Tag Archives: Horror

Friday the 13th: Kill Kill Kill Kill… Die Die Die Die… Bad Bad Bad Bad… Hair Hair Hair Hair…

Friday the 13th

 Yes, it is that day again…and time for an afternoon viewing of Friday the 13th, the film that most thoroughly typifies the “Have sex, get killed” equation in American cinema. Thank you for dying, Kevin Bacon.

If you haven’t seen this flick, then you are missing out on numerous cultural touchstones. You probably don’t even know the meaning of the word “Kill kill kill kill…die die die die…ow ow ow ow…” which my friend Jonathan used to say whenever anyone was foolish enough to hand him a butcher knife.

To this day, I find that simple term, like mise-en-scene, joi de vivre, or Schadenfreude, to be highly useful in many conversations; it is almost universally understood.

More accurately, the sound in question (sometimes known among film nerds as the “Jason Sound”) is “Ki ki ki ki, ma ma ma ma,” at least according to composer Harry Manfredini, who said — and I quote — “Everybody thinks it’s cha, cha, cha. I’m like, ‘Cha, cha, cha? What are you talking about?'” (That’s Manfredini’s voice, by the way.)

Incidentally, Betsy Palmer, who plays a rather central role in the film, reportedly called the script a “piece of shit” after reading it. She never would have taken the role if she hadn’t desperately needed a new car.

Well, Mrs. Voorhees. We all do things that surprise us sometimes, don’t we?

Palmer was a very mainstream actress at the time, and a guest on many TV shows including “The Joey Bishop Show,” “Password,” and “The Kraft Television Theater,” and would later be in “Murder She Wrote,” “Knots Landing,” “Columbo,” “Newhart,” and many more. According to the IMDB trivia page, when Friday the 13th came out, many of Palmer’s fans were not pleased. One critic was so pissed off he published her home address and encouraged her outraged fans to write her in protest, but published an incorrect address.

I don’t quite agree with the esteemed Ms. Palmer. For all its bizarre faults (Five minutes of screen time making instant coffee, anyone?), there is no disputing what an impact on cinema this damn thing had. Better yet, it’s an object lesson in what happens when people get all hopped up about the end of civilization sure to be caused by things like movies. In the early-’80s culture wars, we were told that the slasher film genre that Friday the 13th and Halloween represent was sure to turn my generation into an army of babbling psychopaths who kill with machetes at the drop of a hat. Little did they know it would actually take antidepressants, text messaging, Grand Theft Auto and the internet to do what damage hadn’t already been done by Dungeons & Dragons.

I didn’t see Friday the 13th until well into the ’90s. I viewed it from the start as an absurdist enterprise, and the entire franchise as a Beavis and Butthead punchline. It’s not a horror film so much as a comedy skit in the woods. I almost can’t watch it without thinking of its clueless teen machete fodder and crazy old weirdos as drag queens and kings who might at any moment burst into a torrid English drinking song with excruciatingly obscene lyrics (yes, this means you, Kevin Bacon). I don’t so much watch Friday the 13th, I watch the Friday the 13th that’s playing in my brain — the Friday the 13th I didn’t see when I was a kid, filtered through everything I’ve learned since I didn’t see it that makes the zeitgeisty terrors of 1980 seem cartoonish and ridiculous, and the terrors of 2012 seem tiresomely been-there, done-that.

As if that wasn’t enough, add to it the fact that I was already an occasional semi-pro horror writer before I ever saw the flick. My good friend Alex S. Johnson, who is probably the reason I ever started writing horror to begin with, even wrote a Friday the 13th tie-in novel. Nancy Kilpatrick wrote two. Before I saw the thing, Friday the 13th was already furniture in my life. The Jason universe was like the World of Darkness — I might go there, even hang out there, but I didn’t take it that seriously.

So maybe Friday the 13th never really had the chance to scare me — unlike John Carpenter’s Halloween, which I did see when I was young. Several of Carpenter’s other movies are among my very favorite films of all time — but then as now, I find Halloween dull, underdramatized, unimpressive. Halloween had the chance to genuinely scare me, and blew it because in my estimation it’s an overrated film; regardless, for better or worse Halloween simply doesn’t work for me. On the other hand, I was laughing my ass off at Friday the 13th before the curtain ever rose.

Viewed in that context, I love Friday the 13th. But I’m sorry to say that thirty-two years on, after half a dozen viewings and numerous drinking games, the most horrifying things in this film are the hairstyles. “Ow ow ow ow” indeed.

Now For Sale in the Kindle Store: Viva Las Vegas, a Zombie Crime Story

I’m celebrating Halloween by putting all my old zombie stories up in the Kindle store. “Viva Las Vegas” is Zombie Stories #1.

When the zombocalypse hits, a Mob hit man who made the mistake of working “one last job” and got his fiancee killed must cruise the broken streets of Vegas looking for her.

Buy a copy of “Viva Las Vegas” for 99 cents in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“Viva Las Vegas” was the very first zombie story I ever wrote.

I had been re-reading The Godfather and Goodfellas and reading the books of former FBI agent William F. Roemer, about the Chicago mob. I was totally obsessed with the Sicilian-American Mafia and organized crime in general. My friend Alex S. Johnson told me John Skipp was reading for another Book of the Dead anthology. Some years before, I had read the original Book of the Dead, an anthology of stories based on the world of George R. Romero. I thought it was the most drop-dead amazing horror I had ever read.

So I wrote “Viva Las Vegas,” “A tale about dirty rotten gamblers and the heavily-armed hit man who kills them a second time…sometimes a third.” I made it as tragic and hard-boiled as I could stand, and extra-bloody because you can’t have a zombie novella without cracking a few heads. The original version was 7,700 words, and i trimmed it down to about 7,200 to speed up the action.

After I submitted the story, Skipp called me at home one day. He told me how much he loved the story, but he couldn’t take it…because while it was 100% true to his crime-novel sensibilities, it wasn’t quite true to his Book of the Dead sensibilities. I think those were his words, more or less. I was so blown away by getting a call from John Skipp that I just bleated and glorped. I think I mighta squeed.

Anyway, when my friend Shade Rupe was collecting stories for a second volume of his amazing magazine/anthology Funeral Party, it was at a time when I didn’t really consider myself a nonfiction writer.

So I sent him this. He loved it. It appeared in that amazing tome.

Some years later, it was selected for a volume of James Roy Daley’s Best Zombie Stories anthology series.

It’s one of my favorites. Like all my zombie stories, it cuts to the heart of my mythology, even if it’s a very different mythology than other zombie stories I’ve written. When I came back to the genre with The Panama Laugh, I had this character very much in mind…but this guy isn’t quite Dante, because the time between one work and the other had warped me profoundly, and I had much more to say.

Zombies, like vampires, are a template for thematic improvisation and psychological exploration. While that’s true of all monsters, fictional and nonfictional, it’s with zombies and vamps that I find my own obsessions framing the argument so the agonies seem real.

Doing anything else would be unfair to the characters. Laugh if you want, but I take horror seriously.

Hope you enjoy it. I know I liked writing it.
 

 

My Zombie Bibliography

Given the stunning, overwhelming, “Tell-Scorsese-he-can-wait” success of my first novel, noir-themed zombie apocalypse The Panama Laugh (of which there are extremely few copies left — extremely few! — so you’d better buy it right now or they might run out), people keep asking me, they say, “Rosanne Rosanna-Danna, what other a-zombie stories have you a-written?” I tell them, well, it’s like this.

My Affairs With the DeadZombie Stories by Thomas S. Roche

“Viva Las Vegas.” A tale about dirty rotten gamblers and the heavily-armed hit man who kills them a second time…sometimes a third. Only incidentally funny. When the zombocalypse hits, a Mob hit man who made the mistake of working “one last job” and got his fiancee killed must cruise the broken streets of Vegas looking for her. (Appeared in Funeral Party 2, edited by Shade Rupe.) Buy a copy of “Viva Las Vegas” for 99 cents in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“The Sound of Weeping.” A short story of terrifying necroschtuppery. Not funny. No LOLZ, really. Charlie Quinn, a morgue attendant in a small Northern California hippie town fights with his gay coworker for teasing him — but inside he’s fighting his own erotic impulses until they break him…and break the laws of living and dying… (Appeared in Queer Fear, edited by Michael Rowe.) Buy a copy of “The Sound of Weeping” for 99 cents in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“Veggie Mountain.” A story of homophobia, with no LOLZ at all. The sequel to “The Sound of Weeping.” On the non-responsive ward in Monteverdi Hospital, also known as “Veggie Mountain,” the now-catat0nic Charles Quinn has been incarcerated after being found incompetent to stand trial for a string of brutal sex-murders. A homophobic attendant who’s been accused of abusing the inmates finds that Charles remains catatonic for a damned good reason, and when he’s threatened, a few “old friends” may show up to visit… (Appeared in Queer Fear 2, edited by Michael Rowe.) Buy a copy of Veggie Mountain for $2.99 in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“Deepwater Miracle.” A novella of the chuckleheaded apocalypse. Only incidentally funny. Set in the world of The Panama Laugh, the novella-length “Deepwater Miracle” follows two seafaring brothers as they try to make landfall in Texas after crossing the oil-choked Gulf following the Laughing Apocalypse. (Appeared in Z: Zombie Stories, edited by J.M. Lassen.)

“St. John of the Throwdown.” A tale of beach-bound frat assholes. Not funny…plenty LOLZ. Set in the world of The Panama Laugh, “St. John of the Throwdown” tells the story of a homeless teen on the run, and her experiences on the beach in San Francisco the morning the world ends with a giggle. Appeared on the podcast Open Source Sex, read by Violet Blue (for whom the story was written). Buy a copy in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“October in Tuscvari.” A gonzo tale of alien mind control. Sadly, I anticipate pushback from any playa hatas who believe that all zombiism comes from the copious manhood of George Romero. There was a whole not-very-good genre of zombie flick well before Georgie was in short pants. Before zombies ever became the walking dead, they were the victims of mad scientist mind-control rays, so I feel I must include “Tuscvari” in the zombie list, even though there’s not a living dead person to be seen. It’s about bigfoot, aliens, and a lawyer with a really hot biracial wife. No, it’s not dirty, except when the two hippies feed each other free-trade organic chocolate. It’s about politics. Published on Thomasroche.com on Inauguration Day, 2008. Buy a copy of “October in Tuscvari” for $2.99  in the Amazon Kindle Store.
 

 

The Panama Laugh is…a Best-Seller!

Borderlands Books at 866 Valencia Street in San Francisco was my neighborhood bookstore for bazillions of years. It’s one of the largest science fiction-fantasy bookstores in the world (possibly the largest at this point, I’m not 100% sure).

The location is gorgeous, gorgeously-appointed, luxurious, low-key, and most importantly packed with great books. The staff is gracious, chill and knowledgeable about the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and often about associated genres like noir.

And my novel The Panama Laugh is on the Borderlands Books trade paper best-sellers list for September, according to the Borderlands Books newsletter and Hellnotes.com.

It’s wedged between William Gibson’s Zero History and Max Brooks’s World War Z…two of my favorite writers.

In fact, when I was writing the scene in the middle of Part II of The Panama Laugh with the busted shipping containers, I had some of World War Z‘s amazing subtexts about of globalization in mind.

I’m reading at Borderlands on October 15 as part of Litquake’s Litcrawl, with Ray Garton, Richard Kadrey and Naamen Tilahuh, by the way. Litcrawl readings are some of the funnest I’ve ever been to. So come see us, hear some zombie fiction and argue with me over whether “funnest” is a word.

'Grabs You By the Throat and Punches You in the Face From Beginning to End'

W00t! YA author and clinical laboratory scientist Kelly Swails gave my novel The Panama Laugh a very positive review over at her Live Journal.

In it, she says, in part, “The Panama Laugh by Thomas S. Roche grabs you by the throat and punches you in the face from beginning to end, and I mean that in a good way.”

And did I mention she said this? “There is a lot to like here. The voice is perfect, as are the characters. The pacing doesn’t give you much breathing room, which I liked.” Read more here, and THANKS!

I like getting praised — who doesn’t? But if someone hates a piece of fiction I wrote, I feel like I should thank them for that, too…at least they took the time to read it, which is more than I can say for some people who hate on my nonfiction articles.

Regardless, thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read The Panama Laugh, and thanks to Ms. Swails for the great review. I’m sort of extra-stoked because Swails’ bio says she is a clinical laboratory scientist by profession, which must mean that however egregiously wrong the science is in The Panama Laugh, there’s at least one scientist my fake-science wasn’t boneheaded enough to piss off!

I put a fair amount of work into figuring the logistics, but science speculation is not one of my strong points. Though I’ve read and loved science fiction my whole life, including quite a bit of hard science fiction, I’ve always felt like more of a crime and horror writer. I take forays into being a fantasist, but bona-fide SF has always been a stretch for me

I was awful proud of myself that The Panama Laugh technically crossed that line.

And I’m awful proud that people seem to be enjoying it.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and review the book!

Free Audio Story — The Panama Laugh: "St. John of the Throwdown"

The 5,000-ish word “St. John of the Throwdown” is set in the zombie-infested world of my debut novel The Panama Laugh, and is available only as an audio download — free! — with Violet Blue reading, on Violet’s podcast Open Source Sex. In it, a homeless teen sleeping on the beach in San Francisco wakes up having to face a crowd of frat boys — and maybe get sent up for murder.

I wrote “St. John of the Throwdown” specifically for Violet to read at a promotional event for The Panama Laugh this month. She was the very first reader of the novel and gave me some incredibly helpful feedback that basically helped me put the whole latter half of the book together. I based the viewpoint character on what I know of her as a teen, drawing on some of her experiences being young and homeless on the streets of San Francisco.

After generously (and brilliantly) reading “St. John” at Z-Day 2011, Violet even more generously agreed to read and release it for free on Open Source Sex. Check it out on Violet’s Libsyn feed here, go to the direct download link here, or if you use iTunes, access open source sex here. Here’s what Violet says about it, incidentally:

Open Source Sex 88: (Non-sex) The Panama Laugh – St. John of the Throwdown
Sep 14, 2011

Tonight’s podcast is a non-sex short story about zombies – and me. Author of the (awesome) new zombie novel The Panama Laugh wrote a short story based on his novel’s universe where a young female street punk in San Francisco goes up against a pack of zombie frat boys. The author Thomas Roche based the story on my very real life as a homeless teen here in SF. If you like action, horror and zombies (and you like me), you’ll love it. If you don’t like those things, tune in for the next podcast which I promise will be delightfully naughty and fun.

http://violetblue.libsyn.com/open-source-sex-88-non-sex-the-panama-laugh-st-john-of-the-throwdown