The year was 1985. The Cola Wars were dying down as the Cold War was flaring up. Michael Jackson and Madonna ruled the airwaves and everyone was asking: “Where’s the beef?”
I was six years old, sitting down in front of the television to watch cartoons and draw monsters. And probably eating something made with peanut butter. But what was this? A videocassette was in the VCR. The sticker on it said “New Release.” Already a movie junkie at such a tender young age, I pressed play.
The film, of course, was DEBBIE DOES DALLAS.
Oh. Woops. That’s actually a different story.
No, the movie I popped in that day was Tom Holland’s horror comedy FRIGHT NIGHT.
As a writer, I’m often drawn to horror. Not exclusively, perhaps not even most of the time, but often enough. I grew up on horror films and ghost stories. One of the first “grown-up” books I read was `Salem’s Lot. I was probably eight at the time. Even now, on a dark and stormy night, I can conjure up the fear I felt reading about Ralphie Glick’s cold corpse scratching on his brother’s window and whispering, “Danny, let me in.”
Even when I work in comedy or drama or that non-genre that tweed jacket wearing types call simply “literature,” I always come back to horror. It’s in my blood, you could say.
I remember watching the Los Angeles Riots in the early nineties. As a kid in East Tennessee, it might as well have been footage from Mars. I’d never seen anything even remotely resembling the bubbling anger and resentment that poured into the streets and erupted in fire. Years later, I’d see old footage of the Watts riot. I’d see news coverage of protesters in Egypt and Libya march for freedom on their capitals. I’d see people buckling under oppression and refusing to take it anymore.
Now those were some riots.
But these kids today…
Wednesday night there was supposed to be a concert in Hollywood. DJ Kaskade was supposed to show. Thousands of teenagers turned out only to find that the show had been cancelled.
And they rioted.
In honor of Carmageddon and the closing of the 405, I’ve dug out an old story. This was originally published in CHIMERAWORLD 4 in 2006. While I’d had a few magazine articles published and some short films made before this, “405” is the first piece of fiction I’d ever sold. While I’d like to think I’ve become a much better writer since then, I still think this story is fun and sums up how most of us feel when stuck in gridlock traffic.
And for a real horror story on the Los Angeles freeway system, read about the time a lunatic pulled a pistol on me in traffic: LOS ANGELES AND ROAD RAGE ARE LIKE PB&J.
Here’s the story. Hope you enjoy!
Anyone interested in unconventional diet and exercise advise (or who is in the Los Angeles area and looking for an effective, fun, and challenging workout) should head over to THE LUDUS. I just posted an article there on fat loss titled SCREW CONVENTIONAL WISDOM. Enjoy!
There’s also two additional articles answering a reader email:
Lady Haverley’s Peculiar Musings on the Tribulations of Common Happenstance
The Honorable Lady Haverley, Sixteenth Baroness Dunberry
(The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author, who writes from the 19th century and leaves her manuscripts in a mystical mailbox on Highgate Street that then delivers them to the present day P.O. Box of the New York Times. Scientists are still attempting to discover how, but believe it has to do with either wormholes or Faeries.)
On the 4th of July, several of us got together to grill out. We took it as a “cheat day” and sat aside our healthy eating plans for a day of chili dogs and pie. And more chili dogs. And more pie.
And yet, as fun as it was, it didn’t quite feel like Independence Day. Sure, this was how most of America celebrated the 4th, but we needed more. We needed something to put us in the spirit. We needed some goddamned patriotism.
We needed “Rocky IV.”
Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter.
-Dante Alighieri’s proposal for a freeway entrance sign
I’m sitting in traffic on the 101 trying to get to work. “Traffic” isn’t really the right word. “Traffic” implies some type of locomotion. I am instead parked on the world’s largest used car lot.
The man in the pickup truck next to me is blaring that type of Mexican music with horns and accordions that Mexican restaurants are required by law to play while the woman behind me is talking on her cell phone and staring in her rearview applying lipstick. She may have been attractive once but now she’s a typical Beverly Hills trophy wife, more plastic than flesh, likely yammering away to her lawyer about how legitimate her prenup is since her husband hasn’t had an erection without chemical aid since the Carter administration.
I Need A Throne of Skulls
I need a throne of skulls. It’s that obvious. How is a man of my temperament supposed to operate in this day and age without a throne of skulls? It’s ridiculous to think that I could be the successful freelance writer that I am without having a throne of skulls, but somehow I’ve done it. The question is: how long can I keep this up without a throne of skulls?
The 2011 Bram Stoker Awards were held recently by the Horror Writers Association. Several close friends of mine won awards and I just wanted to take a moment to congratulate them. Here is a list of winners from the HWA’s site (www.horror.org):
Superior Achievement in a NOVEL
A DARK MATTER by Peter Straub
Superior Achievement in a First Novel (tie)
BLACK AND ORANGE by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES by Lisa Morton
Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
INVISIBLE FENCES by Norman Prentiss
Superior Achievement in Short Fiction
THE FOLDING MAN by Joe R. Lansdale
Superior Achievement in an Anthology
HAUNTED LEGENDS edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas
Superior Achievement in a Collection
FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King (Simon and Schuster)
Superior Achievement in Nonfiction
TO EACH THEIR DARKNESS by Gary A. Braunbeck
Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
DARK MATTERS by Bruce Boston
I highly recommend checking out any of these books. While I haven’t yet made the complete rounds through them myself, I can vouch for many of them. My friend and mentor Lisa Morton is among the best writers working in the field today and her CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES is one of those rare books that you find yourself having a difficult time putting down. Gary Braunbeck is also a master of the genre and TO EACH THEIR DARKNESS ranks up there with King’s DANSE MACABRE as an in-depth analysis of what not only makes horror tick but also what makes it so appealing. Benjamin Kane Ethridge is also proving himself to be a force to be reckoned with and, aside from just being a damn nice guy, writes like a demon. HAUNTED LEGENDS is filled great stories if you’re looking for some shorter work.
As much as I love King and Straub, do yourself a favor and check out some of the other authors on this list. You can find them on Amazon.