Samhain Greetings!

Happy Halloween 2014, everyone!

 

To celebrate the spookiest of all holidays, here’s a flash story I wrote earlier this month for a Halloween themed webzine. It was rejected, so…yeah, it’s your lucky day. Probably get the same amount of views anyway.

 

So, again, Happy Halloween. Stay safe and enjoy the darkest, most magical night of the year!

 

 

The Woman Who Loved Halloween

 

 

Mrs. Marvin wrapped herself in a thick woolen shawl and went out onto the porch, the crisp autumn air biting toothlessly at her cheeks. She closed the door behind her and ambled over to the old canned rocking chair. In the street, brown leaves scurried over the pavement with a dry scratch-scratch-scratch.

Sitting heavily, Mrs. Marvin let out a sigh and let the chair enfold her. Next to her, on the splintered end table, a bowl of candy stood dutifully, waiting for the trick-or-treaters.

At eighty, Eugenia Marvin was fairly senile, but, while she may forget things like what year it was or who was president (wasn’t it that colored fella?), she’d been looking forward to Halloween all year.

Eugenia and her husband Harold had never been able to have children, thus she naturally turned her affections outward, to any child who happened across her path. And on Halloween, they came right up to her. It was wonderful.

Now, the sun was low in the sky and the chilly fall breeze was whistling through the street. Across the way, all of the houses were dark. No porch lights. Nothing.

She also thought it odd that a car was parked right in the middle of the road, its doors standing open.

Something else bothered her. It wasn’t until she’d been waiting for fifteen minutes of so that it hit her: It was quiet. Too quiet. No laughing. No children singing. No dogs barking. Heck, the interstate was a mile east, just behind a stand of trees; there was always the hum of tires off to distant ports.

No trick-or-treaters came that night.

At eleven, Eugenia Marvin, deflated, went back into the house and sat down on the couch. Why hadn’t they come?

Sighing, she went to get back up (why even she didn’t know), but before she could, her eyes fell on the newspaper folded neatly on the end table next to her. Dated October 2, it said, in bold black, PLAGUE WORSENS; THOUSANDS DEAD EACH DAY.

That’s right! The plague!

They didn’t come because they were all dead.

Eugenia Marvin wept.

 

 

Ed Gien: The Face of Horror

 

The man to have the most profound impact on the horror genre as we know it wasn’t Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, or even Edgar Allen Poe; it was Ed Gein, a Midwestern farmer/serial killer…

 

I.                 The Movies

 

In 1960, British director Alfred Hitchcock terrified audiences with “Psycho,” the story of a man, his mother, and a rundown motel where pretty young girls (and nosey private eyes) disappear with alarming regularity. A stroke of cinematic brilliance, Psycho made 15 million dollars at the box office and was nominated for four Academy Awards. Considered one of the greatest movies ever made, it caused a controversy upon its release for a number of reasons, one being its “graphic” (for 1960) depiction of sex and violence; a woman is briefly seen in a bra, and two people are brutally murdered onscreen, their deaths in full view of the audience.

Despite the moral outrage surrounding it, Psycho set the bar for all horror films to follow, and was inducted into the Library of Congress’s Film Registry in 1992, deemed “Culturally or historically significant.”

Though it may be considered dull and slow paced by today’s standards, it was truly shocking stuff in 1960. It was (and is) one of those rare films that leaves its audience winded and shaking at the end.

Much like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Fourteen years Psycho’s junior, Chainsaw premiered in the autumn of 1974. Made on a shoestring budget, the film, which follows a group of teenagers being picked off one-by-one by a family of backwoods cannibals, grossed 30 million dollars during its initial run. A contender for greatest film (horror or otherwise) of all time, Chainsaw’s enduring popularity has led to a number of sequels, several remakes, millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise, and even an Atari 2600 video game (one of the first horror-themed games ever released).

Unarguably one of the best horror films of all time, Chainsaw nevertheless owes much of its popularity to a misconception: as a marketing strategy, its director, Tobe Hooper, claimed that it was based on a true story. To this day, many fans believe that Leatherface and his depraved family of man-eaters actually existed. The fact of the matter is, they didn’t. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was not based on a true story.

But, like Psycho, it was inspired by one.

 

II.               The Man

 

Born in 1906 La Crosse, Wisconsin, Ed Gein spent an oppressive childhood in nearby Plainfield. Completely dominated by his religious zealot mother, Gein was taught early on that the world was innately evil and that all women (with the exception of her) were whores. Neither he nor his brother, Henry, were allowed friends or a social life, and divided their time between school, chores, and nightly Bible readings.

Sheltered from the world until his father’s death in 1940, Gein began working odd jobs to help with household bills, making his money mainly by babysitting. In 1944, Henry Gein was killed in a brush fire on the family property, and Eddie has mother to himself.

But not for long.

Mother died in 1945, and Gein was crushed; he sealed her room off from the rest of the house and confined himself to a small room off the kitchen. During the ensuing years, Gein, who had always been an avid reader, began devouring lurid pulp magazines and anatomical texts.

Around 1947, he began visiting local cemeteries while in a “daze-like” state. With the aid of a mentally challenged man named Gus, Gein robbed something like forty graves, sometimes taking whole bodies, and others only choice bits and pieces.

In 1954, Gein graduated from grave robbery to murder. His first victim was Mary Hogan, a local tavern owner who went missing from her bar one night along with the cash register. Three years later, in 1957, a hardware store owner named Bernice Worden disappeared. Luckily, her son knew that Gein would be stopping by that day, and alerted authorities.

What the police found in that decaying farmhouse would haunt them for the rest of their lives: severed heads adorning the walls like fine art; tanned flesh stretched across lampshades and chair cushions; skulls sitting atop bedposts; and a box of female genitalia moldering in a corner. To cap it all off, Bernice Worden was in the kitchen, her headless body gutted and hanging from a meat hook.

The discovery of Gein’s crimes stunned the nation. An author named Robert Bloch, who lived a few towns over from Gein, heard about the story and made it into a book: “Psycho,” which Alfred Hitchcock later adapted. Tobe Hooper was also heavily inspired by the case (the chainsaw part was all him, though; trapped in a crowded mall during the holiday shopping season, he spotted a chainsaw in a hardware store and considered taking it up and cutting his way to the door). The events portrayed in Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre never happened, despite what you might hear to the contrary.

Ed Gein, however, did.

 

III.             The Myth

 

Though he never wrote a word in his life, Gein did more to shape modern horror than almost anyone else; two of the most culturally significant horror films ever made owe their very existence to him. They are often referenced and paid homage to in films, books, and television shows, and frequently top various greatest ever lists. In the annals of crime, Gein’s case is still famous as one of the most bizarre and depraved. A number of biopics have been made about his life (such as Ed Gein, 2000, and Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield, 2007) and countless films have fictionalized his story, among them Three on a Meat Hook (1973), Deranged (1974), and Maniac (1980).

Unfortunately, Gein died in a mental asylum in 1984, never knowing the impact of his crimes. Today, his name is remembered by only a discerning few. His legacy, however, lives on.

Shrieks and Shivers From The Horror Zine

I’m not one for making big, dramatic announcements, but this is kind of a big deal, so I’ll make an exception.

My story “The Hotel San Digot” will be appearing in Shrieks and Shivers From The Horror Zine, an anthology edited by Jeani Rector.

There are thousands of little podunk ezines dedicated to genre fiction, but The Horror Zine is the real deal; it’s published work by massive names in the field, such as Joe R. Lansdale and Ramsey Campbell.

Expected publication date is January 2015.

The table of contents is as follows:

 

TAPEWORM by Martin Rose
OLD HAUNTS by Nathan Robinson
“I’LL BE WATCHING” by William F. Nolan
NAILS IN YOUR COFFIN by Rachel Coles
PETE’S BIG BREAK by Joe McKinney
THEM by James Marlow
STASH HOUSE by Shaun Meeks
THE SAMPLE by Ray Garton
HARD RAIN by Bruce Memblatt
SQUATTERS by Elizabeth Massie
I STILL LIVE by Wayne C. Rogers
CENTER STAGE SIDESHOW by Christian A. Larsen
STALKER by Tim Jeffreys
FOR SHE IS FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE by Tim Waggoner
RAMPART by Amy Grech
SOMNIPHOBIA by P.D. Cacek
FUNERAL MEATS by Kristen Houghton
TRANSPOSITION by Jason V. Brock
THE LAST BOTTLE by Dean H. Wild
THE WOODS by Nicholas Paschall
THE HOTEL SAN DIGOT by Joseph Rubas
DADDY’S GIRL by Lisa Morton
BLURRED by Matthew Nichols
THE HOUSE by Jonathan Chapman
THE NEST by Cory Cone
REFLECTOR EYES by Garrett Rowlan
WHAT HAPPENED IN VEGAS… by Rena Mason
PRIVATE FRANKS by Gary Robbe
ONE LAST TWEET by Eric J. Guignard
BECAUSE WHAT IS MINE IS MINE by Tom Piccirilli
CHICKEN by Geoff Nelder

 

I am honored to see my fiction in the same pages as some of these guys. It almost feels like hitting the big time.

A Word on Political Correctness

I think people need to be offended from time to time. I know that might not be a popular sentiment in today’s politically correct world, but I stand by it. You see, we live in something called the Real World, it’s a place inhabited by ten billion other people, all with their own thoughts, beliefs, and tastes. It’s not Disneyland, nor is it Sunday school or Burger King; you can’t always have it your way.

 

Personally, it needles me that we have become so selfish and whiney. We’ve reached a point where we downright demand that no one does anything we don’t like, and it’s just not fair. The world does not revolve around us, we are not God, and we are not kings and queens of the land. We are people, people among people. Unless we flee to the desert and stick our heads in the sand, we are going to see and hear things that we don’t agree with or approve of. That’s just how it goes. You know what we are? Sheltered.

 

You remember that kid who lived on your block when you were in middle school? The one who couldn’t play video games or listen to rock and roll? The pasty-faced little runt who couldn’t come out and play? Yeah, that’s us. This didn’t just happen overnight, mind you, but my generation (1980-1992) and the one following (1992-2005) have established the bottom of the barrel in this respect. After all, we’re blossoming in the age of social media, where unpleasantness can be done away with the push of a button. We’re not learning tolerance, or diversity, or respect, or suck-it-up-and-be-a-man-already, we’re being taught that if we encounter something we don’t like, we don’t have to put up with it. In fact, we’re being taught to mercilessly stamp it out of existence. We’re learning to be malcontents. We’ve been protected from the cold hard truth for so long that we can’t handle it; we break down and cry, or bellyache, or deem something “Not fair.” Well, you know what? There’s no such thing as fair, because we don’t live in a kindergarten classroom where everyone gets the same amount of cookies or the same flavor juice box. We live in that Real World place I mentioned in the last paragraph, a place where other people live as well, a place where things happen, end of story.

 

How dare we march into the streets and overturn cars because something happened that we didn’t like Is that any way to live? If it is, I might as well go out and smash a few storefronts right now, because I’m offended, deeply offended. What kind of pompous, egotistical elitist do you have to be? How thin-skinned to you have to be to launch a crusade against Fox News or Al Sharpton or Family Guy just because you’re offended?

 

You know what? We need to be offended. We need to look that which boils our blood straight in the eye and come to terms with it, because unless you happen to someday rule the world, you’re not always going to be unmolested in life. The sooner we learn that, the sooner we can become functioning adults and stop sniveling with indigence. The sooner we do that, the stronger we will become. The alternative: We stay cocooned in our sterile little bubble and, if faced with the unthinkable, cry home to mommy

10 Obscure Works by Stephen King

One of the most successful novelists to ever live, Stephen Edwin King has written over fifty novels (each of them an instant bestseller) and has made more money than any other writer ever, probably. Not bad, considering his first book, Carrie, was published just forty years ago. What’s even more impressive: that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of rare and unpublished works by the master of horror. What follows is a list of ten in no particular order.

 

10

 

The Leprechaun:

 

As a young father, Stephen King would sometimes write stories for his children’s entertainment, usually utilizing them as main characters and other members of the family as costars. One of these, a fairytale he wrote for his daughter, Naomi, who didn’t like horror, was published in 1986 as “Eyes of the Dragon.”

 

Three years before that, however, King began writing a story for his son, Owen. Like with most of King’s “lost” works, not much is known about The Leprechaun, except that Owen was the protagonist and, somewhere along the line, rescues a leprechaun from the Kings’ cat, Springsteen.

 

King started the story in a notebook, and got about forty pages in before he lost it. All that survives today is the last five pages and a cover letter.

 

 

 

9

 

I Was a Teenaged Graverobber:

 

The first story our man ever published, “I Was a Teenaged Graverobber” (AKA, In a Half-World of Terror) has never been included in any of his subsequent short story collections.

 

Originally appearing in a little indie rag called Comics Review in 1965, I Was A Teenaged Graverobber concerns itself with Danny Gerad, a teenager who is hired by a mad scientist type to plunder graves for his insidious experiments (involving maggots and radioactivity). Eventually, Danny falls in love with the niece of the guy who had the job before him and the mad scientist is eaten by his mutant maggots. Don’t you just love a happy ending?

 

8

 

Codename: Mousetrap.

 

Appearing in King’s high school magazine in 1965, Codename: Mousetrap tells the story of Kelley, a teenaged hoodlum who breaks into a supermarket. While perusing the store, he’s confronted by (in)animate objects such as a soup can display (I know, I know, cheesy), beefsteaks, and a mousetrap. Rightfully terrified, poor Kelley throws himself out the plate-glass window…

 

…and right into the arms of a waiting parking meter.

 

 

7

 

The Sword in the Darkness

 

An honest-to-God novel written while Steve-O was in college, The Sword in the Darkness is the longest of King’s unpublished works, standing, since completion in 1970, at 485 pages.

 

Again, not much is known about the plot, only that it takes place in the fictional town of Harding (a stand-in for Detroit) and is about a group of young white boys trying to start a race riot to cover up some kind of heist. King shopped the book around for a while, but quietly retired it after a dozen publishers turned it down. An excerpt was published in 2006.

 

6

 

The Cannibals

 

Since I was in the area, I guess I’ll go ahead and profile King’s second longest unpublished work, The Cannibals, which sits at a healthy 450 pages. Oh, and did I mention each and every page is handwritten?

 

King started the book in 1982 while filming Creepshow. You know what it was originally called? Under the Dome.

 

See, the novel is, per King, about “All of these people who are trapped in an apartment building.” He then goes onto say: “And I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if they all ended up eating each other?”

Yeah, Steve, real funny.

An excerpt was posted on King’s website in 2009. Two months later, King published a different novel utilizing the same title and concept. Known for its titanic size, the new and improved Under the Dome has sold millions of copies and was recently made into a CBS miniseries.

 

 

5

 

The Dark Man:

 

Though King is best known for his prose, he does dabble in poetry from time to time. One of his earliest poems, written while he was a “Junior or senior in college” was The Dark Man. Fans of King’s work will recognize this dastardly “man” as Randal Flagg, an ancient antichrist like figure who appeared in The Stand (1978, revised 1990) and The Dark Tower series. King says that the poem came to him while he was sitting in the college restaurant. “It came to me out of nowhere, this guy in cowboy boots who moved around on the roads, mostly hitchhiking at night, always wore jeans and a denim jacket.” King jotted the poem down on the back of a placemat, and published it in the fall, 1969 issue of “Ubris” the University of Maine’s literary magazine. It remained an ultra-rarity until 2013, when Cemetery Dance (premier publisher of horror fiction) released an illustrated edition.
Even so, ten bucks says you won’t find a copy at Borders.

 

Because Borders is closed. Ha!

 

 

4

 

The Old Dude’s Ticker:

 

Here’s a question to all you writers out there: have you ever shamelessly plagiarized a piece of classic literature, and then proudly published it? Well, Stephen King did in 2001 with “The Old Dude’s Ticker,” a flagrant rip-off of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Telltale Heart,” in which a guy kills an old man and then buries him under the floorboards, only to begin hearing the damning “tick, tick, tick,” of his heartbeat. That synopsis actually covers King’s story as well.

 

3

 

The House on Value Street:

 

One of the biggest and most sensational news stories of the early 1970s was the kidnapping of heiress Patty Herst by the so-called Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a left-wing terrorist group operative between 1973 and 1975. King, who taught English at the time (1974), was fascinated by the case, and at once set about writing a fictional version. Unfortunately, after many false starts, he decided that he couldn’t get it quite right and abandoned it. Something good did come of King’s obsession with the SLA: the epic novel The Stand, which many feel is his masterpiece.

 

2

 

Squad D:

 

Any struggling writer you talk to will tell you that rejection hurts. Many will also tell you that rejection is something that you don’t have to worry about after a bestseller or two. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case at all.

 

In 1978, with three bestselling novels under his belt, King wrote a story for a Harlan Ellison edited anthology called “Squad D.” The story revolved around a Vietnam vet and the sole surviving member of Squad D, Josh Bortman. After returning home from the war, he sends a photo he snapped of the other guys to their families. Several years later, the father of one of the stiffs notices that Bortman is suddenly in the picture as well. Come to find out, Bortman recently committed suicide, thus joining his friends in eternity. Ellison flatly rejected the story, saying that it “needed work.” King, however, had the last laugh, as the anthology was never published.

 

In fact, that anthology (The Last Dangerous Visions) has become something of a legend in the literary community, mainly for Ellison’s stubborn refusal to give the contributors’ their stories back. In-between frivolous lawsuits and condescending interviews, Ellison, to this day, promises that TLDV will still pub, though he stopped telling his authors it was “off to the publisher” back in the eighties.

 

You’re a lucky man, Stevie.

 

 

1

 

People, Places, and Things:

 

A collection of short stories written by King and a buddy in 1960, People, Places, and Things contains eighteen tales, eight of them by King and one a collaboration. King and his friend made copies of the book and sold them on the schoolyard for a quarter a pop, thus proving the Stevester was in it for the money all along. Though one would imagine that the stories aren’t exactly the best (I mean, they were written by two 13-year-old nerdboys), the anthology is nonetheless priceless as a chronicle of King’s earliest days.

 

Sadly, there is only one copy of People, Places, and Things still in existence. The proud owner? Stephen King.

 

Greedy bastard.