Posts Tagged ‘Carnivals’

The devil lures with sweet words and promises, do you fall for his trap or trick him instead?  Can you really have it all?  HOW TO TRICK THE DEVIL tells stories of trickery and deception; of monsters lurking in unexpected places; of the lengths we might go to get what we want.  Much more than your average deal-with-the-devil tale, the talented authors in this collection explore the motivations behind the choices we make, be it out of fear, greed, or desperation.  The trickster works in HTTTD Cover7-2confidence, never expecting the twists that just might tear his plans apart.  Evil is not always rewarded, but the hero does not always win.

So says the Amazon blurb, but what of the authors?  Well, along the way Editor Stephanie Buosi had put out a call, “I would love to post a small mini-series of interviews on my webpage in order to highlight the anthology, and the wonderful authors (you guys) who contributed.  I’m hoping to feature four or five interviews, so please let me know if this is something you would like to be a part of.”   I had agreed, and it happens today I received my questionnaire.

My part in this is a tale of a carnival’s sideshow denizens who decide to go out trick or treating one Halloween, titled “Lobster Boy and the Hand of Satan” (cf. October 14; September 29, 25, et al.), originally published some while back in CYBER PULP’S HALLOWEEN ANTHOLOGY 2.0 (Cyber Pulp, 2003).  But will I be able to remember the answers to such questions as “Where did the inspiration for such a story come?”  Possibly yes as I keep notes on stories in their file folders.  In any event, we can find out together — information will come on these pages when the interview is completed and set to be published.

And while we wait, in addition to Lulu and Erebus Press’s own site (see October 14), HOW TO TRICK THE DEVIL can now be found on Amazon too, for which one may press here.

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Editor Stephanie Buosi has just announced that links are live for purchase of HOW TO TRICK THE DEVIL (cf. September 29, et al.) from either Lulu or, with a ten percent discount, direct from publisher Horrified Press.  My story in this is of carny folk of HTTTD Cover7-2the less-than-honest sort on Halloween called “Lobster Boy and the Hand of Satan.”  Checking the Horrified website myself, I’m reminded that another book with a story of mine, NIGHTMARE STALKERS & DREAM WALKERS featuring the surrealistic gustatory tale “Flesh,” was released two years ago under their imprint (see June 28 2013, et al.) and, while it seems it may be out of stock at the Horrified site, it is available (I just checked) from both Lulu and Amazon, here and here.  As for HOW TO TRICK THE DEVIL, to find it on Lulu one can press here, or on Amazon here.

Stephanie Buosi, of Erebus Press, has announced a release date for HOW TO TRICK THE DEVIL (see September 9, August 8, et al.) in just three weeks, October 16.  She also points out that this will be the publisher’s debut anthology, with more projects to come.  My tale in this one is of carney life (and possible death) titled “Lobster Boy and the Hand of Satan.”  As for more on the book as a whole, to quote the back cover:

The devil lures with sweet words and promises, do you fall for his trap or trick him instead?  Can you really have it all?

HOW TO TRICK THE DEVIL tells stories of trickery and deception; of monsters lurking in unexpected places; of the lengths we might go to get what we want.  Much more than your average deal-with-the-devil tale, the talented authors in this corpus2collection explore the motivations behind the choices we make, be it out of fear, greed, or desperation.

The trickster works in confidence, never expecting the twists that just might tear their plans apart.  Evil is not always rewarded, but the hero does not always win.  

Then in other news, I’ve just received a cover image for CORPUS DELUXE: UNDEAD TALES OF TERROR , for which one need only look up to the right.  My offering in CORPUS DELUXE is a “Tombs” series story called “River Red,” of which see yesterday’s post directly below.

The holiday weekend over, it’s time to get back to work on a dim, rainy day that may spell the end of summer too.  This time it’s nothing spectacular, nothing hard, just the routine of life, in this case another proof copy, received 170px-Devils-from-Rila-monasteryyesterday from Stephanie Buosi of Erebus Press, which, corrections checked over and okayed, a few more added, a little clarification of dashes and hyphens discussed, went back in the email about two hours ago.  The anthology is HOW TO TRICK THE DEVIL (cf. September 2, August 16 and 8) with my story in it “Lobster Boy and the Hand of Satan,” a lesson in what not to do when trick-or-treating on Halloween.  As of last notice, HOW TO TRICK THE DEVIL was scheduled for release by the end of this month and, so far, it looks like it should be on schedule.

Thursday night, one may recall, brought readings of poetry.  These were followed a half hour later by a panel on TERRIFYING TROPES:  DARK CARNIVALE:  FREAKS, GEEKS, MAGICIANS AND SPIRITUALISTS covering, well, just that.  “Magic, mystery, and romance” — except you don’t know what hides under the greasepaint.  The panels I got to struck me as quite good in almost all cases, in this case also touching on nostalgia — weirdness and whimsy — and different takes between children seeing the glitter and wonder, rides, excitement, lots to do, versus teens where it becomes highly sexualized, a place to take girls where anything can happen, versus adults who now take their kids.  And the carnies themselves as playing roles, but even after the gates are closed as members of a separate culture (cited here was Tod Browning’s movie FREAKS).

Friday brought more TERRIFYING TROPES:  POE-ETICS:  SETTING SCENE AND ATMOSPHERE IN SUPERNATURAL FICTION, with a note that “The Dark Place” in horror is any place in that it’s being seen through the protagonist’s eyes.  So, in writing, establish the protagonist’s hang-ups — what’s in his mind — and think like an actor to not just see but react to a setting (and don’t forget other senses too, especially sound).  And look for details, especially ones the reader might not expect, as well as picking your own words carefully, also with an ear to their sound and their connotations, in setting a scene in the reader’s head too.   Then WEIRD SOUTH:  FROM VOODOO TO RATTLESNAKE REVIVAL:  SOUTHERN FOLKLORE IN HORROR LITERATURE brought in mixtures of cultures, especially in places like New Orleans, and distortions brought through oral retellings.  Thus the Devil may have been to some people an African god, yet close and personal to a Christian.  In that the South industrialized late, people still live close to the ground, and folk magic plays in people’s minds — the idea of Hoodoo, a large collection of magical techniques, versus Voodoo and Santeria which are actual religions.  But the truly frightening person is not one the Devil speaks to, but the one who says he’s been spoken to by God, because he’s the one who’s going to act on it.  DEADLY DEFINITIONS:  WE ARE BIZARRO!  BEATING ON THE BONGOS AND SCRAPING THE VISCERA OF HORROR’S ZANIEST SUBCULTURE then spoke to “the weird stuff” — Burrough’s NAKED LUNCH, BUBBA HO-TEP, David Lynch movies, THE KAFKA EFFECT.  To try to add something that “completely f ***s up, doesn’t blend in, twists 180 degrees” . . . but still works.  Surreal, or told in a surreal way.  Or, as one panelist put it, think Dr. Seuss, noting that that’s one of the first things, with talking animals, that we give our children.

Also on Friday were several showings of short films that I got to, in whole or in part, plus PANEL/READING:  DARK POETS FACE TO FACE in which a group of poets (one, though, in absentia whose plane hadn’t come yet) read one another’s works, explaining why they chose that particular poem and commenting on it.  This was a repeat of a panel I was on in New Orleans two years before (cf. June 19 2013) and then, as now, it was interesting as a look into the poets’ minds as well as just fun, whether as audience or at the table.

Saturday’s fare included more panels, with DEADLY DEFINITIONS:  WHEN THE WEIRD GO PRO:  EXPLORING THE PARAMETERS AND CONSIDERING THE DIRECTIONS OF A LITERARY RENAISSANCE concluding that maybe the “new weird” isn’t that new.  There’s Lovecraft too, where when you end with a monster too big to kill, that’s “weird, not horror.”  Post-Lovecraft we’ve become more self-absorbed, but the knowledge at the end of a story that here’s a thing we’ll never understand, that’s weird.  Giant butterflies that will eat your soul . . . a magician with a spell that will destroy everything . . . that’s weird as well.  But there’s always been weird fiction, it’s just that we’re talking about it in a perhaps new context.  Also weird fiction “works better in short form, while longer novels need to include redemption.”  WEIRD SOUTH:  I WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY AGAIN:  WHY ARE SO MANY CONTEMPORARY VAMPIRE NOVELS SET IN THE SOUTH spoke of Southern traits, as surface politeness that may mask darker feelings underneath, as well as the South’s dark history in general (“that’s why we fear clowns, they have smiles painted on and you know it’s hiding something”).  Thus vampires, beautiful people, cultured, walk among us and, unlike, e.g., zombies, we don’t smell the rot that lies underneath.  Then add tradition, strong religious feelings including the darker parts of the BIBLE, resistance to outsiders and “foreign” ideas (such as fearful Counts from places like Transylvania), master/slave relationships which the South still has trouble handling, and like the South, lush and green where everyone flourishes except the outsider, like kudzu and vines that grab hold and won’t let you go, so is the vampire both beautiful and grasping.

Earlier Saturday but to the point too, was SPECIAL PRESENTATION:  DACRE STOKER:  BRAM STOKER/TRAVEL GUIDE NEW DISCOVERIES 118 YEARS LATER, a PowerPoint presentation by Bram Stoker’s grand-nephew on Stoker’s life and experiences that led to the writing of DRACULA, with places and backgrounds, plus some recent discoveries adding to our understanding of the novel; plus a presentation, MEDIA:  WHCFILM:  SKIPP’S SATURDAY SINEMA FUNTIME, in which Director John Skipp showed a short film and possibly pilot for a TV series, BOMBO AND FLOPSY IN “AN HONEST MIS-STAKE.”  Clowns . . .  and vampires.

And then Sunday, finally, brought WEIRD SOUTH:  THE DEVIL CAME DOWN:  GROWING UP LOVING HORROR BENEATH THE MASON-DIXON LINE which amplified several themes from the days before, on the South’s unique features, but authors too including Edgar Allan Poe (though born in Boston, brought up in Virginia), story-telling traditions that affect all classes, folk expressions and word choices and multiple meanings and high-context cultures.  Then, one hour later, from noon to 1, TERRIFYING TROPES:  THE DEATH PANEL:  FUNERALS, CEMETERIES, BURIAL, AUTOPSIES, AND DECOMPOSITION brought the convention for me back to DEATH TO DUST (as in my mis-citation in my Friday panel) with many excursions from mourning customs, to green burials and “death composting,” uses of cremains, paintings and photography of the dead, “death cafes,” food used in funerals, medieval medicine, books bound in human skin, and other objects preserved in museums.

After which time it was time to go.

The story goes that director John Huston, who had met Ray Bradbury before, was in the US for only a few days and, having read the short story “The Foghorn,” was impressed by Bradbury’s poetic style.  So he arranged a meeting and invited Bradbury to go to Ireland to do the screenplay for MOBY DICK.  Bradbury had read MOBY DICK, hadn’t he?

Actually no, but he stopped at a bookstore on his way home, picked up a Modern Library edition, and leafing through was impressed by the poetry of Melville’s style.  So he took the job.

Ultimately, with some changes by Huston (who, as was his habit, gave himself co-writing credit along with Bradbury), the movie came out in 1986 and, despite at one point nearly coming to blows with Huston, Bradbury later said it was his favorite screenplay of all that he’d done.  Also that it “opened up Hollywood” for him, leading to more writing offers for movies than he could possibly handle.  The problem with MOMobyLeftBY DICK, however, was that the novel was written with several interwoven plots, digressions, philosophical asides, and non-linear structure — in short, rather like Bradbury often tended to write himself, though perhaps in even larger scale.  So what he had to do was separate out the main plot, converting seemingly random happenings into a tighter “cause and effect” to give it a structure that could be condensed into less than two hours on the screen.

He did a good job, among other things magnifying the role of Starbuck, Ahab’s first mate, into a more human, more sympathetic adversary to Ahab’s destructive quest for revenge.  Thus Starbuck stresses God’s will in the quest to kill whales, to bring oil for the lamps of those on the land, hence defining his captain’s monomania in terms of blasphemy — evil — made all the worse through Ahab’s bringing the crew to his side.

In more ways than one, the film is a classic, much of the credit going to Huston’s brilliant direction, much to the actors (Huston’s style was to cast his parts carefully, but then allow the actors to do their own interpretations with little or no direction on his part — an extreme example being Orson Welles as Father Mapple using his own script from a London play version), also to cinematography using a deliberate painting-like “washed out” color, but also to Bradbury’s first major screenplay.

Thus the first part of a twi-night double feature, including talks both before and after (I’d taken to smuggling in cheese-on-rye sandwiches both Friday and this afternoon, eating them on a bench outside during the twenty or so minute breaks between presentations).  Then there was one small bit in MOBY DICK while Ishmael and Queequeg board  the Pequod where an older man, half-mad, identifying himself as Elijah prophecies that the voyage will be cursed.  He comes up again, that is the same actor, Royal Dano, as the somewhat eccentric lightning rod salesman in the second film that ended the festival, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES.

So this time the “prophecy” is that a storm’s a-coming to Greentown Illinois, deliberately modeled after Waukegan, the town Bradbury lived in until he was 14.  Here it’s the arrival of a carnival, out of season for October, and here the evil is more direct in the person of carnival owner Mr. Dark, as seen through the eyes of two young boys.

So, yes, there’s a lot of Bradbury himself here who, as a boy, went to carnivals too.  At one he met a “Mr. Electrico” who did a static electricity act and who told Bradbury he would “live forever.”  This was, perhaps, the goad that brought him to being a writer, achieving immortality through his work.  In any event, vignettes about carnivals kept showing up in his earlier work, finally coalescing in his 1962 novel SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES — one that he was already trying to pitch as220px-Something_Wicked_This_Way_Comes_(1983_movie_poster) a movie, although it didn’t finally get made until 1983.  This was a troubled movie, however.  Directed by Jack Clayton, its initial version was panned by preview audiences, causing major re-shooting 8 to 10 months later, rebuilding the sets, bringing back the actors including the boys who had grown in the meantime.  There was also a falling out between Bradbury and the director, this due to bringing in John Mortimer (also writer of RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY)
as a “script doctor” at the studio’s insistence behind Bradbury’s back.

The major thrust though is the innocence of childhood, with both terror and joy as seen through young eyes, in this case with a carnival which should bring happiness but, instead, preys on the loneliness, the vulnerabilities, the unhappiness of many of the town’s people.  Offers are made — people’s dearest desires — but when accepting there’s always a catch.   The losses are people’s souls, captured as grotesques to be added to Mr. Dark’s menagerie, who also has designs on the children.  And hence the ending, when one of the kids’ father breaks through his regret of years in the past, of having failed his son once when he was little, and discovering as well that the antidote to evil is laughter.  Laughter, love, and joy.

As was noted afterward in the discussion, perhaps not all people will buy that premise.  And even “corrected,” the ending is still rough.  The film, even fixed, was not a success at the box office, according to Wikipedia having grossed  a little bit less than half of its cost.  Nevertheless, it was still well worth seeing, as Wikipedia further quotes Roger Ebert as stating:

“It’s one of the few literary adaptations I’ve seen in which the film not only captures the mood and tone of the novel, but also the novel’s style. Bradbury’s prose is a strange hybrid of craftsmanship and lyricism.  He builds his stories and novels in a straightforward way, with strong plotting, but his sentences owe more to Thomas Wolfe than to the pulp tradition, and the lyricism isn’t missed in this movie.  In its descriptions of autumn days, in its heartfelt conversations between a father and a son, in the unabashed romanticism of its evil carnival and even in the perfect rhythm of its title, this is a horror movie with elegance.”




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