Kill the (FB) Messenger

 

 

Last night, out of the blue, my phone made a sound like someone punching a squirrel full of nickels in the stomach. This is the notification tone for Facebook Messenger, better known as that app the powers-that-be insisted you get even though there was no need for it (what was wrong with getting messages IN Facebook?), and which for some inexplicable reason makes it appear as if you’re always online, even—especially, it sometimes seems—if you’re not. Whether I’m asleep, underwater, or dead, Messenger cares not a whit. I’M HERE, it proclaims, ALWAYS! And when people see that toxic-waste-colored M&M next to your name telling them you’re desperately in need of attention, they do the natural thing and send you a message.

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“Pour your spirit milk on my soul-flakes, author man.”

Sometimes, this is a very cool thing indeed. Through Messenger. I have reconnected with people I haven’t spoken to in years, made some new friends, and even conducted some pretty cool book-related beeswax.

Mostly, I fucking hate it with the fiery passion of a dozen dirty football helmets full of sunspots.

Why? Because 26% of the people who use it to contact me are people I don’t know or want to hear from, people who, despite never having said a word to me over the past thousand years, decide on a (usually drunken) whim to reach out and touch somebody. And unfortunately, the somebody getting touched is me and I’m sitting there pants-less with my baby balloons swinging in the wind.

Take last night for example. I’m watching the series finale of Frasier and getting a little misty-eyed in the process. The dog is curled up at my feet and trying her unconscious best to smoke me out of the room with Pedigree Chum-scented mustard gas, when I get the familiar beating-on-a-money-squirrel tone. Curious as to who might be trying to initiate a convo at 11.55 p.m., I pick up the phone and check the app. I don’t recognize the name, which I shall protect for his sake. Let’s call him C.D. Montelban. What’s confusing is that I seem to have wandered into the middle of a conversation he’s having with himself. It goes thusly:

Hey bud.

Did you move here?

I know you. It’s cool.

My parents are from Brazil, but only my sister knows.

Reading your book. Is it good? How did you write it, or no?

Cool, yo.

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“Wut?”

I stare at the phone for about five minutes, my finger hovering over the reply button, if only to ask Montelban what in the gastronomical fuck he’s waffling on about, when another burst of messages barfs onto my screen:

Sorry about that.

Went to Ireland once.

Are you from there?

Yeah. You are.

I’m not from there.

I remember.

You like clowns, or nah?

Cool, yo.

Another problem with Messenger, aside from it lying to everyone and telling them you want to hear from them during sex, is the shitty little check-mark that pops up to show the other person you’ve seen their message. I can smell your perfume, Clarice, that check mark says, and all it really does is get the other person’s hopes up that you’ll reply, and make you feel like a shitpigeon because you have no intention of it. It’s like when your well-meaning relatives try to set you up with someone they think is perfect for you and she has no head, so you run away screaming like Kermit the Frog and nobody ever mentions it again.

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It’s a situation best avoided, but Messenger robs you of the wonderful basic human right to ignore people by making them aware in real-time that you’re reading their words. I picture them on the opposite side of the screen wearing pajamas made of cats and colanders on their heads, going “A-HA! YOU’RE THERE!” And once that cat’s out of the bag, it’s hard to not be.

Which leaves you two options, neither of which are always very appealing. You can reply and do your best to muddle your way through a conversation you don’t really want to be having, like “Why doesn’t your penis work anymore?” or “Whose skin is this?” and just tap out after a while knowing you played along for the sake of the other person’s feelings, or, you can delete the message and pretend it didn’t happen. The problem with this last option is that it’s the same as ignoring them. You’re just committing to NEVER respond to that person and that’s harsh. It’s also though, completely understandable. Life is fraught with awkward moments you’d rather—and often, cannot—avoid. Why then should a frigging smartphone app keep making it worse? If I don’t want to talk to someone, I shouldn’t have to..

And I know, I know, I’m avoiding the question: “If you don’t want to talk to this person, why have them on your Facebook in the first place?”

I accept friend requests all the time from people I don’t know unless we have less than thirty mutual friends in common, which is the requisite number of cohorts you need to have to convince me you’re not some Bolivian gangster who sells coked-up killer penguins from the back of an army truck. It’s not a foolproof method. Sometimes these people rack up writer friends and then spam the hell out of us all. Other times, they’re just really, really good frauds. Most often, they’re either fellow writers or readers. But I still don’t know them very well. Thus, when one of them decides to message me near-midnight with some kind of bizarre David Lynch-like soliloquy, I can hardly be blamed for finding it unexpected and unwelcome.

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“For all the me serious, man-friend, I am the legit.”

And yes, yes, I’m aware that you can tap a button and turn the whole thing off so you actually are offline, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the app. Plus, I frequently forget that, operating on the naïve assumption that if the app is closed, so too is my availability. Besides, I want people to know I’m online so they can contact me. I just want the people I want to contact me to be the only ones who do. Capisce? And I also know you can mess with it and filter preferred contacts into groups and yadda, yadda. That’s too much work and there’s too much of a risk that you’ll leave somebody out, or worse, leave somebody in and then it all gets very messy.

Besides, it’s not that I don’t want to talk to them.

It’s just that I don’t want them to talk to me.

Because if I wanted to get in touch, I would do it the right way and Facebook fucking Messenger them at 11.57 p.m. when they least expect it.

Cool, yo.

 

 

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Cinema Paradouche-o (or How to Behave in the Movie Theater)

So I’ve been to the movies twice this week (to see IT and MOTHER!, both of which were excellent), but both occasions were marred by the behavior of other people in the theater. Now I’ve bitched about this before, but not often, because such instances weren’t all that common. This no longer seems to be the case. I’m absolutely expecting some of you to defend disruptive behavior in movie theaters because, well, someone always does, and that’s pretty much where we are as a society now.

“People should be allowed to check their phones during a movie.”

No, they really shouldn’t. That’s why there’s a giant notice to that effect on the screen before every movie. I’m not paying $20 to see a movie I’ve been looking forward to for an age just so I can be forced against my will to have my attention drawn to your phone because your bae wants to know where the bong is or because your child exploded in Target.

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“I don’t care that you’re at the movie theater. Billy’s like, spread across three aisles!”

 

During IT, the woman sitting right next to me had some weird, blinding stroboscopic light on her phone that went off every ten minutes until she eventually left the theater an hour into the movie to take a call.

During MOTHER!, the woman (note, I didn’t say teen, because she was at least in her forties) seated right in front of me spent the entire running time of the movie scrolling through Facebook. Which meant that while I’m looking at the movie screen, I have this glowing white oblong of light right underneath it.

Solution? If you absolutely have to be on your phone during a movie, turn the brightness down. Way, way down.

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Like, this much.

Back to IT: when the flash-phone lady wasn’t guiding ships through the fog with her fucking Samsung, she was talking loudly with her boyfriend. Now, it’s important to note that I’m not someone who complains often, and never in public. I don’t even send my food back if they mess it up at a restaurant.

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“I ordered the onion rings, but whatevs.”

But this couple were so loud and so distracting, that I eventually asked them–politely–to keep it down. And they did, but not without the boyfriend glaring at me for the rest of the movie as if I’d asked him if his balls had a strobe light too.

During MOTHER! the women seated next to Facebook-phone lady decided to MST3K the movie about 30 mins in, right about the point they realized it wasn’t a jump scare movie. When they weren’t doing this, they were standing up and blocking the screen so that they could discuss what food everyone wanted from the concession stand.

And still, STILL there are people who defend this behavior, and as a result it’s now a pleasant surprise when a movie ISN’T disrupted by some scuttlefart with a cell addiction.

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“What did you say about, Billy? Sorry, hun, there’s a bunch of quiet people being rude to me.”

It’s not about the variety of reasons you ABSOLUTELY OMG HAVE to have your cell phone with you (babysitters, relatives in need, 7 days since you watched that weird videotape in the cabin), rather it is, like so many of the issues affecting us today, about nothing more than common courtesy.

And we appear to be running low.

Turn off your phone, turn off your mouth, or stay at home. You have a wealth of entertainment options at your fingertips. There is no longer any excuse for you to ruin mine.

EDIT: A lot of you are suggesting weekday screenings as a way of avoiding this behavior. I saw IT at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, MOTHER! at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

BLANKY

My new novella Blanky is now available for preorder on Amazon, with an official release date of September 12th.

Here’s the official synopis:

Blanky2“In the wake of his infant daughter’s tragic death, Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together. Estranged from his wife, who refuses to be inside the house where the unthinkable happened, and unable to work, he seeks solace in an endless parade of old sitcoms and a bottle of bourbon.

Until one night he hears a sound from his daughter’s old room, a room now stripped bare of anything that identified it as hers…except for her security blanket, affectionately known as Blanky.

Blanky, old and frayed, with its antiquated patchwork of badly sewn rabbits with black button eyes, who appear to be staring at the viewer…

Blanky, purchased from a strange old man at an antique stall selling “BABY CLOSE” at a discount.

The presence of Blanky in his dead daughter’s room heralds nothing short of an unspeakable nightmare that threatens to take away what little light remains in Steve’s shattered world.

Because his daughter loved Blanky so much, he buried her with it.”

Preorder the book via any of the following links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

DARK CITIES

Dark CitiesThe Titan Books anthology DARK CITIES, edited by Christopher Golden and featuring stories set, as the title suggests, in cities just this side of normal, has officially been released upon the world.

And, as books like this generally don’t get much in the way of a marketing push, it would be great if you could help spread the word. Of course, buying and reviewing the book is an even better strategy, but any assistance raising awareness of the title would be much appreciated, if only so we get to do more of them.

 

Here’s the table of contents:

THE DOGS by Scott Smith
IN STONE by Tim Lebbon
THE WAY SHE IS WITH STRANGERS by Helen Marshall
WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS by M.R. Carey
GOOD NIGHT, PRISON KINGS by Cherie Priest
DEAR DIARY by Scott Sigler
WHAT I’VE ALWAYS DONE by Amber Benson
GRIT by Jonathan Maberry
DARK HILL RUN by Kasey Lansdale & Joe R. Lansdale
HAPPY FOREVER by Simon R. Green
THE SOCIETY OF THE MONSTERHOOD by Paul Tremblay
THE MAW by Nathan Ballingrud
FIELD TRIP by Tananarive Due
THE REVELERS by Christopher Golden
THE STILLNESS by Ramsey Campbell
SANCTUARY by Kealan Patrick Burke
MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH by Sherrilyn Kenyon
GRAFFITI OF THE LOST AND DYING PLACES by Seanan McGuire
THE CRACK by Nick Cutter

You can grab a copy of the book here.

Cheap Candy

For the next day or so, you can pick up SOUR CANDYSour Candy - Resized at a discount at Amazon. 99 cents today and tomorrow, $1.99 for a few days after that until it returns to its regular price. So, if you haven’t read it and want to, now’s the time to grab it for less than the price of a cup of coffee. And hey, it’s #WorldBookDay, so you have two reasons to grab it.
 
“an excellent terror-filled novella….a stomach-twisting ride through the depths of horror, breathing new life into an often-stagnant part of the genre.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
 
Sour Candy is spectacularly good. A brilliant premise, marvelously executed, it’s as close to a perfect story as I can remember reading. I only wish I’d written it myself.”
— Bentley Little, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Resort, and The Store.
 
 

Short Stories: 2017 Edition

It’s been quite a productive year for me already, and while (as per usual) I can’t spill the beans on everything that’s cooking right now (as much as I’d love to), I can at least share some news about stories that are on the way in various publications.15319120_1192194820869660_8567178783653999739_n

My story of dwarves tasked with finding their errant brethren in territory governed by the dead, “Down Here with Us” will appear in Tales of the Lost Citadel, a shared fantasy world anthology edited by C.A. Suleiman. There’s no release date yet, but as I’ve already received a sample copy, I imagine it can’t be too far away. More news on this as I have it.

“Andromeda”, about a technological and possibly cosmic plague, will appear in an upcoming chapbook from Sinister Grin Press.

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The wartime story “Go Warily After Dark” about a family who pick the wrong place to seek shelter during an airstrike, will appear in Crystal Lake Publishing‘s forthcoming anthology Tales from the Lake Volume IV, edited by Joe Mynhardt and Ben Eads, due August 30th.

One of my rare erotica pieces “She Comes” is slated for publication this month in Great Jones Street‘s My Bloody Valentine series.

“Traveler”, a nasty little piece about a body-hopping entity who uses his unwitting victims to commit unspeakable crimes, will be featured in Dark Fuse Magazine in March.

hbyaoh-tpb-cvr-solMy novelette “A Wicked Thirst”, about an alcoholic whose date goes gruesomely wrong, will appear in Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror, edited by Mark Matthews. As a rather cool incentive, the first 25 people to order the book can choose a free book by any of the authors listed on the table of contents.

“Sanctuary”, about a child sent to retrieve his father in a city forgotten by the rest of the world, will appear in Dark Cities, edited by Christopher Golden, and published by Titan Books. Look for it in May.

“Verstedkt”, in which our titular hero is sent to an Alpine village to investigate claims of a witch, will appear in the prose anthology Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors, edited by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola, due in August from Dark Horse Books.

Lastly, I have just turned in a short story “The Mannequin Challenge”, about an antisocial man who reluctantly agrees to attend the office Halloween party, and quickly wishes he hadn’t, to the Halloween Carnival anthology, edited by Brian Freeman, to be published by Cemetery Dance Publications and Random House.

I’ll update this list as more news develops…

Hellboy & Me

hbyaoh-tpb-cvr-solAs reported by Entertainment Weekly, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy returns in the prose anthology An Assortment of Horrors, edited by genre stalwart Christopher Golden. The lineup includes stories by Chelsea Cain, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, Richard Kadrey, Chris Roberson, Paul Tremblay, Delilah Dawson, Laird Barron, Angela Slatter, Chris Priestley, Michael Rowe, Rio Youers, E. Lily Yu, Weston Ochse, and me.

In my story “Verstedkt”, Hellboy is called to a remote region in Europe to investigate a village in which the people are regularly forced to sacrifice one of their own to pacify a witch. But from the outset, all is not quite what it seems.

The book will be released in August via Dark Horse Books. You can preorder it here.