Tuesday, March 04, 2008

To Be Subjected to Crap, Or Not...That Is the Question

Or maybe the question is whether it's better to read and watch t.v. at all, or to suffer the slings of cultural isolation and be spared so much suckitude.

Books first. Dark Delicacies: Orginal Tales of Terror and the Macabre By the World's Greatest Horror Writers is something no one should read, at least not if the intention is either a.) to read something scary or b.) read something well written. It was terrifying in ways I'm sure the editors, Del Howison and Jeff Gelb, didn't intend. Self-serving. Poorly written. Not a particularly cohesive selection of stories unless they were meant to be self-serving and poorly written. I could add immature and without much in the way of original ideas, but those feed point a.) and b.). I feel that way about Dark Delicacies despite selections by Ray Bradbury, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley and some other notables. There's just nothing memorable in this book, and I can say that having read Clive Barker's "Haeckel's Tale" not just in this collection, but another. At least it was memorable enough that I realized I shouldn't be reading it twice.

Eclipse One, on the other eyeball, has been very enjoyable. Not every story is good, but the book starts with the startling in Andy Duncan's "Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse", where a young girl challenges a priest's beliefs by worshiping a frizzled chicken as Jesus Christ, and progresses into some inspired story telling, particularly Peter S. Beagle's "The Last and Only or, Mr. Moscowitz Becomes French". I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but Beagle does a superb job of taking a premise and really building on it, and going beyond where you think he's going. Johnathan Strahan, the editor, clearly has an order in mind as he moves from this strangely psychological tale on a national level, to Maureen F. McHugh's "The Lost Boy: A Reporter at Large" which focuses on dissociation at a personal, PTSD level, to Jeffrey Ford's "The Drowned Life", which although not particularly solid on its own, fits into that troika by merging the psyche with the fantastic. Which positions Strahan to segue into three tales that take place more within the realm of magic and fantasy, one involving a pointy-hat wearing bigfoot who seduces Maury Povich.

While biking, I've been streaming Netflix, and I have similarly been presented with two ends of the spectrum. In a reverse of above, Dexter (not to be confused with Dexter's Laboratory), about a crime solving serial killer has been incredibly enjoyable. Part CSI, part soap opera, part slasher flick, the interplay between Dexter and the other - unseen - major character is engaging, despite how disturbing it should be. Dexter's attempt to interact with all the people who should be his friends and family and are opaque to him is a nice foil to how he interacts with someone who's just like him. My favorite quote so far was in the episode after his girlfriend dressed up like Lara Croft, "She wants something from me. Ever since the blowjob she assumes we've taken it to the next level. She doesn't know I don't have a next level." But in his own way, Dexter does, and he finds a very peculiar source of relationship advice.

My enjoyment of Dexter is an inverse of my opinion of the canceled series Surface. A semi-rip off of War With the Newts would seem a perfect fit for my SciFi channel tastes, but there are issues I couldn't get beyond. I list them, because it's more effort than Surface is worth to put ceremony around them.
  • The critters are supposed to be big - in the neighborhood of 200' - but they show one of them swallowing a very large motorized boat. I don't believe a creature, even one two and a half times the size of a Blue Whale, could swallow a deep sea fishing boat without choking. And what about the passenger plane they knock out of the sky? I thought their electrical range was 2 miles? But they clearly state the plane is at 24,000 feet, and when it crashes into the ocean, it's a sliver of the size of one of the monsters. Nice one.
  • I do not believe you could lower your homemade submersible to over 4500' feet without it leaking profusely and you drowning.
  • Just because you have a Doctor of Oceanography does not make you an engineer, certainly not an engineer that can turn a rusty oil tank into a bathysphere ala Junkyard Wars.
  • Hiding the face of the primary "bad guy" isn't suspenseful, it's just sloppy writing, and I can experience that level of suspense at any time by watching reruns of Charlie's Angels.
  • While I applaud any excuse a pretty girl might come up with to strip down to her bra and panties, I fail to see how doing so and rubbing chainsaw grease all over oneself is in any way preparation for swimming what looks to be two miles across a cold bay.
  • Rich kids who are more concerned about their monster pets than the lives of others are assholes. We have insensitive people like you in Minnesota, you dick. They're why we have water milfoil in all our lakes.
  • If you're going to have a big map showing all the spots there have been monster sightings, you shouldn't be missing some that have already been in the story arc.
  • Do not hire the guy who does the faux-suspense voice overs on movie trailers to be your top-of-the-show recap voice. I frequently wanted to turn off the episode before it had even started. "A boy...his monster...hidden in mystery..."
  • If there are thousands and thousands of monsters and baby monsters in the ocean, and they're all swimming up to power lines and bays and docks and laying eggs, and any idiot teen in a row boat can find a seaful of eggs, and any oceanographer with a few hours can actually tag a 200' specimen with a GPS - how difficult is it for a scientist to find one?
  • Why would a famous and supposedly dead archaeologist/naturalist - maybe he's a cryptozoologist, have a personal effects room at his university library that doesn't have books about archeology and naturalism, but instead has hundreds of copies of Westlaw Reporters?
  • If a teen was given juve and made to do roadside cleanup with a cleanup crew of other teens, and his hot sister showed up, would juve delinquents really pay absolutely no attention to her, focusing instead upon their trash-picking duties?
  • I don't care if you are 200' long and eat boats - I'm pretty sure you can't swim 160 miles per hour...in lava. And if you can swim 160 miles per hour, why do you swim so damn slow when you're near an oil rig?
  • If your monstrous skin is laser-proof, why isn't it spear gun or gps-tagging proof?
  • If a trawler is in a bad storm, the trawler should bounce up and down a bit.
  • Your heroes shouldn't leave their children for extended lengths of time. They don't really seem like heroes at that point, even if they are right about the monsters.
  • Don't throw Pakuni in your show unless you build some sort of context around their presence. You may be planning to use them in a later episode, but hey...your series might be canceled because no one watches your show, because you didn't care enough about your writing to give anything a fucking context.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dark Delicacies pissed me off, too. I'm a huge horror fan (and aspiring writer of it) and to see stuff like this pawned off as "scary" and "well written" made me want to start throwing kittens into traffic.