Friday, September 14, 2018

Book Review: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

I know it’s a total cliché to say you just can’t put a book down, but screw it. Tremblay’s latest novel is the epitome of such a claim. Problem is, I was reading it during breaks at work, so I HAD to put it down. Gah!

I’ve been a huge fan of Tremblay since A Head Full of Ghosts (easily one of my favorite horror novels of the last ten years or so), and have been meaning to get to his back catalogue eventually, despite it not being of the same genre (I’m of the belief that authors this good generally excel at whatever genre they attempt to tackle. See Joe R. Lansdale for another example of incredible writing trumping genre). But in the meantime I’ve been moving forward. Despite it being a very different beast from AHFOG, I loved Disappearance at Devil’s Rock quite a bit, so I was rip-roaring ready for some more Tremblay to consume. Gimme gimme gimme.

I wasn’t ready for The Cabin at the End of the World.

Holy macanoli.

Allow me to give you just a quick setup, a taste if you will. A gay couple (Andrew and Eric) and their adopted Chinese daughter Wen set off to a cabin in northern New Hampshire to enjoy some alone time. Since this alone would not make for a very interesting book, naturally something has to foil their plans. And that something comes in the form of Leonard, Sabrina, Redmond, and Adriane, a group of intruders who show up feigning friendship but harboring something much darker. All signs point to cult, but something’s off. You see, these four individuals (who allegedly have never met before that morning) have all foreseen the impending apocalypse, and the only way to stop it is from coming (and it’s coming, like, really goddamned soon!) is for the happy family to choose to do something unspeakable. To share anything more would be spoiling, so I’ll leave it at that.

Tremblay employs a breakneck pacing I’ve not seen in his previous efforts, only taking a few brief breaths for reflective flashbacks, and it works well for this book. I was sufficiently stressed from the moment things turned bad until they grew much, much worse. And if you’re familiar with Tremblay’s love of ambiguity (which I also love, love, love), The Cabin at the End of the World is no different in the sense that you may think you have a handle on what happens by the time you hit the last page, but you can’t really be sure. One thing you can be sure of: this is a dark, dark book.

As is to be expected, the prose shines in a way that perfectly sates my appetite for language. To manage this while maintaining such manic energy throughout is no small feat. A brutal story, beautifully worded. As long as Tremblay keeps pumping out novels of this quality, I’ll keep shelling out my hard-earned dough.

P.S. Paul, you need to promise to come back to San Diego one day. I regret to inform you that, though you managed to personalize my book and leave a message, you never technically signed it! Haha!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Deleted Scenes from Secrets of the Weird

In honor of the one-year anniversary of the release of Secrets of the Weird, I thought it might be fun to post a couple of brief deleted scenes from the book. Enjoy...

Deleted Scene #1:

This would have taken place right at the beginning of Chapter Fourteen, just before Civilized Cannibals played their show at Club Club. In this brief exchange between Mace Akers and Steve London, there's some fun dialogue and setting description, but ultimately it was just slowing down the chapter as a whole, so away it went.

     Steve London inched his way toward Club Club’s infamously grotesque restroom. He looked like an animated skeleton doing the graveyard boogie. Frail old stickers and flyers on the Wheat Paste Wall attempted to escape from their positions. The pathway leading from the main hall of the club to the restroom was stickier than a rug weaved with freshly chewed gum. A few thoughtful and inspirational graffiti statements tattooed the restroom’s outer door:
      A strident flush roared behind the door, as if the whole city was about to be sucked into the Earth’s toilet. Moments later, Mace Akers burst through the door like a firefighter on the way to save a kitten. He lifted each arm and sniffed at his pits, confirmed they were acceptable for public interaction. A devious grin was smeared across his cinderblock face.
     “Is it safe to go in there?” Steve asked. Worry haunted his eyes.
     “Well,” Mace said, “it’s not my finest work, but I think you’ll still be impressed.”
     Steve froze, weighing out his options. He puffed on the remains of a clove cigarette as if it were providing him with oxygen. His pupils bounced around inside his eye sockets.
     “I used the last of the TP, too,” Mace said, already halfway across the club before Steve had a chance to make up his mind.
     “I think I can hold it just a little longer.”

Deleted Scene #2:

A very tiny cut from the fanzine interview with Civilized Cannibals. There's some funny stuff here, but I also realized Mace and Steve had already given Christopher a lot of grief about his previous relationship with Cypress, so it would have been a little redundant.

S.S.: What’s this I hear about one of you guys dating some chick from the Sweetville Hitlerjugend? Is that true?
M: Well, all I’m saying is that it wasn’t me. Not saying that I wouldn’t partake, just that I didn’t.
S: Not it.
M: Posi swazi.
C: Shut up. Okay...shit. That’s done and done, all right?
M: Sure it is.
C: Come on...can’t a guy make one stupid mistake in his life? Let’s just get this clear: I don’t agree in any shape or form with her politics. Never did and never will. I thought she had a couple of good qualities—
M: I bet I know just what those two wonderful qualities are. Tune in Tokyo!

C: Shut it. Basically, I was hoping she’d grow out of it. Didn’t happen. The past is just that. Let’s move on.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Short Story Coming Soon in a New Anthology

My short story "The Fabulous and Tormented Life of a Serial Extra" will be released this August in an awesome anthology from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. You can pre-order the book here:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Living Writers Series Reading at SDSU

I'm very excited to announce I've been invited to appear as part of the SDSU Living Writers series this semester. I'll be reading from Secrets of the Weird, and there will be copies of the book available for sale, as well as copies of the limited Civilized Cannibals tape (starting to run low on these tapes, and when they're gone they're gone). 

As a bonus, this event falls on the evening of my birthday! All the info is in the flyer. Come check it out if you can.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book Review: Lovebites & Razorlines by J. Daniel Stone

On some level, I feel I’ve found a kindred spirit in J. Daniel Stone. I’d previously only read his (awesome) story in I Can Taste the Blood, which offered hints of Barker without resorting to pastiche, and now I’m finally getting around to reading more of his work. Thankfully, Stone is no one-hit wonder.

At the risk of making this seem like the All About Me Show, allow me to begin this review by touching on why I relate to Stone’s approach to dark fiction before I dive in and speak a little more specifically about his work. We clearly have at least a few of the same literary influences (especially the aforementioned Barker, as well as Poppy Z. Brite), and we both cannot resist incorporating the music we love into the fiction we give birth to. However, we use these influences in such distinct and different ways that the similarities are only enough to make a personal connection (which is cool in my book).

Oh, and get this—Stone has a character named Dorian Wilde. I have a character named Dorian Wylde. Methinks we are officially two sides of the same subversive coin. Either that or we share a very unhealthy brain.

Stone’s short stories reek of the streets of New York (though not always) as well as what goes on beneath those streets and in the cracks between, and they frequently (again, not always) delve into queer themes and/or use queer characters. And these characters, whether they are gay, straight, or somewhere in the void, are more or less all outsiders. The sorts of people who are attracted to the underground not because they are “cool” or attempting to be, but because they have no choice but to be there. They simply don’t belong anywhere else. The true misfits and freaks of the universe. Many of the stories in this collection reuse characters from his novels Blood Kiss and The Absence of Light and are intended to be companion stories to those books. I can’t help but feel that, though all of these particular stories were well written and interesting, they would have resonated with me a bit more had I been familiar with the novels. That said, one of my favorite stories in the book fell into the appendage story category (“The Tunnel Record”). Really awesome stuff that is essentially Stone’s personal stamp on C.H.U.D.s. I mean, really, how much more New York can you get than that?

The title story is definitely one of the standouts, a somewhat disgusting tale about a disturbed young man with a Frankenstein complex whose idea to make his own undead patchwork monster does not go quite as planned. My favorite, however, would probably be the closing story, “Ecdysis,” which involves a transformation that goes far beyond the limits of mere gender. But I feel the favorites might become fluid over time. This is the type of collection that if you like one story, chances are you’ll dig the rest. They maintain a fairly consistent tone, with a lyrical command of language that rarely wavers. Often sad, frequently strange, always so, so dark.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Winner of Best Graphic Novel Script at the Silver Scream Festival

I'm very excited to announce that I was the winner of Best Graphic Novel Script at the Silver Scream Festival this year! American Gothic Press will be publishing my 3-issue comic series Hag. Can't wait for this to come to fruition. More info as it develops...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Book Review: The Wish Mechanics by Daniel Braum

I’ve sung the praises of Daniel Braum’s work enough both in person and on this blog at this point that some of my sentiments might come off a bit redundant here, but I’m not stopping until many, many more people convert to the Church of Braum. If you’ve yet to read my thoughts on the genius work of a writer who deserves to be far more well known than he is, this review will hopefully serve as a suitable introduction.

The Wish Mechanics is Braum’s second full collection of short fiction (his first being The Night Marchers). Unless, of course, you count the much shorter collection Yeti. Tiger. Dragon., which only features three stories. I’ve read enough of Braum’s work at this point that I’m guaranteed two things when opening one of his books: 1. I know what to expect & 2. I honestly have no idea what to expect.

Allow me to clarify. My first statement is regarding consistency of style. Some writers are chameleons, deciding their prose should take multiple forms depending on the story’s needs (I count myself as a member of this particular group). Others maintain a strong, steady voice so invariable it leaves you breathless at the ability to accomplish such a feat. Now, I don’t think one approach is necessarily better than the other, but Braum falls firmly in the second camp, and it works as nothing less than a major strength in his case. As for comment #2, despite having a pretty good idea of how Braum’s words will appear on the page (or how they will sound if read aloud), I never know where those words are going to take me. It is this combination that makes Braum a true visionary of modern fiction.

The quality of the stories never wavers, regardless if Braum is attempting magical realism (“Tea in the Sahara”), introspective horror (“Tetsuya and the Ranagareet”), science fiction (“Resolution Seventeen”), or whatever else he chooses to write. His stories are always threatening to transcend genre, skirting around the hallmarks one might expect and instead opting for an emotional rawness that cannot quite be described. Sometimes the tales are deceptively normal, then take a turn for the weird when you least expect it (“This Is the Sound of Your Dreams Dying”). There is always something not-quite-right going on, almost Twilight Zone-esque, but looking toward the future. In fact, I’d love to see one (or more) of Braum’s stories adapted into a Black Mirror episode (the title story, for instance, might be an especially great fit).

In this collection, Braum’s writing is (as always) earnest, poignant, dark, and moving. If you’re a fan of literary fiction that operates on a fantastical level, I can’t think of another living writer who pulls it off with greater finesse than Daniel Braum.