Sunday, September 14, 2014


If you've visited my blog in the past, you know I love these fantasy film casts. I remember reading WIZARD magazine as a kid, and the comic book movie dream casts were always a favorite segment of mine. Heck... I think they mentioned Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier years ago, but that's a no-brainer, isn't it? 

Some of the actors I picked aren't particularly well-known. I think readers should be able to use their imagination to see these character in the narrative, but if I had it MY WAY, well... here's the cast for DARK RISING, my new novel from Severed Press (details about the book below the cast). 

Anna Vivaldi

An Italian-Irish woman who is nothing more than leg and attitude, Noomi Rapace is perfect for this role. Why? Because Noomi Rapace is awesome. That’s why. She does a good job portraying tough female characters without being over-sexualized, and Anna Vivaldi is nothing but over-sexualized. I think this would be a good role for Rapace. Please. Please say yes…

Mari Riso

This actress is Rosa Kato. I looked her up, and this pose seems to capture everything that I would want to see in Mari Riso on the silver screen. Tough, haunted, and unwilling to compromise her family’s sacred mission. 

Captain Brand Whitmore

A veteran ship captain, haunted by the woman that he lost when his ship sank several years ago. A drunken wreck of a man who still clings to the fleeting moments he had with Patricia Vivaldi, he is cursed by the ancient octopus demigod. Kurt Russell would be unhinged enough, and could easily make the transition to a damaged man. He’s the perfect balance to the remote and stilted Clive Nightingale. 

Clive Nightingale

Who better to play a creepy sorcerer with a penchant for guitar playing and serial-killing than Clive Owen? Owen’s voice is arguably one of the creepiest in Hollywood, and he could portray the mysterious, morose man who is playing a game with cosmic dice. 


Another actor I chose for his look, although I am familiar with his work in Hari Kiri. This actor’s name is Eita, and he’s a handsome lad. The character, Chan, is a young, ambitious government agent who steadfastly believes in his mission. Chan isn’t afraid of a giant octopus, and he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.


I don’t want to spoil which character Gilian Anderson would play, but after you read the first chapter, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise, anyway. In a film version, I assume she would appear in flashback/memory sequences, because I’d certainly want to maximize my use of Gilian Anderson. 


An ancient creature sleeps in the Pacific Ocean, awakened only by the music of sorcery.

Anna Vivaldi has never forgotten the disappearance of her mother, but at least she has the money and courage to find closure. But she’ll need the only survivors from her mother’s expedition: Whitmore, the drunken captain who lost something precious on the first voyage, and Nightingale, the man who had whisked Anna’s mother away on a search for something ancient and terrible. 

On the vast ocean. In the haunted past. Wanted by millionaire treasure hunters and scientists. A thing that should not be real. An island of mysteries. An abyss of death. PREPARE FOR A DARK RISING. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Crown of the Old Iron King: A brief reflection on the Dark Souls II DLC


It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Dark Souls. If there were awesome action figures, I would buy them. Comic book? I would be interested. I am kicking around the idea of writing a book that takes place in the universe, but I would rather do it as official canon, supported by From Software. We essentially have a gothic, post-apocalyptic fantasy world with a ruined kingdom and the dreams of its departed king. 

The new DLC, Crown of the Old Iron King, seems like it’s stirring up a bit of controversy because a boss that was reused. I love the idea that Dark Souls is truly a community game; forums and blogs dedicated to the game have a huge influence on how people play it, and perceive it. I’ve read that some people are disenchanted with the DLC, and that’s okay. It’s their opinion. 

Comparing Demons Souls and Dark Souls I and II seems like a ridiculous idea to me; it feels like comparing the first three Super Mario games for Nintendo. The new DLC is comparable to the first Dark Souls game; part of the challenge in Dark Souls was surviving the trip to a boss room over and over again. Sometimes, I would get impatient, try to rush through, and die an embarrassing death. 

I can’t tell you how long I spent trying to kill the new Smelter Demon.

I also can’t tell you how many video games require you to kill on older boss near the end of the game. A lot of platform-action games give you a second chance to fight a boss you hated the first time; sometimes, the boss is more powerful, maybe even accompanied by other tough enemies. 

You have to have a whole new level of patience while playing Crown of the Old Iron King. The best strategy I could devise while fighting all three of the new bosses was simply to survive the fight as long as I could. Instead of trying to get in several whacks at a time, I relied on speed and my allies. We used a “taking turns” approach, where we would each go in for a few strikes, and then stand in front of it while one of my slammed an Estus Flask. 

So yeah, all three bosses of the new bosses were melee-style fighters. The game already features several corrupt spell-casters. I’ll never forget fighting one of the red phantoms at the bottom of a ladder; my fire-infused sword lit up large torches, which set the mood for the fight nicely. 

 I spent several hours playing the DLC. I had to wait forever for a human player to show up when I fought the boss. During my struggles, I met a very cool ally. My ally reached out to me after our first defeat against Sir Alonne, and we managed to hook up again. It was pretty awesome. There’s just something awesome about fighting these bosses with a partner and adhering to a sort of pattern without even communicating what that pattern is. I truly feel as if my character is nothing more than a phantom trapped in a hopeless multiverse that is fated to slide into the Abyss.  

I love it. The DLC is awesome. Playing it on NG+, and I keep remembering that this is EXTRA stuff. The game was already huge to begin with. For the most part, I think DLC is silly, an obvious cash-grab. But From Software has delivered an amazing experience. I wish that a new NPC might hang out like the Cresftallen Knight and have some cryptic and haunting lore to share, but I guess we have the former king of Drangleic for that.

Wouldn’t it be excellent for the next DLC to include more lore based on the Melfian Academy? I can’t recall if there’s a specific location in the game that used to be the academy; one of the classic tropes of swords and sorcery fiction is a sorcery school, or a vast, arcane fortress that protects the kingdom’s sorcerous secrets. 
One last, small observation.

I’m a huge Roberto Bolano fan. He is my literary hero, and he often made mention of something called THE ABYSS. Thomas Ligotti, who has been in the news lately because of the True Detective controversy, could have easily written King Vendrick’s poetic dialogue regarding THE DARK. Very interesting. 
Dark Souls II is a huge game. While some folks are breezing through the DLC in a couple hours, I am soaking it in. Loving every minute of it. The fight against Sir Alonne was very fun, and the sense of accomplishment I felt when I beat all three bosses was similar to the gratification I experienced after beating the bosses in Crown of the Sunken King. 

After I beat Sir Alonne, I felt like I could run the obstacle course on American Ninja Warrior. Because I’m awesome. Yeah. I just killed a video game monster. 

I could write at length about the philosophy of dread-fear that permeates these games. They are designed masterfully, in my opinion. Dark Souls II has been controversial simply because it’s NOT EXACTLY like the first game. For that, I am glad. If I wanted to play Dark Souls, I would play it. I own the game. People are buying the same recycled Call of Duty games over and over again, and people will always buy the sports games no matter how many minor adjustments might detract from the experience or enhance it. At the end of the day, a video game that entertains is successful. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Coming Soon from Severed Press in September, 2014

An ancient creature sleeps in the Pacific Ocean, awakened only by the music of sorcery.

Anna Vivaldi has never forgotten the disappearance of her mother, but at least she has the money and courage to find closure. But she’ll need the only survivors from her mother’s expedition: Whitmore, the drunken captain who lost something precious on the first voyage, and Nightingale, the man who had whisked Anna’s mother away on a search for something ancient and terrible. 

On the vast ocean. In the haunted past. Wanted by millionaire treasure hunters and scientists. A thing that should not be real. An island of mysteries. An abyss of death. PREPARE FOR A DARK RISING

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Anime is a beautiful artistic representation of unique ideas and amazing storytelling; it’s an entertainment medium that continues to grow, especially as Netflix begins to pick up exclusive shows, exposing the genre to a new audience. Popular bizarro writer and poet S. T. Cartledge, author of House Hunter and Day of the Milkman, incorporates vivid storytelling that is heavily influenced by Anime and Manga. S. T. stopped by the blog to talk about some of his favorite shows, including some recent hits. 

So a couple of years ago I got into watching anime and reading manga. I love it. It's so vibrant and imaginative and wild. In the same way that anything is possible in bizarro, anything is possible in anime and manga. And the volume of content is just incredible. Here are a few of my favourite anime series:

Cowboy Bebop

It's a classic. Bounty hunters in space set to a wild jazz soundtrack. It came out in 1999 and it's still the benchmark for cool. There's plenty of action, gunfights, fistfights, wild spaceship flights and big explosions. And the characters have enough mystery to them that the backstory teased out over the 26 episodes and one movie keeps you emotionally invested. And Radical Edward. Yeah, at times she's annoying as fuck, but she's also one of my favourite characters around. You should also take note of the director, Shinichiro Watanabe, and the composer, Yoko Kanno. Their work together really sets this series apart from other sci-fi anime. I'd recommend Watanabe's other series, Samurai Champloo, Kids on the Slope, and Terror in Resonance. The latter two also feature fantastic soundtracks by Kanno, and Terror in Resonance is currently only a few episodes in, but it already seems to be something special.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Some fan favourites are fan favourites for a reason. This series is unforgettable. I watched the last 6 episodes of Evangelion right before I went to work and I spent my shift in a shellshocked daze. Evangelion is about a post-apocalyptic world where earth comes under attack by outer space monsters called 'angels'. They fight back using children piloting mechas called 'Evas'. The main character, Shinji, struggles with the responsibility that the entire human race is counting on him to not be a fuck up. Combine that with the fact that he's working for his estranged father and has never known love and acceptance in his life, the poor child has no idea how to process his emotions. Evangelion is a manic spiral into the darkest spaces of the human psyche. And the thing I love about it, is that it teases at resolution. It teases you into thinking maybe things will turn out okay. Maybe Shinji will learn how to be a normal child saving the world time and time again. Be prepared to face a world without closure or resolution. The rebuild of Evangelion as a film series was meant to make the whole thing more accessible. Three of the four films are out now, and all I can say is that Evangelion is hellbent on tormenting you. The films definitely aren't more forgiving than the series. Evangelion plays with your emotions in ways you could not imagine. It is truly unforgettable.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Brotherhood is a remake of a series simply called Fullmetal Alchemist, which in turn was based on a manga series. At the time the original series came out, the manga was still being written. By the time Brotherhood came along, it was complete. The original anime was brilliant in its own right, but Brotherhood is a more faithful adaptation, and as such, it captures that artistic vision just that much clearer. The scope is much bigger. And it is pulled off expertly. The basic concept is this: When their mother dies, Ed and Al try to bring her back to life using alchemy. They fail. Ed loses his leg and Al loses his body. Ed sacrifices his arm in order to bind his brother's soul to a suit of armour. As a result of playing with death, they find that the world is populated with homunculi, powerful creatures embodying the spirit of the seven deadly sins. The story itself has a lot of complex ins and outs, a brief summary just can't do it justice. But at the core there is the existential struggle between life and death, the ethics of trying to bring people back from the dead, and facing the monsters which plague such decisions.


This anime is a strange one. It's a colourful sci-fi story where people have memory chips stored in their heads. They can buy good memories and delete bad ones. They can remove their memories from one body and put them in another. The story revolves around a mysterious character who doesn't quite know who he is. The world is corrupt, and people are hunting him down, thinking he's some sort of mastermind behind a planned rebellion. This series is surreal, it's abstract. It's sad and beautiful and overwhelming. Storytelling is minimal and the animation style is strange. It's a visionary masterpiece.

Knights of Sidonia

I have been waiting for something like this for a long time. Tsutomu Nihei is one of my favourite manga artists. Knights of Sidonia is his latest manga, yet it's the first one to be picked up as a proper anime series. I haven't finished season one yet, but the adaptation is brilliant. His style of storytelling is fairly minimal, and the action and sprawling landscapes are things you need to pay close attention to in order to fully appreciate and understand the story. The anime does a great job adapting it, making it easy enough to follow, while also doing justice to the elaborate architecture of his worlds and detail of his monsters. The things which make his stories stand out. Knights of Sidonia is about a space ship carrying what might be the last of human civilisation through space infested with shape-shifting monsters known as 'gauna'. The humans pilot mechas to fight off the gauna. Plenty of action. It's hardcore sci-fi mechas vs kaiju in space, with the characters inside the space ship Sidonia driving the story along.

Attack on Titan

This is the big one people are all over right now. For a while, it slipped through my radar, but while I'm still only about 11 episodes into the anime, I'm much further along into the manga. The story follows a human settlement living within a series of walls built in concentric circles, keeping out giant naked human-eating humanoid creatures called titans. They're pretty much giant, brutal zombies. There is an elite military network trained to fend off the titans, killing them by propelling themselves into the air using some form of grappling hook system, and slicing the back of the titans' necks. I don't want to give away plot details, but what the humans know about the titans is kind of hazy, and what they find out throughout the series turns those assumptions on their head and really ratchets up the action. It's intense. The anime is directed by the same guy who did Death Note and Highschool of the Dead. The action is awesome. The animation is slick and visceral. From what I've seen of the anime and what I've read in the manga, I think it looks better on the screen than it does on the page, which is saying a lot. You want to check this series out. It's ridiculously entertaining.

Eden of the East

This series is probably the least insane one on this list. A lot of series I like tend to pump up the action or drama so much it ends up blowing apart and going into unreal proportions (Dragonball Z, anyone?). Eden of the East is an incredible anime because it doesn't have to resort to that. After Japan comes under missile attack for unknown reasons, a select few citizens are chosen to participate in a game where they are given an incredible amount of money and resources and are given the job of fixing Japan by any means necessary so that it doesn't find itself carelessly under attack like this again. The series is a bit of a mystery/thriller/drama. An innocent bystander gets caught up with one of the participants of the game, and with each participant trying to achieve the goal their own way (or not) and trying to keep tabs on each other (should they fail or run out of funds they will be hunted down and killed by one of the participants), Eden of the East is as much about survival as it is about understanding the game, and understanding how things have changed so much in such a short amount of time. The animation is crisp and clean, the story is brilliant. You think of what anime typically is, and this series undercuts it and produces its own captivating vision.

S.T. Cartledge is an Australian writer of action/adventure Bizarro fiction, often bordering on the fantastical, with rich world-building and fast-paced action sequences inspired by anime, manga, and the works of D. Harlan Wilson, Carlton Mellick III, and Cameron Pierce. He lives in Perth, Western Australia, where he studied creative writing at Curtin University. In 2013 he graduated with first class honours. Visit his blog at:

Check out S. T. Cartledge's books: 

In a world dominated by the milk industry, only one milkman remains after a terrible storm sinks all the ships and throws the Great White Sea out of balance. The storm has left HiLo, the last milkman, to endure the memories of a world that left him behind. Adrift upon a lonely sea in a lonely world, his search for food, drinkable milk, and survivors is soured by the ghosts of those he lost.

But World Milk, HiLo’s former employer, left many secrets in its wake; with the company of a ghostly hologram woman, HiLo’s quest for answers might resurrect the once-glorious milk industry and return the world to creamy freshness. 

The day of the milkman is upon us. 

Finding a good house is a house hunter's job. If you want a great house, you need Imogen. She's the best at capturing young houses and training them to be homes. But all of her skills will be tested when the Association goes after the mythical Jabberhouse in order to breed houses in captivity. With a mysterious helper, Imogen and her house fight to stay alive and keep houses free.

A bizarro adventure, with cockroach people, spider-cars, assassins, house-fights, and a big-ass castle stomping into battle against an ancient temple. House hunting has never been so weird.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Our submission to years trembles the fitful breeze
Bloodprints of the tremulous headlines
Torpid peace collapses the chorus of thieves

The lords of the innocent surrender to withered knees
Look yonder for the pale twilight of forgotten graves
Our submission to years trembles the fitful breeze

The labrythine crimes absolve fragments, disease
March the anarchists through purgatorial mountainslides
Torpid peace collapses the chorus of thieves

Those lamentations, those sailors, those erasured degrees
One million gold doubloons for the triumphal arch of Babylon
Our submission to years trembles the fitful breeze

Gods and damn the youths of wasted streets and needs
Electronic templar knights vote to lick the pregnant tombs
Torpid peace collapses the chorus of thieves

Laugh at the truth of sorrowful men in Christ’s shattered bazaar
Populations have plugged the lines of nations
Our submission to years trembles the fitful breeze
Torpid peace collapses the chorus of thieves

(from VISIONS OF A TREMULOUS MAN, forthcoming)
Vincenzo Bilof-2014

Monday, July 14, 2014


On the edge of hilarity and terror, Toxicity challenged how I should approach a novel. Quentin Tarrantino is the master of mundane dialogue while presenting despicable characters who remain interesting, with an infusion of dark humor that is borderline silly in a different context. While reading Max Booth III’s first novel, I struggled to understand why I didn’t like it, and why I continued to read it. Halfway through the narrative, I suddenly realized that I loved it, and finished the rest of it in one sitting. 

The first time I had watched Pulp Fiction, I was apprehensive and curious until the infamous “Bonnie Situation.” I felt the same way about Toxicity, and all the humor and dialogue began to make sense within the framework of the novel. None of it seemed out-of-place or inconsistent. This is an accurate depiction of a book that would be a Cohen Brothers-directed movie with Tarantino penning the screenplay. Instead of providing a convoluted review, I decided to track down the author and ask him about the film version of his book, which should be coming to theaters sometime in 2019. Max Booth III is the rare author who has been afforded the luxury of choosing the cast himself before he sells his stake in his intellectual property. Booth promised we wouldn’t be forced to watch an Anne Rice-style bastardization. 


What is the title of your latest book? 


Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was a 12 year-old kid bored out of my mind. I wanted to write. I'd written before, but never anything I felt (at the time) was worth a damn. I wanted to write something I truly understood. So, I picked up a notebook and pen and began writing about a dysfunctional family. The family was basically my own family. Each character was a doppelganger of someone I already knew. I made them win the lottery, because at the time, I would daydream about winning the lottery and escaping the suburban ghetto. So, the initial idea came from my own attempt to predetermine a ridiculous yet fantastic future for myself and my family. I realized not too long into the story that my family would never spend their lottery winnings wisely, so that is where much of the humor and absurdity originally sprung from. 

After so long, I also realized I had no idea where to go with the story, so I brought in gangsters with guns. They came into the family's house mean and blood-hungry. These gangster characters were largely underdeveloped and stereotypical, so I went back to the beginning of the story, and told it through the gangsters' POV, what they had been up to while the family won the lotto and destroyed their newfound fortune. Just by exploring these other characters I was able to discover a whole new plot to intertwine with the existing lotto story. I made these characters breathe and, as one crazy thing after another occurred, the overall plot showed itself to me. 

I rewrote the book many, many times throughout my teenage years. I’m 21 now, and the book was published this April. It's been a long road, and the book is nowhere like what it once was back when I first started writing it. I know each character inside and out. I am proud of them. None of them are flawless, and that is what makes them beautiful. 

What genre does your book fall under?

I’ve been marketing it as a dark comedy crime novel. It’s much more than that, I think. “Insanity” is not a genre, though, but it totally should be. A lot of reviewers like to compare it to Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, so I guess Toxicity has the same sort of ultra violence/absurdity/humorous style.  

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?   

Maddox Kane – Timothy Olyphant 

Maddox is one of the three main characters of Toxicity. He’s an ex-con trying to reconnect with his daughter, Addison, while dealing with his massively idiotic and annoying brother, Benny. Things quickly go bad for Maddox in the novel, and only get worse as the story progresses. Timothy Olyphant would be the perfect actor for this role. I’ve been a big fan of his for a while now, but his strength in Justified fully…uh, justifies his ability to play the badass tough protagonist that is Maddox Kane.

Addison Kane – Tatiana Maslany
Addison is the 17 year-old daughter of Maddox. Early on in the novel, her and her boyfriend, Connor, find themselves into some deep shit involving a corpse decomposing in the woods behind a local drugstore. They do whatever they can to scavenge up enough cash to skip town, even if that includes taking advantage of her father, who until recently she thought was dead. Tatiana Maslany would be a good fit, I think. She’s in her late ‘20s now, but she still could pass for an older teenager. I recently started watching Orphan Black, and she is goddamn amazing in it. 

Johnny Desperation – Evan Peters

Johnny is the third main character of the novel. He’s a teenager stranded in the ghetto with his trailer trash family until, one day, his mother wins the lottery and they become millionaires overnight. Johnny quickly progresses from “punk rocker” to “snob” as his new surroundings corrupt him. He also becomes addicted to a new drug called “Purple”, which allows him to see the Fly, who is quite possibly the second coming of Jesus Christ. I am a huge fan of American Horror Story and I’ve always thought Evan Peters kills each role he’s given. He plays the disturbed teenager well. Plus he looks exactly how I pictured Johnny when writing him. 

Benny Kane – Steve Buscemi

Benny is Maddox’s younger, stupider brother. He’s pretty much Steve Buscemi. I don’t think I need to explain much more than that. 

Connor Murphy – Robert Sheehan

Connor is Addison’s boyfriend. Typically immature, his heart is in the right place. He would defeat the universe if it meant saving Addison’s life. But he would be cracking dick jokes pretty much through the whole battle. I used to love the show, Misfits, and Robert Sheehan’s character on it is a strong comparison to Connor. He’d do this role justice. 

The Fly

The Fly may or may not be an omniscient being who has arrived on earth to convince Johnny to jumpstart the Apocalypse. The Fly knows all. The Fly is you and the Fly is me. Do not fuck with the Fly. Obey the Fly or all will die. Obey the Fly or all will die. Obey the Fly or all will—oh, wait, anyway. Yeah. Jeff Goldblum. 

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

The world is shit but sometimes it is not. 

Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

Toxicity was released by a small press called Post Mortem Press. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

 I’d say anything by Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The flies, baby. The flies inspired me. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I don’t know. The pages give you a decent paper cut if you hold them a certain way, if you’re into that sort of thing, I guess. 


Max Booth III is the author of two novels, TOXICITY and THE MIND IS A RAZORBLADE, along with a collection of flash fiction called THEY MIGHT BE DEMONS. He is the co-founder of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and the assistant editor of Dark Moon Digest. The editor of numerous anthologies, he has studied under Craig Clevenger and award winning editor, Jennifer Brozek. He writes columns for Litreactor. Raised in Northern Indiana, Max currently works as a hotel night auditor somewhere in San Antonio with his dachshund and life partner.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Werewolves, Booze, and Zombies Podcast

I stopped by the Books and Booze Podcast and talked about the writing process, werewolves, zombies, and of course, werewolves vs. unicorns.


Here's the URL (just so you know I'm not sending you to Virus Land)

You can also check out this interview I did with THE NEXT BIG BOOK CLUB, in which I talked about the types of alcoholic beverages my characters would 

I'm finishing up the Zombie Ascension trilogy right now. I just discovered SKYRIM, so you have to give me a break... I know the game is old, but I couldn't get into the hype when it was popular. So yeah...

The third book in the trilogy is called SAINT PAIN.  I expect to have this monster of a book done this summer, with a release in August/September. The third book will discuss the effects of PTSD and survivor's guilt on those who have been left behind. Of course, there will be zombies...

I also have another poetry narrative coming out soon called, VISIONS OF A TREMULOUS MAN. In January, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing will be releasing VAMPIRE STRIPPERS FROM SATURN, a sort of horror-satire. 

Friday, June 27, 2014


My knee-jerk reaction when I hear that a movie I love is about to be remade is typically: “THEY’RE GOING TO RUIN THE ORIGINAL! I LOVE THAT MOVIE! IT DOESN’T NEED TO BE REMADE!” Writing this is going to prove a bit therapeutic for me, because no matter how much I try to think this through, I still start to get a little flustered when I see that a beloved movie is going to be re-imagined.

But allow me to play the role of devil’s advocate (I’m talking to myself here). 
How could movie remakes be a positive thing?

Well, in the end, I think that would depend on the quality of the new film. The idea that these movies are automatically going to be terrible, or they shouldn’t be remade, does need to be revisited. 

1. Most importantly, everything has been remade, and everything will be remade, according to the tradition of Western storytelling. I’m not trying to sound overly pompous here, but the idea that “nothing is original” has a lot of truth to it. The stories that we love typically follow the Aristotleian plot model, and many books we love have a formulaic approach to their presentation. More often than not, we are recycling the same Ancient Greek and Sumerian stories (insert another ancient civilization, throw some parables and myths in there, mix them into a pot, and you’ll see too many similarities, though this may cause discomfort). The Hero’s journey story of Odysseus, the forbidden love-lust young-angst chronicle in Romeo and Juliet; sprinkle some sparkly vampires or pirates or aliens, and you’ll see that simply the presentation is one of the only things that has changed. So if we get over the idea that movie remakes are ruining the original… then we should just stop telling stories and stop making movies altogether, because if it’s been done before, then we shouldn’t do it… and nearly everything has been done before (please don’t throw rocks at me if you’re thinking about David Lynch movies or William S. Burroughs’ fiction, because I said nearly everything).

2.  Movies have sentimental value to us—sometimes we love movies that a lot of people hate because we made an emotional connection to its content. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and you’re entitled to disagree with me on this point: As an educator, I stand in front of a classroom full of people, and once in a while, someone will just shout something to the effect of, COUNTRY MUSIC SUCKS, or, I HATE JUSTIN BIEBER. Meanwhile, someone in the class loves country music or Bieber. If they are a quiet person, they will say nothing and not engage with a stronger personality, but on the inside, they have already developed a negative perception of this person (I’ll explain why in a moment). A more aggressive person will begin to argue with them. Since music and movies have sentimental value to us, it can be offensive to suggest that something someone loves so much outright sucks, because then you essentially attract a group of “followers” who agree with you and want to partake in your art-trashing. Okay, I know we live in a hyper-sensitive culture, but I think if you’re going to announce that something absolutely sucks, then be prepared to have discussion about it, not an argument. I think people typically have a breakdown in the discussion-argument department. I am going to say something that will blow your mind: since movies and music have sentimental value, calling someone out on the things they enjoy on an emotional level is like telling them that their faith is bullshit. Yes. I said it. I’m comparing someone’s love for something to religious faith. I suppose this is another statement that can move tabled for further discussion, but I will say that when we can admit that the movies and music we enjoy while growing up do in fact shape us in some way (we “identify” with it), and if we can admit that love is a variation of worship (especially courtly love…), then I think it’s safe for me to make a connection between faith and art. 

3. A lot of movies have been books before. Duh! If I wanted a movie that was “true to the book”, I would just read the book. I have my own visuals, I have the story I love… so why I should I care if it’s an exact replica of something I’ve already experienced? I personally love it when films deviate from the source material, or put a different spin on the concept. I’ll never forget when people were upset that Prometheus didn’t have too many of the xenomorphs… if I wanted to watch Alien, I have it on DVD. I’ve read all the Song of Ice and Fire books that have been published so far, and as much as I have loved the books, I think the television show does a lot of things better. I dislike The Walking Dead as a television show, though at first I liked all the differences from the source material (I just started to really hate the show, but that is how I feel about it, I didn’t say IT SUCKS, which kind of indicates that anyone who likes it has bad taste). I can bring up several examples, but let’s remember than a movie is a story, and the story  is often written as a screenplay; if we suggest that a movie remake is another rendition of a story, then it’s no different than a movie that portrays a book. A movie can do something different with the same story, and I think it holds true when we talk about remakes and reboots.

Here are a few remakes/reboots that I personally enjoyed. I looked forward to seeing a couple of them, hence why my knee-jerk reaction has been somewhat hypocritical:

1. Halloween 
2. (Insert movie title) by Quentin Tarantino
3. Scarface 
4. The Ring
5. The Departed
6. Dawn of the Dead
7. Night of the Living Dead (Tom Savini)
8. Evil Dead
9. A Fistful of Dollars
10. The Thing (John Carpenter)

What are some movie remakes you loved? What are some that you disliked? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Depression and Creativity Collide

Grant Wamack, rapper, writer, and existential warrior of the cosmos, has just dropped his new novella, A Lightbulb's Lament. Since the bizarro genre is a literary phenomenon that uses metaphorical devices to explore our emotions and our society, Grant discusses the role of depression in the creation of a hero so many of us want to be; a hero who is the figurative warrior against personal darkness--Mr. Watts. 

Blog Postage (Lit Edition)
by Grant Wamack

Let's flashback to my freshmen year in college. I just moved out of the dorms and eased into a studio apartment in the heart of Northern Illinois University's campus. I was getting pretty good grades,  some of my short stories were beginning to be published, I had good friends who made sure I was making moves on the regular, I was finally able to get away from my dad's overbearing presence, but still... there was something nagging at me. Doubts about the future, terrible luck with women (even though I was surrounded by the “hook-up” culture), and most importantly I was still uncomfortable with myself. 

Cue existential crisis and questions. Why the fuck am I an English major?  I don't want to be a teacher. Why am I trying to please my Dad by majoring in English? I'm so much more than that. More than this. These thoughts would go on and on and I would sink into deeper levels of depression, dragging anyone in my immediate circle down with me. Everyone was partying on the weekends and I'd be in my room battling the black dog raging inside my head. 

Late nights spent alone watching Salad Fingers, consuming tons of weird fiction as a form of escapism, recording my first rap mixtape Heavenly Fridges, and lots of cathartic writing. It wasn't enough though. I had to do something to expel this energy. 

I carried a small notebook in my back pocket for ideas (I still do), and one day while working at Home Depot, I was struck with the image of a gentleman with a lightbulb for head and a world full of darkness. It was so compelling that I fleshed out a loose outline over the course of the next week. Earlier that year, I finished my first bizarro novella, Notes from the Guts of a Hippo, which was a major feat for me since I could barely write a 5,000 word short story. However, I had an idea and it had to be written. Not just to prove to myself that I could do it again, but to fix this depression holding me back.

It might be important to note that I've always been interested in magic, rather it be on stage, hoodoo, mysticism, astrology, or numerology. I thought of this as a ritual of sorts. I thought if Mr. Watts, the main character, could bring light to this fictional world that it could possibly bring that figurative light to my world as well. There's this idea if you work on your inner world, it will directly ripple out into the physical plane. 

Did it work? 

In a lot of ways yes; I'm in much better shape mentally thanks to affirmations, better eating habits, good friends, and self love. Mr. Watts represents a turning point in my life; his journey is my journey. All of us have moments of self-doubt and identity confusion, but I know there is a light in the darkness...

You can also check out his lyrical experimentation/exhibition...

Grant Wamack writes weird fiction, raps, and weaves dreams at night. During the day, the Navy employs him as a Mass Communication Specialist, in other words, a "super" journalist


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Zombie Horror: Reflections on a Genre

I still envision zombie fiction as a horror sub-genre, but it has evolved into its own genre. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; less than a decade ago, it was a challenge to find any zombie fiction at all. People like myself who grew up with zombie movies were teased by the possibilities; Romero and the other zombie-film directors were never given huge budgets to work with, so it seemed as if they spent more of their budget on the things that mattered most: makeup, gore, and securing a vivid location. I know Romero’s original Day of the Dead script was hacked to pieces, but I still love the film. 

Brian Keene, Joe McKinney, David Moody, Jonathan Maberry, Mark Tufo; these authors helped pioneer the emergence of zombie fiction as its own genre, almost separate from horror. Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comic series bridged the gap between niche-horror and mainstream entertainment. There are so many possibilities now for people who have an imagination; there are now thematic variations of zombie fiction. Survivalist, Dystopian, military adventure; these seem to be the popular incarnations. 

A lot of zombie fiction seems to be fit more into an action/adventure mold than horror; the survivalist books can still be frightening, because we have the anxiety that comes with surviving a natural disaster, the psychological damage, the fear of other survivors in a post-apocalyptic setting, etc. Then we have the Call of Duty video game zombie novels, in which we have a bunch of soldiers at war with zombies. We still have books where swords can magically decapitate zombies (if you know me, you know this is a HUGE pet-peeve of mine), and that’s cool. That’s what people want to read. I think there is a lot of potential in this particular fiction market, but…

What happened to zombie horror?

Zombies just aren’t very scary in most books. 

I’m not attempting to deviate into what is scary about the books, but rather, I would like to find out where the zombie fiction books that portrayed the undead as terrifying WITHOUT the emphasis on post-apocalyptic-survivalist-military action. Yes; the living are often more terrible than the zombies. WE GET THAT. There is so much potential in the zombie idea, but we are seemingly stuck. There are some original stories out there, but they’re harder and harder to find. I’m bored with zombie fiction. Very, very bored. I don’t like most of it. In fact, I dislike the vast majority of it. About 99.9%. 

So I decided to write the zombie books that I would want to read. I could still incorporate plenty of action, but I wanted the zombies to become menacing again. I wanted to read beautiful prose, so I made an attempt. My zombie books have a lot of detail; according to reviewers and blog reviews. A lot of my characters aren’t good people (I wrote a blog post once about my belief that “good” people wouldn’t survive  very long in a zombie-apocalypse scenario), but they are still not as bad as the zombies… so there is still a contrast. The zombies are always more terrifying. 

The Zombie Acension trilogy is nearing its end. The final book in the trilogy involves a heavy look at PTSD and survivor’s guilt as it would relate to a post-apocalyptic scenario. The book, titled Saint Pain, is about the never-ending horror that has become a sort of disease; the horror of survival. Robert Kirkman briefly writes about the subject in the Walking Dead comic, but I wanted to take it a step further.

A zombie apocalypse should be brutal, terrifying, awful. We’re talking about a world that has become lawless…

I suppose I wrote this blog because now I'm being labeled as a poet, bizarro writer, editor... and I used to avoid being called a "zombie author." 

My work is zombie horror. Maybe a bit of survival horror (I hear that’s a sub-genre, too), with some explosions and bullets and sex sprinkled in. I take that back. A lot of bullets, a lot of sex, and a lot of blood. 
My civil war book, Nightmare of the Dead, is almost entirely a horror novel that features zombie-like creatures as monsters, but in the end, it’s horror. 

The horror, the horror…

I want zombie horror, so I wrote it. My vision of the apocalypse is a dark one… there is no cure for death, there isn’t a knight in shining armor coming to save the human race…

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dark Souls 2: My Obsession and Addiction

I grew up playing video games; the NES era had a lot of games that would be difficult by today’s standards. Most games on the market today are easy and focus heavily on the multiplayer element, which I can understand, but I’m not a big fan. I’m used to playing with someone sitting beside me, or braving the mighty robots of the Mega Man universe by myself.

I used to love playing the Final Fantasy games, but the last three entries have been awful, in my opinion (I’m talking about the trilogy of crap called Final Fantasy XIII). I used to love playing video games, but most games are too easy, or they’re a Call of Duty clone. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve played several games that I absolutely love, but most of the franchises I used to love (Resident Evil), suck. I have to play Suda 51 games, games most people hate, just to get something “different” out of a video game. To me, most games are the same. Open-world games usually bore me to death, unless it’s one of the Fallout games.

I remember stumbling upon an article on IGN about the ten hardest games in the last few years, and I saw Dark Souls on the list. I had no idea what it was. I bought the game for Xbox, and I obsessed over it. Absolutely obsessed over it. I felt like a teenager all over again because I spent countless hours playing it. My wife screamed at me several times. 



(Two hours and several deaths later...)

The game was difficult at first, sure, but once you became accustomed to the combat system, it's fairly easy. When I re-started with a different character, I wiped the floor with Smough and Ornstein, one of the hardest boss battles in the game. I beat them in one try. The game was hard, but it wasn’t impossible.

So. Dark Souls II.

I haven’t wanted to play a game this badly since Final Fantasy VIII; the release date was circled on my calendar. I’m 31 years old with two kids and a good job, but here I was, fantasizing about a forthcoming video game. I actually went out and bought at PS3 just to play Demon’s Souls, which I also loved. Dark Souls is the only game I’ve played more than once since the Resident Evil 2 days. 

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo over which Dark Souls game is better, and some people are bothered by the graphics. I feel like we’re comparing Megan Man 2 to Megan Man 3; both games are fun and challenging. I’ve read articles from several reviewers who say that Dark Souls II fails to live up to expectations because they liked the Firelink Shrine idea from the first game because the world felt “connected” to a middle place. Well, you can walk back to your “home” in Majula in Dark Souls II, but it would be a very long walk from some places. That’s not always the case, but the game certainly has a central hub. The graphics aren't perfect, but I like how the world looks "tired" and wasted. 

Human effigies are tough to come by. You can keep repairing a ring that will break every time you die, but it costs 3000 souls to fix and you have to keep warping back to the blacksmith to get it fixed—the inconvenience is enough to keep me from being reckless. 

The game world feels far more “coherent” than the last game did, despite the fact that some professional game reviewers prefer the Firelink Shrine idea. There is a bit more story, and it’s an intriguing one. The game is still mysterious.

There is certainly an emphasis on multiplayer, but I’m okay with it because I don’t have to voice chat with juveniles to enjoy it. I prefer to use a warrior so I can play with all the cool weapons, but I’ve noticed that some bosses are easier to take down with a character who can keep their distance and throw magic spells. It seems like some bosses would discourage this strategy. 

The game is a cross between Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. I am displeased with the game’s AI, because you can easily bait some enemies to a certain point, and for whatever reason, they began to backtrack, allowing you to shoot them with your bow or hit them with something else from a distance. Enemies normally just stand there and take it when you’re pelting them with arrows from a distance. I can only imagine how hard some parts of this game would be if enemies ducked behind cover or tried to flank you. 

I usually get wasted when I’m summoned to another world by another player, but I like hanging out in the belfry, because I usually win those fights. There are different ways to approach multiplayer this time around. I’ve noticed how important the poise stat has become, and opponents with small, quick weapons can stagger you and hit you with a devastating combo as soon as they can find an opening.

I could go on and on. I love Dark Souls II. I love Dark Souls. I love Demon’s Souls. Like the old NES games, I’ll keep playing them and playing them, because the challenge is always fresh and fun. I’m embarrassed by the number of hours I’ve logged on the game since it came out. I always criticize people who sit there and play Flappy Birds and Candy Crush when they could be reading a book, and here I am… I could be WRITING a book…

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Writing the Werewolf Apocalypse

The book is finally available from Severed Press, with an awesome cover by Alan M. Clark. In the foreword, I explained why I wrote the book; the novel is essentially a love letter to Takashi Miike and Meiko Kaiji, both legends in Japanese cinema.


For me to say the book is violent and original is a bit pretentious. I will say I used a different approach when writing the book, and did whatever I could to capture a sort of Japanese aesthetic to the prose. The book is a big one (over three hundred pages), but there aren’t many large paragraphs. Sometimes, there is beauty in “simplicity”; so I didn’t write the thing like it was a Haiku, but I wanted readers to infer and “feel”; telling readers much of anything would have ruined the cultural context. 

Are there werewolves in the book? Yes. A lot of them. 

Meiko Kaji in Lady Snowblood
I didn’t create a “dream cast” for this book on the blog because a lot of the actors would be Japanese, and not many folks know about the actors who I’d want in the movie. I’m also biased; I think even the “cheesy” Japanese films, or even the horror films, take their approach to acting and presentation far more seriously than most American film studios. An American film studio couldn’t make this into a movie. No way. Not even Tom Cruise. 

I won’t apologize for how “weird” the book might seem. I won’t apologize for anything in this book. It shifts between stories, jumps around, and entire chapters are presented differently. It’s exploitative, ridiculous, and very, very, Japanese. 

With werewolves, of course. Many of them. Many, many werewolves

Takashi Miike's remake of Hara-Kiri. A movie that is kind of "normal" for him, although depressing as hell.