Articles, Blog

Fair Game for Self-Publishing

Little did I know that one business trip would change everything for this shy self-publishing author.

Frank furt Buchmess Book Fair self-publishing

“It’s huge,” my friend warned me before I left. “I’ve been there, and really, you’ll need days to see it all.”  She was, of course, talking about the…

Frankfurt Book Fair

As it turned out, needing days hadn’t been an exaggeration:

Articles, Blog

Where Has The Horror Gone?

In the age of mass media, horror enthusiasts needn’t go to a bookstore or cinema to get their fix. And for once, it’s not the Internet that is to blame.

horror

A Dying Fire

Every day and every night, the syndicate news channels spew one horror story after another. There is enough drama to satisfy our every craving for fear and terror. And should the world fail to be on fire, the news writers add drama to whatever is happening with a few choice words: calling a collision a “car accident” doesn’t turn any heads, but “disaster” still gets a response.

It’s no secret that we are desensitising at an alarming rate. Hundreds get killed in a natural cataclysm, yet we shrug and check our Facebook status. News outlets desperately try to fan the flames of this dying fire by using ever more superlatives, but fact remains that the number of people who give f*** all about anything is dwindling faster than ever before.

You can only fan a flame so many times before it starves.

Horrific Methods

Unfortunately, the horror side of the entertainment industry feeds off that same dying fire. The audience isn’t scared – or even mildly uneasy – unless they care. Unless they empathise with at least one of the characters and their situation. The artists’ job is to make them care. Feed the fire, as it were.

But that has become an uphill battle in all media.

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Comparing Virtues – Part 2: Watching TV

Last time in this modern debate of reading a book versus watching TV, we discussed some of the benefits and problems of reading books.

Now it is time to take the argument to the screen.

Photo: espensorvik via Flickr

Effortless Entertainment

More than anything, watching TV is effortless. Where computer games require interaction and movement (of your thumbs, at the very least), TV doesn’t even require you to stay awake.

You sit, you consume,

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Comparing Virtues – Part 1: Reading

The moving screen is an enthralling thing. We all know the hypnotic qualities of the TV and computer, and how they capture us when really we should – or want – to be doing something else. The little angel and the little devil on our shoulders start arguing: start reading one of those unread books, or just flop down on the couch in front of the TV?

Books by Les Chatfield via Flickr

Our conscience can debate the issue forever (usually while our eyes are glued to a screen), but as in an debate, there are pros and cons to both options.

In this first post, let’s argue the case for reading.

Full Control

When you read, your brain translates the black-on-white squiggles to full-colour images. You decide what you see – and what you don’t. Your imagination is more seamless than the best CGI, the main characters can look any way you want them to, and skipping icky scenes is easier when you don’t need to peer between your fingers to see if they’re over yet.

Despite the apparent dullness of words on paper,

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The Bare Bones of…”IT” (novel)

The movie adaptation of Stephen King‘s “IT”  (the one with Tim Curry; haven’t seen Bill in action yet) scared me breathless. Yet when I got my dirty little fingers on the novel, much to my surprise I was bored to tears!

How on Earth did that happen?

Handling Backstory

Of course, movies and books speak with their audience in very different ways. While movies have the advantage of the “1 picture = 1000 words” equation, they lack time and opportunity for extensive characters and background development. And while books have ample opportunity to explore the concepts at the foundation of the plot, anything that isn’t described or at least hinted at, does not exist to the reader.

As such, the first scene the movie adaptation is a classic: the little boy playing in the gutter with his toy boat. The toy boat disappears down the drain and when the boy wants to look for it, there is a clown in the drain. A clown with a white face, red nose, red hair and sharp teeth. It’s called Pennywise, it says, just before it lures the boy closer and kills it.

Articles, Blog

Humans Are Animals

humans are animals - evolution skulls
Photo: Steve Johnson @ Flickr

We humans love to beat our own drum. We just love to proclaim how smart and resourceful we are. How we’re a unique creation, made in God’s own image. According to Judaism and its derivatives, anyway. Different religions, different opinions, of course.

Philosophies are beautiful, but so are the laws of nature. And those laws state, with irrefutable consistency, that humans are animals. Of the species homo sapiens sapiens, to be precise.

Evolutionary Basics

Homo sapiens sapiens, or “the thinking man”, is the last survivor of the otherwise dead human family tree. The first members of the homo family appeared approx. 1 million years ago, but during the last Ice Age, only we and our cousins homo neanderthalensis still existed. All other humanoids had long gone extinct, and at the end of said Ice Age, so had the Neaderthals.

Compare that to sharks, which have been around in abundant varieties for 420 million years.

So not only are humans animals, from a genealogical point of view we’re not even particularly successful.

Articles, Blog

Populist Witch Hunts

From time to time, the Kalbrandt Institute Archives' leading man, Cael Kalbrandt, takes the blog stage to share his thoughts and views with a liberal dose of sarcasm, profanity and gritty realism.

Modern Witch Hunts With A Modern Hammer

“Witch.” The sound alone conjures up image of ugly crones with warts, black cats, and a supersonic broomstick. The very word is obscene: an unholy insult to scare children and offend adults.

Witch no.3 - J.E. Baker - modern witch hunts

Of course, society is so much wiser and more civilised now. We may detest those who are not exact copies of our ideal self, but we don’t immolate, drown or hang by the neck until dead. “Immolate” means to burn someone, by the way. But hey, stakes are a thing of the past, right?

Screw that! The witch hunts aren’t over. Not by a long shot.

Articles, Blog

The Pain Game

Not quite the blogpost I had planned for today, but clear thinking is impossible when you’re repeatedly curled up in foetal position for days on end. However, that little setback did put me in the perfect position to study the mind’s response to pain. Especially excruciating pain…

pain game - excruciating pain and how it affects the mind
Photo: Vincent Bozzo

A bout of enteritis brougth on some terrible and very painful cramps. They were only cramps, I kept telling myself. But even “only cramps” proved sufficient to hotwire my brain.

In short, my body threw a Happy Potter-style Cruciatus Curse on itself. This is what it did.

Articles, Blog

Hacking Your Fear of Failure

fear of failure - hands - AK Rockefeller

Fear is the essence of horror. So as a writer of horror fiction, naturally I’m an expert fear manager, right?

On paper, yes. In reality, I’m always more or less terrified of one thing in particular. And so are you, whether you realise it or not.

The Commonest Fear

Extreme fear is high profile. The list of phobias is endless. But the most common everyday fear is as insidious as is it crippling. Everyone suffers from it. “Not me!” you say? Think again. Think of…

…failure. Nobody wants to be a failure. No one wants people laughing at them. You may not call it fear, but your shoulders tense. You feel queasy and your palms become sweaty. All at the mere thought of failing to…

Articles, Blog

The Art of Lifelines

theroux quote - the art of lifelines

Everyone knows them: a friend or family member who cannot stop talking about this singer or that painting or whichever books. They sing praise and gush over its details to no end, while you gaze at them in bewilderment and wonder which of their screws came loose.

That, my friends, is the effect of art.

“But my sister is a Justin Bieber fan. That’s not art!”

Well, that depends on how you define ‘art’.