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September 28th, 2009 1 comment

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Musings from the Road

September 10th, 2009 2 comments

I just got in from a three-day drive from California to Texas.  The entire drive was made in a U-Haul, which meant I was dealing with an unfamiliar vehicle of unaccustomed dimensions.  For this reason, I’m turning in a shorter essay today, covering a variety of points.

1) People are complaining about the trend in horror for publishers to request stories similar to the ones that have recently sold.  This is bothersome, particularly when it results in twenty zombie or werewolf novels hitting the shelves within the span of a few months or when the publishers aren’t buying tales that don’t feature the current hot thing.  That said, it is also nothing new.  Success breeds imitation.  Harken back to the 1970s if you don’t believe me.  After the success of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, religious horror – whether demonic possession, satanism, or the Antichrist – began vying with the gothic for the horror paperback shelves.  If it hadn’t been for the advent of Stephen King we might be reading about Debra’s terrible ordeal in her recently-inherited condo or the Devil trying to claim the soul of the local paperboy.

This situation is not exclusive to horror, either.  With the success of the Executioner series, Men’s Adventure was changed from stories of war, sailing, and exploration to vicarious slaughter of criminals.  Suddenly they were everywhere:  The Butcher, the Penetrator, The Destroyer, even a (comparatively tame) Dirty Harry series.    Other genres and subgenres were being subjected to similar publishing pressures. 

This is nothing new.  It’s not pleasant, but this isn’t the first time writers have been expected to handle the unpleasant realities of the publishing industry.  It won’t be the last.

2)  Periodically, arguments arise about the best climate for horror.  Arguments are made for people buying more under Republican or Democrat administrations, during wartime and peace, during one season or another.  The one overriding fact is this: people buy more horror… or more of anything… when they have disposable income to spend.  When someone is in debt, or is putting all of their money toward paying bills, they don’t have the extra money to purchase a book.  The end result is that sales are hurt across the board, as the reading population turns to alternatives like libraries, used book stores or re-reading old favorites.  Sales figures are directly related to the amount of money available to the buyers.

3)  Fear is where you find it.  It can be unsettling to roll up at a stoplight next to an apparent gangbanger, tatted up, listening to violent beat-heavy music and sitting proud in his chrome-laden, spinning-rimmed vehicle.  It’s far more disturbing to realize that the gangbanger’s car has a license plate reading “Pikachu”.    Or to have a multi-ton eighteen-wheeler riding your bumper at 65 MPH during a rainstorm, even if you didn’t just listen to Edo Van Belkom’s Mark Dalton story “Riders of the Purple Rage” on audiobook.  Or merely to have an inch-and-a-half long unidentified insect clinging to your driver’s side window for miles on end, only to have it fly after you when you finally emerged from the vehicle.  There are disturbing events in everyday life, and remembering and recounting them can make your stories more believable.

That’s it for now.  It’s after 1:30 AM for me, and I have a dentist’s appointment tomorrow (this) morning.

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