Friday, May 24, 2013

Why I Think the Smartest People Like Horror

I'm excited to welcome L. Andrew Cooper to Book Den today! I invited Andrew to share his thoughts with us on why he believes the smartest people like horror, fantasy, and scifi. (I have to say I agree!)

Why do I think the smartest people like horror, fantasy, and sci-fi? To keep it simple, I’ll focus on horror, but a lot of what I’ll say applies to the others, too. The short answer is this: people who like horror can think and feel at least two often contradictory things at once, and that makes them cool.

But we have to imagine something else first. You walk into a bookstore. Which way do you turn—toward the “Literature” section, or toward the “Horror” section (if they even have one anymore… it might be buried under “Paranormal Romance”). Right away, you see a division I wrote about at great length in my book Gothic Realities. Since its beginning in the 18th century, horror fiction has been low culture, supposedly read by lower, deviant people. So you deviate your way over to those cases where half the shelves are K for King and Koontz—although having Ketchum, Lanyon, and Little so nearby doesn’t hurt that part of the alphabet’s glaring dominance—and you grab yourself something about, I don’t know, some cannibals in Maine (Ketchum), or maybe a Dionysian cult (Little).

Once you get to that first moment when a human body gets flayed and cooked and raped in whatever order, you ask yourself—how with this am I? And the only answer you can come up with is, not very. Because the reality of any of the above (flaying, cooking, raping), much less all, would not be a spectacle up with which you would put for more than a moment before either intervening or, more likely, going for help (hey, chances are you’re outnumbered, right?). You reaction to the spectacle is considering it as if it were that to which the word flay refers, but you are only able to tolerate it because of your knowledge of it as a spectacle. The same is true in different ways for “spectacle” in movies and “spectacle” in books—knowing that the image, what the words or the pictures describe, does not refer to a reality consensually regarded as “objective” makes the image accessible. It’s comfortably far enough away from flaying, cooking, and raping that you can be with it, a little, not very, but enough. And that takes a lot of mental processing, to get to such a position of experience where you can get the visceral closeness involved in the as if of flaying, and then to understand the critical distance where representation makes it a not-flaying, only a shadow of the real thing, a horror only a hint of the real horror. And then, at such a magnitude of disgust, comes the opportunity: what people are flayed, what people are raped, what people are treated in the horrific ways made fantastic here but real in other contexts that exist right here on this planet?

Jonathan Swift, of course, wrote: “Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse.”

And Jonathan Swift was smart. Shakespeare was smart, all those ghosts. And Milton, making Satan such a sweet talker. And it seems like every novelist of note, just about, has dabbled in horror—all your nineteenth-century and Modernist superstars like George Eliot and Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle and Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner—and they were smart. But they’re over in the Literature section. Some dumbass must have made a mistake.

About L. Andrew Cooper:

L. Andrew Cooper thinks the smartest people like horror, fantasy, and sci-fi. Early in life, he couldn’t handle the scary stuff–he’d sneak and watch horror films and then keep his parents up all night with his nightmares. In the third grade, he finally convinced his parents to let him read grownup horror novels: he started with Stephen King’s Firestarter, and by grade five, he was doing book reports on The Stand.

When his parents weren’t being kept up late by his nightmares, they worried that his fascination with horror fiction would keep him from experiencing more respectable culture. That all changed when he transitioned from his public high school in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia to uber-respectable Harvard University, where he studied English Literature. From there, he went on to get a Ph.D. in English from Princeton, turning his longstanding engagement with horror into a dissertation. The dissertation became the basis for his first book, Gothic Realities (2010). More recently, his obsession with horror movies turned into a book about one of his favorite directors, Dario Argento (2012). He also co-edited the textbook Monsters (2012), an attempt to infect others with the idea that scary things are worth people’s serious attention.

After living in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California, Andrew now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he teaches at the University of Louisville and chairs the board of the Louisville Film Society, the city’s premiere movie-buff institution. _Burning the Middle Ground_ is his debut novel.

Website and Blog | Facebook | Google+: landrew42 | Twitter

Burning the Middle Ground

Burning the Middle Ground is a dark fantasy about small-town America that transforms readers’ fears about the country’s direction into a haunting tale of religious conspiracy and supernatural mind control. A character-driven sensibility like Stephen King’s and a flair for the bizarre like Bentley Little’s delivers as much appeal for dedicated fans of fantasy and horror as for mainstream readers looking for an exciting ride. Brian McCullough comes home from school and discovers that his ten-year-old sister Fran has murdered their parents. Five years later, a journalist, Ronald Glassner, finds Brian living at the same house in the small town of Kenning, Georgia. Planning a book on the McCullough Tragedy, Ronald stumbles into a struggle between Kenning’s First Church, run by the mysterious Reverend Michael Cox, and the New Church, run by the rebellious Jeanne Harper. At the same time, Kenning’s pets go berserk, and dead bodies, with the eyes and tongues removed from their heads, begin to appear.

Many thanks to L. Andrew Cooper for sharing his thoughts with us today!


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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tour Stop & Giveaway | Vampires Don't Sparkle!

I am very excited to be a tour stop for Vampires Don’t Sparkle! as part of the SSP Anthology Extravaganza. This anthology contains so many kick ass authors and is edited by none other than Michael West. Make sure you enter the giveaway while you are here!

MY KIND OF VAMPIRES: a guest post by Jerry Gordon

I’m lucky enough to be born in the world’s most plentiful country.  My fellow Americans compose roughly five percent of the Earth’s population while consuming almost twenty-five percent of its natural resources.  Our way of life is literally sucking the planet dry, and we’re not alone.  China, India, Russia, and the EU are all doing their level best to match our voracious appetites.  And behind them, an almost nameless sea of countries left behind, looking at the developed world with a mixture of admiration, contempt, and anger.

So what does this have to do with vampires?

You can tell a lot about a person by examining their monsters.  I wrote “Vampire Nation” for Michael West’s charity* anthology, Vampires Don’t Sparkle!, with dwindling world resources and first-world arrogance in mind.  Gandhi once said that you can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members.  I wanted to take a look at what happens when the developed nations of the world are forced to pay a high price for dogged self‑interest.

“Vampire Nation” takes place in an overpopulated future where space has replaced energy as our most precious natural resource.  China and India have pooled their military and scientific might to dominate the world stage.  That is, until a global pandemic resembling vampirism explodes in the most primitive reaches of the third world.

It’s no secret I’m a great fan of Richard Matheson’s book, I Am Legend.  I wanted to pay homage to his vision of a worldwide vampire plague while exploring the politics of our current energy crisis, nuclear brinksmanship, augmented reality, and the price nations pay for ignoring the less fortunate.

The world is full of vampires.  Some wear suits and ties.  Some try to save the world.

None of them sparkle.

*Proceeds from the book donated to breast cancer research in honor of Sara J. Larson.

Jerry Gordon is co-editor of the Dark Faith and Last Rites anthologies. His fiction has appeared in Apex Magazine, Shroud, and The Midnight Diner.  You can find him blurring genre lines at and saying inappropriate things on Twitter @jerrylgordon and Facebook @jerrygordon.


Vampires Don’t Sparkle! (editor Michael West): What would you do if you had unlimited power and eternal life?

Would you…go back to high school? Attend the same classes year after year, going through the pomp and circumstance of one graduation after another, until you found the perfect date to take to prom? Would you…spend your days moping and brooding, finding your only joy in a game of baseball on a stormy day? Or would you…do something else? Anything else?

The authors of this collection have a few ideas; some fanciful, some humorous, and some as dark as an endless night. Join us, and discover what it truly means to be “vampyre.”

Edited by Michael West
Foreword by Michael West

“A New Life” by J. F. Gonzalez
“What Once was Flesh” by Tim Waggoner
“The Darkton Circus Mystery” by Elizabeth Massie
“Robot Vampire” by R. J. Sullivan
“Beneath a Templar Cross” by Gord Rollo
“The Weapon of Memory” by Kyle S. Johnson
“The Excavation” by Stephen Zimmer
“Skraeling” by Joel A. Sutherland
“Dreams of Winter” by Bob Freeman
“Dracula’s Winkee: Bloodsucker Blues” by Gregory L. Hall
“I Fuck Your Sunshine” by Lucy A. Snyder
“A Soldier’s Story” by Maurice Broaddus
“Rattenk├Ânig” by Douglas F. Warrick


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thank you so much, Jerry, for stopping by Book Den!

If you guys want to check out more tour stops for Vampires Don't Sparkle or the entire SSP Anthology Extravaganza, you can see the full schedule here.


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Monday, May 13, 2013

Currently Reading | NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

My Currently Reading posts are shared as part of Book Journey's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a beautiful Mother's Day yesterday. It stormed and stormed the days leading up to Mother's Day, and then it was beautiful outside. The charging port is totally shot on my Kindle Fire so hubs and the kids gave me a new Kindle Fire HD for Mother's Day. (They are so sweet! I'm spoiled rotten.) This thing looks amazing. I haven't had a chance to pimp it out yet. I can't stand reading on the normal Kindle app so I'm thankful my copy of NOS4A2 is in print!

Last week I read (and actually reviewed) I Travel by Night by Robert McCammon. I also read Bob Harper's new book Jumpstart to Skinny. I absolutely do not recommend Jumpstart to Skinny. (But I do recommend Bob's The Skinny Rules if you enjoy reading about nutrition and such.)

As I mentioned, I'm currently reading NOS4A2 by Joe Hill which is really, really great so far. It's a chunky monkey so I'll be reading it all week I'm sure.

I hope you guys are also reading something really great this week!! Let me know what you are reading in the comments or leave me a link!


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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review | I Travel by Night by Robert McCammon

I Travel by Night is a new novella from Robert McCammon. Picture me dancing as I say that.

I Travel by Night marks Robert McCammon's triumphant return to the sort of flamboyant, go-for-broke horror fiction that has earned him an international reputation and a legion of devoted fans. The terrors of the Dark Society, the gothic sensibilities of old New Orleans, and the tortured existence of the unforgettable vampire adventurer Trevor Lawson all combine into a heady brew that will thrill McCammon s loyal readers and earn him new ones as well.

For Lawson, the horrors that stalked the Civil War battlefield at Shiloh were more than just those of war. After being forcibly given the gift of undeath by the mysterious vampire queen LaRouge, Lawson chose to cling to what remained of his humanity and fought his way free of the Dark Society's clutches. In the decades since, he has roamed late nineteenth century America, doing what good he can as he travels by night, combating evils mundane and supernatural, and always seeking the key to regaining a mortal life.

That key lies with his maker, and now Lawson hopes to find LaRouge at the heart of a Louisiana swamp with the aid of a haunted priest and an unexpected ally. In the tornado-wracked ghost town of Nocturne, Lawson must face down monstrous enemies, the rising sun, and his own nature. Readers will not want to miss this thrilling new dark novella from a master storyteller.

My feelings regarding I Travel by Night can be summed up with this statement: I need more Trevor Lawson!

I need, need, need more Trevor Lawson. If you didn't read the book description, Trevor Lawson is the gunslinging vampire in I Travel by Night.

Speaking of gunslinging, did you notice I Travel by Night was illustrated by Michael Whelan? I've been a huge fan of Michael Whelan since before even reading Stephen King's The Gunslinger (which he also illustrated).

But I digress. Let's get back to Trevor Lawson. As much as I loved reading I Travel by Night, it felt more like a prequel - only the beginning - to something awesome. OK, I'm off to Google. I can't stand not knowing!

Thank God:

The most recent novella, I Travel by Night: are we going to see some more adventures for Trevor Lawson?

Yes we are. I’ve got the next one on the drawing board, but I’m not sure exactly when I’m going to get to it. We’re going to do some more – two more, I know. The next one is totally different.

And keeping the sidekick?

Yes, we’re going to go with that.

Two more! That's an excerpt from a recent Sci-Fi Bulletin interview with McCammon.

I Travel by Night is a novella weighing in at 152 pages so I can't say much about the actual story without spoiling it. I obviously loved the characters so I'm ecstatic they will be back.

The Louisiana swamp setting was awesome. I think that bears repeating. The vampires were in the swamp.

If you've never read McCammon, please do. I don't care which one. If you like creatures of the night, if you like adventuring gunslingers, if you want a taste of McCammon, pick this one. I can't possibly recommend an author higher than McCammon, and I Travel by Night was a great read.

8/10: Great Read

The Great McCammon Read

If you'd like to read more of my reviews of McCammon's books, you can check out the details of my The Great McCammon Read here. I've been neglecting this challenge, but I plan to revisit and relax with McCammon over the summer.


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