Read “Player Two”! And some half-baked opinions.

My micro-short story “Player Two” is now live at Hellnotes!

You can read it here.

Horror Novel Reviews is releasing their new poetry collection Passages Of Pain, Lyrics Of Loss on the 14th of February, just in time for Valentine’s Day! (Or just in time to miss it in the southern hemisphere, I guess.) I’ll post purchase links when they become available. Because I’m in it.

Okay, it’s time to get opinionated. By now, you should be getting some idea of what I write… so here’s some things I will never write:

A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE BOOK. Because why? This particular corpse has been beaten into a slimy paste. Does anyone really think there’s a fresh idea hiding in that dessicated viscera that hasn’t long since been ripped out and stolidly half-chewed? Oh, look – it turns out that humans are the real monsters! Colour me surprised. It seems to me that a lot of writers who plough this field are the kind of people who would pay for custom licence plates for their red car and then, of all the choices eight characters have to offer, have them say RED CAR. (In the interest of disclosure, I will admit that I have published not one but two zombie short stories… though the undead are used more as a set-up and/or punchline to explore more interesting and amusing ideas.)

A TRADITIONAL VAMPIRE/WEREWOLF/NON-APOCALYPTIC ZOMBIE BOOK. Because when you make this decision, you’ve basically chosen to do a cover of “Johnny B. Goode”. It may have a stutter-step electro break and a theremin solo, but it’s still “Johnny B. Goode”. Yes, a number of classics have been wrung from these over-utilised tropes and still are today (I highly recommend Tom Fletcher’s The Leaping, to name a recent example)… but at best it’s gonna be the most kick-arse take on that old chestnut you’ve heard for a while, and at worst it’s the literary equivalent of some fat fucker from Accounting gamely bashing out a limp karaoke version of “Play That Funky Music White Boy” in the back corner of the Slug & Lettuce on a wet Monday night.*

A BOOK WHERE AN ANCIENT EVIL WAKENS AND THREATENS A SMALL TOWN, FORCING A WRITER WHO GREW UP THERE TO TEAM UP WITH THE LOCAL PRIEST, THE LOCAL SHERRIFF AND A MERE WOMAN TO PRESERVE THE STATUS QUO. Because we are not living in 1985. And even then, people like Clive Barker, John Skipp & Craig Spector and Ramsey Campbell were writing brilliant, transgressive tales that blew that old reheated conservative bollocks right off the map. It’d be more interesting to take an opposite approach to such an idea: an alien force comes from the future to destroy the town’s church, which has been the real evil for centuries, and our hero is the woman who helps it to crush horrible old institutions and free humanity to live for itself. But I’m still not going to do it.

ANYTHING WHERE CHRISTIAN RITUALS AND OBJECTS WORK. Because I’m an atheist, if not an anti-theist. Sure, a lot of my work features the supernatural, but it tends to be a somewhat secular version thereof, entirely lacking in actual demons and cosmic gods… and besides, I’m writing fiction. It’s the art of making shit up! And might it not indicate a wish for something more than even the intricate, infinite mysteries of the natural world? I’d be stoked to know that there was an afterlife, if somewhat less than thrilled if it matched any of the ridiculous religious systems we insist on perpetuating. (I’m not trying to start a fight here, I’m just saying my piece. A writer must be true to himself – and apparently, must paint himself into corners as often as possible, because I don’t think I’ve nailed this argument. Must Try Harder.)

A TRILOGY OR SERIES. Because this is something that bothers me. How can you create any true threat to your characters if the reader already knows they’ll make it through? The best you can do is put the protagonist through the emotional wringer and hope that creates enough drama. Also, clinging to the same characters that have made you successful kinda reeks of desperation in certain writers, as if they fear they’ll never match those lofty heights again and so don’t even try. As always, there’s a lot of good work in the series format that I’m into – Dennis Lehane’s Boston detectives are always welcome, plus I recently read Tom Piccirilli’s The Last Kind Words and The Last Whisper In The Dark and I’m hanging for a third book – but it just doesn’t interest me that much in general. I’d rather write a series of stand-alone stories where all bets are off and the universe can have different rules every time. That said, fuck rules – so now if I start using recurring protagonists later, my arse is covered.

WRITE ANYTHING WITH “CRIVENING” IN THE TITLE. Okay, so I just made that up – and of all these things, this is the one I’m most likely to do. The Crivening. That’s just made of win!

Anyway, I promised Dad I wouldn’t turn this blog into a bile cannon, so I’ve gone easy on you this time. I know not everyone wants to be accosted with outbursts of didactic diarrhoea every time they open a post, but if I’m going to have Opinion Vendor on my header then I need to own it. I must be honest with you in my non-fiction as well as in my dark fantasies. And in the end, isn’t that what we really want from our well-told lies – some kind of truth…?

Huh. Overblown proselytising much? Wanker.

See you again sometime. Wear a red carnation so I know it’s you.
– MRD x

* I think that “Play That Funky Music White Boy” is quite probably the worst song ever written. It’s utterly inane, back-handedly racist, and it’s not even funky. This song is why paranoid white people think black people are laughing at them, and they’re right. The moment this song was laid down on tape, AIDS was born. Every time a cover band plays this song, an unwritten classic dies stillborn in the aether of our collective consciousness.**

** Naturally, I have an opinion on this whole “I’m just an antenna, the song/story already existed and I just uncovered it” thing. If you’re terribly lucky, I won’t share it with you some day.

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