Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stoker Season!

It's Stoker season once again! I can smell the horror in the air.

Here are this year's preliminary nominees:

(As Ms. Datlow has pointed out, the HWA members have to choose from this list before the final ballot is announced. Sorry, my mistake.)

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL

* The Guardener's Tale by Bruce Boston (Sam's Dot)
* Mr. Hands by Gary Braunbeck (Leisure)
* Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand (Small Beer Press)
* Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (William Morrow)
* Ghoul by Brian Keene (Leisure)
* The Missing by Sarah Langan (Harper)
* Dead Man's Song by Jonathan Maberry (Pinnacle)
* The Midnight Road by Tom Piccirilli (Bantam)
* The Terror by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown)
* The Dust of Wonderland by Lee Thomas (Alyson Books)

Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL

* I Will Rise by Michael Calvillo (Lachesis Publishing)
* Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (William Morrow)
* The Memory Tree by John R. Little (Nocturne Press)
* Dying to Live by Kim Paffenroth (Permuted Press)
* The Hollower by Mary SanGiovanni (Leisure Books)
* Vacation by Jeremy Shipp (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
* Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines by D. L. Snell (Permuted Press)

Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION

* "Afterward, There Will Be A Hallway" by Gary Braunbeck (Five Strokes to Midnight)
* "Almost the Last Story by Almost the Last Man" by Scott Edelman (Postscripts)
* "Survival of the Fittest" by Scott Edelman (Summer Chills)
* "You Never Got Used to the Needle" by John Everson (Needles and Sins)
* Blood Coven by Angeline Hawkes & Christopher Fulbright (Dead Letter Press)
* General Slocum's Gold by Nicholas Kaufmann (Burning Effigy Press)
* Placeholders by John R. Little (Necessary Evil Press)
* Blood Wish by Michael McBride (Delirium Books)
* Frayed by Tom Piccirilli (Creeping Hemlock Press)
* Lost in Translation by Gord Rollo (NYX Books)
* "An Apiary of White Bees" by Lee Thomas (Inferno)
* "Trolling Lures" by Steve Vernon (Hard Roads)

Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION

* "The Death Wagon Rolls On By" by C. Dean Andersson (Cemetery Dance #57)
* "The Heart Of The City" by Sandy DeLuca & Michael McCarty (Hungur #4)
* "Longtime Gone" by Kurt Dinan (Chizine #34) "Letting Go" by John Everson (Needles and Sins)
* "Hungry for the Flesh" by Lisa Manetti (Space and Time #100)
* "The Wizard of Ooze" by Michael McCarty & Linnea Quigley (Midnight Premiere)
* "Mr. Creator" by Joe McKinney (The Sound of Horror)
* "The Teacher” by Paul G. Tremblay (Chizine)
* "There's No Light Between Floors" by Paul G. Tremblay (Clarkesworld)
* "The Gentle Brush of Wings" by David Niall Wilson (Defining Moments)

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY

* Five Strokes to Midnight edited by Gary Braunbeck and Hank Schwaeble (Haunted Pelican Press)
* Horror Library Volume 2 edited by R. J. Cavender & Vincent VanAllen (Cutting Block Press)
* Inferno edited by Ellen Datlow (Tor)
* Dark Delicacies 2: Fear edited by Del Howison & Jeff Gelb (Carroll & Graf/Avalon)
* High Seas Cthulhu edited by William Jones (Elder Signs Press)
* Horrors Beyond 2 edited by William Jones (Elder Signs Press)
* Astounding Hero Tales edited by James Lowder (Hero)
* History is Dead edited by Kim Paffenroth (Permuted Press)
* Midnight Premiere edited by Tom Piccirilli (Cemetery Dance Publications)
* Gratia Placenti edited by Jason Sizemore & Gill Ainsworth (Apex Publications)

Superior Achievement in a COLLECTION

* Proverbs for Monsters by Michael A. Arnzen (Dark Regions Press)
* The Imago Sequence by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books)
* Darker Loves by James Dorr (Dark Regions Press)
* Needles and Sins by John Everson (Necro Publications)
* When it Rains and Other Wreckage by Christopher Fulbright (Doorways Publication)
* Voyeurs of Death by Shaun Jeffrey (Doorways Publication)
* No Further Messages by Brett Alexander Savory (Delirium)
* Sparks and Shadows by Lucy Snyder (HW Press)
* 5 Stories by Peter Straub (Borderlands)
* Defining Moments by David Niall Wilson (Sarob Press)

Superior Achievement in NONFICTION

* Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshue Gee (Scholastic)
* The Science of Stephen King by Lois H. Gresh and Robert Weinberg (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)
* The Portable Obituary: How the Famous, Rich, and Powerful Really Died by Michael Largo (Harper)
* The Cryptopedia: A Dictionary of the Weird, Strange & Downright Bizarre by Jonathan Maberry & David F. Kramer (Citadel Press / Kensington)
* Storytellers Unplugged by Joe Nassise and David Niall Wilson (Storytellers Unplugged/)

Superior Achievement in POETRY

* Being Full of Light, Insubstantial by Linda Addison (Space and Time)
* Mary Falls: Requiem for Mrs. Surratt by Christopher Conlon (The Word Works)
* Tango in the Ninth Circle by Corrine de Winter (Dark Regions Press)
* Heresy by Charlee Jacob (Bedlam Press [Necro Publications])
* VECTORS: A Week in the Death of a Planet by Charlee Jacob & Marge Simon (Dark Regions Press)
* Phantasmapedia by Mark McLaughlin (Dead Letter Press)
* Sometimes While Dreaming by Marcie Lynn Tentchoff (Sam's Dot)
* Your Cat & Other Space Aliens by Mary Turzillo (VanZeno Press)

My Chemical Romance Romance or, I Heart Mikey Way

I got to go to both go the the My Chemical Romance press con and concert last week (Thanks to Luis, Tony and Manila Bulletin). I have a soft spot in my heart for them, mostly because I love their music, but also partly because Gerard Way is such a geek. And I have a thing for geeks, especially if they're eyeliner-wearing ex-comic book store clerks whose current comic whose title sounds like a school for rain repellent enthusiasts is getting good reviews. Ahrm.

Anyway, even though the boys were a bit sullen during the press con (they had just come from South Korea, where the weather made them, well, under the weather), they still put on a heck of a performance during their concert at the Bonifacio Open Field.

Warning: what follows isn't a review of the concert so much as random comments on the Way brothers punctuated with drool. May contain cooties. Read at your own risk.

The concert started an hour late, but that didn't seem to faze the fans, who were standing on their seats as soon as the band went onstage. I immediately went into fourteen year-old girl mode, screaming, as Luis likes to say, like a wounded horse at everything the band did. Gerard looked dashing in a black polo shirt and black pants, his dark, slightly disheveled hair framing his face so that he looked like a fallen choir boy. Gerard Way is the sort of guy that I wish had taken me to the senior ball. Instead, I had to go with R------ P---, who was cute, but who also was an ass. I should have saved my money and gone with my girlfriend. I hear he's reformed, though. He'd better be, because I might just get assigned to review his debut album, bwahahahaha!

Back to Gerard. Gerard Way is the kind of guy I wouldn't mind being accosted by in a dark alley. In fact, I would feel highly insulted if I passed him and he didn't accost me. As hot as Gerard is, what most people (me included, until recently) don't realize that his brother, bassist Mikey Way, is way (pardon the pun) hotter. Now Mikey, he's one guy I'd like to accost in a dark alley. Ay, fafa! His problem is that he keeps hiding behind eyeliner, which detracts from his Jared Leto-esque features. He was also the only one who bothered to dress up for the concert. Luis said he probably didn't get the memo that the band wouldn't be performing in costume. In any case, he was muy guwapo from every angle. * faints * Also, whoever light-directed the concert was a real genius, because he used a lot of diffusion, which made the members (especially Gerard) look ethereal.

Goodbyes are never easy, but I stood on a chair for two hours just to hear Gerard sing the words “So long and goodnight,” from “Helena,” my absolute favorite MCR song. The band played other stuff as well, of course, with guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero, drummer Bob Bryar and some amazing guy on the piano who made me which I had paid more attention to my lessons when I was younger heated up the stage with their stellar performances. These guys are great musicians – I can't imagine any of MCR's lavish songs being easy to play, much less play well. A friend who didn't see the allure of the band once asked me what it was I found so fascinating about My Chemical Romance. I remember saying something along the lines of, “Aside from their musically complex songs, Gerard's is one of the most expressive voices I've ever heard.” Is true. Sometimes he sounds like he's ripping his throat out, all for you. And if that doesn't make you fall in love with the band, what will?

January Blues or The Horror, The Horror!

January is not an easy month for me. If I had my way, I'd still be under the covers, hiding from the world. Unfortunately, life (and sometimes nature) calls, so I have to get up and earn my keep, lest my mother decide that I would look better lounging on the concrete road outside our gate instead of on the sofa in front of the TV. Also, I have to earn my keep as the first guest editor of Philippine Genre Stories, lest Mr. Yu, my esteemed publisher, decide that a collar, Doc Martens and leftover angst from the 90's do not a horror editor make, though he might change his mind if I throw some eyeliner into the mix for good measure.

Why is it that the first month of the year is the month when so many celebrate their death anniversaries? I'm not just talking about the recent demise of heartthrobs Heath Ledger and Brad Renfro's (Why, oh why do the good ones have to go first? I've heard stories of people, upon hearing the news about Heath, ask why it wasn't Paris Hilton instead. Di pwede si Nicole Richie, buntis kasi.).

I know at least four people who died in January, one of them being my father. This is why I've spent most of December and all of January in a slump, with the worst days being the two days that lead up to my dad's death, where I try * not * to replay everything in my head. Good thing we didn't go to the cemetery this year, because I don't like cemeteries, the same way I don't like funerals, hospitals and 'true' ghost stories. All these remind me of death, and death reminds me of ghosts. And I'm very scared of ghosts.

So how did someone who readily admits to being a scaredy-cat end up writing horror fiction? Sometimes I wonder that myself. I certainly didn't start out wanting to read it (I always thought I'd be writing high fantasy, believe it or not). You could say that the genre chose me. If you will look beyond the common vampire/ werewolf/ mummy/ demon love/ resurrection/ evil dead/ giant carnivorous creature/ serial killer themes, you will realize that horror actually gives you a lot of room to work out new and interesting ideas, if you bother to look hard enough.

Not Another Vampire Story!

Part of my disdain for vampire stories is that it's very hard to come up with a fresh take on the undead. Don't get me wrong, I had a major vampire phase the same way some girls have a major pony phase. Modern vampires, thanks to people like Stoker and Rice, have changed the vampire from a repulsive half-rotten corpse to a beautiful, forever young lothario hell-bent on corrupting the equally beautiful, albeit innocent youth. How could you not fall in love with that concept? And how could you not grow out of it? As my mother says, “Good looks won't feed you.” Not even the most drop-dead gorgeous vampire in the world will stand if he doesn't have a good plot to hold him up. And a good vampire plot is hard to come by nowadays.

I would love nothing more than a vampire tale that wasn't a forbidden love or an angsty why am I here or an erotic chu-chu story. This applies to the other tropes as well. Not another forbidden werewolf/ vampire love story (Underworld doesn't count because everyone had cool names and Kate Beckinsdale was really hot). Not another double identity story. Stephen King set the pace with The Dark Half and it's a tough act to follow. And no, Rurouni Kenshin doesn't count because it's not horror. I would like to see more zombie stories, though. One of my favorites is a short film by Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, part of one of the Shake Rattle and Rolls. It involved Gina Alajar (I think) as a forlorn zombie who ate soil because she wanted to return 'home.' And of course, there is Poppy Z. Brite's Calcutta, the Lord of Nerves, which depicts the end of the world as seen in the said Indian city. Horror has many elements an author can play with. It would be a shame not to take advantage of it. Until then, I will prefer my vampires purple and with a penchant for math, my werewolves to resemble Michael J. Fox (or Richard Grieco), and Michael Jackson, black.


One of the reasons I love horror fiction is because it appeals to the lazy girl in me. You know how writing teachers tell you to write about what you know? Horror forces you to write about what you don't know. For one thing, horror fiction and film almost always deals with death and/ or madness. Sure, you have all these mad people running around. But you're not going to believe what they say, are you? They're mad, for goodness sakes! And who knows anything about death? Death isn't like a student exchange program or a job that takes you out of the country. It's a permanent separation from all things material.

Somehow, when your body stops functioning, whatever it is that makes you you and not some bag of flesh (some people call it a soul, I call it super glue) leaves and you become, well, a bag of flesh. I watched my father go from slightly living to very dead. I watched his pulse fade, watched his heart monitor flatline, watched his chest continue moving up and down, not because of his lungs, but because of the respirator attached to him. The last time I spoke to him was the night before, where I told him that I couldn't wait to see him after he got better. He didn't get better, and I haven't seen him since.

Which brings me to the point I'm trying to make: nobody, except Jesus, has come back from the dead, and even Jesus didn't leave notes on what the afterlife was like. Near-death experiences don't count, because even if those who have gone through it really * did * see the afterlife, they didn't stay long enough to make scientific inquiries. This means that you can do with death as you please, no research necessary. All you need is a lot of imagination and a lot of hours clocked in watching CSI and whatever horror film you can find. An oversimplification, I know.

There are so many imaginative and horrifying ways to kill a character. Having an alien burst out from inside a human body used to be novel, but now it's run-of-the mill. One of the freakiest thing's I've seen is the suicide scene in Uzumaki (Thanks, Charles!), where a man inserts himself in a round bathtub in an attempt to mimic the shape of the spirals that plague his town. There are also so many ways to make a character think of death as better alternative. One of the creepiest stories I've read is “The Yellow Wallpaper," where nobody dies, but you sort of wish somebody did, just so at least something would make sense. There's nothing like the story of the living to keep you up at night.

The Horror, the Horror!

What most people forget is that horror isn't a genre per se, it's a state of mind. It's a feeling, an emotion.

After my father died, I had to stay behind to watch the body as it was embalmed and prepared for the wake. I watched the embalmer lay his lifeless body on a slab, cut through his pyjamas, hose him down, and prepare to cut him open. At this point, my uncle (one of my dad's friends), who had been with me all this time, asked if I wanted to leave. I said no. Two minutes later, he asked again, and again, I declined. A few seconds later, he asked again, his voice rising slightly in fear and panic, so I finally said yes, just to calm him down. So. You don't need to be dead to inspire horror. You can be perfectly alive and just slightly off kilter and achieve the same, if not better, results.

This is why seemingly 'mainstream' films like Passion of the Christ (whose screenplay was nominated for a Stoker) and 'literary' stories like “The Lottery” are considered horror. You don't need a creature of the supernatural to scare the pants off your readers, you don't even need a serial killer. It's easy to stick a vampire or a serial killer (or in our case, a kapre or a manananggal – both of which I'm guilty of doing) in the middle of a story and call it horror. And it may be very good horror. But it takes a genius to use a shy motel owner or an entire farming village to wreak havoc on the reader's psyche. Again, Stephen King is a master of this. Though he may use things like fog and falling frogs and freaky cornsilk children to help his stories along, at the heart of it, it is still the shaking of the seeming banality of small town America that makes his stories keep you up at night.

To answer my own question: I write horror because it's got elements that draw me in, it forces me to write about subjects I do not know, and most of all, because it's fun.

Strike fear in the hearts of your friends and loved ones this Halloween. Submit a story to the Philippine Genre Stories Halloween edition!

How Did the Apostles Die?

Wala lang. A lesson on Christianity. And gruesomeness.

We all know that Jesus was crucified, and how that really, really hurt. Like, majorly. What most people don't know is that his apostles, with the exception of John, fared no better. I actually heard this as a sermon in church but was glad to get it in my e-mail as well.

Whoever said that the horror genre is the work of the devil should read up on the history of the church. Ah, another reason to wake up early on Sunday.


Matthew Suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia , killed by a sword wound.

Mark Died in Alexandria , Egypt , after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.

Luke- was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.

John Faced martyrdom when he was boiled in huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome . However, he was miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos . He wrote his prophetic
Book of Revelation on Patmos . The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve as Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey . He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.

Peter was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross. According to church tradition it was because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died.

James, Just The leader of the church in Jerusalem , was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a fuller's club.
* This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the Temptation.

James the Great , son of Zebedee, was a fisherman by trade when Jesus called him to a lifetime of ministry. As a strong leader of the church, James was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem . The Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial. Later, the officer walked beside James to the place of execution. Overcome by conviction, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.

Bartholomew also known as Nathaniel Was a missionary to Asia . He witnessed for our Lord in present day Turkey . Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip.

Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Patras , Greece . After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: "I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it." He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired.

Thomas Was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the sub-continent.

Jude, Was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

Matthias The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded.

Barnabas One of the group of seventy disciples, wrote the Epistle of Barnabas. He preached throughout Italy and Cyprus . Barnabas was stoned to death at Salonica.

Paul Was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment which allowed him to write his many epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire . These letters, which taught many of the foundational doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.

Perhaps this is a reminder to us that our sufferings here are indeed minor compared to the intense persecution and cold cruelty faced by the apostles disciples during their times for the sake of the Faith. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake:

But he that endureth to the end shall be saved. Matthew 10:22