The Real Consorts with Shadows

Lessons in Speculative Fiction from The Twilight Zone

Anthology horror has crawled back from the dead to haunt your TV screens once again. It’s shifted into shows like American Horror Story and Channel Zero, where the stories are seasonal rather than episodic. It’s creeping back with more familiar programs like Black Mirror, Guillermo Del Toro’s 10 After Midnight, and in Jordan Peele’s upcoming Twilight Zone reboot.

In light of this, I’d like to take you on a journey to place where sights and sounds may astonish you, a place you’ve never been, a dimension of the mind, in the Twilight Zone.

I’ll be rewatching the original series and writing short articles about what makes the episodes work. The goal is to figure out exactly what made the classic show as good as it was and offer advice for other writers (really it’s my advice to myself) on how to make speculative fiction pop.

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Beyond Creepshow [Podcast]

I was lucky enough to be invited back on to Beyond the Cabin in the Woods to talk about Stephen King and George A. Romero’s classic collaboration: Creepshow.

Give it a listen here!

Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #3 [Review]

Like he did in the first two issues, Evan Dorkin continues explaining the lore of The Beasts of Burden universe in Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #3. He uses the Wise-Dog-in-Training, Miranda, as a vehicle for the questions needed answered to the audience. In this issue, she explains how “Drawn magic taps into certain energies. The words are a sort of focus…or a path. Most wise dogs don’t have to say spells out loud. They can internalize them.”

The world-building would be easy to miss, though, because this installment is so damn exciting. Last issue ended with Lundy and the Wise Dogs finding a barnful of flayed sheep carcasses. This one opens with them interrogating a witness: Tommy.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Silencio is Based on True Events, but Uninspired [Review]

Lorena Villarreal’s second feature film, Silencio, opens with a short scene and then a title card telling its viewers that the film was “Inspired by True Events.” A lot of movies tell this lie, and in the case of a story that’s trying to be true-to-life it makes sense. It fails in movies like 2013’s mostly forgotten Gangster Squad, where the picture opens with a promise of realism and then ten minutes later one of the principal officers chasing down the gangsters decides it would be more effective to throw knives than shoot in a gunfight. There’s nothing wrong with movies that strive for realism or movies where characters have knife-throwing gimmicks. But there’s a tonal clash when a feature claims to be inspired by true events then proceeds to introduce outlandish elements.

Silencio falls into that trap. It’s telling the story of Ana (Melina Matthews as an adult/ Shayne Coleman as a child), who died as a young girl. Her grandfather Dr. James White (John Noble) remembers her death, but he also remembers resurrecting her. He and his assistant Peter (Rupert Graves) were cleaning up the remains of a U.S. test missile that crashed in the Zone of Silence—Mexico’s equivalent to the Bermuda Triangle. They were experimenting on a strange stone they found at 3:33 am. It fell, and when White caught it, he and Peter were transported to the site of car crash that killed Ana. They manage to save her, but not her sister and parents. This all happens within five minutes of the title card telling the audience that the story was “Inspired by True Events.”

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

She Could Fly Ends Its First Arc with a Flourish [Review]

There aren’t many characters in fiction who deserve a happy ending as much as Luna Brewster, yet she’s riddled with bullet holes on the cover of She Could Fly #4. What happens on covers doesn’t always happen in the issue — something I learned as a seven year old buying only the comics with my hero Wolverine on them only to find that he was barely in them. Writer Christopher Cantwell and artist Martin Morrazzo double down on foreshadowing the sad ending more in the first panel: Luna dressed as Death from Ingmar Berman’s The Seventh Seal. The message from that cover and that panel is clear: death is coming.

She Could Fly #4 is the last in the first arc, and so anything can happen. Luna can die. So can anyone else. Verna showed up at the Brewster family home with the MacGuffin plans at the end of last issue. It’s not long before the next guests arrive, all of whom have violent intentions for the Brewsters. Everyone who’s been chasing the accelerator converges for an epic climax.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Oursonette is the Best Part of War Bears #2 [Review]

Some writers stay in one genre for the whole career. They find what they’re good, where they excel, and stick to their strengths. Others flit between them. No one else switches genres quite as well as Margaret Atwood, who’s found great success writing dystopian scifi with The Handmaid’s Tale, historical fiction with Alias Grace, fantasy with the Maddadam trilogy, domestic realism with Cat’s Eye, as well as finding success as an essayist and short fiction writer. With War Bears, Atwood has entered into the realm of comics for the second time.

There are parts of the comic writing genre that Atwood nails. War Bears is a sendup to the black-and-white World War II propaganda comics that Atwood read growing up. The story within the story—Oursonette—nails that aesthetic. It’s partially the art of Ken Steacy, but completely in Atwood’s writing. The German’s that Oursonette and her bear sidekicks Ursula Major and Ursula Minor fight Nazis who yell in caricatured German accents. “Zat’s vun less shipload of relief for those verdammt Soviet schweinhunz.” The first Oursonette within War Bears #2 also ends with a plea from the fictional editors: “Be sure to reserve your copy of the next exciting issue of Oursonette from a newsagent near you, and join the good fight by buying victory bonds, too!” These true-to-life details make Oursonette feel like it was written during World War II, not today.

Keep reading at Wicked Horror!