Ginger Nuts of Horror
Horror fans seem weird to ‘normal’ people sometimes. We like to be scared, and that’s a little unusual, right? If something scary happens to us in real life, we’ll get the hell out of dodge as quickly as possible, hoping never to feel that fear again. Yet, here we are, time and time again, reading nightmarish scenarios at night (and we all know they mostly come at night… mostly). We’ll turn out the lights to achieve maximum scariness and put on a film, hoping (nay, demanding!) to be scared. Sometimes, we’ll band together much like the hordes of zombies so many of us love, and go be scared together at the cinema or theatre. If we so happen to finish a horror book or film without experiencing that gut-wrenching terror, then we are annoyed about it. Miffed, even. We feel that we were lied to: manipulated into spending our hard earned cash under false pretenses. We actually feel disappointed that we weren’t supplied with a good dose of the eebie jeebies, as promised.
I'm very proud to welcome Kayleigh Edwards to Ginger Nuts of Horror. Kayleigh will be joining Kit, Paul and Charlotte's excellent contributions to the site. So please say hello to Kayleigh in the comment section of her debut article.
So why horror, I hear you ask? It’s a question I’ve been asked countless times, and I’m sure every horror writer on the planet has heard it just as much as I have. I’ve thought long and hard about the answer to this, a little perplexed myself. Was it a book or a film that first reeled me in, and if so, which one? Which singular piece of art could possibly be responsible for introducing me to a world in which I would become completely obsessed?
I rise early… very early! I’m up by 4am, and walk Jess, my giant German Shepherd, followed by a jog and then weights. Then by 6am, I’ll check social media, followed by trying to answer as many messages from readers as I can. Then it’s breakfast, shower, and hopefully ready to begin writing by 7.00am.
Mornings are my most creative time, and this is where I’ll craft new elements, or correct complex pieces of the plot – it’s funny how you can go to bed with a literary roadblock and wake up next morning with the solution on how to move the story forward in a plausible and exciting way. Afternoons are for editing, and evenings are for red wine!
These days, I have a fairly standard pattern – usually, I’ll do a brief story step-through, outlining the major plot points, and then may break that down further for each scene. I’ll start a story these days without having any idea how it will end or where the characters will take me. Sure, this sort of non-planning can result in my ripping out tens of thousands of words at a later stage, but I’ve found that for me, the best thing to do is simply to tell the story… let it all just tumble out onto the page. Tidy-up comes later!
My story inspiration can start with a single image – a picture of something that sets the mood for the entire story. Or it could be a paragraph on a website, a newspaper, or magazine, telling of something strange happening in some exotic part of the world – a cave found, a new species located, an ancient temple, proof of life on a comet – you get my drift. These all go into my Ideas Book – it’s like a scrapbook of my future projects waiting to be given life.
The other inspirations have come from my love of horror / sci-fi / action-adventure books, comics, movies, you-name-it, from, it seems, forever. My favorites that always held me spellbound were the ones where some age-old mystery is found, or something released, that has dire consequences for mankind today. The king of this genre was my idol, Graham Masterton, and I devoured everything he wrote. And now as a delightful bonus, Graham is reading through my latest work, The Book of the Dead, as I type this down.
Massive sinkholes are opening across the country – each larger and deeper than the previous one. First the family pets go missing, and anyone living near one of the pits, is reporting strange phenomena – the vibrations, sulphurous odours and strange sounds rising up from the stygian depths. Then come the reports of horrifying ‘things’ rising from the darkness.When the people start disappearing the government is forced to act. A team is sent in to explore one of the holes – and all hell breaks loose – the Old Ones are rising up again.From the war zones of the Syrian Desert, to the fabled Library of Alexandria, and then to Hades itself, join Professor Matt Kearns, as he searches for the fabled Al Azif, known as the Book of the Dead. He must unravel an age-old prophecy, and stop Beings from a time even before the primordial ooze, which seek once again to claim the planet as their own. Time is running out, for Matt, and all life on Earth.The BOOK OF THE DEAD by GREIG BECK – coming Dec 2014.
I grew up across the road from Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. My earliest memories were of sitting on the golden sand digging holes with my older brother and younger sister, my mother in bikini and dark sunglasses, and diving through the blue crashing waves with my father - long days of sandy feet and sunburned shoulders.
In my teens the surf still dominated; surfboard riding with my beach gang, the Rock Crew.....endless sunny days sitting on the beach when I should have been sitting in class (at least pretending to study). Between the sunshine and waves, there were the science fiction stories - great tales by Edger Rice Burroughs, H.G.Wells and Pierre Boulle. Writers who could create whole new worlds and beings that were wondrous and exciting.
The 1980s were also the halcyon days of the horror writer - King, Koontz, Herbert and above them all, stood my favorite, Graham Masterton. These were my influencers, they shape my writing even now; and they're still my favorites today.
The end of the 80s also meant it was time to pursue a formal career. I studied computer science and then immersed myself in the financial software industry. The role took me to most of the financial capitals of the world - from Hong Kong and London to New York and back again. An MBA and later technology company directorships seemed to cement my trajectory. A busy life sure, but still there was time to write, and now, time to introduce Captain Alex Hunter and all his amazing abilities - extraordinary times demand an extraordinary character. Already he has been below the ice of the Antarctic, traversed the blazing deserts of the Middle East, and is currently hacking through the dark jungles of South America.
Today, I spend my days between the software industry, writing, travelling and enjoying time with my wife, young son, and Jess, an enormous black German Shepherd.
Thanks to everyone who shared and commented on yesterday's post, both here and on Facebook, and in a few instances in emails.
Some of you, and it might be my fault for not being clearer, thought the article was about Ginger Nuts, it wasn't. It was about you writers slaving away and the sense of loss of community (that's why I used the picture from Community).
Most of the comments were positive, but some of them and in particular some of the emails had a rather sour grapes feel to them. I want to address a couple of them here briefly, before a more in-depth follow up article in a few weeks.
Some of you may know I've been off work for a couple of weeks with a busted up leg. I've spent more days than I care to remember lying on the floor of our living room desperately trying to get comfy. Doped up on more painkillers than I can even name I've been unable to focus on reading or writing, but what I have been doing is spending a lot of time tinkering about on the site, watching the awesome The League on Netflix, and farting about on Facebook.
Part of what I've been doing with with the tinkering of the site has been reaching out to other websites, magazines, people on Facebook and other organisations that I thought shared a love of horror, and what I've found has been somewhat saddening and frankly really off putting.
Clowns are scary. Allegedly. Personally I don’t get it. I don’t like them particularly. They're the least-funny source of comedy since the last time Miranda Hart fell over. But I don’t find them scary. Many do though, it seems. I’m not sure when or where the idea of clowns as a horror device started, but it’s fairly well ingrained into popular culture now. From Bart Simpson refusing to sleep because “clowns will eat me”, to full-length books and movies, clowns have now joined vampires and werewolves as an actual monster breed. How they feel about that is anyone’s guess, but if nothing else it’s certainly given them a longevity that their tomfoolery alone wouldn’t have allowed.
I like to think that I’m a man’s man. You know the sort, big strong, not afraid of anything. The sort of man who, when faced with danger turns into the all action hero ready to defeat whatever danger is facing those that he loves. And I would like to think that I’m pretty capable of doing this sort of thing, as an ex British kickboxing champion, someone who knows how to handle a firearm, and dab hand at survival skills all topped off with an anger and a rage that will see me go all Berserker on those that threaten me I reckon that if faced with almost any sort of horror monster I would come out top. However there is one thing that I am terrified of, one bogey man that can turn me into a quivering wreck. What is it? Well read on to find out what scares The Ginger Nuts of Horror
Better the Devil you Know. I was torn between titles for this one. I was either going to go with the above, or "Sympathy For the Devil". In the end the content of the article made the decision for me. So the Devil, then. Not a real person. Not to me, anyway, as an atheist. But also, strangely, not to a lot of Christians either. As time has moved on so has the belief system, so that many Christians don't even accept existence of the Devil as a literal being.
Okay, today being the day it is (and if you don't know, who are you and why are you browsing a horror website??), I'm going to take a quick run through the films that I, personally, consider to be the scariest, the most effective and the downright creepiest that I have ever seen (of course, this obviously excludes those films I haven't seen). This will be my personal interpretation. I'm not making claims for these films as being the 'best', or even particularly well scripted/financed/acted (although I think these things also play a part). I'm simply going to run through a number of films I found particularly effective in making my skin crawl; films that have stayed with me long after I've slotted the DVD/Blu-ray back on the shelf (feel free to disagree with my choices, but there is no wrong and right in this – only opinion).
Horror is, like many other things, a highly subjective area – what works for one may well not work for another (and, in fact, I have experienced this first hand and on both sides). Ultimately, it all depends on the watcher's (or reader's) experience, outlook, tastes, temperament and a myriad of other factors. Having said that, I'm coming to the realisation that much of what makes horror work (and forgive me if this is widely known, I'm a mere novice) is where it breaks down the control, or the illusion of control that we, as a society or individual, hold. It's contact not only with the unknown, but the 'un-knowable'; the chaotic; the unfathomable. It's the breakdown of those polite and fragile rules and conventions we adhere to, that give our lives meaning and structure. It's when someone or something, some event, tears through the thin fabric of rationality and takes away any sense of self-determination we have.
That's my view, anyway. It's why Alien is a horror film; why pretty much any serial killer film, including The Silence of The Lambs, is; why the extermination of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany is utter, abject horror (this is the most horrific thing to me; I can't watch a documentary about the concentration camps without crying). It's events we find difficult, if not impossible, to fathom and which have laid waste to our conceptions of polite (or even impolite) society. It's also why I think the work of H. P. Lovecraft endures, despite criticisms (most justified) of his personal politics and writing style. He tapped into that sense of the unknown better than most, that notion that behind the frail curtain of 'reality' lies nothing but chaos and madness. Anyway...
Without further ado and in no particular order, here are my films...
Kairo (Pulse) – (2001) – Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa – Language: Japanese (Japan).
Of the many, many Asian films I love (horror and otherwise), Kairo is quite possibly the most effective I've yet seen. It has all the elements that have become almost standard in these films (almost clichéd, one might say) – ghostly females with long, unkempt black hair; ancient/traditional curses manifesting themselves through modern technology; evil or the supernatural almost as a viral epidemic – but what Kairo manages to do that most others don't is tap into that chaotic, unnameable atmosphere that goes beyond the plight of the individual and is about society as a whole descending into the fearful unknown. To be honest, I have little to no idea what the hell is going on in this film. I know that the supernatural are manifesting themselves through technology (specifically, the internet); that there is some urban legend concerning a 'red-taped door'; that people are disappearing, or killing themselves. To be honest, I think the confusion (and I might have just been ultra-thick whilst watching) adds to the terror. Both scenes which feature images of spectres advancing at the camera and show virtually nothing at all, can send shivers up and down the spine. It's a wonderful slow burn of a film and really creeps inside the mind.