Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Ties That Bind

One of the biggest thrills at this year’s Hypericon* was getting a chance to see a short film directed by Jeff Heimbuch adapted from the Brian Keene story “The Ties That Bind.” A lot of people must have thought the same thing, since if you didn’t catch the first elevator to the screening room, you didn’t get in.

The Ties That Bind is essentially set in the same universe as the Keene books The Rising and City of the Dead, although the filmmakers had to be careful, since the film rights to those novels were held (at the time) by someone else. It is the story of a man who can’t let his wife go, even after she has fallen victim to the zombie plague, and the consequences of his decision.

It is a short film (14 minutes), shot on a budget somewhat shy of Transformers 2. The story is simple, but told with a degree of heart lacking in a lot of big budget movies. The anguish of the husband, central to the story, is well presented despite the short running time. One of the biggest mistakes independent filmmakers commit is to hire their brother-in-law or chiropractor to act in their movie, and Heimbuch avoids this, using two professionals (Kevin Interdonato and Logan Tracey) for the speaking parts, and they turn in good performances.

The movie is also very professional from a technical point of view. Heimbuch makes good us of transition effects better present time and the flashback to the incident that propels the movie. I did wonder if one element of the movie worked, i.e. the fact that if you “kill” a Keene zombie, it will just come back in a new host, thus a captured zombie will want to be “killed”. Since this couldn’t be explained, probably for contractual reasons, I wondered if people not familiar with the Keene books would understand it. (My wife hasn’t read the books, and she said she enjoyed the movie just fine, so I’m probably being overly nitpicky.)

The Ties That Bind will be released on DVD in August, and is now available for pre-order at Bamfer Productions, with the DVDs signed by Keene and Heimbuch, and at select horror outlets. Quantities are limited, so I’d recommend you place your order soon.

* The very biggest thrill was when Brian Keene said “Fuck you!” ** to me personally. It made me feel important.
** He said it in a good-natured way.***
*** I’m reasonably sure.

Plague Zone

Author David Wellington has had an interesting road to success. He has published most of his work on line for free. This is an unusual thing for an author to do and still breakthrough, but Wellington’s talent has enabled him to beat the odds. One of the few of these cyber-works that has yet to be published conventionally is the zombie novel Plague Zone, which can be read here. It is a revisiting of a post-zombie apocalypse world similar to that in his zombie trilogy, Monster Island, Monster Nation, and Monster Planet. Along with Brian Keene and Max Brooks, he is part of the triumvirate that has pushed zombies to the forfront of horror literature, replacing vampires as the creature du jour.

When Plague Zone opens, the U.S. is in the grips of a seemingly hopeless battle against a virus that turns the afflicted into mindless creatures intent on attacking the healthy in order to bite them and spread the infection. The protagonist is a librarian, of all things, named Tim Kempfer who was in Chicago for a convention when the virus began to break out, starting in his hometown, Seattle. He is watching a news report in the airport when he sees his wife killed by an afflicted neighbor. The rest of the novel details Tim’s attempts to reach now quarantined Seattle in order to seek revenge against the man who killed his wife (and presumably left his child to die). Along the way, he encounters a fanatical army officer intent on imposing discipline at the cost of individual freedom, and a ragtag band in opposition to the military. It’s a gripping read, and one that I would recommend. I look forward to buying this when it is published, as I feel guilty about reading a book without the author receiving anything for it.

Diabolical Radio

I just discovered this (because I am lazy), but check out the podcast from Diabolical Radio, it’s good stuff. I recommend their show with a Brian Keene interview. If you are a Keene fan, you won’t want to miss it. And I suppose if you hate Keene, you’ll want to parse his comments to find something to throw a snit about. Whatever works for you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Sirens

After the traumatic events of The Amulet, Glasgow P.I. Derek Adams chucked it all in and retired from the sleuth business, going to work for a newspaper instead. That didn’t last long, and within a few weeks, he went back to the old game, hiring his friend Doug, emotionally scarred by the previous case, as his assistant.

When the book opens, Adams is taking a routine case. A woman hires him to find her son, who has run off to a remote fishing village, and soon Adams is on the trail. What are the chances this remains a simple job? None, really, since Adams is the Midnight Eye, and eldritch horror waits for him on every case. Soon, Adams is up to his neck in mermaids, ancient curses, and Norse mythology. And there’s this strange janitor hanging around with a glass eye…

As I mentioned when talking about The Amulet, a lot of writers have tried their hand at mixing horror themes with the private eye genre, generally with poor results, but Meikle has a good grasp on the mixed genres. I loved The Amulet, but The Sirens is even better. If the concept of a private dick investigating cases mixed with classic horror themes interests you, I urge you to give them a try. Reading The Amulet first helps fill in the backstory of the characters, but isn’t essential.

Mr. Meikle has written a third Derek Adams adventure, and hopefully it will see publication soon. Oh, and if you’re wondering, as I was, his name is pronounced MEE-kle, according to a friend of mine. Then again, the friend is a Scot, and could have been having me on.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Exit Vector

From Matt Staggs at Deep Eight, here’s a press release about an unusual item. Underland Press is publishing a “wovel” (an interactive serial novel) by Simon Drax:

“Mori Kim Marr’s personal force-field of drugs and drink has worn thin: she’s a burned-out teenager in a burned-out world, an Earth wracked by wars and rumors of wars, plagues and disasters, the hopelessness of every human heart. Mori couldn’t care less; just bring her the next fix, please. But when an artificial woman from the 19th century and a boy with psionic powers wander into the smoke and squalor of Mori’s favorite watering hole, gore-drenched violence and city-wide destruction erupts, catapulting Mori and her new-found “friends” into the thick of a battle that began long ago, a war that has raged since before the dawn of civilization, a blood-feud fought and overseen by the sole-survivor of an ancient, pre-human race: Trista Ska Shearn, last of the Cantarans. Trista has been waiting 65,000 thousand years for this, the final battle; she has waited millennia for the glum, sallow teenager, Mori Kim Marr. For Mori is . . . the Exit Vector.
Ancient enemies will clash. Worlds will crumble. The fate of the very universe will be decided in Exit Vector.

Every Monday, the author posts an installment, usually about five to seven pages in length. At the end of the installment, readers vote on which direction they want the story to take, and the author incorporates the readers' decision into the narrative.
Past wovels by Kealan Patrick Burke and Jemiah Jefferson have drawn more than 1,000 readers and 14,000 page views a month. Read the first installment of EXIT VECTOR on June 22 at www.underlandpress.com.

Sounds like an interesting story, and a fascinating approach to on-line publishing. I’ll be following to see how it turns out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pulse 2

Although I am in the minority, I kind of enjoyed the 2006 American re-make of Pulse. It was spooky, visually striking, and starred Kristin Bell. (Note to filmmakers seeking the all-powerful Dead In The South endorsement: You will always get better marks for having Kristin Bell in your cast. You should know this anyway, but if you don’t, there you are.) I was intrigued when I discovered the story had been continued (sort-of) in two sequels, the first of which is the imaginatively titled Pulse 2.

The most recognizable actor in the second installment is Jamie Bamber, best known for playing the spoiled, petulant Apollo on Battlestar Galactica. He’s pretty much the same character here. The movie is set in the post-apocalyptic world after the events of the first movie, although few of the characters display much understanding of what’s going on. To recap: Dead souls have re-entered our world through electronic technology, and suck the lifeforce from the living, who continue on a bit before their body turns into a pile of carbon and collapses, while their spirit joins the revenants. The plot such as it is concerns Bamber’s attempt to find his daughter and bring her back to his technology-free safe haven,

This is presented with dreadfully slow pacing. At one point, a character cleans her apartment, and it is shown in excruciating detail, practically in real time. At no point is the viewer ever made to care what happens to either Bamber or his daughter, so it’s tough sledding. More intriguing subplot ideas, such as the fact that some of the ghosts don’t seem to realize they are dead, and fear the living, sweep right on by. They do throw in the obligatory naked-for-no-reason woman halfway through to keep the male viewer paying attention.

There is also an example of one of those irritating incidents where the only way to advance the plot is to have a character do something so stupid no one would ever do it in real life. Halfway through, Bamber returns home with his daughter. “Thank God.” I thought. “At least it’s short.” Now Bamber knows two things: 1) The revenants can reach you through electronics, and 2) His ex-wife has become one of them. What does he do? He fires up the old laptop, and sends her an e-mail. This means he and the kid have to go on the run again, and leads to the death of at least two other characters who had the misfortune to know him.

There is also a Pulse 3, which I will get to as soon as I get the bad taste of this one out of my mouth. Hopefully, it will wrap things up.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Good Sick News

According to reports, Ron Kelly’s super short story collection The Sick Stuff is now sold out in both paperback and hardcover editions. Many congratulations to Ron and to Thunderstorm Books for this. I have heard a lot of comments about The Sick Stuff in various venues, and they are all positive. People who have never read anything by Ron Kelly are raving about this. So if you didn’t follow my advice and order The Sick Stuff when it came out, you need to start scrounging dealers to find someone who might have an overlooked copy. And in the future remember this rule: I am always right.*

*Margin of error on this statement is +-50%.

Hypericon V Is History

Trying to get back into the swing of the posting thing.

Hypericon 5 was a blast. Although attendance seemed to be down a bit, the horror side of the con seemed well represented. Hypericon is technically a science fiction con, but horror has seemed to dominate, judging from visual surveys. (Science fiction fans tend to dress up in costume or carry props, while horror fans wear black t-shirts and sullen expressions.) Only one pirate this year, and he didn’t seem that much into it.

It was a treat to hang out with some of my favorite authors, some for the first time. People like Steve Shrewsbury, Ron Kelly, Brian Keene, Scott Nicholson, Wrath James White, Bryan Smith (and his lovely wife Rachel), Maurice Broaddus, John Hornor Jacobs and others whose names I have inadvertently omitted. It was fun and uneventful, with only one author telling me to go fuck myself, and I am 65% sure he was kidding. (ask one question about how the civil war novel is going and see what you get…)

There were also a number of people I know through the message boards. It was great to talk face to face with Todd Clark, Hunter Goatley, and Mark Hickerson, and to meet Mark Sylva in the flesh for the first time. Again, if I left out your name it is because of my sorry memory, not on purpose.

Hypericon is an amazing event, and is one of the most affordable of the cons. I urge everyone interested to make plans to attend Hypericon 2010.