Author Talk

Horror Finally Getting Love at the Oscars 2018 – GET OUT!

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‘Get Out’: How the Oscars Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Horror

Jordan Peele’s smash is the first true horror movie in years to receive a Best Picture nomination. And it’s about damn time.

After grossing $254.6 million at the global box office, landing on numerous estimable top ten lists, and emerging as a prime awards-season player, Jordan Peele’s Get Out continued its amazing run this past Tuesday when it nabbed Academy Award nominations in four categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor (Daniel Kaluuya). That definitively confirmed its status as one of 2017’s most critically beloved films. However, it also made it something of a historical outlier, given that its one of the rare horror films to ever be recognized in those major categories—a situation stemming from the fact that, for most of the organization’s history, the Academy has exhibited a near-total disregard for that most diabolical (and durable) of genres.

First, let’s get something out of the way: Get Out is a horror film, period.

Yes, Peele’s directorial debut was nominated by the Golden Globes for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy, and yes, it does contain some humor, especially courtesy of Lil Rel Howery as Rod, the TSA agent who helps his best friend, Kaluuya’s Chris, cope with the monstrous goings-on at the suburban family home of Chris’ white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). Nonetheless, hair-splitting be damned, in virtually every respect—from premise to narrative construction to climactic revelations—Peele’s hit operates deliberately, and confidently, within traditional horror-cinema parameters. It’s a movie designed to scare first, and make one think about its attendant, intertwined racial-socioeconomic issues second.

As such, Get Out’s four nods definitely buck tradition, because over the course of its 90 years, the Academy has seen fit to celebrate only a select few horror films in its top fields. To list all the genre classics that never made it as far as Peele’s would take days, but a brief rundown would include: FrankensteinDraculaThe HauntingNight of the Living DeadThe Texas Chainsaw MassacreHalloweenThe Shining and A Nightmare on Elm Street—all of which received exactly zero total nominations from the organization, even though they comfortable reside in horror’s pantheon. The omission of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 Stephen King adaptation is an exceptionally egregious one, not only because it’s so clearly the work of a master, but because it features—nearly four decades later—one of Jack Nicholson’s most indelible big-screen performances, as axe-wielding daddy dearest Jack Torrance. (To add insult to injury, Kubrick received a Worst Director Razzie nomination for the film.)

Considering the Academy’s long-standing demographic breakdown (generally speaking, members have been old white males), one might theorize that voters have traditionally been out of touch when it came to a strain of movies often aimed at younger audiences. Or, perhaps, it’s that horror—intent on unnerving through jolts, or excessive blood and guts—has been viewed as more superficial and/or juvenile than its compatriots. Certainly, boundary-pushing exploitation cinema, as well as legions of cruddy B-movie splatterfests, have helped forward a particular opinion of horror as lowbrow, sensationalistic, and thus more about cheap thrills which are, in some fundamental way, lesser than the elevated pleasures afforded by dramas, romances, war epics and period pieces.

I would contend that such stances misunderstand the potential (and power) of the genre, but whatever the case may be—or one thinks about such reasoning—the Academy, save for naming Frederick March as Best Actor for 1931’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Rebecca Best Picture in 1940, spent many decades ignoring horror (see: Psycho). Then, in 1969, Ruth Gordon won Best Supporting actress for her turn in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. And more groundbreaking still, in 1974, the Academy bestowed a Best Picture nomination on William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, thereby conceding that the genre had achieved an undeniable level of commercial (and critical) appeal. Of course, it didn’t win that top prize, coming away with only a Best Adapted Screenplay triumph. But it was a serious step forward in terms of mainstream acknowledgment that, when done right, bumps in the night—or demonic pea soup vomit, in this instance—could have artistic value to discerning cinephiles.

In subsequent years, the Oscars occasionally conceded that great work was being done in the genre—1975’s Jaws got a Best Picture nom (but nothing for Steven Spielberg), and won for Sound, Film Editing, and Original Score; Jerry Goldsmith won Best Original Score for 1976’s The Omen; Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie received acting noms for 1976’s Carrie; Sigourney Weaver got a well-deserved Best Actress nod for 1986’s Aliens; and Kathy Bates won Best Actress for her turn as an author’s psychotic fan in 1990’s Misery. Frequently, it was the technical side that proved most fruitful for horror, as evidenced by wins for The Phantom of the Opera (1943), Alien (1979), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Aliens (1986), The Fly (1986), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Sleepy Hollow (1999), and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).

When it comes to Best Picture, though, the lineup is woefully thin: Friedkin and Spielberg’s seminal efforts are joined only by Black Swan (2010), The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991)—with the latter remaining the most feted of all horror films, and one of only three movies ever to win Best Picture, Director (Jonathan Demme), Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Actress (Jodie Foster), and Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally). Yet even then, one could make a persuasive argument that Demme’s film is more of a cat-and-mouse crime thriller than a straightforward horror film. And Black Swan’s horror credentials are up for even greater debate, given that it might be more accurately classified as a psychological thriller.

Which is another way of saying that, when the Oscars do decide to indulge their scarier side, they regularly do so with reserve, eschewing hellish nightmares in favor of ones that traverse more suspenseful terrain—hence the reason that enthusiastically received recent efforts like It Follows (2015) and The Witch (2016), both of which boast outright supernatural elements, didn’t even register come awards time. In that context, Get Out’s achievement is all the more impressive. No doubt the Academy was most enamored with Peele’s incisive (and often amusing) dissection of contemporary American racism, especially as it pertains to those who proudly claim to be liberal. But that doesn’t change the fact that, come the gala’s March 2nd telecast, moviegoers will be able to root for a Best Picture contender that hinges on dissection—and brain transplants!—of a literal sort.

Lets hope it’s the beginning of more horrific things to come.

Originally posted on https://www.thedailybeast.com/

Continue reading “Horror Finally Getting Love at the Oscars 2018 – GET OUT!”

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A Day In the Life of a Writer, Author Talk

10 QUESTIONS WITH THE TALENTED KAREN RUNGE

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Karen Runge is a name I’ve seen in the writing community many times, and was happy to learn that she has a novel published with the awesome  Grey Matter Press.  She now shares a publishing home with many cool horror writers, including one of my favorites, John F.D. Taff . I am always encouraged to see women writing horror. So, I wanted to pick Karen’s wonderfully imaginative, and disturbing brain, and find out  more about the woman the late Jack Ketchum confessed, “Karen, you scare me.”  Now, there’s a compliment.

 

 

LF: When did you write your first book?

KR: I completed my first novel-length work when I was about fifteen. Of course, it was totally terrible (!) and I’ve long since lost that manuscript. I took another stab at a novel when I was around 21, tried to get that one published, but it fell flat (it was also… pretty terrible…) and I threw it away. After that I started concentrating more on getting my name out through short stories. The first story I sold (shortly after the burning of my second book attempt) was ‘The Lighthouse’, published in the awesome Horror/Sci-Fi magazine ‘Something Wicked’, which sadly is now defunct. From there it was a steady climb up to getting my first full solo collection ‘Seven Sins’ published (Concord Free Press, 2016). My first (finally!!) full-length novel, ‘Seeing Double’, came out with Grey Matter Press last year. Took a while, but hey, I got there eventually. And no, I am nowhere near finished.

LF: As a woman, what draws you to the genre horror?

KR: I’m not sure it makes much sense to divide horror along gender lines, because horror—real horror, in the real world—is something that we all experience in some way or another in our lives. This is what makes it such a powerful art form—it doesn’t discriminate at all. I can only say that as a person, it always resonated with me as a genre that was telling the truth about the darker conditions of human nature, and their impacts on individuals as well as societies as a whole. As in, there’s no bullshit here, this is the stuff beneath every surface. That kind of exploration is important, I think, in a very fundamental way. I honestly can’t pinpoint anything female-specific that draws me to it. It’s just there.

LF: How do women react when you tell them you write horror?

KR: That depends on the woman! My poor mother, bless her, is completely baffled!! I often get the cutesy, aghast reaction from strangers, “Oh no! I could never read one of your books!” which always strikes me as borderline silly. Is there a rule somewhere that women aren’t supposed to be open to this? Women, who (again, in the real world) are subject to some truly hair-raising acts of violence, in some cases even as the norm…? And then of course the badass babes think it’s fantastic. It’s nice when people choose to be curious about it at least, and that’s a reaction I’m always grateful for when talking to non-horror fans of either gender.

LF: I so agree!

LF: I’m going to ask this question because I’ve been asked this a few times and I’d love to hear your response. Why not write Romance?

KR: For me, personally, Romance has never interested me. I find it more than a little false, like a cardboard cut-out of what human relationships really entail. I read a few Romance novels as a teenager (under pressure from school-friends who wanted me to “Put Stephen King down, for god’s sake!”) and I rolled my eyes through all of those books. I don’t want to bash the genre—it’s there, it gives people a lot of joy, it wouldn’t exist without reason. But it strikes me (both personally and as an artist) as more fairytale-escapism than an actual exploration of anything. I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh—there’s nothing wrong with escapism. But for me, as a reader and a writer, I would much rather look at realities than candy-coated dreams. If we want to talk the complexities of lust and love, though, well… you can find those to greater or lesser degrees in pretty much every genre, portrayed under much more sincere terms than what is directly labelled as ‘Romance’.

LF: I couldn’t have said it better.

LF: Please tell us a little about your book, SEEING DOUBLE. Great cover by the way.

KR: Thank you! The cover art was done by Dean Samed, a really awesome visual artist. I was thrilled with it when I first got the cover reveal. It fits the novel just so perfectly. The story on the surface is about a depraved love triangle, who disconnect from any form of true empathy in order to satisfy their own desires. Beneath that, it’s an exploration of sadism and abuse and the long-term impacts these things can have on the soul, especially when combined with malicious influences. It was my attempt at capturing the Disturbo sub-genre of horror, and the thing came out to so freaking twisted I can only think of it as a fair shot!

LF: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

KR: I write piles of dark poetry (as a personal exercise, not for publication), and in that process I often find myself uncovering things I’d like to explore further through fiction. I’m also mad about music, and sound and lyrics do a lot to inspire me. Once I’ve started a story, and the plot starts fleshing out, there are always going to be themes or details that I straight-up don’t know enough about, and am going to have to research in order to write with any kind credibility. For example, for my short story ‘Exile’ (in the Double Barrel Horror series from Pint Bottle Press) I spent a good few hours researching… lawnmowers. Lucky me. All the research I’ve done over the years for various stories has already made me a little mine of totally random and (mostly) useless information. But if you’re going to talk about something then you do need to get it right, which makes those long hours worth it, even if it only appears in the finished product as one or two sentences.

LF: What does your family think of your writing?

KR: They don’t really know too much about it, to be honest. My father takes some interest, but the rest are just happy to see me doing what I love… since I guess for the most part they don’t really understand it! My older brother loves horror too though, and our shared interest has done a lot to encourage me over the years. ‘Seeing Double’ is actually dedicated to him. But he’s more a film fan than a book guy, so he’s not entirely sure what I’m up to in my own art either. And that’s okay too.

LF: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

KR: For the most part, in the aftermath, it makes me feel absolutely fantastic: super connected to myself and the world around me. A good day’s writing can put me on a high for days. Though to a degree it depends on what I’m writing, really. The heavier subject matter can be difficult to wield, juggling a ‘normal’ every day life when in the back of my mind I’m having to sift through some seriously unsettling stuff. ‘Seeing Double’, for example, was an emotional nightmare to write… but once I’d gone into it I knew I had to push through to the end. More to that point: You don’t always get to pick your stories; sometimes they choose you. But whatever journey it puts me on I love what I do, and I absolutely cannot imagine myself as anything other than a writer.

LF: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

KR: By the end of a serious day’s writing, I’ll have a very satisfying word count (we won’t talk about how much I’ll chop in edits the next day), and… a completely spotless apartment. I don’t know what goes on here, really. Writing will be going really well, I’ll hit a point, and the next thing I know I’m standing at the sink washing dishes. Or sweeping the balcony. Or doing laundry. I don’t even decide to do it necessarily… it’s like I’m aware that I need a break, but need to still in some way stay active. But all this is totally subconscious, at least for the first few minutes. It can be kinda scary. Hey, at least my home is squeaky clean!

LF: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

KR: Usually if I’m not writing, or if I’m struggling with whatever I’m currently working on, I’ll dust off my paintbrushes and get going on a visual project. Usually I’ll be listening to horror fiction podcasts like Pseudopod or The Drabblecast while I paint or draw… so it’s like ‘reading’ while working. It’s a way to switch off to a degree, while still feeding the beast. That’s honestly a very happy place for me, and I don’t give myself hell when I’m not writing. So long as I’m doing something creative, I feel like I can maybe still pass as human. Mwahaha.

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Karen Runge

 

A Day In the Life of a Writer, Author Talk

TIH Podcast:John F.D. Taff on Dialogue, Full-time Writing and Emotional Horror

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One of my favorite authors, John F.D. Taff, discusses dialogue, full-time writing and emotional horror with This Is Horror . He also gives me a shoutout, and I’m not ashamed to admit, I jumped up and down like a child.

http://www.thisishorror.co.uk/tih-115-john-f-d-taff-on-dialogue-full-time-writing-and-emotional-horror/

Dark Discourse

Graveyardshiftsisters: 5 Questions with Horror/Sci-Fi Author V. H. Galloway

From her roots in Brooklyn, New York to Austin, Texas, I.T. authorveteran and author V.H. Galloway has had a fruitful existence with plenty of tales to share. Her work crosses oceans and time in settings, demonstrating her interest in multiple cultures as well as the fantastic. Her latest horror/sci-fi hybrid, The Un-United States Of Z is a trilogy series that even for non-zombie fans has been described as “tasteful insanity” in a most delightful manner:

In a near-future Los Angeles, Dr. Zen Marley is torn between two conflicting realities: his buried southern roots and his preppy west coast professor persona. He must travel home to face the reality of his mother’s failing mental health. But he finds an aberration: a monstrous imposter wearing the rotted shell of his mother’s skin. In a twisted case of self-defense, he kills her, but not before he is also infected.

With his humanity eroding, Zen sets off on cross-country quest through a racially divided America to rescue his sister, find a cure, and stop the advance of the sentient flesh-eating army led by his highly intelligent, but psychotic former student. 

Continuing our 5 Questions series below, Galloway talks horror favorites, why race plays a significant factor in The Un-United States Of Z and important steps to becoming a successful writer.

You describe a lot of things you love to be considered “geeky”. What are some of your geeky horror favorites?

I’m embarrassed to admit exactly how many vampire movies I’ve watched. Some better than others, of course. But it wasn’t until recently that I read Bram Stoker’s classic, Dracula. Though the book was written at a time that yielded some definitive politically incorrect notions, I still very much enjoyed the book, from the journal style of the narrative to the language. And I think it was important to understand where it all began. 

Another geeky favorite is John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of  The Thing. So what if there were no Oscar worthy performances. It was good old-fashioned scary. If I flick on the TV today and see it on, I’d be totally in. Just add the popcorn. 

How much did you know, then learn along the way about genre fiction before writing your own work?

I’m a life-long reader and lover of the written word. Though I read widely, genre fiction has always been my favorite. My genre roots are steeped in science fiction and fantasy, horror coming into focus later. Like many, I’m a Stephen King fan, both of his novels and films based on his work. 

More recently, I discovered Tananarive Due and Linda Addison’s work. I’m also becoming a huge fan of writer of color, Usman Malik‘s short stories.

In The Un-United States of Z, even amidst the nationwide turmoil, the country remains “racially divided”. Why was it important for you to implement the significance of how the issue of race affects people in your story?

As much as I would wish otherwise, race matters. Social media is bringing light to just how deep the racial rabbit hole goes – for those outside the black community. For those of us who are a part of that group, it has always been an ugly part of our daily existence – whether it touched us directly, our friends, or relations. 

Reflecting this reality in my work is important because I think that its is only through ongoing dialogue that we can effect change. Now getting people to actually listen, well that’s another story all together.

Additionally, your characters are very transient in their goal to reach Los Angeles for a cure. As a transient person yourself having the experience of living in various states, did you view this narrative practice as another way to demonstrate a culturally diverse world?

I’ve lived many places and travelled a good deal. It was through these travels that I developed a sense of my own personal lens. We all have a lens through which we see the world, shaped by our experiences.

Coverage bias in the American news media became even more apparent when I visited, read, and watched the news in other countries. Cultural and societal norms often differ as much from one neighborhood to the next in the same city, as it does from state to state and country to country.

And I’m not saying that being unable to travel should restrict that lens. Reading has taken me many places (on-world and off) that I may never get a chance to visit. One need only avail themselves of your local library to experience the same. It is . . . illuminating.

What advice would you give to a Black teen-aged girl who loves and wants to make a career out of speculative storytelling?

The most important thing that I could tell anyone would be that if you desire it, and I mean really want something with all your heart, anything is possible. I think far too many children grow up hearing more about what their limitations are versus the infinite possibilities that arise with a little hard work.

As to writing specifically, it’s simple. Read widely (novels, essays, non-fiction), write, rewrite, study the craft, and repeat. 

Find more of V.H.’s work at http://vhgalloway.com/

Buy The Un-United States Of Z now!

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Book 1

Book 2

Book 3 – Coming Soon!

originally posted on Graveyardshiftsisters.com