Inhuman Swill : Horror

Shaun of the dead of the dead

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shaun-meta-david.jpg
UPDATE!  After this blog entry was written, I emailed the text of it to John Hodgman on a whim. A few hours later, to my surprise, I received a response. His Honor told me he would endure my "gut punches" if I disagreed with him, but that I should not ask him to answer for Martin Amis.
Dear Judge John Hodgman:

I must take great exception to your summary judgment in a recent episode of the "Judge John Hodgman" podcast, to wit, that Shaun of the Dead is a comedy only and not a horror film.

Your Honor, this opinion is, if you'll permit me, patent hogwash. If we are to accept your definition of a horror film as one designed to provoke terror and dread in its audience and to help that audience confront and process their own existential fears as their on-screen proxies battle horrors from beyond the grave, then in what way does Shaun of the Dead not meet that definition? Yes, we may be laughing at the same time, and we may chuckle wryly here and there in recognition of nods to earlier classics in the zombie canon, but that in no way reduces our identification with Shaun, Ed, and the rest of our heroes, nor does it diminish our well-justified fears for their safety or our investment in their fates. Whatever yuks may be afoot, these characters are in very real peril, and we can't help experiencing that peril along with them. Shaun of the Dead clearly manages the feat of being effective comedy and horror both, at the same time.

I am weary to my bones of the tired assertion that a thing that is one thing cannot also be another thing, particularly when the one thing is seen as high art and the other as low. I recall years ago attending a lecture by literary enfant terrible Martin Amis at the NYU library. His New Yorker short story "The Janitor on Mars" had just been named by Locus Magazine as one of the year's top works of science fiction. During Q&A, a young woman asked Amis if the publication of that story meant that he was now a science fiction writer. Amis hemmed and hawed, eventually asserting that, while he had read and absorbed copious amounts of science fiction as a youth and certainly wasn't embarrassed by that fact, "The Janitor on Mars" merely deployed the tropes and language of science fiction to a higher literary end. It was not itself, he claimed, science fiction.

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A higher attraction

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If we were zombies
I promise you that I would
love you for your brain

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RIP Mark W. Worthen (1962-2011)

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Mark W. Worthen
My friend Mark Worthen ([info]nitewanderer) passed away unexpectedly yesterday. He was a horror, crime, and science fiction writer who worked tirelessly behind the scenes of the Stoker Awards for the Horror Writers Association and also served as HWA's webmaster. I wandered around in dark fog yesterday after hearing the news. I can't believe he's gone.

I first met Mark in 1993 when I joined a writing group called Xenobia in Provo, Utah. He was only a few years older than I was, and we bonded over a certain darkness and irreverence in our fiction and our worldviews. I wouldn't have expected it back then, but he's the person from that group that I stayed in closest touch with over the years. Through one circumstance or another, we both ended up moving out of Utah around the same time and leaving some misunderstandings behind. That was another thing to bond over, the feeling that we were outcasts and exiles.

While I went to New York City, Mark's path took him to South Korea. He was a brilliant linguist and specialized in teaching ESL. I was amazed by his adventurousness, but he had lived in Europe and South America already and from the stories he told later he took full advantage of his time in Asia.

Next I heard from him, he was in the Midwest, Missouri to be precise, with the love of his life, J.P. Edwards. It was probably around then that Mark asked if I'd contribute a story to his new online horror magazine Blood Rose (one of the earlier of its kind). I did, and actually ended up hosting the website for him (which I still do). It wasn't much later that I found myself traveling to Jefferson City for Mark and Jeannie's wedding, and found him happier than I'd ever known him.

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Raaarrrr

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I come to you, love,
like a zombie in your thrall,
hungry for your brains.

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Nice review

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Via the PS Publishing newsroom, here are excerpts from Peter Tennant's recent Black Static review of my collaboration with Derryl Murphy, Cast a Cold Eye:

This short novella does many things right. For starters, its setting is immaculately captured on the page, with a real sense of rural Nebraska in 1921 coming over thanks to a wealth of tiny details, such as the ins and outs of photography or a look inside the house of a wealthy widow. There's a strong emotional grounding too, for both Luke and the society in which he is placed, an aching sense of despair undercut with a feeling that perhaps the worst is past, so people can look to the future with hope, an optimism confirmed in its denouement. Characterisation is spot on, with no-one who can be considered either evil or a criminal, just ordinary men and woman with all the flaws and virtues that implies....

The supernatural side of the story is suitably understated, so that we believe but also take on board the possibility that the ghosts could only exist inside the hearts and minds of the people who see them. With a subtext suggesting that the spectral world is just another aspect of life, wishing us neither good nor evil, but just there, a case could be made for Luke as the 'I see ghosts' boy from Sixth Sense picked up, rather like a reverse Dorothy, and put down in rural Nebraska, but that might be stretching things. In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it without reservation.

Order yourself a copy, without reservation, here.

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Tuesday Funk Reading, March 2, 2010
Hey, Chicagoans! I have a reading coming up tomorrow, Tuesday, March 2, 2010, as part of Chicago's Tuesday Funk Reading Series at Hopleaf.

It's my fourth appearance at Tuesday Funk, where I'll be appearing alongside Lisa Chalem, Reinhardt Suarez and (my Writers Workspace colleague) "Etiquette Bitch" Marianna Swallow. I'll be reading a segment from my collaboration with Derryl Murphy, Cast a Cold Eye.

The event takes place in the upstairs bar at Hopleaf, which opens at 7:00 pm. The reading itself begins at 7:30 pm. The address is:

Hopleaf Bar
5148 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60660
That's just south of Foster, in the Andersonville neighborhood.
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The devil at the end of my bed

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I watched Paranormal Activity yesterday evening on DVD while waiting for Laura to get home from work. I found the movie deeply, thrillingly, and realistically frightening—not because I believe in ghosts or demons, but because it returned me to a time in my life when I did.

Between the ages of ten and sixteen or so, I experienced a few episodes of what I realize now must have been sleep paralysis. This occurs when the brain rouses from REM sleep but the body essentially remains asleep. You're fully awake and aware, but you can't move a muscle.

That's exactly what happened to me maybe half a dozen times that I remember. I would wake up in the darkness of my bedroom unable to move, terrified by the certain convinction that the Devil himself was holding me immobile, and that he was going to kill me. I would struggle to move for what seemed like an hour, to no avail. I would struggle to form words, to shout for help, also to no avail. I would struggle not to fall back to sleep, because I knew if I fell asleep I would die. I would silently pray to God for deliverance from my assailant, deliverance that only came when I did fall back into unwilling unconsciousness.

On one very memorable occasion, when I was an older teenager, this happened on a visit to my uncle's house in Los Angeles, while I was cocooned in sleeping bag on his living room floor. My father was in a sleeping bag not six feet away, but I couldn't make the tiniest peep to wake him up so he could save me.

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Book launch party tonight!

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Flowers for the grave (um, the one in the book)
Just a quick reminder of my book launch party for Cast a Cold Eye, this evening in Chicago. All the event details are here:

http://tinyurl.com/coldeyeparty

Hope to see you there. The nice checkout women at Trader Joe's gave me free flowers for it this morning (I was there buying lots of wine), and it would be a shame for the bouquet to go unappreciated!

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Hi, NYC friends! Yes, it's a last-minute surprise to me too, but I'll be reading with the excellent Paul Witcover THIS COMING TUESDAY EVENING, January 5th, as part of the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series at the South Street Seaport Museum. Doors open 6:30 pm, readings begin 7:00 pm. Suggested donation is $5. See below for all the details, and we hope to see you there.

Please note, if you haven't been to a NYRSF reading at the Seaport lately, that the location is slightly different than it used to be....

--> The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings
and the
South Street Seaport Museum present <--

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The problem isn't that Luke sees dead people. The problem is that dead people see Luke.

CAST A COLD EYE BOOK RELEASE PARTY
w/William Shunn
Friday, January 8, 2010
7:00 to 9:00 pm

Time and Again
1239 W. Cortland St.
Chicago, IL 60614
site | map

Come out to Time and Again in Chicago to celebrate the hardcover release of Derryl Murphy & William Shunn's new novella Cast a Cold Eye! Mingle with fellow book lovers, browse unique treasures from the era of the story in an elegant setting, and sit back with a glass of wine while William Shunn reads chilling selections from the book. (Readings begin at 7:30 pm.)

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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