Let's Talk About Horror Fiction and Film

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Spaceman Spiff, Oct 10, 2007.

  1. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    ^^ That's quite a promise to live up to. :D

    Yeah, but they'll never have that used book smell.

    And probably making more money. My Kindle book only costs 99 cents, but I make three times as much per sale as I do with the paperbacks.

    "Killer Crab" series. :rommie: There was a giant crab short story in that giant monster anthology that came out a couple of years ago; I wonder if that was an excerpt. Scanning his page at Amazon, it seems he writes novels in the B-Movie tradition.
     
  2. Kemaiku

    Kemaiku Admiral Admiral

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    I prefer my books not to be smelly in the first place :lol:
     
  3. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    Heh. For me, books are a total sensory experience. :rommie:

    I can still remember the smell of the ink in the copy machine when I used to go to the library forty years ago. :mallory:
     
  4. Goliath

    Goliath Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The Bedeviled turned out to be much better than I expected. The writing was cruder, and the characterization more superficial, than the last two novels I read. But as the novel progressed, the story became more absorbing, and the ending was terrific.

    It seemed like a fairly conventional haunted-house story at the start: a somewhat unhappy family moves to a rural community in Ohio, and into the father's family home--a strange farmhouse with a very dark past (of course). One of the father's ancestors was a cavalry general in the American Civil War, and the leader of a Satanic cult. His ghost is still prowling around the area, seeking a new body to inhabit, and the cult's descendants are still following that old-time religion. Or are they?

    Before long, all sorts of ghostly and demonic things are going on. But one of the novel's great strengths is its unreliable narrator. The story is told from the mother's first-person POV, and it's never clear if what she describes is really happening--if the supernatural shenanigans are real, or if she's just slowly going insane--or both.

    It was pulp, but good pulp. It turns out the author had a thing for both the American Civil War, and titles that begin with "The Be-". He wrote two other novels, both set in the Civil War, The Besieged and The Beguiled, and the latter was adapted as a movie starring Clint Eastwood.

    I give The Bedeviled three :devil:'s out of a possible four.

    Next up: Hands of Lucifer (1987) by John Tigges.

    No breathless blurbs on the cover this time, unfortunately. :lol:
     
  5. Kemaiku

    Kemaiku Admiral Admiral

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    Just finished all 12 books of the Dresden Files so far, cannot wait until May for the next one now. Need more supernatural fiction...
     
  6. ITL

    ITL Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Lots of Dennis Wheatley, then?

    :D
     
  7. Goliath

    Goliath Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No, unfortunately. :(

    I certainly looked, and they had a number of novels by Wheatley. But not one of his devil-worship books.

    What's up with that? :mad:
     
  8. ITL

    ITL Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There was always some Wheatley in the house when I was a kid, as my dad loved them. I think I only ever read one - The Haunting Of Toby Jugg.
     
  9. Goliath

    Goliath Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Okay--I just finished reading Hands of Lucifer by John Tigges. And I think it may actually be the worst novel I've read in my life.

    To be fair, Tigges does do one thing well: his descriptions of supernatural occurrences are sometimes quite effective. There's a scene in which a woman is beaten to death by a demon which is especially freaky. So, full marks for that.

    The problem with the book is--well, everything else. :lol: To begin with, the writing is just bad. It commits the cardinal sin of the novelist, by telling, instead of showing. And I found some actual grammatical mistakes in a few places. For example:

    'Contributing' is the wrong word: he meant to say 'attributing.' In another passage, Tigges actually says 'nothing' when he meant to say 'something.'

    That first passage above highlights another problem: Tigges seems completely incapable of writing believeable dialogue. Who the hell uses words like 'attributing' in real-life conversations? A lot of the dialogue would have sounded stilted and phony, even coming from an academic--instead of, say, a TV announcer, as in this case:

    Tigges' characterization is equally bad. Although the two main characters, Myles and Nicole, are semi-believeable, the secondary characters all seem to be made out of cardboard. His characterizations of religious ministers like the above-mentioned Father Gorkland are especially poor. I despise evangelical televangelists, and I even I found Tigges' caricature of one--the Reverend Stangood--objectionable.

    The story is just a third-rate rehash of The Exorcist by way of Poltergeist--it even features the demon swearing at the exorcist during the climactic exorcism--and yet Tigges seems to think he's doing something fresh and original. How do I know this? He actually includes advertisements for his own books in his book! For example:

    I suppose it's possible that an editor inserted this passage, and others like it, but I would have thought even a hack writer would have more self-respect than to allow something like that.

    Add the cheap final 'boo!' at the end, and you have a book that's almost completely lacking in redeeming qualities. Maybe not quite the My Immortal of horror fiction, but close. What a steaming heap of shit.
     
  10. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    That's noteworthy. :D My personal worst so far is probably Rogue Moon. I'm reading Varney The Vampire right now, which is probably technically worse-- tense changes in a single paragraph, for example-- but it was written in the 1850s and is far more entertaining.

    That's noteworthy, too. It's hard to do.

    That's interesting. Are these errors all in dialogue, and are they consistent from character to character? Errors like that can be forgiven if they are an intentional part of a pattern. Otherwise-- ouch! :rommie:

    Well... I don't know. Again, is it consistent and is it entertaining. Technically, the same criticism could be made of Rod Serling. Or Shakespeare. Is it ignorance or affectation?

    Now that's just awesomely bad. I've never heard of anyone doing anything like that before; it never would have even occurred to me. :rommie:

    So the Plan 9 of Horror then? :D I guess the question is, was it entertainingly bad, like Varney is, or torture to slog through, like Rogue Moon?
     
  11. Goliath

    Goliath Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Not quite torture. More like, "enhanced interrogation": the literary equivalent of being hooded, forced to stand against a wall, and deprived of sleep.

    After I put up that post, I noticed a rather large plot hole. As I said: this demon can kill--it not only beats a woman to death--it pulverizes her. And in another scene, it sexually molests one of the main characters while she's in the shower.

    This demon has hands. Big, strong, rough hands. The book's even called Hands of Lucifer.

    And yet, when faced with an exorcist, how does it defend itself?

    By swearing. By throwing furniture. By tossing stuff from the fridge, like some kind of demonic food fight. By slapping the exorcist--once. And by animating the female main characters collection of dolls.

    OH NOEZ! NOT THE DOLLS!

    Seriously, what the fuck? Worst. Demon. Ever.
     
  12. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    Heh. Sissy demon. It only picks on girls. :rommie:
     
  13. Goliath

    Goliath Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I went to that used bookstore again, and walked out with another armload of twenty-odd books. Looks like I'm set for the rest of the year.

    My purchases were a little more varied this time, though. I bought some SF, Mystery, and History as well as Horror, including a copy of Samuel R. Delany's long-out-of-print 1971 anthology Driftglass. Their selection of SF and Fantasy paperbacks is enough to make any fan drool.

    And it looks like I inadvertently purchased a horror classic without realizing it.

    The cover of C. S. Cody's The Witching Night said "BLACK MAGIC...SUPERNATURAL MURDER...SATANIC RITUAL." Sounds perfect, I thought, and tossed it into my shopping basket: Hope it won't be another crap sandwich like Hands of Lucifer. But I've since read some reviews that say it's really good.
     
  14. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    Driftglass sounds interesting. I remember "Aye, And Gomorrah...." from Dangerous Visions. I'm pretty sure I've also read "Time Considered As A Helix...," but I don't remember it off the top of my head. I think I'll pick up some Delaney myself; that's the kind of adult fiction that just isn't published these days.
     
  15. Goliath

    Goliath Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Do it. Delany is great. Nova was a childhood favourite of mine, and the older I get, the more I appreciate his work.

    Back to horror fiction...I decided I needed a palate cleanser after Hands of Lucifer. And I've had Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby sitting on my bookshelf for a while. So I decided to read it.

    I'm glad I did. Even after seeing the movie a few times, I still thought the book was terrific. In fact, I now see that one of the reasons why the movie was so good is because it was so faithful to the book.

    Levin wrote with all the economy of a crime writer. (His first novel was actually a crime novel--A Kiss Before Dying) Not a word is wasted, and the plot is even structured like a mystery. I've read that some mystery connossieurs like to read the last chapter first, so that they can better appreciate the way the author lays out the clues, and misdirects the reader. The effect of reading Rosemary's Baby after watching the movie was somewhat similar.

    Levin creates an atmosphere of paranoia and dread that is almost palpable. And the final reveal lost none of its power, even though I knew what was coming. But what I wasn't expecting was the greater richness of the last few pages, in which Rosemary accepts her role as the Anti-Madonna. Her internal conflict, and its tragic resolution, is something that the movie could only hint at. That alone made the book worth reading.

    And I was pleased to discover that in the book Rosemary comes from a Catholic Irish family in Omaha, Nebraska, just like me. :)

    It really is a classic, and a paradigm for the genre. Four :devil:'s out of four. My faith in horror fiction has been fully restored.

    I think I'll read The Witching Night next, before I return to the B-list books.
     
  16. Itisnotlogical

    Itisnotlogical Commodore Commodore

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    I've just finished up reading a batch of HP Lovecraft, just to kind of dip my toes in the proverbial water and see what I was getting into before I commit any money to the project.

    The man is a master. Stephen King ain't got jack on Mr. Lovecraft.

    I could rave for days about his mastery of horror and suspense. He consistently manages to keep the suspense going, always making you wonder what's going to come next without pulling random twists out of nowhere. His descriptions paint a superb background for the chilling secrets that lay hidden behind cottage doors and secret passages. Even his works that aren't entirely doom and gloom (The Music of Erich Zann comes to mind) manage to keep me interested and reading until the very end. Sometimes I have to stop myself and re-read a part because I read it too fast in eagerness.

    There's just one complaint I have. The Call of Cthulhu was a little bit of a let-down considering how (in)famous it was, especially in light of some of his shorter tales. Granted, it's still pretty damn good, but it's far from the very best I saw in the collection that I picked at the library.
     
  17. SilentP

    SilentP Commodore Commodore

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    ^ Have to agree with you on HP Lovecraft, master at horror, though I had problems with Moutains of Madness as well.

    I know it's 'only' a game tie-in novel, but I recently read Dead Space: Martyr and have to say I really enjoyed it, though it was a quick read. It might only appeal to those who play the game, but you don't have to understand the games to enjoy, though I think it does help in some ways.
     
  18. Goliath

    Goliath Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Those who enjoy Lovecraft (as I do) may wish to read Michel Houellebecq's extended essay H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life. I found it illuminating, stimulating, and unusually readable for a work of literary criticism.

    You can read an excerpt here. [​IMG]
     
  19. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Abuse of Power Administrator

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    I can see how reading Call of Cthulhu would be a bit of a letdown after all you hear about it, especially on the Internet. It's certainly not Lovecraft's best work.

    It also makes most Cthulhu jokes kind of annoying, because they're always off the mark, pretty much just swapping him with Satan. ("Why vote for the lesser evil," etc.) I appreciate the jokes more when they're specific to Cthulhu in regards to the mythos. But all of that's just nitpicking.

    To be fair to Stephen King, anyone writing like Lovecraft today would be laughed out of an editor's office for being so overwrought and using almost no dialogue.

    What King popularized was the idea of supernatural horror in a modern setting, putting it right in a normal person's point of view. We forget that today because everyone's doing it now, but that wasn't always the case.

    I often have a similar discussion with friends who draw cartoons. There's a tendency to dismiss most of Charles Schulz's work, but these people don't realize just how much he contributed. Kids having adult-like conversations, pets having thoughts and imagination--these ideas weren't popular before Peanuts.

    Anyway, I'm rambling, but you get the idea. :lol:
     
  20. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    I think a lot of young creators in all media don't appreciate their roots; or even like to admit that they have roots.