Thankful

As the year winds down we’ll start to see the social network posts about being thankful, and being blessed, and how we’re all one and everything is swell. For a short time we’re willing to overlook the madness of the world and pretend we can see above it all.

Good.

We shouldn’t have to fake it, ever, and I don’t want to say that this is faking it. That seeing the silver lining is faking that ‘things are A-OK’. No. I see this as a willingness to see beyond the pain, the despair, and the confusion of the times. If we lose the ability to see beyond the darkness then we’re doomed, aren’t we?

Sure, we can grind our teeth and stamp our feet at people’s platitudes but the fact is that we all do the best we can and if it takes the holidays to see the good in the world then well, it’s a start.

And I’ll take it.

For me, I look to this time of year as a time to stand back and look at what went down over the past few months and to be thankful for the good, and sometimes even the bad, because there are lessons in both.

2017 was, as every year is, trying.

But then too it was rewarding.

Watching your family age and decline is hard. Harder than you imagine when you are younger, but to have them at all is a blessing.

Losing friends never gets easier. Losing them as friends alone is hard but at least you know they are in the world, laughing and loving still. Losing them to death though isn’t something you ever quite get over. Their absence is a shadow over you that never leaves.

But over the course of the year some of us got to help out three friends in need and showed them some love and helped raise some money for them.

The convention group did another year of shows, culminating in a film festival. This marked our sixth year of operation. Six years that almost never were. Among the great decisions I have ever made was the one where I decided to stick with doing the con and to see what happened.

What happened was pretty amazing and still is.

I released another kid’s book, with the help of an artist friend.

I did some conventions and had a revelation at one that maybe I need to stop doing them. As much as I love them my head isn’t in it and I need to really figure out how I can most effectively promote and sell my books.

I finished my movie. That, that’s a heck of a thing.

I am still not sure how I feel about the finished product but I wrote it, I shot it, I directed it, I edited it, and I helped score it.

I love the film I am just not sure how well it works.

I wrote three songs.

I mean, they aren’t good songs, but they’re fun. They are ridiculous. I kinda love them.

I can’t get anyone to do anything with them so I figure I’ll have to sing them acappella and record it and see if I can figure out music.

Should be interesting.

I laughed a lot. I spent time with friends and loved ones. I got to know our dog better.

I lived as well as I allowed myself to.

I didn’t do as much as I wanted but I did a lot more than I imagined.

It’s been a year.

I am lucky to have had it, all of it.

I hope that you find the moments in your life that you can celebrate. The moments you can mourn.

Take a moment to celebrate yourself because in the end this is your journey and your story and without you then there is no story at all.

Thanks for being there.

…c…

Perfect Endings

As fans we all have our ‘perfect’ endings for the things we love, be it movies, books, comics, or something else that is more than a self-contained work. There is a gulf of difference between the solitary work and the series, an investment of time and emotion that most singular works don’t inspire. While a book that is a stand alone may disappoint someone the series will call out the wolves, the angry hoards that are just as passionate about their anger as they are their joy.

Woe be unto any that dares a series for you are inviting a world of chaos your way.

Naturally I wrote a series.

Well, it didn’t start that way, it just, well, happened. I wrote a book of short stories about some cute little flying sheepies and a witch. When the book reached it’s conclusion I figured that was the last thing I had to say about things. The story was complete. Oh but I did like those sheepies, and did fancy that world I had created and though, well, what if I just wrote some history from time to time to amuse myself. Thus, I entered the world of Tumblr and started to post some of the history of the Land of Man, where the initial story – The Meep Sheep –  took place. As I wrote these histories I realized how much fun I was having writing about this world and suddenly there was a second book. And dope that I am I opened a door in that second book – The Kreep Sheep – that I felt compelled to close. That’s the foolishness of the writer, opening doors you then have to close. So then we had a third book, a proper novel, that was meant to tie up the loose ends I had unraveled. Now, for me, there’s not some huge fan-base clamoring for my writing so thus there’s no wild band of crazed weirdos all upset at me for destroying their beloved.

Phew.

There’s a sense of ownership that happens to fans that invest themselves deeply into a series, a sense that they have a say in how the story should end. That doesn’t mean that it will change things but let’s face it, with all the creators in the world and all the fans, the louder they are, the angrier they are then there are creators that will be influenced by that. Most though are pretty set on which direction they want to head in and it is what it is. Fans don’t always love that though, believe me.

I was a fan of the Paranormal Activity series from the beginning and my wife and I adored the movies but by the end the series had lost its way and it ended on a huge kick in the junk. I am not sure I have ever been as frustrated and angry about a series as I was about the last entry of the PA films. Jeepers creepers. The thing is though that that was the ending they wanted. That was the ending they chose. I don’t have to like it but that’s the direction they went in. I can get upset, I can complain but just as I didn’t like it there are people out there that thought it was fabulous and were satisfied. The same goes for the controversial ending to the Dark Tower series. It was agonizing and brilliant and it was one of those things you would either love or hate and I stand sort of in the middle, both loving AND hating it. More than anything I love the guts that King had to do his ending and his books. But that’s the thing, in creating a series you have to accept that whatever ending you choose it will never live up to the hype that the fans have created for it.

And it can never live up to that hype.

Never.

As fans we feel a misguided ownership of the series and in our hearts WE know what is right and wrong and how things should go. Only, they know how THEY want it to go, not how other people would perceive as a ‘good’ ending. So as smart as we fans like to think we are the fact is that it’s all a crap shoot. If you are tuned into what the core of the story is and you follow that all the way through then wherever you end up is where you are meant to be, at least in your own heart and if you can live with it then you’re doing a lot better than most folks. I pity author George R.R. Martin because whatever he writes as the ending to his Game of Thrones seires it will never live up to what fans have created in their heads over the years.

And what a drag that is.

We have lost sight of simply enjoying things.

We have lost the sense of fun of losing ourselves in other worlds.

We don’t have to like where we always end up but there’s a beauty in that journey.

Sure, we don’t want to feel cheated after that investment of time, money, and emotions, but that’s the risk. You play the game and you see where it leads.

Sometimes literally.

Games are not immune to poor endings and they now are part of the fray, part of the dangerously thin ice that connects all art and creation.

Done well you are legendary.

Done poorly, well, that’s why we have Twitter it seems.

There is something beautiful about the long form narrative found in a series. Something deep and rewarding for creator and fan both. Hand in hand you are walking along a brambled path with no idea where you’ll end up but each step takes you deeper into a story that wraps itself around you like a snake.

Sometimes that snake will bite.

Sometimes you’ll charm it and it will grant you a wish.

It could go either way, friend.

Shucks though, when you fall in love you don’t question it, you just buckle up and hope for the best.

And art, the best kind of art, is a heck of a ride.

And worth the risk.

 

…c…

FOUND

There is something about the ‘found’ sort of story that has always drawn me. It’s the reason I love campfire storytelling so much. The immediacy of finding someone in the middle of a horror they hadn’t seen coming is powerful and went done well can leave a chill that isn’t easily shaken. The ‘found’ story saw a resurgence with horror films, sure, but they have existed as sort of sub-genre for as long as people have told stories.

The ‘found’ aspect of the stories come from the notion that someone experienced this and passed it down but didn’t necessarily live to pass it themselves. These are cautionary tales of going to far, delving too deep, and asking too much.

Sure, there are stories told in the first person where the narrator lived to truly tell the tale but it’s in the horrific nature of discovering someone’s tale knowing or suspecting what they are about to discover about horror and its true face. There is a film that beautifully illustrates this called CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which is considered by many to be one of the very first ‘found footage’ films ever released. It’s infamous for its gore and brutality but the crux of the story is about a group of Americans that go too far, too deep, and push too far and disappear, leaving behind the footage of what became of them. Push past the gore and atrocity and it’s a chilling film about the naivete of Americans stepping into the dark world of the unknown believing their candles can illuminate it.

The movie, as outrageous as it is, is haunting in how it plays out, the missing Americans being sought and their story playing out through footage they had filmed being found and revealed.

Now, the film is certainly not for everyone but it’s more the way the story plays out and what it says that I wanted to point out and not so much its infamous nature. It is the inevitability of what befalls the protagonists that becomes so haunting.

Of late I find myself drawn more and more to story podcasts, where someone is telling a story or reading a story and many of those are told in the ‘Creepypasta’ variety, which tend to be first person accounts of horror.

I love that.

I love that type of fiction.

Well, most of it.

There’s some really bad stuff out there but with that some great stuff also.

And the thing too is that, for someone like me, there’s a lot to learn from fiction that we don’t like or think works. It reminds us what not to do and can even jar side ideas as you are already in a state where you are thinking of stories.

Man though, there are some really bad ones.

What drives me batty are the ones that break the simple rules of found fiction.

Like…a person cannot relay a story to the reader/listener if they didn’t survive. They just…can’t.

And that bothers me that the writer/creator breaks that simple tenant.

Or there’s the suspension of disbelief and how far it is pushed.

In stories, all stories, we are asked to step outside of the real world and to believe in the tale we are being told. Even if it is a realistic fiction it is still fiction and thus requires our belief in the piece to work. If you push things too far past the point of believability then the reader/listener/watcher will just give up on the piece. Part of this is wrapped into the logic of it all also. Like, what would the average person reasonably do and how far would they reasonably go?

The further you push things the less likely people are to join you on your journey.

See, there’s an art to all of it, that’s what so many don’t get. It’s seen as sort of an easy/lazy formula that you can just plug things into but the fact is that there is a lot of subtlety to it. The art is in the details. The art is in leading you by the hand down the path with the person/people who are facing the darkness. If you don’t care about them, even if just to want them to have something awful potentially happen, then it’s a wasted effort.

The beauty of the ‘found’ story is that you can make it as simple or grand as you like and as long as you make the narrator interesting then you are willing to go into that darkness with them, curious to see what lies ahead.

There is something alluring about going hand in hand into the unknown. The magic of ‘found’ fiction of any kind is that we get to inch out on the ice further and further onto thin ice as it cracks beneath us. Done well, these stories leave you with a dread that doesn’t pass quickly after you have experienced it.

It is the What If nature of the ‘found’ fictions that give them the power because it is within those two words that horror lies, waiting for us.

Because ‘What If?’

 

…c…