- Fling But a Stone by Mark Rich
- Jackson Hole by Jason Henderson
- Transcendence by Catherine Dybiec Holm
- Wreckage by Harold Gross
(Honorable Mention, Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, 16th Annual Edition)
- The More Things Change by Michael Kelly
- Mr. Brain and the Island of Lost Socks by Richard Bowes & Ezra Pines
- A Few Notes Upon Finding a Green Alien Baby Figurine in a Specimen Trap at Longitude__, Latitude__, Antarctica: Dr. Larry Gilchrist as transcribed by Jeff VanderMeer
- Web Exclusive! Mr. Brain and the Mystery of the Passionate Tree by Ezra Pines
- Fear by John W. Risinger
- Computerstadt by Kevin L. Donihe
- I Have a Free Will, Damn You! by Kevin L. Donihe
- Wasteland by Kevin L. Donihe
- Identity by Kevin L. Donihe
- Where on the River They Cannot Build by Mark Rich
- Hitler Had My UFO Baby by Jonathan Brandt
- REDRUM Redux by Norman Partridge
MR. BRAIN AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PASSIONATE TREE by Ezra Pines
Mr. Brain heard the wintery skitterings of pine branches upon the clear beryllium of the dome covering his heavily crevassed brain. His last polyethylene dome had been shattered by the caresses of a frenzied spruce on his last walk through Potato Chip park. The ads for beryllium domes touted their impervious nature. He looked splendid in it, too, he knew.
A huge white pine stood beside the sidewalk just outside the Dome-O-Rama, at the edge of the park. It shook its uppermost branches, so that snow fell on Mr. Brain.
“I love you, Mr. Brain,” said the whispering of wind through the tree branches.
“Lies, all lies! I know you by your lies!”
With the hatchet he had concealed in his vest he chopped the tree to pieces. Clearing a space in the snow, he piled the branches, logs, and needles in a great pile. Focusing a bead of sunlight through his dome, he set the pile afire.
The flame leapt from the sputtering needles onto Mr. Brain’s vest.
“I love you,” said the flame.
Mr. Brain yelled and jumped into the nearest bank of snow, and heard his new beryllium dome crack with the impact.
“I love you,” said the snow, clenching him.
The pale white bellies
of shivering leaves
turn expectantly towards the darkening sky.
The ashen gray clouds groan and break.
HITLER HAD MY UFO BABY by Jonathan Brandt
Push, mein Fürhrer, push!
Ach! It’s another Bat Boy!
Roswell ain’t Brazil.
REDRUM REDUX by Norman Partridge
Steve King goes native
Poison pen hunts Tom Clancy
Ink-stained voodoo twitch
A Beginner’s Look at Dario Argento by Bill Braun
The very first thing that I want to do…. No, scratch that! The very first thing that I need to do before beginning to examine some of the twisted and surrealistic works of the Italian film director, Dario Argento, is explain to everyone right up front that I am not, repeat not, an expert on the subject. I don’t pretend to know all the pertinent details of Mr. Argento’s life behind the screen and, well…behind the screen. I’m not setting out to publish the next definitive work on the man’s life. I am, in fact, a novice on the subject. So why then am I bothering to waste your time?
That’s a good question.
Realistically, the best answer that I have for you is also the most honest. To put it simply, if you’ve grown up salivating over such unusual titles as Tenebrae, Inferno, and Opera; if you think that you already know all there is to know about Dario Argento as a man, filmmaker and father; if you’re just waiting to be enlightened yet again with another informative expose, then stop reading this article. Immediately! That’s right. Just turn the page and move on to something that might interest you more. It’s O.K. You won’t hurt my feelings.
This article has been written for the sole purpose of opening the minds of those “die hard” horror movie fans out there who think the greatest names in horror movie history begin and end with the likes of Jason, Freddy and Michael. Now don’t get me wrong, in their day those names petrified me as well as anyone. In all honesty, the name Michael Myers will forever be imprinted on my mind as one of the most terrifying characters ever created.
What I am attempting to do is get the word out to these same horror movie fans so that they may be able to look beyond the boundaries that the commercialization of the horror movie have placed them in. As a matter of fact, I’m simply asking that they look beyond these same boundaries with the hopes that they will begin to realize that the genre was not conceptualized on Friday the 13th.
I suppose that I could make the claim that I’ve seen every movie Dario Argento has ever been a part of. But that, of course, would be a lie. Yes, I have seen a number of his films, but not nearly as many as I would like to. And now that I would truly like to expand my Argento experience it has become more and more difficult to find his titles readily available for rental. Why this is I don’t have a clue. I can’t begin to list the number of rental stores that I have been to in the last few months looking for titles by this Italian maestro of the macabre. Whether it was the Blockbuster on one corner, or the Hollywood Video across the street, the experience was always the same. I would walk in, approach the pimply faced teenager shuffling aimlessly through the return slot looking for an extra copy of the latest Disney release, ask if they could take some time to check their computer for a specific movie director’s titles and get that same blank expression. Then, after throwing out the suggestion that I look in the foreign films category, I would eventually find myself meticulously scanning every shelf of every aisle with the hope that one of Dario Argento’s titles would pop out from among the multitudes of the typical and mundane. Unfortunately, the end result was always the same.
One title. One fuckin’ title from a lifetime of achievements. Where the hell do I live, anyway?
Oh yeah! Southeastern Wisconsin. Well, that explains a great many things in my life.
Still, it’s true what they say. Beggars can’t be choosers. And while wandering aisle after aisle you begin to realize that one movie looks and sounds just like the rest. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of creativity left in Hollywood these days. So if you’re anything like me, you should count your blessings when a title like Suspiria accidentally falls to your feet from the top shelf. Don’t bother checking to make sure that it’s not being rented by someone else. Chances are it’s still available. However, all 30 copies of the latest Julia Roberts movie have been wiped clean from the shelves. That’s o.k. Just do yourself a favor. Grab that single, dust-covered, copy of Suspiria, whip out your rental card and head straight for the counter. Trust me.
Be forewarned, Suspiria is a horror movie that was made in 1977, going on 25 years ago. The genre in general has metamorphosed more than Kafka could have ever imagined. People, places and things that were terrifying a quarter of a century ago may not necessarily have the same affect on viewers that they have today. It is not as formulaic as many of the more recent releases. It doesn’t necessarily have a beginning, middle and end; at least not in the traditional sense. Many of the scenes throughout Suspiria don’t always make a whole helluva lot of sense. Things aren’t always explained. There is no narrator available to hold your hand to ensure that each member of the audience “understands.” What it ultimately comes down to is that understanding the “why” of things doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better film.Suspiria is a film about terror, with the simple motive to terrify.
Keep in mind, however, that there is usually much more involved in a Dario Argento film than initially thought. It’s not just mindless blood and guts, although there are a number of scenes that are both brutal and disturbingly gruesome.Suspiria is a fine example of the creative imagination that is Dario Argento. The basic plot element is as simple as a New York dance student invited to attend a German dance academy and who eventually becomes entangled in the mysteries, deceits and murders that are held within its very walls. Oh yeah, and there’s some witchcraft as well. But the overall experience of the film goes far beyond any modern re-telling of some children’s fairy tale.
A prime example of this “experience” really begins with Argento’s use of music. From the minute you hit the play button you become nearly hypnotized with the repetitive opening theme that is reminiscent of Don Coscarelli’s,Phantasm. It’s dreamlike, yet all too familiar of a childhood nightmare. The mood is complete as an uneasy feeling begins to set in. Very few horror movies are able to instill this kind of nervousness with music alone. John Carpenter’s disturbing theme music from Halloween comes to mind, as does the previously mentioned Coscarelli classic. Beyond that, after taking some time to really think about it, it seems as though the more recent adaptation of the “horror movie” doesn’t generally spend much time on the essentials of mood setting. Nowadays, I get the impression that in order to produce a fast selling horror movie within the United States there are certain requirements that need to be met; death, an obligatory sex scene or two and complete nonsense. Don’t get me wrong. I love the genre, in both written word and on the silver screen. But the way things have been going recently I can only weep for the future of things to come.
Maybe that’s why we’re talking about an Italian filmmaker.
Argento’s creative flare doesn’t simply stop with an eerie musical score. His peculiar sense of individual camera angles and clever use of colorful scenery is matched only by his uncanny feel for knowing when, where and how to kill off his characters. Like I said before, the progressions of his movies don’t always make much sense. Just remember, terror for terror’s sake. In fact, probably the best way to sum up a film like Suspiria is to quote directly from Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento, by Maitland McDonagh, a book that took an extremely in-depth look at the career of Dario Argento:
Suspiria proved to be Argento’s greatest ever box office success in the United States, despite the generally ghastly reviews-most were on the order of John Simon’s assessment in New York: “It is,” he wrote, “a horror movie that is a horror of a movie, where no one or nothing makes sense: not one plot element, psychological reaction, minor character, piece of dialogue, or ambience.” Well no, it doesn’t precisely make sense…not in any conventional way, but then neither does the story of Little Red Riding Hood; what kind of stupid little girl can’t tell her grandmother from a great hairy wolf? Does the situation call for complicated solutions involving associative mental disorders? No. That isn’t the point.
Like I said, terror for terror’s sake.
Fear not. If your interest has been piqued by what Dario Argento has to offer, yet you’re concerned that your local mom and pop video store won’t have any copies of his movies, you can take comfort in knowing that in all likelihood you’ve already gotten a taste of Argento’s madness; at least if you’re into horror movies. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, you need look no further than the confirmed classic sequel to George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead. Depending on whom you talk to or what magazine article you read, the information may be slightly different each time. But in the end, if you’ve seen Dawn of the Dead you’ve had a chance to see what two of the most distinctively creative minds in the horror field are capable of. In most cases script consultant is attributed to the collaborative efforts that Argento played, but in all actuality I think that it’s only fair to say that he had a hand in writing the material.
Now, if you’re feeling lucky, and you want to go for broke, look a little closer the next time you rent a movie. Be sure to keep an eye out for a little love story called, Demons, the one movie that really got me interested in Dario Argento. In all fairness, Argento did not direct this movie. Instead, it was directed by Lamberto Bava, a protégé of Argento’s. But it still remains as a perfect example of what Argento’s influence is capable of in the form of producer. The story line is a bit vague, and there are a number of inconsistencies throughout, but all in all it remains at the top of my list when it comes to in your face horror. And although it tends to be a little over the top in the gore category I still find myself drawn to it on those days when the mood is just right.
If these titles aren’t enough to satisfy your Argento desires, then rest assured that most, if not all, of his earlier titles are currently being made available for purchase in the form of home entertainment’s greatest creation . . .the DVD. Unfortunately, because of their newness, as well as the efforts that have been put into masterfully cleaning up the sound and picture, they are a bit on the pricey side. So, for those welcome “beginners” to the Argento universe, you may want to try your luck with rentals to start out with. Then, if you like what you see, by all means feel free to spend your hard earned money on a worthy cause. I know for a fact that the extra features that have been placed onto these DVDs are worth the money alone.
I suppose that I could probably go on and on about how great I think Dario Argento is; but it really doesn’t matter what I think at all, now is it? That’s not what I had intended this article to be about. Those of you reading this piece have never met me and probably never will. For all you know, I could be some lunatic who has nothing better to do with my life than simply watch horror movies. I’m fine with that. What I am hoping is that if you have read this article and are hearing the name Dario Argento being spoken for the first time, that you will at the very least take an extra minute or two the next time you’re in the rental store to look for one of his titles. If it’s there, rent it. If it’s not, ask for it. And for God’s sake, put back that copy of the latest remake of Shirley Jackson’s, The Haunting.
But before I go, stop the presses. While writing this article I have recently discovered that there is a new Argento title available for rental called Sleepless. Now, for all I know, it might not be that new anymore. Like I said, I’m a novice on the subject. But it’s at least new enough for it to be prominently displayed (along the back wall, next to the public restroom) at my local Blockbuster. Have I since rented it? Yes I have. Am I gonna tell you what it’s about? No I’m not. I will, however, wet your appetite with a hint as to who takes the starring position in it with a quote from one of this actor’s previous roles.
“Pathetic Earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you’d known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would have hidden from it in terror.”
That’s right, folks. It’s that bald-headed, fu man chu wearing, Max Von Sydow from Dino De Laurentis’ 1980 film, Flash Gordon; a role that couldn’t have been played by any other actor in this movie lover’s eyes.
So in all likelihood, because of it’s new release qualifications, Sleepless may be more readily available for rental wherever you may be. However, if the opportunity is there to rent one of the other previously mentioned Argento titles, I suggest that you start with those. They will definitely give you a better understanding of what I’ve been trying to get across to you. But, if your options are limited, take what you can get.
Therefore, I suppose that in all fairness to the movie rental industry in the state of Wisconsin, I should recant my previous statement.
Two titles. Two fuckin’ titles from a lifetime of achievements.
THE NITWIT’S NITPICKS
Typography by John Klima
I decided to take a look at six different books that attempted to do something unusual with their typography. I’ll discuss how effective I felt this was in the overall reading of the book. My intention is to not talk about whether I enjoyed the fiction, but rather how effective I felt the author and publisher was in creating a alternative look to the text. For the purposes of this critique, I will discuss them in order of least effective to most effective.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne.
To be fair, this is one of the first novels in the English language. So, one should not expect marvels of typography since the technology was nothing like it is today. However, Sterne did some interesting things with his text, I think, because he did know any better. There are extra long dashes, extraneous spaces, extra punctuation, and so on. It makes the book read much like how someone would speak. Also, at times Sterne left in a blank page where the text would have described objectionable topics to his readers. But, compared to other examples I have, this falls at the beginning of the list.
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester.
Nothing unusual until the very end of the book where the protagonist is under extreme trauma and his emotions and senses become confused. The text reminds of picture poetry where the words form an image, like an umbrella for example. Bester would have been contemporary with people like William Carlos Williams who did this sort of thing all the time. Very innovative for its time and very effective at conveying a sense of confusion to the reader. Again, due to technological constraints, not as interesting as more modern books.
Thoughts of God by Michael Kanaly.
Essentially three stories that all influence each other that are each set in their own typeface; a murder mystery, a series of science fiction vignettes, and the philosophical meanderings of a God-like being. The different typefaces seem to have had two effects. For some readers, myself included, it helped clue me into what the next section was going to be like so I could get my mind in gear. For other readers, it allowed them to skip sections of the book if they did not care for the storyline. What that means is that in either respect, the typography served to draw attention to its sections, much like the different color washes did for the movie Traffic.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.
Easily the craziest book of the bunch. There are sections of the book with one word per page, spiral text, as well as text over the top of other text. There are also footnotes that force the reader to turn the book upside-down and sideways and forward and back into the book. The book contains two storylines, one in the text and one in the footnotes. The basic premise of the main story is a bunch of people lost in a maze. Reading the book feels much like a maze at times as you have to unravel the flow of the text to be able to read the story. However, at times typographical decisions make no sense. For example: the word ‘house’ always appears in blue ink; one chapter has a hidden message in Morse code that you read by the length of the paragraphs making longs and shorts; the footnotes that require the most physical work are merely long, long lists of names; and so on. These sections seem to be placed there either to be just clever or there merely to throw the reader off track. In a sense, the typography succeeds to make the reader feel like one is in a maze, lost confused, switching back, randomly turning corners, but it can get very frustrating at the same time.
The Exchange by Nicholas Sporlender (Jeff VanderMeer) with illustrations by Louis Verden (Eric Schaller).
This beautiful little volume is presented as “a special [Festival of the Freshwater Squid] booklet for distribution to the thousands that crowd the city.” What a lucky city. It really is a gorgeous little piece of printing. Slightly smaller than a 4″ x 6″ note card in breadth, The Exchange tells the story of a young man who, through a window, watches an older couple share dinner. The setting is Ambergris, Jeff VanderMeer’s infamous city of delights. VanderMeer is the true author here, but his name does not appear anywhere on the booklet. It does appear on the Appoggiatura card that comes with the booklet and explains what it is that you hold in your hands. A lot of love and care went into the making of this book. And the typography? That’s the best part. Filled with Verden’s, I mean Schaller’s, disturbing images, it feels like something made for a city not of Earth. Even more impressive is that the back is filled with ads for Ambergris businesses, ones either a part of Hoegbotton & Sons, the business that “printed” the booklet, or businesses that are taking part in the Festival. The booklet even lists other Hoegbotton & Sons pamphlets that one could purchase to orient one’s self to Ambergris. Everything is laid out in this booklet to make it feel as if it is from Ambergris, and not Earth. I only wish that VanderMeer had added some sort of scent to it that might hint at Ambergris… The Exchange does as good a job as the next book using its typography and layout to achieve its goal.
The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd.
The most subtle of the group. The book tells the story of a young man’s first year in art school. At the point where the protagonist’s Graphic Design professor speaks for the first time, the typeface of the book changes. From here on out the book is set in the new typeface. It’s so subtle, you might not notice it initially. But it’s there. This professor changes the young art student’s life. The change of typeface works perfectly to show how innocuous events become much bigger through the passage of time. A change you might even miss while reading, much like how you might not realize that a particular person has made a profound effect on your life until much later. The most effective book in the group in reallyusing the typography to enhance the reading.