Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nugget #53 -- Strong Female Characters

For me, a strong female character is a woman who has 
embraced most, if not all, of the things that make her, 
well, herself. She is multi-layered, filled with emotional 
searching, psychological depths, and sexual power. She 
owns both her failures and her successes. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Big Booms vs. Deep Thoughts: The War Between Star Trek Past and Present

by Jimmy D. Gillentine 

Editor's Note: Today we're going to take a break from our usual discourse about writing to jump into some fandom discussion instead. So where better to start than with old Trek vs. new Trek? And there's also some fun stuff in here about what a young unknown writer like Gene Roddenberry had to do get get his flagship idea to launch. 

Summary: “Space... the final frontier.” With those four words, a science fiction phenomenon was born. Star Trek, developed by Gene Roddenberry, went on to become a popular culture mainstay that lasted far beyond its original three-year run on TV.

It has returned in the form of several movies starring the original cast from the show, plus several shows that enjoyed just as much popularity as the original show, if not more.

Recently, Trek has returned with new movies retelling the adventures of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, with different actors in the roles and with changes to the origins of the story. Many fans were looking forward to seeing their childhood show returning with modern-day special effects.

However, this has not gone over that well within the fan base. There is now a division among the fans, and the arguments that have raged online are frequent. Which shows and movies are better? Which fans are right?

When Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek to NBC, it took several rewrites and two pilot episodes to get the show launched. (The Making of Star Trek, Whitfield. Stephen, Roddenberry, Gene. Del Ray Books, 1968) Roddenberry was met with resistance when he first tried to get his show on the air. But he did not let that deter him from achieving his goal.

‘Compounding every young writer’s frustration is the fact that actually getting any professional experience as a writer on any large-scale production is almost impossible without the assistance of a competent and rather crafty agent. With all that in mind, Gene Roddenberry knew he’d have to resort to some incredibly unusual guerrilla tactics in securing professional representation. And that’s exactly what he did.’ (Shatner, William, and Chris Kreski. “Star Trek Memories”. New York, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1993. Print.)

Using these ‘guerrilla tactics,’ Roddenberry at last convinced the executives to take a risk on his outlook on the future. It was well received by science fiction fans when it was first aired, even though the show was different from most other shows about space exploration before it. Roddenberry used the show as a platform to discuss the social issues that were hitting the country at the time the show was made. Issues such as racism, the war in Vietnam, and the Cold War with the Soviet Union were told through the medium of science fiction.

Star Trek writer David Gerrold says this can be attributed to Roddenberry’s approach to the scripts for the show. ‘Gene Roddenberry had a great speech: "Tell me the story no one else will let you tell. Tell me the one that sticks in your craw. Tell me a story that says the way things are is not the way they have to be." And writers would be inspired, they would bring back a better story than they thought they were capable of writing.’ (Gerrold, David. Online Interview, April 2015)

Roddenberry was attempting to do more with Star Trek than simply entertain the TV audiences that watched the show every week; he was trying to teach us how to be better people. Elizabeth Donald, writer for the pop-culture blog CultureGeek, had this to say on the subject: ‘Star Trek was allegorical science fiction. Best suited to television, it combined entertainment with a positive view of the future. At a time when many people doubted the human race could even have a future, Gene Roddenberry envisioned a time when we outgrew our childish stupidity, our prejudices and hatreds, and the old divisions of the past would make as much sense as “Irish need not apply.” Sometimes it was very good and sometimes it was very bad, but it nearly always meant something.’ (Donald, Elizabeth. Online Interview, April 2015.)

With Roddenberry doing his best to make the show mean something more than just a spaceship traveling between planets and sometimes getting into space battles, its following grew beyond the standard science fiction crowd.

However, despite this innovative approach to getting messages across, the original show was canceled after three seasons, and the Enterprise and her crew went off into the deep space of cancellation. But the show rose again through syndication, and it soon began to gain more fans than when it was originally on regular broadcast TV. This was the time that I was introduced to the universe that Gene Roddenberry had created. When I was in first grade living in Chicago, we were lucky to have a black and white TV in the bedroom. One night I was staying up much later than I should have, hoping to find a Godzilla movie on late-night TV. What I found was a strange show that took place on a spaceship with people in uniforms, and one person called Spock that had strange-looking ears.

I found out years later that this first episode that I watched of this strange TV show was entitled “City On the Edge of Forever.” I loved this show and wanted more of it.

Thanks to syndication, I was able to watch all of the old episodes and become a huge fan of it, as did millions of people from my generation. Moreover, the original cast coming back to do the Star Trek movies created even more fans for the franchise.

Then Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered, and it seemed like Star Trek had not only returned, but actually began to gain more momentum. Trek had a very long run with four sequel television shows and XX movies, but in the year 2005, the last Star Trek show entitled Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled. Once again, Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future was sent off into deep space, and the fans of the shows had to be content to watch their favorite version of Trek on DVD.

However, in November 2007, filming began on a new movie as a complete reboot of the franchise. This is when a division within the fan community of Star Trek began to take place, and it started with the director of the film.

J.J. Abrams was chosen as the director for the movie, and this quote from Elizabeth Donald shows why fans began to get worried about Abrams being in charge of the new movie.

‘Abrams himself said in interviews that he didn’t like Star Trek growing up. He said it was “too smart” (ref. Daily Show interview) and he preferred sci-fi movies that were less philosophical.’(Donald) This one statement by Abrams did not sit well with most of the fans, but this is not the first time that the fans were worried about a Trek movie. Star Trek novelist, Keith DeCandido recalls this fact from when the second Trek movie The Wrath of Khan was released: ‘Nobody remembers this now, but Gene Roddenberry spent most of 1982 telling fans not to go to see WRATH OF KHAN, that it wasn't really Star Trek, that Harve Bennett (the scriptwriter for the movie) was some interloper who didn't know anything about Trek and was being brought in to ruin it.’(DeCandido, Keith. Online Interview. April 2015)

However, that movie went on to become the most favorite of fans of the old shows and is still considered one of the best movies of the entire film franchise. Keith DeCandido brings up this point about the situation. ‘Roddenberry shut up after the movie was released and became a hit, and is still considered the best of the Trek films by many – but at the time, he was saying the same things about Bennett and Nicholas Meyer that a segment of the fan base now is saying about JJ Abrams.’

But once the new Trek film was released, the division between the fans did not decrease; in fact, it has only risen. The new movie released in 2009 was full of action, fight scenes, lens flares galore, and some of the most state-of-the-art special effects Hollywood studios could produce. It had all of those things that screamed blockbuster and made over $257 million worldwide.

But to many of the fans of classic Trek, something was missing: the heart and feeling of what made Star Trek stand out from other shows and films of its kind. In fact many people thought it felt more like a Star Wars film than the thought-provoking social commentary that was in the classic series. Craig Maull, writer of the blog Future Dude, said this about the film: ‘The new film’s key plot points — like a fatherless farm boy challenged by an elder to leave his home and venture into space, and an entire planet being destroyed halfway through — were completely derivative of Star Wars. The only problem is that the two franchises have nothing to do with one another and never should! They are based on totally different foundations.’ (Maull, Craig. "Why Star Trek (2009) Is a Terrible Film." N.p., n.d. Web. 14 April 2015.)

Many felt this was one of the main problems with the reboot. Action, big explosions, and a moody, young hero were all tropes from George Lucas’ universe, of which Abrams admitted that he was more a fan than what Roddenberry was trying to get across with his creation.

Roddenberry’s view of the future was one of optimism, in which we as a people had gone through hell and came out the other side a better species for it. Yes, we still had problems, but for the most part we had reached a point where we had achieved peace on Earth and could spend more time looking for more worlds. But in the reboot from Abrams, we were treated to the sight of Kirk getting into barroom brawls and even seeing Spock as a child getting into fist fights with his fellow classmates.

When the next movie was announced, older fans’ hopes were slim that it would get any better. The movie Star Trek Into Darkness, was released in May of 2013 and was once again directed by Abrams. When it was all said and done, it made more than $467 million worldwide, nearly double the amount of the first film, but once again fans were divided on the movie.

‘From “red matter” to “black holes don’t do that” to mind-boggling stupidity on the part of all the “smart” characters, it was clear that no one was actually writing the movies. And that was before Carol Marcus took her shirt off.’ is what Elizabeth Donald said about the second movie. ‘When Trek Beta threw out the depth and philosophy of the original Trek, it threw out everything that made it Star Trek.’

Into Darkness also made the mistake of taking stories from the older movies and tried to mold and bend them for the new audience. Abrams and company tried their best to hide who actor Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing in the movie. It was known that he was the villain, but his name for his character was kept hidden. The day I went and saw the movie, the moment Cumberbatch said that his name was ‘Khan’, I put my face in my hands and just laughed. Cumberbatch is a fine actor, but he didn’t have the same air of superiority and ‘I’m better than you,’ mentality that Ricardo Montalbán portrayed in the movie Wrath of Khan.

Once again, most Trek fans felt cheated by the movie, and felt that it ‘reached near-parody status in trying to repeat the past,’ as Elizabeth Donald said about the movie.

However, the new Abrams films have its supporters. They feel that all the older Trek fans are just being old-fashioned and should try to embrace the newer movies on the merits on the entertainment factor alone. ‘I myself can be a purist, but I’m a realist and somewhat of a pragmatist. Even if I share idealistic views with said purists; I'll still admit when a movie is just great fun and pays homage (when it’s not required) to its source. I can turn off the purist and just enjoy a film experience without being pretentious about what I think or expect it’s supposed to be.’ (Camacho, E.F. "Breaking Down Arguments Against STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS & Why Trekkies Are Wrong." Comic Book, 13 Sept. 2013. Web. 14 April 2015.)

To a certain level, I can see this point of view. There are some movies or TV shows that I watch just for fun and for entertainment, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. There is most certainly times when a person just wants to shut down their brain and enjoy a few explosions and see CGI special effects fly across the screen just for fun.

Movies like that for me include Jackie Chan films, several of the kaiju movies from Japan, something from the Terminator franchise, or one of the many movies that Marvel Studios has put out. A lot of those movies can be fun, entertaining, and a good way to go to the theater and munch some popcorn with some friends to relax and have fun.

However, Star Trek was never only about having fun and watching big booms happen when a ship is hit with photon torpedoes. It always meant something more and had something more behind it. I believe David Gerrold said it best when it comes to just what is missing from the new movies. ‘Yes, there's a lot of action, a lot of great special effects, a lot of stuff that looks like Star Trek done right. But what's missing is the heart and soul that Gene Roddenberry (and all the rest of us who worked on the original series) put into the storytelling. And I think that's the core of the disappointment that so many of the fans are feeling.’

In conclusion, the new Trek movies can be fun and a good way to kill a couple of hours. I’m sure when the next one comes out, it will make plenty of money and it will have it fans rush to defend it that it is just as good or better than what Roddenberry first dreamed of.

But until the stories behind all of the fancy ships, CGI effects, and lens flare that can blind a person have a true meaning and reason, it will just be another tent-pole movie during the summer, not really Star Trek. As David Gerrold said, ‘Star Trek, The Original Series was always about something. There was always a point to be made. Sometimes the finished episode was clumsy or heavy-handed, sometimes episodes suffered from behind the scenes circumstances that prevented them from being as good as they could have been. But the ambition was there in every episode.’

This is where the new movies are failing, the lack of ambition to be more than just another blockbuster. Perhaps with the next movie, a balance can be reached between substance and flashy special effects. Ms. Donald said this about it: ‘Is there anything we can enjoy? Clearly many people do, and perhaps that will keep enough corporate interest in the series that we might eventually get real writers writing solid scripts in the Trek 2.0 universe. So far, we’re still waiting.’


Cited Sources

Camacho, E.F. "Breaking Down Arguments Against STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS & Why Trekkies Are Wrong." Comic Book, 13 Sept. 2013. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

Gerrold, David. Donald, Elizabeth. DeCandido, Keith. "Experts Who Write It And Rate It." Online interviews. Apr. 2015.

Maull, Craig. "Why Star Trek (2009) Is a Terrible Film." N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

Whitfield, Stephen E., and Gene Roddenberry. “The Making of Star Trek.” New York: Ballantine, 1968. Print.

Shatner, William, and Chris Kreski. “Star Trek Memories”. New York, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1993. Print.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #325 -- Writing for Adult Readers

Do you like to create books for adults?


Oh, what? You want more?


As much as I enjoy good children's literature (although I wholeheartedly subscribe to C.S. Lewis' definition of a good children's story), I greatly prefer the broader freedom for theme and tone that stories for adults can provide. That's not to say that you can't broach similar subjects in books for younger readers (and some would argue that the only difference between Young Adult stories and regular adult stories is the audience's age, not the restrictions in being "appropriate" for that audience's age).

Plus, as a genre writer, there's a lot to be said for having to freedom to narrate a particularly gruesome murder or have a protagonist need to connect with another human so much that he or she throws caution to the wind and jumps into bed with a stranger. But let's be honest, for a writer who know what he or she is doing, those can (some would say should) be isolated, rare occurrences in fiction unless he or she is writing a story for a particular audience or publisher.

The story is still of key importance, regardless of the audience's age. That said, however, I still prefer the open-endedness of writing for adults.

Saturday, May 23, 2015




In 2014, Pro Se Productions, a cutting edge Genre Fiction and New Pulp Publisher, revealed that it had licensed characters from Nemo Publishing, a company centered around the work of Jay Piscopo and aimed at bringing both classic fun and action back to comic books. The first anthology to feature Nemo characters, originally opened for submissions in late 2014, is being expanded in terms of size and is open for proposals and submissions from authors. Featuring the primary lineup from Nemo Publishing, the book will be entitled Nemoverse.

‘Nemoverse,” states Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions,” says it all. This is an opportunity essentially to have the keys to the kingdom, one that really stands out from every other attempt at comics today. Jay and the people at Nemo have taken these fantastic characters- Capt’n Eli, Commander X, the Sea Ghost, Jack Danger, Red Panther, Rogue Agent Zero, the Dimensioneers, and all the supporting cast that comes with them- and really breathed both a fresh new life and one that is reminiscent of the reasons comics first became so popular. Four color escapism at its best is what Nemo does and now Pro Se gets a chance to do the same in its own inimitable two fisted, heroic style.”

Nemo Publishing is the home of Capt’n Eli, Commander X, and a variety of other characters. Originally a mascot for Capt’n Eli Soda, the owners of the soda company saw potential for the character beyond its beginnings. In partnership with artist/writer/creator Jay Piscopo and Nemo Publishing, Capt’n Eli became a four color hero and soon other characters, some reimagined public domain characters and others completely Piscopo’s original creations, joined the Nemo Comics Universe. Nemo also has a toyline featuring its characters.

Nemoverse is a collection that will focus on six characters from the Nemo Comics line, as well as the supporting cast involved with each of these. The characters to be featured are Capt’n Eli, Commander X, The Sea Ghost, Jack Danger, Rogue Agent Zero, and The Red Panther

Stories for Nemoverse must be 6-8,000 words in length. The royalty will be determined by the final number of authors accepted into the anthology. The process for submission to this anthology is as follows: An author must email and express interest in submitting to the collection. Brief synopses of the available characters will be sent to the author at that point. Upon reviewing the list, a proposal of 100-500 words must be submitted to for the character(s) the author is interested in writing. Although these characters have crossed over with one another various times in Nemo publications, Pro Se is interested in tales focused on the individual characters and want team ups to be necessary, not simply for the joy of doing them.

Reference material and character bible information are available to authors whose short proposals are approved as stated above. Authors not previously published by Pro Se Productions must submit a writing sample of at least two pages with their proposals. Authors whose proposals are accepted must submit the first four pages of their accepted stories as quickly as possible for review by Pro Se staff. Final deadline for completed stories is September 1, 2015.

Nemoverse is scheduled for release in December 2015/January 2016.

For questions related to the submissions call or to learn more about this project, contact Morgan McKay, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at

For more information on Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at Discover all you need to know about Nemo Publishing at and

Friday, May 22, 2015



In April 2013, Pro Se Productions released Black Pulp, a collection of stories written in classic pulp genres featuring lead characters of African descent.  The response was overwhelmingly positive and immediate to this anthology featuring writers such as Walter Mosley, Joe Lansdale, Charles Saunders, Gary Phillips, Mel Odom and others.  This volume of stories quickly became and continues to be Pro Se’s best selling title.

Not only were readers captivated by the cast of characters featured in the book, they also saw the potential of future volumes, both of Black Pulp, and collections featuring other ethnicities in much the same way.   Asian Pulp, Pro Se Productions’ answer to a steady flow of requests from fans, debuts in June 2015.

“It seems,” says Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “that we struck a chord with Black Pulp on several levels.   Asian Pulp definitely follows in the footsteps of that first collection in theme, but it’s also its own creature, a stand alone unique expression of Pulp of all types through a different and amazing filter. Every story is equally squarely sat in the Pulp style, in that wheelhouse, with the definite influence of Asian culture, history, and more being woven seamlessly into the action and adventure.  Multiple genres come to vibrant life within the pages of Asian Pulp, each one its own treasure trove of excitement.”

Featuring a cover by Black Pulp artist Adam Shaw with cover and logo design by Sean Ali, Asian Pulp includes works from Don Lee, Naomi Hirahara, Kimberly Richardson, Percival Constantine, William F. Wu, Gary Phillips, Calvin McMillin, Mark Finn, Dale Furutani, Steph Cha, Henry Chang, Sean Taylor, Gigi Pandian, Louise Herring-Jones, Alan J. Porter, and David C. Smith. The anthology opens with an introduction from Leonard Chang, novelist and writer and co-producer of the TV crime drama Justified.

Chang, in his introduction, states, “The world of pulp fiction was a world that I understood—it was a reaction to trauma, both as art and as catharsis. Personal trauma. Emotional trauma. Physical trauma. National trauma. This is why I responded to it, why I immersed myself in it. And why, whenever I was in a personal and artistic crisis, it saved me.”

Asian Pulp will be available in June 2015 from Pro Se Productions.  For further announcements concerning this release, please go to or follow Pro Se Productions on Facebook at

To set up interviews with authors or for more information on this release, please contact Morgan McKay, Director of Corporate Operations., at

Note: This one features my story "The Face of the Yuan Gui."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Unconventional Structures -- Revisited

Okay, here's a follow up question for the unconventional narrative roundtable. For question three about when to use an unconventional narrative, everyone basically said the same thing -- when the story calls for it. Since it's no fair to answer a question like that, let's dig deeper, shall we?

How do you know when the story calls for something different in terms of narrative? What are the clues in a story that say it's time to branch out from the norm?

Mark Bousquet: It's two fold: Part one is the mood I'm in. I usually have to actively want to write something different and then look for a story to fit it more than the other way around. In regards to part two, as for what to look for in a story that lends itself to something unconventional, I often focus on scope. The larger the story, the more I want to try something a little more ambitious than a linear narrative. (Those books that slog through generation after generation of a family's history bore me.) I've also long been fascinated by stories that take place around the stories we normally get. So, for instance, my Disintegration of Dragons serial from Pro Se focuses not on the big important war, but what happens a year after that war when the daily grind of eking out an existence has taken over. I'm working on another story about life on a big spaceship that's involved in a big important space war. Instead of focusing on the fights and the battles and the pilots and the officers, the book will focus on the mechanics, the nurses, the janitors that keep the ship moving to allow for the big space battles to take place. Although, we're writers so some days thstrocyue wind blows in a certain direction and you end up doing something new.

Marian Allen: When the story JUST DOESN'T WORK with a standard narrative structure. Or when a story would be more interesting told in a different way. Read Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily". A pretty straightforward sad, sordid tale. But Faulkner chose to tell it a piece at a time, out of chronological order, so that each bit is like one petal of a rose that only reveals the flower when they're all in place.

R.J. Sullivan: Sure. In Haunting Blue, I wanted the story to be first person, a high school age punk girl. But it's also a mystery, involving the solving of a crime that happened before she was born. I tried to stay conventional and not break the first person narrative. I had the character read old newspaper articles and do research to try to find out what happened. The problem was that it was complicated and BORING. I had to step away and realize I had to cut out the research stuff and do the flashback third person interludes. What happened was too important not to include it, and it was the most dramatic way to present the information.

Percival Constantine: When I say the story calls for it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nugget #52 -- Existential Hero

I tend to share the notion of the existential hero, the protagonist who realizes the universe doesn't care about him, but stands up in the face of it all and perseveres anyway. Just living and trying to eek out some small stake in the world is a profound act of victory and demonstrates the miracle that is humanity.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #324 -- "A Lifetime of Seconds"

What inspired you to write your first story?

My absolutely first story was for an assignment in high school, so I'm pretty sure my inspiration for that one came from the need to get a good grade.

My first real story that I wrote, i.e., my first faltering steps toward becoming a writer, was inspired by John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud." I wanted to write a sci-fi tale that talked about the beauty of life as only death can reveal it. So I did. And I titled it "A Lifetime of Seconds."

It's about a man's whose job is to chronicle the last weeks of terminal patients for study later. His latest assignment is a girl out of place in her world, more attuned to the world of romantic poets and philosophical/religious thought. As he falls in love with her, she teaches him about the grace of being ready to die and embrace what comes next.

Looking back, it's not a very good story. Not only is it way overwritten, but it's quite heavy-handed in terms of religious thought about the soul, and it can get a bit preachy at times. However, at it's core, I still really enjoy the nugget of the story. Maybe one day I'll come back to it and revise it in light of all I've learned about storytelling since then.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

[Link] 22 Lessons From Stephen King On How To Be A Great Writer

by Maggie Zhang

Renowned author Stephen King writes stories that captivate millions of people around the world and earn him an estimated $17 million a year.

In his memoir, "On Writing," King shares valuable insights into how to be a better writer. And he doesn't sugarcoat it. He writes, "I can't lie and say there are no bad writers. Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers."

Don't want to be one of them? Here are 22 great pieces of advice from King's book on how to be an amazing writer:

1. Stop watching television. Instead, read as much as possible.

If you're just starting out as a writer, your television should be the first thing to go. It's "poisonous to creativity," he says. Writers need to look into themselves and turn toward the life of the imagination.

To do so, they should read as much as they can. King takes a book with him everywhere he goes, and even reads during meals. "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot," he says. Read widely, and constantly work to refine and redefine your own work as you do so.

2. Prepare for more failure and criticism than you think you can deal with.

King compares writing fiction to crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub, because in both, "there's plenty of opportunity for self-doubt." Not only will you doubt yourself, but other people will doubt you, too. "If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that's all," writes King.

Oftentimes, you have to continue writing even when you don't feel like it. "Stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea," he writes. And when you fail, King suggests that you remain positive. "Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure."

Read the full article:

REEL DARK, a collection of masters, has arrived

The converse is not true, but all monsters are hybrids, or at least John Locke thought so, and although I’d like to believe the human imagination isn’t limited in the way he says it is, I can’t think of a counter-example, and I’ve looked at thousands of variations on monsters and their subtypes around the world.

So last weekend, at the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, BlackWyrm Publishing and I introduced to the world our latest monster!

Go to Amazon to get the marvelous back-cover blurb that co-editor Pamela Turner crafted, but the monstrous gist is that it’s a book about film infecting the world with dark realities, so while we’ve got comedy, western, sci-fi, and, yes, horror, the bottom line is that it’s dark and smart and full of fresh voices and some amazing pros. Hal Bodner! James Chambers! James Dorr! JG Faherty! Amy Grech! Jude-Marie Green! Karen Head! Lots of other great people–accomplished poets, storytellers, and filmmakers as well–and I am honored to be in their company and to have had an opportunity to work with their words, to arrange them so that they can have conversations you can now overhear.

To round out this post, here’s my intro to the volume:

“The film delivers baroque art from its convulsive catalepsy. Now, for the first time, the image of things is likewise the image of their duration, change mummified, as it were.”
—André Bazin, What is Cinema?

“The cinema combines, perhaps more perfectly than any other medium, two human fascinations: one with the boundary between life and death and the other with the mechanical animation of the inanimate… the answer to the question ‘what is cinema?’ should also be death 24 times a second.”
—Laura Mulvey, Death 24x a Second

These two quotations—from two of the most important thinkers about the cinema since mad scientists pieced it together from other art-forms in the late nineteenth century—tell us that even in the silent era that so few horror fans pay due, people saw a close connection between reels of film and the realities of horror and death. Our mission as editors was to find stories that offered dark, diverse perspectives on how far that connection between reel and real might go, and we wanted diversity in both the types of films people wrote about and in the writing itself. Rose Streif attends to the silent era’s neglect by horror’s mainstream in “Caligarisme,” and in addition to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919/1920), my own movie-obsessed madman narrator in “Leer Reel” riffs on many a silent: he jumps in time but has 1928 as home base. Arguably the first horror film, “The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots,” made by Thomas Edison’s studio the year regarded as cinema’s beginning, 1895, is just a few short seconds of a woman guillotined. The other contender for first horror film, Georges Méliès’s 1896 “Mansion of the Devil” (or “House of the Devil” if you want Ti West continuity) focuses on magical apparitions. People understood at the outset that just as the photographed, moving image made an action immortal, the immortality was “change mummified,” the immortality of the undead, and, as our debut poet Caroline Shriner-Wunn writes in “Confessions of a Woman of a Certain Age,” “The Mummy,” and some others we’ve scattered in between, the undeadness of the film real is not likely to be your sparkling friend. Think about a movie from 1900. Every frame that shows you a person is showing you a corpse. That person is dead. Chances are, if you’re my age, that person’s corpse looks younger than you do. And it’s smiling. Film, on average, advances at 24 images, or frames, per second. Those corpses are smiling at you 24 times per second. Cheeky bastards.

We selected stories that are dark (that was the point), so though we’ve got laughs and action and western and sci-fi and twisted relationships and WTFs, along with some light as well as extreme horror, expect chills, smart ones, as a thread. Our featured story, Hal Bodner’s “Whatever Happened to Peggy… Who?,” is fast, fun, and creepy on its own, but it pays double if you know mid-20th century American and British horror movies, quintuple if you’ve not only seen but really know Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), with bonuses if you know The Bad Seed (1956) or a lot of what Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were up to around then. Likewise, Jude-Marie Green’s “Queen of the Death Scenes” harkens to an age of screen queens that is behind us. Pamela Turner’s “Rival” riffs on 40s and 50s film noir with a twist; James Dorr’s title “Marcie and Her Sisters” points toward prime late 70s and 80s Woody Allen, but this editor’s opinion is that, intentionally or not, he manages in Jane Austen comic-horror adaptation territory better than many recent adapters have in several media. Sean Eads also takes us toward more contemporary territory with “The Dreamist,” on the Inception (2010) side of the postmodern mind-game.

Wait! Stop worrying! This ain’t a history book.

We offer you three sections, mostly short stories, with short poems providing different sorts of pleasure scattered in each of the three. Many selections could appear in more than one section,so we placed based on where we thought they leaned.

Part 1 is “Decaying Celluloid,” and selections here either center on specific films or specific genres. In addition to the stories by Bodner, Turner, Dorr, and Streif, you’ll find Shriner-Wunn’s “Last Show at Hobb’s End” especially meaningful if you’ve seen John Carpenter’s Lovecraftian In the Mouth of Madness (1994). Prepare yourself for a story that matches the inversion in the title of Jason S. Walters’s swan song to the classic Western “Low Midnight” (which makes me want to discuss post-Kurosawa samurai films with him… Walters understands bleak but doesn’t present it like Sam Peckinpah or even Sergio Leone). The section concludes with our featured poem, the inimitable Karen Head’s “Amnesia,” a layered reflection on watching/living David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001).

Part 2, “Framing You,” transitions from Head’s poem and focuses on how audiences—the “real” world—might get caught up, often in ways far more literal than most people would think possible, in media. Thinking about Amy Grech’s “Dead Eye” still gives me  hills; all I’ll say in an intro is that she derives horrific concepts from the multiple meanings of “frame” and “shot.” Shriner-Wunn’s brief contributions here focus on spectacle, particularly the spectacle of the mutilated woman and what its cultural appeal seems to say (if you don’t know about it, read the poem once before you web search the real Black Dahlia case). Jay Seate and Mike Watt take us into fictional film production worlds, where films have very different ways of absorbing their makers. Sean Taylor’s “And So She Asked Again,” has maestro Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) and its legendary star Barbara Steele as major references, but it’s about obsession with the power of film more generally… and what it could deliver. Likewise, master storyteller J.G. Faherty concludes the section with a tale about a man who finds immense, horrific power in a camera.

The book concludes with Pt. 3, “Pathological Projections,” the smallest and likely weirdest group, as their uniting feature is that they take a (usually kind of abstract) aspect of the medium of film itself and expand it into a (generally fairly messed up) story. Russ Bickerstaff kicks it off with ruminations on the 24-per-second concept in the dark sci-fi “24 per second: Persistence of Fission.” James Chambers suggests the medium may be the monster in “The Monster with My Fist for Its Head,” and in “Queen of the Death Scenes,” Jude-Marie Green finds that manipulating the medium’s immortal qualities could have unwanted side effects Shriner-Wunn’s “The Mummy” recalls Bazin but again goes fuller monster; “Cigarette Burns” by Jay Wilburn finds a perspective on the horror of being in the movies that nothing else I’ve read captures in the same way. My own story… well… it’s last. You get your money’s worth without it. You don’t have to read it. Perhaps you shouldn’t. The narrator is looking at you while you read.

—L. Andrew Cooper
April, 2015

(reposted from

Available at Amazon now!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Chuck Dixon returns to Bad Times!

They left a man behind. 100,000 years behind.

Another chapter in the popular time travel thriller series Bad Times by bestselling author Chuck Dixon. Lee, Jimbo and the rest of the hard-fighting Rangers go back to prehistoric Nevada to find the man they left behind on their first mission. This epic quest brings them into dangerous encounters with giant predators long extinct. But the most dangerous of all these animals is man. Back in the present, one of their team is abducted by a mysterious billionaire seeking to grow his fortunes with the use of the scientific miracle known as the Tauber Tube. Also, their benefactor from the future shares a startling secret.

The millennium-spanning saga by the author of Levon's Trade and Winterworld: The Mechanic's Song continues here!

“Chuck is a damn good writer who is really good at hooking you, giving you fun characters, and telling you one hell of an adventure story.”
Larry Correia, Monster Hunters International, the Grimoir Chronicles

“An intelligent and well thought-out high action time travel story.”
Noah Mullette-Gillman, Luminous and Ominous
“Dixon excels at putting down action, of introducing larger-than-life heroes, kicking them through the door into a big mess, and having them sort out a situation in a flurry of martial arts moves and big guns.”
Mel Odom, The Rover series.

In Kindle and paperback at:

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Maplewood Barn Community Theatre, located in Columbia, MO, is in pre-production on the upcoming season of its Maplewood Barn Radio Theatre series of audio dramas. Featuring 30 minute radio adaptations of classic short stories as well as original fiction, the show broadcasts during the fall of 2015 and Spring of 2016 on KBIA 93.1 FM, the University of Missouri’s NPR affiliate.

Maplewood Barn is currently looking for short stories(must be public domain or your own original story which you can assign limited broadcast rights for) or completed radio scripts to fill out the season.

While this is an unpaid project, KBIA is one of the highest rated stations in the Mid-Missouri area and could lead to more exposure for the writer.

For more information, e-mail"

Check out a special preview of Midnight's upcoming Superhero Drama series, Extra Ordinary, at

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nugget #51 -- Book Science

Science would imply there's set criteria that can always 
produce a book/story that people love, but personal experience 
says that every story is different and unpredictable.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Nugget #50 -- Being C.S. Lewis (but not)

Reading C.S. Lewis made me want to be a writer. But 
my first stories were so influenced by Lewis that they 
are clearly not my stories. They're me trying to be him.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #323 -- What Makes a Good Story?

What do you think makes a good story?

The answer you're probably looking for from me would be this: A good story has memorable characters, an inventive plot, rising action and falling action and some sort of resolution. So there. To me that's a merely good story. For those who are comfortable with for an answer, you can stop reading now and let the rest of us go for something a bit less generic.

For me a good story has all of that, yes, but it also has something to say about the human condition.

It has a theme.

It has some sort of failure and need to be redeemed on either a physical (save the kidnapping victim), emotional (get the lover whose heart you broke all those years ago to forgive you), or spiritual level (to become a better person by escaping the clutches of past failures). Or even if such a redemption fails, it was at least attempted.

It has a conflict that pits imperfect people against other imperfect people in some way that has lasting repercussions.

And perhaps most important to me as a writer, it has what I'll call "The Unattainable Thing." It needs that one thing the protagonist wants desperately but knows he or she will never get. It could be a relationship (as with Rick Ruby and Evelyn). It could be the opportunity to see a lost loved one and say goodbye (Starlord). Or it could be any number of other things, but it needs to be there as a driving force to keep the protagonist going. 

To use a recent example, The Avengers was a good movie. It had memorable characters, and inventive plot about an alien invasion, and lots of action along the story triangle. But aside from "there's the alien, hit it!" it didn't offer too much along the lines of anything deeper than surface tension. The Age of Ultron, on the other hand had all that PLUS the hubris of a man who believed himself to be able to make decisions for the whole world, the question of what makes us human underneath the skin, the idea of putting aside serious harms done to us in order to create a new family, and whether or not two people who know that they are monsters can really ever find happiness as people. So, the second movie, at least in regards to my understanding of what makes a good story, was a great story with deeper ramifications that I will take with me far beyond when the taste of popcorn fades away.

(Then again, I'm a lit major, so your mileage may vary.)