The Slasher Cycle Theory

Today some deep thoughts on slasher cinema from that deep thinkin’ pumpkinhead, Jeff Carter, author of Criterion from Crossroad Press and keeper of the Compendium Of Monsters.

Hallowe’en greetings, Ed-Heads.

I like to watch and review an entire horror franchise every October (see previous posts here and here). While every franchise has its ups and downs, nothing could prepare me for the mind shattering downward spiral of the Howling sequels. To spare you that suffering, I’ve pulled back for a wider look at the franchises in general.

In film school we were taught about Christian Metz’s ‘Genre Cycle Theory’. He wrote that each film genre begins in the Experimental Stage, evolves into the Classic Stage, devolves into the Parody Stage and ends in its Deconstruction Stage. With luck, the genre is reborn and the cycle continues.

You can see these rhythms play out across all forms of cinema. Without the masterful deconstruction of the Western genre in Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven’, we would never have received Paul Hogan’s ‘Lightning Jack’.

In my analysis of the great horror franchises, however, I have discovered strange mutations undreamt of by any stuffy French film critic. I give you Jeff C. Carter’s ‘Slasher Cycle Theory’.

These are more than just common tropes. They are essential rites of passage, and every great horror franchise must eventually pass through some or all of them:

The Original

Hilarity Ensues

3D!!!

Die Monster Die

Missing Monster

Magic!

Spaaaaaaace

Return to Roots

Das Preboot

Hilarity Ensues – while this sounds like Metz’s ‘Parody Stage’, these are not outright parodies like the Wayans brothers’ ‘Scary Movie’ series. This is when humor is injected into the horror, for better or worse.

Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4, Friday the 13th Part 6, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Child’s Play 4, Howling 3, Phantasm 2.

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This doesn’t even scratch the surface of Howling 3: The Marsupials

3D!!! – For a genre that must constantly innovate, the gimmick of jumping off the screen is irresistible.

Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street Part 6, Friday the 13th Part 3, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 7.

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Get ready to dodge Dream Demons.

Die, Monster, Die – Slashers are notoriously hard to kill, but sometimes a tired franchise needs the promise of a ‘final chapter’ to get its viewers back.

Examples:  Nightmare on Elm Street Part 6, Friday the 13th Part 4, Halloween H20

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Fairly convincing….

Magic! – Sometimes the monsters are human, and sometimes there is a supernatural evil at work. During the Magic! stage, however, we get into some Harry Potter sh*t. I’m talking spells, dream demons and magic swords.

Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street Part 6, Friday the 13th Part 6, 7, 9, Halloween 5 & 6, Howling 2

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When being a werewolf is the least interesting thing about you…

Missing Monster – Probably the strangest mutation is when sequels lack their own main character.

Examples:  Friday the 13th Part 5, Halloween 3, Hellraiser 8

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Doesn’t count.

Spaaaaace – In these movies, no one can hear you scream.

Examples: Jason X (Friday the 13th Part 10), Hellraiser 4, Leprechaun 4

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Houston, we have a problem.

Return to Roots – With luck a franchise will shake off the gimmicks and return to its roots. Unlike the ‘Classic Stage’, which codifies the core elements, this is a hard won perspective about what audiences love about the series. Next to the originals, these are often the only scary movies in the franchise.

Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street Part 7,Halloween 7,Child’s Play 6, Phantasm 5

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You can’t keep a Good Guy down.

Das Preboot – The unhallowed graves of infamous monsters are rarely left undisturbed. More often than not they are desecrated, updated and demystified with lousy prequels and reboots.

Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street 9, Friday the 13th Part 12, Halloween 9, Howling 4, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 5.

Robert says

How can the ‘Slasher Cycle Theory’ help you? Let the growing pains of our favorite franchises inspire you. The next time you’re feeling stale, try some magic, or take a trip to space. If that doesn’t help you return to your roots, perhaps you can go Back 2 Tha Hood.

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Hit/Run in 18 Wheels Of Science Fiction from Big Time Books

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Big Time Books and editor Eric Miller, publishers of the trucking anthology 18 Wheels of Horror, are rolling back your way with a new book, 18 Wheels of Science Fiction.

“18 Wheels of Science Fiction – a Long Haul into the Fantastic” contains 18 short stories, all set in the trucking universe. The visionary writers in this new volume from Big Time Books deliver stories about rogue self-driving trucks, wormholes through spacetime, cyborg drivers, the eternal loneliness of life on the road, and more speculative tales. It is the follow-up to the hit anthology “18 Wheels of Horror.”

They’ll be kicking off with a mass signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, and I’ll be there, along with Eric Miller, and writers John DeChancie, Gary Phillips, Lisa Morton, Del Howison, Paul Carlson, Kate Jonez, Michael Paul Gonzalez, Janet Joyce Holden, Sean Patrick Traver, Jeff Seeman, Carla Robinson, and Lucio Rodriguez. Special guests Steven and Leya Booth from Genius Book Services, and possible late appearances by cover artist Brad Fraunfelter and writer Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.

That’s at Dark Delicacies  3512 W. Magnolia Blvd. Burbank, CA  91505 818-556-6660 on Sunday, November 4th from 4-6 pm.

My story Hit/Run involves, as you might guess, a driver who perpetrates and then flees the scene of a late night collision, only to find himself pursued at a truck stop by a pair of mysterious figures.

Here’s an excerpt –
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THE SOUND OF A STOLEN KISS of metal going down the I-10 West at 90mph was preceded by the high-pitched beeping of collision warnings, the roar of the air horn, and the shriek of tires. The collision was inevitable though, unavoidable.

The station wagon had been parked on the highway median strip on the left side of the road, an inadvisable place to pull over on a dark night. The taillights had winked on suddenly like the eyes of a predator springing from a dark bush, and before Matt could recognize the other driver’s intent, the car had pulled right into his path and gunned its engine, attempting to beat his 18 wheeler. Coming from a dead stop it had no more chance of doing that than Matt had of avoiding it.

The truck hit the right quarter panel and sent the station wagon spinning wildly off into the night like a swatted fly, the headlights and taillights flashing intermittently. It left the road and tumbled into the shallow gully off the right-hand shoulder.

The car’s horn, which the driver had not thought to use before, now blared insistently, unbroken, a prolonged wail receding as Matt pulled past. A trail of broken glass marked its passage across the black-streaked highway, glowing like bits of red rock candy in his taillights. The headlights, one atop the other, shined feebly from the depression beside the road.

Matt slowed, and started to switch to the emergency band.

There was no one else on the road in either direction. It was two-thirty in the morning. He had opted to drive all night to make his drop off at seven AM in Bakersfield after a prolonged stop in Quartzsite for a blown tire had put him behind schedule.

This was not the first collision in his career. The rig had sustained minimal damage, but the other car looked bad. The plaintive blare of the horn wasn’t dwindling.

There’d be consequences from this one. He’d be grounded at least, maybe worse depending on the condition of the station wagon’s occupants. The driver, at least, was unconscious or immobilized. Had there been others in the car? Passengers shaken and smashed in their restraints? Children thrown about the interior or ejected into the desert?

But it hadn’t been his fault. The other driver had taken a stupid risk and put himself in jeopardy.

Matt made his decision.

Someone would come along soon and see the wreck.

Someone would come.

It hadn’t really been his fault, after all….

https://www.amazon.com/18-Wheels-Science-Fiction-Fantastic/dp/099068668X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1539365193&sr=8-1&keywords=18+wheels+of+science+fiction

My Halloween Movie Repertoire Must Be Destroyed!

Hey ghouls and ghasts, I’m trying once again to watch a new horror movie every day for the month of October. No predetermined list this time out, just whatever I can get my hands on.

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Day #1
Never Take Sweets From A Stranger – It’s from Hammer and it’s horrific, but not strictly horror. Every year a couple non-horror movies somehow make it into my viewing, and this year I kicked it off that way.  A British family moves to an insular Canadian town so the father can assume the position of principal for the local high school, only to go head to head with an untouchable old money family and their supporters when their daughter and the little girl next door falls prey to the lecherous, pedophilic old patriarch. A sobering and bold take on the subject for 1960, well done.

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Day #2
The New York Ripper – Well I guess this is one of those misogynistic movies all the kids are always talking about. A homicidal maniac who taunts the police in a duck voice stalks the women of NYC. Every other line of dialogue drips with contempt for females, to say nothing Fulci’s horrendous (if admittedly well executed) gore sequences, which seem particularly geared towards maligning the female form. Interesting to see the Big Apple in all its early eighties sleazy glory, but I felt like I needed a shower after this one.

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Day #3
Alone In The Dark (1982) – Four homicidal mental patients take advantage of a power outage to besiege a family in their home. It was neat to see Dwight ‘Murdock/Barclay’ Schultz in a leading role, and Jack Palance, Erland van Lidthe, and especially Martin Landau play their psycho roles with aplomb. Of course Donald Pleasance as yet another bad psychiatrist is always fun to watch. And I liked The Bleeder, a killer who hates to show his face and gets a nose bleed whenever he kills, but a winning cast and some neat moments don’t entirely make this a success.

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Day #4
Possession (1981) – A bizarre, surreal, and hypnotic study of the deterioration of a marriage. Sam Neill is the cuckolded husband, and as usual, it’s fun to watch him lose it. Isabell Adjani fully commits to her role, shrieking and rolling in milk, blood, and bile. There is some great psychological and really effective body horror, but eh, this is for the Mother! crowd.
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Day #5
Tombs Of The Blind Dead – My first real ‘find’ of the season! In this Spanish film, a band of Knights Templar looking for a ticket to immortality begin worshiping Satan and drinking blood. Hanged for their crimes until crows pick out their eyes, when the bell of their ruined abbey tolls in the night, they rise blind and undead from their graves, hunting the living by sound. A really neat and imaginative premise and a killer ending. Really enjoyed this one.

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Dead Of Night (1945) – A man arrives at a house in the British countryside full of people and can’t help but think he’s been there before. The guests tell four supernatural stories. Most of them are pretty familiar, and seem to have been tapped for Twilight Zone episodes (“Room for one more!”). One humorous story about two golfers comes off a bit tedious, but the ventriloquist story at the end makes up for it.  My favorite Batman villain is The Ventriloquist and Mr. Scarface, so maybe I’m biased. BUT! It’s the nightmarish resolution of the bookend story that really elevates this movie into something special.

Day #7 – Taste of Fear – A paralyzed young woman returns to her father’s house only for her stepmother to inform her he’s gone missing. His corpse starts appearing to her in odd places around the estate, but by the time she informs someone, the body is always gone when she returns. Neat little thriller with a good twist ending and some great photography. Christopher Lee plays the family surgeon.

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Day#8 – Sadako vs. Kayako – The ghost from Ringu meets the ghosts of Ju-On. I’d been anticipating this little ‘grudge’ match for a while. I’ve had a deep love of these monster mash crossovers dating back to Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman. This one plays like a Godzilla movie with a lot of human story build-up and a measured fraction of monster action, but I was expecting that, so I wasn’t really disappointed. Had a lot of ‘oh s_it!’ moments, particularly when the heroine pops in the VHS tape and little meowing Toshio gets lassoed into the TV.  Worth it for the Seikima-Il theme song alone.  

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Day#9 – Prom Night – Dull as dishwater amalgam of Friday The 13th, Halloween, and Carrie with not much original to recommend it and nary an actual teenager in sight. The killer is so unmemorable that when they’re unmasked I had to check wikipedia to even realize who they were. The repeated three disco tracks are so monotonous they eventually come back around the other side to being catchy. Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen are in it….yeah, that’s all I got.

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Day #10 – The Invasion – It seems like it’d be hard to screw up yet another remake of Invasion of The Body Snatchers, but this one almost does it with some choppy, bizarre editing choices and a weird ‘happy’ ending that doubles as a condemnation of humanity as a whole. The viral infection eschews the previous movies’ creepy subtlety of succumbing through sleep by adding on infection via projectile vomiting. Also, the process being reversible sort of negates the horror. I was reminded of the remake of Village of The Damned or Dawn of The Dead for some reason, where tweaking minor ‘rules’ established in the original renders the whole premise nonsensical. Stick with the 70s remake or Abel Ferrera’s Body Snatchers (my personal favorite).
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Day #11 – The Addiction – Speaking of Abel Ferrera, I watched this stylish, starkly composed vampirism-as-drug addiction movie, about a philosophy graduate student who is pulled into an alley and bitten, rendering her somehow even more insufferable.  Seriously, Lili Taylor’s great, and Christopher Walken shows up, as well as Fredro Starr of Onyx and a couple of Ferrera’s regulars. It’s interesting if you’re in the mood for its deep (and often very Catholic) questions, but it’s a slow, heady burn.

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Day #12 – Malevolent – The trailer for this Netflix supernatural exclusive drew me in but beware, it pretty much spoils three fourths of the movie, and the remaining quarter isn’t all that good. A team of ghost hunting/spiritualist hucksters make money off the grief of families till one of them begins seeing actual ghosts. They are hired for more than their usual amount by an elderly lady in a big country estate who ‘just wants a quiet house.’ An intriguing premise at the start and an interesting twist  midway through unfortunately doesn’t quite click together as it devolves into unwieldy PG-13 torture porn and  a pretty basic escape scenario. Had promise, but gets clumsy and falls on its face in the end. It does boast one very good jump scare, but again, it’s spoiled in the trailer.

Image result for stephanie netflixDay #13 – Stephanie – Effective little monster movie about a little girl hiding from an unknown threat all alone in a large suburban house with the corpse of her older brother and ominous news reports flickering in the peripheral. Then mom and dad come home.  Decent performances and a slow reveal of the nature of the antagonist make it hard to talk about this without spoiling anything, but I enjoyed it.

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Day #14 – Night of The Creeps – I wasn’t too ‘thrilled’ in the end by this schlocky but self-aware 80’s B movie about a college campus plagued by body snatching slugs from space, but Tom Atkins elevates it in a quirky performance as a haunted police detective with a pack of quotable one liners.

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Day #15 – Await Further Instructions – A xenophobic British family is less than welcoming to their son’s Muslim girlfriend over the Christmas holiday as news reports intimate the onset of some kind of terrorist attack. A wall of black chords encircle the house in the night, trapping them inside, and a series of ever-increasingly odd instructions start coming in over their television set. Despite the world’s strongest and most secure interior doors, this has a great cast (David Bradley is particularly scummy in his jerky patriarch role), and some surprising, cringe inducing turns. Echoes of Lovecraft. I recommend.

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Day #16 – The Haunting Of Hill House – I’m breaking a rule a bit here and posting, well, I can’t call this a television show, because I can’t imagine a reason for it to have a second season. I’m thinking of it as a miniseries. It’s a revisit of The Haunting, one of my all time favorite ghost movies, based on the novel by Shirley Jackson. This series and Hereditary are the two finest works of horror entertainment I’ve seen this year thus far. This is an imaginative take on The Haunting from the perspective of a family attempting to ‘flip’ Hill House over the course of one summer. It spans two timelines, playing deftly with notions of space and time, familial love, loyalty, dysfunction, and loss, and delivering in the end, a really moving family drama ensconced in deft allegory and some of the most genuinely disturbing scares I’ve experienced in recent years. I’m not speaking solely of FX and jump scares, of which there are a few very effective ones, but of harrowing existential reflection. Some of the most terrifying imagery is implanted in the mind via the stories told by tertiary characters, an example of really masterful writing and acting. Unforgettable. Wonderfully realized.  Something I hope to revisit with my kids during some future Halloween season.

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Day #17 – Paranoiac – Oliver Reed is a rich, alcoholic good for nothing, next in line for the family fortune after the accidental death of his parents and disappearance of his older brother – only his neurotic sister stands in the way. Until his long lost older brother Anthony returns. Some nice shots but pretty by the numbers and predictable.

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Day #18 – Revenge (2017) – Brutal, borderline gonzo rape-revenge-survival thriller about the careless young mistress of a rich French reprobate raped in his desert love nest by one of his two lowlife hunting buddies and left for dead. Gobsmacking, pulpy ultraviolence stylistically realized, it builds to the most blood soaked, tense climax I’ve seen in years. The camera goes from worshiping actress Matilda Ann Ingrid Lutz to practically fetishizing her brutalization. I love how her transition from thoughtless trophy girl to resourceful, red-painted peyote-fueled valkyrie is gradually depicted down to the loss of her blonde hair dye. Not for everybody, but I was wowed.

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Day #19 – Hostel – Three entitled jerks backpacking across Europe are enticed into visiting a Slovakian hostel by a pimp and soon find themselves participating in a brutal ‘art show’ in which the sadistic wealthy pay to torture people to death. In spite of my avowed dislike of all things Eli Roth (I haven’t enjoyed Green Inferno, Cabin Fever, or Hemlock Grove), I decided to give this a shot. Although it started off supremely annoying, in the end I was pleasantly surprised. This really isn’t the gratuitous ‘torture porn’ movie I had been led to believe it was. Although there is some Italian level gruesomeness, it’s not the bulk of the movie. However, I can’t tell if this is an extremely xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic bro-movie or if it’s actually a self-aware satire of American exceptionalism. Anyway, the increasingly grisly fate of the utterly unlikable main characters amused me, as did the quick Takashi Miike cameo. And of course, revenge against the unscrupulous 1% is cathartic.

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Day #20 – Hostel Part II – The Hostel ‘mythos’ is expanded pretty well in this sequel, which spices it up by changing the protagonists to three young women and includes a look from the other side of the….pliers?…..by following a pair of rich alpha dawg a-holes who have taken a weekend in Slovakia to indulge their basest urges. All the familiar faces from the first movie are back and get fleshed out a bit more, including the mop-haired desk clerk and the weird gang of half-feral kids. Some neat flip-scripts in this one, including a couple laugh out loud moments. I have to admit I’m a fan.

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Day #21 – Hostel Part III – Well the ‘magic’ of Hostel was assuredly Eli Roth, because this direct to video sequel doesn’t seem to quite ‘get’ the other two. The action moves to a Las Vegas chapter of the Slovakian ‘Elite Hunting Club,’ and instead of isolated backpackers or tourists, the victims are a bunch of American dudes on a bachelor party weekend – which doesn’t really make sense at first, till the ‘twist’ happens and kinda excuses it. I think it just would’ve been more interesting to follow a vacationing foreign couple instead. There are a couple cool ideas and kills, and they do alright with the obviously cheaper budget, but it’s easily the weakest entry.

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Day #22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) – Well, I never had much use for Freddy Krueger. At first I thought it was the bad one liners and lame jokes. I was terrified of the TV spots when I was a kid, and had nightmares about silhouetted Freddy chasing me around a pool, his face obscured by the shadow of his hat. When I finally worked up the courage to watch the movies in high school, I found them pretty silly. I halfway enjoyed New Nightmare (till Freddy actually showed up, cracking jokes again). But now, in adulthood, I think I have always disliked the character because, well, he’s a child molester. In TCM, F13, Halloween, you tend to kinda root for the killer. Of them all, Jason Voorhees is the one I’ve always liked best. He’s got a legit grievance (at first), and actually, never attacks any children, being a kind of child himself (in Part IV he goes after Tommy yeah, but mainly because Tommy interferes in the killing of his mother and sister. And in VI, the only movie where kids actually show up at the camp, he spares them every time). This remake with Jackie Earle Haley doesn’t pave over the character’s skeevy origins, which results in me finding Freddy even more unlikeable. As to the movie itself, it’s aptly executed, and the stupid puns are thankfully missing, but it’s kinda ho-hum. Same old same old.

Widdershins In Forbidden Futures

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I’m really proud to announce the publication of my story Widdershins in issue 2 of Forbidden Futures a zine from Editor Daniel Ringquist and Editor and Cody Goodfellow, with some really exciting, mindbending art from the extraordinary Mike Dubisch.

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Cody approached me a while back with this striking piece of art, asking if it inspired anything in me, and I came up with the story of a steadfast guardian fairy on the last night of his tour of duty, employing a mother’s love and the undeniable powers of the late, great Prince Rogers Nelson against an old enemy determined to claim the innocence of a sleeping young girl.

There’s also some cool new stuff from Christine Morgan, Ted Washington, Jessica McHugh, Scott R. Jones, John Shirley, Orrin Grey, Zak Jarvis, Nathan Carson, Jeffery ‘Punktown’ Thomas, Matthew R. Bartlett, Christopher Slatsky, and a pair of articles about old H.P. from Cody.

With my contributor’s copy, I got this letter from Daniel, which made my day. Inspiring an artist as talented as Mike is beyond thrilling and I can’t say enough about the quality of stuff Mike has packed into this single issue. I’ve been a fan of his since Rifts and his Dark Horse Aliens vs. Predator stuff, so this was a singular treat for me. Forbidden Futures is a killer mag with a radical feel and I’m over the moon to be in it. Thanks, guys!

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Here’s a short excerpt from Widdershins and a link to buy after the jump.

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On the last night of the fairy Widdershins’ watch over the girl Lakeisha Simmons, her uncle James staggered into her dark bedroom, stinking of the grave from which he had pulled himself.

Within the festering heart of Lakeisha’s uncle, curling like a thing unborn, Widdershins spied his old enemy, the incubus, Corngrinder. Corngrinder had been a saboteur in the Great Rebellion against Heaven, infiltrating human souls and tempting the lustful Grigori to the side of Lucifer.

Widdershins had engaged the incubi in the benighted huts east of Eden. That was how he had come to find himself abandoned when the cannons of Hell ceased and the Great Accords were signed. Many war-weary angels, loyal or otherwise, had deserted and been caught between when the borders of Heaven and Hell were sealed. These became the thoughtless fairies of man’s legends, driven mad by their separation from the Creator. They established their lawless confederacy of dreams, Fluratrone, and forgot all past glories and iniquities.

But some, like Widdershins, dissatisfied with an eternity of purposelessness, sought a way in from the cold.

The Archangel Michael heard the solicitations of the good fairies, and gave them a path back into Heaven; guard the innocence of mortal children from the spawn of Lilith that assail in the night.

Lucifer likewise tasked his orphaned agents with the corruption of human souls.

Although the Rebellion was over, a Cold War of dreams and nightmares continued in the gray meridian between sleep and awakening.

Sometimes it spilled into the real world.

In two-hundred thousand years Widdershins had defeated countless bogeymen, goblins, and bug-a-bears, all intent on stealing the innocence of children. Widdershins had dragged them shrieking across the icy River Purgatory between Earth and Fluratrone, and sunk them in its frozen depths.

Lakeisha Simmons was to be his last posting, and this was the last night of her childhood.

Widdershins knew Uncle James mostly by his reputation. From his place in the walls he had seen Lakeisha’s mother retreat in fright when her brother appeared at family functions, seen him eyeing the children strangely as they played. Lakeisha’s father had driven James from the house, and Widdershins had heard whispers of drugs, abominable deeds, and prison time, and finally, with relief, of James’ suicide.

Widdershins should have recognized Corngrinder’s influence. The incubus had been grooming James, possibly perverting his whole miserable life, in preparation for this final, ghastly assault.

This battle would not be fought in dreams. Corngrinder had poisoned James’ heart until, at the moment of death, it became a cockpit for the incubus itself. Corngrinder had slipped in and assumed command of the physical vessel.  Now, it piloted James haltingly across the room. As he bumped against the foot of the bed and fumbled with his belt, Corngrinder’s intent was clear. What four thousand three hundred eighty spirits had been unable to accomplish with nightmares, Corngrinder meant to do by brute force….

https://forbiddenfutures.bigcartel.com/product/forbidden-futures-2

 

The Lost Claddagh Ring of Playa Juanillo

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESToday’s date is October 4th, 2018. If, while combing Juanillo Beach outside Punta Cana, Dominican Republic or snorkeling or just wading around, you’ve found a man’s ring matching the one pictured (that’s a golden Claddagh design with a woven, encircling braid over a platinum band), with an inscription on the inner band that reads S.L.B. to E.M.E. and the date March 2nd, 2002 within, oh….1-60 years of today, please contact me through emerdelac@gmail.com. It has great sentimental value. It’s the ring I was married in, you see, and I wore it as I held my three children for the first time. I’d love to know it turned up.

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If you’ve happened upon this ring at some later date, maybe in the far flung future….well, you might be wondering what the story is behind it. I put this up as a courtesy. I don’t know about you, but I dislike untidy ends and unresolved mysteries.

IMAG3644I’m Ed Erdelac, and I write under the full name Edward M. Erdelac, to differentiate myself from my father, who is Edward Gerald Erdelac.  As of this writing I’ve done thirteen novels, and short stories all over the place, a couple times for Star Wars, if that’s still a thing. If this is a complete digital footprint, you can see all that elsewhere on the page. I set out to be rich and move mountains, but I’m just about the most outwardly unlucky person on the earth. You will probably think me losing my wedding band after it riding sixteen years safely on my finger is evidence of this. Here I am, pictured the day before. The ring is out of frame and I am blissfully unaware of the disaster impending. It was actually my birthday on the 28th. Hah!

IMAG3669I lost it clowning around in the waters off Juanillo Beach. It was our first trip out of the United States. My wife was a bridesmaid and we accompanied a dear friend and her family on a big honeymoon excursion to the Caribbean.  Funny enough, the bride joked to my wife to go and check on her new husband, see if he had lost his brand new wedding band yet. We’d had about a half-dozen pina coladas a piece and were just horsing around. I was trying to master a paddle board when my wife waded up, wearing that red swimsuit pictured here, and with a look of shock and a bright smile, held up her hand and pointed to her wedding band.

It took me a minute to figure out what she was trying to say, then I looked down and saw the white stripe where my ring had been since the day we’d married at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois during a blizzard, surrounded by a handful of our closest and most steadfast friends and family at the time. I’ve spent nearly seventeen years with that ring. Sure I’ve taken it off, but it’s never fallen off. I’ve swum every day of the summer with my kids and it hasn’t slipped off. I’ve surfed in Los Angeles and it stayed with me.

I sobered immediately, no longer a besotted Bilbo, but a mumbling, wide-eyed Gollum. I got the groom’s snorkel and mask and went to my hands and knees. I think I must have spent thirty minutes crawling along the bottom of that stretch of beach, clawing at it with my hands, praying to God it would somehow show up, knowing it wouldn’t, the only sound my own breathing and the occasional invocation of ‘Jesus.’  Today my back is lobster red and starting to raise into boils. I tried like hell to find that thing you’re holding.  I sifted through the muck of sargasso piled on the beach for another ten minutes, until the excursion guides from our hotel, the Al Sol, told me we flat out had to go. They took pictures of my wife’s ring, assured me that would keep an eye out for it.

I was the last one to leave the beach.

My friends consoled me, telling me we could get a new one made, they had connections to good jewelers, etc.

We’re not well off people by any means, so the monetary loss is almost as significant as the sentimental one. I have no idea what it costs to make a ring like that today. I’m not a successful writer by any visible measure. I think, if you’re reading this from the far future, it may be a more difficult feat to find a copy of one of my (lucky) thirteen novels than it will have been to have extracted this old wedding band from the piles of wet sand at the bottom of the Caribbean, or under eons of Dominican beach.

But, that’s who I am, or who I was. I liked telling stories, and this was the story behind that mysterious ring.

IMAG3674Oh also, my wife and I designed it. We wanted a Claddagh and a winding knot to represent the interconnectedness of our two lives, how we were weaving them together.  Claddaghs only came with a plain band. Funny enough, on the boat ride out to Juanillo, we explained all this to the groom. We were proud of the design. Moreso because we had a guy in Los Angeles make them for us, and a couple years later Seth Rogen’s character in the movie Pineapple Express gave it to his girl. When my wife Sandra stopped in the jeweler’s later, she saw the musician Vince Neil pictured with one behind the counter.  She asked in amazement if that were our design, and the jeweler sheepishly admitted it was. I guess he thought we were gonna sue him or something, but we just sort of laughed it off. It was a good story to tell, and I like telling stories, like I said.

Now let me tell you the best story out of this whole thing, which is not a story I told, but the story my wife told to me as I sat tearful and crushed on a rowdy bus of drunks heading for Hoyo Azul, The Blue Hole, a 300ft deep subterranean pool at the foot of an I-don’t-know-how-tall cliff at Scape Park, our final destination that day.

I had wanted to give those rings to our grandchildren someday, and I had, in my mind, ruined it.  I’d lost a precious heirloom and though I didn’t say it to her, I felt like the whole incident was emblematic of how I had regarded my marriage and my life up to that point. I had taken it for granted, not paid it enough attention or appreciated it, and it had slipped away.

I’m not a great husband, you see. I’ve never been unfaithful to my wife; this isn’t that kind of story. But in my heart, I have been selfish, or self-centered. I live out lives in my mind. I daydream. And between worrying over those inner worlds, and raising three kids, and just occupying my time with trivial things to wind down, I think I am very often a neglectful husband. I am sometimes short tempered, and befuddled by the world. I half-listen, and I miss things a lot.

But this I heard.

Sandra told me that our marriage wasn’t a piece of jewelry. She said that when she came out in the water to pester the groom and then saw the lack of ring on my finger, she was only sad an instant. She looked at me, and at the ocean around, and the waves on the beach, and instantly accepted that it was gone. Even as I started cursing and snatched the groom’s mask and snorkel and dove into the water, she knew I would be there till the bus left, because that was how I was, and what I had to do. She resolved not to interfere, but was already going over in her mind how to replace it.

She’s practical and unflappable like that, and that’s maddened me and others around her in the past, but we’re all wrong.

On the bus later, holding my hand across the back of this pretty Brazillian guy taking endless selfies with his just as pretty boyfriend, and much later at a dim outdoor restaurant, she told me, in answer to my sobbing lament that I had wanted the kids to have our rings, or their kids to have them, she told me the rings were just metal, and we put too much worth into material things. What matters is the stories behind them. The stories are how our children will remember us to our grandkids. Stories remembering love with humor and irony and affection and even sadness; those are the things our descendants will treasure, long after the last person to touch that lost ring is gone.

So we got off the bus and we held hands and walked through the jungle, and one of the bridesmaids told me we could have a party and renew our vows when the new ring’s made, and that now we had a reason to return here, and I said, “Yeah, with a metal detector.”

Sandra said we will melt down her ring and use a portion of it to cast the new one for me, so it’ll still be the sixteen year old metal that we joined our lives with symbolically.

Sandra’s story is a better one than mine, even though she’s never written a book yet (she’d probably nail it if she did). She grew up in the housing projects of Chicago where she had nerve damage in one ear from some kid shooting off a pistol too close. She lost her mother at sixteen, had a son by a boy who didn’t stay around, her father went off elsewhere. She raised herself, and her son Jonathan, got her GED, and a university education around the time we met. Early in our marriage she got her Master’s, and she spends her days as a Marriage and Family Therapist opening a heart as big and warm as the Dominican sun to total strangers, helping them sew their lives back together like the interwoven band on our wedding rings. I actually learned over the weekend that the bride, her first boss here in California, hired her having been impressed by her story. She handed out custom made robes to her bridesmaids, with nicknames she had given them. Sandra’s is ‘Bootstraps.’

She’s the strongest, loveliest, wisest woman I’ve ever known.

And that’s why, despite all my outward misfortunes, despite being an unsuccessful writer and losing my wedding ring in the ocean, I’m the luckiest man alive.

We dove off that whatever it was height into that icy blue water, the cleanest I have ever known, which the guides told us could turn back the clock ten years if you stayed in for a half an hour. When I came out, the hurt over that lost ring was fading a little, though today its imprint hasn’t quite faded from my finger.

I have not lost our love, after all, just a ring. My wife Sandra Lynn Botello is the queen of my heart, and I keep her inside, as the two hands of the Claddagh touch the crowned heart of the ring.

So if you’re reading this from the future and we’re gone and you’ve found this ring, I hope it brings you joy. Buy yourself a good life with it if you can, or give it to someone who matters to you. Tell them the story behind it, and make a good story with it going on. It was actually Sandra’s idea to post this all over the place. She said I should leave a good digital trail for whoever finds it in the future.

So pass this around.

IMAG3675

Hasta luego.

Conquer Comes Correct in Occult Detective Quarterly Presents!

odqpOne of my favorite fiction periodicals Occult Detective Quarterly has put out a long form book, Occult Detective Quarterly Presents, and my street savvy 70’s occult/blaxploitation PI John Conquer is hitting the dark back alleys of Harlem again in Conquer Comes Correct.

A skinny gangbanger wanders into John’s dojo with news that an old friend has been murdered outside a Harlem bookstore, shot with an arrow. Soon after, Lt. Lou Lazzeroni asks Conquer for help figuring out how the carcass of a headless, skinned gorilla found its way into a Bronx intersection. Are the two cases related? You better believe it, baby.

ODQ Presents includes stories from Charles Rutledge, Amanda DeWees, and the ever lovin’ Willie Meikle, among others.

The idea for this one began with the offhanded mention of an actual headless, butchered gorilla found in the Bronx in the 70s in an article I read about the infamous 41st Police Preccint, AKA ‘Fort Apache.’

Here’s an excerpt:

Baba Ron Hamilton’s East Harlem Dojo, in the unwrought bottom floor of a townhouse on 125th street, dispensed the wisdom of Daruma and Malcolm X in equal doses to any kid looking for something better than a bloody end in the glass-littered gutters of Harlem. For a time, it had been a haven for a punk orphan named John Conquer, until he’d made the decision to use a knife on a Hunts Point pimp instead of his fists and chosen a tour of duty over a jail sentence.

Baba Hamilton encouraged revolutionaries; not the kind the kind the CIA sweated over, but the kind they really ought to fear, the kind in suits and ties. Between kumites he talked up college like it was the Marine Corps.

Had John Conquer taken more of that lesson to heart twelve years ago, he might’ve foregone the actual Marines and didi’d down a different path than the one that had led him staggering through the slicing elephant grass and the gut shuddering thunderstorm of blood and paddy water kicked into the sky by 50mm VC Sky Horse mortars, through the magic and loss of an adopted Montagnard family, and finally to a private investigator’s office on St. Mark’s Place.

But he was back now where he’d left off, under Baba Hamilton’s wary eye, holding his end of a makeshift coat rack chin up bar for a couple of shining, skinny, pre-teen yellow belts to pull themselves up off the floor.  Her snuck a fast wink at Vonetta, the light skinned twenty something black belt with the sweet smile and fighter’s ass.

It was always good to be back in the dojo, good to smell the sweat and the blood and hear the slap of bodies on the mats, to feel that visceral internal heat stoking, like a potter’s fire baking soft muscles and hearts into a hard glaze.

Conquer saw the rawboned kid in the cut sleeves amble in and look around. So did Baba Hamilton.  The hulking dark kenkojuku master raised one massive, callused hand. The sempai ceased his counting, the boys and girls dropped down from the knotted gi ropes hanging from the exposed pipework, and the blue belts stopped midway through their Ten Hands Kata in precise, paramilitary unison.

The shaggy newcomer found himself in a dead silent room, faced with twenty four hard stares possessed by twenty four sweating martial artists of varying degrees of expertise, all of whom would swarm him at a gesture from Baba Hamilton.

He didn’t look away though. He was a tough young bopper, a dirty faced Puerto Rican kid with one of those upper lips that looked more like a splash of chocolate milk than a mustache. It undermined his hard attitude, gave him a boyish cast no amount of gangster posturing could quite overcome. His wild, black tangle of hair was pinched by a red bandanna, so it looked like a potted bunch of geraniums sprouting from his skullcap. His denim vest was adorned with patches, one of which bore the name Jeet Kune Joe. His had eyes scanned the sea of stark white gis with affected nonchalance, but Baba Hamilton stepped forward, way too big to discount.

“Hola young man,” he said, his voice a thunder rumble that could rattle all the panes uptown when he directed it into a kiai shout. “How can we help you?”

“Yo, y’all do kung fu up in here?” the kid asked.

“This is a kenkojuku karate dojo,” said Baba Hamilton. “It’s a style of shotokan handed down by our founder, Sensei Okano Tomosaburo.”

He gestured to a photo of the stern looking, dark haired Japanese man in a black gi on the wall between Brother Malcolm and Dr. King.

The kid stared at the portraits for a while.

“You’re welcome to train with us,” said Baba Hamilton. “But you leave your colors in the street out front.”

That snapped the kid out of his momentary trance.

“Nah, I ain’t here for that. I’m lookin’ for O.G. Juju.”

“There’s nobody here by that name, son,” said Baba Hamilton.

But he was wrong.

Juju, warlord and co-founder of the 167th Street Black Enchanters, was there.

John Conquer had started the outlaw club back in the day with a couple of like-minded fools. He’d been fresh from Vietnam and scratching to survive in the derelict tenements of the South Bronx, boosting car stereos, mugging suckers, and raising hell in a burnout’s race whose only prize was a bunk at Attica. He was a long way from that ragged edged, wild-eyed twenty year old in cut-sleeved olive drab jumping in minor leaguers, rumbling with the Savage Nomads and the white gangs from the North Bronx, torching buildings for cash and butting heads with King Solomon’s pet crews.

In a sense, the boy that had gone by the name Juju was gone.

Hell, Baba Hamilton wasn’t always right, but he was never wrong.

Conquer set his end of the coat rack down and walked up next to Baba Hamilton, mopping the back of his neck with a towel.

“Who’s asking for him?”

***

Occult Detective Quarterly Presents is now on sale from Ulthar Press. Get it!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1726439933/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1537317168&sr=8-6&keywords=occult+detective+quarterly

 

Published in: on September 19, 2018 at 8:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bond Unknown Reviewed At Sci-fi And Fantasy Reviewer

Don’t tell M, but this review of Mindbreaker over at Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviewer got me a little misty eyed. Pick up Bond Unknown now from April Moon Books for a limited time.

https://scifiandfantasyreviewer.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/bond-unknown-neil-baker-ed-review/

Published in: on August 2, 2018 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bond Unknown Is Back For a Limited Time

My novelette Mindbreaker, in which 007 James Bond is seconded to a classified subsection of MI6 to face the forces of the Lovecraftian Mythos is available again for a limited time from April Moon Books.

You also get Willie Meikle’s Into The Green!

Grab it while you can.

https://www.aprilmoonbooks.com/bond-unknown

bondunknowncover

Published in: on August 1, 2018 at 10:48 am  Leave a Comment  

M. Wayne Miller’s Art for Merkabah Rider 2….

Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter is out now, revamped, with a new short story, brand new cover by Juri Umagami and interior art by M. Wayne Miller.

So how about a preview of M. Wayne Miller’s interior art for Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name?

Here’s the illo for ‘The Infernal Napoleon.’

The-Infernal-Napoleon-FNL

Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter Is Now Available

After a long hiatus, Merkabah Rider, the greatest weird western about a Hasidic gunslinger tracking the renegade teacher who betrayed his mystic Jewish order of astral travelers across the demon haunted Southwest of 1879 is back in print and Kindle on Amazon.

Featuring new interior illustrations by M. Wayne Miller and cover art by Juri Umagami.

“Ed Erdelac’s  Merkabah Rider is equal parts Tolkien, Leone, and Lovecraft and yet manages to remain completely original, and that is quite an accomplishment. This is a FANTASTIC series. – Geof Darrow, Eisner Award winning creator of Shaolin Cowboy and Hard Boiled.

“The Rider is a fabulous character, in all senses of that word, and Erdelac’s a fabulous writer. High Planes Drifter contains all the demons, ancient gods, and gunplay a lover of weird westerns could want, but told from an angle no one else has touched before. Where else are you going to find a Jewish Doctor Strange packing heat in the old west? Nowhere, that’s where. This is crazily entertaining stuff.” – Daryl Gregory, award-winning author of Pandemonium and Spoonbenders

“Riding out of the Old West comes the Merkabah Rider, a Hasidic gunfighter who owes his provenance as much to the nasty inhabitants of Elmore Leonard’s westerns as he does his piousness to Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane. This highly original episodic series breathes new life into the overworked western with tight action, inglorious heroes, and unpredictable plots.” – Weston Ochse, award-winning author of SEAL Team 666 and Scarecrow Gods.

“I don’t have any hesitation in calling Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter the pinnacle of the Weird West genre, and one that will be hard to surplant.” -Sci Fi and Fantasy Reviewer

“Edward M. Erdelac’s Merkabah Rider: Tales Of A High Planes Drifter is without reservation one of the best Weird Westerns to roll into town in the last decade, if not the best.” – Cory Gross, Voyages Extraordinaires

 

Now available! Give it a read, tell your friends! Thanks, all!

https://www.amazon.com/Merkabah-Rider-High-Planes-Drifter/dp/1721011234/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1531386889&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=erdelac+merkabah+rider