The Playwright

In collaboration with the Biting Dog Press we are pleased to announce the release of The Playwright, a limited edition print by writer Kealan Patrick Burke and xylographer George A. Walker.

This limited edition print was inspired by the novellas The Timmy Quinn Series by Kealan Patrick Burke who won the prestigious Bram Stoker Award in 2004 for Turtle Boy.

THE PLAYWRIGHT is a new hand printed broadsheet written by Kealan Patrick Burke and printed with woodcuts and art by George A. Walker. Published by Biting Dog Press there are only 200 copies of this collectable work. Each broadsheet has been signed by the author and artist. This fine press edition of Kealan’s poem is printed on Arches Velin 100% neutral ph rag paper so that it is archival and will provide years of enjoyment. The whole project was printed on a Vandercook SP15 letterpress with each sheet fed into the press by hand one at a time.

Printing Details

Size: 11” x 15”

Paper: Arches Velin Cream rag paper with deckle edge

Edition size: 200 signed copies

Colors: 5 colours = gold hue, yellow tint, dark gold, orche, black

Mediums: woodcut, letterpress, polymer plate, Royal Barlock typewriter

PRICE: $60.00 each

Kealan’s text was prepared for the press by setting the type on a 1910 Royal Barlock typewriter. The runes were set using a newly designed Irish Runes font that we used to replace the roman letters that the Iliad text was set in. The woodcut was made on a piece of birch faced plywood. All the text was printed from polymer plates made at Boxcar press.

What do the RUNES mean? The runes when translated reveal a quote from Homer’s Iliad. Here’s the quote:

“Come, Friend, you too must die. Why moan about it so? Even Patroclus died, a far, far better man than you. And look, you see how handsome and powerful I am? The son of a great man, the mother who gave me life — A deathless goddess. But even for me, I tell you, Death and the strong force of fate are waiting. There will come a dawn or sunset or high noon when a man will take my life in battle too—flinging a spear perhaps or whipping a deadly arrow off his bow.”

What is the PLAYWRIGHT about?

On the beautiful summer day in which 11-year-old Timmy Quinn encounters an odd boy on the banks of a local pond, his life changes forever. Over the next thirty years, he will be tasked with facilitating the vengeance of murderous revenants, reuniting them with those responsible for their deaths. In the process he becomes aware of the existence of The Stage, a parallel dimension where the dead impatiently await their chance to return and The Curtain, the veil that separates their world from ours.

Throughout the series, Tim battles all manner of creatures in his struggle, not only to survive, but to protect those he loves from being contaminated or killed due to their closeness to him.

Ultimately, Tim discovers that The Stage and The Curtain are only one of myriad realities, and that this one was man-made, accidentally, by The Four, a group of creatives who messed with powers they didn’t truly understand in an effort to fashion a “creative Heaven”. The process condemned one of them—William Godwin, a failed playwright—to The Stage, essentially making him its god. The play he writes “Nemesis”, is Tim’s story (the whole Timmy Quinn series of books, in other words), but whether he created Tim or just documents his life is unclear.

In the end, the only way Tim can save those he loves, and the very world itself, is to sacrifice himself by taking The Playwright’s place and writing the ending himself.

The poem is the voice of the PLAYWRIGHT!

BIOGRAPHIES

Kealan Patrick Burke was born and raised in Dungarvan, Ireland, he is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of five novels (Master of the Moors, Currency of Souls, Kin, The Living, and Nemesis: The Death of Timmy Quinn), over a hundred short stories, four collections (Ravenous Ghosts, The Number 121 to Pennsylvania & Others, Theater Macabre, and The Novellas), and editor of four acclaimed anthologies, Taverns of the Dead, Quietly Now: A Tribute to Charles L. Grant, Brimstone Turnpike, and Tales from the Gorezone, proceeds from which were donated to children’s charity PROTECT.

When not writing, Kealan designs covers for print and digital books through his company Elderlemon Design. To date he has designed covers for books by Richard Laymon, Brian Keene, Scott Nicholson, Bentley Little, William Schoell, and Hugh Howey, to name a few.

In what little free time remains, Kealan is a voracious reader, movie buff, videogamer (Xbox), and road-trip enthusiast.

A movie based on his short story “Peekers” is currently in development through Lionsgate Entertainment.

George A. Walker is a letterpress printer and book artist. He holds an MA in Communication and Culture from Ryerson and York University. He was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) in 2002 in recognition of his achievements in Canadian Book Arts. He is an Associate Professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design University where he teaches book related arts in the Printmaking program. He is the graphic novel acquisitions editor for the Porcupine’s Quill and has six titles in print with them. He is the author of the popular how-to book, The Woodcut Artists’ Handbook (Firefly 2005) now in its second revised edition (Firefly 2010), and he is recognized for his art history book on wordless novels, Graphic Witness (Firefly 2007) which has sold over 16,000 copies and an anthology of his own wordless books titled, Written In Wood (Firefly 2015) Since 1984 his letterpress printed artists’ books have been collected internationally by institutions such as the University of Toronto, Morgan Library and Museum N.Y., Columbia University, N.Y. and Princeton University N.J. and the Victoria and Albert museum in London England.

You can preorder THE PLAYWRIGHT here.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Review

Critical buzz can be a dangerous thing because high expectations are generally made to be quashed. This has happened to me so many times I’ve lost count. The most recent example was the independent horror film It Follows, which, while certainly a way above average example of a fright-flick done on the cheap, left me a little disappointed. Blurbs like “the best horror movie of the decade” are hard to take seriously, and indeed, It Follows, for me, despite doing everything right, did not live up to that claim. Few movies could (though I would argue that The Babadook, a similar critical darling, certainly comes close.)

So with all that in mind, nobody is more surprised than I am to find myself typing these words: Mad Max: Fury Road is far and away the best action movie of the past decade. Nothing even comes close.

mad-max-fury-road-poster1It’s important to say up front that while I have seen all three of the original Mad Max movies, I was never blown away by them. They have since my initial viewing sometime in my teens faded into obscurity, and any desire to revisit them has been tempered by the awareness that they are not likely to have aged well. The trailers alone are a pretty safe indication of that. Critical reevaluation of the trilogy by better minds than mine have only compounded this fear. What was good at the time, may not be so good now. All of which is to say that I don’t consider myself a big fan of the Mad Max films.

But I’m a major fan of Fury Road.

For months I’ve been excited by the trailers, which promised what was seemingly impossible, and in the back of my mind, I fully expected to be disappointed once I saw the film and realized all the best parts were in the trailer.

Not so.

Five minutes into the movie, my hair stood on end and stayed that way until the credits rolled. It’s a film that starts with a bang and rarely relents. My muscles were sore from tensing during the seemingly endless action sequences, every single one of which is delivered with such mind-blowingly chaotic finesse, it’s hard to fathom how they were pulled off, particularly when you learn that 90% of the stunts were done by real people (gymnasts and acrobats) and not a computer. The explosions are real. When a car detonates, deteriorates, and fills the frame with flying debris, while actors weave in and out of the shot on poles, it’s all real and happening in-camera. Your eye doesn’t know where to go; your mind struggles to process the sheer amount of madness happening onscreen, and all of it takes place against a beautifully shot apocalyptic landscape. Cinematographer John Seales (who won an Oscar for his work on The English Patient) deserves serious praise for making this wasteland beautiful. It helps that the world in Fury Road is not your typical bleached out landscape, but a study in contrasts. Just as you get accustomed to the deep reds and vibrant yellows, you’re plunged into moody blues (a brief scene in a swamp with “stilt-walkers” remains one of my favorite and completely unexpected moments from the film.)

So, the action is completely off the wall, relentless, and choreographed in such a way that your jaw will be on the floor. It’s an insane combination of art gallery/rock opera/ballet/circus, and it truly has to be seen to be believed. For me, that would be enough to give Fury Road four out of five stars.Mad-Max-Fury-Road-Charlize-Theron-

It gets a fifth star for delivering something else I didn’t expect: poignancy.

By now you’ve probably heard that some morons out there have decreed that Fury Road tricks men into going to see it, only to subject them to what these fine examples of fuckery have decided (without seeing it) is essentially a femi-nazi propaganda film intended to debase men and celebrate independent women. It emasculates us, these idiots have declared, and forces us to endure what’s ultimately a female-centric action film. We have been duped!

What I didn’t expect and loved was that Fury Road is indeed a female-centric action movie. I know, I know, we’re all fed up of those by now, right? What’s next, Michael Bay doing a remake of Steel Magnolias or The Hours? Puh-leeeaze. Oh wait, those weren’t action movies. Okay then, uh…how about Planet Terror, or…Bad Girls, or…shit, I’m out. Oh, I got one! Alien, Aliens, and…uh, Terminator 2! Those count because they were actually mainstream big budget releases that did well and were critically celebrated and happened to have a strong female character in the almost-lead role.

So, right, you get the point. Stick a woman in a big action movie. Have her not be a complete cardboard character who runs, ducks, screams, and is anything other than a love interest waiting to be rescued by your steroidal action hero, and you instantly get props.

Mad Max: Fury Road goes wayyy further than that. And it does it without trying to direct attention to itself, pandering, or belittling its intended audience. Tom Hardy might get main billing, but there’s absolutely no question that it’s Charlize Theron’s movie. She’s as tough (and at times tougher) than Max. She’s bitter, haunted, vulnerable, and fierce. Her mission to ferry a quintet of slave-women, or “breeders” across the desert and away from their captor does not rely on Max’s assistance. It would have happened without him. In fact, at times he’s the one who depends on her, and is quite possibly the lesser of the two warriors (witness a notable sequence in which, with three bullets left, he shoots at a target and misses twice, only for Theron’s character to prop the rifle on his shoulder and hit the target first time.)

At first, the women being taken to safety appear as Victoria Secret models, scantily clad and washing themselves off with a hose. This is misdirection, the film’s cheeky way of saying “we know how this looks, but just wait.” A few seconds later, Max washes blood off his face, not with water, but with mother’s milk. From there, it becomes clear that the movie is about a world blown to shit and poisoned by men who have taken what they want and declared themselves the inheritors. Women have been reduced to baby-makers, controlled by these monsters. “We are not things!” screams a woman to her enslaver. Later we see one of the “breeders” cut a chastity belt off with a pair of bolt cutters before glaring at Max, the only guy in the scene. The same character, pregnant, bares her belly in defiance from the door of the vehicle being attacked, which confuses every attacker in the scene, all of them male. Throughout the film, women are associated with beauty and strength, the true bearers of the power, while the men are largely single-minded, violent, and mad. It’s a wonderful reversal of how women are generally depicted in these kinds of films. That it’s here, in this film, is even better. The whole world will go to see Mad Max because, yes, it’s an action movie. What you can’t say about it, no matter how the trailer makes it look, is that it’s a mindless one. It’s a lunatic orchestra of everything we go to movies hoping to see. It’s also, astoundingly, a quiet reminder of the things we didn’t know we needed to see, and should already have known.

A few stray observations:

* The guitar-wielding psycho and the drummers atop the truck/amp stack may be my favorite part of any film ever. Those dudes need their own spinoff.

*It was only afterward that I read that the pole-mutants are actually Cirque du Soleil performers. Knowing they did all that insane shit without safety nets/cables only makes the spectacle of what was accomplished during those sequences only more mind-boggling.

*I want a hedgehog car.

*Couldn’t help but think of Duran Duran during the War-Boy’s chant near the beginning of the film.

*Tom Hardy needs to start choosing roles in which he is *not* required to wear a mask.

*A more apt title for the film would have been Mad Maxine. And if rumors are to be believed, the next film will focus even more on Charlize Theron’s character. That to me, is a smart move, and I’ll be there, front and center.

“The Red Light is Blinking”

Focusing on Internet trolls and vengeance, my latest short story “The Red Light is Blinking” is now available to read for free at Nightmare magazine and Dread Central. Alternatively you can download the complete magazine for Kindle at Nightmare magazine or Amazon.com.

And you can read the nonfiction postscript “Random Acts of Silence” on this very blog here.

Random Acts of Silence

One day, when my stepson was ten years old, he arrived home from school in tears. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that some older kids at school had cornered him, mocked him, beat him up, and called him a “fag”. One of them spit into his mouth. Why? Because he wore glasses. In telling me this story, my stepson seemed angry, not so much at the boys who had tormented him, but at himself. He referred to himself as “stupid” and “ugly”. And this is what bullying does: it shatters the confidence of children before they have even had a chance to fully develop it. Being so malleable and emotionally fragile at that age, they believe what they are told by their peers if they hear it often enough. Childhood is a minefield fraught with insecurity and uncertainty. We don’t yet know who we are destined to become, or even how best to get there. Torment we might laugh off in ten years’ time sticks with us, infects us like a cancer, and changes us. And in the most tragic of cases, it can lead to the terrible, panicked decision to take our own lives because it seems like the only escape from the hurt.

bully_project_ver2_xxlgWhen I offered to have a word with my stepson’s teacher, he begged me not to, for fear that it would only make things worse, that he’d be labeled a “snitch” or a “rat” and have to endure the consequent reprisal from his tormentors. So I said nothing, until it happened again, after which I called his teacher and informed her of the situation, but implored her not to let on that I had said anything at all. So she kept an eye on things, caught the bullies in the act and sent them to the principal’s office, where they were dealt punishment deemed appropriate for the situation.

They made them all apologize and shake hands with my stepson.

This is what we’re doing to curb bullying. Forcing them to act like civilized human beings when clearly this is not in their nature. And when a student does the unimaginable and takes his or her life, we’re shocked and for a few weeks or months we’re all about the changes that need to be made. And nothing happens. But it’s not fair to blame the teachers. They have enough to deal with, are underpaid, underappreciated, and in most cases, not trained to deal with such issues. So who do we blame then? The parents? Perhaps, but that’s too easy. A lot of these bullies are perfect angels at home which makes it inconceivable when the bullying is brought to light. Some of the time these children become bullies as a reaction to how they are treated at home. Perhaps there’s physical or mental abuse. How do you not blame the parents in such circumstances? Well, you have to ask yourself how the parents were raised. What did they endure that made them the way they are? And so it goes, around and around and around with fingers being pointed left, right, and center, and while we argue and debate and the media exploits the tragedy for its own ratings, some poor innocent child occupies an early grave.

But suicide is not the only way for children to deal with being bullied.

Some, natural survivors, endure, or fight back, or ignore it entirely, and dedicate themselves to just coming out the other end of the gauntlet with minimal scarring. These are the fortunate ones.

Others decide to take revenge.

An ex-girlfriend of mine once told me about the bullying she and her best friend endured all throughout high school. Labeled “dykes” because of their close friendship, they were, on a daily basis, for years, thrown into lockers, spat at, pelted with ice cubes, and other sundry abuses. On the few occasions in which the teachers intervened, it was to berate them for the same reason the other students did: they were so close and similarly dressed, they were obviously homosexual. It escalated to the point where the two girls, jokingly, began to fantasize about putting rat poison into the food in the cafeteria and killing all the students. Another option they considered was blowing up the school. The fantasy was something they talked about regularly and it served as a form of catharsis. It helped. They never seriously thought about acting on it.

This was twenty years ago. How many school shootings have we seen since then in which it was later revealed that the students were outcasts, or had been bullied? Two decades ago, for my ex-girlfriend and her best friend, there wasn’t a precedent for school massacres, so the mere idea of it was obviously so far-fetched it could never come to fruition. Nor had they been pushed quite to the point where their frustration had made them homicidal. There is a serious precedent for such things now.

The best, if imperfect, solution is counseling and education. Classes for teachers, parents, and students, on how best to cope with bullying can help prepare us for such things. But again, that requires staffing, training, funding, and in the government’s eyes, in this time of economic strife and war, having our children, our hope of a better future, protected in our schools, is a low priority on a very long list.

But for all the bad, there will always be good. There are organizations that do not just exist as billboards, that strive and work tirelessly for change and heightened awareness of this escalating problem. I would direct you to the documentary Bully, which is heartbreaking and important, and the associated organization The Bully Project, to which I donate and continue to support. According to the statistics posted on their site, “over thirteen million American kids will be bullied this year”. That’s a horrifying number, but you know what? There are more of us, and if you can help, you should.

Talk to your sons and daughters about bullying. Be aware of their behavior. The slightest change could indicate a problem. And most importantly: listen.

Our children are our saviors.

Let’s be theirs.

LINKS

If you are a victim of bullying, talk to someone. Being a victim does not make you weak; it makes the bully weak. There is no shame in seeking help. Sooner or later, we all need it, and there is always someone willing to listen. Remember…there are more of us than them.

http://www.stopbullying.gov

http://www.pacer.org/bullying/

http://www.championsagainstbullying.com/

Announcing DIGITAL 50

Q. What is Digital 50?

Digital 50 is a subscription based sales model which allows you, the reader access to every digital book I publish for the next ten years, or fifty books, whichever happens first.

Q. What makes this different from just buying them outright?

You can of course buy them as they’re released but Digital 50 allows you access to those books weeks, sometimes months in advance of the official publication date. And with the upfront fee, you’re getting a massive discount. My books are generally priced between $2.99 and $4.99. Spread that over multiple titles for ten years and you’re getting the books for practically nothing, delivered to you by the author in whichever digital format you prefer.

Q. Are there any other incentives?

Oh yes. Every subscriber will also receive an original short story which will be written just for them, and which will be signed by the author. You will also get access to story notes and “behind the scenes” material for some books which will not be in the official releases.

Q. How much does it cost?

As the name suggests, it costs $50.00. This not only covers the book subscription, but also compensates for the time it will take me to write original short stories for the subscribers. And considering I rarely write new stories for less than professional rates (5 – 10 cents a word), that too is a bargain!

Q. How do you pay?

Payment is via Paypal to elderlemon2010 (at) aol dot com

Q. When does my subscription begin?

Upon the release of my next book, which is scheduled for this summer. Subscribers will of course be the first to receive it.

Q. What if I want to cancel?

You can cancel at any time by sending an email to the above address.

Q. Will I get a refund?

You will be refunded your subscription fee minus the retail cost of any books you’ve already received. However, if you’ve already received your signed short story manuscript, no refund will be possible, as that will be considered payment for the story.

Q. When should I expect my short story?

Short stories take time, and depending on the amount of subscribers, it could take anywhere from one month to six. However you can check on the status of your story at any time by dropping me an email at the above address.

Q. What’s the next step?

Simply Paypal your subscription fee to me at elderlemon2010 (at) aol dot com, and then drop me an email to the same address with your name, the format in which you’d like your digital books delivered, and a mailing address to which I can send your short story manuscript. You will receive a confirmation from me shortly thereafter.

Alternatively, you can include the above information directly through your Paypal purchase.

Q. I have other questions not addressed here. Can I email you for clarification?

Absolutely. Just use the above email and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Q. I don’t read digital. Will you be offering a “Print 50″ anytime soon?

That may indeed be a future endeavor, but as the print releases tend to be a lot slower and the cost a lot higher, it will take some time to figure out.

25 Short Horror Movies

While the majority of these are predictable and rather uninspired, relying too heavily on jump scares, gotcha moments, and J-horror-style entities, a couple of them are pretty good (though naturally my ego demands I omit the adaptation of my own “Peekers” from any of these accusations  Grin.)

If you want to skip through the dodgy ones, my recommendations are:

“He Took His Skin Off for Me”, “The Little Witch”, “Alma” (which is like Pixar on crack), “The Black Hole”, “The Whistler”, “Endless”, “Red Balloon”, and “Doppelganger”.

http://www.scoopwhoop.com/inothernews/short-horror-films/

Enjoy!

Upcoming Work: 2015

Thought I’d post an update for those curious about what’s coming down the pike from me this year. Obviously this is assuming there are no delays, life-altering disasters, or collapsing publishers, but as of now this is how things stand…

NOVELS
Night Falls on Memory Lane
Kin 2

NOVELLAS
The Landlords

SHORT STORIES
“The End of Us” — Better Weird: A Tribute to David B. Silva, Cemetery Dance Publicationsbetter weird
“I’m Not There” — Library of the Dead
“Stalled” — Shocklines: New Voices in Terror
“The Land of Sunshine” – Dark Screams Volume Five
“What Did You Do To Them, Mr. Donovan?” – Unannounced Anthology
“Untitled Round Robin Story with Ray Garton, Brian Freeman, Bev Vincent, and Richard Chizmar” – Cemetery Dance Publications
“Hoarder” – Blurring the Line
“Home” – Unannounced Anthology
“Down Here With Us” – The Lost Citadel
“Verdigris” – I Am the Abyss

COLLECTIONS
Milestone: The Collected Stories (print edition)

ESSAYS
“Dancing with Mr. Death” – October Dreams 2chizmar18

FILM
“How the Night Receives Them” (short) – Details TBA
“Let Me Go” (original short) – Details TBA
“Peekers” – Feature Film, Lionsgate Entertainment, Release Date TBA

OTHER
“The Playwright” – Broadside Limited Release from Biting Dog Press

As always, I’ll update as more news becomes available…