“No One Wants To Play With The Clown Anymore.”

Two years ago, Mekaela, Lindsey, and I all went to see It in theaters; I reviewed it here. (TLDR, it’s a fairly creepy horror film that–with just a little more work–could’ve been an amazing horror film.) I, of course, am a giant Pennywise freak who fell in love with both the novel and the original miniseries as a teenager, so yeah, I was always going to see this latest adaptation on the big screen.

And while I can’t say I was expecting to love It, Chapter Two–a 2 hour, 50 minute horror movie has to work to earn that runtime–I figured I’d still probably enjoy it for the most part. Like, I was definitely expecting pacing problems and/or a few unnecessary changes from the book, but at the very least, I’d assumed I’d find it delightfully creepy.

What I did not expect, however, was to laugh my ass off at all the wrong scenes.

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“Welcome To The Loser’s Club, Asshole!”

I’ve said this before, I know, but It is my very favorite Stephen King book. There are problems, of course (the scene, THE SCENE), but the novel will always and forever have a place in my heart. Likewise, The 1990 miniseries starring Tim Curry will also always have a place in my heart, for as I’ve described both here and here, it is an incredible four-hour mash-up of genuine creepiness and so-bad-its-good hilarity.

It was only natural that I would watch Andy Muschietti’s take on It, too.

And, well. I definitely liked parts of it. Probably not a forever spot in my heart, though.

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Coming Soon-Ish: Blondes, Clowns, and Apocalypses (Including Ragnarok!)

Thor: Ragnarok

You’ve all seen this, of course. The whole teaser is fun, like, there’s so much going on: holy shit Mjolnir, and all the goddamn iconic hats and headpieces, and the teeny-tiny glimpses of Idris Elba and Karl Urban. Not to mention, I can’t decide who I’d rather cosplay: Cate Blanchett, Cate Blanchett, or Jeff Goldblum.

But it’s Thor’s absolutely perfect reaction to seeing Hulk in the ring that completely sold me on this movie. I figured I’d probably watch it in theaters, having seen the prior two Thor movies there . . . but I wasn’t particularly excited about it. Now I’m like, “Wait, HOW long do I have to wait for this movie? I NEED JOY IN MY LIFE.”

Atomic Blonde

Speaking of joy in my life.

This trailer looks immensely fun. Beating someone in the back of a car with a shoe really oughta be on my list of life goals. There are so many awesome looking fight scenes here, and Charlize Theron seems particularly badass. I’m all for her and James McAvoy having a comedic dynamic, but I’m really hoping it doesn’t actually take a romantic turn: she seems way too badass for him, and I’m much more interested in the Atomic Blonde/French Operative ship. (Please don’t actually die in that scene where it totally looks like you die, Sofia Boutella.)

I could definitely watch this one in theaters. It looks pretty great.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Warnings: Red-band trailer, mostly for a bunch of curse words that I’m absolutely sure you’ve never heard or spoken yourself before.

This is . . . interesting. It appears someone had the idea to pair Peak Samuel L. Jackson with Peak Ryan Reynolds and wrap them together with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard. It’s . . . actually kinda spectacular, really, although I’m probably only so-so on the trailer itself. Some of the jokes made me laugh (particularly at “I hope they kill him; I really do” and “this guy single-handedly ruined the word ‘motherfucker'”), but I’m not entirely convinced that the joke won’t run out of steam in the first 20 minutes. Interested, but probably as a rental.

IT

On first blush, it looks pretty decent. Hard to judge Pennywise, considering he doesn’t actually talk in this clip. I don’t mind them going a more traditionally scary clown route–like, you aren’t going to surpass Tim Curry, so don’t even try to imitate him–but Pennywise absolutely must have an actual personality, so it can’t all be dark makeup and super quick monster crawls in the sewers. Little Georgie’s pretty creepy, though.

One way or another, I’ll see this. It is my favorite Stephen King novel (except for, you know, THE SCENE) and I get endless joy out of how simultaneously both brilliant and atrocious the 1990 miniseries is. But I’m not quite pumped about this just yet. Mostly, I wanna compare the terrible adults from the miniseries to the adults in this remake . . . but sadly, I won’t get to for a while, since we’re saving them for the sequel, a decision I completely understand but am a little bit disappointed by regardless.

Finally . . . The Bad Batch

I have virtually no idea what the hell this is about, but it’s colorful and weird and I’m interested. (I still need to watch A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. I’m so behind on all the must-see horror films.) I don’t think I know the actress playing the MC, but I do recognize Jason Momoa and Keanu Reeves and Giovanni Ribisi, and hey apparently Diego Luna’s in here somewhere, and–holy shit, that’s Jim Carrey?!

Meanwhile, IMDb is giving me this synopsis: “a dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals.”

Yeah. I can’t pretend I’m not curious.

“We’re Bad Guys. It’s What We Do.”

So, Suicide Squad was out for about a week before I had the opportunity to see it, and the reviews in that week were . . . not kind. I’d heard from a few people directly who enjoyed the movie, but overall it was sounding like yet another DC live action fail.

The thing is I’m, like, contrary and opinionated and shit, so despite the poor press, I had to make my way to the theater to try it out myself.

ss cover2

Ultimately, it’s a bit of a hot mess. More than a bit, honestly; I want to edit the holy shit out of this movie. On the upside, it’s way more enjoyable than Man of Steel or BvS!

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My Unlikely Clown Story Has Arrived!

Happy April Fools Day, everyone. Fear no wily pranks from me today, for actual stories take precedence: The Unlikely Journal of Coulrophobia is up, and my flash piece, “Break the Face in the Jar by the Door,” is available, should you be interested in reading it.

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Me and Lil’ Pennywise. The hijinks we have. The viscera that’s left behind.

Surprisingly, that’s not all. Unlikely Story plans to turn this mini-issue of offbeat clown tales into a larger anthology, tentatively titled Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix. I’m pretty excited about this project and hope it gets funded, so in addition to all the self-promotion, I’m also here to ask for your money. That’s right — it’s Kickstarter time!

Details about the project can be found here. Please take a look and see if you’re interested in helping out. There are a lot of awesome rewards — believe it or not, my particular brand of snark is actually one of them. I’m offering to write a movie review for any film the contributor wants me to watch. (Provided it’s not porn or an inspirational sports movie. I do have limits to my generosity, guys.) But there’s a lot of other neat stuff available, too. I’m pretty interested in those Mari Ness clown limericks, myself.

In the meantime, I hope you’re having a good April Fool’s Day where your tricks are funny but not too mean. (Like, don’t be those guys who pretend to be killer clowns in the middle of the night. That’s just evil, and seems like a good way to get yourself shot.)

An Unlikely Story About Clowns

Exciting news today: my story, “Break the Face in the Jar by the Door,” will appear in The Unlikely Journal of Coulrophobia on April 1st. I promise, this isn’t just an early April Fool’s Day joke. The official announcement is here.

I’ve hoped to sell something to Unlikely Story for a while now. Unfortunately, Cryptography was right out (I know my strong suits, and writing about code breaking isn’t one of them) and I didn’t have any specific ideas suited for Entomology, but I figured I could try for one of the theme issues — I was particularly interested in The Unlikely Journal of Cartography. Alas, I couldn’t get the story together in time and missed out. When The Unlikely Journal of Coulrophobia was announced, I knew I had to do better.

I feel like I should be upfront with you: despite the theme, I wouldn’t necessarily describe this as a particularly scary story. Also, it’s in second person again because apparently that’s the only way I can write flash fiction. But I’m pretty happy with it, and way more excited for April Fool’s Day than I ever have been in the past.

Two months to go, people. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this photo series:

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clown3

I don’t know when I became such a fan of taking silly themed pictures of myself, but, well. I had a creepy clown mask. I had to do something with it.

2014 Fall Premieres: The October Issue

In the interest of saving time, I usually do not post an individual recap for each season premiere that I watch. Instead, I briefly (well, somewhat briefly) summarize my initial impressions for all the shows that air in the same month. Then I lump these impressions together into a single post. It’s all simple and orderly, see?

The problem, I’ve discovered, with this approach is that it doesn’t matter if the greater majority of your shows began during the first week  of October; you still have to wait for asshole shows like Elementary to come back on October 30th. So by the time you finally do post your season premiere thoughts, many of these shows are already four or five episodes in, and you’ve suddenly become that writer who’s dated their timeless work of love and self-discovery with references to beepers and “MMMBop.”

With that in my mind, here’s what I’ve got for the October shows.

SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Walking Dead

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I don’t have very much to say about this episode, other than it was awesome. Carol is such a badass. I love Carol. Please don’t kill Carol!

Seriously, I’m trying to come up with things to say that don’t involve how awesome Carol is saving the day. I was a little surprised, though not displeased, that nobody important died. Well, Penguin. Yes. Funny thing: I remember thinking, you know, this actor looks a little like Robin Lord Taylor, but I didn’t actually think it was him until I checked IMDb later. But everyone else is alive . . . for now. Even Morgan’s alive, tracking the group’s movements after the end credits. (I totally would’ve missed that scene, if I hadn’t gone looking for it because I’d been spoiled for Lennie James’s cameo. Are there regularly scenes after the credits? Am I consistently missing shit?) Also, Rick, Carl, and Baby Judith reunite, which is kind of cool, I guess, but far more importantly, Carol and Daryl reunite. I heart that scene so much. They are the best.

In fact, I think the only thing I didn’t like about this premiere was that very last flashback when the cannibals decided to become the butchers instead of the cattle, or whatever. Other than telling us that the giant dude was originally one of their captors, I felt like that scene gave me nothing I didn’t already know, and it felt like a weird note to end the episode on. But this is a pretty minor nitpick.

For an episode of The Walking Dead, this premiere was basically an upper. I fear for the rest of the season.

FAVORITE PART:

Carol and Daryl reuniting. But a close second place goes to Carol blowing up that propane tank.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

A

The Flash

flash

For the most part, I had a pretty good time watching this. Even with the mandatory CW pilot voiceover. (To my shock, the VO was actually funny for once. I could potentially deal with more of this.) Grant Gustin is very enjoyable as Barry Allen, and I look forward to seeing him in all of his CSI Jr. adventures. (Seriously, I know they’re skewing to a younger demographic than Arrow, but damn. Between him and Emotionless Science Girl and Surfer Dude Science Boy, I feel like all the superhero progress will have to stop for juice and snack breaks.) It was nice to see the “run, Barry, run” line finally, since that’s made me crack up through multiple promos. The ending was a solid twist, and I really like Jesse L. Martin a lot. At least, when he isn’t talking to or about his daughter.

Because, yes, my biggest concern about The Flash is the female characters, specifically, Barry’s unrequited love interest, Iris. (Who, shockingly, is dating Schmucky Cop.) I was actually liking Iris pretty well, until she made an impatient hand gesture for Barry to go chase after the guy who took her purse, presumably because this is a MAN’s job and never mind the fact that Gustin is as big around as my wrist. Real men run after purse-snatchers, whether they would be physically capable of stopping them or not.

And then Detective West (Martin) reminds his daughter that she isn’t a cop, and she’s all, “Because you wouldn’t let me,” and I’m like, “EXCUSE me? Are you a grown ass woman? What century are we in, you two?” This is made even worse when West tells Barry that he can’t tell Iris about his super abilities because he wants to keep her safe, which, how is this keeping her safe, exactly? Yeah, it’s not, so thanks for that fully unnecessary complication, West. (On the plus side, I was pleasantly surprised that he discovered Barry’s abilities so early.)

I’ll have to wait and see about Emotionless Science Girl. I actually didn’t mind her little speech, and I’d much rather her Lack of Giggles come from an emotional trauma, rather than any I-Don’t-Understand-Feelings-Because-I-Do-Science nonsense. Still, I’m not quite sold yet, either. And that’s about it for female characters thus far, unless we’re counting the protagonist’s tragically dead mother.

But this may improve with time. I hope so, anyway. This was a pretty fun premiere, and I have hope for this series. (Especially if there are more Flash/Arrow crossovers. That should happen, like, all the time.)

FAVORITE PART:

Oh, I can’t decide. It’s between Barry asking, “Lightning gave me abs?” and West saying, “Shut the hell up.” Although I did also like this: “Why the hell would God need to rob banks?”

TENTATIVE GRADE:

A-

Elementary

watson

When I initially read the setup for this season — with Sherlock coming back to New York with a new protégé in tow — I was not particularly interested. For me, this show is entirely about Sherlock and Watson’s relationship, and I wasn’t real excited to see a new player get in the middle of it, particularly if she and Watson were going to have awful cat fight friction.

However, I actually enjoyed this premiere quite a bit. I love that Watson is a competent detective in her own right, and that she has her own nemesis now. (I just assume Gina Gershon will come back at some point, despite going to jail at the end of the episode.) I like that Watson doesn’t automatically forgive Holmes for the bullshit way he left, but that by the end of the episode they’ve worked their way to some kind of (very tentative) middle ground. I didn’t hate Kitty like I feared I would, and while I’m not particularly interested in her backstory right now, I might eventually become so. And I like that Watson and Kitty had a nice moment, too, giving me hope that their relationship will not be all bitter and annoying.

FAVORITE PART:

Hard to say. I did enjoy the baton fighting, but I think I’m leaning toward the scene where Gregson interrupts Sherlock’s carefully crafted apology to tell him, in no uncertain terms, that they aren’t friends. There was something kind of awesome about that.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

A-

Arrow

arrow

Ah, Arrow. Right back to wildly entertaining me and wildly pissing me off, all in the very same hour. It’s really almost impressive, how easily you do this.

Why don’t I just break this down into The Good, The Ambivalent, and the Downright Sucky:

THE GOOD:

Non-Island Flashbacks. A welcome change of pace.

The whole city loves Arrow! I wonder how long this can possibly last.

Ollie and Felicity are openly acknowledging Feelings! Seriously, I wonder how long this can . . . oh, really, not that long, huh? (See also: The Downright Sucky)

People are moving out of Starling City because they’re tired of dying in crazy supervillain terrorist attacks. LOVE THIS.

Pretty much everything about Brandon Routh. He was ridiculously energetic and kind of delightful in his smarm. I look forward to seeing more of him.

THE AMBIVALENT:

Dear God, Ollie got dosed with vertigo AGAIN? If it happens one more time before Christmas, does he get a prize?

Why isn’t Felicity working at Queen Consolidated anymore? I don’t see why she had to leave the company just because Oliver’s out, unless she chose to step down to help out at the Arrow Cave or was fired due to rumors of her sleeping with the boss. Waiting to see if this is addressed.

Sara’s death: on one hand, I actually really like the shot of her falling, and I’ll admit, that’s one hell of a way to end your premiere and set up your season. On the other hand, godamnit, I liked Sara. After she survived second season, I actually thought she had a chance. And is there anyone in the world, ANYONE, who wants to see Laurel become Black Canary? Because I’m pretty sure that’s where this story is going, and at this point, I think I’d be happier if Felicity became Black Canary, and that doesn’t even make sense. (Actually, Thea would be pretty cool, assuming Thea isn’t the one who shot her in the first place.)

THE BAD:

Sweet Christ, it’s like Ollie can’t learn shit for more than twenty minutes at a time. One explosion, and that’s it? That’s all it takes for Ollie to be like, “Nope, I’m out. If wasn’t so busy HAVING FEELINGS, I totally would have seen this tracker.” Good lord, people. Must I quote Teen Wolf at you? Apparently, I must: “This whole women are a weakness thing is a little too Spartan warrior for me.” Ollie, you’re an asshole.

Also, Ollie overcomes the psychotropic drug simply by denying love. Which I guess would be an interesting inversion of the Power of Love, if I wasn’t so annoyed the above.

And I am SO NOT OKAY with Diggle basically saying, “Yeah, thanks for making this decision for me, Oliver. Before I was angry because I felt like hey, I’m a grown up, I should be able to make my own big life decisions, but now that I’ve seen this baby, I’ve decided that the white man was right all along. I can’t possibly have children and be a hero any longer.” Ugh.

FAVORITE PART:

Hm. Porcupine flatulence?

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B

The Vampire Diaries

alaric

I only watched maybe a quarter of Season Five before I got bored with all the convoluted drama, but I found out what happened in the finale (Alaric came back!) and thought I’d try out Season Six fresh. And so far . . . it’s okay. I’m not real crazy about drug addict Elena — and it drives me nuts that losing Bonnie doesn’t seem to really bother her — but I did love that her big goodbye speech where she decides to let go of Damon doesn’t work at all. Jeremy’s predictably boring. I’ll probably be more interested in Stefan’s storyline when he inevitably returns to Mystic Falls. Tyler’s pairing with this witch girl seems really forced to me, but maybe they set that up last season in all the episodes I didn’t watch? Their chemistry just seems really artificial to me, especially in comparison to the chemistry he had with Caroline. Not that it matters, really. We all know that Tyler will be gone in a month or two anyway to do some BS thing for half the season, like he always does.

The very last scene with Damon and Bonnie and vampire pancakes is pretty awesome. And of course, Alaric. He is the best. He has so many awesome lines. I’m so glad he’s back — although I rolled my eyes pretty hard at the fact that he’s teaching at the college now. Of course he is. This is like Mr. Feeny all over.

I have this feeling I’ll eventually end up dropping The Vampire Diaries, but this was decent enough that I’ll keep up for now. (But seriously, can we lose Mopey Pants Jeremy? He is so boring.)

FAVORITE PART:

Probably the pancakes. It was hilarious, and that whole scene was a great way to end the episode. But I also liked this: “Okay, so when I lost my human nature, I also lost my game.”

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B

American Horror Story: Freak Show

clown

Oh, this show. I really feel like I need to give a full season of American Horror Story a try, and I figured evil circuses would be the time to do it, but . . . I don’t know.

There are some really cool things about the premiere. I like the opener, although obviously it’d be a lot more effective if we didn’t already know that Sarah Paulson was playing conjoined twins. The opening credits are pretty cool. And I really like the split screen from the POV of the sisters, when one is looking in one direction, and the other is looking somewhere else. I thought that was pretty clever. I’m less into them being randomly psychic, but it’s not a big thing. I just rolled my eyes.

The clown is admittedly pretty creepy, too. Not subtle — American Horror Story is many things, but subtle is decidedly not one of them. Good God. The music cues, alone. (While I’m thinking about music: I didn’t actually recognize David Bowie’s “Life On Mars” when Norma Desmond Elsa started singing it — sue me — but I started laughing hysterically when Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” came up in the preview.) But I can deal with not subtle. What doesn’t work as well — and has been a problem for me with past iterations of AHS — mostly has to do with weird sex stuff. I’m well aware there’s no way to say that without making me sound like a prude, and hey, maybe I am one. But the scene with Evan Peters satisfying women with his lobster hands . . . it feels cheaply artificial to me, like it was added purely so that the shock value might convince me that this show is so daring and bold and breaks down all kinds of barriers, and I’m like, Uh, yay? AHS has always struck me as incredibly satisfied with itself, and I’ve yet to become entranced by it the way it clearly wants me to. And don’t even get me started on the it’s-not-gang-rape-if-I-enjoyed-it-while-stoned-off-my-ass subplot.

I’ve set the series on record, but we’ll see. It would hardly be the first season I’ve let rot on my DVD for several months before deleting it, unwatched.

FAVORITE PART:

I’ve never been very seriously coulrophobic, but that clown was fucking creepy.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B-

Constantine

constantine

First: I have not read the comics. I have seen the Keanu Reeves movie, and I enjoy it for the guilty pleasure that it is, but I wasn’t looking for this show to be that. Actually, I don’t know exactly what I was looking for, but this pilot? Wasn’t it.

Look, pilots are often rough. I’m not giving up on Constantine immediately. I’ll give it a little more time to find itself — but I’ll probably give it on this well before I give up on Gotham, partly because I’m a Batman nerd and partly because I think Gotham’s pilot showed a lot more potential. (It’s not an entirely fair comparison, though, because Gotham is already starting to slowly improve, particularly with “Spirit of the Goat,” which was actually pretty great.) On the positive side, Matt Ryan seemed decent enough and I’m curious to learn more about the monosyllabic, very-not-Shia-LeBeouff Chas, who manages to survive his skewering with very little difficulty.

But oh my God, the pacing of this episode was ridiculously rushed. And there are a lot of benefits to fast paced shows when they’re done well (the earlier seasons of The Vampire Diaries, the first season of Sleepy Hollow), but this was so stupid fast that I just couldn’t engage with any of it. Certainly not the main girl, who the show sets up as super important, only to replace her in the very second episode. (I haven’t actually watched it yet, but I know that’s what happens. Hopefully, this one won’t react to giant sinkholes by threatening to mace the first guy she sees, as if she thinks he caused the sinkhole in the first place.) I’m also not really feeling the angel, despite the fact that I generally like Harold Perrineau. He may become more intriguing over time, but right now his constant smirk is only getting on my nerves. It’s like his one facial expression. Oy. Where is Tilda Swinton when you need her?

FAVORITE PART:

The initial setup at the mental institution was kind of cool. Unfortunately, it just all went downhill from there.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

C

7 Stephen King Books That Are Special To Me (For Whatever Reason)

Apparently, it was Stephen King’s birthday over the weekend. Considering he’s one of my biggest writing influences (and considering I own approximately forty books by him), I figured I should write up a list of his works that have stood out to me for one reason or another over the years. (I could work on a ‘Best Of’ or even just a ‘My Favorite’ list, but let’s be honest: he’s kind of written ALL THE THINGS, and narrowing those into some kind of ordered countdown would be way too much work.)

And yes, I’m aware many people made similar lists over the weekend when it was actually time-appropriate. I, however, prefer to think of it less that I’m behind the times and more that I’m extending Mr. King’s birthday further, so that it’s now his Birthday Week or even Birthday Month. I’m sure he appreciates it.

DISCLAIMER:

Beware of SPOILERS, for ye may find them in your travels. And by ‘may’, I mean, yes, yes you will.

7 Stephen King Books That Are Special To Me (For Whatever Reason)

1. Needful Things

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My introduction to King. I read this book when I was twelve and fell in love with it. If Hearts in Atlantis had been the first S.K. book I read, I doubt I’d own all these giant ass tomes now — I liked Low Men in Yellow Coats, and not much else — but thankfully, such was not the case.

It’s been some time since I’ve reread the novel, but I think one of the things I really liked about this story was the scope of it. I come from a small town and I’m drawn to small town stories — particularly horror stories, I guess, because I’ve got mixed feelings about The Tiny Place in Which I Hail From. And I found it fascinating to read about these people who’d known each other for their whole lives, only to completely turn on one another, to watch a town more or less rip itself apart. I also liked the brutality of the book — one of the main characters is an eleven year old boy who eventually commits suicide because of everything that happens. Which I know sounds like a pretty terrible thing to bring up as a positive, but I do like when books surprise me, and I was fully expecting the kid to make it simply because he’s a Kid. At twelve, especially, I liked when kids weren’t treated as Innocent Snowflakes With No Real Personalities Who Always, Always Made it Out. (And I was particularly pissed when he survived in the movie, but let’s be real here — Needful Things is one of the very worst film adaptations for many, many reasons more important than that.)

I’ll admit to being pretty sad about the dog, though. I also once had a dog named Raider, so I definitely had a “Jimmy, NOOOO!” moment when Book Raider bought it.

2. ‘Salems Lot

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Here’s the thing: as big of a Stephen King fan as I am, I don’t actually find his writing particularly scary. Sometimes I’ll talk to people, and they’ll be like, “I can’t read those books. They’re too creepy.” And I’ll be like, Really? Because I am significantly more likely to be frightened by normal murder mystery whodunits than by Stephen King’s horror epics. (And that’s not me being snotty. I do get creeped out by whodunits. Perhaps this is just like when I was a kid, never afraid of the monster in the closet, only the serial killer under the bed. Unlike most serial killers, though, he always had a sword, which he improbably managed to stab upwards through the mattress, despite the total lack of room he’d have to maneuver said blade.)

However, I vividly remember reading one scene in ‘Salem’s Lot which completely freaked me out. It goes like this: a dude tries to walk down the stairs to the basement, only because the light switch isn’t working, he doesn’t see that the vampires have helpfully removed those stairs and left a bunch of knives on the ground instead. The knives, mind you, are all facing blade up.

Once again, I don’t fear the vampires themselves. I only fear their elaborate booby traps and, also, death by impalement.

3. The Dark Tower series

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It feels kind of like a cheat, picking the whole series instead of a specific book, but I’ve decided I’m okay with that. The Dark Tower series was unlike anything I’d ever read before. The giant mechanical animals in a secondary fantasy world. The crossover characters from basically every single Stephen King book ever written. Stephen King writing himself as an actual character into the series. It was a bajillion words of what-the-flying-fuck, and I enjoyed the hell out of that crazy ass ride.

Interestingly, I never cared for the first book in the series. The Gunslinger has one of my favorite opening lines of all time, but I had a very hard time making it through the story itself, even though it isn’t particularly long. I would never have continued with the series if I hadn’t been desperate for something to read and found The Drawing of the Three in a used book store for something like fifty cents.

God love you, used bookstores. What would I do without you?

4. The Stand

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One of my favorites, despite the fact they kill my favorite character (which is hardly surprising, considering almost ALL of the main characters die) and the rather literal deus ex machina ending (which bothers me less than you might think, although I still kind of wish I could change it). I said that Stephen King books didn’t scare me, and I meant it, but I’ll admit this one is a tiny bit unnerving if you pick up a cold while you’re reading it. Double bonus points if it’s during the summer.

You know how when you’re a teenager, all your stories are ridiculously derivative (if not outright rip-offs) of other people’s work? Yeah, this was totally one of those books for me. I remember starting a story once that was about a mysterious illness that killed off most of the world’s population, but mine was TOTALLY DIFFERENT from The Stand. Because, you know. There were a lot more adolescents.

(It’s a side note, but I wish YA had been as big of a thing when I was in middle school. I had this whole fantasy series planned out — and in fact, I finished writing the first novel/novella — but even then, I remember thinking to myself, Will adults even read books about fourteen year old girls with magic powers? Mind you, I was not some miraculous child writing prodigy, and nobody would’ve ever bought that book because I was thirteen and the writing was terrible. But I think I would have been encouraged just by knowing there was a market out there, looking for the kinds of things I was interested in writing.

5. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

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Like most people, I saw The Shawshank Redemption long before I read the novella. And like most people who have a SOUL (Henry, I’m talking to you, buddy), I loved the movie. But the reason I specifically mention the novella (published in Different Seasons) is because I was surprised to discover that the film is one of the closest adaptations I think I’ve ever read. There are changes — they gloss over some of the more explicit prison brutality, which I’m totally okay with, and we don’t find out the horrible specifics of Red’s crime, which is probably the smart choice — but not only are the movie and novella plots identical, the script pulls a lot of its lines directly from the source material. Maybe I’m just jaded after having seen too many horrifying movie adaptations (seriously, Needful Things), but reading the book was a pleasant surprise, right up to the last lines: “I hope Andy is down there. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

It’s a surprisingly upbeat ending for Stephen King, and while I’m often a bittersweet ending kind of person, sometimes it’s nice to end on a happy message. Also, on a not-entirely related note, I think Zihuatanejo would be an awesome name for a cat. Zooey (like Zoo-ee, not Zoe) for short.

Mek? Can I have another kitten? Please?

6. On Writing

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I am not a giant fan of the ‘I’ word — which, if you didn’t know, is inspirational — but in this case, it’s actually pretty appropriate: I felt nothing short of inspired after reading this book. For one thing, reading about Stephen King’s many rejection letters (which he nailed to a wall) was great because if it’s one thing every new writer has to learn, it’s that EVERYONE gets rejection letters. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. Rejection letters are just a fact of life when you’re a writer. Also, I was waging war — mostly silent, internal, furious war — against all my English teachers who wanted stories to be About Something Important, and I wanted stories to be fucking stories, and this book felt a little like validation on that philosophy.

On Writing gave me some useful advice about writing techniques, but more importantly, it gave me hope that someday, I was going to write stuff that would actually get published. I’ve been writing for such a long time that I can’t see myself ever having stopped, but I can totally envision a life where I gave up trying to publish shit and just wrote in my spare time for no one’s eyes but my own. I’m glad that’s not the way my life has turned out.

7. IT

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Finally, my very favorite Stephen King book of all time. Despite a scene in the sewers that’s just cringeworthy (and not in the good way), I love and will always love IT. There are a lot of reasons for that: I’m a sucker for friendship stories, for child magic stories, for stories about growing up and returning home and facing the monsters you left behind. I already mentioned my small hometown, and during my more “I-Hate-This-Town-Get-Me-Out-of-it-For-The-Love-of-God” years, I sometimes likened Middletown to Derry, which wasn’t a terribly flattering comparison, since the whole town of Derry basically was IT.

The ending does one of those things I usually can’t stand, where the heroes basically forget the entire story, but Stephen King does it so perfectly that I just couldn’t bring myself to hate it. IT has an excellent beginning and a hugely bittersweet end (which I’d quote, if my copy of the novel hadn’t mysteriously gone missing) and is always on my Desert Island Book shortlist. Stephen King’s written a ridiculous amount of stuff and I like a lot of it, but I have a hard time believing anything is ever going to replace this as the top prize.

Cause, come on. It’s got an evil clown. And, at the end of the day, wouldn’t most books be better off if they had an evil clown in them?

pennywise

If only Pennywise had been in Rebecca . If only.

“I Am The Eater of Worlds . . . And of Children!”

Stephen King adaptations are, historically, not awesome. For every Stand by Me or The Shawshank Redemption, there is a Needful Things — or a Dreamcatcher — or a Children of the Corn — or a Lawnmower Man — or a Maximum Overdrive — or a Tommyknockers — or, hell, even a Haven. Which, hey, could be good, for all I know — I’ve seen maybe ten minutes of it — but the show seriously stretches the meaning of  the term “based on”. Hell, the show seriously stretches the meaning of the term “loosely inspired by”. Seriously, go read The Colorado Kid at some point and then watch even a promo of Haven on Syfy. It’s ridiculous.

But I’m not here to talk about Haven. I’m here to talk about another television treasure.

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Periodically, Mekaela and I just have to pop in this DVD and rejoice in glorious mockery. As it’s a four hour miniseries, I’ll only be covering the first half now, but look for the second part of this review later in the week.

For now . . . welcome to Derry. Home of the creepiest clowns and the worst match cuts you’ll ever see on screen.

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