Archive for October, 2012

So, to close out the month of October, a photo taken at Upstart Poets last Thursday (see October 26) of some of us who were dressed for the occasion.   One notices first that the “People’s Bar,” the venue for our pre-Halloween reading, is not exactly brightly lit, but kudos to photographer and Upstart Poets host Joel Barker for getting anything at all!

I’m the one in the bowler holding a spade in guise of a gravedigger (I also read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Conqueror Worm” at the soiree following the featured poets as a piece appropriate to the mood).  To my right is Antonia Matthews while, at the ends, are the night’s featured readers Frida Westford (next to Tonia) and Jonathan Holland.

It occurred to me that the reason I feel that the character of Monami is what makes VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL work as a movie (see post just below) is not just the strength of the actress that plays her, but the way the part is written as well.  We have very little back story on the other major characters, their motivations are at best sketched in (Keiko, e.g., wants to go steady with their common love object, but other than Mizushima being good looking — and, yes, her pride perhaps being hurt as well — we really don’t know enough to take us beyond the stereotype of a high school “woman scorned”; we know Keiko’s father considers himself the heir, in some fashion, of Dr. Frankenstein, but again we really don’t know why), and so they come off as one-dimensional.  But, for Monami. . . .

At that point I wondered about my own story, “Naughty or Nice,” published just before last Christmas in DAILY SCIENCE FICTION and subsequently reviewed very flatteringly by Carl Slaughter for DIABOLICAL PLOTS (see December 28 2011, et al.; for review, May 5 this year), including the quote “She [Mignonette] delves into past life dating back hundreds of years.”  She was, in fact, the one surviving “Bride of Dracula” of the three staked by Abraham van Helsing, subsequently fleeing from Transylvania to Paris  where, in the story, “[she made] a life for herself among its souillons — its common street trash — then clawed her way up, as a woman must do.”  Similarly we see, in a flashback, Monami as a little girl cowering in the forest as her mother is slaughtered before her eyes, then, as she tells Mizushima, being “on her own” for some unstated number of years (but at least several centuries, we’re given to assume).  Their attitudes toward ordinary people are similar too, Monami not overtly going out of her way to kill unless she has to (certainly less a killer than the wholly human school nurse) but, when she must, not really understanding either why people make such a big deal of it — why, for instance, Mizushima wouldn’t instantly agree to share a life of blood drinking with her; Mignonette also tries not to kill if she can help it, but at the same time professes not to understand people’s negative reactions if she should (“They persecuted her kind for drinking bodily fluids, yet sold milk openly in their stores!”).  Mignonette, returning to the review, is described as “a very  sexy and very charming bloodsucker” while, as for Monami, we only have to watch the film to realize there’s much more to her than just actress Kawamura’s good looks.

So the lesson:  It’s character that makes the story, at least in the case of “Naughty or Nice” and VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL (although, admittedly, the action, gore, and unabashed humor of the latter add to it as well).

Moving to the more sublime (my contributions to them possibly excepted), today’s mail brought STAR*LINE 35.4 for October-December 2012 including my poem “Burning Down Woods on a Snowy Evening,” an example of a class of humorous poems sometimes called “Little Willies” (cf. February 12, et al.).  With it was DWARF STARS 2012 (cf. September 24) with the rondelet “California Vamp,” reprinted from VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE).  These are, respectively, the quarterly journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association and its annual anthology of nominees for the Dwarf Stars award for speculative poetry of ten lines or fewer, the latter being especially interesting as a compilation of the best not just from SFPA members, but from any poet in any publication in the US or elsewhere.  Information on both can be found at the SFPA site by pressing here.

Well, if you don’t get offended too easily (or have Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker finished rolling over in their own graves yet?).*  You see, everything in this film is excessive.  Everything.  Yet part of the point is that’s the way it is in Japanese society, especially with teens.  There are the ganguros, for instance, girls who paint or tan their faces a deep brown-black, wear white lipstick and eye shadow, and otherwise emulate American Blacks who here take their models, seemingly, from 1930s cartoons.  And then there’s wrist-cutting (“Wrist cut is very popular in Japan,” according to one source.  “Some people attempt ‘Wrist cut’ for autoside, but many people do ‘Wrist cut’ to ensure they are living.  Japan is very controlled society.  It is difficult to feel that people live their own life.”), which here includes a sanctioned school team and competitions to see who can fill buckets the fullest (the girl who cuts her arm entirely off is not the winner!).  And then there’s the teacher from China who has super lungs from all the pollution on the mainland, so much so that he can allegedly smoke ten cigarettes all at once.  These things, believe it or not, turn out to play an important part in the film’s denouement.

It starts off calmly enough, however (well, not counting the opening sequence where an otherwise quiet girl destroys three zombie-like creatures to lead to the title sequence, disarming [literally], face-peeling, and beheading, accompanied by spurting blood and gore in the more than bucketful), with an explanation that another Japanese teen custom is for a girl to give the boy she fancies a piece of chocolate on Valentine’s Day, which he will then eat to show reciprocation.  But when quiet transfer student Monami (who, harking back to the pre-title sequence, we seem to have met before), the only one with chocolate left after a zealous teacher has confiscated all the other girls’ candy, offers hers to clueless male heartthrob Mizushima, Mizushima finds that the candy is filled with blood and yet strangely delicious.  In fact, he feels strange after he’s eaten it, among other things having flashes of people as walking circulatory systems, and no wonder, it turns out.  The blood is Monami’s, demure, shy, who skips class a lot on excessively sunny days either staying at home in bed or holing up in the school nurse’s infirmary, and who is a vampire.

Unfortunately for young love, however, Keiko, the vice principal’s daughter, has the hots for the young man as well, while the vice principal who has his own hots for the oversexed school nurse (as do most of the male students except Mizushima) has a secret laboratory in the school basement where he, seeing himself as the spiritual heir of Dr. Frankenstein, attempts to cut up and then reassemble various corpses and bring them back to life.  So, when Monami corners Mizushima on the school roof  and explains to him that with another drop of her blood he can turn fully into a vampire too and live with her and no longer grow old and (cutting her lip with one of her fangs and puckering up for him to kiss it) would he be interested (he says no at first until she explains that, since he now knows her secret, the alternative is that she’ll have to kill him, at which point love triumphs), who should appear but a jealous Keiko.  Then, attempting to attack Monami, clumsy Keiko tumbles over the roof’s edge and goes splat below.

The body is brought to the nurse’s office, the nurse takes it downstairs, and even she is a little surprised when Keiko’s pop is delighted.  Here is the perfect corpse for him to bring back to life, but first it must be augmented by certain improved body parts which the nurse, who moonlights as a psycho killer, delightedly gets for him.

Then comes the main event, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, beginning in the school gym but soon moving outside to a more heroic venue, while still inside Keiko’s dad and the school nurse (who, after having been killed by an all-but-torch-bearing mob of faculty and students who have traced the recent disappearances of experimental body-part donors to her, has been brought back as a zombie) continue their own bout matched against “Mr. Igor,” the school janitor (the old janitor had somehow disappeared at about the time Monami transferred in), and a newly released Mizushima who resurrected-and-augmented Keiko had captured and lashed to a cross to lure Monami to the gym in the first place.

The film is hilarious, gory (in spades — one reviewer has noted that people here seem to have thirty gallons of blood which, when tapped, will spray out over everything near them including the camera lens), over the top Japanese grindhouse, and yet it works.  The special effects, to be sure, are largely cartoonish, ditto the sets and most of the characters, but the glue that holds it together, I think, is Yukie Kawamura, the actress who plays Vampire Girl Monami.  She plays it straight (well, almost straight, think of Carolyn Jones as Morticia in the original 1960s TV version of THE ADDAMS FAMILY) and is actress enough that she pulls it off.  The poor girl who had to flee with her mother, pursued by a relentless vampire hunter, and saw her mother murdered before her eyes.  Who’s been on her own for hundreds of years since, so she says to Mizushima who comes to genuinely love her in spite of everything (including a twist at the very end reminiscent of the Swedish vampire film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN).  Who has limitations (she can be killed, for instance, as was her mother) but has no qualms about admitting she’s left her own body count behind her, yet exudes a shy charm — and makes us accept it.  She kills people, sure, we all have our faults, but she’s SO CUTE.

You just have to see it .

 

*As reviewer Maggie Lee says of it, “’Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl’ is ‘Twilight’ for kinky adults with an appetite for gushing gore, Japanese schoolgirls and proudly politically incorrect humor.”

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Last night was the October “Halloween” meeting of Upstart Poets (cf. September 27, April 27) at which, at the “soiree” — the equivalent of an open mike period after the featured poets have finished — I read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Conqueror Worm” in the first round, and then in the second, a “lightning round” as we were running short of time, I ended the session with my horrorku “Honeymoon Magic” from VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE).  Then today, having need to visit the Bloomington Writers Guild site (cf. June 15, et al.), I was reminded that my flash story “Penny Dreadful,” a tale of young love and how zombiehood doesn’t mean one has to miss one’s senior prom, is, as of yesterday, this week’s special Halloween selection.  To read it for yourself, just click here, but hurry.  Something else will be taking its place on November 1.

As for “Honeymoon Magic,” revealing the perfect wedding gift for the newly wed vampiress, check page 65 of VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE), which can be ordered by clicking its picture in the center column.  After all, you never know what that ex-girlfriend of yours — you remember, the one you thought at the time was a Goth? — might really have been.

The word came in Tuesday evening, my science fiction novelette PEDS (see October 15, May 21, et al.) is now available as a stand alone electronic chapbook from Untreed Reads Publishing.  To quote the official blurb:  “In a near-future world where the car is king and the people are divided between those who ride on a network of highways connecting the glittering hubs of the city, and those left on foot — the lowly ‘Peds’ — who inhabit the lands that lie between them, Robert Balkoner has always believed these latter, even if disadvantaged, are well cared for by the city as a whole.  These beliefs are shattered, however, when a freak auto accident thrusts him among the Peds, and he discovers a system more varied, complex, and sometimes horrific, than anything he might have imagined.  Yet even here Balkoner also can find love, as well as a handful of rebels willing to barter their lives in a quest to improve conditions for themselves and their fellows.”  PEDS was originally published in HARSH MISTRESS SCIENCE FICTION ADVENTURES (later ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE — a funny story about that, incidentally, in that the name change came about because even though the guidelines were clear, and the magazine named after Robert Heinlein’s novel THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, the editor found he was being swamped with bondage submissions) in Spring-Summer 1993.

PEDS is available in .PDF, EPUB (includes The Nook and iPad, etc.), and Kindle formats for $1.50 and can be ordered by pressing here.  Also published by Untreed Reads are my chapbooks VANITAS and I’M DREAMING OF A. . . ., a steampunk/mystery originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE and an original Christmas horror tale, respectively.  For more information just click on the pictures in the center column or, for general information on Untreed Reads, press here.

Also to come from Untreed Reads will be my short story “Appointment in Time” (cf. October 17) in the New Year’s Eve horror anthology YEAR’S END.

My, don’t announcements seem to be coming fast this close to Halloween?  Coincidence . . . maybe (all I know is I’ve developed a sudden taste for candy corn).  So anyway, following this month’s writer’s group meeting at the County Library, wending upstairs to use the fast computers there, what should I find lurking in my email but today’s treat, from Dark Moon Books:  ZOMBIE JESUS AND OTHER TRUE STORIES (cf. October 9, September 29, et al.) is officially open for pre-ordering.

The actual date for physical copies is still November, but Editor Max Booth III has also released a picture of the cover and will throw in a poster sized copy as a special prize for those who order now.  Details can be found on the ZOMBIE JESUS BLOG along with buttons for placing orders by pressing here.  If it’s past Saturday and something else appears on the screen, such as an author interview (for, ahem, mine you may need to go into the October “archives”), just scroll down.

As for my own abomination in this abnormal history, look for the thirteenth entry on the contents page once the book is in hand.  The title is “Avoid Seeing A Mouse” and it tells you what actually happened at midnight, December 31 1999  (what, you mean you missed it?).

 

 

Way back when (or some months ago anyway), amidst the burgeoning heat of summer, I had received an email from Damnation Books editor Kim Richards (re. Damnation, click on the image of THE GARDEN in the center column) having “nothing to do with Damnation Books.”  It turns out she was editing a “How to Write Horror” book for  a Canadian publisher and wondered if I would be interested in writing the introduction for it.  Why not? thought I, and in time I received partially edited chapters, etc., to give me a feel for the book, and in a month or so sent back an approximately 1300 word piece that seemed to fill the bill.

But then troubles occurred:  The original publisher cancelled the deal so, after some thought, Editor Richards et al. decided to go ahead with the book under their own Damnation Books imprint, and would those who had had chapters etc. accepted before still be interested in being in it?  For me, this would imply a partial rewrite (some of the authors/chapters cited in the introduction will have been changed) but not too much of one so, again, why not?  Thus today I returned a new contract for a retitled TELLING TALES OF TERROR:  ESSAYS ON WRITING HORROR AND DARK FICTION, hopefully on a fast track for release on December 1 (assuming new chapters come in on time — I myself have said I can work fast as soon as I get a chance to go through them along with the new contents page), otherwise on March 1 2013.

And the weird thing is, among other things, I have two other “How to Write” books on the books-to-be-read shelf  for possible award recommendations.

Then, speaking of titles, I was wrong in the previous entry on Untreed Reads Publishing’s upcoming New Year’s anthology in saying that, as of yet, it was untitled.  Actually it was right in editor Jay Hartman’s guidelines, just before the part saying “[c]ome tell us your scariest story about New Year’s Eve.”  The name of the anthology is to be YEAR’S END.

Unless, of course, things get changed.

Last Christmas there was “Naughty or Nice?” a story based on a poem, “The List,” and published in DAILY SCIENCE FICTION’s  December 21 2011 post (cf. May 5 2012, Dec 15 2011, et al.).  Then this year Untreed Reads Publishing (see entry just below) put out a call for a horror anthology for New Year’s.  Stories were to be between 1500 and 5000 words, according to the guidelines, and “the bulk of the story MUST happen on New Year’s Eve.”

As it happened a little while later I wrote a poem about ancient customs brought up to date for the turn of the year and wondered, what if I reworked it in story form?  The result was called “Appointment in Time” and, at only about 1700 words itself, off it went to Untreed Reads.  Then yesterday evening the word came back:  while the competition had been tough, “Appointment in Time” had made the cut.  More information will come when I have it, including the anthology’s actual title which, as of now to my best knowledge has yet to be set.  Other information, too, such as cover art and an official release date, etc., will be forthcoming.

As for “Appointment in Time,” it’s somewhat of a steampunky tale with a great steam-powered clock in the public square of a once-British colony’s major city to chime the New Year to those waiting below, as well as to do a few other things.   It’s all in the spirit of “out with the old and in with the new.”  As for the poem, it’s as yet unpublished, whereas “The List,” the inspiration for last year’s Christmas offering in DAILY SF, can be found in my collection VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE).

Only weeks away from the coming election, the Fall issue of  SPACE AND TIME has arrived with a poem of mine in it, “Why Not Let Zombies Vote?” (see July 2).  In it the usual opposition is raised, then countered (“Okay, so they eat people, but isn’t that/ just a choice of diet?”), along with other frankly prejudicial objections (“and don’t be blaming them for the recession.”).  So, indeed why not, and just in time here for early voting?

This is issue #117 of a venerable magazine going back to probably about the time I started writing poetry in a serious manner.  Cf. also October 21 2011 and June 6 2012, below, for notes on another poem of mine, “Monkey See” — the second in what I think of as my King Kong Trilogy (poem #1 was in PAPER CROW, #3 is as yet unpublished) — which was accepted by Poetry Editor Linda D. Addison for the Fall 2011 SPACE AND TIME and went on to appear in the 2012 RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY.

Then in other activity, this afternoon I finished going through the proof sheets for my upcoming e-novelette PEDS (see May 21, et al.).  If all goes well, PEDS should be out before the end of the month — in time, that is, for Halloween giving to friends with a taste for dystopic science fiction — from Untreed Reads Publishing.

Life intrudes sometimes.  Just a few days ago we had the example of POETRY . . . WITHOUT APOLOGIES.  Another has been the poetry magazine PAPER CROW, one well respected since its start in 2009 and which has also carried work by me in the past (cf. February 11 and July 5 2011), which had been interrupted by a concatenation of various troubles but now is beginning to get back on schedule.  Thus late today I received an email from Editor Angela Craig saying “we are scrambling to get this year’s issues out . . . and we would like to take the following, if they are still available. . . .”   The poems’ titles then followed:  “Snowdrift,” “Funeral Olympics,” “Clouds Are Dangerous,” “Everybody Says. . . ,” and “Nature’s Way,” all of which, as I hastened to reply, are indeed ready and waiting to be in PAPER CROW.  The publication schedule hasn’t been entirely worked out as yet, but probably within about a month I’ll be able to say which poems will be in which specific issues.

Also in the works from PAPER CROW publisher Elektrik Milk Bath Press, an anthology titled ZOMBIES FOR A CURE is now hoped to be out by the end of the month — in time for Halloween!  This will feature both poetry and prose, including a poem by me titled “Should Zombies Really Crawl from Their Graves” (suffice to say, if so be wary when passing cemeteries), with profits being donated for cancer research.  Information on this, as well as PAPER CROW itself, can be found at the PAPER CROW website by pressing here.




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