Archive for lgbt

Fragment from THE NIGHT SHADOWS REPORT: Last Chance

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , on September 14, 2017 by smuckyproductions

I’ve always struggled, as a writer, with finding specific instances that develop a character’s goal while giving the reader a reason to sympathize. With the current novel revision, that’s something I am trying to overcome. Here is an early introduction to the protagonist and narrator – hopefully it inspires a twinge of empathy. 

July 19th:

A slow and average afternoon at the bookstore, no A.C., sun oozing in yellow strands through the dusty windows. The old paper and shelves gave the air awful, sedating mustiness. Nothing to do but stare and fan oneself, think desperately of something far away. The first customer in an hour relieved me of my boredom and asked if I could recommend a book on writing. She smiled, a little nervous, embarrassed. “You’re a writer?” I said. “I want to be,” she replied, wringing her hands. So I smiled, too, and laughed a little, quoted a favorite teacher who put my doubts to rest a while ago – “Anyone who writes is a writer.” She laughed, too, and asked, “What are you working on?” Like she really wanted to know.

And as I tried to think of a response, the boss strut over, stretched to her full imposing height. She exuded enough ice to cut the heat through her presence alone. The customer glanced warily at the boss – she must have felt the air cool – then hastily made her purchase, and went off to learn what I’m supposed to already know. When the door jangled shut, the boss tapped on the register and glared at me with her teeth slightly bared for a moment until she was certain she had my attention. Then she intoned, “You’re selling books. You’re not writing. Not on my time.” She returned to her full height and the edge of her lip twitched, expressing her triumph, before slinking away. I could have argued the contrary, but she walked away before I could think of anything to back up my case. Still haven’t found evidence in my favor. Any supporting statement would be a lie. But it doesn’t have to be. This is the last chance, buddy. Before I melt to this register forever.

I keep thinking of what Dad would say when he started his stories. “There are some things, Luke, that we were never supposed to mess with.” Or, “that we were never meant to find.” I had no idea what he meant back then, just that he was going to give me all his attention and tell a story. Now I want to know why he chose that phrase. Some things. What things?

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Poem: LEGACY

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2017 by smuckyproductions

I wrote a version of this poem a long time ago, and it felt like the time to put it out there. Not all history, not all legacies, are something to be proud of. 

LEGACY

Dimming, grandfather requests
“Have kids while I can still
speak their name.”
I tell him I’ll try.

My constitution does not permit
ruining his notion with my prophecy
That our name dies in my loins
made to seek peace in
things he would wither to think of

For some grandfather, exponential greats
took arms to smear his seed in this soil
sprinkled on the bones of children
snapped to pieces by invader teeth that
gnash in ecstasy at their righteous carnage
drag their white worms to claim this
stolen ground as they have committed
an act worth celebrating –

This is my legacy.
This is what dies with me.

And what if it withers?
What is pride when boiled in that blood
of children who never got to choose
between silence and gloating?
This scaffold of corpses around a rotting cross
who refuse to really die –
whisper from dirt at beating hearts
grandfather’s, father’s, and mine
but my ears are stopped, jaw soldered
against harmonizing with them
but against rebellion, too.

In my way I lie in the plot beside him
and sew my silence in kind.

Story Fragment: LAPPING WATER (1)

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2017 by smuckyproductions

As I’ve been spending time in small town Colorado, this story has been pricking at my brain. It’s a quiet horror tale about first dates, first sexual encounters, and the dark, cold hole these events can open in a young person’s mind. I picked a section from the story’s center. 

Lor avoided the lake by habit. There was something about its undulating green surface, the extent of its depth partially hidden, that made Lor feel nauseous. He could blame it on too many childhood viewings of Creature from the Black Lagoon, which planted the image of that giant webbed hand grabbing at his legs, but it went into something more subconscious. The sound the water made as it slapped against the shore was the worst – it made Lor’s chest compress and his ears ring. His parents loved going down every Sunday, and he went sometimes just to appease them, as long as he could excuse himself from a ride in his dad’s rented boat. His dad always showed disappointment in his expression, but didn’t argue. Lor was happiest when homework or general malaise gave him a concrete reason to stay home. The lapping sound always got to him, and stayed until he managed to fall asleep. He thought of telling Avery this and imagined the response, comprised simply of laughter. It was a means to an end, anyway, and maybe Lor would be distracted enough to forget the sound. So he let Avery take him there.

The town was laid out in little blotches – Main St. and the two schools at the mouth of the highway, hotels and cabins dotted along the river, with the neighborhoods breaking up space in between. Then there was the trailer park to the south, where the river started turning into marshland. The lake hid itself near there. On the opposite side of the road was the red sign for Maisie’s and the cupola for the American Legion, but the trees grew so thick on the shore that it might have been its own little world. It was always quiet, even when the tourists swarmed in July. Getting there on foot meant walking on the road in parts, or slogging through the bushes and mud. Avery made it fun. They had plenty of room to grab at each other and kiss in the dark – there were only intermittent streetlights, and otherwise just the moon to cast shadows over them. They kept warm until the path sloped down and led them through the trees, which whipped against their shoulders, the branches pressed so close. For a while Lor could only hear the whisper-brush of the pine needles and snatches of Avery’s breath; then it started. It was a calm night, so its rhythm was slow, patient.

When they broke through the trees and onto the shore, he saw it slinking against the rocks. In the white-blue moonlight, punctuated by stars, it was hard to tell where the lake ended and the forest began – its diameter was long enough to make the edges fuzzy. The water lulled, cold and black, along the jagged shadows of trees. For a moment they didn’t make a sound, just stood and listened. The longer Lor waited, the more insistent the lapping became; the lake’s vastness caused it to echo and expand, coming from all sides. But Avery just breathed deep and smiled – the sound didn’t bother him. A dim thought suggested that Lor should wonder why this was so. He didn’t obey.

“Come here,” Avery said, holding out his hand. Lor staggered forward. The beach was comprised of rocks, not a soft bed, but Avery sat down on them without flinching. He pulled Lor down next to him and put a hand around Lor’s waist, kneading lightly. The anticipation was strong enough to muffle the water, but not mute it. They pushed into each other at full strength – no one around to see them now. Avery’s flavors overwhelmed Lor’s brain and quieted it for the first time all night. It should have left room for the water to creep in, but Lor was busy making sure he was doing this right, grabbing at the best time, maintaining a good pace. Avery guided him. He had done this before.

It didn’t last long; the anticipation had sapped their patience. Afterwards, partially clothed, they panted on the beach. Lor could make out small details of Avery’s body in the moonlight – round, dark nipples and the beginnings of chest hair peeking between his ribs. There was a trail of hair leading down from his belly button that Lor ran his finger across. Avery didn’t look at him – he kept his eyes closed and breathed, grinned. Lor thought he could do this forever, lying in the dark and exploring this body. Then something cold slid across his foot.

Dark Musings: Queer Contributions in Horror Fiction (An Incomplete Thesis)

Posted in Dark Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2016 by smuckyproductions

 

I’ve rattled this notion around in my head for some time, and though I don’t have a fully-formed argument yet, I have mused long enough to know that I’m not wrong. There is not enough conversation about queer contributions to the horror genre.

Perhaps because there isn’t a blatant, obvious, easy connection. But if one looks under the surface, there are lines drawn everywhere. Historically, an impressive number of contributions have been made to the horror genre by rumored or open queer people.

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Mary Shelley – with encouragement from her husband, known to be bisexual, and who may have been bisexual herself – wrote “Frankenstein,” the tale a repulsive creature who just wants love. Bram Stoker, rumored to be gay, brought “Dracula” – an undeniably sensual monster who sucks the blood (by penetrating their flesh! Come on!) of other men. Oscar Wilde created what must be the first openly bisexual devil, Dorian Gray, in a novel about the excess of desire. Even Henry James, long rumored to be bi- or even a-sexual, weaved the horrific story of a governess battling morally deviant spirits to save the innocence of her wards.

It doesn’t stop at classic literature. Two of the best horror films from the early days of cinema, “Frankenstein” and “Nosferatu,” were directed by gay men. Is it any coincidence that both films adapt works mentioned above? With one monster hunting blindly for love that is never returned, and the other a pestilential nightmare that sucks people’s vitality while they sleep (predating the terror of contaminated blood during the AIDs epidemic), I think it’s hard to deny the connection. The trend continues into modern culture – with Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood” and the revolutionary “Hellraiser,” which is a dark hymn to ‘unnatural’ sex; even to popular TV shows, like “Penny Dreadful” and “American Horror Story,” which explore queer identities in a much more open light.

These sexually ‘aberrant’ individuals, forced into hiding because of the prejudiced societies in which they find themselves, created works of fiction about beings seen as abject and dangerous, as freaks. In the confines of those stories, they are undoubtedly monsters. But the idea transfers to the way societies project gay identities. As unnatural, as other, and perhaps as deadly. In one way or another, gay people become monsters.

Authors and filmmakers tell stories for many reasons, but a major one is the need to purge emotions – often devastating, unstated. It makes sense that artists who grapple with identity would write about monsters. The ‘heroes’ who battle the beast are not created in the artist’s own image – it is the beast itself that becomes the mirror.

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Horror, too, is one of the most unconsciously cathartic genres in all of fiction. It engages a part of the brain that no one wants to activate in reality – primal instincts of terror, danger, and flight from death – but it does so in a controlled environment where no danger is actually present. Thus, it releases emotion that otherwise would boil and rage unchecked.

So, is it an accident that these queer artists gravitated toward horror? Of course it isn’t a universal trend. It is present enough, though, that I think it deserves recognition. In a community that struggles with self-loathing and self-disgust even today, in our supposedly liberated world, these releases of emotion are necessary. To see a monster on screen or in print and understand its origin, its heart, is to find a piece of one’s self, and give it a name.

A Tribute to Free Love in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW

Posted in Dark Musings, Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, an occasion on which monogamous couples are encouraged to celebrate their union and romance. In many ways it’s a paean to heteronormativity – it’s meant for a man and a woman who are solely bound to each other.

Rather than feed into this, I want to talk about THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW – one of cinema’s purest celebrations of free, uninhibited love and pleasure.

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Most people know of this film as a crazy, hilarious, purposefully bad sendup of 50s sci-fi films and musicals. It’s a midnight classic, still screening around the world with shadow casts and costumed fans who have memorized the lines. But even more remarkable is its depiction of sex and love. There is a Bacchanal sense of madness to the film, and an unabashed queerness, with men dressed as women, people sleeping with the same and opposite sex without qualm, orgiastic pleasure… All hot topics in social culture today. Only Richard O’Brien crafted this show forty years ago, when this was still a dangerous idea.

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RHPS is bold and overt in its dissection of traditional love. We begin with the wedding and proposal, played with grotesque, pure excitement; but it’s not long before we’re sucked into the frenzy of Frank ‘N Furter’s world. This is a character who completely destroys gender boundaries. His fabulous wardrobe, his ever-selfish dominance, and his obsession with Charles Atlas are his own, creating an identity independent from societal constructs. The wedding between Frank and Rocky is a terrific parallel to the opening scene. It would be seen as a perversion of that ceremony if it wasn’t so passionate, so free.

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What follows is a sexual awakening for Brad and Janet, whose sexuality was so clearly repressed. Frank initiates a renaissance for both of them – while they protest at first, they give into the pleasure and realize what they were missing. Janet’s tryst with Rocky is funny, sure, but she also finds her own identity in the act, as bold as Frank’s.

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And (SPOILERS!) the big number, followed by the orgy in the pool, ties it all together. “Don’t dream it, be it” – a hymn to all of those who felt their identities locked away, too ashamed to explore them. Frank might be hedonistic and bizarre, but he is liberated. His liberation carries over to Brad and Janet, too. They find their own happiness in sexual freedom because there is no longer fear. To anyone who has ‘come out,’ that experience is universal.

The ending has always struck me as far more tragic than the bulk of the film would justify. Frank is murdered for living his dream, seen as a perverted lifestyle by his own servants. His final song is heartbreaking in this context. And at that time, this was a reality. Anyone who did not fit into the societal definition of ‘normal’ was targeted for hate and violence. Is it a coincidence that O’Brien, who identifies himself as a third sex, concludes his show in this manner?

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It might end in sadness, but even so, Rocky Horror is wholly liberating. It presents these themes and ideas without batting an eye. So, rather than indulge in films that promote the image of ‘normal’ romance this holiday, I want to celebrate Frank ‘N Further’s message. Allow yourself to find your own identity and embody it to the fullest extent. As opposed to forty years ago, today, there is not nearly as much reason to fear.

Forbidden Tomes: BOOKS OF BLOOD by Clive Barker, an Introduction

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Yesterday, I found something miraculous: a used copy of Clive Barker’s BOOKS OF BLOOD, Vol. 1-3. I’ve been searching for this collection for an unseemly amount of time. And at last, I am able to explore Barker’s infamous world.

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I can’t do a full write-up of the Books of Blood yet because, clearly, I haven’t made it through the whole thing. Barker’s themes and ingenious writing style, however, are apparent from the first page. I hunted for this book for so long because I wanted to see how Barker handles queer theory and ideas within horror fiction. My expectations were met, then surpassed.

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Clive Barker is maybe the first mainstream author to include queer themes in his genre work without dressing them up or disguising them. He openly and brilliantly eviscerates the notions of sinful sex, otherness, and damnation that come along with queer identity. I can’t explain how happy it makes me to find an author who does this, because I still see it so rarely.

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Horror and Gothic are genres that have historically involved queer people – don’t even try to tell me “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” don’t have homoerotic subtexts – but rarely has this been talked about in the open. I believe it’s time to celebrate queer identity in horror. Clive Barker is certainly a way to start.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis of the Books of Blood, as well as the LGBT themes of horror.