Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Landed Gentry

Their father was one of the landed gentry in a land without gentry. Without fertile land for that matter. What need of land on a rock being mined for its nickel and small quantities of precious metals? Food you import from the bases on the south side of the moon. Landed gentry, ha. First off, most of them were women and they were company men, or women, as the case may be. Mine supervisors. But we called them landed gentry because they landed first. And they got to take off first at the end of the three-year shift, which now has a mere 13 months, 3 weeks and two days to go. Zelda Gimplocker was of the landed gentry. She owned the land I mined with Zorkgrack, my botdrill. Of the two I preferred Zelda, but she was the bossier of the two. Zorkgrack was the better cook. But Zorkgrack in bed is just something I don’t want to think about, especially with Zelda leaning over my shoulder right now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Vampire River

Another episode of  my scary suspense theater. Keep your eye on the vampires across the river. They're the ones that sneak up behind you in the movie theater and get you just as you're about to scream at the most frightening part of the film. That's why you'll find me in the last row of the balcony. Which reminds me, when was the last time you were in a movie theater that had a balcony? Let me know where it is.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Something Stirs – Christian Suspense by Thomas Smith

You know the drill. A family moves into the house on the hill. Everything is cool. Everyone is happy. Then Something Stirs. It’s creepy. Critters drop like flies. We’re talking dried-up-prunes type flies. Read Something Stirs late at night when you are alone.  If you dare. Something Stirs mixes suspense with spiritual warfare. It’s devil vs. God and you know who’s going to win that one, but the fun is in how you get there. This novel does a lovely slow waltz build up to a fast-paced, roller coaster ending.  Leave the light on, folks. Easier to read that way and a whole lot easier to stay in your skin. Christian suspense by Thomas Smith. Available in bookstores. Try Amazon.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why Super 8 Works

Director J. J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg have created a masterpiece with Super 8. This creative film is right on so many levels, it could be the basis for a book on film making and storytelling. Let’s consider one aspect of the film – storytelling.

When I began writing fiction, my favorite authors were the classic writers like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. My dream was to write “the great American novel” and to become the next Hemingway or Steinbeck. Funny thing happened along the way. Turns out I write suspense stories or speculative fiction, like my short story Angel Thorns. I cross the bounds of mystery, suspense, sci-fi and horror. Suspense or thriller is the main focus of my work, just as Super 8 focuses mainly on horror but has elements of sci-fi and suspense.

A horror story is a type of suspense or thriller in that it seeks to put you on the edge of your seat by scaring you and making you ask "what's next?" Most thrillers divide the plot into two parts. Part one takes about one-third of the story and involves discovery. It’s about learning what kind of monster is on the loose. It answers the question: “What is it?” Or “What’s going on?”

The monster, once discovered, may be traditional such as a vampire, werewolf or space alien. (In Super 8, it’s a space alien.) The monster could be a demon or a demonic person such as a serial killer. It could be another kind of monster – a spy ring or terrorist organization bent on world domination or global destruction. This latter kind of thriller is the stuff of the spy or political thrillers. In the mystery thriller, the focus is on "what will happen next" as opposed to the traditional mystery story where the focus is on an action that happened in the past as the hero tries to figure out "whodunit?" Not knowing where the story is headed is the basis of the "thrill" or "suspense."

The second part of a thriller takes about two-thirds of the story. Call it the “Let’s kill it” section. Now that we know we are dealing with a vampire or serial killer or a space alien, as in Super 8, our heroes go about the business of destroying the monster. In my short story Angel Thorns, I play this section in an unusual way in that the people do not destroy the monster. Instead… well, I’ll just let you read it to find out. Point here is the good stories give you a little spin on the genre.

Skip this paragraph if you haven’t seen the movie yet. Super 8 represents a variation of the story in which you don’t actually kill the monster. Instead, you set it free because, after all, it’s not really a monster. It only looks like a monster and acts like a monster. It’s a misunderstood, abused, innocent, child-killing space traveler (Super 8) or a 75-year-old "teenage" vampire with a wall full of high school diplomas (Twilight).

Children: Connecting the Super 8 Dots to Angel Thorns
I started this blog post by saying that I began writing fiction with one intention and discovered I belonged somewhere else. Instead of writing “literary fiction” (whatever that is), I find my stories landing in the suspense or thriller genre. The other unintended thing about my storytelling that should resonate with Super 8 fans is I invariably end up with a child or teenage hero. There’s something about the monster story that works exceedingly well when viewed through the eyes of a child or teenager.

What literary types call a “willing suspension of disbelief” is much easier to achieve through the filter of an innocent mind. But if the story is only about the monster, than you can skip the child and view it through an adult lens. What the child brings to the story, in addition to the innocent filter, is the innocence-to-maturity theme. You cannot experience the monster and remain the same.

So in Super 8, the children are changed forever. One boy discovers love. One girl discovers love. Another boy discovers unrequited love. And one boy discovers that if you go around blowing things up, there are consequences. I’m simplifying here. Super 8 delivers more than a love story filled with teenage angst, albeit young teens. Watch the relationships of Joe and Alice with their fathers, for example. Nothing remains the same in the story.

Innocence to experience has been the main current in American literature from day one. And it works so well in Super 8 that we almost miss the monster until the creature leaps off the screen, grabs you by the throat, and makes you pay attention. “Hey, don’t forget about me,” the monster shouts.

Why does Super 8 Work?
From a storytelling standpoint, it stays true to its marketing niche, the horror genre, while mixing in elements of sci-fi and traditional thriller. It filters the story through the innocent eyes of youth. It plays the monster in the background of a larger innocence-to-maturity story that is the hallmark of American story telling whether it’s a novel like Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, a short story like my Angel Thorns, or a movie like Super 8.

As I said, it would take a book to dive into the vast onion layers of Super 8. If you haven’t seen it yet, go. Enjoy. And if you have time, check out my short story (4,700 words) Angel Thorns.