5 SONGS FOR A CREEPIER EVENING

Just for laughs– high-pitched, hysterical laughter like a nail file along the edge of a glass– here’s a few songs to gt you through Halloween this year. I can’t imagine what they all have in common.

The Ballad of Dwight Fry– Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper is the rock master of all things Guignol. And, apart from being damned creepy and a tribute to one of the great lost, mad creatures of the classic Hollywood monster era, Cooper recorded the “Gotta get out of here” refrain by lying on the floor of the studio and having a pile of folding chairs heaped over him until his claustrophobia took hold. Recording your own panicked neurosis for the sake of your single? Welcome to Halloween, sweetheart.

Dead Eyes Opened– Headless Chickens

From its buzzsaw beats to its grisly subject matter, this is a classic creepfest from beginning to end. The beautifully enunciated, teddibly teddibly British narration only adds to the off-kilter weirdfest. A dance floor hit about burning the severed head of a woman? Classic.

Aisha– Death in Vegas

Let’s be honest, it’s not like the Iggster is at the normal end of the spectrum to begin with. But his monotone delivery and whipperwhill screeching over the discordant guitars make this another brilliant dance track that’s an awkward listening experience. A self-confessed serial killer pronouncing his undying love for the titular character is almost irrelevant in the face of the sheer oddness of the delivery.

97 Bonnie and Clyde– Tori Amos

Eminem’s original is a darkly funny fable about a man dumping the body of his ex-wife and her new husband in a lake while the narrator’s toddler looks on. Amos slows the music down and her cracke,d whispered delivery adds a thick layer of uneasiness to the track. Amongst the best covers ever recorded, and a distinctly unsettling listening experience.

Lotion– Greens Keepers

Because everybody watched Buffalo Bill in action during Silence of the Lambs and thought, “What this guy needs is a ballad,” right? Right?

So, if you’re still here, wash your mind out with the real meaning of modern Halloween: dressing up in silly costumes and acting like a loon. Have the utter genius of the Bonzo the Dog Doo Dah Band for dessert.

Sleep well, children.

PEACE AND GOODWILL TO ALL ME….. GET THAT STITCHED, FUCKER!

It’s Halloween, a time when we pause in our Godless lives to pay tribute to Saint Allens, the patron saint of childhood diabetes.

Have a nasty little piece of fiction from my past to keep you warm. It was originally published in Scary Food, a horror fiction cookbook put out in the dim, distant past by now-defunct Aussie publisher Agog Press.

Here it is, regurgitated for your pleasure. It’s all you’re getting: I’ve eaten all the candy.

, Rabbit, Run

     So they picked him up, the broken-shelled, loose-limbed motherfucker, lying unconscious in a pool of his own piss. Didn’t matter where they found him, was all the same to them and hedidn’t care. He was only one anonymous, ruined face amongst thousands, millions, drunk and stinking in alleyways and shop doorways, every one a fugitive from some demon roaming the corridors of their own minds, lying under bridges and daring the night to come eat them up and see if anybody cares. Besides, he’d long since given up running. Couldn’t even remember why he’d started, memory ruined by knife points and alcohol, bouncer’s boots and junkie product, a hard man gone soft, dedicated to the act of fucking himself up, real hard man, real iron-muscled motherfucker, kill himself down dead long before whomever or whatever reached him and did the job their way. Choose the manner of your own death like a man, even if it’s a death of piss and vomit, gin blossoms and teeth on the tarmac in front of your face. Took time and effort, but he got there, more backs stabbed than a politician, he’d done it, oh boy, done it but good.
     They found him, though, dumped him in the back of a white truck and drove him away towards the lights of redemption. He was so wiped he didn’t even recognise them, couldn’t tell anybody where they came from or where he was going, no fight left in him and if they hadn’t found him it would have been some other monsters and fuck it, he was ready for them, finally, ready to lie between their teeth and play like meat. But they knew better. They smiled and tied him down and pumped his veins full of clear, clear liquid amnesia, called his name and played games with his screams as they drove slowly through the darkened streets, all the better to pass the time until the building drew them all in and he landed face down on a gurney through door after door banging the top of his head until the scalp bled. The scalpels made no sound as they cut him open, the drugs washed his blood and his marrow and his thoughts, and when they came to shave him here, there, and down below he didn’t even flinch at the sight of their faces, white and hairless and smelling of wine turned vinegar. And the sheets were soft, and the saline was tangy against his arteries, and if he couldn’t keep the food down for more than an hour before spewing it splash and splatter into the nearest corner nobody complained, so he puked all the harder just to watch them bend down to clean it.
     He slept when they told him to and ate when they told him to and wanked when they told him to, filling pots and buckets and forms and days, and somewhere deep down where the knives had missed and the scars circled round it like a ribcage, protecting, nurturing, hiding, a spark remembered itself: you can’t tell me what to do. You don’t own me. You’re not my…
     Fuck it. You’re not my anything.
     So he held the pills under his tongue and spat them into pot plants, crept along corridors at night smelling spirits and cleanliness, let his hair grow back and found a comb, cleaned his teeth by himself God Damn You!, ignored the outstretched hands and turned his back on the help and picked up the fork and took the spill-proof top from the cup and when they came for him one morning with the gurney and the bag of clear liquid with the tube hanging off it like a limp-dicked pensioner he said No. No more. I’m gone. I’m checking out. And they smiled and asked him if he was sure and he told them yes, fuck you, let me go. I want to go.
     That’s when they took him down to the offices with the soft carpet underfoot and pastel paintings and soft piped music and smiling lipsticked mouths saying yes, hello, we’re soglad. And a suit, in his size, washed and clean and smelling so good like a thousand fucks in teenager’s beds and a wallet filled with cash in the pocket and one final form with his name in neat black letters and the standard paragraph about release and welcome to the world and just sign here, here and here, please sir, no motherfucker you but a man, a real man, welcome back old friend just sign here.
     They helped him dress and placed the jacket over his shoulders and shook his hand, all in a line saying well done, good luck out there and he strode, not shuffled anymore, damn well strode to the front door and they held it open for him, sir and sir and sir and he turned for one last look and there they were, all lined up and not for a moment did their smiles slip or the love and affection in their gazes die but in each hand a scalpel, in each smile the taste for blood and every one of them a face he remembered, every one of them long teeth enemies fright in the night under the bed terror, every one of them a punch to his heart.
     Good luck, they said, and
     We’re so happy, they said, and
     See you again soon, they said, and
then, at last, to him,
really to him
     as the muscles in his legs spasmed and sent him to the cold concrete outside, ass on the ground and limbs splayed wide, the single street light bright against the gloom showing the first piss stain already damp dark wet against his trousers, one last thing before they started counting:
     Run.

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS THE V-GER KICKED OUT OF IT

“Oh, honey. It’ll be perfect for the baby’s room!”

Part of the fun of science fiction is wondering what’s out there: what strange, alien life waits for us out beyond the stars, with weird alien motivations and bizarre physical and emotional manifestations. It’s part of the sensawunda that drove Golden Age SF and which you can still find in the pulpier fringes of the genre today. Let’s be honest: aliens are fun.

The quickest way to a gag cartoon is to take a situation, and flip it: take the ordinary and make it bizarre, take the incredible and make it mundane. Of course there will be giant, alien space squid. But they’ll smoke pipes and have a 1950’s home life, and they’ll use space shuttles as mobiles.

Of course they will.

Review: Lost

Lost
Lost by Michael Robotham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Strong, muscular crime story that begins with intertwined mysteries– who shot the narrator and left him to die in the Thames, and what has happened to his memory?– and weaves them throughout a narrative of a cop at the end of his time, slowly coming to terms with the knowledge that his methods and obsessions are being sent irrevocably into obsolescence.

Robotham’s tight, controlled style never gives the reader time to draw back and see the greater narrative, and his masterful control of details and verisimilitude paint detailed vignettes that give spice to the constant action. Threats abound, tension is high, and the book rockets along at a frantic pace as time runs out for the protagonist, DI Ruiz, on a number of fronts.

Top notch storytelling.

View all my reviews

HELPING TO PERPETUATE THE HIDDEN SISTERHOOD OF POWERFUL WOMEN

Or, to put it another way, I’ve received news that Paradox Books have accepted my story The Daughters of John Anglicus— featuring Trota of Salerno and the descendants of Pope Joan— for inclusion in their anthology Crusader Kings, which will be coming out in December which means you’ll be able to get me to sign it for you for Christmas. If you haven’t already bought it, you can pick up Europa Universalis IV: What If?, which contains my alternative history Napoleon Bonaparte story The Emperor of Moscow, while you’re there.


More details on the how and where of buying it as I get them, but for now, here’s a little snippet to get you keen:

     Trota edges past the end of the bed. Once round to the other side she sees the woman more clearly. She is tall, taller perhaps than even Nicholas, and older than Trota expected, being perhaps in her mid-thirties. Long black hair is splayed across a bank of pillows, and her olive face is pale and drawn close in pain. A nightgown is bunched up above her knees and stretches tightly across the rounded bulk of her stomach. A white-shifted old woman dabs ineffectually at her forehead with a damp cloth. She scurries out of the way as Trota approaches, and shuffled from the room, crossing herself and murmuring respectful words as she passed Nicholas. He waves her on her way, and directs Trota to sit on the vacant stool.
     “This is your charge,” he says. “She is close to birth, but for the last month there have been… problems. Increasingly so.”
     “Why…” She sits, takes the woman’s long hand in her own, and gives it a soft squeeze. The woman turns pain-squinted eyes towards her. She clenches Trota’s hand hard enough to hurt, and hisses as her gut spasms. “Why is there no doctor here?”
     “She summoned you.”
     “I’m two weeks away!”
     “You are the only chirurgeon to whom Her Holiness has granted admittance.”
     “You let her lie here for two weeks in this sort of pain. What the hell–?”
     “Watch your mouth!” Nicholas’ sudden rage rocks Trota back on her stool. “You are in the presence of holiness. You will not use those words.”

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY IMITATES CHRISTOPHER PYNE

A short while ago, when the writing was going nowhere so fast I decided to give it up and go back to giving cartooning a proper go, I inked and coloured a series of gags to see whether I could sell them.

I’ve gone back to being a writer since then. That’s all you need to know.

Anyway, here’s one of those cartoons. Any similarity to any current Government, living, dead or otherwise, is entirely coincidental.