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I really don't expect common sense, decency, or even literacy from the Daily Mail, but I loathe these ridiculous, hate-mongering articles about the outrageously shocking number of non-straight TV characters being forced down the delicate throats of the British public. Seriously? Three gay characters in a soap with a cast of forty-nine? If anything, I think it's fair to say GLBT characters are under-represented. Same goes for Coronation Street. I haven't watched either show since I moved out of my parents, but off the top of my head I can think of only four gay characters in Corrie.
I think we can file this one under "if you have to ask why it matters, you won't understand the answer." In other words, for all the commentors and journalists demanding to know why we're having yet more GLBT characters "forced" on us, you're clearly missing the rampant homophobia very present in our culture that, along with the UK's decidedly unfriendly attitude towards other social minorities, papers like the Daily Mail delight in perpetuating.
This is why I love sites like Tabloid Watch, that call out newspapers on this kind of bullshit. It's so tedious and annoying to be constantly told by the British media that I've been offended, shocked, or outraged by, or how angry I am about there being Polish people working in my pubs, or Muslim people teaching in my school. Because you know what, British Media? I'm not offended, shocked, or outraged by any of it. Thanks anyway.
I get that the whole, “woe, my angst is what drives me” thing is, well... your thing. You work very hard at presenting an image to the world of being dark, gothic, misunderstood, possessed by personal demons, driven by the ghosts of your past, and only able to create when you’re suffering. How much of that is true and how much is simply an image, I don’t know, and whilst I’ve speculated about it in the past, I don’t really care anymore. It’s what you do, it’s what you want the world to see; your reasons are your own, and I’m sure the presentation of this image satisfies something in you. That’s fine. I don’t read your books anymore, I don’t follow you on Twitter or Facebook, so I can ignore it as I’m sure you ignore the constant criticisms that come your way because of it.
But then I stumbled upon this:
And it made me very angry.
I am not a believer in the trope that Arte = Pain, that creation can only come through suffering, or that the only worthwhile writing authors can produce is rooted in angst and misery. I am not a proponent of bleeding on my keyboard. I am not a fan of the concept of the Muse. Yes, of course I believe writers should feel for their stories. Yes, I know that the act of writing is a hard one, and that sometimes we write something that hurts us or surprises us, or conjures up old wounds for us. But I do not believe we need those wounds in order to produce great books. I do not believe that the only good writer is an unhappy one.
And I do not like it when people who should understand the impact their words can have make cracks about mental illness. Creativity isn’t a mental illness and you don’t need one in order to be creative. More than that, mental illness – particularly psychosis, which you blithely joke about to your 25000+ followers – is serious, scary, life-changing, difficult to live with, difficult to treat, and incredibly misunderstood. Joking about medicating away the voices completely undermines and belittles the experiences of people who do live with those voices, and the long, painful path they walk to recovery – or even just balance. Equating the act of writing a book with managing a serious mental illness is, for me, not just immature and silly, but dangerous.
It spreads the message that Arte = Pain, one I believe to be potentially damaging. It adds to the idea that those crazy people with their voices are not worthy of real support in a society that is already too quick to throw tablets at people instead of trying to treat them. It tells writers who are just starting out that unless they suffer, they are not good enough to make it. Or that if they suffer and let it get in the way of their writing, they’re not good enough then either. The idea that we should embrace mental illness to fuel creativity is also dangerous, and again belittles exactly how serious these conditions can be.
Am I overreacting? Possibly. I have my reasons for being overly-sensitive to this kind of thing. But I don’t apologise for that because this is something I’m passionate about – both writing and the treatment and understanding of mental illness. Conflating one with the other, or saying you need one to feed the other, is aggravating to me to say the least. If I am a good writer, it’s not because I’ve suffered from depression. It’s because I’ve studied hard and worked my ass off, and continue to do so, to produce the best writing I can. If I am a bad writer, it’s also not because I’ve suffered from depression or failed to use it to my advantage.
And for those of us who do struggle with mental illness, take the meds, see the counsellors, and still produce awesome books, well, we’ve done that despite those voices, that pain, that doubt, that anxiety, not because of it.
Look, I’m writing this from a place of anger. I know I can’t speak for every writer or every person with a mental illness. But this is what I believe, and again, I won’t apologise for it. I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world who thinks some of the stuff you come out with is... misguided and I’m sure I won’t be the last. But when I see people chirping that statements like yours above are “the sign of a very talented writer,” I despair. I wish you, as an NYT bestseller would be more aware of the effect your words can have.
AND THEN A FIVE-YEAR-OLD GIRL AND A CENTURY-OLD-VAMPIRE DECIDE THEY'RE SOUL MATES AND EVERYONE'S ALL "HA HA, AS LONG AS THEY WAIT TIL SHE'S SIXTEEN HA HA." AND I'M LIKE "WHAT IS THIS AND WHERE DID IT COME FROM AND WHY IS IT HAPPENING?"
Really? Really? I don't see how this is a good idea at all. She's five. Five. And the author has tried to drop hints that, "oh, she may appear just a child, but maybe she's so much more," but I don't care, because for all intents and purposes, she is five. She's in a five-year-old body wearing five-year-old clothes talking like a five-year-old.
I'm not even going to get into how much the fated-to-mate trope annoys me. I'm sorry. What kind of relationship is that, where a one-hundred-year-old man is just waiting for a five-year-old to hit the legal age? Isn't that, well, grooming? And messed up? This isn't just me, right? I think it's weird and I wouldn't expect this character to be painted as one of the good guys.
It's bothering me so much. It undermines everything I like about the book, because it's just creepy as hell. I'm not a fan of precocious five-year-olds at the best of times, but this is taking the piss. It's really annoying me. And it's not like, "oh, I don't like it because it encourages paedophilia," or whatever, I just think it's a poor, dumb, authorial choice. Am I overreacting?
Okay. I've had a day to process the book so I will now attempt to do a fair review. I will start by saying that yes, I am one of those people who used to adore LKH's books - Guilty Pleasures is the book that made me want to write urban fantasy, and so Anita Blake will always hold a particularly nostalgic place in my heart. And yes, I am now one of those people who just hangs around for the lulz. The last book I actually read all the way through was The Harlequin, which from what I recall was about Anita worrying about her feelings for Nathaniel? And that was the whole book? Anyway, so I may have missed some salient plot developments between there and Hit List. I don't think it impacted my understanding of the book.
So the alleged set-up is that Anita and Edward are in Washington hunting a weretiger serial killer. Cool! That sounds cool, right? Anything that could kill a weretiger must be pretty dangerous, given that weretigers are faster than human fast and stronger than human strong and whatnot. We even start with Anita and Edward at a crime scene, investigating! Unfortunately their detective prowess extends only as far as figuring out whether the body is resting on its back or front, and even that seems to challenge them. Uh-oh. Then they decide that since they can't let the puny humans know it's the Harlequin killing the tigers, they'll solve the crime by killing the killers rather than ... solving the crime. I guess it didn't occur to them they'd still have to FIND THE BAD GUYS THROUGH DETECTIVE WORK IN ORDER TO KILL THEM?
Leaving the plot aside, it's not good technically. I managed to read the whole thing but only out of a kind of morbid fascination. There are numerous continuity errors and plot holes. The dialogue is flat and repetitive. Apparently LKH doesn't believe her readers are capable of understanding subtext, because nothing is left for us to interpret. Everything Anita says is repeated back to her by another character in a slightly different phrasing, allowing her to wax on for another paragraph in greater detail about whatever mundane thing they're discussing. And then all the interesting things we could have been reading about whilst Anita is making out to save the world? They're summarised in two tepid pages of monologuing. Things like, the serial killer who lusts after Anita getting turned into a werelion. Know what? I would have liked to read about that! Instead Anita makes it a footnote because it's more important to discuss how she took her new pet weretiger home to her harem and he's fitting in really well.
12 / 24 words. 50% done!
The plot this time is that some guy is sexually obsessed with the original film and decides to make his own centipede so he can ... enjoy it a lot. (dwg and I are lolling on Twitter about this, because we've both been like "in the next film someone will be all 'Dr Heiter just wasn't ambitious enough!'" and we're right, apparently. I think Tom Six has been reading our Tweets). Anyway, like the first film, this seems pretty thin, and I'm sure that like the first film, it will be badly scripted, acted, directed, and produced, and it won't even have Beloved 3-Hund to help.
I have to admit, I've developed a love-hate relationship with THC. I still think it's utter shite, and after ASF it looks even lamer, but it has provided me with a lot of amusement since. So in a twisted sort of way, I was quite looking forward to seeing the sequel and mocking that. Except I can't (legally) watch it. Because it's been banned in the UK.
I've said before I think if something happens in real life, it's worth discussing in fiction, so that applies to all the things the WSJ would prefer kids weren't reading about - self-harm, sexual abuse, sex, drugs, drinking, whatever. Because, you know, these things do happen and are happening and will happen, and pretending they don't doesn't help anyone. Rather than "normalising" these issues, YA books that deal with them can help kids (and adults) face their issues and seek out help. Rather than pretending this stuff doesn't happen and sweeping it under the rug, people should be encouraged to discuss and debate these issues, and then maybe the awful statistics Jackie Kessler lists in her post would be different.
I apologise in advance for bringing this film to your attention. I'm not pro-censorship, but this film had me rethinking that stance. But I need to purge myself, so I'm going to talk about it.
So two days ago, whilst trawling for something to watch after watching the amazing Insidious, Kyle and I stumbled upon a trailer for A Serbian Film. I won't recap the plot here, because you can very easily find that for yourself and I'd rather not think about it in detail, but it looked to be a typical torture porn flick, and whilst I'm not a torture porn fan, I was in the mood for more horror, so we ... um ... "acquired" a copy of it, but decided to save it to watch with our friend Dave. So last night we watched it.
I'm not squeamish. I'm not easily offended. I'm not unaware of how vicious human beings can be. I want you to keep that all in mind, dear reader, before I go any further. I am pretty hard to shock, I'm pretty anti-PC, and I'm very much "each to their own." With that in mind, this film sickened me. Genuinely. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. None of us have, actually. It's more or less all we've talked about today. I don't think I've ever had such a visceral, physical reaction to anything I've seen before. I went on Twitter afterwards to be like, "wow, I really wish I hadn't watched that," which of course makes people curious, but really? I would not, could not recommend this film on any level.
Follow me to win X! #followback #win #ebook #loveme #getmeto1kfollowers #omg
I mean, sure having 1000 followers might make you look popular, but collecting cyber friends just to look popular surely died with Myspace, right? Didn't it? And do we honestly think those 1000 people are actually going to ... well ... get you anywhere? Or anything? You might chat sporadically with one or two of them, but are you going to keep up with all of them? Are they going to genuinely help spread the word about your book? Or is it just mutual masturbation?
With that in mind, I had long ago resolved never to watch the sequels, Hypercube or Cube Zero, because my blood pressure probably couldn't take it, and I've been assured that the sequels are even worse than the original. However, yesterday I finally caved in to Kyle's insistent nagging and watched Cube Zero. I don't know why he wanted me to watch it so much as he thinks it's absolute pap. Presumably he finds my incredulous anger amusing.
So anyway. Yeah, I watched it.
( Follow me if you want to live )
Jessica Verday posts her final thoughts here, and continues to be awesome about the entire affair, despite this whacked-out article on Publisher's Weekly from Running Press publisher Christopher Navratil, in which he claims Verday "accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship."
Um, no she didn't.
Running Press's approach to this whole affair just baffles me. They stand behind Trisha Telep one day, then insist that they have "no contact with that editor" in the PW article. Either support Telep or don't. It's too late now to try to distance yourself from the mess by insisting you had no idea what happened here. And truthfully, while I still find Telep's original comments misguided and dubious, I also find it hard to believe she just pulled this whole "no alternative lifestyle" shit from thin air.
Just in case the article wasn't dumb enough, it also makes a valiant attempt to paint Verday as the villain of the piece for talking about what happened. Never mind that Verday is pretty much the only person involved who's shown any class or composure from the start (I'm not including other authors who have withdrawn stories from RP anthologies here; that should go without saying). Basically, RP's stance now seems to be that Verday should just have backed down, shut up, and given up her principles. Also she was mean to them, you guys. Nice one, Running Press.
I fail to see the point in RP continuing with this anthology, really. It was bad enough when it was The Anthology Where Gay People Don't Exist. Now it's The Anthology Where Gay People Don't Exist And STFU Authors. Rather than insisting that this is all someone else's fault and pretending that WPT can go ahead despite the massive black cloud hanging over it, why aren't RP pulling the anthology altogether? Yeah, that would be bad for the authors involved who still have stories in there, and it would be awful if they all suffered because of someone else's stupidity, but the more I read about this mess, the worse it gets.
I had a new review for NIGHT AND CHAOS this week - a three star review, which translates as "I liked it" for that particular reviewer. I'm really happy with that. It was a thoughtful, honest review which highlighted the strengths and weaknesses the reviewer found, and as an author I think that's all I have the right to expect from a review. Obviously I want everyone to feverishly adore my books and form cults around them, but let's be realistic; people don't just form cults at the drop of a hat.*
But you know what? It doesn't actually matter what I think of the review. Because it isn't for my benefit. It's for other readers. As a writer, you don't get to pick who likes your work. You don't get to dictate what people think of your books. By all means, hope away. You should hope that people love it, you should want people to feverishly adore you, especially if you want to make a career out of writing. But you can't make it happen, and you can't tell reviewers, or any reader, that their opinion of your book was wrong.
Art is subjective. A lot of people love Twilight. I think it's pap. A lot of people hate Megashark v Giant Octopus. I think it's the greatest film spectacle ever. And that's fine. We're all entitled to our opinions. And yes, of course it hurts when someone hates something we love, especially if we created it, but that's life. You've got to man up sometimes and accept that you can't make everyone happy.
Which leads me to three star reviews. I don't think they're negative. I don't at all. I've had plenty and they've all been just like the one above - thoughtful, considered, and honest. So I cannot complain about them. I don't get writers who do, and I don't have a lot of sympathy for them, to be honest. Not just because I don't think reviews are for writers, but because having someone say "I liked your book, here's why," is not anything like, "I hated your book," or even, "I didn't like your book."
It really saddens me that there appears to be a divide between writers and reviewers, or any readers, where writers feel entitled to nothing but praise and readers/reviewers bear the brunt when it doesn't happen. It saddens me to see two groups of people who should love each other spitting and hissing at each other instead. It's a symbiotic thing, you know? We write, you read. Without one, there's nothing for the other. So where did this culture of entitlement and rudeness come from? I mean, yes, of course no writer should be clapping their hands and singing over a genuinely bad review, especially if it's just a string of abuse, but for pity's sake, instead of crying or throwing shit all over the internet, why not shrug it off, have a big tub of ice cream, or whatever your comfort food of choice is, and write something else?
Because you can't please everyone and you'll drive yourself crazy trying. I figured that out pretty quickly, long before I decided to try my hand at the publishing business. All you can do as a writer is write something you love, make it as good as it can be, and put it out there.
*I have actually started two cults myself. They didn't stick around very long, but I guess in the long run it saved me from having to organise a mass suicide.
I've seen in several places recently discussions over whether authors should ever work for free. I've seen the arguments for and against, and there are valid ones on both side. If writing is your living, of course you should seek payment for it. If you put in hours, weeks, maybe years of work to produce the best book you possibly can, of course you should seek payment for it. That's your right. But don't say things like "if you don't write for payment, you're devaluing the work of writers everywhere," because I think that's bullshit.
I think it's bullshit (sorry, Dad, but sometimes swearing is appropriate) for two reasons. Firstly, "payment" to me does not always equal "money." Secondly, my reasons for writing are nothing to do with anyone else. If I choose to write for free, that doesn't affect any other writer I know. And I do write for free, a lot - or at, least I don't always get monetary compensation for my writing.
I write a monthly horoscope column for a local magazine. In exchange I get a nice bottle of wine every now and then (two at Christmas!) and I get my name and website printed in that magazine every month. The mag also ran a competition to give away a copy of AFTERLIFE in 2009.
I write a monthly horoscope column for Queered Fiction too. In exchange, I've been able to call on my editor there to format my Kindle books for me - something I have no idea how to do and no inclination to learn. I'm not a techie person, and I'd much rather leave something that important to someone who can definitely turn out a wonderful finished product than try to muddle through on my own.
As is probably well-known, I contribute a lot of stories to Static Movement, and am editing a couple of anthologies there, for free. I do it because I love writing and sharing my work, because I enjoy editing and seeing other people's work, and because I like being part of an enthusiastic and growing writers' community. And, of course, as a result of working with/for Static Movement, I have stories out there in thirteen different print anthologies. I'm quite pleased with that.
I'm not saying everyone should write for free. It's an issue that's the same as whether you should go indie, seek an agent, or keep your writing for yourself. In other words, every writer is different and has different reasons for writing. A lot of people will probably think I'm wasting stories I could find paying homes for by sending them to non-paying markets. But you know what? I'll write a lot more stories, so that doesn't matter to me. One day I'll compile all these stories into one volume and put it up for sale.
What I am saying is that it's ridiculous to submit to a very obviously non-paying market, then stomp when you don't get paid. And it's downright unprofessional to just start altering your contracts.
*True story. Happened last night. Still haven't done the washing up.
I'm fed up of seeing the endless bitching and pissing over indie v trad publishing, whether indies should refer to themselves as indies, whether self-publishing is valid or vanity, whether traditional publishing is dead, how your an idiot if you want to waste time with agents, how you're a failure if you want to self-publish, how you'll never make it either way because you're one of millions and who's going to pay attention to your crappy book anyway. I'm sick of it.
I'm sick of it because:
1. Nobody has the right to make you feel bad about your choices. Everyone's path is different, everyone's reasons for writing are different. Nobody should be judged for chosing their path and sticking with it.
2. Labels! FFS. If indie authors want to avoid the negative connotations that come with "self-published," who's business is that? Why does it matter? It's a word. It's not an offensive one, so who cares?
3. We're all writers, aren't we? Why does there have to be this divide when we're all essentially doing the same thing: writing a story we care about. Whether we choose to upload it to the Kindle or send it round to agents, why should that create any issues with any other writers?
I'm sorry, but I don't get it. I don't get why one choice is more valid than the other, I don't get why there has to be a competition to see who makes the most money the fastest, and I don't get why people can't feel proud of something they've laboured over for weeks and months - maybe years - just because they chose a different route to you. Indie, trad, self-published, e-published, small press, big six... I don't care. I'm not an indie writer. I'm not a trad writer. I'm not a small press writer. I'm just a writer and I'm bored of all the angst.
( Onward to disappointment! )
I've decided to retcon the entire viewing experience and pretend the film ended with Cotton and the crew running into the woods towards the sound of screams. It's much better that way.
You all knew it would happen. I am drawn to things like this like a moth to a baffling and repulsive flame. But first, some background.
Obviously when I first stumbled across this film, I was concerned. Not only by the content, which sounded wrong and bad, but by the percieved pointlessness and hopelessness of such a film. I decided I probably wouldn't watch it because it would probably be too gross and sick for my brain to handle, and I'd implode or the world would end, or something. I discussed my concerns on Twitter and was told I couldn't possibly have an opinion on the film NOT BECAUSE I HADN'T SEEN IT BUT BECAUSE IT WAS FICTIONAL. And guys, you can't have opinions on fiction. From that second on, my fate was sealed. I was destined to watch The Human Centipede. And last night, I did. So:
For the past few weeks I've been reading lots and lots about how traditional publishing is dying, bookshops are disappearing, and the only way forward is to self-publish via Kindle and Smashwords. I've been reading about how this will revolutionise the publishing business and rake in thousands upon thousands of dollars for self-pubbed authors. I've been reading about how this is the only way forward, and how all those brilliant writers who've been ignored by traditional publishing and those nasty, self-serving publishers will finally reach the audience they deserve. About how anyone still seeking literary agents and traditional publishing is a coward, looking for validation, a dinosaur, or a plain old moron, because we could be sitting on top of a pile of cash right now from our Kindle publications.
I have to say, it's made me pretty depressed.
Why, you ask? (and if you didn't ask, I'm answering anyway, so you may as well read on).
1. I love books. I am one of these dinosaurs who doesn't own or plan to own an e-reader. I'm not saying I'll never be converted, but for the foreseeable future, I'll stick with my paperbacks, thanks. There's nothing appealing to me about curling up with an e-reader, or relaxing in the bath with one, and yes, I know these are just sentimental reasons, but I don't care. I love books. I don't love technology. The idea of not being able to browse in a bookshop or carefully arrange all my favourite authors' works on my shelves genuinely upsets me. And I don't care if that means I'm behind the times or in denial.
2. I want my books to be books. The idea that my parents might never be able to hold a copy of my novel because it's just a file on a computer bothers me a lot. It bothers my parents a lot too, for what it's worth. If I work for six months to a year on something, fuelled only by love and hope, I want to be able to hold the end product in my hands. The proudest moment of my writing career so far was holding my copy of AFTERLIFE for the first time, and I want to look forward to many more such proud moments. Again, that probably means I'm in denial, but again, I don't care.
3. I'm not really in this for the money. I know! Of course I would love to be a full-time writer. Of course I would. But mostly I just want to be published and have people read my stuff, and hopefully enjoy it. All these thousands and thousands of potential dollars I could be making on the Amazon Kindle don't entice me, because frankly no matter how many people I hear shouting about these piles of cash, I'm pretty sure there are many, many more making no more money than I do sitting at this damn desk all day.
I want to be clear about this: there's nothing wrong with writing for money. There's nothing wrong with writing for any reason. I'm lucky that my livelihood doesn't depend on my writing career, or I'd be living in a box. A really crappy box. And yes, I am insanely jealous of people who get to write full-time, but such is life. I don't see why there's such a divide between those who write for entertainment and look down on people who want to make a living out of their creative works, and those who write for pay and look down on those who write for entertainment. I've said time and time again I hate the stereotype of the tortured artiste, so those who flounce around talking about their deep and deathless prose and scorn writers who just want to have fun or make some money irritate me beyond belief. But everyone else? Whatever your reason for writing, do it and don't worry about what everyone else thinks of those reasons.
Anyway, I'm getting distracted now.
4. I just want to write! I don't want to worry about cover art, editing, distribution, getting attention, and basically being a businessman. Mostly because I would suck at it and be living in that crappy box. I want to write a story and let someone far more qualified than me go about making that story into a book. If I was solely responsible for the publishing of my novels, they would never see the light of day. Again, hearing that self-publishing is the only way forward freaks me out because I simply don't have the skill set to go it alone. And yeah, I could probably learn, but I don't want to.
These reasons, and more, threw me into a complete slump for a couple of weeks as I wrestled with myself over it. Is the death of traditional publishing just around the corner? Will the Kindle destroy us all? Am I missing out on heaps of cash by sticking with my agent and hoping for traditional publication? Am I wasting my time working with my agent when obviously nobody is ever going to get published by NYC ever again unless they write sparkly vampire porn? What's the answer? What should I do?
In the end I flipped out completely and decided the easiest answer was to stop writing altogether and remove myself from the whole debate. Then I remembered I'm actually under contract for two more Urban Wolf novels, so quitting writing was not a viable option.
So then I sat down and thought about what I actually want. The reasons I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and the reasons I keep on doing it despite the doom and gloom hovering over publishing right now. I thought about the reasons self-publishing (whilst clearly a more valid choice now than ever before) is not for me. And my conclusion is thus:
It's what I've always wanted. I've been writing stories since I was at primary school. I've always written and it's the only thing I've ever done that I've really believed is worth me doing. I don't say that at all lightly. Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm often rendered useless (and possibly annoying) by self-doubt. But even at my lowest moments, I've clung to the writing. Always. And ever since I first realised that man, people can get published and be in freaking bookshops! that is all I have wanted. To be able to walk into Waterstones and see my book on the shelf next to authors I love is my life's ambition. To have someone pick that book up, read it, and love it, is all I aspire to. The Kindle won't give me that. Does this mean I'm one of those people seeking validation from "higher powers"? Yeah, probably, but so what? It's my dream; it doesn't need anyone else's seal of approval.
Maybe one day I will be a full-time writer. Maybe I'll be a bestseller and go crazy and make a fool of myself on Twitter on a daily basis. We can but hope. In the mean time, I'm writing what I love to write. I have an agent who either believes in my work or is crazy herself (far be it from me to judge which). I have two books out there that are getting great reviews from people I respect. And that's enough to keep me on my chosen path and stop listening to all those depressing, distracting, and often bitchy arguments going on between the indies and the traditionals.
And you know what? That's my choice. If your choice is another route, then go for it with everything you've got. There's no right or wrong here. There's only what's right for you.
PS - If, like me, you're in need of an inspiration boost, the Deadline Dames are charting their paths to publication at the moment.
See, I saw this article on the BBC news website today and was all "really? People want to kill him? No way!" So I went and read the synopsis for the film and now I can't stop thinking about it. Mostly I can't stop thinking about how that sounds like a pretty flimsy premise for a film. It's like, he does his crazy experiment, it fails, everyone dies, the end. I can't see that taking more than half an hour, frankly.
But generally I am just too freaked out by the concept. It's quite nauseatingly gross and I can't imagine any enjoyment, even visceral, being derived from watching it. A good number of horror films rely on people being willing to watch horrible things happen to horrible people, but this kind of pushes it in my opinion.
I had a bit of a rant on Twitter earlier about how, for me, horror stories work best when they're also morality tales (bear with me here; my favourite horror films are the Friday 13th series, so...). Way back when, fairy tales were dark and twisted and served to impart a moral, social lessons. The original version of Red Riding Hood was a warning against predatory men in French court, for example, which can still be seen in the more well-known versions today. Even the crudest of slashy horror flicks, at their heart, generally have a cultural message to impart, even if that message is "don't smoke pot or Jason will gut you with his machete." Same with urban legends, which I see as updated fairy tales - they fall apart on close inspection, but they impart the same moral messages: "Don't go parking with your boyfriend and have premartial sex because escaped maniacs with hooks for hands* will kill him." (God, if anyone wants to hear the full version of my horror/morality/urban legend/fairy tale theory, let me know and I'll arrange a seminar, okay?)
I hate torture porn films like Saw and Hostel because they skip the morality tale and plunge straight into violence-as-sex: they're titilating, gratuituous, and sadistic, and rarely even have decent character development to make up for the lack of plot. I'm quite happy to watch Michael Myers chase his sister around and her try to escape, because I believe that (consciously or not) the filmmakers are (or are trying to) explore psychological themes in their slasher flicks, like the effect of fear on the human mind, family ties, nature v nurture, etc (please, nobody mention Cube to me**). And yes, the classic slasher flicks get progressively more ludicrous and move further and further way from that initial exploration, but we all want to pretend Jason X never happened anyway, right?
In contrast, the Saw films and films like them strike me as a nihilistic kick in the teeth, an attempt to sicken the audience and somehow make the audience complicit in the torture simply by keeping them watching. It's a way of making the audience say not "what would I do in this situation?" but "I enjoy watching these situations."***
The Human Centipede appears to fall into that last category. It's not a commentary on anything, it's not even a good old-fashioned splatter-fest that gives you a few cheap thrills before you forget it entirely. It's just ... nasty stuff for the sake of nasty stuff, and personally I don't see what enjoyment could be derived from that kind of film. And yes, I was ranting just the other day about how I disliked the AVP films because there was too much human interest, and I just wanted to see Predators kill things. I reserve the right to shout but that's different! loudly and frequently. Even Predators was an exploration of human psychology and invasion paranoia, and ultimately, it was fun. The Human Centipede just sounds like something filmed entirely to revolt and provoke reaction for the sake of being revolting and provocative. Maybe there's merit in that; I don't know. All I know is I now can't help thinking of the toilet as some kind of mouth, and it's very disturbing.
*Seriously? He's killer locked up in a mental home but they let him keep his hook? I call foul.
**Cube is a stupid film and it should feel stupid. Don't even get me started. I cannot express in polite language what I think of that film, and my dad will be upset if I use impolite language.
***I'm not saying people who enjoy torture-porn are serial killer sadists in the making, but I do believe there is a deliberate attempt to put the audience in the mind of the killer with these films, and make them cheer the killer on. I've no idea what that's supposed to prove, except that underneath the veil of civilisation we are all just brutal animals, and you can explore that far more entertainingly and thoughtfully with a good werewolf film. *ahem* Or book.