Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Halloween Creepwave Playlist

No words, just music. Mostly of the synth variety. 

1. "Heels" by Disasterpeace (from the It Follows soundtrack)
2. "Call From the Grave" by Dan Terminus (Bathory cover)
3. "The Wraith" by Tokyo Rose
4. "Dry Hump" and "Chemical Induction" by Randroid Music (from the 2013 Evil Dead soundtrack)
5. "Underground" by John Carpenter (from the They Live soundtrack)
6. "Lonely Void" by Mica Levi (from the Under the Skin soundtrack)
7. "Escape Velocity" by Zombi
8. "Stranger Things Main Main Theme" by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
9. "The Golden Age" by Craig Taborn
10. "Come to Daddy" by Aphex Twin

Friday, October 21, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Nightmare Surrealism We All Needed: An Interview With "First Day" Creator Person 918

I take internet art seriously. I keep several desktop folders full of memes and glitch art pieces. I group the works by different themes and topics. I try to revisit the ones that I've found most interesting. Really, though, I have too many to count or keep track of. Also, I'm a disorganized mess. Much more a hoarder than a collector, I guess. The sheer volume of quality art out there can be overwhelming.

Every so often, however, some truly 
striking and memorable creative content emerges from the sea of weirdness that is the internet. I saw something like that a few days ago. It blew my world open and actually made me rethink the potential of short-form storytelling.

Maybe you saw it too?

Forty-nine frames of captioned images posted to Facebook. CGI renderings of a woman starting a new job.

The title: "First Day."

A comic? An illustrated short story?

The narrative begins unassumingly enough but quickly unravels into a surreal nightmare that, for many, seems to hit too close to home.

If you haven't experienced "First Day" yet, check it out immediately.

If you're already familiar with it, here's an interview with the author, Person 918. I reached out to Person 918 because I had to know more about this amazing work of short fiction and, ultimately, if we could expect more Earth-shattering genius along the lines of "First Day."

So, what was the inspiration for “First Day”? Any particular experiences or events? 

One main inspiration was browsing CGI porn on DeviantArt. There is something deeply unsettling about CGI porn. As you scroll through it there's always a sense that at any moment you're going to see something that you don't want to see. So I wanted to capture that feeling without anything overtly pornographic.

Nice. Mission accomplished, I'd say. You posted “First Day” on the 918 Facebook page on October 5th. Was that the first time you’d shared this story? Also, what exactly is 918? 

I shared "First Day" simultaneously on the 918 Facebook page, my Tumblr page, Imgur, and r/comics on October 5th. That is the first time the story saw the light of day. 918 is just my artist page, a place for me to share the stuff I create on Facebook. I am the sole admin.

Have you received much feedback on “First Day”? What has the response been like?

I have received a decent amount of feedback.  Most has been very positive.  A number of people have praised the story as "dreamlike," which makes me very happy because that is exactly what I was going for. A few people have complained that they don't "get it", which I feel is kind of missing the point.  But like I said, the vast majority of feedback has been positive. "First Day" has received far more attention than any other artistic project of mine.

So “First Day” invites readers in with these comically-mundane, yet very real and relatable concerns about starting new jobs. From there, you slowly—and pretty seamlessly—send readers down a rabbit hole of bizarre imagery and surreal situations. To me, what's striking is that the story never stops feeling relatable or relevant in regard to work/life, even as things get really weird. Like you’ve tapped into these subliminally traumatizing aspects of work that most people seem to recognize in the story and its images. The responses that I’ve seen are almost all the same: The story hits a nerve. And I was surprised to see such comments coming from certain people who I know aren't normally into surreal and weird art or storytelling.

I think that's accurate. I think that the majority of us have to work for a living and most of us have a very uneasy relationship with that set-up. Sacrificing a large portion of your life to a project that you don't particularly care about is very anxiety inducing. 

Right, right. It's obvious that even though "First Day" is ultimately very surreal, there's really something solid at the core of the whole thing, like a life allegory or a commentary (I’m still processing my own take). It's so short and strange, but it also feels so packed with substance and meaning in this beautiful almost accessible way. 

Our society frames work as a voluntary decision, but for most of us the alternative is homelessness and starvation. It also raises some questions about who's running the system? What are their goals?  Is the whole thing a runaway machine beyond human control? When these issues are addressed in popular media, it's often to defuse them with humor (as in "Dilbert," "Office Space," "The Office," etc.) but I think there is always a truly disturbing existential anxiety just under the surface.

What’s your process like when creating works like this?

Once I come up with the initial idea, I will create a vague story arc, break out the key scenes in my head, and start staging and rendering the scenes in the order in which they occur. I will periodically come across pacing or clarity issues during the process that will force me to reevaluate the scenes, perhaps adding or changing a panel here or there.  The story faces certain constraints throughout based on what I can manage to do with my limited technology.

What about the art in particular? The specific images? How intentionally were they created or selected?

I usually pick a few specific images that I think will be particularly potent and then craft the story around those images. As for where the ideas originate, I can't really say, other than I know what I have technologically available to me.  For example, I know what models I can find online, I know how they can be retextured, I know that I can make glass versions of objects, etc. I'm trying to get the most I can out of the medium that I'm using.

What are your artisitic and literary influences? Are you normally a fan of short fiction? Do you have any thoughts on how “First Day” fits into formats like short story or flash fiction? 

I am a bit of a fan of short-form literature, but I think I have probably been more influenced by film, television, and comics. David Lynch and Luis Buñuel were definitely influences, as well as comic artists like Charles Burns and Jim Woodring. People have noted a vaporwave influence as well, and I am a fan of that music genre, so that has likely played a factor. I can see a thematic connection between "First Day" and something like "Redefining theWorkplace" by Internet Club, for example. I think that the format of "First Day" is probably close to comics, though it is also sort of a digital picture book. I've also been influenced by a number of contemporary web artists like Pure Honey and online art magazines like Felt Zine.   

Do you have plans for more stories like “First Day”?

I do hope to continue to make these things, time and inspiration permitting.

Awesome. I can’t wait. Are there are any other projects you’d like to discuss? The 918 page? The novel you’d mentioned to me? 

I do have a short novel sitting around entitled Ocean of Milk. It is somewhat similar in tone to "First Day," though of course the absence of images will make a difference in how it's perceived by the reader. The goal with "Ocean of Milk" was also to create a dreamlike state, though I would say it's not quite as narratively disjointed as the visual stories. I would like to release that to the public but I'm not sure what the best way to do that is.  

I also have an experimental electronic pop music project called Timmy Sells His Soul that can be found on Soundcloud and Bandcamp.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Finally, October is here. Time to break out the fake cobwebs and candy corn. Time to brace yourself once again for humanity’s greatest calendar holiday—yes, Halloween.

Ineptly carved jack-o-lantern?


Collector’s edition Cannibal Holocaust DVD?


All the pieces are in place. You are ready.

But wait, let me make a radical suggestion—creepy short stories. Yes, like the kind you read.

No, wait, hear me out.

These stories are creepy as fuck. They’re weird and unsettling. Some will even make you think. They’re worth your time, I promise.

And guess what else. They’re totally free, online.

No, this isn’t a trick—it’s a treat, dipshit.

Yes, simply scroll down and click away to descend into hitherto unknown states of fear and psychological terror blah blah blah.

1. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The oldest story of the list is also one of the scariest. You’ll be shocked to learn this nightmare-prose was first published in 1892. Often labeled as a work of early feminist-horror, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the first-person account of a woman’s confinement to a small room covered with the eponymous wallpaper. Strap in for some Victorian-era 
mental collapse and hallucinatory mayhem. 

Great for Fans of…
-Paper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters
-The writings of Brian Evenson

2. “The Night School” by Thomas Ligotti

Thanks to his influence on True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, Thomas Ligotti is experiencing something of a resurgence in popularity. And for good reason. His writing is utterly unnerving. Derranged messianic figures, macabre cults, degenerative illnesses, and deteriorating realities are among the horrors you’re liable to find in his creepfest writing. Loose plotting and bizarre dialogue make the experience of reading his stories feel like a genuine nightmare. “The Night School” is among the most potent of that variety. Get ready for some cold sweats.

Great for Fans of…
-True Detective
-The works of David Lynch
-Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

3. Nyarlathotep by HP Lovecraft

One of the most overlooked pieces of the Lovecraftian universe, Nyarlathotep” measures in at only 1,149 words. It’s one of Lovecraft's shortest stories but, damn, does it pack a punch.

The narrative, a feverish tale of the charismatic demagogue figure Nyarlathotep leading humanity to its obliteration, seems more relevant than ever—*cough cough donaldtrump*

Seriously, take a look at the start of the story…

The general tension was horrible. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night.”

Great for fans of…
-HP Lovecraft
-The coming apocalypse

4. “When I Make Love to the Bug Man” by Laura Benedict

Okay, now things are gonna get weird—like, really fuckin’ weird. This story's title offers a vague sense of what’s coming down the pike, but the devil is truly in the details with this one, the how and why of it all. Not to mention the specifics of just how the Bug Man earned his name. This is one of those rare stories that will leave a thick, long-lasting residue of dread on you. You’ll need a hot shower after reading it.

Oh, and I should also mention that my first exposure to this story was through Richard Thomas’s stellar anthology, The Lineup. Check it out here.

Great for fans of…
Andrzej Żuławski's Possession 
-David Cronenberg’s films
-"Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka

5. “Monstro” by Junot Díaz

Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Junot Díaz. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a phenomenal writer, I’m just not super into his particular brand of character-driven literature. But “Monstro”—yep, I’m into viruses that turn people into shrieking humanoid fungus-trees. I’m into sci-fi monster mayhem with righteous social commentaries, yeah.

Great for fans of…
-Fresh takes on zombie shit
-Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya
-Righteous social commentaries

6. “Windeye” by Brian Evenson

There are at least two things you can expect with Brian Evanson’s writing. First, his stories are packed with subtle, creeping surrealism. Second, he will scar you, emotionally. “Windeye” is no joke on these fronts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Great for fans of…
-Subtle, atmospheric horror
-Emotional trauma
-Not feeling well

7. “Salvador” by Lucius Shepard

Nobody seems to talk about Lucius Shepard anymore, and I have no idea why. My friend, author Rachel Cassidy, turned me on to Shepard’s work a few years ago—specifically, his short story collection The Jaguar Hunter. I was blown away. Shepard’s short fiction is as creepy and weird as it is prophetic. Even today, almost thirty years after the book’s release, none of the stories feel dated.

Anyway, “Salvador” is Shepard’s dystopian-futuristic rumination on the horrors of US “intervention” in El Salvador. (In case you don’t know already, the US government dumped a lot of money and resources into essentially devastating the country and its people back in the 1980s.) “Salvador” speaks not only to the history of US military rampages in Central America, but also to current ones underway in the Middle East and Asia.

Great for fans of…
Oliver Stone's Salvador 
-Dark magic realism
-Full Metal Jacket

8. “Bloodchild” by Octavia E. Butler

Yeah, okay, this one is more sci-fi than horror—but it’s still pretty damn creepy.

Come on, alien insectoids consensually using human bodies for the incubation of their young? To me, that that’s body horror, straight up. Sure, I consider “Bloodchild” to be foremost a story about love and the limits of consent, but it does also disturb me in a deeply visceral way. I think it’ll do the same for you.

Great for fans of…
-Alien, Aliens, etc.
-Body horror
-Hard-hitting social commentary

9. “Graveyard Shift” by Stephen King

One of my all time favorites. We’ve got an amazing protagonist working a filthy graveyard shift job; an asshole-boss character; a dingy sub-basement full of mutant, flesh-hungry rats.

Come on, what more could you possibly want?

I still maintain that, with the exceptions of maybe “N.” and The Running Man, this story is Stephen King’s peak accomplishment. Do yourself a favor and revisit this short gem by literature's Master of Horror.

Great for fans of…
-Stephen King
-Brutal poetic justice

10. “No Breather in the World But Thee” by Jeff VanderMeer

It’s something like Naked Lunch meets Phantasm meets Hieronymus Bosch triptychs.


Really, it’s beyond accurate comparison to anything. It’s frenetic, weird, hallucinatory, beautiful, ugly, gore-filled, epic, and profound.

I haven’t a clue what VanderMeer’s intent was with this one, but I take this story as an metaphor for the contemporary world, how it’s overrun with human-made chaos and violence—how most of us are subject, daily, to the machinations of individuals and forces well beyond our control or comprehension. It’s truly nightmarish and completely disorienting. It’s also emotive and deeply moving.

"No Breather" is, in my opinion, a literary masterpiece. And it’s also creepy as hell.

Great for fans of…
-Naked Lunch
-Hieronymus Bosch