Let Me Digress

Kathryn Hore - Writer

What Scares You?

I’ve a story coming out in an anthology from Transmundane Press later this year, so I wrote a thing about how that story came into being, plus about what scares me in general and why fictional scares are a good thing.

So why not pop over there and have a gander:

What Scares You? by Kathryn Hore

While you’re there, you might as well check out the author interview I did with them too:

Featured Interview with Kathryn Hore

Go have a read. Go on, then…

A Cabin In The Woods

So a bunch of writers from the Victorian chapter of the Australasian Horror Writers Association went off on a writing retreat last weekend, and because we’re all horror writers (at least in part), where else would we go to if not a cabin in the woods?

Here, have a look at where we went to:

Yes, okay, somewhat more picaresque Dandenong Ranges tree ferns and parrots, and somewhat less smartarse cool Joss Wheddon flick, but we’re horror *writers*, not horror victims. We all know the tropes way too well to get caught in them ourselves, thank you very much. We’re the ones who inflict that shit on our fictional creations, not the other way around.

Anyway, off we all went for the first of a couple writers retreats scheduled for 2018, this one at the wonderful Fernglen Forest Retreats, and organised by the amazingly talented and editor extraordinaire Louise Zedda-Sampson of Novel Solutions. There was myself, Louise, Rebecca FraserIsabelle Rowan, Noel and Dominque. Here we all are (minus Isabelle, who joined us the next day) at the first night retreat dinner – Christmas in July at the Pig & Whistle Tavern in Olinda:

As you can see, we horror writers are a pretty scary looking bunch (especially after multiple bottles of sparkling white). That’s me in the middle, in case you didn’t recognise.

Friday night I got to the dinner a tad late, coming as I was from the day job which that day had been located down in Geelong – so I had a good three hour commute getting to the retreat, but totally worth it – which left me just enough time to eat dinner, drink champagne and stumble into bed. Not a lot of writing done Friday night on my part, I’ll admit.

Oh, before I forget, here is the delectable yorkshire pudding that came with dinner:

Absolutely nothing hilarious about that, as you can see, and we were not at all drunk and giggling like high schoolers at it at any point, I promise 😀

Anyway, a wine-staggered-walk back to the retreat venue through the dark streets followed, in which we loudly lamented the fact that the previous weekend had been Friday the 13th, so we’d entirely missed the opportunity to have a horror writers retreat in a cabin in the woods on Friday the 13th by a whole week. Which just seemed a shame, really. But we did all agree to make up for it with a gusto this weekend. And so we did.

Saturday morning I roused myself at some vaguely reasonable hour to this view out the window:

So, you know, that was rather nice.

After a bit of writing, a bit of breakfast, and a bit more writing – yes actual new words down on the page, thank you very much – the awesome Deb Sheldon popped by for a Q&A session and all round excellent discussion on the writers craft.

Pies from the Olinda pie shop, Pie In The Sky followed for lunch, then a walk, then more writing. Yay for writers retreats.

At some point the wine came out again. And there was workshopping. At which I chose to workshop a very early draft of the first scene from a new a fantasy novel I’m working on, one set in a highly moralistic, class and gender segregated society, that also opens in a fetish brothel complete with a few detailed scene setting descriptions, so you know, the wine must’ve been out by that stage. I don’t usually drag out first drafts of potentially confronting material in a room full of people I admire without at least some liquid courage under the belt.

Here’s us getting into serious writing business:

At some point after the workshopping, the writing stopped and the spa began. Don’t ask me how. But somehow a few of us could be found drinking red wine in the spa at midnight. Don’t forget, July is the middle of winter in Melbourne town, but that wasn’t about to stop us.

I won’t post the pic I do happen to have of three of us drunk and talking crap in the spa, because I’m not sure my compatriots would thank me for making that public, but here’s a very staid pic from the next day of what the spa looks like, sans drunken writers:

Just picture it at night, in a freezing mid-winder July, with red wine and horror writers right in the middle. 😀

So what else? There was the most delightful open fireplace, which I spent most of my time writing in front of, or poking a fire-poker at:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a cat, of course, because what writing retreat is complete without a nosey cat who presumes its a lion and knows it rules the space?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to top it all off, the wonderful writer Isabelle Rowan put together Retreat Showbags for us all, complete with spooky shortbread, ‘dark and bloody thoughts’ chocolate buttons, ‘cthulu’ lolly octopuses, and a horror stirring spoon!

Look, jokes about the amount of wine consumed aside – of the six of us, two were non (or very light) drinkers, and the rest of us were there to write not drink as the priority activity, so I may be indulging in a wee bit of hyperbole when I recant tales about the wine – we all got some serious writing done and had a wonderful time.

I cannot recommend writers retreats enough. Whether you book into a commercial one, or organise one with a bunch of friends, or just take yourself off solo for a weekend, it’s valuable time very well spent.

We had a ball. And the best part? There’s still at least two retreats in my 2018 calendar yet to come!

Till next folks…

TRANSCENDENT Cover Reveal

Hey folks, just popping in to say Transmundane Press have a new anthology coming out later this year called TRANSCENDENT and they’ve just released the cover. And yes, I have a story in this one. Very excited to be a part of it!

 

A parallel dimension exists below the surface of reality.

Its doors swing open every time we sleep, allowing us passage into the land of DREAMS, a plane rich with exotic fantasy and limitless bliss. Within this wonder world, however, lurk dark corridors and terrible creatures—some unfortunate travelers never escape the NIGHTMARES waiting in the shadows.

Many have tried bridging our worlds. Seekers and wise men have meditated for VISIONS and ingested intoxicants for HALLUCINATIONS in hopes that the veil between our realms will thin, allowing access to all the thrills, joys, and horrors beyond our senses.

TRANSCENDENT is an open gate, a gangway linking our realm to the shimmering sphere where nothing is certain and anything is possible.

 

Aurealis #110

So folks, I’ve a story out in the latest edition of Aurealis magazine. Yay!

Aurealis was actually the very first magazine I was ever rejected by. It still stands as the most painful writing rejection I’ve every copped, too. Well deserved, mind you. The rejected story in question was… well, let us just say “rejectable” in sense of the world.

Ah, the fun of writer milestone. My first rejection, awwww…

Anyway, to have a story in Aurealis now, all these years later, is something I’m pretty darn chuffed about. It’s set in a world decimated by war, but now well into recovery… except for the protagonist, a woman suffering from a chronic psychotic mental illness, who now faces a life without medication. Because the post-apocolypse is not just peopled by the neurotypical and while everyone must fight to survive, it’s even more important is to find others to survive with.

Go here and get a copy. Aurealis is a brilliant magazine and it’s always worth a read: Aurealis #110 (Chimaera Publications)

Spoiler Alert

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that my social media feeds include a lot of nerdy geeky types. You know, considering I’m one of that particular SFF loving, comic-book reading, pop-culture enjoying, fandom participating, fanfiction obsessing, book nerd crew.

And in case you didn’t notice, the world of geeky fandom has kind of blown up over the last week with the release of the latest Marvel superhero flick which kind of, well –

SPOILER ALERT

– kills everyone in the entire history of the MCU, as last as far as I can tell.

Or not. I haven’t actually seen it as yet. With two kids under 6, a full time info governance career, my own writing pursuits and the usual domestic/life/family things to be done, I don’t get to the movies so much anymore. I’m the type of person who has to schedule in downtime – I’m serious here, 3-4 nights a week between 9.45-10.30pm I have literally calendared “do nothing but stare at a screen playing mindless entertainment”. It’s probably not a good sign when you start scheduling relaxation into your calendar. It’s undoubtedly worse when you regularly skip it to get work done.

Personal life-choices aside, I will eventually get to see the latest Avengers flick in which everyone dies – spoiler alert? – but it won’t be until it turns up on a streaming or download service of some kind, so we’re talking some while away yet.

In the meantime, my social media feeds are filled with friends and acquaintances and those weird randoms I must’ve followed for some reason once, but can’t remember now who they are or why I wanted their trivia in my feed, and who are all currently posting exactly the same thing:

Just seen the Avengers – OMG! NO SPOILERS! DON’T READ ANY SPOILERS!

Because apparently it’s no longer merely a sin to spoil plot twists in pop cultural products for other people, but it’s now some kind of geek-fandom sin to just spoil it for yourself.

Hmmm.

So for all you MCU lovers, and for all you lovers of cinema in general – and books and any other story-telling medium – who like to go in fresh and unspoiled, I wanted to tell you something. Know what I did? Deliberately did within barely a few hours of the latest Avengers flick hitting the worldwide cinemas?

I googled “Infinity War spoilers” and ventured out to the internet to read every damn spoiler for the movie I could lay my hands on.

See, I love a good spoiler. I often enjoy a movie more if I go in prepared for what I’m about to see. Perhaps that’s because I like to think about the pop culture I’m consuming within its broader cultural context – blame that old cultural studies honours year of mine back in the “yay postmodernism!” 90s – or maybe it’s just because I don’t have time to waste on something that doesn’t pay out, so I want to know in advance it’s worth it. But I certainly like to go in knowing what’s going to happen.

It can be a useful thing to be happy with spoilers. I’m one of those Australians who loves Game of Thrones but who’s not prepared to give Bad Old Uncle Murdoch a single red-cent, so I won’t subscribe to his pay TV channel to see it fresh. Instead, I wait until the season ends and buy it to download, after everyone else has already watched it. But as the season plays for the first time I do read all the recaps of each episode and follow what’s happening as it happens. I’m full up with spoilers by the time I get to actually watching it for myself.

And I’ll let you into a wee secret: not once in my entire history of seeking out spoilers have I ever experienced a moment of consuming pop culture where I felt I had a lesser viewing, reading or entertainment experience for knowing what was going to happen. I enjoy it all as equally as if I’d gone in blind. Every second of it. Indeed, I’d argue I enjoy it more.

Maybe it’s just me. Going by the reams of internet “no spoilers!” obsessives cluttering up my feeds at the moment, I’m pretty certain I’m in a minority on this.

As I’m of a generation which grew up without the internet – I didn’t get my first email address until I was a post-graduate student, that’s how old I am – there are movies I have seen where I went in entirely unspoiled, and I’ve tried to recall if it made a difference. I guessed the twist to The Sixth Sense while watching it (I’m a huge fan of ghost stories and the “he’s actually dead the whole time” twist appears in several major ghost tales, so I was actively on the lookout for it), but I loved that film regardless. I grew up watching The Sting, so can’t remember a time when I didn’t know all the twists and turns of that one.

I didn’t know or foresee the twist at the end of The Usual Suspects, and I adore that film, but would I really have loved it any less for knowing? I’ve watched it, just as I have the others above, multiple times since first seeing it, and I love it the same on each repeated viewing.

So does it really spoil anything to know the twist, or plot points, or who dies in advance? I’d argue not.

Now, I’ve been talking mostly about movies here, with a bit of TV thrown in. But when it comes to books, I don’t seek out the spoilers so actively. Someone’s suggested to me in the past that perhaps I don’t invest as much in movies as I do in books, so I’m still going in unspoiled when my fiction is prose and written down on the page. But I’d argue it’s actually because I don’t read that many modern books, especially ones that rely on twists or unexpected plot points. It also takes me longer to commit to a novel than it does to a TV show or film, so I’m not as emotionally engaged when I start a novel and it’s not until I’m well into it that I’ll be interested in finding out spoilers. I also love to re-read novels, and read classic novels, that I already know intimately, so for much of my reading I’m long spoiled already.

So did I really enjoy The Count of Monte Cristo the less for knowing who was behind all those masks and schemes right up front, simply because the book is over 170 years old? (Though I did see a Spoiler Alert posted for it in an online forum once. Seriously people, I think a book dating to the 19th century is probably beyond the spoiler alert requirement.) Do I somehow have less of a reading experience as a twenty-first century reader for knowing ahead of time that Wickham is a cad in Pride and Prejudice, long before Lizzy realises? For knowing that dissolute Sydney Carton gives up his life in heroic sacrifice so Charles and Lucie can be together in A Tale of Two Cities? For knowing that Gatsby dies well before the end?

I’ve never gone into most books fresh and unspoiled. I go in knowing their plots well in advance and loving them for it. And I don’t see how that enjoyment changes just because I’m reading a modern works or watching new films, or TV, or other stories regardless of medium, where it’s technically possible to be unspoiled. I still like to know what I’m in for.

So I’ll say it, loud and proud – I love a good spoiler.

Still, one thoughtful anecdote, to end…

Many years ago, I was going out with a chap who’d grown up loathing Shakespeare. No, I don’t understand it either, and its probably unsurprising our relationship didn’t last the distance, but the fact is he’d actively avoided having anything to do with Shakespeare-related stuff all his life. Until he went out with me and I dragged him to the theatre on a regular basis. For his 30th birthday I took him to see a production of Hamlet. And because of the way he’d grown up, he had no idea what it was about. Not a single clue of any character, plot point or thematic emphasis at all. At the age of 30, this chap was watching Hamlet for the very first time and went in totally cold and unspoiled, if also cynical about the likelihood of enjoyment of it.

I have never in my life seen anyone grip the arms of their chair the way that chap did through the climax of Hamlet. He cried at the death of Ophelia. When Hamlet and Laetres are fighting, and Gertrude picks up the poisoned drink, he literally burst out loud to say “oh god, no, don’t”. This guy was the literal personification of “edge of the seat”. The sheer tension and terror he experienced watching it – and it probably helped it was a very fine production with excellent acting and direction – was amazing for me to witness sitting next to him, and the chance to watch something like Hamlet fresh, without any prior cultural knowledge, as an adult, is an experience I don’t think many in our society have.

So maybe there is something in avoiding spoilers after all.

It still won’t stop me seeking them out at every given opportunity….

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