For a story that has a conclusion any Hitchcock fan will already know, Bates Motel has proven to be as unpredictable as they come. This first season was surprisingly good, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the Season 2. So far, it reminds me of a teenage Breaking Bad: a well-mannered, good-natured man finds himself slowly pushed over the edge by circumstances beyond his control.
The main characters all possess extreme flaws, and yet those flaws are not forced. Still, they are what drives the story, a necessary and important component to every twist the writers have thrown our way.
Norma Bates is well-meaning but unable to cope with day-to-day problems, let alone the horrors she’s encountered. She’s frail but so desperately wants to appear strong. These flaws are vital to the story because her need to fight not only aspects to her life she’s powerless to change, but also her very nature, is what contributes most to her continued trauma.
Norman Bates is much like his mother, clueless about how disturbed he is. He wants to find his place in the world, but he’s too far in the periphery to do so. He’s the perfect example of the seemingly good person capable of horrific acts. He wants to be good; he’s just too lost to see himself in any kind of realistic light.
Dylan Bates is the sanest person in the family, yet he works as an illegal pot grower’s guard and has murdered at least one person we know of. The scene in which he teaches Norma how to shoot a gun shows how level-headed he is, but the level of corruption his character has amassed parallels that of his mother and brother. The only difference is he is aware of his actions, the consequences of those actions, and where that places him in terms of society and those he feels the need to protect.
Bradley is a symbol of Norman’s desire for normalcy. She’s the all-American girl, the epitome of the seeming high-school perfection that nearly everyone, at one time or another, strove to be. Norman’s obsession with her is nothing less than an obsession to fit in, to live the stereotypical high school experience. Her denial of his affection represents a denial of his place in the normal, sane world.
Emma is the perfect reflection of Norman. Although she has no homicidal tendencies, she represents death through her chronic, deadly condition. Her attraction to Norman symbolizes his own imperfection and, despite himself, the slow dance with Death that he cannot escape. When they go to the dance together, both admitting it to be their first, the music is telling. The opening lyrics are, “Everybody’s got a secret to hide. . . .” While Emma’s flaws are physical and Normans psychological, he rejects a part of himself by rejecting her.
Abernathy, the slave trade dealer, is a symbol of the town’s corruption, while Sheriff Romero symbolizes a desire to create order amidst a sea of chaos. Deputy Shelby, with whom Norma has a brief fling, represents the evil that lies just beneath the surface of all that appears good but ends in tragedy—the darkness each character strives to overcome, only to see it return, time and time again, in a different form.
Norman’s meltdown over the black socks and Norma’s confession of childhood incest offer deeper glimpses of who they are; Norma’s visible scar parallels her emotional ones. Each character introduced throughout the season, as minor as he or she may seem, holds a tiny piece of the puzzle that will eventually solve the big question: how does Norman Bates become the insane, ever-tormented killer of Psycho? The writers have laid the perfect foundation of trauma, neurosis, and betrayal. What promises to come in the following season will be nothing short of horrifying.For more about Bates Motel, go to A&E.
Today, I have the honor of hosting the very talented M.R. Gott, who adds a wonderful cerebral edge to his horror. I enjoyed his thoughts on using graphic imagery without exploiting or promoting violence, and I'm sure you will too. Thanks for stopping by!
Graphic, But Not Exploitative
A contemplation on depictions of violence by M.R. Gott
It is my view based upon a great deal of evidence we live in a violent world, too violent I would argue. Our fiction reflects our world and helps us step back and analyze this reality, and as such is prone to contain a reflection of the violence we see in our world. The question as I writer I ask is, how to do so without glamorizing, exploiting or glorifying violence?
To help illustrate this point I’m going to describe a popular film and book series, a work I believe to be staggering in its genius. This work depicts scenes of a fetus being dropped in a boiling pot, children being sadistically tortured and murdered, parents murdered before the eyes of their children and an array of other violent actions. Did you guess what series I’m referring to? It’s Harry Potter, and that’s in children’s literature. (Though adults such as myself still enjoy it)
The reason this is not seen as exploitative is the essence and idea of the story being told. Rowling has stated the work is about tolerance, she even outed Dumbledore. There are real emotional significances to the violence. Harry mourns for his slain family members, and there is a sense of impact and loss when character die or are killed. And of equal importance the violence is meant to be scary, readers were worried Harry would not survive the final book.
And this is the justification I use for the violence in my own work as a Horror author. While others in the field often cringe at this label I embrace it. I find it liberating. It frees me to address any ideas, without fear of offending my audience. When a reader picks up a horror novel they are signing a contract with the author that they are willing to go for a dark ride.
Within the horror trappings of my novel Where the Dead Fear to Tread, the story is about informed fatalism. The main protagonist is a vigilante killer, a cliché if there ever was one. He murders those who traffic in child slavery, not a great deal of sympathy from my audience.(Or so I would hope) Where my killer, William Chandler is different however is that he goes to the funerals of those he has murdered, to memorize the grieving features of the mourning family and loved ones, and understand the weight of his choices. He watches their children cry in loss, struggling to understand. William understands that violence leads to sadness, even the violence he does in the name of a cause he believes wholly justified. In order to keep his own sense of humanity he forces himself to understand these consequences. Painful as they may be.
Every character needs a foil and William’s is Kate Broadband, a police officer who is tracking William’s carnage. She is also being seduced by the allure of William’s efficiency, because she does not see the bereaved families, only the ones William reunites. And while his actions tear him apart she begins to romanticize him.
The violence in Where the Dead Fear to Tread is explicit and graphic. I work to ensure my readers understand the impact of every bullet that enters a person’s body, and the damage that a bullet does when it rips through a human being. I want you to grimace with every cut and flinch with every bruise. I want you to find the violence in my book scary, because violence is scary and any work that depicts it otherwise is exploitative.
Then again, I could be wrong. I’m just a guy who writes scary stories.
About the Author:
His work has been called, “bleak,” and “insightful,” as well as “frantic, horrific, brutal, and without doubt the darkest thing I have read in years - maybe in my life.” And that was pretty much what he was going for. M.R. Gott is the author of Where the Dead fear to Tread and the sequel Where the Damned Fear Redemption, and a contributor at Ravenous Monster. While crafting these upbeat, life affirming tales, M.R. enjoys dark coffee, dark beer, red wine, and fading light. For more on M.R. Gott and his works please visit wherethedeadfeartotread.blogspot.com.
Publisher description: The Speed of Dark is a 334 page horror anthology. These short stories are strangely different and disturbing. 27 stories written by 19 talented authors from around the world, this was a by invitation only anthology. It is sure to provide the horror fan with hours of fantastic reading.Includes stories by E.J. Ruek, Cynthia Ainsworthe, John B. Rosenman, Ken Weene, Clayton Bye, Micki Peluso, Lyn McConchie, Eduard Garcon, Marion Webb-De Sisto, Tonya Moore, Tim Fleming, Casy Wolf, James Secor, Tony Richards, Mary Firmin, Minna van der Pfaltz, Megan Johns, Gerald Rice, and yours truly.
You can pre-order The Speed of Dark here.
Mirages: Tales from Authors of the Macabre just received a lovely new
5-star review on Amazon. Reader Dave-Brendon says,
I'm really glad that I got an opportunity to read this anthology, because it's one of the best collections of dark, unsettling tales that I've ever read. I won't say that it was a pleasurable read -I'm not sadistic or masochistic- but it was definitely an eye-opener, and supremely memorable.
And here's what he had to say about my contribution:
The Descent Upstairs by Leigh M. Lane is a tale that I'll probably remember for a long time - I certainly wouldn't want to be pushed as far as the poor woman in this story was. Sort of makes me think that the fantasies we have regarding how to deal with people who irritate us and enrage us could be dangerous fantasies to have...
You can read the full review here. |
Edgar Allan Poe was well known for his critical reviews of other authors, and to pay homage, I’ve decided to offer a critical review of what I believe to be one of his most provocative short stories, “The Pit and the Pendulum.” While Poe’s reviews were often scathing, I felt it more appropriate to celebrate his birthday with something a bit more praiseworthy and analytical.
In “The Pit and the Pendulum,” Poe uses hellish visuals to portray the irony of religious justification for torture and death. His unnamed protagonist first describes his physical response to the “inquisitorial voices” sentencing him to death. His senses fail him before he falls into a mild hallucinatory state, at which time one must consider the possibility that Poe is using his common tool, the unreliable narrator. This works to the benefit of the story, however, allowing one to regard the entire work as an opinion piece.The narrator describes,
I saw, too, for a few moments of delirious horror, the soft and nearly imperceptible waving of the sable draperies which enwrapped the walls of the apartment; and then my vision fell upon the seven tall candles upon the table. At first they wore the aspect of charity, and seemed white slender angels who would save me: but then all at once there came a most deadly nausea over my spirit, and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill, as if I had touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and I saw that from them there would be no help.
Here, the seven candles represent the Catholic pontifical high Mass, which is commonly associated with the Pope. It is in the above passage where he makes clear his intentions in writing this story. When he describes the candles as “angel forms [that] became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame,” he juxtaposes the holy with hellfire, a visual that will prove to be a recurring theme throughout the work.
The narrator falls into a fugue state, which he can only compare to death. Poe writes,
I had swooned; but still will not say that all of consciousness was lost. What of it there remained I will not attempt to define, or even to describe; yet all was not lost. In the deepest slumber -- no! In delirium -- no! In a swoon -- no! In death -- no! Even in the grave all was not lost. Else there is no immortality for man. Arousing from the most profound of slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some dream. Yet in a second afterwards (so frail may that web have been) we remember not that we have dreamed.
The narrator’s inability to define or describe his experience represents the unknown and the uncertainty of what lies beyond death. Through his perceived encounter with those sanctified by the Catholic Church, our protagonist loses his faith in the divine. He further exemplifies this ironic event in his confusion over what exactly he has encountered: “In the deepest slumber -- no! In delirium -- no! In a swoon -- no! In death -- no! Even in the grave all was not lost. Else there is no immortality for man.” By claiming, “Even in the grave all was not lost. Else there is no immortality for man,” the narrator is defining the moment in which he feels forced to question the afterlife. He compares the encounter to a dream immediately forgotten upon waking, bringing death to a strictly physical level and abandoning any spiritual connection. He elaborates upon this sentiment when he soon thereafter describes the experience as “some token of the state of seeming nothingness into which [his] soul had lapsed.”
Illustration courtesy of MacFran:
Poe cleverly offers a sense of confusion over the narrator’s unreliability when he comes upon a brief moment of clarity. He describes, “I brought to mind the inquisitorial proceedings, and attempted from that point to deduce my real condition. The sentence had passed, and it appeared to me that a very long interval of time had since elapsed.” Here, he recalls his sentencing, but also questions the state in which the shock of that sentence had imposed upon him. He exemplifies this by adding, “Yet not for a moment did I suppose myself actually dead. Such a supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction, is altogether inconsistent with real existence; -- but where and in what state was I?” By specifically referring recorded experiences of death as “what we read in fiction,” he denies any supernatural connection to said experiences. His additional observation that it might be “altogether inconsistent with real existence” fortifies the idea that there is a clear divide between his perceived and actual occurrences.
The narrator, upon gaining full consciousness, finds himself in a pitch-black dungeon, which he describes as difficult to gauge in shape and dimension. This, of course, works as a parallel to the indeterminate size and shape of our universe (which remained an enigma at the time of this story’s creation), his imprisoned world suddenly reduced to the same level of uncertainty. He clarifies the nature of his prison, however, after again falling unconscious and waking to find the dungeon lit just enough for him to gauge his surroundings. He describes it as “a wild sulphurous luster” with an “origin of which [he] could not at first determine.” By describing the vague light source as having “a wild sulphurous luster,” he incorporates sensations most often associated with Hell, and by adding that the origin was one “of which [he] could not determine,” he makes clear the ethereal ekphrasis intended.
When Poe introduces the pendulum, he provides an interconnection between time and death, insinuating the finiteness of all life. He describes the pendulum as “a painted figure of Time as he is commonly represented, save that in lieu of a scythe he held as a casual glance I supposed to be the pictured image of a huge pendulum, such as we see on antique clocks.” By meshing the traditional images of (pendulum) and death (scythe), he alludes to the association between the two; both are inescapable and both play against one another in the eventual mortality of all humans. Many attempt to diffuse their fears over the two through faith, but again, perception and reality do not always go hand in hand.
Poe further alludes to this connection when his narrator describes, “there had been no perceptible descent in the pendulum.” Like watching a child grow or a person age, the perception is not one that can be viewed in one moment to the next. One might as well attempt to watch the grass grow. Old age creeps upon us all, and youth falls to the wayside before it can be fully appreciated. Death, as inevitable as it is, often seems distant until nearly the moment it strikes. Most of us think little about our mortality, or the finality that may come with death, until we’re forced to, as Poe’s narrator exemplifies, “For the first time during many hours, or perhaps days, I THOUGHT.” It isn’t until the pendulum has nearly reached him that he is able to ponder both its implications and his possible escape.
Poe returns to allusions of the battles resulting from the Inquisition when he brings the rats inhabiting the dungeon to the forefront. The narrator describes,
I had not counted in vain upon their voracity. Observing that I remained without motion, one or two of the boldest leaped upon the frame-work and smelt at the surcingle. This seemed the signal for a general rush. Forth from the well they hurried in fresh troops. They clung to the wood, they overran it, and leaped in hundreds upon my person.
Notice the choice in language here: the “general rush” and the “fresh troops.” Poe clearly depicts war through the garish guise of vermin warming a man on the brink of death. Still, his narrator survives, patiently waiting for their assault against his flesh to weaken also the ties that bind him, only to describe the horrors that ensue:
I had scarcely stepped from my wooden bed of horror upon the stone floor of the prison, when the motion of the hellish machine ceased and I beheld it drawn up by some invisible force through the ceiling. This was a lesson which I took desperately to heart. My every motion was undoubtedly watched. Free! I had but escaped death in one form of agony to be delivered unto worse than death in some other.
Image courtesy of Ryan Russell.
Click on image for more information.
Here, one might find a correlation between the assumed all-seeing eyes of God and the narrator’s torturers: “My every motion was undoubtedly watched.” The pendulum ceases as soon as he slips from his binds, and he anticipates a new level of suffering to replace the old. The “lesson which [he takes] desperately to heart” compares to the canonical “lesson[s]” anyone might derive from any given religious text.
When the torturers are finally revealed, the narrator describes “Demon eyes, of a wild and ghastly vivacity, glar[ing] …in a thousand directions where none have been visible before, and gleamed with a lurid luster of a fire that I could not force my imagination to regard as unreal.” The description here is more ethereal than it is earthly, turning men into demons, meshing the imagined with inescapable reality. Those trusted with the position of punishing the condemned are no better than those deemed the heathens they have sentenced; human and demon become one in the same. Poe ensures his message is clear by describing his torturers as “most demoniac of men,” and by transforming the stone walls of the narrator’s prison as “burning iron” ever closing in on his protagonist.
When he rouses from his imagined hell, the protagonist realizes “the fiery walls rushed back” and he is still on the battlefield, fighting alongside General Lasalle of the French army, driving those fighting for the Inquisition into submission. This reversal of roles here is key to the story. By shifting the narrator’s hell into reverie, Poe merely shows that he portrays one side of a complicated story. More importantly, he illustrates the atrocities that might exist due to something as menial as a difference in belief. The enemy is always the demon, and his domain is always Hell, and it is only human nature to dehumanize he whom one currently fights against.
Works cited by link:
It Takes a Village
I get asked one question in interviews and while talking to readers a lot. What advice do you have for other writers? My answer is usually to keep trying and never give in to haters. That really is the best advice I can ever give. If you give up, you will never accomplish anything.
There is another little bit of advice that is just as important. What is this magical little bit of advice? It takes a village. Yep. It’s that simple. Just remember that you can’t do it on your own.
When I first started thinking about a Zombie A.C.R.E.S. project, it was a comic series idea and not a book. After having issues with artist after artist, I decided my best path was to bring Zombie A.C.R.E.S. to life through short stories. My thinking was since writing is such a solo project (except for the characters and voices in your head), I won’t have to rely on an artist or anyone else to bring my dream to fruition.
Man was I wrong.
I have said many times that last year and a half has been trial and error, with error being the more prevalent of the two. One of the biggest errors I have made was trying to do everything on my own. Sure, writing the stories was mostly me, but even that was a group project at times.
Even today there are some things that I try to do on my own, but I have to step back and ask myself, ‘Is this going to result in the best final product?’ In many cases the answer is no, so I proceed to find someone to help populate my village.
AiZ: Alice in Zombieland (Complete Saga)
In a world where corporate greed is allowed to run wild, Roslun Global has become the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. As head of this juggernaut of a company, Richard Roslun wields unheard of global power. To obtain and hold onto this power, Roslun is willing to do anything, including killing innocents.
When Richard Roslun realizes what he must do to save everything, his sights become set on a young girl named Alice. When Alice’s mother returns home from work with an infection, all hell breaks lose in Alice’s fragile world. Alice and her sister Georgia are hiding as death is literally banging on the front door when the unthinkable happens.
A second outbreak tests the love between Sam Ashe and and his fiancé Heather. Sam is a horror geek who has always been obsessed with zombies. When his fantasies become a reality, the man inside him will have to rise to the adventure ahead.
Fate brings Sam and Georgia together in the mission to save young Alice. Will love be enough to fight off the undead and stop pure corporate greed?
Find AiZ: Alice in Zombieland (Complete Saga) on Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Paperback, and many other online retailers.
About the Author:Joshua Cook was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, late in 1977; and this where he has spent most of his life. There have been short bursts throughout his life where he has spread his wild oats to other parts of the United States, though.
Briefly Josh lived in Arizona and a brief – dark – time in Indiana and Ohio. Finally he landed in Washington state. He now calls Washington home where he lives with his girlfriend and dog.
This is where he created the growing fan favorite web site ZombieACRES.com, which spawned its first book in 2012. After many years of writing non-fiction, news, and various other articles, Josh decided to poke around in fiction – and loves it.
As most of you already know, my Edgar Allan Poe-inspired novel Finding Poe contains references to over twenty-five of his best (but some not so well known) works. Are you a Poe fan? Think you can name the most references?
If so, send me a private message with your list using the web form on my Contact page. The winner, whom I’ll announce at the end of the month, will receive a signed paperback copy of Finding Poe, a signed cover art postcard, and a cover art refrigerator magnet.
Remember, Finding Poe is only $0.99 on Kindle through the anniversary of his birthday (January 19).
Do you love Poe as much as I do? If so, you'll enjoy this video released today through Bookish Friends. It opens with avid reader Bunny Cates reciting Poe's haunting poem, "Alone," and then cuts to a mini biography of Poe's writing and motivations recorded by yours truly.
Thanks again to Bunny Cates for inviting me to join in on this fun, Poe-filled venture!
With the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday coming up, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about his life and his amazing collection of short stories and poetic works. Most people think of “The Raven” or “The Tell-Tale Heart” when they think of Poe, but those who have read a decent sample of his writing know that he was as eclectic and innovative as he was prolific. Although my favorite works of his all fall under his vast umbrella of horror, he also wrote strange tales, humor, and detective mysteries (he was the inventor of the deductive sleuth).
It seems I’m not alone in seeing Poe as a creative inspiration. Last year’s The Raven came out shortly after I released Finding Poe (you can read my review of the film here) and the Poe-inspired Fox television series The Following premieres later this month. Although The Raven and The Following are vastly different from Finding Poe and each in their own way, both incorporate elements of his most well known works.
| |The muses hit me with the idea for Finding Poe after I had read (or re-read) a number of his short stories, and in order to do the best justice to my tribute, I read and studied literally every work of his that I could find. PoeStories.com is a great resource, as is The Literature Network, and you can find several free or low priced Poe short stories and poetry collections for your Kindle at Amazon. Not every work he wrote is brilliant, and a handful of his short stories are downright awful, but they’re worth sifting through.
In honor of Poe's upcoming birthday, I’m reducing the Kindle price for Finding Poe to $0.99 through January 19. His is a legacy that few other authors have achieved, and I’m proud to be among the writers and artists who have strove to pay him his due homage. Happy reading—you might want to leave more than one light on.
If you saw American Horror Story: Asylum last night, you're probably still thinking about Jude's lovely (brain-frying electroc-shock "treatment"-induced) delusion that results from Lana asking her, "Do you know your name?" If you missed it, here's a clip. Take note of the use of color, which contrasts heavily with scenes that usually take place in the asylum's common room.
Read my thoughts on this episode and how it pertains to the series as a whole at AHS Fans Pages.