Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Strange Man by Greg Mitchell

The Strange Man by Greg Mitchell is a thought-provoking Christian horror tale with a lot going on. It is, first of all, a tale of terror and darkness (and it certainly manages to keep the pages turning, but contains deep spiritual themes running throuhgout, not the least of which are those of redemption and forgivness.

It is also almost cinematic in quality and overall story. In common with a lot of movies in the horror genre, The Strange Man is a suberb example of the "Return of the Repressed" thematic plotline (I'm tempted here to refer to that as an archhetype)which is found flowing throughout horror cinema. Only here the theme if not merely traditional (as I've argued the majority of horror films are to one degree or another), but genuinely Christian. I've pointed out before that the horror genre is by far the most effective in depicting evil as an actual, supernatural menace at large in the world, and few tales communicate this reality as straightforwardly and effectively as this one.

Greensboro is a once prosperous town that has, in the modern era, fallen into rough times. It is also a town with a haunted past: local legend speaks of a mysterious monster or bogyman who is rumored to lurk in the woods. The story begins with an old hermit enjoying frightening the local kids into good behavior by telling them tales of this monster, all the while not taking them seriously enough himself. Not long afterward, said hermit falls victim to very monster of his tales (his flayed corpse turns up later).

It seems the legend is true, and the Strange Man (who is clearly some sort of demonic entity somehow tied to the town, or perhaps he is the Devil himself--the book is never quite clear on this) is far more than creepy folklore for chill autumn nights. It seems this enigmatic creature of Darkness has been kept at bay by the Christian faith of Greensboro's founders. But now, in the modern, secularized era, that faith has grown thin. The Strange Man has grown correspondingly in power, and he is now able to pick off the town's disbeleiving, sinful populace like flies.

We next see him at a local rave club which is sort of a weekend hangout place for the town's lazy, irresponsible, liquor-adled teens and twenty-somethings. Just the sort, in fact, who regularly serve as fodder for the killer in your typical slasher movie. It is here that we first encounter our hero and his semi-girlfriend Rosalyn. Dras Weldon is an unlikely hero, however, t say the least. In fact, he seems among the worst of the young slackers present. But Mitchel manages to make an initially unappealing character into a convincing hero by the end. I found myself rooting for this seemingly unlikable kid in the finl chapters.

But not only does Dras not end up as a corpse, we later learn that in spite of being an adult teen-slacker, Dras is somehow "chosen" (for lack of a better term) by God, and is therefore immune to the demon's predation. The Strange Man can and does taunt and terrorize Dras, but is unable to remove him. This smacks somewhat of Calvinism and the doctrine of pre-elect. I'll mention right here that this is hardly a doctrine that I am in agreement with. It is possible to interpret that doctrine, however, as God knowing who will and won't make the right choices. And Dras, in total contrast to his spiritual state for the first few chapters, finally comes to his senses and DOES manage to make the right, and vital choices before the end.

As for Rosalyn, she is powerfully and sexually drawn to the Strange Man when she encounters him at the rave. But the demon does not plan death for her; what he plans is never quite clear, but it appears to to something even worse. It is only later that Dras realizes that demons are real, the Greensboro bogyman is real, he's coming after Rosalyn, the whole of Christinaity is real too, and he must to everything within his very meager power to defeat the demon and save his friend, and this plays out very well within the novel's concluding chapters.

However, the Strange Man does claim one actual victim at the rave, a blonde girl with an arrogantly atheistic boyfriend. Unlike Rosalyn, she apparently and rightly senses the evil within the stranger, and that is partially why she must be eliminated. This was one incident in the novel which I didn't particularly care for. In horror films the blonde is virtually ALWAYS targeted by the killer: it seems that blondes, viewed as sexual objects in our society, are therefore threats to purity almost by default. Heck, it's even hard to think of a blonde in a horror film who did not meet a gorey finish(There was one blonde in Scream 4, I beleive, who survived. Moreover, when she attempts to call her boyfriend on her cellphone, he refuses to help her, scoffing at her superstitiuous fears. However, said boyfried does end up as one of the Strange Man's victims later, which, for me, kind of balanced out the "fairness" factor---at least a little.

The protagonist's brother is a character in striking contrast to the lapsed-Christian slacker Dras--Jeff Weldon is actually a local minister! He has been fultily attempting to get his younger sibling to turn over a leaf for years. It is almost a shock that, when Dras does finally come to him, insisting his repentance, and pleading for assistence against the demon who is threatening himself and Rosalyn, Jeff turns him away in anger and disgust.

Yes, this story is, at least partially, a modern horror retelling of the parable of the prodical son, and this is where Mitchell's tale is at its most powerful. There are, unfortunately, a lot of "older brothers' out there who beleive themselves superior, even to those ernestly seeking Christ, due to their own self-percieved piousness and humility. Jeff doesn't seem even to like the fact that Dras may actually be taking faith seriously this time; there are bound to be loads of readers out there who know Christians like "older brother" Jeff who are eager to turn way their repentant siblings, in spite of Christ's teaching to the contrary.

I won't spoil the stunning climax of the tale, but I will say that the ending and epiloge open up the way for a sequal, which in fact, is to be on sale this very month. It is called Enemies of the Cross, and reportedly focusses on the situation of Jeff.

On an end note, much of the book reads like a movie, not only in plot and theme similarity, but in imagery as well. Some of the book's narrative, in fact, virtually aches for transalation into film. I can see in my mind's eye swarms of of the Stange man's winged gremlins tearing through Greensboro in pursuit of Dras, rendered CGI on the silver screen.

A very thought-provoking and well-written horror tale.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review of The Last Excorcism

Note: this is the same review that appeared last year. I wish I could find my review of The Rite as well. Randy is it in your files? I lost it!
The Last Exorcism is a film that employs the same hand-held camera gimmick as Cloverfield. It’s now starting to become a trend (I fear) to use this format. I actually enjoyed Cloverfield’s reality-TV take on the giant monster genre. The upshot of this type of film is that it gives the audience a character’s eye view of the action, gives us the perspective of what it is like to actually be a participant in a horror film, an inhabitant of an alternate reality where the fantastic intrudes upon everyday life. I’ve always assumed that if you were an inhabitant of a movie-reality, you’d be oblivious to the creepy background music, and you certainly wouldn’t be aware of larger picture of what was taking place around you. Such is the case with this movie. And this brings me to the downside of this approach to filmmaking. For one thing, in a horror film, if you take away the background music, you also jettison most of the scares. I found this out when I first saw The Blair Witch Project. I know my friend Randy Streu disagrees with me on this but for me (and quite a few others) this film just wasn’t scary. Maybe if I actually thought what happened had been real...but I happened to know well ahead of time. Also, this approach of necessity leaves the viewer in the dark as to much of the action. We never saw the scientists investigate the origins of the Cloverfield monster, for example, or the military’s attempts to destroy it. This means loads of unanswered questions.
The Last Exorcism starts out very like a normal documentary, not unlike Jesus Camp. Cotton Marcus is a typical religious hypocrite who fleeces his followers for profit and little else. He is a professional exorcist, but his trade is entirely phoney, as he confesses liberally to the audience. However, it seems this particular shuckster has had a slight change of heart of late. After one exorcism results in a terrible tragedy, Marcus swears to give up his trade. Except, of course, for just one more, which he intends to reveal to the audience for the absurd quackery that it is. This latest case involves the hickish Sweetzer family whose father Louis believes his daughter Nell has been possessed by Satan. When Marcus and his camera crew arrive on the Sweetzer property, Louis’s son Caleb greets them with strange hostility. Marcus performs an exorcism on Nell, revealing to the camera how all of his fakery is accomplished. Up until this point, the film could still be a documentary with the intent to expose charlatanism and comment on the dangerous folly of superstition. However, disturbing events follow, as Nell suffers repeated bouts of demonic attack which appear to offer no rational explanation. These attacks grow increasingly worse, culminating in a feat of bodily contortion which appears to defy the laws of physics. It seems apparent that the protagonist is now up against the genuine article: a case of true demonic possession. Of course, all his efforts prove futile in the face of this terrifying reality. Finally, Marcus opts to chock Nell’s possession up to some sort of psychosis, and does what most would consider the only sensible thing: namely leave. But, typical of horror-film characters, instead of getting as far away from the Sweetzer farm as possible, he makes a last ditch decision to turn around and drive back---after dark, no less.
He and his cameraman find themselves confronted by some sort of satanic ritual outside the farmhouse, lit by a roaring orange bonfire. Nell is squirming on an altar, where she gives birth to a writhing, scarlet demon-infant. A robed priest takes the newly birthed creature and tosses it into the fire, with flares up with a life of its own. Marcus (perhaps possessed?) begins walking toward the fire. A local pastor and librarian are revealed as participants in this unholy ritual. The producer is killed, and Caleb appears and apparently murders the cameraman. Credits role. We don’t learn for sure what actually becomes Marcus himself, but his prospects look very grim.
What are we to make of all this?
I don’t know is The Last Exorcism was made with an intentionally Christian slant or not, but in spite of the unanswered questions (just what was up with the ritual? Why was the local pastor involved? How was Nell possessed, and was she intentionally used as a vessel for a demonic birth?), the message of the movie appears to be this: just because there are plenty of fakers around doesn’t mean demons don’t’ exist, or that possession isn’t a terrifying, dangerous reality. Ignore the Bible’s warnings to your peril. Or, to use an analogy I once read in a horror novel: “Anyone can imitate the Mona Lisa; but that doesn’t make the Mona Lisa a fake. I rest my case.”

Review of Bless the Child

Note: this is the same review of the Christian horror film Bless the Child that I submitted over a year ago to Flame in the Dark, but that site appears no longer in existence.
Bless the Child is the sort of rare horror film which is told inequitably from a Christian POV. Reportedly, it was based on a novel which had strong ties to pagan mythology, especially that of the Ancient Egyptian pantheon. The movie itself, however, assumes a very Christian worldview and tackles the topic of spiritual warfare as fearlessly as a Frank Peretti novel.

The story itself center around a small girl named Cody(Holiston Coleman) who exhibits special God-given powers, and who is destined to be a “prophet or saint” of some kind who will lead people to God. She is born to Jenna, a drug-addled vagrant who also sleeps around. It is noteworthy that if any child would qualify as being “born in sin,” this would be this one. The drugee takes the child to the apartment of her sister Maggie (played by Nichol Kidman), who works as an intern at the local hospital. She chews her sister out for giving birth on drugs. Though Maggie is willing to help her recover from the drug abuse, her sister leaves the child in her care. Before long, Cody begins to show signs that appear to be of autism, such as rocking silently back and forth. Other, more telling symptoms later become apparent, however, as when Cody literally brings a dove back to life at her school for autistic children. She also harbors some of form of telekinesis in her ability to cause plates to spin, as well as a type of extra-sensory perception.

The villain is played to oily perfection by Rufus Sewell. I first encountered him as the hero of the dark sci-fi thriller Dark City. However, the few other times I’ve seen him, including his roles in The Legend of Zorro (which put Christianity in an unfavorable light, BTW), and The Illusionist, have been as evil characters. Eric Stark, a former child star who fell into drugs and booze during his adolescence, now heads a “New Age” type self-help organization, appropriately titled the New Dawn. Sewell manages simultaneously to be slickly charming and creepy in the role, though as Stark’s true nature becomes apparent and worsens, he audience is shown him as thoroughly, and repugnantly evil. Problems begin when Jenna, Maggie’s sister, now married to Stark (Rufus Sewell), and apparently weaned off her former drug habit, suddenly reappears in order to take custody of Cody. Actually, it’s Stark who demands the custody. At first he appears totally benevolent, and to have Cody’s best interests at heart. When Maggie proves “difficult,” however, he threatens her with legal action, then, when Maggie remains steadfast, takes Cody by force. The law enforcement is of little help, seemingly reluctant to take on an organization as powerful as Stark’s, save for one detective specializing in occult crimes played by James Smit. Action ensues, involving car chases, hordes of winged demons, and some startling revelations. Maggie experiences some frightening demonic visions, such as one scene where she find’s Cody’s room swarming with demonic CGI rats. There are also what appear to be angels in human form who appear to assist or give encouragement to the good guys.

Christina Ricci, whose role in this movie was overhyped, appears in only two brief scenes (after which she is gruesomely killed off)as a recovering drug addict and former member of Starks’ New Dawn, who is under Maggie’s care. Through her, Maggie learns to true nature of New Dawn, and Stark’s motivation for kidnapping Cody. Though New Dawn is allegedly helping kids off of drugs, it seems actually to be doing the opposite—among other things. Once brief scene late in the film, in fact, shows Stark is actually keeping Jenna on the drugs. It turns out that Stark is behind a string of Satanic child-murders (the “Slaughter of the Innocents” a direct reference to King Herod) directly linked to Cody’s kidnapping. Cody is the one they’re looking for, however, and Stark has very special plans for turning Cody over to the Dark Side, so to speak. My reference to the Star Wars series may seem to trivialize the film, but that’s not my intention. The fact that Stark behaves very much like a Sith Lord is, however, very significant. In the Star Wars movies, George Lucas makes it clear that emotions such as fear anger and hate are all dangerous paths to the Dark Side. In a Christian perspective, hate is directly opposed to love, and therefore opposed to God-- for God is Love. All of these emotions fuel to desire to satisfy the self, to the possible expense of others. Though Lucas drew much of his Star Wars mythos from the works of Joseph Campbell, rather than Christian cosmology, the truth here is unmistakable. Eric Stark could well be channeling Darth Sidius when he tells Maggie at one point, “Feel that hate...something that feels that good can’t be wrong.” His efforts to persuade Cody to join him are compared directly to Satan’s temptation of Christ by a wheelchair bound Biblical scholar who informs Maggie, “Eric Stark and organizations like his are spreading a powerful message. God does not really exist. Therefore, we can all make up our own rules.” This is direct and courageous (in the climate of PC Hollywood) attack on relativist ethics. It is also a charge leveled by Christians and other theists at atheism, which very often promotes godlessness as a type of liberation. Another of the films accomplishments is demonstrating how evil can be potentially alluring to the characters, just as in life, while demonstrating to the audience its true rotten nature. It is revealed that Stark’s New Dawn, while disguised as a self-empowerment group, is, underneath, knowingly and blatantly Satanic at its core. The film makes clear the insidious nature of Satan, for although Christians are wary of anything snacking of the occult, New Dawn appears to be very genuine, and the testimony of young people (“It changed my whole life!” one young man explains with apparent sincerity) on a website Maggie visits give the organization striking credulity. However, once his true nature shows itself, Stark makes no bones to Cody about whom he really serves. Unlike Satan’s tempting of Christ, however, Stark does not so much attempt to bribe Cody as try to convince her of the falsity of her belief in God. We can see the much same thing happening on a much vaster scale in today’s secular culture. A more insidious fact is that there is a slight though definite similarity between empowerment groups such as Stark’s and the fact that most Christian literature today tends to be self-help oriented. This automatically places the self over one’s duty toward others.

Although Bless the Child is, for all practical purposes, a Christian Horror film, in doing some background research for this essay I encountered some curious facts regarding Bless the Child. Somewhat disheartening is the fact that the bulk of the reviews of the film on Amzon.com appeared to be negative. The professional reviews at Rotten Tomatoes proved overwhelmingly so. In fact, I was able to locate only a single definitely positive review among them. Not surprisingly, most reviewers targeted the film’s strong Christian elements among the movie’s faults. This, I fear, is partly due to the perceived inconsistency when it comes to “Christian Horror.” Most horror fans seeking terror and suspense (or perhaps dreary naturalistic themes), will likely be put off by what they consider to be overt “preachiness,” as BTC most definitely does promote a Christian worldview. Those in pursuit of sadistic thrills would do best to seek out a different movie; there are no innocent but “deserving” victims in BTC. Save for the most evil characters (Stark and a hired killer die in the climactic shoot-out) there is no implication that those who die in the film will end up anywhere but heaven—Christina’s Ricci’s character has left Eric’s cult and is at least seeking truth. The ending, in fact, is very morally redemptive. In the final scene, Maggie, a recovered Jenna, and the detective, are taking Cody to church, when one of the surviving cultists comes at them with a knife, apparently intent on killing Cody. When Cody turns to confront him, the kid becomes terrified and runs. Among the few positive reviews on Amazon.com, were in fact, by Christians who were unafraid to view a horror flick. One of the best such reviews was by none other than Roger Elwood, who is both a long-time horror buff, and a prominent sci-fi anthology editor back in the seventies, and author of the Christian Angelwalk series, the Christian science fiction novel The Wandering, among others.
Although I was not initially aware of this, the director, Chuck Russel, is indeed a Christian, who was in fact going to direct Frank Peretti’s first novel on spiritual warfare. According to Ted Baehr of Movieguide:
At one point, Chuck Russell, the director and a committed Christian, was involved with THIS PRESENT DARKNESS. The studios refused to give him a green light for that profusely Christian project. One wonders why, after seeing BLESS THE CHILD, which is just as overtly Christian as THIS PRESENT DARKNESS.

I would agree with him that Bless the Child, also film about spiritual warfare is most definitely a Christian horror film, and one of the best.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Travis Thrasher's Isolation

Travis Thrasher is a Christian horror author. His novel Isolation draws obviously from Stephen King's far more famous work, The Shining, and other works in the "haunted mansion" genre that form part of gothic tradition. Thrasher is himself a long-time fan of Kings and admirer of his work, as he reports in the interview in the back of this book.

The story concerns James Miller, a Christian missionary to Papua New Guinea, his wife Stephanie, small daughter Ashley, and nine-year-old son Zachary. Though still a beleiver, James has become somewhat world-weary with expereince, and fears that his faith may be slipping. The family, (and later Stephanie's brother Paul, who is essentially an atheist) move into a vast mansion in North Carolina, and here is where the trouble begins.

The mansion itself has an odd history. Each of its hundreds of rooms have been design with particular theme (A pirate room, a bear room, and so on) The mansion sports four wings in adition to vast lobby and drawing room. The fourth wing has been mysteriously sealed off. Stepanie and Paul were brought up by very unchristian parents, and she is plagued by dreams and visions which recall a disturbing past. Young Zachary finds the mansion a child's adventure to explore; however it soon becomes a apparent that some dreadful evil lurks in the mansion, evidenced by eerie rumors by the local townsfolk and the increasing uneasiness te family experiences. After a snow storm traps them, that evil makes its presence known. This malign presence recognizes the potenial for good in Zachary, and intends to end the boy's life.

This is very suspenseful story and a wonderful contribution to the gothic tradition of The Haunting of Hill House and Rose Red. Zach is "gifted" child, and this I found somewhat similar to The Shining's Danny Torrence, only rather than a sixth sense type ability to see the unseen, he is especially gifted in the areas of faith an the power of prayer. The evil senses in Zach the potential to accomplish great things for the Lord.

Which leads me to a moral question: since prayer (communion with God) proves the family's salvation from supernatural evil, what would have happened had the family not been Christian? What then?

Well, their son would not have been targeted, as the villain's motive would have disapeared, for one thing, but even if he had, I think I have an answer that may reveal here some of my (potentially controversial) theology. I beleive that of faith would indeed have left them open to demonic attack, but I do not beieve that this would be due to abandonmment by, and/or judgement by God. I am not sure even that I consider God to be omnipotent in the usual sense of that word. Prayer and genuine faith creates a "psychic connect" with the Lord that would be otherwise nearly impossible. This is why prayer is so vital to faith and vice versa. God loves everyone, but one must know how to connect to Him.

As a book that warns of the danger of supernatural evil and champions the power of the spiritual through childlike faith, Isolation is one o the best books have thus far encountered. It is available from Thrasher's website, as well as Amazon.com.

Bentley Little’s The Disappearance

Bentley Little is well-known as a writer of satirical horror novels. He is in no way shape or form a “Christian” novelist, being both a secularist and a liberal. His novels very often take on big business as a source of incalculable, evil supernatural evil. His targets have included department store franchises (The Store), gated communities (The Association), charter schools (The Academy), among many others. He has been called, with some accuracy, a highly political writer. Oddly, many of these stories portray sexuality as very evil (as, for example, when a possessed resort shows nothing but porn on its TVs), a fact inconsistent with the Enlightenment outlook. Perhaps, while writing, Little simply hasn’t questioned the traditional association between sex and wickedness. Then again, some of the sex imagery Little uses seems designed primarily for shock value rather than any deeper moral consideration.

The Disappearance is somewhat of a departure for Little. The story begins when a group of young college friends attend the Burning Man festival. While the kids are stoned out, the girlfriend of the main character mysteriously vanishes. Upon returning to the university, they find that all her school records have mysteriously vanished. They find small enigmatic scrolls in her dormitory, warning of the mysterious “outsiders.” At this point, the novel begins to show some resemblance to movies like The Vanishing which explore the idea that human existence may be controlled and manipulated by a mysterious alien presence capable of “erasing” a person from reality like a computer file.

This is NOT what the story is about.

While Little plays with reader expectations for the first few chapters, the real truth behind the girl’s abduction soon becomes apparent. It turns out her parents were members of a fanatical religious cult called the Homesteaders, similar in some ways to the Amish. Her parents managed to escape the cult, but now they have managed to capture her. The last half of the book deals with the group of students vs. the cult, and their mysterious leader known only as “Father,” who may or may not possess supernatural powers.

Even secularists tend to idealize Amish and Mennonite communities. The primary reason for this seems to be the human tendency to idealize the past as somehow more wholesome, more pure, and less corrupt than the present. But the community Little portrays is anything but idealized. The Homesteaders live in virtual slavery to their own tradition. Women are forced to have relations with Father, and progeny of these matings, known as “the Children” are hideously deformed. Even Homesteader cooking is atrocious. In spite of their apparent shunning of modernity, however, Father and his community leaders have access to computer and even satellite technology—and this is how they were able to erase student records, and what makes them extremely dangerous to all of us “outsiders.”

Little’s refusal to idealize the past while presenting the evil of religious cults is well taken, at least in part. As we tend to idealize the past, we also tend to blind ourselves to possible consequences of following tradition uncritically. Human brains are naturally designed to fear the future, and not the past. No wonder, then, that much of horror and science fiction tends warn against the perils of technology and even to demonize science, even as we find comfort in adherence to tradition. The Homesteader’s own use of technology, however, recalls the warnings of atheist Sam Harris, in regard to what could happen with nuclear weapons in the hands of Muslim fanatics.

But on the other hand, Little’s satirization of religious cults is more than a bit short-sighted. Real life Amish and Mennonite communities, and even fanatic cults like the Branch Davidians, simply do not have the dangerous power that Little’s ficticious Homesteaders wield. While the cultists are depicted as very prejudiced against all “outsiders,” the novel itself depicts the isolated community as a dire threat to us, the “normal” people. However, in real life, it’s a little different. The massacre at Waco Texas is ample evidence of essential powerlessness of religious cults when under seize by a powerful and thoroughly secular government. However fanatical the cult itself, it was secular government who claimed many lives in this case, including those of children.

In his introduction to Ambush at Ruby Ridge : How Government Agents Set Randy Weaver Up and Took His Family Down, author Dean Koontz observes that the atrocities against women and children at both Waco and Ruby Ridge in the 1990s, allegedly as a consequence of “noble” causes. He asks the provocative question “What about the Amish?” They, too, hold an unconventional worldview and consider their lifestyle superior to that of the rest of us. Could they eventually become targets of the State? A comment by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion indicates that it is possible, as Dawkins seems to question the moral responsibility of allowing groups like the Amish to pass on their antiquated traditions to their children.

Far more troubling, though, is this article by British atheist Nicholas Humphrey,
in which he argues that free speech should NOT apply to parents who attempt to teach their children religious beliefs. While most atheists do not advocate the use of the state power to enforce secularism, Humphrey does in the case of children, although he avoids actually discussing the consequences, which would necessarily mean children being torn from the parents arms by force. Instead, when addressing the obvious“Big Brother” charges, he merely responds that “teaching science is not like that.” What he is advocating however, is not, of course, “teaching science,” but atheism by state.

Little’s novel may exaggerate the threat posed by his religious cult in his novel to make a point, but it ignores the fact that in actuality, the balance of power lies with secularism.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Christian Horror-A Dissenting Opinion

About a year ago, I sent my just-published novel, the The Freethinker's Child to a number of possible reviewers, some of whom were opposed to the doctrine of Eternal Security, which the story argues is a dangerous falsehood.Of those who agreed, two may be found here:



There was another, however, a pastor of Berean research, who did not print a review, and from what he did tell me, would likly not be interested in contributing to the book's success, largely because it is "Christian Horror."

See where this is going?

Below are parts of a long, almost scholarly, and well-thought out response to my novel, essentially condemning the story, and horror in general, on Christian grounds. If you browse around the web, you'll find that although many find "Christian Horror" a bit odd, outright moral objections to it are difficult to find. The one online author I read previously who finds Christianit and horror incompatible does not really appear to "object" to the combination, and certainly not on moral grounds, being a liberal and an atheist.

Mike, of Berean Research, the pastor of a church based in Munice, Indiana, however, was different. Largely, he condemned my novel on these grounds, and urged me to forsake wrting in the horror genre. The emtire email is too long to reproduce here, so I've selected those parts most relevent to the issue in question.
First off, he and I are in complete agreement about OSAS (Once Saved Always Saved):

I completely agree with your position that Calvinism is ungodly and that OSAS doctrine, in particular, has no logically moral limits – Satanic ritual sacrifices included. I also completely share your desire to rescue those who are innocent hostages, or at risk of becoming hostages. As you say, we can probably do little for the Jebson Prousts of this world – those who know the truth, but who pursue the doctrines that gratify or empower themselves, notwithstanding the truth.

However, we cannot use a course of action that is inherently counter-productive. We cannot advance the truth on a platform of deception. We cannot witness to an alcoholic while having a bottle of beer with him at the pub. In short, we cannot do evil that good may come. (Romans 3:7-9)

Clearly, horror fiction has been a part of your life, and it is therefore understandable why you would want to use it to advance your goals. Yet, simultaneously, you seemed to be uncomfortable defending it as a vehicle for promoting the gospel. (For your sake, I hope that you were uncomfortable.)

You wanted to be honest with me about the nature of your book, so you mentioned how that “some” think “Christian horror” is an oxymoron. (Perhaps obviously, I would be among them.) Certainly, there is no such thing as “Christian horror”, just like there is no such thing as “Christian Rock”, “Christian liars”, “Christian adulterers”, “Christian unbelievers”, etc. The very theme of your book – that OSAS doctrine is ultimately Satanic – refutes the premise that a person can be a genuine Christian and still continue to engage in ungodly practices. There is no such thing as a “OSAS liar”, a “OSAS adulterer” or a “OSAS unbeliever”. The “ungodly”, including liars, adulterers, and unbelievers will not be in the kingdom of God (I Cor 6:9); rather, they will be in the lake of fire (Rev 21:8, etc).

So, the question would be, is “horror” godly or ungodly? (Your opinion and my opinion ought to be the same in recognizing right and wrong; but regardless, they are equally irrelevant in the matter of establishing what is right and wrong.) God’s word is our final authority.

1) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Phil 4:8)

This quote is perhaps the most commonly used to malign Christian horror. My response was that the Bible itself is, indeed, rife in certain places with horrific imagery, and that Christians are called upon to warn of the horrors of hell to the disobedient. He responded that much of the "horror" in the Bible--such as the bloodletting found in the Old Testament--was merely factual reporting, while those who read and write horror do so primarily for entertainment. As for hell, it is not a place of "fire and brimstone," that is the popular image. Even so, I would respond, there is still nothing "pure and lovely" about it. Does the passage above apply to all situtions? Clearly it does not; otherwise even factual reporting would be off-limits for the Christian. Certainly most Christian Horror, even if written preimarily to entertain, does so in order to communiate spiritual truths. Horror of this sort is especially important to my novel, as Mike himself observes, it is the most effective, if not the only way, to show the extremes that the doctrine of OSAS can be taken.

You know that we are commanded not to take any action by which our brother is caused to stumble, is offended, or is made weak, right? (Rom 14:21) So, if a new Christian brother takes pleasure in these wicked things, perhaps having just been taught that he is Once-Saved-Always-Saved anyway, then would you be helping him or hindering him in his walk with the Lord by placing these thoughts in his mind?

The second part of your quote – your defence of “Christian Horror” – is weak, and revealing – “but I find the possible consequences of the doctrine of Eternal Security to be truely horriffic (sic) if I think about them. That is the purpose of this book--to show the possible consequences of where this false doctrine may lead.”

Most readers of my work will not, I do not think be those who embrace darkness or enjoy rooting for the villians, etc. There is plenty of that around, but so long as horror shows evil to thoroughly repugnant, and in no way worthy of emulating (as it should), then that sort of horror indeed DOES qualify as godly. The word "horror," after all, connotates a genre that focuses on the disturbing. But trust me, anyone who roots for thge killer, who "celebrates" slaughter and dismemberment is NOT experiencing "horror"! All "horror" is not created equal--far from it. There is an ocean of difference between the classic works of Poe, Shelley, Stoker, and M. R. James, the Christian horror of Peretti and Dekker, and certainly the works of Stephen King, and the movies that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and other slasher flicks. What is massively unfair here is that all of them are pigeonholed into the same genre. And speaking of SK:

You are a talented writer. In places, your descriptive and mature vocabulary assembles vivid imagery in the mind of your reader. Your chapter introductions and scene transitions seem to be particularly good at this, for the most part. Perhaps you put extra effort into these areas. Regrettably, though, I am grieved that your ‘best’ work is often in the ‘worst’ areas of the story. Some of your most descriptive and well-structured narratives are in the sections of greatest suspense and gore (for example, page 95 – John Evans confronting the hideous werewolf creature) and (another example, pages 132-135 – John Evans tracking the intruder and being confronted by the ‘bat-thing’). You seem to know a lot about lycanthropy, black masses and gory images. This may well be a result of you having honed your writing skills while feasting at the table of Stephen King, et al. (Is Stephen King a godly man? Is Stephen King a model Christian whom the Holy Spirit would lead you to emulate? How would Satan advise you in the matter? How would the Holy Spirit of God advise you in the matter?)

I consider SK to be among the greatest writers of this century. So do plenty of the others. On the other hand, while I admired King's skill from get-go, I did not actually consider myself a fan until years later, and that was mostly due to my introduction to the Dark Tower stories. I have graduated to his more "conventional" works, but still much his work remains too steeped in literary Naturalism for me. Whether or not SK qualifies as "godly," has little, if anything, with the fact that much of what he writes is considered "horror." SK's attitude toward religon in general, and Christianity in particular, are somewhat ambiguous, in fact. King has made remarks in the past that make himself sound very like a classic agnostic ("we are living in the center of a great mystery" et.al.) He is also quoted as saying that in his opinion Jesus Christ might have been divine, that he has no real worldview, and that he's "just trying on all these hats." Actually, I think an agnostic is what he technically is, although he would likely not be comfortable in accepting that label. Few, it seems, would. Most who identify themselves agnostics are actually far closer to what one would consider to be atheist--and this King clearly is not. More recently he has made some remarks indicating that he has at least some faith in orthodox Christianity. His novel Desperation, in fact, could almost qualify as a Christian novel with David Carver, the boy who communicates with God. On the other hand, stereotypes of the crazy Christian fanatic populate his works as well;think of Carrie White's mother, Sylvia Pittston, or the demented preacher lady of "The Mist." I would submit here that King is NOT attacking Christianity per se, but instead those who distort true Christianity for their own ends, or are simply mentally imbalanced--and there are plenty of both of those types around.

The scripture clearly describes the things that we ought to have in our minds – those things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. (Phil 4:8) Let’s say you made a fortune from sales of your book. How much is obedience to the scripture worth to you . . . in money? Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36) Okay, maybe you wouldn’t lose your soul over it. (Maybe) But, what about all the people whose minds you filled with Satanic imagery, death and gore? What if even one of them was lost as a result of your work? How would you feel? What would you say to the Lord?

I actually can't imagine any one actually losing his or her soul as a result of reading my story, because, like I said, in no way encourages identification with the bad guy, or with evil per se. If someone did identify with the corrupt OSAS pastor (and truth be told, there was one poster I knew on a forum who might have somewhat, but (1) it was before she read to the climax, and (2)she had some rather strong ideological biases),they were not reading it correctly. Again, I have written at length on stories that DO actually encourage such identity with darkness in the viewers/reader. My story is not one of them. Mike's postion, though, as he explained in a different email, is that any repeated reading or viewing of horrific imagery will lead one to tolerate evil, and later on to condone or even celebrate it. Obviously, we are not in agreement here, as I beleive that both the context of the imagery and perception of the viewer are the msot determining factors in how the viewer will respond.

I realize that your stated goal is to save people from the false doctrine of OSAS. That is a truly noble cause. But, I already dealt with the argument of fighting for a godly cause with ungodly methods. Furthermore, you and I both know that there are many other methods of presenting the truth, and combating false doctrines, in literary forms - without violating scripture. And even if there weren’t, there would still be street preaching, debates, personal witnessing, preaching, radio ministry, etc as scripturally viable alternatives to literature. (I have attached a tract and a brochure that I have been working on and recently printed, as an example of how I am trying to reach people with printed material. I would encourage you to put your creative talents towards similar and even more creative projects, without using counter-productive and/or compromising methods.)

Of course, this rest on the assumption that (as Mike has argued) horror per se is indeed ungodly. And as for using other methods than storytelling? Obiviously, storytelling (horror or oherwise) is what I do. I could respond that telling stories is often the best method to influence attitudes. Look at C. S. Lewis and Phillip Pullman, men who use fantasy to sell their competing ideologies. But trying to reach people by those other means simply does not spark my interest or creativeity the same manner in which storytelling does. Will my story (or for that matter the methods that the pastor suggests) really influence readers and persuade them to accept the position taken by Mike and myself? For most readers who already hold strong positions on the subject of OSAS, the answer is "not likely." For those in the middle ground, or who are just wondering about it and are open to reasoning? Possibly.

Probably the best summary of my own position of Christian horror may be found here:


To end the post, I will quote the concluding paragraph of William Woodall's essay. I cannot emphasize the following strongly enough:

If your Christian horror is to remain Christian, you should remember at all times that evil is evil, and not to be taken lightly. You are to make no treaty with it, no attempt to display it as anything other than the rotten parasite it is. In fact, horror is a rather serious genre for a Christian writer, in many ways. It has the potential for dealing with many deep spiritual issues in a way few other genres can, but for that very reason it has to be handled with an extra measure of humility and care, if the writing is to be kept sweet.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Ever wonder why "Christian Horror," sounds a bit wierd to most people, and sometimes downright oxymoronical? Last post I talked about how the genre is often wrongly perceived as socially liberal, a fact I'll expound upon here. Christianity is all about (supposedly) restraining the superego and horror is all about releasing the id-celebrating murder and mayhem, right? A lot of people apparently think so, and at first glance this may appear to be true. The trouble is, anyone who really beleives that has not (probably) considered what actually goes on in these films. As to notion that horror actually celebrates or encourages illicit behavior, and sexuality in particular, nothing could be further from the truth.

The book by Micheal Ruse mentioned in my other post focuses primarily on horror as a response to sexual liberation. But there is more to Enlightenment values than merely this. The one film I choose to focus on here has very little to do with sex, but is very much anti-Enlightenment: Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

First, some background on the film itself.
Released in 1982, Halloween III was a departure from the Halloween francise shown up until then. Instead of continuing the rampages of knife-wielding Micheal Myers, the basic idea was to have an entirely different story for each entry, every one haveing a Halloween theme. Now this actually sounds like a very cool idea. In fact, had the film in question itself proved more successful, it might well have flown. The recent (and widely praised) halloween anthology film Trick or Treat provides evidence for this. In my own opinion, Halloween III does very little in creating the atmosphere of the season (drawing on Invasion of the Bodysnatchers for its inspiration), whereas Trick or Treat does. The film was widely despised due its lack of Micheal Myers, and so everyone's favorte psycho returned for the fourth entry. The film was based on some of the ancient Celtic folklore behind the holiday, however, and it does have its admirers today. Some have suggested that if you leave of "Halloween III", and just call it Season of the Witch," you're more apt to appreciate it. Just forget any connection with the Myers movies and it's a terrific film in its own right.

As for the film itself, it tells the story of a small town doctor, Daniel Challis. Challis is divorced, but lives with his ex-wife and three bratty kids. His ex hates him for always putting his career first, and leaving them on every call. The trouble starts when a half-crazed man, Harry Grimbridge, an employee of the Silver Shamrock company, is taken to the hospital where Dan works. The man becomes hysterical when a certain commercial is shown on a TV monitor. This commercial is for Silver Shamrock Halloween masks, which have become all the rage with kids as of late. There are three types of mask, a witch, a skull and a jack-o-lantern. The (very annoying)commercial jingle ("Eight more days to halloween") is to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down. The masks are produced by te Silver Shamrock company run by an Irishman named Conal Cochran, and located in the nearby town of Santa Mera (location of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers). Grimbridge is murdered by a mysterious stranger, who then incinerates himself in his car.
Challis teams up with Ellie Grimbridge, the daughter of Harry, in order in investigate her father's death. Their investigation leads them to Santa Mera, and to Cohcran's sinister novelty factory. In the novelization by Dennis Etchison, Challis has a bizarre dream en route to Santa Mera, in which he sees a group of children following a tall man in a cloak. The man seems friendly, that is, until he suddenly turns a knife on them. The children scream, and their screams becm the screaming "of human beings everywhere, begging for mercy and the future of their race." The dream eerily prefigures how the events will unfold. Once at the factory and its wierd owner, they meet some employees, the Kupher family. Dan and Ellie notice that most of Cochran's factory employees look eerily the same. The reason for this, it turns out, is that they are all androids. To make a long story short, Ellie disappears (either abducted or killed), and Dan is captured and taken to a room where Cochran reveals his horrifying plan. Challis is forced to watch the TV monitor while the unsuspecting Kupher family are taken to a secret room, allegedly to recieve some kind of award fo being the company's no. 1 salesman. The Silver Shamrock commercial is shown on the film's monitor, proclaiming "It's time! Bring your mask to the TV screen for the big givaway." Little Buddy puts on his mask, and his head melts, disolving into a writhing mass of spiders, bugs and poisonous snakes, which bite and kill both of his parents. As disturbing as this is on screen (and it is!), in the Etchison novel it's far more harrowing, with the father cursing Cochran for a murderer as he dies. Cochran enthusiastically crows,"imagine that--in fifty million homes!" His plan, you see is gather all the nation's children who have bought the masks in front of their TVs at 8:00 for the Big Giveaway. There are pieces of Stonehenge embedded in electronic devices, and concealed within each mask. Cochran has shown Challis an entire stone monolith that he has somehow managed to transport to the United States. The novel, by the way, includes an early scene in Challis's home where there is a newscast about the stone's disappearance. At any rate, all of these unsuspecting tykes are to share Little Buddy's gruesome fate. Cochran is disgusted by the commercialization of the Celtic holiday Samhain, and his plan is to conduct a mass sacrifice to the old gods, and bring the holiday back to its ghoulish origins. Challis is tied to a chair in front of a TV screen--he is to share the same fate as well. Challis manages, however, to escape. He kills Cochran and rescues Ellie (he thinks). They rush back to his hometown in order to prevent the ensuing cataclysm. But Ellie turns out to be one of Cochran's androids and trys to kill Dan. Whether Cochran substituted an android for her, or whether she was an android all along, is never explained. Dan staggers on foot to he nearest gas station, and begs to use thew payphone. He succeeds in getting two stations to not air the Shamrock commercials. A trio of trick-or-treating youngsters enters the station and turns on the TV. When one of the stations preempts the commercial, one of the kids flips to ABC, where the commcercial is playing. Challis continues to scream into the phone, but apparently Cochran's plan has succeeded. The novel ends with the chiulling line that a wailing was heard "over the staton, the town, and the land without end."

What does all this have to do with conservatism? On the surface there seems very little that has to do with tradition. The film is certainly not Christian or even religion-based. And yet for a condemnation of the pagan celebration of Samhain as evil and Satanic, no self-styled Christian fundementalist could have painted a more thoroughly diabolical picture. We've taken an ancient pagan druid festival and turned it into a night of fun and frolic for youngsters. How could we be so blind? While the film does not explore this, among the surviving families would certainly be people like Jehovah's Witnesses, and others who shun the holidays due to their pagan origins. The rest of us tend to scoff at such seemingly extreme beleifs. But in the world of Halloween III, they were right all along.

One might suppose, also, that by making Cochran's targeted victims kids, the film is violated one of moviedom's largest cimematic taboos. But has it really? Consider: teens make up perhaps the largest set of horror movie victims. Why? because teens are the most largest age group to rebel against authority to engage in illicit sex, booze and drugs. They are our future. But they also the greatest threat to the future if they do not follow conservative norms. And children? They are our future's greatest resource, and as such, their lives often appear to be sacred, especially in the horror genre. Children represent innocence, purity and faith, at least generally speaking. One of the most common taboos in the genre, is in fact, to willingly endanger the lives of children. Think of the group of drunken bikers who end up killing a child in the film Pumpkinhead, or the stereotypical babysitter who leaves her young charges unattended.

But remember how our society, and conservatives in particular, are so very worried about the media, in particular the electronic media, and especially its effects on our youth. Children are seen as especially vulnerable to corruption precisely because of their unformed minds. As kids are our most valuable resource, they could also spell,our collective ruination. Marketeers do target children for evil and corrupt purpose. Also, there is the common stereotype of the "modern child", corrupted by Tv or (more recenly)violent electronic games. The Mike Tevee character in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is perhaps the best example. I've read at least one comment somewhere online by a viewer who likened the Kupher kid in Halloween III with this character. Does TV rot the brain? You bet it does--at least in our collective fear of he elctronic media. And it's kids and teens who so very often seem to be utterly immersed in whatever newfangled technology comes along. In this way, our greatest resource may be truned against us. In other words, the kids themselves, may spell our doom, because their naivity and vulnerability. This may well explain this film's (very unfortunate) contemptuous attitude toward kids themselves, and the fact that Cochran, in fact, wins in the end, something very unusual for a horror film bad guy.

So what sort of conservative moralism may we draw from Halloween III? Perhaps the danger the elctronic media holds for our youth, ands ultimately our future. A cautionary tale for the modern age it most certainly is.

With that said, Halloween III is, in general, not a film I'd recomend as a Christian, the unfortunate attitude it seems to have toward its victims being the primary reason. Nor is the cautionary fear of technology expressed in the tale necessarily correct, a fact that Micheal Ruse for one, seems at odds with, but one I'll return to in a future post. Stephen King cautions in his Danse Macabre that the Republican in the pin-striped suit may himself be a monster in disguise, and this mascarade appears to be going on throughout much of the genre.

Horror's Dirty Little Secret

There's a dirty little secret about the horror genre.

Most people are not aware of it, but it is especially noteworthy in regard to Christian horror in particular.

And that secret is that horror is, as a genre, conservative to its core.

Of course, this is not an entirely new observation; Stephen King wrote in his 1981 critique of the horror genre Danse Macabre that horror is a "conservative as a Republican in pinstripe suit," and has some very good reasoning behind this. And, of course, the cliche that booze drugs and illicit sex very often constitute a death sentence has been with us for decades now, so memorably lampooned by the Scream franchise.

Still, this is not the general public's perception of horror. If anything, the horror genre tends to be perceived as socially liberal, even when it is (as I'll show)anything but. Why? I would submit that this is largely because horror reaps a profit out of venturing into taboo areas and violating social norms like no other genre. Conservatism is all about stability and maintaining the social order. As such, horror ends up misconstrued as the most progressive genre there is. And why not? We've all condemnations of the genre by social conservatives wanting to "ban that sick filth," and its defenders decrying those "right wing nuts," and defending the artists' right to free expression.

The author of a recent blog I visited opined that there are "almost no conservative horror films." Huh? How many horror films has he watched, anyway? To be fair he does list two very conservative films (The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose), which indeed qualify as conservative, and even (at least in the case of the latter) as Christian. This writer, though, is a conservative, and, in addition to probably not viewing too many horror films (a fact worth exploring), also correctly perceives the output of most of Hollywood as liberal. What he doesn't seem realize is when it comes to this particular genre, the rules of politcial correctness appear to be inverted. I myself have often been baffled by the strong conservative themes of horror films coming out of Hollywood, often even produced by secularists.

In his engrossing book, Monsters from the Id (retitled Horror: A Biography), E. Micheal Ruse, himself a social and religious conservative, argues that the horror genre is indeed widely misunderstood, especially by progressive critics, who often find the Purtitanical stance of these movies "surprising." In an interview with Micheal Medved, author of Hollywood Vs. America (which argues strongly that Hollywood is forgoing profits for the sake of liberal ideology), he found that Medved was stumped when it came to the horror. That fact that the teens in these movies all die after having sex runs contrary to everything else observable about Hollywood. Ruse also points out that a number of progressive film critics who get horror exactly wrong. These critics bemoan the fact that sexuality in these films is so often punished when it ought to be celebrated. According to Ruse, however, the entire genre, from its essential creator, Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, onward, has been a rebellion against the Enlightenment. A progressive atheist, Percy Blyse Shelly, Mary's husband, was a strong supporter of the Enlightenment. But the actual fruits of the Enlightenment, in the form of the French Revolution and its resultant Reign of Terror, demonstrated the horror which resulted from attempting replace tradition with rationality in order to create a utopia on earth. Frankenstein, the tale of a man who seeks to become his own god and the horrific consequences which follow, was Mary's way of expressing her own Enlightenment-induced fears. Ruse sees the same pattern repeating itself in the form of other bankrupt utopian ideals, most recently in the case of the sexual revolution of the early sixties and seventies. While the decade of the 1970s began by making sex pictures, Ruse observes, the decade ended by portraying monsters.

So just what is up with the horror genre, exactly? The Puritanical nature of films like Friday the Thirteenth did not entirely escape the eye of liberal critics at the time. Steve Minor, director of the original Friday, is quoted as responding that they had "missed the point entirely," and that they were merely playing off he jealousy of the underprivileged teen audience.

Now, as an underprivileged teen myself, I could certainly buy that argument, especially since it is widely known that movies like the Friday series encourage identity with the monster and hatred and contempt for the victims. The popular kids, the arrogant jocks, the empty-headed prom queens, the loud-mouthed smart-asses, the idiots--all are prime fodder for the killer. But though Minor is partially correct, he is also partially wrong. Attempts to incite feelings of envy and antagonism in the viewer simply do not account for the strong conservative themes that turn up again and again throughout the genre. And the victims are at least as likely to threaten traditional values as they are to be targets of envy. If you doubt this, ask yourself, who is most likely to be targeted by the killer in a horror film, a loose-dressing goth chick, or a conservative Catholic schoolgirl? Dressing like a young Republican is, in fact, often a good way to remain alive in a horror film, as observed by Seth Graham-Smith in How to Survive a Horror Movie.

These films are not, as I once beleived, attempts at conservative propoganda, designed to promote "family values" or advance the Word of God to the pagan. Overtly Christian-themed movies such as Bless the Child and The Rite may be exceptions this rule, but for the most part, the bulk of conservative themes that turn up in horror seem to be the product of the subconcious. According to Ruse, David Cronenburg, writer of the very conservative horror film Blood Feast (which cautions against the perils of both sexual liberation and progressive science) actually appears unaware of what his movie is about. Ruse quotes Martin Scorcese, (a formr Catholic and writer of the notoriously anti-Christan film The Last Temptation of Christ) as informing Cronenburg that "it's obvious you don't know what (your movies) are about. But that's okay, they're still great." Ruse also quotes Cronenburg as actually defending the "mad scientist" in the movie, as well as the very sexual liberation the movie itself is very much opposed to. As a final note, a horror fan I had an email conversation about made a very astute observation regarding horror films that I'm surprised I hadn't thought of earlier: namely that what horror is a subconscious expression of our fear of the lessoning importance of religion in our culture. In his words regarding horror: "It does matter if you're baptized. You are rewarded for following the old ways." The fear that horror asks us is (in his words), "what if it's all true?"

Western culture is parting with tradition, and as such we are venturing into unknown territory, and even liberal Hollywood knows it. And the unknown is always cause for fear. Horror is the shadow-child of the Enlightenment, a sinister, subconcisous doppleganger that finds primary expression through film and in print.

So the next time you hear someone talk about
the Religious Right Wing vs. the Horror industry, you might consider letting them in on horror's dirty little secret.

Next time, I'll show you an example of anti-Enlightenment horror caught in the act.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2011 Grace Awards: Voting Has Begun

The voting has begun for the 2011 Grace Awards, a reader-driven award series focused on Christian genre fiction. Your friendly host/admin is one of the judges for the SpecFic category, but before I see it, you all have the chance to vote. You can vote in any categories you wish, so long as you vote within the set rules.

The categories are:
-Women's Fiction
-Contemporary/Historical Romance
-Suspense/Thriller/Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Detective Stories (In other words, The AFitD category)
-Speculative Fiction (including SciFi, Fantasy, Horror, etc. - the OTHER AFitD Category)
-Action Adventure/Western/Historic Epic Fiction
-Young Adult

Go to the Grace Awards Site for a complete list of voting rules, along with the voting template.

Books, New & Announced 01.15.12

Pete Turner's Whisper From The Woods officially dropped on Friday the 13th, with a facebook release party, and as of this moment is sitting at #13 on Amazon's Occult Horror list (it peaked at 8 last night). He marked the occasion by giving away several electronic copies of the book. Whisper From The Woods is the second of the Noche Files series, which began with Whisper a Scream.

Also announcing a sequel release is Jason Cross, who released His Calling through his company, Four Sides of Cross Productions. His Calling 2: Inner Demons is slated for release in February.

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Resurrection" Author Mike Duran Unveils New Cover

Mike Duran, who wrote "The Resurrection" (reviewed here), is preparing to release another book to no small amount of fan anticipation. The book will be released from Realms, but other details are sketchy. There is a 4-minute video available on his website in which he explains the basics of the story.

Within the past week, Duran has given fans another taste of the upcoming novel, in the form of the cover, put together by Charisma House.

We'll keep watching and giving more details as they come available.

Book Review - Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider

Beth Rider is an author of spiritual vampire tales. Quiet, introverted, and -- she would believe -- fairly insignificant. Needless to say, it comes as quite a shock when a massive "Rakum" first threatens, then marks her as a "Rabbit:" A vampire's plaything, to be hunted, tortured, and fed upon for as long as she can survive it.

Michael Stone, one of these "Rakum," hunts Beth, determined to be the first to inflict as much damage as possible before releasing her back out into the open, to be uhunted by his bretheren. Then he meets her. He can't explain it, but he feels sure that Jack Dawn, his mentor and the monster who marked Beth, must have made a mistake. He is determined to protect her while he figures out both what is going on and why he suddenly cares so much.

Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider presents an original look at vampires as creatures in need of a Savior. Though at times the necessarily expansive dialogue can bog down the action, for the most part, Rabbit is a fast-paced allegorical thriller. Maze has written a very complete universe for these vampires: a world hidden from most, built upon its own culture of masters and slaves. The vampires operate in a veritable underworld, maintaining relationships with multiple donors ("cows," as the Rakum describe them) and tightly-disciplined networks of bretheren.

When Beth Rider comes on the scene, these demonic creatures are suddenly faced with a choice: to maintain their decadent lifestyle and virtual immortality, or else choose God -- and with God, humanity, and the chance at a truer immortality.

I reviewed the Kindle edition, available at Amazon. The book was published by TreasureLine, and well-edited throughout. Ellen Maze is an excellent and exciting writer, and has created a vampire mythology like none other. This mythology carries over into other books in the series, Rabbit: Legacy and a book of short stories called Loose Rabbits. Maze has also written the books referenced in the Beth Rider books: The Corescu Chronicles.

It's all very meta: A vampire book about a woman who writes vampire books, written by a woman who has also written the books attributed to the character in the first. It's a confusing bibliography, but if Rabbit is any indication, well worth the read.