Tag Archives: F. Paul Wilson

Why “horror?”

My post from yesterday talked about what scared me, and I promised that I'd write something about why I write what I write, which is mostly horror.  The short answer is that it's what comes out when I start writing.  So there. There's gotta be a longer answer, right? Well, let's see.  I write horror because I think it's fun to imagine scary scenarios.  There's usually a morality play at work in such stories; even if they glorify gore and torture, there's a good-vs.-evil thing going on.  You the reader root for the good guy (usually). I cut my fiction teeth on mysteries when I was small.  All mysteries seem to me to be "small horror" stories in a way.  Something bad has happened.  The mystery is who did it, or why.  Sometimes it's a puzzle story about the act of figuring things out.  Think of thrillers.  Murders, terrorists, evil government agencies, disappearances, bombs, plane crashes -- all these things can be elements of a horror novel.  But the focus is on the good guy solving the problem, not so much on the victim. I remember a mystery I read when I was younger titled THE BLACK SPANIEL MYSTERY (or something close to that).  I remember that these puppies were disappearing.  Or rather, they were being replaced.  But one of the kids noticed that the markings of the puppy were not the same as the markings on the original puppy.  Why?  I can remember feeling for those puppies, as well as for the kids who were hurt by the puppies' disappearance.  That the kids took it upon themselves to solve the puzzle made it a mystery.  But what if the puppies were being stolen just to hurt the kids?  Or they were going to do a "Cruella DeVil" on them and skin them for their lovely fur pelts?  That's horror, no? Further, I moved on to science fiction.  Asimov and Heinlein were my two main sources of entertainment for a long time (considering how many books both of them wrote, you can well imagine that getting through their catalogs took a few years...).  Again, we had mysteries, even in something like FOUNDATION, where the whole book is basically a search for the Second Foundation.  Along the way there is The Mule, a mutant who can rule the universe with his advanced mental powers.  That's sort of scary, isn't it?  He's almost an alien in those books, and here he is taking over the human race.  Admittedly, Asimov's emphasis doesn't focus on any horrific elements, so it remains firmly in the SF realm. Then finally, I found Stephen King.  Now here was horror.  We had a psychic girl going destructo on her high school prom, we had vampires taking over a town, we had the ghosts of evil in a big hotel recruiting the caretaker and convincing him to murder his snowbound family, we had a psychic who sees the end of the world in a politician's handshake and acts to stop it, we had a virus which kills off 99.4% (or something like that) of the population of the U.S., setting up an epic battle between good and evil.  We had ghosts, we had aliens, we had monsters, we had zombies from a pet cemetery...all manners of horror.  All done with style. I didn't really read horror to be reading horror for a long time.  I just read authors.  Dan Simmons wrote some horror (Summer of Night, Carrion Comfort).  Robert McCammon did, too.  So did Orson Scott Card (Lost Boys) and Dean Koontz.  Finally I found authors who wrote nothing except for horror.  Richard Laymon, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Phil Rickman, Melanie Tem, Nancy Holder, Poppy Z. Brite...  So many names, so many scary stories.  The tales varied.  Some were gross and bloody, some were moody and ephemeral. I wanted to write science fiction, but nothing I wrote seemed to really work all that well.  Although I have a science background (chemistry major, lots of health sciences in dental school, and interest in the space program dating to my childhood, so I always took in information about the goings-on in science), my stories never seemed really plausible to me.  Maybe that was the problem.  Maybe I knew enough to know that what I was thinking wasn't really going to work, but not enough to figure out a way to make it believable.  Anyway, as big of a fan of SF as I am, I've only written three short stories that are more or less in the realm of SF. Everything I write seems to always come back to either the supernatural, or to something evil.  I've liked that in short stories I can sometimes have the bad guys win (see my short story GARAGE SALE which is found in THE STRIKER FILES 3-In-1 COLLECTION, or my story THE FUN HOUSE in DIE 6).  I like going in that direction with my stories.  It seems natural to me. I like stories about characters.  I believe that most horror, at least most entertaining (to me) horror, is character-centric.  If you don't care about the victims, then you won't care much about their story.  And there is always a very important struggle between good and evil, between right and wrong.  To me, that's the cool part of a story in the horror genre -- it's the "good will rise over evil" aspect, the fact that while not everyone might live through this evil, in the end, somehow, the good characters will triumph.  Perhaps it will be at a steep cost, perhaps their lives, or the lives of their loved ones.  Sacrifices have to be made.  That's a good story right there, in my opinion.  It's a universal story; one that can be adapted across genres.  Maybe all, or most, good stories have it at their core, somehow. Recently I read a book called SEASICK by Iain Rob Wright.  In the book a troubled cop on holiday finds that he's reliving a day over and over and over and over and...  well, you get the picture.  It turns out (SPOILER ALERT, though I think that even if you know the end, you can probably read the book and enjoy it because it's a pretty fun read) that there is a killer virus on the ship, released by terrorists, and when the ship reaches the dock, it's going to infect the port, and the world, and everyone's gonna die.  How is the cop going to get out of this? Is this a thriller or a horror novel?  Well, the virus turns people into some sort of zombies, so that makes it horror.  But...terrorists...a plot to release a virus...a hero cop...thriller, right?  But, a sorcerer who is causing the day to repeat for this cop until he gets it right...back to horror...  But... You see what I mean.  A good horror novel can be a good thriller.  It just has supernatural aspects, and doesn't shy away from depicting the bad stuff that happens, even if it happens more or less "off camera." I like writing character-driven stories.  I think that most of my stories start with the characters and move on from there.  I don't know if I succeed.  Read something I've written (all short stories, until THE CAVE goes live sometime this weekend, then I'll have a novella in the mix as well) and come back and tell me what you think.  It happens that most of my stories end up being horror in some way, but they're mostly just stories. One of the best horror series I've read in recent years is F. Paul Wilson's "Repairman Jack" series.  Why is it so good?  Because Jack is facing off as the champion of a supernatural entity, and opposing another, more involved supernatural entity, but the horrors are a mix of real-life horror and horror caused in an unbelievable way by something supernatural.  Because Jack is fighting for himself as a sort of every-man, and his family, and even for people he doesn't know but shares humanity with.  Because in the end you just have to know what's happening, how it's going to resolve, and what will become of Jack and Gia and Vicky and Abe and others. It is a character-driven series, in my view, and they are the type of books I love to read, and aspire to write. Anyway, that's a long answer as to why I write horror.  Mostly it's because those are the kind of stories that I make up.  Lot of words to get back to that short answer.  Sorry! *****

Update on Book Pricing

I just thought a quick post updating the book pricing might be interesting.  A couple posts back, I wrote that Amazon's ebook price for DARK CITY by F. Paul Wilson was $8.54, more than my arbitrary max for a fiction ebook for myself. So I waited.  I received a ten-dollar gift card from Barnes and Noble for Christmas, and yesterday I went into their store to browse a bit.  There was DARK CITY, retail price $8.99.  With my 10% member's discount, it was already down to $8.09, less than the ebook price.  Okay, you might say that I already paid for that $0.90 discount with the $25.00 membership fee, and you'd be correct.  But then I also had a 20% coupon that came via email that day.  When I was not a member of B&N's program, I rarely received coupons, and almost never received 20% coupons, except maybe at Christmas.   Plus, the $25.00 is a "sunk cost" whether I buy the book from Amazon as an ebook or from Barnes and Noble as a trade paperback. With my 10% and the additional 20%, the cost of the book dropped to $6.47 (plus an 8.75% sales tax).  (I also bought remaindered editions of Evanovich's 19th Stephanie Plum, a Joe Pickett novel from C.J. Box, a Robert Crais novel and a Jeffrey Deaver novel, each at 10% off their already low price, three at $5.98 and one at $6.98, so I got an additional $2.50 off besides the $0.90 on the Wilson title.  A total of $5.02 off with the coupon.) Now watch:  I'll go to Amazon next week and DARK CITY will be $3.99. ***** UPDATE:  I went to the Amazon page to see what the price was today.  Instead of it being $8.54, it had gone up to $8.99, the exact same cost as the MMPB.  All I can do is shrug... *****  

Price of books…

A while back, I purchased a book by F. Paul Wilson, whose Repairman Jack series is one of my favorites.  While the series is finished (at the end), Wilson decided to write three prequels detailing the early years of Jack in NYC.  The first of these three is called COLD CITY and it was priced, at the time, at something like $3.99 as an ebook, I think.  Maybe have been a dollar more or less, but I'm certain that it was below $5.00. I read it, enjoyed it a lot, and went to check on what the next book, DARK CITY, costs as an ebook.  I was surprised to see that it costs $8.54 on Amazon.  More than my max for an ebook for my personal use (I sometimes go higher for books for my kids).  But what surprised me even more was that the cost of the paperback is $8.99.  In the dialect of Jack's friend Abe, "I should care how the words get from Wilson's imagination to my brain?" Just so we're clear.  I have a B&N membership.  I get it usually at Thanksgiving, and it costs me $25.00.  Over the year, I believe it pays for itself, buying books for myself (mostly bargain books off the remaindered shelf where I only save about $0.70 or $0.80 per book, but I buy 10 or 15 of them a year, maybe more) and buying books for my kids (also usually around a dollar savings).  With the card, however, you also get more coupons and better coupons.  For example, toward the end of the year I was routinely getting 20% coupons every week, and I even got two 30% coupons (one of which I didn't use).  I'll have to track it more carefully this year.  But I'm sure it paid for itself last year, since we bought a bunch of Dr. Who stuff for the kiddies as well. At $8.99 price point, with 10% off for certain (via the card I already have) and perhaps another 15% off via a coupon which will probably come soon via email, the final cost of the book will be $8.09 plus tax at the most, and $6.88 at best, if I wait for a 15% coupon (which I certainly can do).  So let's see.  I get a physical copy of the book, which I can resell or give to my buddy down the road, for $6.88 plus tax, or I buy an ebook which I can't do anything else with after I've read it (except read it a second time, perhaps), for $8.54 (without tax today, but as soon as Amazon opens their facility in Illinois, then with state sales tax as well). I think I'm going for the physical copy.  Not that I care.  If the ebook was less, maybe in the $5.99 range, I wouldn't hesitate.  It would already be on my Kindle.  I'd probably be reading it now. Whose bright idea are those prices, anyway? *****

A tale of two reads – VIRGIN by F. Paul Wilson and LAMB by Christopher Moore

I recently came across LAMB by Christopher Moore in a bookstore in Michigan, and, well...I bought it.  Again.  I'd lent my copy out and it lost its way home.  I've read it before; it was my introduction to Moore's work and I went on to read several more of his titles.  I have liked them all but LAMB remains my favorite. I also bought a "boxed set" collection of ebooks (6 for $0.99) and the first one in that set was F. Paul Wilson's VIRGIN.  Wilson is another of my favorite authors; his Repairman Jack saga gave me a lot of exciting reading pleasure.  After reading it, I found out that it was an early work written under a pen name. The reason I'm writing about both of these is because I read them back-to-back, and both deal with biblical themes.  VIRGIN is sort of DAVINCI CODE meeting grave robbers.  Due to a series of "chance" happenings, an ancient cave is opened up in the deserts in or near Israel, and an ancient scroll is stolen.  When the scroll turns up in the United States, it is determined to be a fake - the ink is only 12 years old, even if the papyrus is 2000 years old. But the truth of what it says cannot be hidden, apparently, and a priest and a nun go off in search of a religious treasure - the body of Mary, mother of Jesus.  And when they find her, things go off the rails.  It was a fun story that got a little preachy at the end, even if some of the preachiness felt...well - right! - in today's world.  Seems the remains of Mary have a lot of power over people, and they signal a second coming... LAMB is a very funny take on the life of Christ, told by his childhood pal and BFF Levi, who is known as Biff.  Biff takes us through the time of Joshua's (Jesus') childhood, how they come to be aquainted with Mary Magdalene, and what they do for those years between age 13 and 30 (or so).  (Hint:  It involves those Eastern wise men who came to seek out Joshua when he was born.)  Josh stays pure and on point and in character (for the most part), though he is also a normal kid in many ways.  But Biff is totally a normal kid, a lot like kids of today - interested in girls and...well, girls.  Biff is totally devoted to Josh, and travels with him as a sort of protector and someone who is able to deal with the world as it presents itself to them, on the world's terms. Turns out Biff checked out before getting to the end of the story, and is brought back to life by the angel Raziel to tell the story that only he can tell. I may have found it funnier because, as a Catholic, I got the references.  A lot of bits in this book made me laugh out loud, and parts of this story were touching enough to bring a tear to the eye.  In some ways I wish this wasn't fiction. So while both stories get thumbs up from me, LAMB gets the far stronger thumbs-up.  I loved it.  I liked VIRGIN too, but not nearly as much as LAMB.  And now I'm done with reading religious themed books - until I find another, that is.  Or until I decide that a reread of LAMB is in order. *****