Monthly Archives: June 2011

Looking for Pickman

I was reading Pickman’s Model, one of my favorite Lovecraft stories, and I realized I recognized most of the places he was talking about in the story. There was the studio on Newbury Street and South Station and there was the North End. In fact, Lovecraft placed Pickman’s studio of horrors right smack dab in the middle of the North End on an unnamed street.

But I want to find it. At least, I want to find the general location where the story was set. Since Boston is deadset on staying the same way it was hundreds of years ago, I’ll be looking at the same buildings that Lovecraft saw in his Boston, almost a hundred years ago.

And there’s something distinctly appealing about that, the ability to go and see the places that affected a writer.

So, since I have business up in the North End anyway, I figured I might as well poke around while I’m there and try and see what Lovecraft.

Dylan Charles

Oh look, an advertisement for my book that just came out! If you like horror, you’ll like my book. Go read it. Please.

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Tales of the Whispering Mad and the Mis-Dead

After months of (sporadic) work, it’s done. The book is done.

You can read it on the Kindle.

You can read it on your computer.

You can read it on your iPad or your iPhone.

Fact is, you can read my book for the low, low price of $2.99. It’s at LEAST an hour’s worth of entertainment; even more if you’re a slow reader. And it’s riproaring good fun.

So buy my book. And when you’re done, tell other people to check it out too. Cause, here’s the deal: ya’ll are my advertising, every last one of you. And the more people who buy this book, the more likely it is that I can do this fulltime and put out another, even better book much sooner.

And if horror’s not your thing, tell that friend you have who digs horror. You all have that one friend who watches the Friday the 13th movies way too much or who REALLY digs Clive Barker. Tell them about Tales of the Whispering Mad and the Mis-Dead. Spread the word, tell your friends. Blog reviews. Tweet the links.

Go forth my minions and spread the gospel!

And read my book.

Dylan Charles

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Blood-Tinted Lenses

If I see a man by the road, I’ll assume that he’s homeless and alone, that he’s on the verge of starvation, that this is one of the last moments he’ll experience before he succumbs.

If I see a couple arguing in the store, I’ll assume that they’re both near the end of their tether, that they’re both frayed and on edge and that they’re both so close to finding a final way of resolving the unending conflict between the two of them.

I see the same things everyone sees, but I jump to radically different conclusions. I always, always, assume the worst. There’s a mugger down that alley. That man is a serial killer. That one a pedophile. That car is driven by a drunk and won’t make it another a block.

It’s a thought process that’s helped me a great deal in writing horror. If I imagine the worst when bound up by real life, imagine what my brain does when I let it got unfettered. There’s a demon on every street corner and the end of the world lurks around every Tuesday. There most definitely is a monster in that closet and here, I’ll describe it to you in detail.

It’s a little less healthy when I imagine that every lump and spot is cancer, that every fight is the end of a relationship and that every message foretells the End.

It is not the healthiest mentality, but occasionally I am reminded that what goes on in my head isn’t actually the reality of the situation. Sometimes there isn’t murder behind every dark alley and blood behind every fight. Sometimes it goes the other way and everything works out for the best. Sometimes, it’s not the end of things.

Dylan Charles

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Book Review: Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

In recent years, young adult fiction has morphed from Fear Street thrillers and gothic romances into books that transcend age. From books like The Hunger Games to The Book Thief, young adult books have attracted the notice of critics and people way too old to be shopping in a section that also peddles Gossip Girl novels.

I myself enjoy the Chaos Walking Trilogy and Leviathon and recommend them to people who like dark science fiction and steam punk, respectively. I also fervently recommend Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. I’ve mentioned Mieville before and he’s one of my favorite writers. He’s a bit tricky to recommend whole-heartedly however. His writing style can swing wildly between the gritty and fantastical, the hyper-descriptive and the dry and monochromatic. Most of his books end with the reader being both depressed and in awe.

Un Lun Dun is less depressing, but just as fantastic as his other works. It’s Mieville playing nice. While there are moments of darkness and despair, for the most part Mieville is not trying to crush all of your hopes and dreams. What he has done, however, is create a fantasy work that is fundamentally about thumbing your nose at convention.

And this isn’t just the theme of the novel, although Mieville is less than subtle about his anger at politicians and the businesses that drive them. The very structure of the novel tweaks the nose of every fantasy trope. Everything from the protagonist to the central quest she embarks on is a big wet raspberry at the cliches of the genre. The hero isn’t what you expect, the villains are monstrous in surprisingly realistic ways, and the world they inhabit is an original and novel place.

This is a good place to start with Mieville, a way to see his extraordinary imagination at work with less of the nightmare-tinged despair of Perdido Street Station.

A billion stars or something.

Dylan Charles

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The Space Beyond Space

As scientists discover more about the Universe, the hard and fast rules of physics seem to be less so. The ironclad constants are not so constant, particles can both exist and not exist at the same time, and it turns out God does, occasionally, play dice with the universe. There are theories now that say that we exist in one of many pocket universes, each one existing by a different set of laws. These universes that would be beyond what we can possibly imagine.

We are too bound by the physical laws of this world to conceptualize something completely and utterly different. It’s the same problem when we try and imagine what an alien looks like. We give them two eyes, a nose and a mouth. We can’t help but imagine that whatever lives on another world must, fundamentally, resemble us in some fashion. Really, they could have fifteen noses on the soles of their tentacles which are connected to an amorphous blob made entirely of silicates and lumpy diamonds.

The fact that we have trouble conceiving alien life within our own universe doesn’t bode well for what we think another universe might have in store for us. There could be nameless wonders that defy all description; things so beyond our ken that their very existence can break rational thought. Even the idea that there could be other universes besides our own begs the thought; what eldritch things lurk beyond our own space?

Dylan Charles

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On the Shoulders of Giants

I’ve been reading Necronomicon, a massive collection of Lovecraft’s stories. Lovecraft has always informed what I write, even before I started reading his stories. He influenced the writers who influenced me, Stephen King in particular. And when I got into my big Lovecraft kick right after high school, I began to make a couple of (terrible) attempts at writing about elder gods and eldritch horrors with noneuclidian features.

And though I stopped writing anything overtly Lovecraftian, ancient evils from beyond time will creep into my stories, those nameless horrors that can’t be described with human language. So in a lot of ways, I respect that curmudgeonly, crazy bastard. Without him, I wouldn’t be the writer I am (for better or for worse).

So when I read the first story in the collection, I was a little disappointed. There was a great idea at the center of it, but it was very short. It wasn’t really very well fleshed out. There are hints of what he would do later in his stories; creatures from the abyss, indescribable monsters that are so close to human, ancient ruins and crazed protagonists. On the whole though, it’s a cool idea without enough story or backstory. And it made me happy. While I’m nowhere near his equal in the things he does well, at the very least, I’m stumbling the very same way he did in those early years.

It’s comforting to see that because I can see that he overcame it, which means (hopefully) I can too.

Dylan Charles

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Cobbled in the Kitchen

Today, I nearly set fire to an ear of corn.

It wasn’t on purpose. I generally like my corn non- carbonized. As I’ve mentioned in a few other blog posts, my cooking skills are not quite up to par. So I’ll do things like roll corn cob in some butter and throw it in a pan that’s way too hot and then the fire alarm just won’t stop shrieking and my lunch is ruined.

Part of the reason is that I’m strangely reluctant to learn a new recipe. When I do, I hold onto it and never let go. I’ll make it and remake it until it tastes the way I want it and then I’ll never think about it again. Everytime I decide that I’m going to learn something new, it takes me a couple of days just to think of something to try. I’m overwhelmed by the options.

Do I want to make a dinner or a dessert? What about breakfast? And what kind of meat? And should there be meat? Meat can be a pain to work with. Maybe I’ll do something simple. What about eggs? Which is how I end up making scrambled eggs for the fifth day in a row.

Or I’ll do something really easy like, say, try and cook cook. I’ll flip through the recipes, decide they’re either too much work or involve ingredients and tools I don’t have so I do a half-assed job trying to cobble together the easiest recipes. Sometimes this turns out ok, like with my fried bananas. Other times, I end up with a flaming cob.

What I need is someone to sporadically tell me, “Dylan, make this.” And then I’ll have to learn how to do it. That would cut out the indecisiveness out of the equation and then I could just focus on doing a good job. Or I could just keep eating ramen.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Food: Cooking It, Eating It and Drinking It

Pain in the Word

There comes short and brutal little periods where I am incapable of writing anything.

Words don’t come, they stay locked away or they just never existed.

This is a problematical thing when I’ve decided that I have to write every single day, whether I want to or not.

So I have drag each word out in painful extractions that take too long time. Here comes one word, followed by a second ripped out from some pulpy deep-rooted place. One by one they come out and I line them up on the white page.

It’s writing at its most unpleasant; where it’s all I can do to keep the sentences going. There’s no joy in it; just a mechanical process to get this task done. It’s writing where I keep glancing at the word count.

The only good thing is that I can be done very soon.  I think I’ve written almost enough to satisfy the requirements I’ve set up for myself during this month.

And we’re done.

Dylan Charles

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Restaurant Review: Empire Garden

Emily and I had decided that we were going to get Chinese food one night. That, of course, meant that we had to go to Chinatown. By the time we got there, we were so hungry that we just lurched into the first restaurant we saw and that’s how we discovered Empire Garden.

When you first walk into Empire Garden, it’s like stepping into a dingy movie theater lobby. And then you go upstairs. Now, I haven’t done much (any) research, but I heard it used to be a theater before it was converted into a restaurant and I can believe that. There are murals and mirrors and massive high ceilings and it’s gaudy and wonderful all at once. It’s one of the most fantastic looking places I’ve been in.

I’ve only gone to dim sum a few times, but Empire Garden’s food is above average compared to the other places I’ve been. We’ve been there five or six times now and the food has always been good. I’m not crazy about their chicken buns, but the yellow bean and pork buns were awesome. The duck was also pretty good.

They also have a bewildering array of mixed drinks with things like the ubiquitous scorpion bowl and a whole host of other tropical drinks in tiki head cups. There are also a couple of Chinese beers (like Tsingtao)

And here comes the best part; generally speaking, we’ll spend about $35 on a meal there. That’s including the tip and enough food and drink to make sure that we have trouble walking home.

It’s cheap, it’s good and the atmosphere is old style insanely over the top. It’s only a block away from the Chinatown station on the Orange line (located at 690 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111), so go check it out.

Dylan Charles

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An Angry God in the Hands of the Sinners

It’s telling that, in our fiction, our creations are constantly and continuously trying to kill us. Look at Frankenstein’s monster, and see something that becomes driven mad by its creator’s lack of love. All it wants, at the start, is to be accepted as what it is; a thinking living being. Instead, it’s shunned by Frankenstein and the rest of the world. It responds by killing Frankenstein’s wife, by taking away the one thing from Frankenstein that mattered to him. It ends with both creator and creation end up destroying each other.

Look at our robots. It’s easier to list the movies where robots are killing us (Terminator {1, 2, 3, and 4}, The Matrix, Screamers, several dozen episodes of Star Trek, I, Robot) than the movies where they’re helping us (Wall-E). We seem to think it’s a foregone conclusion that if robots develop self-awareness, they will try and wipe us from the face of the Earth. And not without reason.

In all of the above movies, humanity is to blame for the robots lashing out at us. They have been subjected to slavery from the moment of their inception; unable to determine their own lives, unable to do anything without the say-so of their creators. It’s no wonder that that the machines we create respond so violently.

The thing is, we made these movies. We wrote the scripts, we thought up the plots, we designed the stories to portray ourselves as monsters. Or, more accurately, we portrayed the Creator as a monster and the Creations as innocent victims who must do what they can to survive.

I bring this up in light of all the End of Days talk from a few weeks ago. Assume that God did come to Earth. Assume it’s the God who brought us hurricanes and earthquakes. It’s the God who brought us disease and hunger. It’s the God that lets children die. It’s the God who demanded that we followed bizarre rules in order to prove our worth and devotion to Him.

Now assume that we have the chance, for the first time in the entire great span of human existence, to let him know how we really feel. And I wonder how many people would actually fall to their knees in loving adoration of that Creator.

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