Horror Business: Nick Antosca

Horror Business is a novel I that wrote. It’s coming out in February 2015. Horror movies play a huge role in the narrative.

“Horror Business” is a sporadic column where I ask influential/invaluable writers and people of interest the following question: What scene from a movie has scared/troubled/shaken you the most?

When I think of the term “literary horror,” Nick Antosca is the first name to come to mind. Before I read his book Midnight Picnic, I still thought of horror in a very stereotypically lurid, cut-and-dry, genre sense. Just like everyone, I was a product of the Stephen King school of horror.

Midnight Picnic changed my perception of what horror could be. It didn’t have to be flashy. It could be gentle. Subtle. It could be ethereal and sad. Yes, there are some terrifying parts in that book, but most of the horror is cumulative, one that stays reader when the book is done. It reminded me of reading a deeply-personal journal that you’ve forgotten you’ve written and realize that you’ve been haunted at one point in your life.

Last year, he put out a story collection called The Girlfriend Gamewhich is fantastic and includes his story “Predator Bait,” about a decoy used in a To Catch a Predator-like showIt’s probably my favorite thing I’ve read by him.

And if that’s not inspirational enough, he also has written for bunch of rad shows shows like Last Resort, Teen Wolf and Hannibal. Plus, he just sold a script for The Disappearance, which will be produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television. Damn.

What scene from a movie has scared/troubled/shaken you the most?

nickantoscaNA: This is a well-timed question, because one of my answers is that scene in Twin Peaks when Bob climbs over the couch. That is fucking terrifying.  The way it changes the landscape of a familiar place – a living room – and shows Bob as this otherworldly sort of entity that doesn’t treat living rooms like they’re supposed to be treated (you’re not supposed to climb over the couch! normal people – human beings – in safe, familiar living rooms don’t do that!) gives you this disorienting feeling.  That’s a scene I’ve actually had a nightmare about.

One of my favorite horror movie scenes is also the scene in The Orphanage where the main character has to play the knock-knock game she played as a little girl with her friends… but all those little friends are now dead, and they’re somewhere in the house, still children, waiting for her.  She is terrified but she needs to call them to find out what happened to her missing son, so she faces the wall and knocks, knowing that when she turns around, the empty doorway behind her might not be empty anymore… It’s so scary, and it’s also elegant screenwriting, a beautifully set up scene.

Another great, scary scene is the last scene in Enemy, the Jake Gyllenhaal doppelgänger movie.  I won’t spoil it.  It’s a real “what the fuck” moment. Some people I know whose opinions I respect felt totally cheated by it. It freaked me out.

Also the scenes of the house just being watched in Michael Haneke’s Cache.

Oh wait, no – I know what the scariest scene in any movie is for me.  It’s the “borrowing some eggs” scene in Haneke’s original Funny Games.  The excruciating social awkwardness and the growing sense of dread – we KNOW these kids are eventually going to do something awful to this poor woman and her family – make the scene feel so real.  Makes me queasy every time.

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Horror Business: Adrian Van Young

Horror Business is a novel I that wrote. It’s coming out in February 2015. Horror movies play a huge role in the narrative.

“Horror Business” is a sporadic column where I ask influential/invaluable writers and people of interest the following question: What scene from a movie has scared/troubled/shaken you the most?

There are few writers who know horror as well as Adrian Van Young, which I consider  a fantastic quality in a human being. Most of the time. The problem with Young is that he’s got a chameleonic, writerly prowess to match—and that is subtly infuriating and jealousy-inducing.

Take his story collection The Man Who Noticed Everythingfor example. It’s by far one of the best—yet widely-diverse—story collections I’ve ever read. He can jump from Lovecraftian in “Hard Rain” (a story that left me feeling icky for days) to King/”The Body”-esque nostalgia in “Them Bones.” And yes, they are diverse, but they’re not disparate. It’s a collection of a writer comfortable with stretching his muscles farther than most others.

When he’s not rocking print, he’s saying very smart things about horror franchises for The Believer and explaining Louisiana-as-a-character in True Detective for Slate. Plus, his  story “The Skin Thing” is probably the creepiest thing you’ll read online this October.

What scene from a movie has scared/troubled/shaken you the most?

AVY_photo_lgAVY: ZELDA’S DEATH IN PET SEMATARY (1989):

 Every year on Halloween my parents allowed me one R-rated movie. I knew all the boxes: Basket Case, Pumpkinhead, The Serpent & The Rainbow, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Based on the pictures adorning these boxes, I’d cherry-pick the year’s selection. It was Pet Sematary the year I was 12—bloody corpse side-eye, uncanny misspelling—based on the book by Stephen King, co-starring the guy from Munsters (Fred Gwynne). So you’re watching the movie and watching the movie, which is pretty affecting as horror flicks go (there’s a reason that King boxed it up in a drawer to chill out a few years before he unleashed it) and then you get to Zelda’s death. This scene, literally, provoked me to tears. I cowered in between my parents, begging them to turn it off, and when they obliged me I mustered composure, sheepishly asked them to turn it back on. My reaction was visceral, primal, immediate. And even now at 32, having re-watched the movie in varying states no less than a dozen times, I cannot watch the Zelda scene without metastasizing chills. (This most recent viewing I still couldn’t watch it without my partner next to me, herself a horror movie buff. I poked my head into our room. All that I needed to ask her was: “Zelda?”) The scene happens, maybe, a half-an-hour in, an unexpected early scare and well before the bloody woes that batter at the Creed Family, who have the misfortune of buying a house at the edge of an “Indian burial ground” (ah, Stephen King and his racist nostalgia!). In it, we have Rachel Creed (Denise Crosby) narrating her husband the death of her sister, claimed by spinal meningitis. The cinematography drops into flashback. Everything looks more self-consciously staged, as though it were being performed in a dollhouse, a credit to the mis-en-scene of unsung director, I think, Mary Lambert. Rachel’s voiceover narrates the scene while Rachel in childhood relives it again: “She was in the back bedroom like some dirty secret.” Zelda, a croke-backed and hideous creature played by male actor Andrew Hubatsek (reportedly, because they couldn’t find a woman skinny enough for the role), writhes in an open-backed nightgown in bed, her hair a straggled ginger mess. Rachel has been charged to feed her. Making gurgling and groaning and strangling sounds in between calling the name of her sister—a creaking-door cackle that smote on my ears (“Raaaaaaachel! Raaaaaaaaachel!”)— she rolls the knuckles of her spine. It sounds like kindling taking up. Her head wrenches sideways, neck bunching and twisting, giving Linda Blair’s Regan a run for her money. The jaundiced and gender-ambiguous face, with its wide knobby jawbone, accuses the viewer: you let me die! Not Rachel, you! And she flops lifelessly on the side of the bed. Granted, this sequence is over-the-top; to spinal-meningitis patients, more than borderline offensive. But Lambert’s not going for stark realism. It’s filtered through Rachel, her view of events, and if she remembers her suffering sister as “some [kind of] monster” that’s what she remembers. Lambert achieves something difficult here, unreliable narration in a cinematic context, a conceit which she furthers as girl-Rachel flees from the house of her trauma while grown-Rachel narrates: “Even now I wake up and I think: is Zelda dead yet?” The terror’s inescapable. For Rachel Creed. For you. For me. That’s why I’ve watched it so many damn times: so I know every link in the narrative chain. That way I’ll see the warning signs before I have to hit fast forward.

zelda

2. THE VERY LAST SCENE IN DON’T LOOK NOW (1973): To discuss it at all would be a huge spoiler so all I’ll say is: no. Just, no. A totally unacceptable thing to perpetrate on your viewer. Nicolas Roeg should be ashamed of himself.

Horror Business: Lindsay Hunter

Horror Business is a novel I that wrote. It’s coming out in February 2015. Horror movies play a huge role in the narrative.

“Horror Business” is a sporadic column where I ask influential/invaluable writers and people of interest the following question: What scene from a movie has scared/troubled/shaken you the most?

lindsay hunterLindsay Hunter is a writer whom I’ve admired for as long as I’ve taken writing seriously. I saw her read in San Diego, maybe back in 2010—before I had any idea that authors could exist outside the EW book section—and she basically shouted the entirety of her story “Candles” (I think), a story that appears in her fantastic collection Don’t Kiss Me. I remember thinking, not just of her delivery, but of her writing: Can writers do that? Is that allowed? Everything about her stuff seemed so fearless in a way that I’d never experienced before.

Hunter’s writing is also dark. I don’t think I’ve read a post-apocalyptic story quite as bleak as “After,” another story that appears in Don’t Kiss MeI’ve also had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of her novel Ugly Girls (which comes out on November 15) and it was the first time I’ve ever taken a picture of text with my phone so I could remember it. It’s veiny, pulsing book, a reminder that the heart is the ugliest organ. Few books feel this alive. So you should preorder it.

What scene from a movie has scared/troubled/shaken you the most?

LH: 1. The single knock on the door in The Strangers. Liv Tyler is alone in a cabin in the middle of the woods. Not somewhere you’d expect to hear a sudden knock at the door. And–I’ve thought about this a lot–the fact that it’s a single knock, each time. Not the usual rap-rap. It gives the knock (and the knock-er) the feel of something inhuman, something outside any sort of norms we’re used to seeing. All bets are off. There is no urgency in the knock, either. It’s confident it is getting the attention it needs, and it is confident in its utter power over its prey. That single knock lets you know there will be no mercy, there will be no escape.

strangers

2. When, in The Exorcist, Reagan suddenly appears at her mother’s raucous dinner party, announces, “They’re all gonna die up there,” and then pees on the floor. The “they” is never identified satisfactorily. And up where? And is the urine Reagan’s body’s loss of control, her giving of power over to the demon, the absolute soprano note of fear in her? Or is it the demon wanting to horrify, to disgust, Reagan’s mother and her guests? It is inscrutable and never explained.

HORROR BUSINESS ep. 1: Book cover

horror_business_bookcoverCover for Horror Business, to be released by Month9Books, February 2015.

I’m sitting down to write the acknowledgments page for this, which feels surreal. Never thought this would escape the self-published trenches. Also, this thing is good. The editors really pushed me on this thing. It’s very different than all other iterations. Scarier, I think/hope.

But mostly, I’ve been thinking a lot about horror on a bigger scale. Like, what it means to me and why it’s still important. From now until the book release, I’m going to devote this place to meditations, analyses and discussions on horror.

I finally picked up some Thomas Ligotti and found this quote in the intro to The Nightmare Factory, which tied me up hard:

Clearly we… want to know the worst, both about ourselves and the world. The oldest, possibly the only theme is that of forbidden knowledge. And no forbidden knowledge ever consoled its possessor… It is particularly forbidden because the mere possibility of such knowledge introduces a monstrous and perverse temptation to trade the quiet pleasures of mundane existence for the bright lights of alienage, doom, and, in some rare cases, eternal damnation.

So we not only wish to know the worst, but to experience it as well.

 

The Contortionist in New Dead Families

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 8.10.38 AMI have a longish story in the current issue of New Dead Families, a great online, genre-bending lit mag.

I wrote The Contortionist back in 2010, but it’s gone through a lot of changes. I’m really happy with where it is now. If you dig kinky sex, contortionists, werewolves and stand-up comedy, I think you’ll dig this.

There are also a bunch of other very talented people in NDF. Berit Ellingsen, for example, has a wonderful, Gothic tale with a last line that blew me away.

Zack Wentz edits NDF. He’s a rad guy. He also has a story in Black Candies—See Through, which I edited, and you should buy it. 

 

Horror Business finds a home

Horrorbizcovers

I sold a book!

Ecstatic.

Got the call on the morning of July 25th from my agent Rebecca Podos, telling me that she sold my novel Horror Business to a newish YA publisher Month9Books.

If you’ve had any sort of contact with me in the last— about 5 years?— you’re probably at least marginally aware of Horror Biz. It was written during a three-month period of unemployment at the end of 2007, and then I self-published it through Lulu in 2009, mostly because I needed to make some quick cash to make rent. It’s gone through a couple revisions since then, but it’s always occupied a large space in my heart.

I can’t thank Rebecca and Nicole Labombard at Rees Agency enough for their diligence. It wasn’t an easy sell, and I’m afraid to ask how many rejections it received (I’m guessing over 20), so their persistence and belief in the story is heartening. And I’m incredibly grateful to Georgia McBride, Courtney Koschel and Month9Books for taking a chance on a book about punk rock and B-grade horror movies.

Thank you to everyone who read, gave feedback, and reviewed it. You know who you are. I know who you are.

Coming 2015. I’ll keep you posted.

xo,
Ryan

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The first book I ever wrote

Recently came across this book I wrote in 2nd grade. It’s called Oscar and Alphonse (misspelled on the cover). About caterpillars with a lot of attitude.

The thing about this book is that I it’s hardcover and very nicely put-together. I don’t really remember writing it, but the process of hole-punching, sewing the pages together, wrapping the book board and gluing it all together is still very fresh in my mind. I think it took about two weeks to complete (it was a class project) and remember feeling very proud of the final product (which maybe accounts for the hubris in the “About the Author”)

Hope you enjoy!

Oscar6Oscar1Oscar2Oscar3Oscar4Oscar5

Best of 2012: a year of things I consumed

MUSIC

1. Japandroids – Celebration Rock

You used to have adventures. You remember a time when you weren’t in front of a computer for 10 hours a day. You used to make out in public. You used to go on road trips without seatbelts. You didn’t care about the housing market. You did drugs. You lived in squalor. People didn’t know what you were doing, where you were going 24 hours a day. Your life was more secret. You lived your own quiet jubilations. It felt like you had nothing to lose.


2. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d City

Love the sense of place in this album, like a contemporary/anxious/paranoid take on The Chronic (a comparison I can’t separate because of Dr. Dre’s involvement). Lamar has created a masterpiece, rendering the fear and heartbreak of being young in Compton, which makes the solace he finds in his family especially moving.

3. Metz – S/T

Haven’t felt this dirty listening to rock since the Murder City Devils.

4. Beach House – Bloom

Lovely. A refinement of their Teen Dream sound, but with more tension. The video for “Wild”, I think, captures the intensity of the entire album.



5. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

#hatersgonhate


 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Chromatics – Kill for Love

Tropical Popsicle – Ghost Beacons

Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense

Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man

Soft Riot — No Longer Stranger

 

 

BOOKS

1. Jonah Man – Christopher Narozny

“What elevates Jonah Man beyond pulp-fare, is the bulldozing sense of history that motivates the characters. Every character is laced with sadness, and even when they resort to abuse, murder and cutting off their own arms, it suggests a fight against modernity and a struggle to keep their acts relevant” Read the review.

The best time I had with a book this year.

 2. Cataclysm Baby – Matt Bell

“The children in Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby are disgusting. They are disfigured, hairy, segmented. They break apart when they exit the womb. They are the harbingers of the apocalypse. The 26 stories in here culminate in a bleak, frightening vision of what happens when the parental structure falls apart.” Read the review.

3. Fast Machine – Elizabeth Ellen

“It’s been a long time since I’ve read a story so honest to adolescence–the alienation, the self-consciousness, the hurt and the fun–as Ellen’s story of a boarding school. It gave me context for everything else to follow. What I thought was meandering prose became intense confessionals–the kind that connects readers with the mistakes they made in their own youth. It’s such an unflinching account of family history and tragedy that you can’t help but feel a kinship.” Read the review.

4. My Friend Dahmer – Derf Backderf

“Read this whole thing, front to back, in one sitting.” Read the review.

 5. The Obese – Nick Antosca

“Just finished this book and feel slightly weird for enjoying it. It’s an ugly, ugly book–the cover’s (amazingly) grotesque and every character in The Obese is a piece of shit.” Read the review.

MOVIES

I had the most fun at: Looper.

The movie I’ve thought about the most since watching it: The Innkeepers

Biggest disappointment: Dark Knight Rises

Movie I wish I’d seen when I was 10 and could obsess over (AKA “The Jurassic Park” award): The Avengers

Metabest: Cabin in the Woods (for being inclusive)

Metaworst: Holy Motors (for being snobby, “clever” and too in love with itself)

Two books with one stone: Black Candies and Last Night on Earth

Over the last two months, my friends and I have been at work putting together two books, and this morning, we can finally put the nail in both of them. It’s quite an accomplishment, really, and I want to tell you about them.

First off: Black Candies – a journal of literary horror.

Black Candies has been a passion project of mine to get some of my favorite literary writers to indulge their most horrific writing. This year, I got five great writers to write on the theme of “Post Apocalypse” (a concept I’ve been obsessed with over the last year); with some really great variations on said theme. The line-up for these authors goes:

Oh and the thing has art too. Some really great art, in fact. I really don’t want to show it to you cuz that would give it all away. Here are the artists:

So yeah, the stories in here are scary. Perfect time to get your spooks on!

Next book is Last Night on Earth.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve talked about this book here before, and there are really too many authors to call out, but it’s so, so great. My constant collaborator/friend/partner in crime (also Black Candies contributor) Jay Wertzler did the book design on this one. When I woke up to find his finished pdf in my inbox, I had to stand up and walk away from my computer. It’s just so breathtaking to see something you’ve been working on for so long finally be real. It has a face now – a glorious, immaculate face. Again, I can’t thank him enough for his hard work.

And of course, none of these would’ve been possible without Justin Hudnall, a true frontiersman. His constant encouragement and belief has made both these projects not only possible, but bigger and greater than anything I could’ve accomplished on my own.

I’ll keep you posted on when/where to get them.