Friday Fiction: New (Untitled) Banshee story

Posted in Original Fiction with tags on April 16, 2010 by gobbets

I’m working on something new – a story about a teenage banshee. Thought I’d give you all a look at the first installment. It’s untitled as yet – so send your best Banshee-themed puns!

***

The yellow eyes glared at me accusingly. I huddled down further into the dirt below the windowsill, but it was no use. The eyes kept staring – a wordless protest at my intrusion into their territory. My foot was falling asleep. I tried to wiggle it gently, without disturbing the plants that hemmed me in, but stealth is really not my thing and my shoe crunched down on a small pile of dead leaves, sending a crackling chorus out into the night. The eyes blinked in disdain, and crept away. Obviously I was ruining the evening hunt.

But the eyes were back again a few minutes later. Evidently a 16 year old girl hiding in a garden in the dead of night while the old man inside watched television was more interesting than chasing already tail-less lizards. Believe me, given the choice I’d pick lizards all the way. I was cold, bored and had a pile of unfinished homework. Yep, give me lizards or homework any day.

The eyes moved closer, and now I could see the outline of two little triangle-shaped ears flattened against the cat’s head. It seemed more agitated now, sniffing the air, sniffing at me. I tried to shoo it away without making too much noise but it simply dodged out of reach, and I fell sideways, off balance, my hand coming down heavily on the ground beside me, right on top of a stick that split in two with a sharp ‘snap’.

I started to rub my palm, mumbling something unrepeatable to the cat who stood off to the side, wide eyes mocking. Too caught up with my unwanted companion, I didn’t realise until the last moment that the time had come.

The clock inside the house struck 2:00am and my chest seethed with a sudden, burning pain. My tormentor forgotten, I clenched my teeth against the coming tide, trying to hold it down, to stop it from spilling upwards, but it was no use: the pain moved up my throat, wave after wave of boiling air, and I gave in like I always do.

Eyes streaming in pain and embarrassment, I opened my mouth and wailed.

The cat hissed and fled into the night.

Horror TV: The X Files (1993-2002)

Posted in Horror TV with tags on April 15, 2010 by gobbets

Well, that’s one of the luxuries of hunting down aliens and genetic mutants. You rarely get to press charges. ( Mulder in “Fire”)


Premise:

FBI Agent Fox Mulder, traumatised by witnessing his younger sister being abducted by aliens when they were children, seeks out cases involving strange or paranormal activity. When he discovers the X-Files, cases that, because of their unusual natures have never been solved, Agent Mulder is assigned to solving these cases, and new ones as they occur. He is partnered with Agent Dana Scully, a medical doctor, who is skeptical of anything that cannot be explained by science. Her job is to try to find logical, scientific reasons for the occurrences in the cases they investigate.

Main Characters:

Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny): FBI agent, Oxford educated psychologist, believer in aliens and paranormal phenomena, and conspiracy theorist. Referred to behind his back as ‘Spooky’.

Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson): doctor, scientist, skeptic and, somewhat paradoxically, a Roman Catholic. Scully gave up a career in medicine to join the FBI, a decision her military father and friends don’t really support. She is initially assigned as Mulder’s partner to debunk his work on the X-Files, but finds herself being drawn in to the strange world Mulder inhabits.

The Cigarette Smoking Man / Cancer Man (played by William B Davis): the leader of a group of men (The Syndicate) who are collaborating with aliens in order to orchestrate the future colonisation of the Earth. Their task is to engineer a human/alien hybrid, but some factions within the group are also trying to secretly develop a vaccine to resist colonisation.

In Season 8, Mulder goes missing and former New York cop Agent John Dogget (Robert Patrick) is brought in to investigate. He ends up assigned as Scully’s new partner. They are later joined by Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), an expert in cults and religious crimes.

Themes:

That the government keeps secrets from its citizens.

That aliens are among us, but humans conspiring with them may pose a greater threat.

That paranormal and supernatural events occur, that can only partially be explained by current science.

Why you should watch it:

The relationship between Mulder and Scully ranges from fascinating, to funny, to downright frustrating. Through the 9 seasons their relationship develops and their roles change but the underlying chemistry is there from the very first episode.

The minor recurring characters tend to steal the show, such as Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mulder and Scully’s boss at the FBI), and The Lone Gunmen (a trio of nerd conspiracy theorists who are friends with Mulder and help out in obtaining data through ‘alternative’ channels). The Lone Gunmen even got their own spin-off series in 2001.

The ‘monsters of the week’ are varied, unusual and cleverly executed. The show puts new spins on existing paranormal events and creatures but its real strength is in creating a whole host of new ones (for example the now infamous Fluke Man).

Weaknesses:

The underlying story arc of the alien conspiracy, and what happened to Mulder’s sister becomes unbelievably complicated. Some ideas are established that are just never dealt with again. And no government department would ever bear the enormous costs of what Mulder and Scully do and be satisfied with their reports.

Ongoing influence:

The X-Files has had an enormous impact on popular culture – from renewed interest in conspiracy theory themes, to the popularisation and updating of the figure of the paranormal investigator in films and literature. But probably the biggest legacy is the kind of ‘cultural shorthand’ the names Mulder and Scully now evoke, for example phrases such as  ‘it’s aliens Mulder!’ to refer to someone distorting the facts to suit their own beliefs, or ‘don’t Scully me!’ to refer to someone who is annoyingly rational.

Any of you have favourite X-Files moments? Share them with us!

Monday Monster Profile: Poltergeists

Posted in Monday Monster Profile with tags on April 12, 2010 by gobbets

What is a poltergeist?

The word ‘poltergeist’ is German and means ‘noisy ghost’.  Essentially it is a ghost (the spirit of a dead human) that can affect things in the world of the living, usually by moving objects and making noise. Poltergeists are typically destructive in nature, throwing objects, making irritating or very loud noises and generally being unpleasant. The phenomena associated with poltergeist activity usually starts and stops abruptly, making it difficult to anticipate.

Where do you find them?

Poltergeists inhabit homes, but they usually fixate on a person, called a ‘focus’ or ‘agent’ and the activity generally only occurs when that person is present in the house.

What causes poltergeist activity?

In many reported cases the ‘agents’ of poltergeist activity are female children or female teenagers. In the early part of the 20th century attempts were therefore made to explain poltergeist activity as the unconscious psychokinetic (moving objects with the power of the mind) activity of people suffering from intense stress, or repressed anger or sexual frustration. Because of the gendered associations of these issues in early psychological theory, women were blamed for poltergeist activity and underwent therapy to suppress their latent psychokinesis. Like many gendered aspects of early psychology, this explanation has since been discredited in many circles but many parapsychologists still consider unconscious psychokinesis (by any member of he household) to be an explanation. Others see poltergeist activity as the manifestation of an angry or annoying spirit trying to get attention or make mischief.

How do you get rid of a poltergeist?

You could move away, but there have been reported cases of a poltergeist following an ‘agent’ from place to place. Alternatively, depending on which ‘causal’ theory you prefer, you can try and ensure all members of the household deal with any unresolved psychological issues (not an easy task!) or have an exorcism performed. Often poltergeists simply go away on their own once they’ve had their fun, but if a spirit is trying to communicate it may not go away until it is sure its message has been heard. In that case, instead of an exorcism you could try a séance. In both cases, exorcisms or séances should only be performed by trained professionals, to avoid unpleasant side-effects like headaches or possession.

I want more information!

Lots of books exist on the subject. Recent texts include:

Michael Clarkson,  Poltergeists: Examining Mysteries of the Paranormal (2006)

William G Roll,  Poltergeist (2004)

The film series Poltergeist is also a good introduction to the phenomenon.

Friday Fiction: Zombie Poetry

Posted in Original Fiction with tags , , on April 9, 2010 by gobbets

Zombies are big at the moment (I mean popular – the idea of giant-sized zombies is too terrible for words!). So much so that the Cordite Poetry Review has dedicated their recent edition to zombie poetry: Zombie 2.0.

Normally for Friday fiction I’d give you something new of mine, but since I’ve got two poems published in this edition (Zombies are People Too, and Dead Things Come To Those Who Wait) I though I’d cheat a little and let you enjoy the whole delicious feast of zombie morsels to your heart’s (or brain’s) content. Don’t forget to chew!

Zombie Action Plans: Long-Term Survival

Posted in Zombie Action Plans with tags on April 7, 2010 by gobbets

So far we’ve discussed hiding out when the zombies come, and making sure you have the weapons and supplies you need on hand to ensure your survival. But this is only going to be effective in the short-term. It’s quite possible that the zombies are here to stay (or at the very least it will take the military-industrial-scientific-complex a while to sort things out). What are you going to do in the meantime? Your supplies won’t last forever, cabin-fever is a very real danger, and you will need to start looking at things from a longer-term perspective. Many of us have lost the skills needed to survive independently. Here are some things you will need to consider in order to wait out the zombies.

Growing your own food.

Tinned supplies are finite. It is probably still not safe to venture out to  raid the local shops. A better option is to try to set up your own little self-sufficient garden. This might mean considering moving locations to that house down the road with the lovely backyard (and disposing of the rotting corpses of Mr and Mrs Smith who used to live there). It’s also a good idea to have a stockpile of seeds and fertiliser as part of your supply kit, and to start on this project before things with the tinned food get really desperate (carrots don’t grow overnight). If your previous experience with gardening can be reduced to the occasional ill-fated potted parsley and laughing yourself silly watching Costa’s Garden Odyssey, you might like to consider learning a few things now, while it’s still safe to do so.

Making your own clothes.

If you managed to stay in your own home, this might not be a real problem for some time, but if you shifted locations or were forced to go on the run it can become a critical issue very quickly: fighting zombies is a messy business! Fabric can be scrounged from bed sheets, curtains, upholstered furniture, or by combining other clothes (or if you’re really organised you might store a few meters as part of your supplies for just this purpose), but you will need to know what to do with it. Some tips:

* Measure, measure, and measure again. Then cut.

* The stronger the better. You’re probably hand-sewing so use double thread and go over things like armpits and crotches a few times.

* You can roll up sleeves and legs to make a winter garment a summer one – but this doesn’t work in reverse. Make things that are as versatile as possible.

* Learn and practice now – before zombies have ripped up everything you own. Most community colleges, adult education centres and fabric stores run basic sewing classes. They will probably work on the assumption you will use a sewing machine but the skills in tailoring, fitting and procedure are just as relevant to hand sewing.

Extend your education.

Cabin fever is one of the most dangerous issues in a protracted zombie scenario. Bored, grumpy, purposeless humans rapidly become depressed, unpleasant, dangerous humans. Try and see this for the opportunity that it is: you don’t have to go to work, you have no bills to pay, weren’t there always things you wanted to learn? If you have books, great. You can try to get some if it is safe to do so, but if not, talk to your companions – what can they teach you to do? What can you learn from others to make you a zombie-all-rounder: weapons, first aid, carpentry, cooking, gardening, sewing? If you have access to paper and pens, try to record your knowledge for others (or for future generations – you might be here for a very, very long time…).

What do you most need to learn? Vote in the gobbets poll!

Survival is one thing. Living is another. You can build a community, learn to be self-sufficient, and work together – or you can sit in a corner rocking back and forth until you get eaten. The choice is yours.

Horror TV: From Anthologies to Series

Posted in Reviews with tags on March 30, 2010 by gobbets

There is always a lot of debate of what exactly falls into the ‘horror’ genre (as opposed to fantasy, sci-fi, thriller etc). In terms of television the definition is pretty fluid, and most shows of this type contain a fair portion of elements from each genre. However to be fully conversant with horror in popular culture, the medium of television is crucial as it gives us some of the best known (and most loved) characters in the genre. Horror TV has existed since the 50s, usually in the form of anthology series with a new story, new monster or scenario and new characters every week. Some of the better-known series are listed below:

50s and 60s
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965)
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
The Outer Limits (1963-1965)
Dark Shadows (1966-1971)

70s
Night gallery (1970-1973)
The Sixth Sense (1972)
Kolchak; The Night Stalker (1974)

80s
Tales from the Darkside (1983-1988, produced by zombie legend George A Romero)
Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996)
Monsters (1988-1991)
The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985- 1987)
Hammer House of Horror (1980)

However from the 90s we see a shift from Horror anthologies to serial television with long-range plots and season-length story arcs, extended analyses of key themes and ideas and recurring characters. There were still a few new anthology series launched in the 90s (The Outer Limits was revived from 1995-2002 and The Hunger ran from 1997-2000, Masters of Horror 2005-2007) but serial horror is now the most prominent form of horror TV. Listed below are some of the best horror series in the last 20 years:

The X-Files (1993-2002)
American Gothic (1995-1996)
Millennium (1996-1999)
Buffy (1997-2003) and its spin-off Angel (1999-2004)
Supernatural (2005-present)

This is not an exhaustive list but these series have had a significant influence on both the genre and popular culture. To help you get acquainted with them Gobbets will be providing you with guides to these series over the coming weeks.

Do you have a favourite horror series? Have fond memories of any of the above? Tell us about it!

Monday Monster Profile: Drop Bears

Posted in Monday Monster Profile with tags on March 29, 2010 by gobbets

I thought I’d add a little local flavour to this week’s Monster Profile, so I give you – Drop Bears.

Image Source: Marvel Universe: The Appendix! http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix4/dropbears.htm

What are they?

Drop Bears are a type of carnivorous marsupial – kind of like a really big koala that likes to eat people. The live in trees, waiting for their prey to walk below, then suddenly drop down upon their heads in a flurry of teeth and claws.

Where do they live?

At present Drop Bears are only found in the Australian bush. However attempts to export them to New Zealand are currently underway.

What can I do to protect myself from Drop Bears while hiking?

Experts recommend holding a sharp-pointed object above your head as you walk so that if a Drop Bear attacks they are likely to be impaled on your weapon before they land on your head and tear your eyes out. Some locals suggest putting vegemite on your face to scare them off, but that’s just silly. Who doesn’t like vegemite?

I want more information!

Just ask any Australian – I’m sure they’d be more than happy to tell you in great detail about this most dangerous of predator – as a public service of course…