Archive | Mixed Media

Everything that isn’t related to comics.

Review: The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan

As part of r/horrorlit’s Horror Novel a Day writers, I’m pretty sure of two things: I took on too many novels (six total) and my definition of horror is suspiciously broad.

Hawkline monster

Hawkline Monster image courtesy of Grant Hanna at http://granthanna.com

Take The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan. It’s more of a gothic western novella than a horror novel. (It is in fact subtitled A Western Gothic.)

But isn’t deception a solid component of plenty of good horror? I don’t mean my deception of being well-versed in horror novels; I mean the deceptive simplicity with which Beat poet/author Brautigan offers the story. By the time you turn the first page of a chapter you’re almost to the next one. Events unpack in sentences so efficient Hemingway would weep:

The voyage from San Francisco to Hawaii had been the most terrifying experience Greer and Cameron had ever gone through, even more terrible than the time they shot a deputy sheriff in Idaho ten times and he wouldn’t die and Greer finally had to say to the deputy sheriff “Please die because we don’t want to shoot you again.” And the deputy sheriff had said “OK, I’ll die, but don’t shoot me again.”

“We won’t shoot you again,” Cameron had said.

“OK, I’m dead,” and he was.

Characters deceive the reader and others; someone exists and then doesn’t; twins’ identities meld and split fluidly. The nature of the Hawkline Monster itself is a creative bit of fearful imagination from a haunted poet whose life ended in suicide. The places the monsters hides…!

My journey to The Hawkline Monster began with this PWxyz entry.  Gabe Habash’s passionate recommendation might have led me to make a note of the book (from the blog: “Honestly, I’m working really hard to not slip into hyperbole here, to refrain from lapsing into a vocab commensurate with the heights of my appreciation for it. This book is the real deal. I can’t recommend it enough. … Do yourself a favor and give him a try. If you don’t like him, I’ll eat my shoe like Werner Herzog.)” but what urged me to buy the book immediately was Habash’s insistence that only Cronenberg could do justice to a hypothetical film of the story. Cronenberg’s film style is very much to my tastes (the guy’s acting– Cabal, Last Night— also assures him a big warm soft spot in my heart).

While I initially read the book through a Cronenberg filter it was impossible not to love the sparse style on its own merits. One of the ways simplicity aids horror is to lull and fool: the process of reading involves moments of “Uh huh… unfolding as expected… wait, WHAT?” A character dies not through violence but through identity obliteration. (To voluntarily kill a part of yourself that has served its purpose is not terror, but to undergo involuntary mental manipulation is. This book has both.) The monster fights with anger and light. Ice caves under the house keep the grounds in a perpetual state of freeze even in summer. A basement lab holds The Chemicals, the final experiment of a Harvard scientist who enjoyed his teaching position until one of his experiments got loose and ate the family dog in front of the neighbors’ wedding party. A 1902 setting allows for Wild West elements like gunfights, hired guns, hanged men, and brothels. It is a flavorful read.

“All the things that happen are like children’s pranks except the child has supernatural powers,” says one character, and if there’s one thing that horror teaches us it’s that children with undue power wield it in horrific ways (thanks, Twilight Zone). While nighttime shivers are unlikely, The Hawkline Monster deserves a place in a thoughtful horror canon on the basis of its dissection of what is frightening and how to write about it.

Bay Area zombies invade Mythbusters

Mythbusters has posted the trailer for their “Zombie Special” which was filmed on the grounds of Alameda’s retired Navel Air Station using many zombies from the Bay Area. The episode will explore zombie myths with the help of Michael Rooker who played “Merle Dixon” in AMC’s The Walking Dead. The Mythbusters zombie special comes out the same week as the launch of the fourth season of The Walking Dead which premieres on October 13. In addition to the episode trailer they’ve also posted “Mythbusters‘ Top 10 tips to outlast the zombie apocalypse.” The zombie episode of Mythbusters can be seen on Discovery October 17 at 10 p.m. (PST).

We’re especially excited about this episode as our very own Maddie Greene was a member of the zombie horde during filming. You can see her in the trailer hanging on a rusty door around the 22 second mark (also screen capped).

Maddie Greene as a Mythbusters zombie

Maddie Greene as a Mythbusters zombie

This appearance on Mythbusters is only the most recent step in Greene’s evolution from Zombie Scholar to actual zombie. She started off publishing the blog “Zomploitation” on which she’s reviewed nearly 200 zombie films (taking a hiatus in 2009), she founded the Madison Zombie Lurch in 2005 (perhaps the first Zombie Protest March in the country), and had a starring role in the original version of Z-Town: The Zombie Musical (she can also be heard on the cast recording available at CDBaby).

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UNAFF to screen “The Comic King of Guatemala”

UNAFF Logo

UNAFF Logo

It’s always nice when two of my passions overlap. This time it’s film festivals and comics.

The United Nations Association Film Festival, taking place mostly in Palo Alto, will be screening “The Comic King of Guatemala” on October 23 at 5 p.m. The short documentary tells the story of a passionate comic loving duo who tackle the challenge of opening the first comic shop in Guatemala. It’s an uphill battle not only due to the high illiteracy rate in the country, but also the lack of distributors willing to send new titles. The film screens with “Strong Enough to Fight,” which exams Kenyan youth leaving behind ethnic prejudices when they enter a boxing club, and “Familia Araya,” which follows a foundation’s efforts to use hip-hop to create positive change for kids who have been abused. The trailer for “The Comic King of Guatemala” is below followed by the festival’s description.

The Comic King of Guatemala – Teaser from Oh My! on Vimeo.

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Bay Area enters unofficial film festival season

Cinephiles are spoiled in the Bay Area. Film festivals in the Bay are as common as tourists on Fisherman’s Wharf with a fest seemingly every other week. The rich tapestry of culture that is the Bay is well represented in the festivals with fests dedicated to specific nationalities, sexual proclivities, various causes, and a wide swath of genres. It can be difficult to navigate — especially if a film fan is willing to travel for the sake of celluloid. If any season had to be declared “festival season” in the Bay Area it would likely be these last three months of 2013. Starting at the end of September there are very few opportunities for movie buffs to get out of darkened theaters into the daylight. Below is an effort to create a comprehensive list of film festivals in the region from the end of September through December.

Oakland Underground Film Festival (September 25 – 29, 2013)
Tonight sees the kick-off of the fifth annual Oakland Underground Film Festival with a free screening at Grand Lake Theater of Citizen Koch. As a former Madisonian this film holds a special place in my heart since it features numerous scenes from the 2011 Capitol uprising. That film will be followed by a biopic of Bikini Kill/Le Tigre’s Kathleen Hannah, who is considered one of the pioneers of the riot grrrl movement of the early-90s. The festival continues over the remaining four days with a mixture of narratives, shorts, and documentaries. From the website: “a showcase for independent and Do-It-Yourself film, video, and projection-art based in Oakland, California. The Oakland Underground Film Festival places special emphasis on local filmmakers, social justice, urban life, the environment and works of fiction and non-fiction that thrive outside of classic narrative filmmaking.” OakUFF’s website: http://www.oakuff.org

Mill Valley Film Festival (October 3-13)
Marin County gets in on the festival action with the 36th annual Mill Valley Film Festival. MVFF is a bit more starstruck than many other festivals in the region with spotlights and tributes to Jared Leto, Dakota Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ben Stiller, and others. MVFF is an all-encompassing festival featuring films from around the globe  and in multiple genres. According to the festival’s mission: “With its reputation as a filmmakers’ festival, this prestigious noncompetitive event showcases international features, documentaries, shorts and children’s films — something for every filmgoer.” MVFF’s website: http://www.mvff.com
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Comic event: Dirt Candy authors to speak at Omnivore Books

dirtcandyComics delight me to my core and cooking soothes my soul. So I loved Dirt Candy, a graphic novel that serves as both accessible cookbook and charming memoir, before I even owned it.

How brilliant of Chef Amanda Cohen, co-author Grady Hendrix, and artist Ryan Dunlavey to combine the two arts of cookery and comics! Illustrated recipes and techniques can be far more effective with images than in text alone—when Cohen explains how to easily smoke vegetables on my stovetop without fancy equipment, the set-up and technique feels within my grasp. And the apparent magic of a fast-moving chef’s knife translates perfectly to the bam!pow! excitement of a comic book layout. (I’m not alone in this belief—check out Anthony Bourdain’s graphic novel Get Jiro in which a sushi chef turns action hero.)

Dirt Candy made a zealot out of me. Not only was I on a mission to make my vegetables more interesting, I was a comics/cookery proselytizer. “The market is ripe for practical non-fiction in my comic shop!” I cried far and wide. “Let there be graphic novels for cocktails next! Try this spring pea flan I made!” Dirt Candy occupies such a tremendously unique niche that I fervently hope similar works follow.

Fans of good food (creative vegetable-based cuisine in particular) and good comics have the chance to hear Cohen and Hendrix talk on Sunday, Sept. 22 from 3-4pm at Omnivore Books in San Francisco. In her blog, Cohen calls it “the East Coast/West Coast Peace and Harmony Let’s Stop Hating Each Other And Eat Vegetables Instead Tour” and promises “I’ll be talking about cooking vegetables, eating vegetables, running a restaurant, graphic novels, why no one can find a line cook in Manhattan anymore, AND there will be free food for everyone.”

Mixed media: The sanctity of books

nightfilmSo there’s this book. It’s about a scary filmmaker and his scary films. This premise is not without promise. But what earned it a spot on Gawker is its accompanying smartphone app that offers up additional material when you scan certain pages. Furthermore, the book itself incorporates images throughout.

The book, Night Film by Marisha Pessl, was brought to my attention via Reddit, where horror writer Grady Hendrix dismissively introduced it as being “… full of cheap gimmicks because ‘just’ being a book isn’t enough anymore, apparently.”

The problem seems to be twofold:

1.       The extras are poorly executed (bad acting seems to be a factor).

2.       Books are sacrosanct texts unsullied by graphic components. Unless you’re a child, in which case images are presumably okay. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, you’re on notice.

The first time I saw film bleeding into a horror novel in a way that detracted significantly from the text was Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box. It’s one thing to shudder at a flickering ghost moving toward you in jump cuts when you’re watching a Japanese horror film, where the trope began. It’s quite another to read it. It’s a film technique, not a literary one, and bringing the one to the other is frequently ineffective. I’m reminded also of Zombie Island by David Wellington which contains description of shining a flashlight over a room and jerking back to catch something that moved just out of sight. These are visual tropes, not literary ones, and in both these cases I’d say the trespass of known film scares into text results in an awkward un-scare.

Why shouldn’t a book offer more than letters on a page? Great contemporary authors have played with books’ physicality in a way that ensures readers are hyperaware of the division between story and object. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer.  A Humument by Tom Phillips. Peshl herself says over at Omnivoracious that “I write with a 360-degree experience, full of music, visuals, ripped-out articles and images.”

Also huge these days are book trailers. When major releases are presaged by YouTube videos, can Night Film truly be blamed for offering relevant film scraps throughout the book?

I come not to praise or bury Night Film. I haven’t read it. But whether this is a sign of the publishing apocalypse, a vibrant strike for books as experiences beyond the page, or merely a marketing trick, I’m ready to welcome successful multimedia novels.

Publishing kerfuffle du jour

Lit Reactor has a great précis of yet another thieving publisher.

Image of alleged stolen Ghost Rider art.

Image of alleged stolen Ghost Rider art.

In addition to using an unregistered company with a name derived from a legitimate small press, this one is made particularly salacious by Trestle Press’s clearly non-sanctioned use of Ghost Rider images as cover art (among myriad other artistic infringements.)

Check out examples of Trestle’s artistic theft here.

 

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