Sunday, October 10, 2021

"The Haunting's House" is a sequel, I think. (spoliers)

 I think my mind slipped me a sequel. Let me explain.

The first work Mark and I created for Strongarm Labs was a comic called "The Haunting House". A nice, simple work rendered entirely in scratch board. The premise was two guys (obviously Mark and I to anyone who knew us) explore a reportedly haunted house while discussing the very concept of such a thing. Then, of course, things go south and our heroes get murdered to death. I was eaten by portraits. Mark's fate was left unseen but I promise you it was much, much worse. House, it turned out, was full of entities from haunted structures that had been torn down over the years. The fewer anchors left; the more entities populate the remaining.



Fourteen-years later I'm writing a piece about a haunted house from the perspective of the house. Nowhere in my thoughts or visuals did I picture our original work. 

And yet...and yet...

I'm talking about this then untitled piece to Mark when I start connecting dots. (Which sounds odd saying because I crafted it so I should already know it, right? Yeah. That's not how creativity works sometimes.) The first couple killed by the King could be couple mentioned in "The Haunting House". Both are filled with an array of entities which come from outside, or are drawn to, an existing structure. Both structures garner a lore of tragedy around them. There are differences in details, but what if that's only because our original duo had incomplete information? They could be among the later scattered victims of the King and its knights. Their family members could have watched the King burn. It all fits. 

And why the hell was I unable to come up with a title for this?! That's never a problem for me. This time? This...thing refused to tell me its name. Maybe because it already had one. An old name.

Fine. Have your name then.


The Haunting's House - horror short fiction


It held the land, the house.

It squatted upon a foundation of fieldstone; walls held straight by thick lengths of timber cut from the fresh bodies of trees. Floors, windows, stairs, and rooms crowned like a king with gables of ornate grey slate. And, like a king, it held the land. Nothing grew from the dirt in its cellar. Nothing was kept safe or secret with its doors. Nothing mattered save the house.

But what is a king without servants? How can a king force its will, without a force to will? The house called for knights. Many heard the call.

Shortly afterward, the husband and wife who lived in the house, the young pair who built it from a dream of what their future together might be, died. A tragedy, it was called.     

Time passed.

New people came to the house carrying their boxes and their hopes. The knights watched. The house waited. Until, finally, both stopped watching and waiting. The family left the house in dripping bags of cloth and boxes of wood. A crime, pronounced the shaking heads. The knights danced around pieces that were never found.

Time passed.                                                                                                               

New people came. They placed thin strands of copper within the house’s walls; strands that were married to larger strands coming from the outside. An odd box, strange and heavy, flashed to life. The king and its knights watched the box. It gave the house thoughts that hastened the march of its red knowledge. Such a wise king to see what it saw was very, very old. The house went upon the people slowly now. The name of this new land was “terror”. Terror for the man. Terror for the woman. Terror, first and foremost, for the two small ones. The king burst with generosity, overspilling upon its knights and seeping into the smallest hiding place. It painted the walls with its generosity. This time, many people came to carry away the work. The crowd milled in angry whispers. The knights begged to be released. Their king said no. They obeyed.

Time passed. Memories tinted red resisted fading.

People did not come back.

The king squatted perturbed upon its fieldstone. Something felt wrong. Emptiness was not what it was built for. Eventually, some people did come, but only slowly and in secret. Most spoke low and fearful about IT. The house liked this. Its knights scratched and itched longing to act. The king allowed only the sport of screams. Aim your weapons at their eyes and ears, it declared. Gift me screams. The knights did as commanded fashioning new edges. No blood, said they king. No blood cried the knights. Its kingdom grew from the whispers of those who walked or ran away.

Unless, of course, it was a time for blood.

A stumbling loner. A lost child. A collared animal. For these things, the king unleashed its knights. It was a generous king, after all.  

Time passed. Bloody memories piled like stone.

A person came to the house. The knights pranced and gnashed. The king, IT, the house, watched. Then more people followed the first. They walked through the house speaking of the king’s deeds. Some mulled in and out of rooms opening doors and peering in closets. Some carried in boxes, just like those in the past always did. The king liked the familiar. When they removed the front door, this puzzled the king. When they removed the back door, the puzzlement grew. The king, however, was patient. It squatted, watched, and waited. Large lights were carried inside. Shovels and pry bars were passed from person to person, while collared animals sniffed throughout its halls. The knights hesitated for they had never seen people act in such a way. Floorboards were lifted, too easily. Holes were dug, too deep. A hush followed each bundle carried outside.

They will leave, said the king. More will follow. This is the way of the world. The knights quickly agreed with their king. Faster, thought the king. Yes, they must leave faster so the old can replace the new.

On the second floor, a door suddenly closed into the face of a man. His nose CRACKED. He stumbled to the floor in red surprise. The king, had it a face, smiled. The people, however, brought in axes and splintered the door. And another. And another. A knight pushed a woman down a flight of stairs. Angry cries rose from the people as they scurried her away. A basement window was smashed out. Then more. A sharp command rose above the din. The king turned its attention beyond its walls.

An old man, a young woman, two men with arms entwined, and several others stood shoulder to shoulder facing the house. The king looked at them and they at IT. They SAW the king.

I have seen eyes like those. That one’s nose. That one’s stance. But where? wondered the king. The knights felt their king’s confusion. But lo! Look! The people were leaving. They fled leaving their boxes behind.   

They are people, these people. Candle flickers and nothing more. I was before them. I will be after them. My knights will roam to twist and tear! Drinking in the force in its voice, the knights lifted their own knowing what would come next. 

The king let slip its hold.

The knights screamed red rage as they raced through halls and rooms toward the rabble. Those crawling out through the broken basement windows heard a popping sound from an abandoned box, like the ring of a joint pulled apart.


In name and action burst hungry from its hidden cage, biting for purchase in anything it could find.


Poured out from all the other boxes, smothering floors and climbing walls. The people had seeded the house with flame.

The king slammed open and shut what impotent doors or windows it had left while orange mouths boiled and ate its wooden body. The king cried out while unmoved human eyes watched the marching consumption.

The house felt itself disappearing. Parts were, then weren’t. It was not pain as the eyes knew it, but from being to unbeing.

Its form, its self, melted away without hope of reprieve. Helpless, walls shuddered, free finally to bend and fall. Its crown collapsed. The knights shrieked and cursed as they faded back into the thin shadows they were before they held the anchor of their king. They piled upon each other grasping the shrinking handholds. Their din and ranks fading forever beneath the panicked weight. The house pulled desperately unto itself. The king clutched at its slipping existence trying to remain, to be.

The house, alone, died under the steady gaze of the familiar people.



 Hello, gentle reader. There's more to the story 

Click here - "The Haunting's House" is a sequel, I think.


Monday, July 26, 2021

William Shatner's 90th Birthday Celebration at the Star Trek Set Tour, Ticonderoga NY

July 24th, 2021 found me (yet again) in the parking lot of 112 Montcalm St. It was 7:30 AM. Sunny, but not yet hot from the long absent sun. I stood with my father in line amongst many waiting to check-in. All was right in the world for we were only minutes away from eating a hearty, delicious breakfast at Burlleigh's Luncheonette.

A day of of Trek awaited us.

There's no way Shatner is 90. This man is a machine! A fun, fast, and witty machine!

A day of like-minded humans gathered from near and very far to celebrate the 90th birthday of an actor who so vibrantly, so unknowingly (along with many talented others) helped turn three seasons of corporate television into over 50 yrs of hope and inspiration to millions

Like I said, a typical day of Trek.

And James? WOW! Your crew did a great job. YOU did a fantastic job performing Saturday night! Just wonderful. My post will not do it justice. Gentle reader, allow me to present award winning Elvis impersonator James Crawley, the creator of the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour.

I'm still debating with myself on HOW to present the day. Until I decide, I want to reach out to some people I did not have the chance to swap contact info with before I left dinner.

In no order at all:

1. Unexpected Lowe's Employee who has an amazing custom built Enterprise

2. 90% Shatner guy who has one of those pencil cases

3. Doc Brown hair father with a great laugh

4. Utica woman who sometimes falls asleep binge watching. 

If by some miracle you see this, please drop me a line. You helped make the day that much better. 

Until then...

Be well, gentle readers.



A bit more now. A bit of the tour.

One of the tour guides let my group know that each tour Bill gave was a crapshoot. He went where he felt and relayed whatever he wanted to. The tour guide was quite correct. The above pic from the recreation of the sick bay is bittersweet. Bill was relaying a story that came to mind about when he visited DeForest Kelley and his wife when they were nearing the end of their lives. It was hard to hear, like real-life often is. Bill paused after the telling. What he was thinking, I have no idea. He was lost in his own mind for several seconds. Then he moved us to the next room and carried on. It was a REAL moment. I don't know how else to describe it. 

Eventually, we landed on the bridge. That was pretty cool. He took questions and relayed stories about his work on stage and radio. It was interesting. It explained much of why Trek was not a priority in his life for so many years. Bill described it, if I understood him right, as: I did THIS. Now THIS is over. Time to move onto the next THIS. He used the example of how Paramount BURNED the original set. Then how they BURNED the set from the first Trek movie. Then they BURNED the set from the second movie! Trek was a part of his work, not the sum or goal of his work. It made sense. 

And through it all, Bill gave suggestions (and honestly some outright commands) to help keep the lines moving for the attendees. It was impressive to see him mold the event for the positive. He wasn't merely a celebrity in a chair, and this was definitely not his first rodeo. He signed five-hundred autographs in two hours! During the panel talk at the high school Bill, aged 90, was calling people in the audience out for yawning! It was hilarious. The above pic is a laser-etched copy of our (Strongarm Labs) "To Serve a Prince" story poster tying in classic fairy tale NPC's into the origins of Trek's Red Shirts. Shatner was handed the piece, flipped it over, asked the assistant, "What is this this?" I replied to him it was a story I wrote tied to Trek while dropping a reference to the question I asked him during the panel talk earlier that day. He nodded, smiled, and signed it. Did he read it? Not even close! Not a word passed his eyes!

Oh well....I had to remember he had all these other people to serve. 
Then it was time for lunch at House of Pizza. Yum. 

The lines spanned the length of the parking lot and turned down the street. You can't see the VIP line in this pic. There was a LOT of people. 

III. Afterward. 

The day was my father's first trip to the set tour. He's the reason why Trek is part of me. He watched Trek when it was on the air. He shared the re-runs with me when I was a small child in the 70's. We decided then and there we'd come back on a day NOT filled with lines or Shatner. We'll be back so my Dad can experience the tour as it is supposed to be experienced. He'll be able to take his time. He'll be able to re-live the moments that became examples to me on how to treat other people. He'll be able to enjoy the brief time television time shared his view of future. I can't wait.

Be well, gentle reader. All for now.
Come visit the tour for yourself.


Monday, July 5, 2021

Comic Book Rant Because I'm Old And Think I Know Shit

I happened into a place. It had comics. Lots and lots of 80's and 90's comics with lots and lots of 80's and 90's independent comics. Not even a comic shop, just a store that sells used books and movies. For whatever reason, it also had long boxes teeming with comics. Holy crap that's f'ing cool, am I right? What a find. The money and joy flowed like the swollen rivers of Spring.
One title had an introduction by cover artist Matt Wagner. Yes, that Matt Wagner. Fantastic. He described Bill Widener’s Go-Man as:”...if Jack Kirby’s meth-headed grandson read a whole lot of Marshall McLuhan while an episode of Miami Vice blared away at him from a thirty foot screen.” 


Marshall McLuhan evoked in a comic book introduction? What? How is this possible?! 
Oh yeah, it was 1989. 
Comics were a beast of a different fur back then. The Big Two fought over talent and market share, while the independent ecosystem flourished. No, most independent titles didn’t stay afloat long, but the whirling melange of new titles flashing into existence to fill the voids struggled well to the betterment of the medium. Tim Burton, Mr. Mom, and Wilbur Force assembled to make a little fan flick called "Batman". Verily, foundations were being well set into the Earth. We were two short years from 1991's "X-Men" #1 selling eight million copies. Four years from Vertigo birthing itself in a gas station bathroom stall to the piped music of Tom Waits. And social messages? To think of today’s market as the watermark for diversity is to ignore the life and times of Karen Berger. Ann Nocenti’s "Daredevil" run alone was a college course in cultural affairs. The market was teeming with the rehashed and the startling new. And today? Well, I don’t see it that way. Maybe I am wrong. Am I? 
I desperately hope I am. 

1992 book making fun of speculators who, unironically, almost killed the industry in the 90's. Love. It.

Are YOU learning anything new from comics? Name more than two comics today that do, or could, invoke McLuhan. Where’s Yukio Mishima? Where’s Robert Anton Wilson? Where's Ayn Rand? Where's Anansi? Where’s Joseph Campbell? Where's Charlotte Perkins Gilman? Where's Robert Bly? Where’s Heraclitus? Where are the Grimm Brothers? Where’s Hypatia? Where's Thomas Aquinas? Where's Burroughs? Where's Plath? Where's Ellison? Where’s the Golden Ratio? Where’s Vonnegut? Where’s Waldo? I want the sequential art medium to feed me, challenge me, anger me, and confound me as vibrantly now as it did 30 years ago. Yeah, I am older and far more experienced. I wear the medals of Pain and Miles. I carry the wisdom of scars. Are those any reasons to assume comics can’t be a balm? That the pages of fantasy and the fantastic must fall silent before the slogging parade of years? Hell no!
At least I hope not. 
No. Strike that. Reverse it. I want, not hope, the New Release shelves to shine like a baby star. I want the glistening, bristling creativity of the unexpected. Too much to ask? Okay. Fine. We'll compromise. How about we settle on entertaining. Is that too much to ask of a publishing industry seeking our money and praise and money? To pull us, albeit briefly, away from the pallid gaze of the morning alarm, the monthly bill stack, and the daily rut vampire?
Well, gentle reader, I fear it might be.
Stan Lee exclaimed, "Excelsior!" from any rooftop, bus station, or international media outlet he could climb on before getting caught. I keep my ear to the ground today. The peaks and valleys carry jumbled static. There is no voice rising above the din crying, "Great stories come first!" or "Our goal is to be the best!" In the Maker's name, please correct me if I am wrong. I know examples of quality storytelling exist because when found I throw my time and money at them with thirsty gusto. Unfortunately, they are far and few. I will say none thus far carry the mantle "reboot", "relaunch", "re-imagining", or "revamp". It's been my experience that those words mean 'creativity by committee', which is no creativity at all. 

(Side note: I would give real money to see a Raymond Chandler, crime noir-esque Batman movie. Hello? Hollywood? World's Greatest Detective? Hello?)

Heraclitus observed, "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man." 

McLuhan observed, "Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers." 

Shannon Entropy, as part of Information Theory, observed: The amount of information in a message is the amount of surprise. In other words, if you know what someone is going to say before they say it, then their message contains no information. Consider what this means in our social media age, and how it impacts comics. Oh? You see how that includes many other things? Well, I leave that for YOU to ponder... 

Bill Bryson observed, "My first rule of consumerism is never to buy anything you can't make your children carry." Children can carry LOTS of comics. Just saying.

I want to spend lots of money on comics. I want the comic industry to want to earn my money. It has generations of readers eager to shove greenbacks down their corporate G-strings if they'd give us reason to. We nerds like to spend money! 

There's a reason this meme exists.

Be as topical as you want, but do it with an ear to quality. Try new things while respecting the good that came before. Encourage and foster new talent while giving credit to the talent and concepts that carried you this far. Give us tales to pass down to our children. Hero's Journey? Anyone? That one seems to do well over the, oh, centuries. 

I want new and amazing. I want familiar and true. I want to spend lots of money. 

Well, comics industry? Here's the dangling carrot. 

What say you! 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Spring Sprang Sprung

Winter again yields to the legion it once put to sleep. Life sparks awake in boggling abundance stretching stiff limbs upward to meet the warm sun. Scurrying and scratching things join others who survived ice and empty stomachs. The wheel turns yet again.


Be well. Stay well.