What is your story about?
Birdman is a story about a serial killer, love for his pet bird, justice, and solitary confinement. The story explores the impact of loneliness on Birdman, but also how he reacts when he secretly contacts another patient also restrained in the Crisis Stabilization Ward.
Ultimately, the tale has to do with wings and freedom. There’s sewing in the backstory, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Where did you get the idea for your story?
Well, I didn’t get it from the Birdman movie starring Michael Keaton. My tale was written about two years ago, long before Hollywood started filming and making special effects based on a superhero. My protagonist is no superhero although he is heroic in his own way. Still, the movie was nice coincidence, especially since it appears that wings are integral to their story, and mine.
The original idea came from a notebook of storylines I’ve kept over the years. This particular idea was over ten years old, and initially had an angel arriving on Earth to start the apocalypse. However, I had speculated, if that angel were somehow trapped, the apocalypse could be forestalled. And, if that angel were judged to be a man, he would certainly end up in a madhouse.
So, ultimately the question became a practical one: how do you trap an angel if it is an emissary of God? Or what if he isn’t? What happens if the angel happens to connect up with a serial killer who loves birds.
Read the story, Birdman by R.B. Payne in the forthcoming, and highly anticipated, MADHOUSE anthology edited by Brad C. Hodson and Benjamin Kane Ethridge.
Coming soon from Dark Regions Press.
Review reprinted from: THE HORROR FICTION REVIEW
18 WHEELS OF HORROR edited by Eric Miller (2015 Big Time Books / 258 pp / trade paperback & eBook)
I was a kid in the era of trucker and road movies … Convoy, Cannonball Run … I remember Burt Reynolds and his ‘stache, BJ and his Bear … I remember wishing we could have a CB radio and be all cool … I remember making wild air-honk gestures at passing big-rigs on long road trips, and the glee with which we’d greet each successful blast.
The cover alone is everything it should be, doing what Maximum Overdrive aimed for (and missed by a mile). Gorgeous work, says exactly what it needs to, lets you know exactly what you’re in for. And the stories inside do a great job holding up their end of the bargain.
The book opens with Ray Garton’s taunting, spooky, vengeful “A Dark Road.” If Garton’s ever written a dud, I’ve yet to find it.
Other of my personal faves and stand-outs include:
R.B. Payne’s “Big Water,” in which a weird secret delivery gets weirder and more secret.
“Pursuit,” by Hal Bodner, a deep-skin-crawly piece of paranoia.
The reality-bending sly fun of Tim Chizmar’s “Cargo.”
“Siren,” by Eric Miller, updating an ancient seafaring myth for the land-bound highways.
Meghan Arcuri’s craving-inducing, nicely satisfying “Beyond the Best Seasoning.”
And last but not least, the closing story, the tense and gruesome “Roadkill” by Jeff Seeman, finishing things off with a nice gory splat.
This anthology took me right back. And for those who weren’t around in that era, it’ll take you right there too. Truck stops and CB lingo, the endless rumble of engines and wheels, the perceived romance and wearying lonely truths of the open road, the aspect of unique Americana, it’s all here.
- Christine Morgan
I recently set out to re-read the Rats trilogy by James Herbert.
The first volume, and the topic of this blog, is THE RATS, the first volume in the series.
As I picked up the recently-issued reprint from Centipede Press (gorgeous!), many thoughts passed through my mind. The last time I read the book was forty years ago. Reading a book from one’s youth is fraught with danger. Will the story hold up? Will it still be compelling? Will I care about the characters? Have I remembered it with more vibrancy than there is?
And most concerning, now that I am a published horror writer myself, would I cast an too critical eye upon it? (Not that I claim to be in Mr. Herbert's realm, it's just that one begins to notice poor storytelling, plot anomalies, and odd phrasing.)
As background, THE RATS was Herbert’s first work. Decried by many when it was published for excessive gore and violence, the book became an instant bestseller. The first printing sold out in three weeks.
A writer’s dream.
The story line was simple: an outbreak of large black rats threatens London. Nasty, sharp-toothed, aggressive, and laden with disease, the rats pour into one of the poorest neighborhoods of London, wreaking havoc and killing, killing, and oh yeah, killing. The story is told through multiple viewpoints although a linear narrative eventually develops. The story builds tension and resolves itself nicely, leaving an opening for a sequel or two.
Now to be visceral.
This story scares the shit out of me. And here’s just a few of the reasons why.
The story elevates rats into an unstoppable force of nature. Yes, we all know that pet rats can be cuddly! But these rats are large as medium-sized dogs and vicious with the violence of a rabid wolf-pack. They move across the landscape of the story like a flood of grey-furred water, engulfing all that comes before them.
Worse yet, they are super-intelligent. Imbuing them with mutant-enhanced intelligence, just makes them that much more dangerous. It’s one thing to see a rat scurrying down the street. It’s another to see that rat stop, focus on you with its eyes, and consider whether it's hungry enough to kill and consume you.
Herbert captures this terror with an deft touch and even though I believe I'm pretty immune to descriptive text, he had me squirming more than once. Perhaps it's all that tearing of human flesh...
Lore has it that THE RATS was once an extrapolation of Herbert’s boyhood experiences with rats in the East End of London combined with a late-night watching of Tod Browning’s DRACULA, specifically Renfield’s nightmare of rats.
Thanks to him, all of us readers can share that nightmare. And if you've not read it, I recommend it heartily.
Here's the link to Centipede Press and a wonderful rendering of one of the illustrations from the new volumes.
Image is (c) Copyright 2015 Centipede Press. All Rights Reserved.
One of the most significant questions in my life is: why don’t I write science fiction? Why the hell am I writing horror? (Seriously, this question bothers me more than why are we here?)
As a boy I read nothing but science fiction and pulps for years. Although I have many favorite writers, as a young writer seeking inspiration, I grew attached to Jack Vance. His imagery, turn of phrase, and wry sense of humor appealed to me. His stories are marvels of creating distant places and other times.
If I wore a hat, I would tip it to Mr. Vance. If you haven’t read his work, I encourage you to seek him out. He is not a science fiction writer per se, in fact, his work defies categorization. I read an interview with Mr. Vance once, and he remarked (this is a paraphrase) that “he never saw himself as a genre writer. He just wrote whatever came out.”
When I started to write, it was horror that came out. My friends, my wife, even my cat looked at me askew – what’s wrong with you? they would ask. (Of course, the cat only talks to me after a few glasses of wine.)
Answer: I am distressed.
By nature an introvert, by age, an activist. I grew up in a time when people believed we could change the world. I still believe that, it’s just turned out that it’s a lot harder than protesting in the streets and going to rock concerts.
To change the world, one has to look at it. Not through the illusions that we filter our everyday life with, but the unsanitary sewer that is reality. All of the answers are not on television, neatly wrapped up in an hour. For me, that’s what horror is – an unblinking look at reality.
Reality with all the tasty bits sliced off.
So I figure that horror stories come out of me because I am unhappy with the way the world works and I am trying to make some sense of our journey among the living. Death is not only the next station on this line – it appears to be the only stop once we are on this train.
So why not look reality in the eye?
Commit to reading a horror story every day.
It might just make you a better person.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Originally written as background to the story EDDIE G. AT THE GATES OF HELL as published in MIDNIGHT WALK, 2009.
Why Won't Daddy Stop?
Here are a few ramblings about Eddie G. and his stop at the Gates of Hell.
In about 1957 or ‘58, my family traveled Route 66 from Kansas City, somehow skirting Los Angeles, and ending up in San Francisco. I have a solitary memory from that trip, after all, I must have been four or five years old. That memory is this: late at night, long after dark, my father woke me from a sound sleep to see the turn-off sign to the Grand Canyon. I can distinctly remember his words – “Look. It’s the Grand Canyon.”
Which it wasn’t.
It was a wooden sign. He must have slowed, but he would have never stopped. In subsequent years, we would shoot by giant teepees, meteor craters, and concrete dinosaurs at sixty or seventy miles an hour. Never slowing, never stopping, unless we needed gas.
When I conceived of “Eddie G. at the Gates of Hell,” the story idea was rooted in my childhood frustrations. Just once, I’d like to stop at one of those roadside attractions. Then it hit me: there had to be a reason why my father never stopped.
My best guess: he must have been on the run. On the lam, like in those black and white movies. I know (now) that he was a womanizer, he didn’t love my mother, and was unconnected to his children. Still, he was a charming guy that everyone liked.
Of course, none of this is really covered in the story. Other than the fact that Eddie G. is somehow a version of my Dad.
A child’s angry version twisted by time.
And then I touched my own fear. Even as a child I sensed something was not right with our family. There was always an edge, a razor-wire waiting to be yanked, to slice, to cut, to hurt. Now that I’m older, and supposedly more reflective, I wish I knew why my father never stopped.
To his dying day, my father insisted that we had stopped at the Grand Canyon.
Which we hadn’t. I should know. I didn’t see the Grand Canyon for another twenty-nine years. I drove to the same spot, slowed, and made the turn. I thought a lot about my father that day. He must have had a really, really good reason for speeding by.
“Eddie G. at the Gates of Hell” is my best guess why he always kept his foot on the gas pedal.