Year Zero by Rob Reid
Publisher: DelRey/July 2012
Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news.
The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity’s music ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang. The resulting fines and penalties have bankrupted the whole universe. We humans suddenly own everything—and the aliens are not amused.
Nick Carter has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly, and he’s an unlikely galaxy-hopping hero: He’s scared of heights. He’s also about to be fired. And he happens to have the same name as a Backstreet Boy. But he does know a thing or two about copyright law. And he’s packing a couple of other pencil-pushing superpowers that could come in handy.
Soon he’s on the run from a sinister parrot and a highly combustible vacuum cleaner. With Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick now has forty-eight hours to save humanity, while hopefully wowing the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.
“Aliens suck at music.” So begins Rob Reid’s Year Zero. Nick Carter (not of the Backstreet Boys), is an entertainment lawyer who gets the office visit of a lifetime from two alien beings, Carly and Frampton. Of course the voluptuous, smart Carly intrigues Nick immediately, but they’re not on Earth for extra-curricular activities. They’re here to deal. See, the Refined League, a confederation of brilliant alien societies made the decision that humanity would never make the cut. We’d just never achieve Refined status. However, after distant anthropologists happened upon an episode of Welcome Back Kotter, their initial assessment of us being a bunch of idiots changed once the end credits started and the theme music began. Yep, the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter convinced these superior beings that they had found most wondrous thing in the universe, in the form of human music (called the “Kotter Moment.) Decades later, after sampling every single song in the human playbook, they made a startling realization: they owe us a huge amount of money. Seriously, huge, and Nick must find away to make a deal since it’s starting to look like the actual planet may be in danger. So, Nick sets out with Carly and Frampton on an interstellar trip to settle up and possibly save the Earth.
Year Zero is told in Nick’s voice and while there’s plenty of adventure to be had here, it’s his observations of the many weird, wild alien life forms and environments that make this book such a blast. Usually I groan when I see footnotes in a book, but once I got into the swing of reading them (I’ll admit, I’m bad at ignoring footnotes, but you won’t want to ignore these), more times than not they made me laugh out loud and were always entertaining. Carly and Frampton are pretty jaded aliens and Nick’s absolute wonder at their spectacular world and technology is endlessly amusing to them. Rob Reid has a knack for setting up a scene and mining it for maximum laughs, and walking the line between so ridiculous it’s rather awesome and just plain ridiculous is tough, but he manages to do it, to fine effect. Music licensing is a serious (and lucrative) business, but serious really doesn’t factor into the equation here, and this razor sharp satire manages to make it fun (and actually kind of informative.) Inevitable comparisons will be made to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and that’s a good thing, but Year Zero is a romp all its own.
Nick is an affable hero who thinks on his feet and Carly and Frampton are brilliant, funny, and awesomely weird. Don’t forget the talking parrot, pluhhhs (not THE pluhhhs), various other gooey, slimy, space things, Purfuffinites, and Wrinkles (the main mode of travel for Carly and Frampton), and plenty of pop culture references. So, can Nick figure out how to help them pay their ginormous music bill, save the world, and get the girl (his lovely neighbor, Manda)? You’ll just have to pick up a copy and find out! I promise you’ll have a helluva time!
Here’s my roundup of book news (and other fun stuff) around the web for the week! Sometimes I add stuff throughout the day on Friday, so be sure you check back over the weekend too!
Interviews and more:
Excerpts and such:
Fun stuff (some book-related, some not):
Also, the October Scare-a-Thon is in full swing, so be sure to check out what we’ve got going so far,and keep an eye out for spotlights on more horror authors and Bram Stoker Award winners in the coming days!
Please welcome Phillipa Bornikova to the blog! She’s the author of This Case is Gonna Kill Me and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Also, we’ve got a copy of the book up for grabs, so be sure to check out the details below the post!
This Case is Gonna Kill Me just came out last month, and I loved it! What was your inspiration for this book?
I am a reformed attorney, and I realized looking around the urban fantasy landscape that not a lot had been written about the halls of power – law, finance, politics. It seemed to me that if supernatural creatures existed they would have a profound impact on our culture and economics. And there’s a tradition in the law to call very prestigious law firms “white shoe” firms. It just worked so perfectly for a vampire law firm to be a “white fang” firm.
For those that haven’t read it, will you tell us a bit about it?
It’s the story of a young, human woman who starts work at a prestigious vampire law firm. She soon finds herself involved in a series of bizarre murders, and while she’s handling the legal aspects of her career she begins to realize there is something bizarre about her as well.
What sort of research did you do for the novel?
My first case when I went to work at a law firm was a fight over a will that had gone on for almost two decades. That was the foundation for the plot of the book. I also manage a small natural gas company so issues of economics also interests me a great deal so I took a look at how humans would find ways to make money off the presence of supernatural creatures in our midst.
When you started writing, did you have a plan for a series, or did you just decide to see where Linnet took you?
I’m architect – meaning I plot like crazy so I have an arc for Linnet as she figures out things about herself. I also had a three book contract so I needed to have a plan on how the journey would lay out across those three books.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I love science fiction and mysteries which is one of the things that makes urban fantasy so fun. It’s a fusion of a number of different genres. It’s also what makes it hard. In terms of authors who I think have affected me – John le Carre, and Hemmingway. I tend to like short, to-the-point sentences over more elaborate prose.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
The Lord of the Rings. (which really is one book arbitrarily divided into 3) That story was simply breathtaking.
What are you reading now?
C. J. Cherryh the latest in her FOREIGNER series.
What’s next? Do you have anything to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I am writing a movie for Universal Pictures. I have the third Linnet book to write, and I have a space opera I really want to write. I’ve got the 6 books plotted in broad strokes. Now I need to write some opening chapters of book one, and really get the plots nailed down.
Purchase This Case Is Gonna Kill Me: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
Read my review of This Case Is Gonna Kill Me
The Halloween Horror Bundle from StoryBundle is out! It includes books by Joseph Nassise (Riverwatch), Annie Walls (Taking On the Dead), Martin Kee (A Latent Dark), Patricia Fulton (The Drought), Weston Ochse (Blaze of Glory), and Jon F. Merz (Vicarious).
Here’s how it works: Go to storybundle.com, pay what you think the books are worth (if you pay more than $9, you get 2 bonus books!), download to your e-reader (compatible with most e-readers), and read!
Also, you can donate 10% of your purchase price to charity. Doesn’t get much better than that! Read more about the books below, and go snag ‘em!
Riverwatch by Joseph Nassise:
During a renovation project Jake Caruso and his construction crew uncover a hidden tunnel in the cellar of the old Blake family mansion. Exploring its depths, he finds an even greater mystery: a stone chamber that’s been covered up for hundreds of years — sealed shut by some long-forgotten warden.
When the ancient seal on the chamber is broken, a reign of terror and death consumes the town’s residents. Something is stalking them — something that strikes in the darkness without warning or mercy, leaving a trail of innocent blood in its wake — and Jake comes to recognize the nightmarish truth about what he has set free. It is an evil born of ages past. A creature of eternal bloodlust. And it has risen to continue its endless slaughter….
NOMINATED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL HORROR GUILD AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN A FIRST NOVEL FOR 2001
Taking On the Dead by Annie Walls:
Life for Kansas was perfect until the day the world changed.
She has been hiding out for four years in solitude. It’s the only way to survive. The only way not to draw the living dead. Helping a small group of people, she learns the new world might not be what she assumes. Venturing out of her refuge and comfort zone, she meets Rudy, who helps her find a greater purpose. She realizes that the world has moved on without her. Only it’s not what she expects. Her knowledge of the living dead grows and only makes her more curious as humanity continues to hang on by a thread. While on her search for answers she finds comfort in new friendships and love, but her past seems as if it will haunt her forever.
Kansas takes it upon herself to help other survivors, which would be easy if the famished were the only obstacles.
A Latent Dark by Martin Kee:
Skyla has lived secretly within the city walls of Bollingbrook for eleven years, playing among the airship factories and trainyards. As one of the Gutter District’s nameless destitute, it has gone undiscovered that she has a unique talent: when Skyla looks at a person’s shadow she sees through it and into another world. She can see people’s fears, desires, their past sins–all as swimming, living creatures. Her mother has never told her the real reasons why they must remain hidden, never explained the true dangers that exist outside the city walls. But when her mother’s past catches up with them both, Skyla finds she must flee out of the city and into a world still recovering from a second Dark Age, a world of adults with secrets only she can see. For a stranger has recently moved into Bollingbrook, a man some call the Pope of the South, a witch hunter to some and a hero to others. When more children begin to disappear, suspicions are raised and an unlikely search party is formed to find Skyla in the hopes that they aren’t already too late.
The Drought by Patricia Fulton:
Welcome to Junction, Texas Population: 626 and steadily declining Odd things have been happening around town. Hugh McManus went out to one of his grazing pastures and shot the better part of a fine herd before shooting himself. Luke Casteel crawled into a drainage pipe and never came back. A herd of wild javelina attacked and killed Rod Sawyer. And the thing is, the dying isn’t nearly done. Jared Riley knows there’s something sinister about the heat. It’s got people acting crazy and it’s got him hearing things. A voice keeps whispering, “It’s gonna get mighty hot. Yes sir we like our meatloaf and taters well done, served up pipin’ hot.” Convinced the heat is tracking them, picking them off one by one, he sets off to find help. Trouble is, the people who have the answers are more dangerous than the heat. Driven by strong characters and a twisting plot, THE DROUGHT delves into the supernatural world where ghosts roam the landscape and a voodoo curse floats on the wind.
Blaze of Glory by Weston Ochse:
For fans of Stephen King, David Gerrold, and Richard Matheson, picture this: the world is being eaten by monsters and there’s nothing you can do about it.
4 WEEKS A G O
Everything seemed fine.
Life was as we knew it.
Nothing was out of place.
3 WEEKS A G O
The first tiny creature, no bigger than a thumb, crawled out of the dark loamy earth of an Iowa corn field.
2 WEEK S A G O
Creatures came from the ground in every country, from the smallest maggot-sized killer, to Cadillac-sized devourers, each one eating everything in sight, their apparent desire, to cleanse the earth of any vestige of mankind.
2 D A Y S A G O
Our hero, Buckly Adamski, watched the Governor of North Carolina start to dance and go crazy on the television, it wasn’t until the very end that the television announcer blew his brains out over the impossibility of it all.
Y E S T E R D A Y
Planes crashed to the ground, the Eiffel Tower crumbled, trains stopped running, the power went out, and the entire human race (what was left of it) paused to take a breath, wondering if it would be their last.
T O N I G H T
Buckley gathered those he could save in the penthouse of an old building in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina. Monsters are eating the city around them. They know they must leave. They know they have to make a run for it. But they also don’t want to die.
And there is an answer, but it will come from the craziest of places.
This novel also contains an essay called and The True Adventures of a Monster Screenplay in B-Movie Wonderland, which tells the tale of how the screenplay based on this novel was almost sold to Wesley Snipes, with many of the industry’s top horror movie stars attached to the film.
Vicarious by Jon F. Merz:
When disgraced ex-FBI agent-turned-Boston-cop Steve Curran finds a corpse with no practical explanation for its death, the nightmares start again. Convinced the serial killer that caused his expulsion from the Bureau is once again haunting him, Curran soon learns his theories are all wrong. When the sister of the latest victim, Lauren Fields, uncovers an old journal detailing the hunt for a creature known only as the Soul Eater, she and Curran must confront the very real prospect that the killer is not of this world at all – and that his motives have little to do with killing, but all to do with something far, far worse.
I’m very excited to have Chaz Brenchley on the blog today! Chaz (under the name Ben Macallan) is the author of Pandaemonium, out this month, and has also authored more than 10 novels in crime, fantasy, and children’s fiction. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy scheduled to answer a few of my questions.
Please welcome Chaz to the blog!
Chaz, your new novel, Pandaemonium, (under pen name Ben Macallan) comes out this month. Will you tell us a bit about it?
Pandaemonium is the sequel to Desdaemona. Both books deal with people who’ve been on the run for a long time, finally having to turn and face their greatest fears. In the first book, Jordan is tracked down by Desdaemona – Desi – with devastating results for them both. Pandaemonium is Desi’s book, where she has to face the consequences of her own choices and actions. All this takes place in an England sodden with myth, where their personal histories are played out in a landscape of risen legend.
Do you plan on writing more books about Desdaemona, or will you just see where it takes you?
I have one more book in my head – I actually try to avoid trilogies, but sometimes they’re forced upon you. This series started with three titles, in a triangle. I really need to write Daemonogamy, just to make that structure work. That said, though, “seeing where it takes me” is actually the way I work, so who can tell? What happens next depends on a lot of factors not under my control. Inspiration is not the least of those, but not the sole criterion either.
Your writing runs the gamut from urban fantasy, to fantasy, crime fiction, and even children’s books. Do you have a favorite genre?
Usually my favourite is the next thing that comes along, just because it’s new to me. I guess I’m a flibbertigibbet. My early novels were contemporary crime, and many of the friends I made then are still working – very successfully – in that genre, a quarter of a century later. Apparently I can’t hold still that long. There’s always somewhere else I haven’t been yet, another kind of story to be explored. Right now, I’m playing with steampunk. On Mars. Old Mars, Lowell’s Mars, with canals and atmosphere and Martians, overlaid with a little of what we actually know now.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I always used to say I read the best of everything. I love style as well as storytelling. I’ve just had to abandon two-thirds of my library, in a move from England to California; the books I’m shipping across the Atlantic include Peter Straub and Patrick O’Brian and John le Carré and Rudyard Kipling and Mary Renault and Tolkien and Theodore Sturgeon and Dorothy L Sayers and Georgette Heyer and Elizabeth David and M F K Fisher and and and. I’ve probably borrowed something from all of those and more.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Heh. That’s a really interesting question – partly because I’m a great re-reader, and part of the pleasure of revisiting a book lies in knowing the shape of the story already. I’m not sure I’d actually want to give that up. On the other hand, the first time I read The Lord of the Rings, I don’t believe I did anything else but read it, for twenty-four hours cover to cover. I’d like to recapture that, perhaps – but I was a kid then, and I think it’d be a very different experience reading it for the first time as an adult.
What are you reading now?
Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. For the first time, as it happens: people have been pressing these books on me for 35 years, and I’ve only just succumbed. I’m in the last quarter of the last book now. You’re interrupting me, damn your eyes…
In the spirit of the season, what’s one of the scariest books you’ve ever read?
Heh. That would be Stephen King’s The Shining. Which I very sensibly read late at night, by firelight, in a remote country cottage all alone. Yup. Good choices, all of those. Lord, but I was spooked…
On a personal note, you’re described as a notorious foodie. What’s one of your favorite dishes (to prepare or to eat)?
In a rather boringly traditional male macho kind of way, I love hot and highly-spiced foods; given a free hand, I tend to play with curries and dishes from further east. On the other hand, I also adore making bread. I have a sourdough loaf that I bake every week, with a mix of white, wholemeal and rye flours and just a touch of malt, which may be my single favourite thing to cook.
I read that you enjoy travel. Where would you like to go that you haven’t yet been?
Anywhere in mainland China, but Sichuan particularly (for the food, of course). Now that Burma is coming out of the cold, I’d love to go to Rangoon; my mother was born there. Hong Kong. Japan. All my thoughts are easterly, always.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
Steampunk!Mars – but I said that already. In a wholly different steampunk project, my wife and I wrote a story between us – The Airship Towers of Trebizond, by Mr & Mrs Brenchley – which will be coming out in Gears and Levers 2. I have various other short stories heading towards publication, and I’m slowly bringing my backlist back into print through Book View Cafe (www.bookviewcafe.com): Dispossession is the next in line. Amnesia and a fallen angel, how can you resist? That’ll be out by the time this interview is published…
Keep up with Chaz: Website | Twitter
Pre-Order Pandaemonium: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
Desdaemona has done a thing so so terrible that she has to run away from the consequences. Again. Where better to look for shelter than with the boy she was running from before?
But trouble follows. And if it’s not Jacey’s parents who sent the deadly crow-men, the Twa Corbies, in chase of her, then who is it? Deep under London, among the lost and rejected of two worlds, answers begin to emerge from Desi’s hidden past. Answers that send her north in a flight that turns to a hunt, with strange companions and stranger prey. Dangers lie ahead and behind; inconvenient passion lays traps for her just when she needs a clear head; at the last even Desi has to beg for help. From one who has more cause than most to want her dead…
Since I joined the gang at SF Signal, I’ve gotten to know fellow contributor Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin) a bit, and not only is he one of the smartest folks I know, he’s also one of the nicest (his encouragement prior to my first podcast was much appreciated.) While Scare-a-Thon has focused on the scary in traditional horror, I thought Paul could also bring a sci-fi sensibility to the event, so without further ado, here’s Paul’s Top 5, which focuses on gems from Lovecraft and John Carpenter!
Five Frights from Lovecraft and Carpenter
I don’t consume a tremendous amount of horror, although sometimes a turn into the dark side of horror is the only thing that will do, especially when the nights grow long and the air grows cold and fall turns into winter. There is a human need that I share to be frightened, but reassured afterwards that the fright was a passing thing, and that we have survived it. The adrenalin rush of the scare, or the cerebral creeping of impending doom are an experience exhilarating in the moment, and are then survived. Is it any wonder that visual and aural media are often much more effective in invoking that sense of horror in me than a book?
My taste in horror is much more toward the horror of the alien and the other, rather than the horror and fears of a serial killer or a murderer. I am not a fan of Saw movies or splatterpunk. I do not like the Friday the 13th series with Jason; however Freddy Krueger and his ability to manipulate dreams pushes my buttons far more effectively. That is the sort of fright that sends chills down MY spine. The integrity of my sleeping mind under threat is far scarier to me than a guy in a mask or a sadist who wants me to cut a leg off in a sick sense of social darwinism. The scene in the fourth Nightmare movie where Freddy transforms one of the kids he is tormenting into a cockroach, traps her in a roach motel and then crushes it and her gets me every time.
The idea of alien and eldritch entities, or the very boundaries of reality breaking down, or the prospect of being catapulted into a dimension that might as well be called hell are the frights and fears that get my pulse racing, get my fears rising, and give me that sense of relief when the roller coaster of existential horror is done. The works of John Carpenter and the works of H.P. Lovecraft, together, scratch that need for visual and aural frights that bring the alien, the other, the existential. And, most importantly, entertain.
So, here are five of the Lovecraftian and John Carpenter films I go back to again and again when I want the visceral feel of being frightened and scared, especially at this time of the year.
Dagon is a 2001 Spanish horror film heavily based on the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Shadow over Innsmouth”. The story transplanted to the Spanish coast and the modern day, the story features a successful entrepreneur and his girlfriend, vacationing with their major financial backers on a yacht near the town of Imboca (“In mouth”, in the Spanish-like language of Catalan. Get it?). A storm wrecks the boat, injures the investor friends, and drives the young couple to the town to find help for their friends, only to discover the horrific rites that the town partakes in. Even more frightening, the entrepreneur discovers a hitherto unknown connection to the not so human inhabitants of the town.
2. Event Horizon
Continuing with the Lovecraftian elements and theme, Event Horizon brings those elements to a haunted, derelict space craft. The crew of the patrol and rescue ship Lewis and Clark have been sent to Neptune, where a long thought lost ship, the titular Event Horizon, has appeared in a decaying orbit around the gas giant. With the crew of the Lewis and Clark is Dr. Weir, the original designer of the Event Horizon, played by Sam Neill. The goals of the designer and the crew are relatively straightforward: determine what happened to the Event Horizon, and salvage the ship. The fact that Dr. Weir’s wife was one of the crew adds an extra incentive to the Doctor to want to explore the shop and learn its fate.
Sounds simple, right? However, once aboard, the aura of malevolence and malice aboard the Event Horizon slowly rises, and stranger and stranger things start to happen, until the horror of what has happened to the Event Horizon and what the ship intends is inescapable. And I just can’t resist a movie which has a plot twist based on a translation of Latin.
3. The Thing
The 1982 Thing by John Carpenter starts what has been called the Apocalypse Trilogy. The Apocalypse Trilogy is a set of three films by Carpenter that are really three end-game situations for the human race. In the Thing, an isolated polar base comes into contact with a murderous, shapeshifting alien, and the movie turns into a locked-room mystery of sorts, with the identity of the alien always a fluid and uncertain thing. Questions of trust and reliability are intermingled with action as the alien is seemingly flushed out again and again. The nihilistic ending is very much in keeping with the bleak existential horror of the movie as a whole. And the acting, starting with Kurt Russell,is top notch. We believe in these characters, even and especially as they start to turn on each other. And who wouldn’t be scared by the idea that your friends and colleagues are anything but human?
The new remake isn’t quite as potent as this one, but is worth seeing as well.
4. Prince of Darkness
Next up in Carpenter’s Trilogy, Prince of Darkness is a 1990 horror film that explores quasi-gnostic ideas of God and the Devil, pitting faith and science against an Anti-God seeking to return to our world. Like The Thing, it really works the angle of the characters being trapped in a small space with a malevolent force. In this case, instead of an isolated base in the Antarctic, the main characters find themselves trapped in a church as the Anti-God prepares to manifest itself, and the Anti-God has plans for those trapped in the church with it. Throw in a weird subplot involving messages from the future and you get a potent mix of science, fantasy, and horror.
5. In the Mouth of Madness
In the Mouth of Madness is a 1995 horror film that rounds out the aforementioned trilogy and combines the direction of John Carpenter, and Lovecraftian elements. John Trent, played by Sam Neill (yes, again!) is an insurance fraud investigator who is tasked to find the missing sensational horror writer Sutter Cane, a Stephen King with an emphasis on eldritch and alien entities more than simple small town horror. When Trent discovers that a fictional town from Cane’s stories is real, and that Cane is living in that town, his horror and troubles only begin, as reality itself seems to fray around him. The questions of what is reality and how it might be manipulated are juxtaposed against more traditional and threatening horror elements, to very visceral effect.
Keep up with Paul: Twitter | Blog
Not really a Prince of Amber, but rather an ex-pat New Yorker that has found himself living in Minnesota for the last 9 years, Paul “PrinceJvstin” Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for longer than Shaun has been alive. In addition to pitching in at Skiffy and Fanty, he can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, SF Signal, the Functional Nerds, Twitter, Livejournal and many other places on the Internet.
Please welcome UK author Gary McMahon to the blog, as part of the October Scare-a-Thon series of interviews! Gary is the author of 7 novels, including the Concrete Grove Trilogy and the Thomas Usher series, and his newest book Beyond Here Lies Nothing, just came out!
Gary, you’re the author of numerous novels, all of which delve into terrifying territory. Did you always want to write? Will you tell us a bit about how you became a writer?
I’ve actually only had seven novels published, but, yes, they all examine dark themes. I didn’t always want to write: I did always write. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, even if it was just scribbling scenes or character descriptions on scraps of paper when I was a child. It’s something I’ve always done, and I never stopped hoping that one day someone would pay me to do it.
You just wrapped up your Concrete Grove Trilogy with Beyond Here Lies Nothing. What did you enjoy most about writing the trilogy?
Finishing it! I spent so long in that world, living with those characters in my head, that it was a relief to finish writing the third book and leave it alone for a while. There was a sense of loss, too, but that was tempered by the joy of being able to write about something new.
You’re known for your talent for writing chilling stories. What’s something that truly terrifies you?
Growing old. Losing my mental faculties. Losing my wife or my son. Dying. Pretty average fears, I guess, but that’s what terrifies me.
What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest differences between American and British horror?
This is a tricky question, and one that I’ve thought a lot about. To me it seems that a lot of English horror fiction is rooted in the traditional form – there’s a slow accumulation of detail, a focus on atmosphere and the psychology of characters. I’ve found that a lot of American horror is more situation-and-plot-based, and doesn’t spend a lot of time generating an atmosphere of dread. Neither style is right or wrong; both are valid. Also, this isn’t the case with all English and American horror – but it’s a handy generalisation to make because it illustrates a valid point.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison, Joel Lane, Rupert Thomson, Charles Bukowski. Cinema. Music. My life.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski. Reading that novel for the first time was a revelatory experience.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading A Book of Horrors, edited by Steve Jones, Boneland by Alan Garner, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, and a few books and essays about Victorian mediums and Victorian social advances as research for a project.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I don’t really have what I’d call free time. I’m either working the day job, spending time with my family, running, practicing karate, or writing. I do watch a lot of movies – I’m a big cinema buff. But that’s part of my routine; I see it as research rather than a way of filling spare time, and I write film reviews for a couple of websites.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects and events?
I’m currently working on a novel called The Quiet Room, which is a haunted house story. Next year will see the release of a short apocalyptic novel called The End. I’ve also been commissioned by an award-winning US publisher to write a supernatural horror novel, which will be called The Bones of You. And, as always, there’ll be more short stories.
Keep up with Gary: Website | Goodreads
I’m so excited to offer you (courtesy of the wonderful folks at HMH Kids) a chance to win the entire Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin! You can check out the announcement page for the new editions, read the giveaway details below, and good luck!
About A Wizard of Earthsea (Book 1):
Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles. Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.
I made no bones about how much I adored Joe Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water, so when I got a chance to ask Joe a few questions, I was beyond thrilled! Joe is a busy guy, a wonderful writer, and if you haven’t discovered him yet, he’s got a tremendous backlist, so you’ve got quite a lot of awesome to choose from. He just won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writer’s Association (among more than a few Bram Stoker’s), so I thought he’d be a perfect spotlight during my Scare-a-Thon event.
Also, courtesy of the lovely folks at Mulholland Books, we’ve got a copy of Edge Of Dark Water up for grabs, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post.
Please welcome Joe to the blog!
Joe, thanks so much for joining me for my October feature! As the winner of nine Bram Stoker Awards (and many others), you’re no stranger to the rush of your work being recognized on an international scale, but recently, you won the Lifetime Achievement Award, along with Rick Hautala. Did you ever imagine you would be this successful as a writer? Will you tell us a bit about how you started writing?
I never imagine that. I just wanted to write for a living because it’s what I love. It was always my dream job. Still is. I’ve been doing it since I was a child, placing articles, stories, novels, screenplays, etc. for forty years, and its still my dream job. I was a comic book nut in the late fifties and all through the sixties, but they led to my reading all manner of books and stories. I was also a fan of movies, just about any form of written entertainment. I don’t think I really had a choice. I never finished college, but I started teaching myself how to write by reading. I’m still teaching myself how to write by reading. Once I started selling, I just kept at it. I worked all manner of jobs, the last being a janitor, and then I was able to go full time. I’ve been at it ever since.
Your most recent release, All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky (Sept 11th, 2012), is your first young adult novel. What made you decide to write a book especially for young adults? Was it a challenge to make the switch?
Actually, I had written another Young Adult titled THE BOAR. I was fond of it. It was done for a small press, and then reprinted by another small press. I liked doing it so much I planned to do it again. In many ways, a lot of my adult fiction is really young adult fiction, in that young adults are the protagonists. It’s a kind of story I love a lot. I enjoy coming of age stories, stories where young people are experiencing the mysteries of growing up, the good and the bad.
You’re well known for your noir/crime novels, but also have some horror titles under your belt. What things do you find truly scary?
People. That’s what’s truly scary. Even supernatural horrors are symbolic of realistic horrors. People do some pretty awful things.
How do you think horror in fiction has changed from its heyday in the 80s to more recent offerings?
It’s more frequently contemporary, and it’s a lot more about the evils that humans do, and with less disguise about it. It’s also more graphic, though not exclusively. I like graphic and non-graphic. It depends on the story for me. I think it has also embraces the mainstream, or rather the mainstream has embraced it. I think the eighties started those trends and they have continued. There are now a lot of blending of romance, tons of vampires and zombies. Nothing wrong with any of that, but there’s so much of it, it’s not all that engaging anymore. There are exceptions, and they make it worthwhile. They are usually much more character driven pieces, better written material.
What do you consider “pushing the limits” when it comes to your writing?
I try not to think about that when I write. I don’t want to do it consciously. I let the story decide.
When looking for a good scare, who are your go-to authors?
I’m at the point where in the horror field I’m reading backwards. I’ve gone back to Machen and M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Poe, E.F. Benson. I love a lot of contemporary stuff, but my head has been there lately, which considering I’m thought to be one of those that kicked a few doors down, with a lot of assistance from other writers, I might add, it would seem I would be all about the modern approach. I am for the most part, but lately I’ve been rereading the old classics and writing a few stories in that vein.
What are a few of your favorite scary films?
I loved THE HAUNTING, from one of my favorite horror novels, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. I really loved the recent THE WOMAN IN BLACK. I liked the novel, the play, which I saw in London, as well as the BBC film, and the recent film version. I love NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, a lot of the drive in horrors. My friend Lee Lankford just directed a film, CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD, based on a story of mine with a script by my son, Keith Lansdale. It stars Damian Maffei and Brad Maule, and my daughter, son-in-law, and friend and horror writer Chet Williamson have roles in it. I love films.
Is Halloween an event at your house? If so, how do you like to celebrate?
I love Halloween, but we usually keep it simple. A horror movie, or I read a fine horror story. Our kids are grown, so we don’t have trick’r treating anymore. It seems I’m often on some kind of trip, doing an event on Halloween. Couple years back in New York, my daughter was with me. She went to a Halloween extravaganza down town, and I stayed in the hotel anticipating watching a good horror film. There was one on. Not one. Limited cable, I like to think. I did, however, have a horror story with me, so I read that and wrote a piece on a writer I was asked to do. So, it wasn’t perfect Halloween, but it was something. This year I’m giving out an award for a Halloween Writing Contest, which, by the way, my daughter is one of the judges. Then I hope to come home and watch a Halloween movie. I teach class on Wednesday night at the University, but I let my students off to have a work day, and, to have Halloween. Class would have been mostly empty anyway, so I let them loose to have fun, and not waste my night by not showing up. And you know what. I don’t blame them.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I have the paperback edition of my novel EDGE OF DARK WATER coming out from Mulholland Books. It’s still available in hardback, but comes February there will be the paperback. It has a readers guide in the back, and an interview with me. I’m going to be with Lee Lankford in Torino, Italy for a showing of CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD at the Torino film festival. I love Torino. I love Italy. I enjoy seeing the movie. It’s a win, win, win.
Keep up with Joe: Website | Twitter
Portlandtown, the brand new book by Rob DeBorde, comes out tomorrow, and the author was kind enough to answer a few of my questions (and give us his recipe for Beer-Steamed Mussels), so please welcome Rob to the blog!
Rob, your shiny new book, Portlandtown: A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes, is out tomorrow!!! The premise is pretty awesome and includes outlaws, zombies, and booksellers in the 1800s. Will you tell us a little bit more about it? Teasers always welcome!
I’d be happy to share! Portlandtown tells the story of the Wyldes, a curiously talented family living in Portland in 1887 who face off against an undead outlaw and his horde of living-challenged brethren. That’s studio pitch. For the reader I’d also offer this: it’s not just about zombies. Yes, more than a few slack-jaws stumble their way through the pages of Portlandtown, but the book is as much about the adventure as it is the horror. Plus there are voodoo cowboys, steam-driven totem poles, and a tent-full of Old West circus freaks. Yes, I just promised you oddities versus zombies. Step right up!
Your first book, Fish On A First Name Basis, was a nonfiction guide to catchin’ the swimmy critters, skinnin’ em, and cookin’ em up. What made you decide to embark on writing a supernatural novel?
Actually, the supernatural side of things was always more my style. I found my way to the Food Network, and later the fish book, by way of an animated cooking show I developed online (I’ll explain later). Prior to that I was writing stories about talking skeletons and time-traveling monsters. Thus, a book about outlaws and zombies is simply a return to form. Also I got tired writing about fish. Seriously, there’s only so many ways to cook a flounder.
Why do you think zombies are so popular all of a sudden (other than for their good looks)?
I think the real question is why are zombies still popular after almost a decade of high-profile pop culture exposure. Most “monsters-of-the-week” fade after a few seasons, but not zombies. You can’t kill ’em! I suppose the answer—to both questions—probably has something to do with zombies being the perfect analog for our own mortality. You can run, you can hide, you can take vitamins every day of your life, but eventually death is going to catch up with you…and eat your brains. That’s the Psyche 101 answer, anyway. Could be we just dig zombies because they’re dangerous and funny at the same time. Die laughing—what a way to go, eh?
Any personal zombie favorites (books or film)?
World War Z, Shaun of the Dead, Plants Vs. Zombies, the original Resident Evil videogame, and ParaNorman. Oh, and Portlandtown.
How about books in general? What are some of your favorite authors or novels?
Stephen King, Warren Ellis, Jim Butcher, Sarah Vowell, Garth Ennis—to name just a few. As for novels, I don’t even know where to being. Actually, I do: It. That’s the first time a book gave me chills. Twice! I’ve read a lot of great books since, but I’ll mention just a few for readers to seek out: King’s 11/22/63, Christopher Moore’s Lamb, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston, Ellis’s Transmetropolitan, and Ennis’s Preacher. (Yes, the last two are comic books. It’s my list. Leave me alone.) And if you haven’t read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, you should—especially if you grew up anywhere near the 1980s. It’s a blast.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Besides It? Harry Potter. I’d like to erase all knowledge of the stories, hype, movies—especially the movies—and start on page 1 not knowing a thing. That would be a joy.
I hear you have an online cooking show? Care to, um, dish?
That would be Deep Fried, Live! With Tako the Octopus, an animated cooking show starring an accident prone eight-legged chef. It’s a real cooking show, with recipes and food science and explosions. I think there’s even a few zombie clams on the menu in one episode. Fun stuff. Also the reason why I ended up in the food business. Apparently, Alton Brown got tired of people asking if he was behind the show so he asked me to write for him, which I did for five years. Tako is still kicking around, although I’m not producing new shows at the moment. If you’re curious the whole series is still available at www.8legged.com. There are also a few shows on YouTube (for those who aren’t on a Flash-enabled device).
Speaking of dishes…what’s one of your favorites?
I only get one? Hmmm…okay, mussels and beer. That’s not a cheat, by the way. I’m cooking the mussels in the beer, so any unused brew gets put the table. Be sure to get a bomber (more beer), probably a pale or an amber—nothing too hoppy. Penn Cove mussels are the best, if you can find them. No cracked shells, no dead mussels—cook them alive!
What do you love most about living in your neck of the woods (the wilds of Oregon)? I’ve heard it’s beautiful…
It is beautiful, and thanks to the weather it stays that way year round. (Yes, it rains a bit, but not as much as you’ve heard.) As to why I love it, I’ll mention three Bs: books, bistros, and beer. There are a lot of bookstores in Portland, including the city block-sized Powell’s, which is just amazing. Want to get lost among the stacks? Go to Powell’s. Even better, the food scene in Portland is awesome. Restaurants, farmer’s markets, food carts, Voodoo Donuts—yes, I’ve put on 20 pounds since moving to Oregon, but it’s happy fat. And then there’s the beer. There are 50 different breweries in Portland, about 150 in the state, and more styles of microbrew on tap than you can imagine.
Need I say more?
What next? Anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (guilty pleasure, the best way to skin a fish, anything at all!)?
Next will either be the sequel to Portlandtown or an unrelated novel call Pumpkin Eater. The later is about ghosts, skeletons, and Halloween. Yeah, more dead things.
And just for kicks, here’s a recipe for Beer-Steamed Mussels. Enjoy!