Monday, April 9, 2012

New Stephen King Novel: JOYLAND

Stephen King is a busy man: hot off the heels of 11/22/63, the Kennedy Assassination time-travel epic that became his biggest hit in decades, the Constant Writer revisits the world of Roland Deschain, the last Gunglinger.

THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE revisits our ka-tet on the Path of the Beam and is set between the events of WIZARD AND GLASS and WOLVES OF THE CALLA. A tale within a tale within a tale, WIND will likely offer little new insight into the nature of the Tower, but will be a treat for long-time readers who miss Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy--arguably King's most compelling cast of characters.

THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE lands April 24 in every format under the sun, including good, old-fashioned print. For now, here's a ten minute audio excerpt.

King has long joked about bringing Danny Torrance back one day, saying that he always imagined Danny eventually running into Charlie from FIRESTARTER. They'd go on an adventure, fall in love, and have two or three horrifically dangerous children...

DOCTOR SLEEP, the sequel to THE SHINING, will be released some time next year, but don't expect any tongue-in-cheek FIRESTARTER crossover: DOCTOR SLEEP promises to be, in King's own words, "balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on horror."

I'm sorry that Stankey Kubrick isn't around to direct the fanbase-infuriating-yet-ultimately-brilliant film adaptation. And with luck, Mick Garris and King himself will steer clear of the inevitable movie version. The last time those two went near the Overlook... not too pretty.

The ink is still wet on this one:

In a Sunday Times interview conducted by Neil Gaiman, King mentioned his newest project, an amusement-park serial-killer novel titled JOYLAND.

No word if it takes place in the actual Joyland, an abandoned amusement park in Wichita, Kansas:

No word on pretty much anything else, though I suspect it won't be long before King is dropping hints. Meantime, we're left to wonder: is JOYLAND the Richard Bachman (and Richard Stark-like) crime novel King teased on the 11/22/63 tour, or is it an entirely separate work?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bev Vincent and the Hidden Secrets of the Universe

I first encountered Bev Vincent about thirteen years ago. I'd gotten a hold of some photocopied screenplays of unproduced Stephen King films and, like all opportunistic nerds in 1998, I decided to make copies and sell them on eBay. Bev bought one, and I very idiotically asked her if she wanted photocopies of THE PLANT.

No, thanks, she said. I have the real thing. That may not be verbatim, but there it was. She proceeded to school my ass in the finer points of why offering to sell photocopies of a Stephen King novel was not a good idea.

I got her check, saw her name and that of her wife, and thought, awesome, a lesbian doctor.

Five or six years later--long after I learned that Bev was, in fact, a man, and that the possibility didn't cross my mind because I was raised in a semi-literate redneck hell in which men named Bev could never be permitted to exist--my wife and I got the bright idea to start a small press.

(You probably know the story. If not, follow that link once I'm done blowing your mind.)

Anyhow--we decided that an anthology would be the first venture of the newly-formed Creeping Hemlock Press, the evocatively titled Corpse Blossoms. By that point, we'd become friendly with Bev, so he was one of the first people we invited to submit a story, and he was the very first to deliver. It's a damned fine story, and we bought it.

A year later, Corpse Blossoms was compiled and awaiting its trip to the printer, and we were homeless, thanks to Hurricane Katrina. In a hellishly slow nineteen hour drive, we evacuated to Houston, where Bev visited us at our hotel and treated us to a lovely meal. We were harried and in shock, but it was a wonderful experience--Bev is (or appears to be) a very sweet and kind human being, and meeting with him made us feel as if we were actually a part of this strange little community.

We stayed in touch via the magic of the internet, and I next saw Bev four years later, in Atlanta, at a Stephen King public appearance in support of Under the Dome. Once again, I was a mess, this time because I was on the tail end of a nasty bout of swine flu. My motel was farther from the event than I'd thought, and I foolishly chose to walk instead of catch a cab. I arrived sheathed in sweat and bubbling snot, but I managed to not get anyone sick. Bev inscribed my copy of The Stephen King Illustrated Companion (For that bastard Ronnie), and we had a great old time.

Take my hand and move forward with me now, and this will all start to make horrific sense. WORLD HORROR 2011 in Austin, Creeping Hemlock's first major convention appearance. We launched our awesome new zombie imprint there, Print Is Dead, and an even greater time was had. Bev was there, serving as Guest of Honor Liaison, and we were very happy to see him again.

And again. And again.

See, every time I turned around, it seemed like Bev was there, sitting in a chair wearing one of his trademark loud shirts, his laptop perched upon his knees. The dude gets around. He's in great shape. He's a ball of energy.

It wasn't until near the end of the con that I learned about the room with the free coffee and donuts. This was late in the day on Saturday. Friday night had been intense, and I needed coffee. Bev was there, perhaps getting coffee himself. I half-joked that he was everywhere and that a thinny (those strange portals between worlds in King's DARK TOWER novels) must surely be involved.

Bev laughed, and something about the look in his eyes chilled my heart and made the flesh of my scrotum tighten.

I got my donut and coffee, left the room with Bev in it, walked down the hall--it was a long walk--and got to the elevator. Rode it down to the lobby, stepped out...

Walking toward me? Bev Vincent. Not possible, but there he was.

He gave me a wicked, knowing smile, and I felt the world shift beneath my feet. Everything clicked into place: the nineteen hour drive that led me to my first meeting with Bev; the Captain Trips-like flu that plagued me prior to my second meeting with him.

And now this. Whether by accident or by some strange design, the purpose of which has not yet been made clear, I was afforded a glimpse past the veil of this reality and into the greater truth beyond--that of the Tower.

What is Bev Vincent? He is not human--that much is clear. I saw him several times more before the convention ended. We stood outside of a packed party and talked Planet of the Apes while Peter Straub shuffled by with a drink in his hand and Nick Mamatas threatened to kick someone out for being a loudmouth asshole. Bev came to our table and talked shop. And through it all, there was an awareness, an unspoken acknowledgement.

I saw him sitting in the lobby on that final day, his laptop once more placed atop his knees, which now seemed knobby and to quiver, the cloth of his pants holding back some impossible insect anatomy, the patterns on his shirt shifting, ever so slightly, his glasses doubling and trebling his eyes until I found myself blinking away the lidless alien leer of a spider.

One can only withhold the truth for so long, and I am no longer strong enough to do so. Nor do I care that people will think me mad. I need the nightmares to stop. I need to stop looking up at the clock every single day just in time to see it click over to 9:19.

I need to stop seeing Bev Vincent every time I close my eyes.

I probably won't survive the day. As soon as this goes live, I expect the agents of the Crimson King, led by his chief emissary in this When--Mr. Bev Vincent, who is not a lesbian doctor--to congregate at my house and unravel my mind.

Which is a shame, because I was hoping in my next entry to reveal another cosmic truth I learned at WHC 2011: every time you look at John Skipp, no matter how often, he is climaxing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

DR. SLEEP: Stephen King Shines On

For years, King talked about writing a sequel to 'SALEM'S LOT, his second published novel. Details were sketchy, and he was never very clear on what this follow-up would entail. There was talk, however briefly, about some kind of shared world sequel to LOT-- he'd write one, but other authors would get a chance to, as well. (As I recall, he specifically mentioned his wife Tabitha and Clive Barker.)

Eventually we got a 'SALEM'S LOT sequel of sorts, in the form of DARK TOWER V: WOLVES OF THE CALLA, in which Father Callahan's exploits following his trip to the Greyhound station are explored in great detail.

King allows his books to overlap quite often, but with the exception of the DARK TOWER and THE TALISMAN, he's never really been a sequel kind of guy... until now.

As we near the release of his JFK/time travel epic, 11/22/63, King is working on DR. SLEEP, a sequel to THE SHINING--his third published novel and perhaps his most well-known and iconic work (thanks as much to Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick as to the novel, if not more so).

He first broached the DR. SLEEP subject while touring to promote UNDER THE DOME. The novel would, he said, follow forty-year-old Danny Torrance, now an orderly at a hospice, surrounded by death and still dealing with the scars he obtained during his stay at the Overlook. In addition to using his powers at the horse track, Danny secretly helps the terminally ill at the hospice to peacefully pass on to the other side.

King seemed excited about the idea and was eager to share, but quickly warned that he should probably stop talking about it, as it would hurt its chances of becoming a reality. “It’s a great idea," he told Entertainment Weekly in November of 2009. "And I just can’t seem to get down to it... People shouldn’t hold their breath."

Not long after, there was a poll at King's official site, asking which book Constant Readers wanted more --DR. SLEEP or THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE (a DARK TOWER novel that takes places between Books IV and V).

DR. SLEEP won by 49 votes, but the call of the Tower was stronger: King wrote THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE and DR. SLEEP seemed to have gone away for a while...

...until King read from it three days ago at The Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where he was given the 2011 Mason Award. The selection he read deals with "The Tribe," a group of psychic vampires who travel the highways and byways of America in mobile homes.

One can assume that Danny Torrance will encounter these creatures at some point.

I'm of two minds: excited and cautious. THE SHINING has nearly thirty-five years of cultural saturation under its belt. For many readers, it's an old friend. Even if DR. SLEEP is a technically better novel (it's possible--when he's on, King is a better writer today than he ever was), it will come as a disappointment to most.

Then there's the issue of which King is writing this novel--the serious, focused King who wrote BAG OF BONES, LISEY'S STORY, and DUMA KEY--or the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink goofball behind DESPERATION and UNDER THE DOME.

I'm there either way, of course. Such is the life of a Constant Reader...

(Aside: THE SHINING, as you may know, is dedicated to "Joe Hill King, who shines on." Going back to the concept of someone else writing a sequel to a King novel, can you imagine a SHINING sequel penned by Joe Hill?)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Zombie Talk

Zombie Talk interviews the producer of the upcoming UK-based remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Friday, June 17, 2011


In terms of quality, they're pretty much the same movie. Green Lantern is not as bad as it could have been. It's not Jonah Hex or Catwoman or Batman and Robin. It doesn't inspire outright disgust or confusion, merely indifference. Thor's few shining moments outnumber those of Green Lantern, though not by much, and the end result is pretty much the same: a shrug and a meh, and in two weeks I will have forgotten I've seen it.

Most importantly, I have no desire to see Green Lantern a second time. In that regard, DC has succeeded in catching up to Marvel Studios--their movies (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor) haven't been worth a second look, either.

This isn't a cohesive review, so much as a random collection of observations:

Why is the planet Oa so drab and ugly? So damned dingy and dark? It's lazy, uninspired production design, to be sure, but I wonder if it's not intentional--there's a lot of compositing in this movie, and if you're on a tight budget, you can hide your seams much easier in darkest night than you can in brightest day. Whatever the case, the end result is ugly and without even a shred of awe.

The movie's internal logic is peppered with holes, the worst of which can be found in the handling of the Guardians and Sinestro.

Parallax is pretty much doom incarnate, but he's also the Guardians' dirty little secret. There are thousands of members of the Green Lantern Corps, and yet only one of them knows about Parallax. Before the movie starts, Parallax is defeated and imprisoned, and no one is placed to guard the most dangerous force in the galaxy. He's just sitting there, waiting for anyone to free him with a yellow drop of fear.

When they learn of his return, how do the Guardians respond? By authorizing Sinestro to take nine or ten Corps members to face him. Again, there are thousands of Corps members, and they send fewer than a dozen?

The Guardians suck.

Logic says that you send the whole damned Corps to face the Ultimate Evil, but the climax reveals Parallax to be such an easy-to-lick punk that the entire Corps could obviously have taken him--no sweat. Or maybe they'd all have died like most of Sinestro's small crew. So what? They serve no purpose, anyway, other than to stand around and make Star Wars cantina creature noises and sell toys, so why not wipe out the entire Corps and have Hal Jordan's victory at the end actually mean something? Make your sucky villain look formidable, end the movie with Jordan rebuilding the Corps, and avoid a ludicrous lapse in logic that undermines the whole shaky mess.

Sinestro: ah, Sinestro. A Marvel guy, I haven't read many books featuring Sinestro, but I grew up watching the Superfriends, so I got a nerd chill when he put on the yellow ring, but here's the problem: nothing about this Sinestro says that he'd ever put that ring on. (Nothing but his damned name, of course.) Yeah, he pushes to forge a yellow ring, far too late the the game (he should have been pushing for this from the start), but he is proven wrong by Hal Jordan, and not once are we given any reason to believe he was actually tempted by the yellow power of fear.

He puts that ring on at the end simply because he does so in the comics, and not because any logic inherent in this particular storyline dictates that he do so.

And why is no one guarding the yellow ring? The Guardians need to be overthrown and executed in the murky streets of Oa because they're clearly all suffering from immortality-induced dementia.

Good things to say? Sure--the make-up FX are spectacular. Not just okay, but absolutely stellar. I saw no names that I recognized in the credits, but whomever is responsible for the practical make-up work on Sinestro, Abin Sur, and Hector Hammond's bulgy head deserves an Oscar. It's as good as it gets. (Unlike the CGI, which is hit-and-miss, as it always is in FX-driven flicks with ambitions larger than their FX budgets.)

Sinestro, again: flawed logic aside, he's the coolest thing in the movie. He doesn't have much to do, but he looks and sounds cool and I wanted more, and that's saying something, because he's a pink-skinned alien named Sinestro, and I'm not a twelve-year-old boy living in 1963. Mark Strong does a great job, and I'll allow myself to fantasize that someone with actual skill will write the sequel and we'll get a good movie about a green guy fighting a yellow guy.

My hometown, New Orleans, must be one of the most recognizable places on the planet. In Green Lantern, the city that care forget is digitally manipulated and expanded, but there's just no mistaking the suburban shots, the coastal scenes, and even the sky. I love my city, and it was nice to see it on screen. If this movie did one thing right, putting the talented folks down here to work was it.

Green Lantern gets one thing right that Thor didn't, I guess--it's talisman. In the comics, Green Lantern, Thor, and Captain Marvel are all cut from similar cloth. As object/magic-based heroes, they serve as the ultimate childhood fantasy: find some special item, get powers. In the original Thor comics, Donald Blake discovered Thor's hammer and, being worthy, became Thor, just as Billy Batson became Captain Marvel ("Shazam!"). Thor's hammer even has it's own magic words:

Whosoever Holds This
Hammer, If He Be Worthy,
Shall Possess The Power

Odin utters this line in the movie, after stripping Thor of his power, but why? The hammer gets lodged in a rock, all Excalibur-like, but Thor never retrieves it. His daddy eventually summons it and sends it to him, the whole lodged-in-rock sequence serves no purpose (unless you count facilitating yet another Stan Lee cameo), and the words on the hammer are just an empty nod to fandom.

I hold out little hope for Captain America. Yes, the trailers promise the Raiders-esque WWII-era Cap film comic readers have longed for, but this is Joe Johnston. He's a competent technician at best, sort of the cinematic equivalent of a good sessions drummer. If Kenneth Branagh can't get a Marvel movie right, I'm not sure the director of Jurassic Park 3 and The Wolfman can.

The point of all this?

Go see X-Men: First Class, of course.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kirkman Talks Season Two

Here's a pretty nifty interview with Robert Kirkman, in which he reveals that Hershel's farm will come into play. The Rick/Shane drama will also continue. My suspicion is that they will make it last until mid-season, by which point Carl will have gotten in some gun practice and, well, y'know...