If you haven’t been listening to the 6′+ (‘six foot plus’) podcast, you’ve been missing out on some weird, strange and spooky music — from psychobilly to demented surf to horror spoken word. The latest episode (#45: “The Holidays are Horrible”) includes a track from my CD, Audiovile, called “Little Stocking Stuffers” — and it’s neat to hear how well it fits in with the rest of the battery of horrifying holiday beats. Stream it online, or subscribe via iTunes.
I’ve been extremely busy on many fronts, personal and professional — and now that I’m on a brief holiday break, I’m catching up with obligations and promises. I plan to get the next issue of The Goreletter out soon, but for now I thought I’d give everyone a quick round-up of what’s happening in Arnzenland lately:
- Big news: The Gorelets Omnibus is scheduled for a January 2012 release! If you preorder a copy directly from Raw Dog Screaming Press (publisher of my other books, 100 Jolts & Play Dead), you’ll get a free collector’s item! Get the hardcover — it’s got a lot of bonus material and is so worth it.
- I started keeping a journal at the innovative creative non-fiction site, cowbird.com. I’m trying to keep it focused on authentic observations, but with an emphasis on the weird, uncanny, and overlooked as much as I can. Drop by, encourage me, and I’ll keep it up.
- A new overview page that lists all the social networking sites I’m a part of is now up at michaelarnzen.com Please feel free to friend and follow in a frenzy.
- This website was injected with a malicious code last month and I’ve been quite busy rebuilding much it from scratch. It was time to purge and renew anyway, and I like how it’s turning out. But several links — especially to material from my gallery and bibliography pages — are now broken and I’m still recreating a page dedicated to my books and other horror creations. If you’re here shopping or researching horror, please head on over to my profile page on amazon.com for the time being.
- If you’re a writer, don’t overlook the book I c0-edited that was released a few months back: Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction. It was listed by The Writer magazine as one of the top ten “terrific writing books of 2011″ and also was a finalist in the USA Best Books Awards. Read the MGOC blog to learn more.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Against my better judgment, for a gift I give you this Christmas story — “Dear Santa” — a long lost manuscript of the very first horror story I ever sold (to GAS magazine in 1989), but which ultimately never saw print. On the one hand, this is old and amateur enough to be most embarrassing. On the other hand, I think I’ve made a career of embarrassing myself. Enjoy?
(If you cannot read the above, see if you can click on the “view fullscreen” link at the top of the reader. Or just head on over to scribd.com, a neat site for document sharing that I have just joined. Comments, “follows” and offers to buy my old manuscripts for heaps of gold bullion are always more than welcome!)
Have a great holiday season…
Brought to you by [adult swim] games, so you know that it’s weird. In fact, they’ve got a LOT of crazy games even weirder and more deplorable than this one. Like 5 Minutes to Kill Yourself, a classic favorite.
Getting hungry? Time to partake in the Orphan Feast!
I’ve gathered all the books I’ve reviewed in The Goreletter (since 2002) into some fun listmania lists over at amazon.com, and I’ll keep adding titles to them from the “Not Dead Yet” department into the future.
I’ve also been having way too much fun trolling around amazon for weird discoveries, and I have compiled a few other funky lists, like the Goofy Gory Gifts Galore list and other novelty lists. I’m apparently a listmaniac.
After many years of neglect, I have updated my author profile on amazon.com, where you can find more weirdness and links to many of my books and anthologies. Since amazon now features some of my stuff in their kindle store, and because I am likely to begin publishing The Goreletter for Kindle readers as well as web browsers, I have made gorelets an amazon affiliate, and I have been cleaning up their database when it comes to Arnzen titles by uploading book covers or making corrections. Your reviews and tags on amazon.com are appreciated.
Last week the English Club at Seton Hill University invited me to read at a Halloween event they sponsored, and I had a lot of fun reading some new story sketches and poems with them. I recorded it, so I could share a few audio clips here in celebration.
Click the play button below to hear “Endless Shrimp” (2:10), “Silence” (3:17) and “The Christmas Doll” (0:46). Happy Halloween (…and Christmas, too!)
If you like it, investigate my produced CD — Audiovile! Here’s track 1: “Psycho Hunter”! Just press play:
And if you want to hear more audio here on gorelets.com, I’ve updated old blog entries that refer to ghosts of mp3s past. So just click the ‘audio’ tag below to find more posts with streaming audio…just look for the evil little red play buttons!
[The Little Stocking Stuffer image in this post is from the Creepy Advent Calendar by animator Beck Underwood, which helped inspire the Festival project.]
I dedicate this month’s entry to my brother, Dan, who gave me the wonderful “Magic Mummified Miniature Mystery Hand” you see pictured above as a Christmas gift. This exquisite piece of art is a Custom Creature original by rogue taxidermist, Sarina Brewer.
+ There’s something beautiful about a snowman when it melts. I think it’s the way the black button eyeballs sink in and blow smoke from their sockets while the pyre at its feet crackles and spits as the flame of vengeance climbs up the hitching post. Or maybe it’s just the song we sing as Frosty burns.
+ Snow is a blanket. Ice is sheet. Winter is the earth’s deathbed…and you gleefully ride your sled across it, blasphemer!
+ Freezers preserve meat. Thus, I believe hungry space aliens with a technology beyond our imaginations are responsible for the winter chill.
+ They say time and time again to never eat yellow snow. But I think it’s the red snow you have to worry about.
+ Why do they call frozen body tissue “frostbite”? It’s true that exposure to the cold produces pain, but frost has no teeth. In fact, it’s the body that gets frosty, no? So I propose we call it “frostleg” or “icehand” or something even more appropriate, like “Body Pop” or “Iced Me.” If you’re upper palate freezes, then fine: frostbite.
+ The early symptom of impending frostbite is called “frostnip.” The early symptom of impending frostbite on your nipples is called “cruel irony.”
+ I don’t believe in the Abominable Snowman. But I pretend to, just so I can say the word “abominable” without necessarily sounding like some character from a really melodramatic Victorian novel.
+ I don’t trust the people who sing “Winter Wonderland.” Snow is something that buries us and we have to dig ourselves out of it, like dirt. I think “Inter Wonderland” is much more appropriate. (“Slain dead thing, are you list’nin’? Blood on snow, is a glistnin’…”)
+ I learned in science class that the best way to save someone from hypothermia is to strip and snuggle nude with them. I vaguely recall some point about the “body heat” being better than a blanket or a shot of cocoa. This explains why men die from hypothermia three times as often as women do in the US.
+ Why is a “fight” the only sport we’ve managed to invent for snowballs? And why is boxing a summer event, but snowball fighting not a winter event at the Olympics? And if snowballs are so innocent, why don’t we have city-to-city snowball hurtling battles, using gigantic catapults, instead of wars?
+ If you dream of white Christmases and sing “let it snow” every season, I challenge you to spend your next holiday up on the North Pole. See if Santa bothers to offer you shelter. You’ll change your tune pretty fast, I think.
+ Have you ever heard the term “chilblain”? The dictionary says it refers to the itchy and painful swelling of flesh that occurs when your hands and feet are overexposed to the cold. But it makes me want to suspend naked magician David Blain in a glass box from that snow-covered elm in my backyard right now.
+ Cryogenics sounds sad to me. But don’t be sad, Mr. Icy Corpse…there’s hope for you yet.
+ Avalanche is a great word. Its onomatopoeia is horrific. The very syllables bring to mind a Frenchman tumbling down a mountainside, until he meets his demise in a crunching vortex of snow and rock and ice: “Ahhhh…vahhh…laaaaaaaa…uNNCHHH!”
+ Sick torture idea #238: A murderer buries someone alive beneath a ton of snow, and then starts melting it rapidly with a blow torch so that by the time the victim starts asphyxiating, the melted water trickles down and floods their space just as they see light through the slush and begin to think they might break free. They drown, seeing their salvation through the gauzy snow. Or if they do manage to break free, well, there’s always the blow torch.
+ If you can see your breath, you’re still alive. But once your eyeballs crack like ice cubes, you’re probably a lost cause, no matter how much steam you aspire.
+ Icicles are the roof’s revenge.
+ Brains float in cranial fluid. Fluids freeze solid. Draw your own conclusions.
Happy Holidays! I wanted to surprise everyone by packing extra horrors into this special issue of The Goreletter, so I invited friends from several writing communities to send in “holiday gorelets” for publication here, with a prize going to what I judged to be the best submission. Not an easy task! Most are about Santa and Xmas. I did not reject any of the entries — to my way of thinking, the more the merrier. I’ll post the award winning poem at the very end, along with a little explanation why I chose it. Enjoy. And do yourself a favor and visit some of these writer’s websites and buy their books with that gift certificate you got for the holidays. Really: try someone new!
First Christmas at Grandma Lucia’s House
With loving dark arms she reaches to embrace
the children, the kids’ candy apple eyes wide
in terror as the huge hands descend gray
and powerful, fleshly, the thick unnatural lipstick mouth
alive with ancient smiles, behind her the meats
hanging from racks and wires, sausages, lungs,
necks, these are delicacies where she’s from, starving
peasants would scream in the fields for this,
staring into snow-stuffed skies for the face
of Mother Mary, and my kids are shrieking.
– Tom Piccirilli http://www.tompiccirilli.com/
A Sled Parked atop the Roof
A sled parked atop the roof.
Deer grazing on the front lawn.
A man in red breaks into the house
Passes through the front door
Without opening it — amazing!
His hands are empty going in
But his arms are loaded when he leaves
Can you see bloodstains on crimson material?
A shell in each chamber should suffice.
This magic elf won’t rob us twice.
– Bev Vincent http://www.bevvincent.com
Santa’s Got a Brand-New Bag
Cookies and milk shoved into a gaping maw
Guts rumble beneath the big red suit
Pine tree wilts as the mouth opens wide
A gloved finger slides down the throat
Vomit and bile, gifts and gobs rain down
Floor now slick with acid and toys
The fat elf retreats, his job well done
Another holiday worth remembering
– John R. Platt http://jplatt.homestead.com/
Santa is a Cannibal
Santa is a cannibal…what, you hadn’t heard?
Well, his habit isn’t flaunted;
He’s wickedly canny to get what he’s wanted
For dinner, elves are preferred.
Little elfin Leonard brought
Santa cookies and custard,
But ol’ Kringle’s carnivory
got the lad flustered.
“He tried to flee,”
Santa ho-ho-hoed with great glee
“But he was terrific with mustard!”
– Lucy Snyder http://www.sff.net/people/lucy-snyder/
smoke Christmas Eve,
on the hearth the year the fat man
– Deborah P Kolodji http://www.amaze-cinquain.com
Unwrapping The Phantom
The angry Santa weeps lakes of tinsel
packages them in the womb of crystallized sky
then adorns his presents with ribbon-ed clouds
And He sends them to adults in anger
For in this world of antediluvian Gods
he is now a jolly, lobster-red joke
But we know not what we had
when we were ten, and, believed in him
And, what magic was uncreated when
we were given that final gift; the truth…
– J.M. Heluk http://www.jmheluk.com/
‘Twas the Night After Christmas
Welcome to Dark Santa’s manse
It’s time for the midnight dance
Come into his workroom
And seal your doom
Try not to be afraid
Though it’s a very dark tomb
Stuffed with all sorts of toys
To fulfill his twisted joys.
– Ron Breznay
It was Blitzen, I think, who, sick of his damned
lashing, twisted to bite the ropes that bound us
setting Santa into freefall toward no chimney
below but all twelve of us flew down anyway
and tore him to pieces, champing through fat
onto bone and flying our twelve separate
ways and all twelve of us had red shiny noses
the Christmas that freedom was our first gift
to each other
– Michael A. Arnzen, http://www.gorelets.com
Early morning, and the first awake.
Mom and dad and sister, still sleeping.
The packages look different, are lumpy,
Ornaments glisten. They seem almost moist,
nestled in there among the blinking red lights.
The tinsel looks silky and blond
The cookies are gone from the mantle, and,
The stockings are full. But they’re small.
Little girl stockings.
– Chris Garrett
Please Come to my Solstice Sacrifice
and Tree Decorating Party!
Drink blood ‘til you’re sated,
eat flesh ‘til you’re gorged,
then we’ll light the fire,
sacrifice the supplicants.
There’ll be chanting and dancing,
while decorating the tree:
First entrails, then eyeballs,
carved kneebones, cartilage,
perforated kidneys, and a
– Terrie Leigh Relf http://www.writersmonthly.us/
red ribbony bonus
surprise tucked deep
the egg noggin drip
a dead giveaway
– Kurt Newton http://www.kurtnewton.com/
The Necrotide Spirit
There was a Christmas Tree
in the mausoleum this year.
Saw it when I was placing roses
by old Aunt Matilda’s crypt.
Gifts by the dozen sat beneath the tree,
all gaily wrapped yet dirty.
I felt suddenly festive
and couldn’t help but sing along
with the clogged and raspy voices.
– Kevin Donihe http://users.chartertn.net/mbs/kldwriter/
Super Ate Family Films
the window bloody
smile slit spreading
thankful for this bounty
– John Edward Lawson http://www.johnlawson.org/
Santa Goes Postal
Mrs. Claus no longer speaks, save to complain
of cold and isolation. I find solace
in cable horror movies, watch shooting sprees
on CNN performed by postal workers
with less cause for grief (fewer packages, better
work conditions than my icy North Pole prison).
I scheme to pull children from their beds,
drag them trembling over frosty white
powdered lawns, where (I’m guessing) blood
will make a lovely cherry snow cone spill.
– Norman Prentiss
*** WINNER ***
Nosferatu Celebrates the Season
some chimney but through
he is everything good girls
tall dark & red-suited –
eventually — bearing
the gift that keeps on
– Ann K. Schwader http://www.geocities.com/hpl4ever/
All of these poems were so good, it was impossible to pick one winner in this so-called “contest.” I almost chose Kurt Newton’s “stocking stuffer” because it reads so much like an Arnzen “Gorelet” that it’s uncanny. It’s a damned good horror poem, so I’m sending Kurt a signed printout of my e-book, Sportuary, for taking third place. Tom Piccirilli’s “Grandma Lucia” is the most literary and probably well-written of the batch — truly a dark and familiar poem — but perhaps not as gleefully gory as the others. Tom takes second and wins a free review copy I have of the Monks/Fisher Six Crimes anthology. Although it’s a vampire poem, Ann Schwader’s piece stood out as the most original to me, in not only the Nosferatu concept, but also the way it weaves double-meanings into almost every line, therefore standing up to multiple re-readings. Ann wins a copy of Bruce Boston’s fantastic new collection, Pitchblende, signed by Boston, Simon, and Arnzen (who wrote the intro and edited the book). Ann’s poem wins because it’s written so tightly that it’s truly a gorelet. But they all are and I thank every writer who contributed for their grotesque gift to us all. Happy Horrordays!
Subscribe to The Goreletter for more contests.
The most popular article from last year’s Goreletter was “Holiday X” — an essay on the X in Xmas — and since it’s that, um, “most wonderful time of the year” once again, I thought I’d reprint that article here (while I work on the December issue’s “Blather” column). To read “Holiday X” click below or go directly to the archived copy of vol 1.4.