Monthly Archives: June 2012

Horror on a Budget

I talk a lot about horror as an art form. I rail against poorly made horror movies and I talk endlessly about what horror needs to do as a genre in order to regain its ability to actually frighten people.

All of that doesn’t change the fact that I really like shitty horror movies.

I don’t know why. I’ve tried to think of reasons for it; explanations for my love of truly awful movies.

They’re…comforting, intrinsically. You know what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it. I know their ins and outs and I know what their plot is before they do. They make me laugh, though they don’t mean to. And sometimes, very rarely, they actually have the power to shock me.

It’s because they’re not bound by any rules or standards. Characters appear and disappear for no reason. And terrible, truly terrible things will happen, in all senses of the word, because the filmmakers are completely and utterly unbound by any concept of what should or shouldn’t be in a movie.

And that, in and of itself, is extremely refreshing.

It doesn’t change the fact that these movies are shockingly bad and inexcusably awful, but it at least gives me a way to defend my love for them all.

-D-

6 Comments

Filed under Horror: Movies, Books, Stories and More

Paring It Down

For most people, editing is about excising. You trim out all of those unnecessary words and details and phrases and commas. You said too much. You described too much. You gave him too much to say. Stephen King even comes up with a basic formula for editing your story that goes as follows:

First Draft – Ten Percent= Second Draft

It’s one of the more difficult challenges for most writers because you have to determine what’s actually crap and what’s actually good, what actually helps the story and what hurts it. Even if that paragraph is utterly brilliant in terms of language and artistry and characterization, it’s unnecessary. And that’s the key word: unnecessary. Pare it down, clip it out, get rid of it, especially it doesn’t help the story go forward.

I don’t have that problem so much. Yes, I do clip out my fair share of badly used and superfluous words, but, for the most part, that’s not my problem. My problem is my first draft is always anemic and pared down already to the point that the story is skeletal. I’m an impatient reader and viewer and I’ll rail against authors who spend their sweet time getting where I want to be going. And when I write, I do the same thing. Why show this? The reader understands! Why show that? The reader can figure it out.

My murder mystery looks like the following: The body is found. The detective looks at the body. Ah-ha! He says. He captures the killer. Fin

I ignore little things, insignificant things like: personalizing the victim, describing the investigation, adding in a second murder to really kick it up a notch. I know the tropes and the cliches and the tools and the frameworks; I just choose not to utilize any of them because I want to go from A to B in the fewest number of steps.

So my editing process ends up being the exact opposite of Mr. King’s advice. I fatten. I add. I write more pages and boost the word count way up and flesh it out and grow it out. It’s the process of adding flesh to a skeleton. For me and for writers like me, it’s more:

First Draft + Twenty Percent = Second Draft

What about you? How does editing work for you? What do you have to do after completing that first draft?

-D-

1 Comment

Filed under Writing: Novels, Stories, Blogs and Comics

Movie Review: Prometheus

When I was younger, I was absolutely obsessed with the Aliens movies. Well, correction: I was obsessed with Alien and Aliens. The other two movies were of such questionable quality that I’d rather pretend that they never happened.

It was one of the first bits of horror I watched growing up and it had a deep and affecting impact on what I consider scary. The alien in these movies is not something to be reasoned with. It’s not evil. It’s just a very well-designed killing machine; incapable of remorse or mercy. It has no back-story, no motivation, no explanation; it does what it does and the protagonist has no recourse but to simply deal with it. It’s shadowy and elusive and brutal.

So when I heard about Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s prequel to Alien, I was concerned. The Alien creature lost a lot of its mystique because of mindless and pointless repetition. The boogeyman is not scary when it’s dragged into the light, kicking and screaming. In the latter sequels, the Alien is put onto the dissection table and pointlessly and needlessly over-analyzed. There was no more fear; it just became a part of pop culture, something that used to scare us.

And now, Scott was once again returning to the well. Except, instead of revisiting the alien and telling that same damn story all over again with a pointless origin story, he showed another aspect to the story. Instead of a direct prequel, he created a story that took place in the same universe and, while it does shed some light on the story in Alien, it is not directly about those later movies.

And in some ways, this is the best kind of prequel. It’s not like the Star Wars prequels, where Lucas shoehorns in pointless contrivances just to work in familiar characters and uses needless and tedious exposition to elaborate on parts of the back story that no-one cares about. Scott attempts to tell a new story that just happens to take place in the Alien universe. By the time it was over, I had re-examined the events in Alien and re-contextualized them, but in a way that didn’t cheapen or lessen the fear or impact of that movie.

Even better, he avoids explaining everything fully. By the time the movie is done, you’re still left wondering and that, I believe, is for the best. For horror, it’s always better if the audience is guessing at the end, at least just a little bit. There should be an element of doubt and curiosity. It is the unknown that people, in general, fear the most. And by leaving questions unanswered at the end of Prometheus, Scott has left a lot unknown. He fleshes out the universe without taking anything away from the fear and the unknown terrors of the original movie.

And so while Prometheus is not a great movie, it is a great prequel. It has its problems and its “the hell?” moments, but it doesn’t detract from its predecessors.

If you’re a fan of the series, check it out.

-D

3 Comments

Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

I Want to Go to There

This is Mars:

Stolen from NASA

Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to go into space. Most of the science fiction I grew up with was all about how awesome it is to explore space. I read space books and I watched the Star Trek and I fed my imagination on final frontiers and strange new worlds.

I’m less interested in the physics and the engineering behind it all. I’m more interested in exploration, discovery, experiencing something new. Because HERE there may, in fact, be dragons. We know so little about what Mars holds. Hell, we’re still surprised by things that we find on Earth.

There’s a venture that’s taking shape now called Mars One. They’re planning on having a viable, human settlement on Mars by 2023, which is only eleven years away. The reason why they feel confident about that timeline is because they’ve made no allowance for a return trip. Their idea is that the first trip to Mars is a one way trip. You go and you will never come home.

They plan on sending four people to Mars to start and then more people every few years to build up the settlement’s population. Rovers and supply shipments will get the base ready for them before anyone arrives planetside. The plan is to ensure that the colony will be as independent from the Earth as possible, so they’ll be sent equipment to make use of their surrounding environment. Which, if I forgot to mention, is MARS.

If they, for some reason, came to me tomorrow and said, “Do you want a one-way ticket to Mars?” I would seriously consider it. I wouldn’t do it. I think. But I would be severely tempted.

So just a heads up Mars One. If you need an astronaut, I’d be your willing, but unable guy.

-D-

1 Comment

Filed under Thinking and Pondering: Science, History, Analysis and Over-Think