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You might think it’s all about self-promotion, but I think you’re wrong. Of course, I could be wrong about THAT, but, you know… it’s like they say in my hometown: “hard tellin’, no knowin’.”

Here’s what I think, in case it matters and has a chance of being convincing: writing is, at the end of the day, a social activity. As far as I know, it was Dean Koontz who first put the thought in my head that no writer, however bleak the tales they tell, is a pessimist. What an inspired observation. I think it’s true. If you’re writing, you’re trying to talk to an audience. You’re trying to take something from your own head and make it glittery enough for someone else to look at it and think, “Cool!” or “That’s sad!” or “Jesus, Grandpa, what’d you READ me this for??” Yet still, any act of communication is fundamentally a hopeful one.

When I’m writing, I’m thinking, always, about conveying something to other people. So is it really any wonder at all that I overdo it with the Facebooking and the Twittering the more I write?

I say no. I say (cuz I like to SAY!) that it’s only natural. I’m TRYING to speak to you with every word I write. How is that any different from the urge that guides all of us to our social media accounts?

Vaguely apropos aside: Roger Ebert had one of the best Twitter feeds I ever had the pleasure of following. I suspect there’s a really good reason for that.

Anyway, still — I apologize. I know I post too much when I’m actually working hard. Even my wife says that if she wasn’t married to me, she’d probably unfollow me (HARSH!). I don’t blame her.

Just thought I’d offer a tiny bit of a self-defense.

There are a lot of genres out there currently vying for the honor of Most Overdone Genre Ever. Sure, you got your zombies, your vampires, your teenage girl caught betwixt two adoring suitors. Yet there is one genre that, for me at least, stands far above any of these.

My last post was about how the Alien franchise lost its way when it changed Ripley from an ordinary, strong woman into a mythological hero. What I failed to do in that post was fully convey my total exhaustion with plots centered around the mythological superhero, commonly referred to as … “The One.” It is this genre of story that bores me more than all the others combined.

I am so sick of all these goddamned special heroes. These stories positively reek of American exceptionalism — egocentric, megalomaniacal bullshit!

Please. Please. For the love of all things, can we just stop it with this crap? I mean, okay, I’ll grant you — The Matrix was a great hero’s journey. But I think everyone, on some level, knows why the sequels didn’t work. It was because NEO — hamfisted anagram that he is — is a total freaking bore once he realizes he’s basically Computer Jesus. There’s no reason for any conflict anywhere after the first film. To pretend that that story ends in FISTICUFFS!?! Seriously?

But hey, okay, maybe you want to cite Star Wars as an example of a great myth, rousingly told, and point out that no one’s more special than the Skywalker clan. Sure. You could do that. But it’s not true. Until the prequels, there wasn’t anything truly intrinsic to Luke Skywalker himself that an ordinary person couldn’t hope to achieve as well (especially if you stick with the original film, which was really just the simple story of a farmboy doing WAAAAAAAY better than anyone thought he would). The Force used to be democratic. Then it became hereditary. Wasn’t it more fun when it could’ve been you using the Force to make that shot?

It was for me. Cuz the doc tells me my midichlorian count … too low! Sigh. Now I’ll never achieve my Jedi dreams!

To paraphrase a George R. R. Martin line, I have a deep affection for cripples, bastards, and broken things. Even Orson Scott Card’s military genius Ender Wiggin was hobbled by his youth (and the bloodthirsty jealousy of his peers), and Card re-upped to an even bolder degree with the parallel story Ender’s Shadow, detailed from the perspective of the even more frail Bean. Sure, Ender and Bean were both examples of characters exhibiting vast traces of one-itis, but they were still overwhelmed enough to bring the story back into a more naturally dramatic state. Hell, even freaking Beowulf is basically the story of a really old man, who inadvisably goes out to fight once more after having listened to Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” one too many times.

Yet still, I feel like a lot of these are examples of characters that want to have it both ways — they want to play the overwhelmed overdog, and that shit is just getting as bone-achingly tired as any of your old-timey Scandinavian heroes.

The deluge of characters who either discover or start as part of some exemplary race or group of “specials” disturbs the living shit out of me. Doesn’t it smack of a distasteful love of supremacy? Isn’t there anyone out there who wants to write about ordinary people facing overwhelming problems? Isn’t that more the ordinary state of regular humans? What in the name of holy fuck is with this unrelenting trend of superheroes? There’s a reason I relate to Ripley in the first two Alien films and don’t relate to her as much (or at all) in the sequels. There’s a reason Tyrion — the dwarf without any real hope of defending himself unless he can convince someone else to take up a sword on his behalf in most situations — is my favorite character in Game of Thrones. 

They’re freaking normal. They’re not “the One!” They’re a whole lot like you and me.

So the next time you find yourself out there thinking how to make your character cool and extraordinary … maybe just go the crazy route.

Maybe just make them fucking normal.

 

As the release of the upcoming video game Alien: Isolation creeps slowly closer, I find myself loving everything the developers say about the project: they want to stay true to the original Alien film (in my opinion, still the best) and focus on horror over action, period detail over fancy sci-fi wizardry. A recent dev diary even detailed how they were running the video game footage through mangled VHS tapes to make it more authentic.

I’m pretty sure the results will be right up my alley. Even if something preposterous happens and the game turns out not very good, I applaud the team for their perfect intentions.

Like nearly all the video games ever made based in the Alien universe, a lot has been lost along the way since 1979. Recently, I read a great post on Tor.com about the difference between the original Die Hard and most current superhero / Hollywood tentpole blockbuster action-fests. Basically, the point boils down to the difference between fairy tales and myths. In myths, your hero is special, ordained with gifts other mere mortals do not have. In fairy tales, the characters are ordinary, and their fates are often grimmer. As I grow increasingly impatient with the onslaught of “the One”-style stories, I’ve come to realize that my sensibilities — and the reason I like the horror genre above all others — is that I find fairy tales far more compelling.

As the writer states: “… Myths are badass. Fairy tales are hard core.”

Which brings me back to my favorite film of all time: Ridley Scott’s original Alien film. Since the rise of the franchise, it’s become as much the myth of Ellen Ripley as it has been a series of encounters with Xenomorphs. And that’s exactly where it went wrong.

In the first film (if you can forget the arc of the sequels) you might notice a curious thing: for all intents and purposes, Tom Skerritt’s Captain Dallas is the protagonist of the movie. Ripley becomes the main character only as the others die off, but it’s in no way obvious that it’s her movie in the beginning. Dallas talks to Mother first. Dallas has the final say in key decisions while he’s around to do so. Ripley, the science officer, has her authority questioned by nearly every single character. She’s not “the One”; she’s just the one who lives.

Even in James Cameron’s excellent, world-and-myhos-expanding sequel, she was not without significant vulnerabilities. She most certainly was not a badass soldier; she did her best to contribute and earn the respect of the crew, where and how she could. It’s this vulnerability that makes her so compelling in the first two films, and it’s this vulnerability that she in rather literal terms loses from the third film on.

It all hinges on that moment in Alien 3 when the alien snarls right next to her face … and backs away. That’s the moment when Ripley ceases to be an average person in a series of horrible situations that require everything she has to survive and becomes a queen. She becomes “the One” — the one human with a vaguely mystical connection to the alien. In a lot of ways, the aliens respond to her as Hannibal Lecter responds to Clarice Starling, in seeming suggestion that she alone “gets it” and “is worthy” … of whatever.

Which is only born out further by her Jesus Christ-style resurrection in … oh yeah: Alien: Resurrection. First the Christ pose as she falls into the fire in Alien 3, next the rise from the darkness in Resurrection. And that’s where the franchise died. It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, really, when Prometheus proved a full-on religious revenge story about some overgrown zealots beating humanity in the face for murdering their Space Jesus two thousand years ago. Only thing worse than making Ripley a mythic figure was making everyone on Earth a mythic figure, directly tied to the Engineers and the creation of the alien itself.

Ridley Scott has said that when he made Alien, it was in part a response to the glossiness of a lot of sci-fi he’d been watching at the time. He wanted the crew to feel like “truckers in space.” Bravo. It felt like it. It felt like these were people no one — not even their employer — truly gave two shits about. They weren’t as interesting or as important as the thing they’d found that was killing them off. Their lives were cheap.

No one on the Nostromo was “the One.” No one was even in the running.

And man did that ever make that film work!

Somehow, Prometheus made the alien seem entirely too close to home. All the great atmosphere created by the silence of the Nostromo in the beginning of Alien, the foreign quality to everything they encountered, and the sheer sense of isolation — all of that was forgotten by the closing credits of Prometheus, as the myths squashed the last remnants of the franchise’s fairy tale origins.

So color me heartened by the title of Alien: Isolation. I’m looking forward to agonizing over the vulnerability of the protagonist.

I’m looking forward to returning again to the roots of a story that started with average people, in overwhelmingly terrible situations.

I’m looking forward to another fairy tale.

Sooo … I was re-watching The Sopranos tonight. I’m on Season 3 of my RIP-James-Gandolfini memorial viewing. The show continues to hold up, it’s still outstanding over a decade later, and two things occur to me: James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano is one of the best characters ever, and Meadow Soprano is wrong when she drops the popular interpretation that Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is about death.

Sure, sure. It’s about a man thinking about sleep and woods and darkness and solitude and snow. Yep. I’m with you there. But suicide and death?

Here. Read the poem again with me. Done? Ok, cool.

So I’m guessing that a lot is made out of a couple ideas here. “The darkest evening of the year” turns into a line about the narrator’s depression. “Miles to go before I sleep” is ambiguous, given that he might well be walking straight off into the woods to die of hypothermia. “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep” could well be a man talking about his lust for sleepy death. Sure. Could be.

But really? I don’t buy it. I blame it on the harness bells.

The horse is harnessed and represents the forward march of obligations, of continuing on with the things one is doing. The owner of these fields lives in some village, presumably a place of more activity and hustle and bustle. Frost’s snowy woods are somewhere removed from all that, and the narrator gets off the horse and pauses for a moment to stop and smell the snowflakes.

He also doesn’t appear to be a man who’s done with life, as there is a palpable sense that he loves this world he’s looking at. There’s a celebration here–not of the village or the harnessed lifestyle, but the one where someone might just stop and enjoy nature for a moment.

The repetition of the “miles to go” before the narrator sleeps seems to me the sad acknowledgment that he has obligations left undone. Work still needs to be done. He’s not home yet. His day isn’t done yet. And it’s already incredibly late.

Tired? Yes. Suicidal? C’mon.

Now Philip Larkin’s “High Windows” — THAT’s a poem that’s secretly about suicide! Tell me — how do you go down a long slide from a high window, huh?

See what I’m saying?

(It’s okay. The college poetry professors didn’t buy that read, either. But what do they know.)

But speaking of miles to go, it would seem I’m procrastinating.

Stopping by blogs on a summer evening, with methods to code before I sleep.

Preface

The following is a slightly modified version of a piece I wrote up for an MFA class that was kind enough to want to talk to me about my self-publishing adventures. I’d been meaning to write a blog post along these lines for a while, so I’m glad I finally had an excuse to get these thoughts written up. I present them with all appropriate disclaimers: these are merely my thoughts and opinions, based on my subjective experience, and they may prove only that I didn’t know anything at all about self-publishing. Yet in the hopes that they are helpful for others, here they are.

 

I. What I Got From Self-Publishing

The language around the growing number of powerful self-publishing options strikes me as either far too apocalyptic or annoyingly evangelical. Readers are too savvy not to notice signs of mediocrity, and becoming a bestselling author is just as much of an uncommon event for a self-published writer as it is for one traditionally published.

Yet still! Attending a writers’ meet-up recently in New York, I heard a self-published author say things like, “Put your book on Amazon, get ten friends to give it positive reviews, and guess what? Magic happens. Your work starts selling.” She claimed her chick-lit book was earning her thousands of dollars a month. It felt like we were being told there was gold in them thar hills.

Advice from lottery winners about the ease of winning the lottery may not prove accurate on a larger scale.

Of course, it’s also true that my experiences may be equally unusual. Certainly for some writers, like Amanda Hocking and E L James, the vein was rich indeed. I likewise have no doubt that David Mamet and Stephen King and any other already-known name will make trainloads of money on the ebook market. But not everyone found the Colorado Lode when they went west, and not everyone will become a self-publishing success story. I’ve made under two hundred dollars during the last nineteen months of my self-publishing life, which is better than nothing (I will most certainly take it!), but nowhere near life changing.

Magic, alas, did not happen for me.

Honestly, though, if you’re in this for the money (whether from traditional or independent publishing), you’re probably in the wrong business. Get into finance. Learn to code iPhone apps. Open a business and buy for a dollar and sell for two. Anything else, really. Just don’t be a writer. Most writers I know suffer a lot and earn not that much.

What I did get from self-publishing was the energy to write again. I dumped all my old stories that had been rejected for years and years (that I still for whatever reason adored enough not to throw out) into a collection and hit the publish button. It cleared the table. After that, I had nothing to do but write new stuff. And I won’t lie: having self-publishing as a fallback measure makes me feel safe. Whatever I write, I can publish.

I also got a piece of fan mail. It was the first and only one I’ve ever received, but what a moment. We’ve since become good friends, and that’s definitely the single best thing that’s happened as a result of my decision to self-publish.

But who cares about all this preamble. Everyone has a chance to win the lottery. So say you want to give it a shot.  Here are a few things that I’ve learned from my experience.

 

II. What You Might Want to Pay For and What You Might Not

Be suspicious of anything that costs you money. This especially applies to anyone who wants to print your book or format it. DO NOT PAY THESE PEOPLE! With a little effort, there’s no reason you can’t do most of the formatting yourself.

Also do not do what I did and pay for things like:

* ISBNS: I bought ten of them. Used two when I didn’t have to. Now they sit there. Need some?

* Banner ads on websites, or ads anywhere: Guaranteed to not get you the exposure or generate the revenue you’re looking for.

* Too many proof copies: A silly mistake I made, but I was excited. I ordered a box of improperly formatted books. The truth is that you should use the online tools well, and only order one proof copy at a time, because you will make mistakes and no one really wants the broken books.

Also, I never paid for any reviews, nor do I think buying one from a place like Kirkus is a good idea. It costs more than you’re likely to earn, and I’ve read too many stories about people who paid for them and saw no increase in revenue. You’d do better to give your $5K to charity.

What I would pay for, if I could afford it:

* Professional cover art: By far, one of the most important things you can have is a great cover. I don’t. Not really. And guess what? My books don’t sell.

* Proofreading / Editing: It’s so expensive, but it might be worth it. I didn’t go down this road, but a lot of others have. Nothing beats a good editorial eye. Personally, I didn’t have the money to pay for an editor (or anything else, for that matter), so I adopted a practice of reading every story aloud until I could get through it twice without changing a word. I also recorded these readings, so I could listen to the stories on my daily commute. I caught a lot of mistakes, and every time I did, I realized how fallible I really and truly am. Good editors are the stuff of dreams. Someday, I hope to have one.

* Writing classes and books: The best investments you could ever make.

 

III. How to Do the Technical Stuff

All ebooks are essentially stripped-down HTML–the cleaner the better. Basically, my process for converting a document to an ebook is to write it in Word, save it as a Web page, open it in Calibre (free ebook conversion software that I’ll provide a link to), and convert it into an epub that I upload wherever I need to.

Where it gets tricky is if things go wrong in the conversion process. Usually, this happens due to some garbage Word throws in there. So if you’re really having trouble, I’d suggest formatting your book or story as a basic webpage (using Notepad or some other basic text editor that won’t throw in a lot of crap formatting), using the following formatting:

Start with basic HTML.

<html>

<head></head>

<body>

<h1>Wrap chapter titles in header tags, like the ones here.</h1>

<p>Wrap all paragraphs in paragraph tags, like the ones wrapping this line.</p>

<p>Some more fanciness: <strong>Put any bold words in strong tags.</strong> and <em>any italicized words in em tags.</em></p>

<p>After you have your document formatted like this, close out the html.</p>

</body>

</html>

That’s all you need to do to format a document properly. From here, Calibre should be able to do the rest for you, whether you need your document converted to a .mobi file for Kindle, or an .epub for just about everyone else. (And for what it’s worth, I always had more success uploading epubs to Kindle rather than .mobi files, which is sort of funny.)

Calibre allows you to attach a cover image to your book, as well as tweaking some basic information about it (though don’t get worried about this, as I don’t know if any of the other publishing platforms take the information Calibre puts in there seriously).

In Calibre, my process is generally to convert to epub, but I set a couple of special options.

* Structure Detection: In this window, I enter the following in the field that reads “Insert page breaks before (XPath expression)”:

//h:*h1

What this does is create a section break before any of those chapter title tags I recommended earlier that can be interpreted by the table of contents auto-generator. This makes for easier navigation on an e-reader.

* Table of Contents: To complete the process, check the box under this window for ‘Force Use of Auto-Generated Table of Contents’

And that’s really all I do. I encourage you to play around, experiment, and test! Calibre comes with a mock ebook reader, which is okay, but almost all the platforms have some kind of previewing mechanism, which I encourage you to download and use.

One last tip: If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of an ebook, download a free one without any copyright protection on it, open it in Calibre, right click and choose ‘Tweak eBook.’ From there, click the button to ‘Explode Book’ (a delightful option), and you will be able to browse all the little bits and pieces that make up a valid ebook.

 

IV. Resources & Links

Calibre – http://calibre-ebook.com The single best tool for converting almost every kind of document to any other kind of document. A must for anyone turning things into ebooks.

FlightCrew – https://code.google.com/p/flightcrew The epub validator I use, however you can find and experiment with a number of them online. Just don’t pay for one.

Createspace – https://www.createspace.com My choice for creating a physical book to sell on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and for just getting a cheap copy printed for yourself!). There’s no minimum number to buy, and a paperback copy of your book (designed by you!) will remain permanently in stock all over the place without you needing to spend a dime. I cannot stress enough how absolutely cool print on demand services like this really are. CreateSpace is affiliated with Amazon, so linking your ebook to your paperback is a piece of cake.

Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com – A great overall site, which I don’t use. I might, someday, just to reach a few more markets. I like their coupon-generation ability, and their royalty rates can sometimes be higher, however exposing your book to Amazon through them is a bit trickier than I think it should be. Be sure to read their ‘Secrets eBook,’ which contains excellent tips on the self-publishing game – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/145431

Lulu – http://www.lulu.com A decent clone of Smashwords, if for some reason you don’t like Smashwords.

Kindle Direct Program – https://kdp.amazon.com Amazon’s self-publishing portal. Easy to use, tricky to truly master, but Amazon is certainly where the bulk of my sales have been. It’s accounted for 99% of my sales. So if you’re going to self-publish, don’t ignore them.

iTunes Connect – https://itunesconnect.apple.com/WebObjects/iTunesConnect.woa The portal to publishing your book on Apple’s iBookstore, where I’ve made the least amount of money.

Nook Press – https://www.nookpress.com The portal to selling your work on Barnes and Noble’s website.

Duotrope – https://duotrope.com For people looking to go the traditional route, or find the perfect little niche market to sell a reprint of a story they’ve self-published, this site (which requires a bit of money but is worth every penny) is one I’ve found indispensable. A rich database of markets and their response times, Duotrope puts anything I ever saw from Writer’s Market to complete shame. Thanks to this site, I usually have anywhere from 3-12 pieces out for rejection at any given time, and I’ve made a personal pledge to myself to never again let the number of responses outnumber the number of submissions I have in the wind.

 

V. About Amazon & Pricing Strategies

Amazon likes to push you into a little exclusivity agreement. The sales pitch is that Amazon users can read your book as part of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, and that any copies borrowed in such a way will earn you a portion of a monthly pot of gold (usually somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 dollars). It does end up being a little more than you’d usually make on the 35/70% royalty, and it seems better for Kindle owners, who don’t have to pay for your book. You also get five days every ninety days you’re in the program to offer your book free of charge to Amazon customers, which can generate a lot of exposure.

The catch is that you can’t sell your book anywhere else.

In the end, I guess I’ve made so little from the other markets that it shouldn’t bother me to only sell through Amazon.

But it does. It’s the principle of the thing. Exclusivity rubs me the wrong way. I don’t like any organization that seeks to limit the audience for a book. Sure, Borders or Barnes and Noble would no doubt sell more copies of a book than Book Marcs (an old bookstore I spent a lot of time in), but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to let Book Marcs stock it.

Of course, Barnes and Noble have aligned themselves on the side of exclusivity in the self-publishing wars, as well, stating in the past that they wouldn’t stock any physical copies of books produced by Amazon.

I hate it all.

As for my favorite part — the five days you can give you book away to customers — you can get that without going exclusive. Simply do what I did and offer it for free somewhere else, like Barnes and Noble or iTunes. Amazon will figure out you’ve set a lower price somewhere, and they’ll start giving your book away to everyone under their “Free Price Match Guarantee” until you change your anti-capitalist ways.

I gave my book away for several months, until it occurred to me that people would have almost zero inclination to read a book they picked up for free. So now I charge $.99, which makes me look only slightly more reputable.

Pricing your book is a gentle art, which you should play around with. Experiment. Track sales. Change it up or down, and never assume the answer to greater sales is to cut the price. Sometimes, a higher price signifies better quality, and the Amazon $.99 bin starts looking like a garbage can, or just another pile of ignorable slush.

Which for the most part is exactly what it is.

 

VI. How to Promote Your Book (i.e., Social Networking is a Waste of Time, and read something other than this primer)

Twitter and Facebook are not the tools you should use to market your book. They do not work, and hounding your followers or your friends will get you LESS attention, rather than more. So forget about it.

I also have limited faith in the power of a blog. Also, shouldn’t you focus on writing stories rather than blog posts, anyway? [asked the writer, in a post on his blog.]

Promote your book by giving it a good title that accurately describes what it’s about, a great cover that conveys the tone and looks professional, and a carefully crafted description that makes people want to read your book and is coded with words important for search engine optimization.

Yeah. And I have no idea how to do this part of it. I’m terrible at it. Instead, I’m going to point you to a book I read that convinced me I was doing everything wrong:

http://www.amazon.com/Blogging-Facebook-Guerilla-Marketers-ebook/dp/B007XVWEIU

It’s a good book that I should read again and do a better job of learning from, and it supports some of the more contentious points I’ve made in this primer, which I hope you’ve found useful.

That said …

 

VII. A Special Offer for Everyone (While My Time Lasts)

Even with all these resources, I often ran up against challenges (often with the technical, idiosyncratic formatting issues that prevented the book being listed with iTunes). Luckily, I have a background as an Internet applications developer, so I was able to troubleshoot. The solutions were often simple tricks, easy to implement if you know how, and I encourage you to at least try to learn how to do it yourself before paying someone hundreds of dollars to do something that only takes a few minutes.

For that reason, I’d like to offer myself as a resource if any of you have technical trouble self-publishing ebook versions of your stories. Please, don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail with any and all questions, technical or otherwise, at daukherville [at] gmail [dot] com, or ask a question in the comments below. I might not have a good answer for everything, but I’m more than happy to share everything I do know.

And good luck out there! I hope you become hugely successful writers–self-published or otherwise.

Give ’em hell.

The Universe is a saucy little minx. The Universe knows how to mix it up, send a message, take names, make a list, and spike a drink.

The Universe has all the time it needs. The Universe doesn’t mind telling you what your problem is. The Universe doesn’t know why you’re always in such a goddamn hurry. 

The Universe has a substance abuse problem.

The Universe doen’t give a fuck.

But The Universe cares.

The Universe laughs at its own jokes. Every time!

The Universe looks at itself with your eyes, touches itself with your hands, smells its neighbor’s ass with your neighbor’s neighbor’s dog’s nose, tastes itself with an old man’s tongue, and listens to itself even with the ears of the deaf.

The Universe already knows when you’re going to die.

The Universe is going to win, it’s going to lose, and it’s going to be here after all your teams are finished playing all their games and all the people who remember those games have decomposing brains.

The Universe values that bag in the wastebasket beside you just as much as it values the emergence of multicellular lifeforms.

If the Universe continues into the future without you, does it still exist? Do you?

The Universe leased you a few cells, and you’re behind on your payments. The repo man is looking for you.

The Universe pays you a per diem from a wallet stuffed full of what happens next. Layoffs are coming soon.

After this weekend’s burial of another black youth shot for no good reason (he was in the back seat of a car playing music some white asshole thought was too loud before opening fire and claiming he felt threatened), maybe it’s time Florida re-branded their “Stand Your Ground” Law. Might be time for a name change, face-lift … something.

Here are my suggestions for new, more accurate names.

What “Stand Your Ground” Really Means

Dearest hand-wringers,

What’s the matter, somebody spook you? A filmmaker give you one too many jump scares? There, there.

It’s pretty unfair you have to watch movies you don’t like as part of your job. But go ahead and cry it out and write your pained columns. Everyone likes to complain about the parts of his or her job she or he hates the most. Of course, plumbers sometimes have to clean septic tanks, and you don’t see them crying to the heavens, wondering why the government has allowed septic tanks to be placed in backyards across the land, but let’s face it — they’re heroes. If I ever found myself trying to fix a septic tank, I would definitely cry, climb out of my beshitted situation, thwap my wet brown gloves to the ground, and tell whatever homeowners there were to just move to a city already and be a more eco-responsible (before writing to my representative to outlaw rural life entirely).

I’ve been reading a lot about why horror is a bad thing and about how Paranormal Activity 4 is terrible and awful and pointless.

I’m not a weatherman, but I’m pretty sure the general quality of Paranormal Activity 4 was forecast by its three predecessors, but I get your point. I see what you’re saying. How could you have known really? Also, average kitchen life should only be reported with such dry realism in French New Wave films. Nevermind that the rhythms of this particular franchise fly in the face of the frenetic splatter of the Saw franchise, as well as general assumptions about audience attention spans in general.

Kids, these days! They like … all sorts of stuff. So hard to pin them done so we can make a consistent criticism, so just … waaaaaaah.

But you didn’t want to go. I know. The voices at work made you do it–the voices of your bosses.

In other news, you wanna know what I did today? I don’t like spicy peppers–hate ’em, they give me all sorts of stomach trouble. But today I said heck with it, Subway’s offering jalapeños so I will have them load my sandwich with jalapeños. Man, did I not like it. So I yelled at the sandwich guy. I asked him, “Why do you have this shit here? This shit ruins sandwiches! What kind of crazy organization is this?!” And I threw the rest of that footlong right in his face. I don’t know what the world’s coming to, where people like to put shit in sandwiches that just makes them painful to eat. It’s abusive.

Then I went home and turned on Fox News. I don’t know why. It made me feel ill, watching that crap after all that spicy food, so I went out to Navy Pier and bought a ticket on the Wave Swing ride. My vomit went in all sorts of directions. Why do people let obviously ill people ride such things? I’ll never know. I made the guy I puked on give me a refund. What a jerk he was to let me on without a warning. I mean, he did warn me; he asked me if I was feeling well, but he shouldn’t have operated it to begin with, me being in the state I was in.

I had to chew a habañero just to get the taste of vomit out of my mouth. You realize how hot those things are?! Man! And they sell them in the supermarkets with NO WARNING!

I had a kid once, but I didn’t know really what it was going to be like, having it for a whole week, so I left it by the side of the road. I hope someone picked it up. Otherwise … man. Who knows what happened to it!

Wonder if it grew up to like spicy peppers. Or if it even grew up at all.

My point is, I’m grateful you’re looking out. It’s good of you to take the role of a human public service announcement, warning us of such dangerous genres in the broadest possible terms. It’s like I wish someone had warned me from embracing rap music, or free verse poetry–some things should just be nipped in the bud before we end up haplessly stumbling into them.

Someone’s gotta watch where I’m going.

Lovingly,
Kristopher

I get asked this question a lot, and I always feel like I’m being asked why I like strangling small furry animals (I don’t actually like strangling small furry animals — I much prefer feeding them and turning them against their owners!). So, while I was listening to the Beyond the Pale radio show on my way to sit and watch Paranormal Activity 4, all the while reading a little Jack Ketchum in between everything else … I paused and tried to think for a moment what it is about all that stuff I find so compelling.

I don’t want to waste a lot of words explaining why I love what I love. Fans of romantic comedies don’t have to justify why they like pap. But horror fans are singled out; it’s a bit unfair, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever change. So fuck it. I’ll answer the question.

A large part of what I love about horror is not necessarily being scared, but rather I just fucking love being in a world that feels more like home to me than anywhere else. Being scared is part of it, though, because being scared and feeling overwhelmed by a dangerous, powerful world is also more recognizable to me than the world depicted in your average Ashton Kutcher flick.

And really — that’s it. It’s that simple for me. Sometimes the monsters are my heroes, something they’re my nightmares, but all of it feels like it’s part of a world where I came from, a world that makes sense to me.

In other words, it always feels like home.

It may not for you. And that’s cool. We’re just not from the same place, capice?