Make Fiction Scare Again: no genre for old men

Horror is a young man’s game. Because as you get older, you have grandkids and you get all sentimental like Steven Spielberg or you lose your touch like John Carpenter or you just decide you’d rather chill out and do something else like Stephen King. Youth is the time to get all wound up about anxiety, fear, and dread. Later years are for just relaxing. Right?

After the jump, wrong. Continue reading →

What Hollywood gets wrong about having cancer

, | Features

I’m honored that a site called Folks is letting me write about something other than videogames and movies. Well, about something other than videogames, at any rate. I’ve written about what it’s like having first-hand experience with cancer and then seeing it in movies.

When you do a keyword search for cancer on the Internet Movie Database, you get 1500 entries. Breaking Bad is at the top of the list. Bryan Cranston’s cancer gives him license to break bad. He starts a meth lab to support his family. The series creator, Vince Gilligan, summarizes Breaking Bad as a story about a mild-mannered teacher who becomes the equivalent of Scarface.

Because cancer. Cancer lets you become an over-the-top Al Pacino character.

You can read the article here. You can also read a more personal take on my experiences here. And about a good friend’s struggle with cystic fibrosis here.

Make Fiction Scare Again: fun sized

Horror fiction is often at its best when you down it in one shot instead of nursing it like a beer. Short stories are ideal for a genre that benefits from leaving things unsaid. It took Twilight Zone less than thirty minutes to sink a barb. Stephen King didn’t need a thousand pages to freak you out with a story about a laundry machine that eats people, an astonaut who grows eyeballs in his hand, or beer than turns people into a fungus. So in the interest of time, let us recommend for you a couple of our favorite short form masters.

After the jump, this won’t take long Continue reading →

Make Fiction Scare Again: and now for something completely different

“It was a dark and stormy night….” OK, stop us if you’ve read this book before. As exciting as a good scary story should be, too often horror fiction becomes predictable and formulaic. Horror is a genre rooted in folktales and archetypes, and chains itself to hidebound guidelines. We know that vampires always hate mirrors and zombies are supposed to shuffle. Horror fiction breaks these rules too rarely, but when it happens it can be spectacular.

After the jump, not the same old story. Continue reading →

Make TV Scare Again: where everybody knows your name

Few shows in television history cast as long a shadow as Twin Peaks. It made networks more amenable to serialized TV stories. It showed that television can have cinematic production values. And it set the stage for the now familiar notion of strange, insular, isolated communities as the setting for creepy television shows. What is it about small towns? When did Mayberry get so weird?

After the jump, what do you have after a damn fine cup of coffee? Continue reading →

Make TV Scare Again: gimme that old time television!

Television can be both blessing and curse for storytelling. The blessing is the longer form that allows for more involved stories. The curse is a narrative beholden to episodic structure and uncertain series endings. Although anthologies forego the blessing, they easily avoid the curse with their fun-sized approach storytelling. The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery are some of the earliest and best examples of television storytelling, and they often live squarely in the genre of horror. So to start out a week of television recommendations, here are a couple of specific episodes we recommend.

After the jump, do not attempt to adjust your web browser Continue reading →

Make Games Scare Again: zigging instead of zagging

What number are we on for Resident Evil games? How many Friday the Thirteenths are there? The thrill of a good scare is something we intellectually know can’t be repeated, even though we never stop going back to the well. But the scares we know too well aren’t scares anymore. They’re horror comfort food. We can almost guess which crew member is the first to be Xenomorph meal. We know which couple gets the chainsaw first. We know the monster is going to be some CG boondoggle. We know when the refrigerator or medicine cabinet closes, something will be there. Ah, yes, it played out exactly like it was supposed to. Next!

After the jump, what if someone adjusts the formula? Continue reading →