Film Review: Hereafter — C.J. Henderson

HEREAFTER

By: C.J. Henderson  

Well, let’s get this out of the way right now. This is not a film for the children. That is not to say that it is filled with bad language or excessive sex or violence. It’s not. Indeed, that’s a big part of why this one isn’t for children. I am, of course, talking about that modern brand of child, the ageless moron, the self-centered annoyance determined to never mature.

This is a movie for those who can think. This is a film for people with the patience to wait and see what happens. Who do not need every single little thing explained to them immediately before their tiny brains begin to hurt from the effort of attempting to actually concentrate.

This is also a movie destined to not make hundreds of millions. Sadly, it’s too smart, too layered, too rich. Its fate will simply be to remind movie-goers that there is still class in Hollywood, that there are still a handful of people who know how to take the job of film-making seriously. Let me tell you about their latest effort.

The Story: This one begins in an island paradise where French journalist Marie LeLay (Cécile de France) manages to survive an unexpected tidal wave. She nearly dies, but instead has a near-death experience which leaves her shaken and searching for answers. Before her story can continue, however, more are woven in around it. We meet twins Marcus and Jason (George and Frankie McLaren) as death enters their lives, and George (Matt Damon), a former practicing psychic who has turned his back on the field.

For quite some time the film follows the stories of these folks quite separately, each of them in different parts of the world, each of them totally unconnected one from the other. As an audience member, you know they’re all going to have to coincide sooner or later, but for once, the story is told at a luxurious pace, one so much so that you begin to wonder if they will ever connect at all.

They do.

There is much more that could be told about this film, but it would be pointless. To tell more of the plot would not convince those interested only in fart jokes, explosions, jiggling breasts, car chases and other of the boring, standard tropes which fill most films today to see it. It would, however, lessen the enjoyment of those who do enjoy an intelligent film, and so, let me just say, if you have not had an intense theater experience for some time, if you can’t remember the last time you sat in a darkened movie house and wondered, “where is this going,” “how are they going to make this work,” “what’s going to happen next,” then this is the picture for you.

 I also see little reason at this point to heap praise on Clint Eastwood’s directing ability. If you don’t know by now that he is one of the industry’s finest talents, there’s probably no convincing you. Let me just say that, yes, once again Eastwood has taken a quiet, somber topic and treated it with respect, wringing from it a film unlike that which any of his contemporaries could have made.

 Wisely, he has again teamed with his longtime collaborator, cinematographer Tom Stern (Gran Torino, Changeling). Stern is an absolute master. His ability to pull forth every bit of color from a simple shot of cement and asphalt, his incredible instinct for proper camera placement, correct use of light sources, et cetera, is constantly breathtaking.

Also on board are other you-can-always-trust-their-work, Eastwood regulars, production designer James J. Murakami, editors Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach, and costume designer Deborah Hopper. For anyone familiar with the look of the director’s films, these are the people responsible for it most every time, and their work is as good as ever. And, of course, Eastwood himself did the music once more, and it works throughout, as always.

This is a complex film presented in a simple, straight-forward manner. It does not follow any of the usual pathways, and most likely will throw a lot of audience members for a loop. Those with the patience to simply sit back and get a glimpse into the world of psychic research and the truth about how the world feels about serious looks into the afterlife should get their tickets and see this one in the theater.

Those who want to watch things blow up, or giggle when girls lose their tops, well … next summer isn’t that far off.

Our final word: 5 stars out of 5.

ESP Spotlight: The Ravening

From the first page, The Ravening pounds the reader with unrelenting suspense and throat tightening horror as a family, caught in the middle of a sweeping plague, fights to stay together and maintain their humanity. With the dead rising and the remnants of society falling to corruption how will they survive?

The Ravening is Stewart Sternberg’s debut novel of post-apocalyptic horror coming soon to a Barnes & Nobel and Borders near you. I recently interviewed Stewart regarding his thoughts on the genre among other things.

ESP)   So why zombies? And why do you think they’ve reanimated after so many years of nearly being dead in print fiction?

SS)   I don’t think zombies have ever been dead in fiction, I believe they were given a jolt of adrenalin with the Romero films. The idea of reanimating corpses has always been chilling; it pushes us to confront what Shakespeare described as the “undiscovered country.” One might argue Jason and Michael Meyers are zombie-esque. They are immortal killing machines, unstoppable, and primal.

ESP)    What do you hope the reader takes away from your novel?

 SS)   I want the reader to get involved with the characters, to cheer for their survival and to hiss the villains. I also want readers to regularly  nod their heads and go: “Cool…okay…cool.” That’s what I do when I’m writing. If I don’t find myself getting excited or frightened by what’s happening on the page, I can’t expect the reader to, either. 

ESP)    Often, readers don’t take the writer’s reaction into account. Is there any part of the novel you had difficultly coming to terms with, or perhaps found spooky? After all, it is an apocalyptic book, so some of the stuff might be difficult to write about. 

SS)   There is an eleven year old boy in the book who is one of the protagonists. Throughout the entire book, I expose him to all manner of horrors. While writing, I kept thinking how the experience was affecting him emotionally. It reminded me of all the things children are exposed to regularly on television and on the internet. One of the subthemes of the novel is that, as terrifying as the animated dead might be, the real terror is the pain humans are capable of inflicting on other humans.

ESP)       Do you think your novel, or any zombie novel, connects with the real world in any way? That is to say, is there more in these works of survival fiction than entertainment?

SS)    My goal was to create a horror novel that moved along like a freight train. However, I think there’s a great deal of thematic content which can be viewed as metaphor if the reader wants to look for it. At the heart of the novel is a story that deals with the importance of family and the things we might give up in our quest for survival, things which are critical to our humanity and maintaining a sane civilization.

As for zombie novels as a whole, the fact that they are so popular speaks to a connection with the real world. If these books weren’t tapping into something in our culture, some shared fear or need, they wouldn’t be successful.

Stewart Sternberg is an educator and author living in Michigan. Married, with dogs and cat, he is currently working on The Zagreus Swarm, a sequel to The Ravening, as well as collaborating with Christine Purcell on a steampunk novel. You can follow him at house-of-sternberg.blogspot.com and also through twitter at twitter.com/ssternberg

VAMPIRES AROUND THE WORLD: PART 3—Lois Gresh

VAMPIRES AROUND THE WORLD:  PART 3

by Lois H. Gresh (author of BLOOD AND ICE, a futuristic vampire thriller — January 2011)

BLOOD AND ICE

In Romania, vampires were known as Strigoli, from the Roman word, strix, which referred to the screech owl.  It was thought that the strix were demons.  Of the various forms of strigoli, the strigoli vii were live witches who become vampires after they died; and the strigoli mort, or reanimated dead.  There was also a vircolac, a type of wolf who ate the sun and moon; and this type of demonic being later became known as a werewolf.

Speaking of owls, Lilith from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament supposedly was a monster who roamed at night as an owl.  Adam’s wife before Eve, Lilith supposedly became demonized because she demanded that Adam respect her opinions.  In fact, the myth has it that she was so demonized that she killed babies and pregnant women at night using her owl form.  Later it was thought that Lilith became a vampire who attacked all of Adam and Eve’s children.

In the English language, the word vampyre or vampire was first noted in the early 1700s.  It may have come from the Turkish uber, meaning witch, and from there, to the Slavic upior or upyr, which became vampyre.

The Eastern European Nosferatu also referred to the vampire.  The western world learned of Nosferatu when Bram Stoker wrote his famous novel, Dracula.

In the middle ages, many people blamed the black death–the bubonic plague–on vampires.  The plague killed perhaps one-third of Europe and was actually spread by fleas and rats.

In the eighteenth century, a major vampire scare broke out across Eastern Europe.  Peter Plogojowitz died when he was 62 years old, but he supposedly returned a few times after dying to beg his son for food.  His son refused to help the dead Plogojowitz and was soon found dead himself, followed by several neighbors, all of whom died from massive blood loss.  Another famous case of vampirism from this period involved Arnold Paole, a farmer who had been attacked by a vampire and who died while collecting hay.  Soon after Paole’s death, the local farmers and villagers began to die, as well.  Government officials examined the bodies of both Plogojowitz and Paole, and their reports were distributed throughout Europe.  Terrified of vampires, people began digging up bodies to examine them for evidence of the undead blood-sucking killers.  In 1746, Austrian Empress Marie Therese asked her personal doctor to conduct an investigation into vampirism.  He concluded that vampires did not exist, and the scare died down.

–Excerpted from Exploring Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials by Lois H. Gresh  (St. Martin’s Press, 2006)

Lois Gresh
New York Times Best-Selling Author – 6 times
Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Author
Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Children’s Author
BLOG:  http://loisgresh.blogspot.com
WEB:   http://www.loisgresh.com

VAMPIRES AROUND THE WORLD: PART 2

VAMPIRES AROUND THE WORLD:  PART 2

by Lois H. Gresh (author of BLOOD AND ICE, a futuristic vampire thriller — January 2011)

BLOOD AND ICE

From the far east, vampire lore spread from China, Tibet, India, and the Mediterranean to the coast of the Black Sea, and from there, to Greece and the Carpathian mountains:  Hungary and Transylvania.

Most vampires in film and literature are based on the Eastern European variety, that of a blood-sucking, sexy creature who returns from the dead.  These vampires wear gorgeous clothes and sumptuous capes, and they can turn into bats, at will.

Some of the richest vampire lore comes from Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Poland:  the Slavic people.  The word, vampir, is related to the Russian word, peets:  to drink.  When the Slavs migrated from north of the Black Sea, they started converting to Christianity.  During the ninth and tenth centuries, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Western Roman Catholic Church were battling for control of overall Christianity.  In 1054, the two churches formally divided from one another, and the Russians, Serbians, and Bulgarians went with the Eastern Orthodox Church, while the Croatians, Polish people, and Czechs went with the Roman Catholic Church.  The Eastern Orthodox faction decided that the living dead were vampires.

In the beginning, the Slavic people thought that vampires were created from people who were born “on the wrong day,” who died under strange circumstances, who were excommunicated from the church, who were buried improperly.  Some people also believed that people born with tails or odd teeth could end up being vampires.

To protect the dead from turning into vampires, the deceased were buried with crucifixes, with their chins held upright with blocks, and with poppy seeds so the numerically obsessed vampires could count and count rather than cause trouble.  Other dead were pierced with stakes to protect them.  Yet others had their clothes nailed to the sides of their coffins.

To destroy vampires who were roaming the countryside, sucking the blood from villagers, people used stakes, holy water, and exorcism.  They also decapitated presumed vampires and burned them.  Garlic left in the church was said to expose vampires.  Later methods of destroying a vampire included driving a stake through its heart, decapitating the remains, and putting garlic into the mouth.  And even later, methods became more gruesome, including bullets, dismemberment of the body, and burning of the remains, with the ashes given to people as preventive medicine.

–Excerpted from Exploring Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials by Lois H. Gresh  (St. Martin’s Press, 2006)

Lois Gresh
New York Times Best-Selling Author – 6 times
Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Author
Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Children’s Author
BLOG:  http://loisgresh.blogspot.com
WEB:   http://www.loisgresh.com

VAMPIRES AROUND THE WORLD: PART 1— by Lois Gresh

VAMPIRES AROUND THE WORLD:  PART 1

by Lois H. Gresh (author of BLOOD AND ICE, a futuristic vampire thriller — January 2011)

BLOOD AND ICE

Vampire lore has been around since ancient times.  People in cultures all over the world have believed in these blood-sucking creatures.  The ancient Chaldeans in Mesopotamia believed in vampires; as did the ancient Assyrians, who wrote about vampires on clay and stone tablets.

In China, vampires were often portrayed as red-eyed monsters with green hair.  In ancient India, vampire legends were evident from the paintings on cave walls of blood-drinking creatures.  In some writings in 1500 B.C., the destroyer Rakshasas is depicted as a vampire; and paintings from 3000 B.C. show the Lord of Death drinking blood from a human skull.  The Indian Baital vampire is a mythological monster who hangs upside down from trees, much like a bat.  The Baital hasn’t any blood of its own.

The ancient Malaysians had a vampire called the Penannggalen, which was a human head with entrails.  The entrails left the Penannggalen’s head to seek the blood of human infants.  In ancient Peru, the canchus were devil worshipers who drank blood from children.

In ancient Babylonia, the ekimmu was a vampire spirit who drank human blood when hungry.  In Wallachia, the murony vampire sucked blood and operated as a shapeshifter, changing from human to dog to insect to cat, at will.  Sometimes, the murony operated in werewolf form.

In Greece, vampires were thought to be winged serpents combined with human females.  The ancient Greek strigoe or lamiae were monsters who drank the blood of children.  These notions came largely from the lore of Lamia, one of Zeus’ lovers; when Hera fought Lamia, the mistress went insane and killed all her own children, then at night, she killed everyone else’s children, as well.

–Excerpted from Exploring Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials by Lois H. Gresh  (St. Martin’s Press, 2006)

Goodbye, Farewell by Kate Jonez

October is the month when the barrier between this world and the next is thinner than any other time of the year. Thoughts naturally turn to those who have passed on. Throughout history, quick wits and deep thinkers have come up with last words to keep their memory alive. To thoroughly twist the words of T.S. Eliot, perhaps it is better to go out with a bang than a whimper.

Philosopher Voltaire’s famous last words were pragmatic. When asked by a priest to renounce Satan, he is said to have replied: “Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”

And speaking of pragmatism, Pablo Picasso’s last words were also considerate of his mourners: “Drink to me!”

Joan Crawford, when faced with a housekeeper praying at her bedside, wasn’t quite as gracious: “Dammit! Don’t you dare ask God to help me.” Bette Davis hearing of Crawford’s passing had an interesting response: “My mother told me never to speak badly of the dead.  She’s dead…good.”

Author Oscar Wilde is reported to have said: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.” Grouch Marx’s farewell was also a wry, smile-inducing one-liner: “Die, my dear? Why, that’s the last thing I’ll do.”

Perhaps one of the strangest sign-offs goes to newsperson Christine Chubbock. She gamely said: “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living color, you are going to see another first — attempted suicide.” She then proceeded to shoot herself in the head.

The Devil’s Tramping Ground–by Stephen Mark Rainey

The Devil’s Tramping Ground: a 40-foot barren circle out in the wilds of Chatham County, NC, a dozen or so miles northeast of Siler City.

According to local legend, the Tramping Ground is one of those rare places on Earth where the wall between worlds is thin, and here the devil rises nightly and paces in a circle, plotting death and destruction for hapless humanity. The stories also tell us that most animals—dogs in particular—shy away from the place. Items left in the circle before sunset will disappear before dawn. And anyone who attempts to spend an entire night there will be driven off by an overwhelming sense of imminent doom.

Reportedly, several years ago, the NC Department of Agriculture conducted a study of the soil there and determined that it was sterile, though the department’s specialists could offer no explanation for its condition.

Not shabby, as far as local legends go. I’ve always been rather fond of haunted places, and North Carolina has its fair share. The Devil’s Tramping Ground isn’t all that far from me here in Greensboro, though until relatively recently, I haven’t had much reason to go exploring there. When the opportunity arose, however, I was more than happy to go check it out.

Some of you who know me, or otherwise keep abreast of my misadventures , are aware that I’m an avid geocacher. If you’re not familiar with geocaching, it’s a kind of scavenger hunt, where you hunt hidden containers using a hand-held GPS device. (To get the whole sheboygan, go to www.geocaching.com.)

As you might imagine, when I discovered that there are not one but two geocaches hidden at the Devil’s Tramping Ground, I was pretty well excited. Even better, one of them was a special kind of cache: a night cache, which is set up specifically to be hunted after dark—this one titled “Hell on Earth.” So, back in the late summer, along with my friend Bridget—a fellow geocacher—I set out for the Tramping Ground, armed with GPS, a strong flashlight, my hiking pole, and a few provisions from the cache bar.

It’s definitely lonely territory out there, enough to make you feel as if you’re driving through the southern redneck version of Lovecraft’s Dunwich. The site is unmarked, and is actually located on Devil’s Tramping Ground Road. Since I had the GPS coordinates, ground zero was easy enough to find; we arrived shortly before sunset, parked just off the road, and hiked a hundred or so feet back to the circle. My first impression was that the place was entirely unremarkable.

The Tramping Ground looked like any other clearing in the woods, save for a fair amount of graffiti on the nearby trees suggesting that I screw the devil. Well, let’s not be hasty. There were the remains of countless bonfires here, but to my surprise, virtually no trash. I have it on good authority that the Tramping Ground is a popular gathering place for excitable young folk, and it’s highly unlikely they’re teetotalers; but perhaps the devil is fastidious. After all, things left in the circle are supposed to disappear before sunrise….

The coordinates for the first cache, titled “The Devil’s Caching Ground,” indicated its hiding place was nearby, so Bridget and I spread out and commenced to hunting. We had a good idea of what we were looking for, and we hunted…and hunted…and hunted…only to come up empty-handed. That rascally devil stole the geocache! (Or so we thought; it was later found by other cachers, so it may just be that the devil does things to your eyes, such as making you require bifocals as you get older.) In any event, by this time, it was starting to get pretty dark, so we decided to abandon the hunt and prepare ourselves to go after the night cache. I will say that, as someone with a great fondness for the outdoors, and lots of experience in the woods, the Caching Ground…er…Tramping Ground was a reasonably eerie place. As the sun fell behind the trees, the ghostly songs of whippoorwills began to echo out of the dark distance, and from close at hand came the distinctive call of a Great Horned Owl.

We began to shine our flashlights into the woods, and it wasn’t long before I saw it: a bright, cyclopean eye, high above the ground, glowing like a fiery ember. We knew this was the first sign, so we made our way toward it. From there, we had to search long and hard for the second sign, but we eventually succeeded. As we proceeded farther into the woods, we would have to find many more such signs. At first, we were able to stick to a well-used deer path, but it wasn’t long before we found ourselves bushwhacking through denser forest, with lots of undergrowth to impede our progress…and still, the occasional glowing eye—sometimes a pair of them—in the distance beckoned us on. I could tell we were on a winding course, occasionally backtracking; on my GPS, I periodically marked a waypoint so we could find our way back to the clearing with relative ease; if I hadn’t, it’s likely we’d be out there still; either that, or hanging out with that vast assortment of items the devil likes to steal from the site.

At last, we came to the final sign…and there was the cache: a nice little container, securely hidden and camouflaged.

About that time, we began to hear voices somewhere in the darkness, though we couldn’t tell whether they were in front of us or behind us. I suspected it might be some of the aforementioned party-goers, but I mainly hoped that, when we emerged from the woods, we wouldn’t be facing any temperamental rednecks armed with shotguns and buck teeth. However, as we began to head back, via the waypoints I had marked, we kept ending up in places we had not passed on our way in.

How peculiar.

At one point, I was only a dozen feet from a waypoint, but I had blundered into the middle of an impenetrable tangle of briers and vines that extended much farther than the reach of my flashlight beam. Okay then. A hacking and a backtracking we shall go, and—finally—we located the deer path again and eventually arrived back at the circle without undue incident (dammit?). Happily, there were no other human beings anywhere in view or in earshot, so we ended our evening at the Devil’s Tramping Ground by heading toward denser population centers and a very late, much-anticipated dinner.

I have noticed, since I’ve been back from the Devil’s Tramping Ground, there are times that my bifocals don’t seem to be quite as effective as they used to be, especially when I’m out caching after dark. Damn if that devil isn’t just a plain old rotten bastard.

Four Haunted Houses That Will Really Scare You

Halloween is coming, and that means the haunted houses are opening. People love being scared. Whether you’re terrified of haunted houses or have a lasting love affair, these four haunted houses are some of the best in the country and guaranteed to entertain.

First, The Netherworld in Atlanta, Georgia prides itself on its realistic costuming. Ferocious beasties will chase you out to your car. Be on the lookout for a ravenous 17-foot gargoyle, or you might be its next prey. Each year The Netherworld features a different theme. But with rooms named The Mangler, The Acid Room, The Drowning Tank, and The Flesh Compactor….this probably isn’t a family affair.

Second,
The Headless Horseman Hayride and Haunted Houses
in Ulster Park, New York isn’t for children. Situated on forty-five acres of forested property, this venue supports 8 different attractions including a hayride, a corn maze, 5 haunted houses, 4 eateries, a haunted walk, and a haunted show.  You’ll find professional special effects, pyrotechnics and illusions.  New for 2010 are the Night Shade Nursery & Greenhouse and the Crow Hollow Harbor, which includes three 40-foot haunted fishing boats.  Mixed in with the talented actors you’ll find stilt walkers and a side show stunt team. Plan at least 3 hours for your visit!

Third, The Darkness (part of Creepyworld) in St. Louis, Missouri is noted for its realistic special effects and set designs. It’s two floors of awesome fright!

Finally, Erebus in Pontiac, Michigan boasts the Guinness Book World Record for being the largest walk-through haunted house in the world from August, 2005 to September, 2009. With 4 floors of non-stop scaring and new, innovative set designs, this is one you don’t want to miss. Come early. The lines have been known to wrap around the warehouse and out into the street!

Interview—Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Innsmouth Free Press is a fun blog for matters pertaining to Lovecraft, as well as all things genre-related.   According to the website, it’s a collaborative effort, with the publishers’  striving  to have ” readers and writers help us map out and flesh out Innsmouth and the surrounding area, and to do it in epistolary form through news stories, opinion pieces, lifestyles articles, which blur the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Metafiction, if you will.” Besides the blog, Innsmouth Free Press is also an ezine publishing short fiction, and soon an anthology, Historical Lovecraft.

I thought I would ask publisher Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who has her own handsomely designed webpage,  some questions about herself and writings.

Stewart Sternberg: Innsmouth Free Press is a great concept, not just for lovers of Lovecraft, but for all fans of dark fiction. How did this project come into being? What are you most proud of regarding Innsmouth Press.What future projects is Innsmouth engaged in?

Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Thanks! Innsmouth came to be because of a conversation I was having with Paula R.Stiles, who is our editor-in-chief. I told her I wished there was a TV series set in Innsmouth, with weird stuff happening every week. We convinced each other we should launch a zine and it should be horror-themed. We would publish Lovecraftian fiction three times a year and daily non-fiction. We’d also have sporadic meta-fiction masquerading as “news” items from Innsmouth.

I’m proud of everything! The non-fiction writers are fantastic. The people who do the “Monster Bytes” come up with the most bizarre ideas. We also release fiction issues, and we’ve had excellent cover artists and awesome writers. Nick Mamatas, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ekaterina Sedia. We make this on a dime and a prayer, so I’m very happy to see  the final product is a very nice little zine.

Future projects? Books. There is an open call for submissions for Historical Lovecraft right now, which will be the first anthology under the Innsmouth brand. In December, Fraterfamilias, a thriller with speculative elements, is coming out. It was published a few years back and is not available anymore, so I’m bringing it back to print.

In 2011 there will be some more anthologies. One of them is going to be a Gothic anthology. I’m very excited about this, since I love Gothic tales and the cover will be amazing. I have Nacho Molina Parra working on it. He makes beautiful illustrations.

Stewart: Tell me something about yourself…you’re married, you live in Canada— is your writing and publishing your sole focus, or do you have another job?

Silvia: Oh, I have another job, for sure. I work in communications. Most of what I do is layout and design. Everything from putting a book together to updating the content of a website. It’s a small office, so I get to wear several hats.

I like to publish the zine, and I’m moving into publishing books, because I get to do stuff that I can’t do at my job. There’s not much room for fish-people and horror in my line of work. Or paperbacks. It’s like having a secret identity. I’m Batman!

Stewart: Any plans to take one of your stories, such as “Bloodlines” (published in Fantasy Magazine) and expand it into a novel? Or are you working on another idea for a longer piece?

Silvia:Crikey. I must admit I’m horrible at novels. I just can’t sustain the will to write for more than 20,000 words. After that, I get restless. I don’t get people who can do whole sagas about something.

Ironically, I’ve seen people say my short stories read like the beginning of novels. Or would make for better novels, than short stories. I think I’ve even had that on a rejection slip. I may be suffering from novel-amputation.

With that said, I have one novel that I’m planning to send out to agents this fall. It’s called Proper People, and it’s about four sisters testing the boundaries of what is “proper” in early 20th century Mexico. It is magic realism; it has a ghost, witchcraft and romance. I’m not sure how hot the market for magic realism is right now. Probably rather cold. If I had any sense, I would have written a zombie opus, zombies seem to be a hot ticket item, but there you go.

I’ll also probably focus on my novel Blood Week. It employs some of the characters and the setting I’ve used in a couple of stories. It’s a near-future Mexico in which vampires are real. There’s drug-dealing, coyotes and maquila factories. There’s a murder that the cops don’t care to solve, so the protagonist has to solve it herself.

Stewart: I asked this question of someone else, but I am compelled to ask it of you…are there dominant themes in you writing which you keep returning to? If so, what are they? Why do you think that is?

Silvia) I use Mexico as a setting quite frequently. I also use Vancouver.  I haven’t sold any of my stories set in Vancouver. So, if you read the stuff I’ve published, you’d see a lot of stuff set in Mexico.

Thematically, I like to write quiet stories. I’m not a bang-bang kind of writer. I love, love Shirley Jackson. Stuff that is slow and builds up layer by layer. Sometimes my mother makes fun of me because of that. She’d rather that I have more shooting and spaceships going woooosh.

Stewart: Do you believe in the supernatural yourself, or is it just a fun genre for you? And have you ever had a supernatural experience?

Silvia: I don’t believe in it and I kind of believe in it. When I was growing up my great-grandmother would tell me stories about her childhood during the Mexican Revolution. She talked about witches, ghosts, shape-changers and chaneques matter-of-factly. She’d tell me about the time witches in the shape of great balls of fire perched themselves in the trees outside her house. Or about the evil spirits living in a well. I think for her it was all real. As real, or more real, than things like a phonograph or a radio.

I grew up believing certain fantastic things were true.

Now that I’m older, I have obviously realized that there’s no danger of being ambushed by angry ghosts in the forest. But I’m not quite ready to let go of all this. I still cling to some superstitions. However, I’m  very blasé about the supernatural. I don’t tremble in fear of ghosts.

The one weird incident I can recall? I saw a tall, dark shadow standing in my room. Instead of screaming, I told the shadow it was way too frakking early to be bugging me and went back to sleep. I’m sure it was just a vivid dream, but that tells you something about my subconscious.

Oh, and I have a good shadow people story. It’s not personal, mind you. But maybe that’s better left for another time. I’m starting to sound like my great-grandmother now, ha.

Stewart: Favorite living horror writer or fantasy writer?

Silvia: Tanith Lee. She is so damn versatile. She has written sci-fi, horror and fantasy. I love her Flat Earth series. It’s been reprinted by Norilana by the way, which is awesome. She’s also done several vampire stories which are quite good.

An Old Scare

Let’s pay tribute to one of the greatest gags that went around a few years back. I was sent a video and told to watch the car. Apparently it was a German auto company who made the commercial and inadvertently caught something on camera. Being the gullible man I am, I watched the video. When the punchline hit, I remember crying out in surprise edged with a little horror.

Now, being the good person I am, I immediately started setting various people at work up with the video, and watching their responses. Almost without fail, each person shrieked and jumped back from the computer screen. I’m a child.

Below is a copy of said video. And when videos like these start circulating, you know you’re really into Halloween season. There’s a bunch of imitators drifting around, but here is the one that got me. And don’t tell me that when you first saw this you didn’t jump. I’ll call you liar.