properly” start this thing. Did some research instead. Time travel is cool. I should add that to the story. I made a note.

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Day 7:

Finally, one more day of writing with my poor, cramped hands and then I can get cracking on the keyboard. I made a feeble attempt at it today. Didn’t get very far. I did list all the names I’ve ever used in my stories/books. I’ve used a lot. Going to have to get creative soon, eh? Yeah. Sigh. Of course, minor character names are recyclable, so it’s not so dire. Right? Right?!

New list: Names I haven’t used.

Conclusion:

The notebook is handy, for ideas. It’s not so handy for someone who writes bits and pieces of story impulsively and rapidly, and it’s not at all organized. I lose things constantly, as we’ve seen. If I were to use a notebook regularly, I’d need several. One for ideas, one for general bullshit like character names, and one for each story I’m working on. I’d probably lose track of one or two, so I’d end up with at least a hundred notebooks lying around. That’s too much paper for this girl.

However, it really does get the creative juices flowing, so I think I’ll save it for those times when I feel like I’ve run out of shit to write.

Any unusual writing tools/aids/tricks you’ve heard of, but haven’t tried? Which ones have you tried and would recommend?

The Great NYT Bestseller List Rip-Off

by C.M. Saunders

It is the dream of many would-be authors to get on the New York Times Bestseller list. It’s the kind of thing that can make or break entire careers. Keep that in mind when you consider the recent furor surrounding a little-known author called Lani Sarem, who allegedly bulk-bought her YA fantasy novel, “Handbook for Mortals” to the top of the famed New York Times bestseller list.

It shouldn’t happen, but it did, and the NYT were justifiably embarrassed about it. So much so, that they pulled the book from the list. Whether as a direct result of all this bad publicity, or just because it sucks, the book itself has been absolutely blasted by critics and reviewers. I thought the first order of business would be to find out more about the mysterious Lani Sarem who is either an exciting new name on the literary scene or a massive fraud.

In amongst all the name-dropping, on her social networks the self-styled rock n’ roll gypsy describes herself as a ‘writer and actress.’ She is indeed on IMBD, but the pinnacle of her acting achievements to date seems to be an uncredited role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Over on Twitter, where she has less than 1600 followers, her bio describes her as a ‘festival expert.’ Checking out the book on Amazon (where it has attained a 2-star rating) the first thing you see is a forward written by one ‘Skye Turner’ praising Sarem and her considerable talents. The suggestion is that Sarem wrote this about herself. There is an active writer using the name Skye Turner who churns out low-brow erotica, but that’s obviously a pseudonym and the only other Skye Turner my search turned up was an Australian heroin addict who died back in June. Stranger and stranger. Finally, $9.96 for the Kindle edition? Really? Maybe I’m wrong, but all this smells a bit fishy to me.

Anyway, enough of the supposition. Let’s move on to some facts. For the record, writers bulk-buying copies of their own book under the pretence of selling them at events and signings is nothing new. It’s common practice for most indie authors, and has the dual-purpose of propelling their book a few places up the Amazon charts. I’m not defending Sarem, but that’s the reality of the situation.

Something that bothered me much more than her being accused of buying bulk copies was learning that the NYT Bestseller lists are, ‘Based on sales figures and editorial judgement. It is thought the team compiles a list of books they believe to be top sellers and asks a confidential group of several thousand retailers to provide sales data on those titles with the option to write in other titles that are selling well.’ (Source: The Times)

Wut?

Wait a minute, so… Some folk who work for the New York Times GUESS which books they think are selling well, then use ‘judgement’ to add extra credit where due? That’s bullshit. Obviously, this ‘judgement’ will encourage them to lean toward their favourite writers, or books put out by more the prestigious publishing houses, or even the ones backed by the most generous PR departments who take influential journalists and critics to the nicest restaurants. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that is what’s happening.

Why not base the list on sales alone?

At the very least, the system they currently have in place where so much credence is given to subjective ‘judgement’ gives a biased representation of which books indeed head the charts, and makes it doubly hard for new writers (or old writers with smaller publishers) to penetrate the bubble. Imagine if the Premier League table was decided in the same way as the NYT Bestseller list. You would have a group of journalists, all with their own biases, arguing that the club they support (undoubtedly one of the big guns) is the best in the country. Less fashionable clubs like West Brom, Stoke City and Burnley wouldn’t stand a chance.

Regardless of what Laini Sarem did in order to achieve it, the fact remains that during a specific time period, her book sold more copies than any other. In fact, she sold over 18,000 that week, while the average figure for most books hitting the top spot is more like 5,000. But she has been vilified just because some stuffy industry bigwigs didn’t like the way she sold them.

Clickbait and You

 by Steve Wetherell

Not so long ago I made a joke post about how Doctor Who wasn’t allowed to be a woman. I made this post because I woke up one day to a sea of posts about how misogynists were frothing at the mouth over the decision, and, inevitably, that the Doctor Who fandom had some serious issues that were symptomatic of the downfall of society as a whole. I was skeptical, and said as much. A couple of people- people I like and respect- suggested that I hadn’t researched it enough, that the issue was indeed real. I had, though. I’d seen the presented evidence and I found it lacking, for one very good reason. Every article I read pointing out this “problem” was citing evidence from Twitter. (The exception being a Daily Mail article, but if you haven’t figured out that the Daily Mail is filled with troll columnists whose only currency is stirring a pot full of shit yet, then you haven’t been reading the Daily Mail hard enough. Good. Don’t.)

Here’s what I hate about Twitter. It’s a platform where news and opinion is shared in a very limited amount of characters. By its very design it does not leave room for a nuanced discussion of events. It is ill equipped to make a fair point. My second problem with Twitter is that it is very much about transmitting rather than receiving, primed as it is for people to make snappy comments, and share comments they thought were snappy. Thirdly, Twitter has millions of users, and the law of averages tell us that a percentage of those users are irredeemable fuck-wads. My fourth problem is a theory not my own but widely suspected by many- the law of diminishing jerkiness. Someone who’s a super jerk on Twitter is probably only a standard jerk in real life and so on. You know, how we’d scream obscenities from the isolation of our car that we’d never dream of bellowing into someone’s face in real life (yesterday I wished an old lady to drive into lake full of shit and remain there for the rest of her days. I didn’t mean it, obviously. I just wanted her to move away from the junction a little quicker.)

I’d no more trust Twitter as an accurate gauge of public opinion than I’d trust the writing on a shit house wall.

So what’s this got to do with clickbait? Well, I’ll tell you. Twitter is super handy for the clickbait writer because you can find ‘real life’ comments to back up almost any position. And that is a door that swings both ways. You want me to write a think piece on why the feminist end game is the castration of male children? You think I can’t find five tweets to back that up? Of course I can. Feminists can be shit heads too. What if I wanted to write an inflammatory article about how Black Lives Matter think white people are born evil? Look me in the eye and tell me that any writer at any level with even an ounce of cunning could not find the ‘evidence’ he needs to validate that position. In my circles, writing an article denouncing Republicans- say I wanted to make a claim that Republicans are all inadequate lovers- would be very easy and probably get a lot shares. It’s tempting. I don’t for a second believe it, but it’s tempting.

And that temptation is a problem. I was recently approached by a perfectly innocuous culture and news feed service that wanted me to write articles for them. The pay? Well, lets just say I’d need 30,000 views to get what I consider to be a minimal article writing fee. 30,000 is quite a lot for a small timer with no platform of his own. Would I get that touting my usual brand of silly introspection? Probably not. Could I get that with a ‘LESBIANS MORE LIKELY TO BEAT WIVES’ headline? Yes. Absolutely. I’d be stoking outrage on one side, tickling dark prejudice on the other. Either way, I’d be taking something entirely out of context to get clicks. And that sucks.

It doesn’t just suck for me and my withered soul, or the readers I offend, it sucks because I am contributing to the ever building pile of outrage, and if you haven’t noticed, that is fucking things up for everyone on a massive scale. How many half-formed exaggerations based on contextless stats do you think it got to put Trump in office? Or to keep Bernie Sanders out of it? Humans just aren’t smart enough to take in the whole big picture, so there’s fertile ground for people who want to draw your attention to only part of it.

So, back to Doctor Who. Does it matter that I don’t really believe that the Doctor Who fan base has a problem any more than any other group in society has its inevitable share of arseholes? No. I’m not about to start with the #notalldoctorwhofans. But there’s another element to this process, and that’s backlash. When someone drops a firecracker into the crowd and gets everyone panicked, both sides respond to it. It unfolded with tedious inevitability, but the rabid outrage about the female Doctor Who did appear. It appeared with a bunch of people irritated that they were being labelled as woman haters over something so silly. But once the blood is up, and the medium dictates the message, the argument basically devolved to “get back in the kitchen and make a sandwich and also stop being Doctor Who.”

You could interpret that as scratching the surface and finding the dangerous hidden misogyny in people who like watching children’s television shows. Or, maybe, and I’m referencing my own experience of people here, if you kick someone they’ll kick back.

Either way, if you’ve shared an article that takes very minor behaviour and attributes it to a whole, you are probably not handling that issue with the patience and care it needs. You’re probably just kicking someone, and then acting shocked when they kick back.

Twitter isn’t to blame for this, obviously. It’s just a useful tool. Newspapers have been doing it for years, the internet just does it faster. I have a special contempt for people who push others who were minding their own business into a fight, and then sit back smugly. I have even more contempt for people who do it for money. Look on YouTube, and you’ll find countless talking heads denouncing the same footage or article, and when you step back, you realise what they’re complaining about is very small indeed. That there are probably more people complaining than there are offending articles.

I try to be as fair minded as possible when writing articles, without attacking individuals or making scooping generalisations- even though that’s where the easy comedy is. It’s the reason I won’t ever get those sweet, sweet views. Not for me the rakes of comments gushing ‘THIS’. Not for me the rabid YouTube commenters ecstatic that someone has validated their views. Though, who knows. Maybe one day I’ll pick a side (any side, maybe both sides) and just run with it. It’s fucking easy after all. It’s like slinging burgers outside a weight watchers meeting. Even if they don’t want it, they’ll be tempted. They’ll get the stink of it.

Or maybe I’ll continue writing what I think is the truth, broad and simple as my thoughts may be. That people are people, mostly benign, and that fear makes us all susceptible to the whispers and shouts of those who seek power, however small and trivial that power may be. That people are people, doing the small good in from of them and avoiding the larger evils, and that they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

And it’s so easy to look at the facts and, with a sigh of relief, say;

Not all liberals are anarchists

Not all feminists are man haters

Not all republicans are nazis

Not all brexiters are racist

And then, with an even bigger sigh of relief, add the phrase “in fact, most of them aren’t.”

…But the tighter you push people against the fence, the more they will snarl, and none of us can be properly understood when we’re snarling. We are at our worst when the knives come out, so think carefully before drawing yours.

Or maybe I’m just a deluded hippy. Or maybe I’m a secret nazi apologist. Go through my Twitter. I’m sure, with enough spin, you could prove anything you wanted.

 And that’s the problem, see?

 

FOOTNOTE THOUGHTS:

So you can better understand where I’m coming from, I’ll take an extra moment to explain my stance. My more careful philosophy on judging people comes from my own experience growing up. I was a rich village kid who was educated and worked in a rough town. It was not uncommon to walk the streets and, as a long hair, attract the violent attentions of packs of youth. For a long time I thought everybody in my town was scum, and indeed it was not a nice town, especially back then in the recession years. It occurred to me later that there were many reasons my stance became arrogant. I won’t get into economics and stuff, but I will state the obvious point that took me far too long to realise; I was basing my assumptions of the town on a group of people who had specifically gone out looking for trouble, and not the thousands and thousands of unseen people who had better things to do with their lives. It doesn’t give you much comfort if you’ve just taken a kicking, but it’s the truth. A truth worth remembering.

 

 

Horror Reviews with C.M. Saunders

Film Review: The Void (2016)

By C.M. Saunders

void_ver4

It isn’t often a horror movie leaves me feeling as emotionally drained as this one did. Other worldly cosmic horror, body horror, splatter horror, this film is a mash-up of every kind of horror you can think of, and probably some you cant. It’s hard to know where to start talking about it. Dismemberment? Check. Pyramids? Check. Demon babies? Check. Hospital-cum-gateway-to-hell invaded by knife-wielding devil worshipers in hoods? Check. You get the picture. Possibly.

          It all starts innocently enough when sheriff’s deputy Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole, who excelled in 2012’s The Conspiracy) stops one night to help what he assumes is a drunk dude crawling down the side of the road. When it transpires drunk dude isn’t drunk at all, but severely traumatised, Deputy Carter takes him to the hospital where his ex-wife works. There, whilst going through the administration procedure, he finds one of the nurses cutting her face off and stabbing a patient in the eyes with a pair of scissors. She then attacks Deputy Carter who shoots her dead. Not a regular occurrence. But his shift gets worse when he goes outside to his patrol car to call in the incident and is confronted with the aforementioned knife-wielding devil worshipers in hoods. Back inside the hospital, things take an even more disturbing turn when the dead nurse transforms into a slithering, slimy, tentacled creature, which is the last thing anyone needs, and matters are compounded when a gateway to Hell (aka, the void) opens. There are numerous twists and turns along the way, which I won’t spoil for you, ensuring the plot moves along with pace. The downside of this is the fact that of you blink, you are liable to miss something important.

            A lot of reviews compared The Void (favourably) with the low-budget horror flicks of the 80s. I don’t see it myself, though there are certain similarities with Josh Carpenter’s The Thing. Some of the cartoon violence comes across as a little bit gratuitous and the cosmic horror aspect adds some trippiness to proceedings, but the package works well. I love the return to ‘real’ special effects, rather than an over-reliance on CGI which has become the norm these days. The Void made quite a splash on 2016’s festival circuit and currently holds a 76% approved rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is remarkably high for a film of this type. Definitely not one to aVoid. Sorry.

The Swearing Corner: The N-Word and other words I won’t say (mostly)  

by Steve Wetherell

I’ll never say the n-word. Well, not in any official capacity. I might sing along to an Anderson Paak song, and my usual tactic of replacing it with ‘fella’ doesn’t always scan well. Also, I might write the word in the mouth of a racist character or such. Also, I might get drunk and scream it at someone’s wedding. Not the last one. That was a joke.

 

I wouldn’t say the word because it’s a very sensitive, contentious word, with a dark and terrible history, and it makes people uncomfortable. Saying it, to me, is far more effort that it’s worth. I mean, really, considering the fallout, I’d need a really, really good reason to say it. Maybe to prove some point about free speech and sensible conversation or such, or because Samuel L. Jackson commanded me to say it on national television. And that’s not really going to be an issue for me. I’m slightly suspicious of anyone who does think it is an issue. Why do you want to say that word? Is it because you were told you can’t? You coy little minx. Wash your mouth out. Also your soul.

 

Should the word have such power, though? The short answer is yes, but I may live to see a time when it loses that power. For example, when I was a young kid, referring to a black guy as a black guy was thought to be extremely crass. More sensitive people would say ‘the coloured chap’ or ‘Dave’ depending on how well they knew him. These days referring to anyone as ‘coloured’ is career damagingly offensive, and as ‘black’ is fine. Things change.

 

Faggot is another word I won’t say, apart from just then, obviously. Although it’s a fun word to say. (In England, a faggot is something you eat. It’s also a meat dish.) I won’t say faggot for the same reason I’ll never un-ironically say ‘cuck’, because it’s too often used by macho types with the self-awareness of a dick shaped lollipop and the compassion of an alligator. Also, it too has a pretty damned dark history. Again, not being able to say this word is really no skin off my nose.

 

I do miss “Gaaaaay” though. No, hear me out. We pretty much said everything was gay when I was younger, largely due to South Park. It’s got a big dumb mooing quality to it that makes it silly. Geography? Gaaaay. Newspapers? Gaaaay. Any outward sign of affection between two straight men? Gaaaay. In fact, the only thing we wouldn’t derisively call gay was actual gay people, because that would have been mean. Obviously, as we matured we realised that setting a tone where the word gay was used derisively was a problem in itself. It didn’t peter out entirely though. One of my favourite jokes in one my favourite movies- Shaun of the Dead- was the following exchange.

 

Shaun: We have to save Liz!

Ed: Why?

Shaun: Because I love her.

Ed: Alright… gay.

 

One grown man calling another grown man gay for admitting he loves his girlfriend is still hilarious to me. It’s absurd, and silly. I didn’t really stop saying gay in that way until my best friend and housemate came out to me in university. We had a frank and serious discussion about whether we were both supposed to stop calling things gay now, and he suggested that we should just carry on as normal. We didn’t though. I gradually phased it out. Now that it was more personal to me, it didn’t seem as silly.

 

Like retard. Remember when everything was retarded? Again, you’d call everything retarded apart from someone who was actually retarded, because what are you, a monster? Same situation as Faggot though. Phased that out. I’ve replaced it with fucktarded, but that’s still a bit dicey as the clue to its origin is fairly embedded in its structure. But here’s the problem- where I come from, flat out calling someone an idiot is a bit serious. It can be used light-heartedly, sure, but it’s also the word you use when you stop fucking around and want someone to know that they’ve sincerely fucked up. So, I sort of need a less serious word than ‘Idiot’ and less heinous word than ‘Retard.’

 

Answers on a postcard.