The Power of the DARKSIDE

This is out now… the complete scripts for a planned reboot of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE that never quite got off the ground. We filmed a pilot for the CW and it was zippy and scary and had a bit of a BLACK MIRROR vibe. But it didn’t quite fly with the powers that be and so you can’t watch it. You can, however, read it, and with plenty of juicy visuals from CP Wilson iiii (who also illustrated WRAITH, a story of Christmasland). The book includes all three of the stories I wrote for the series: “A Window Opens,” “The Sleepwalker,” and “Black Box.” We even have a book trailer:

Coming to a Bookshelf Near You.
You ever think that switching to Coke Zero is kind of like dating someone because they look like your ex-? Accept that it’s all over between you and Coca-Cola and move on. Don’t be pathetic.

This may or may not be a cruel swipe at John Scalzi.

Last Thursday night, I had a chance to sit down in Brookline Booksmith in front of a packed house to hear Warren Ellis read from his smashing new SF mystery, Normal. Afterwards I interviewed him about writing, futurism, and human augmentation. It was a hell of a good night. I got him to name his favorite crime novel by a dead author (I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond) and he casually said something about James Bond I’ll never forget (namely that Bond’s enemies are always physically deformed, whereas Bond himself carries his deformities within).

NORMAL is available now and can be read in a day; Warren Ellis’s further thoughts on 007 have been captured in JAMES BOND: VARGR; and his newsletter, which inspired this one, accepts subscriptions here.

Escape Hatch is a little late going out this month, but in my defense I was busy with the day job. On Thursday morning I finished my sixth book, STRANGE WEATHER. Or maybe I should say I “finished” it, with emphasis on those fishy quotation marks.

STRANGE WEATHER is a collection of four short novels. When I say I “finished” it on Thursday, I mean I wrote the last line of a novella titled “Loaded,” and with that, all four novellas are now complete. But “Loaded” is still only a first draft. Another, “Rain” also only exists in first draft. A third, “Aloft” needs a final tweak. Even the fourth, “Snapshot, 1988,” which was given a pre-release in the latest issue of Cemetery Dance, will require a bit more work – I’ve decided to add a chapter and no one can stop me.

Quite a bit left to do to polish off the book, then. So can we really call it finished? Maybe it’s only finished when the book is out, and you’re reading it.

Still. A completed manuscript is better than an incomplete manuscript. I haven’t really celebrated yet, but I am awfully happy.

Atlas Obscura turned me on to the existence of Scarfolk, a little English hamlet permanently stuck in the 1970s of sick British horror films (think The Wicker Man and Raw Meat, with a dystopian splash of1984). Scarfolk is a larva of love created by a graphic designer named Richard Littler, and is or should be your new favorite place to dawdle on the internet. Recent entries examine the pornography of Brutalist architecture and take a look at lovely, forgotten children’s books such as Death is Like a Happy Balloon. For people who prefer to wallow in their unwholesome fascinations off-line, there’s a book.

Says in Alan Rickman voice: Now I have a Goodreads Account.

Over on that Goodreads Account, people are able to post questions, and I decided I might answer some of them here instead of there, because Goodreads is someone else’s playground, and this is mine.

I also take questions for the newsletter on Twitter, so hit me up there if you like… just be sure to use the #joesescapehatch hashtag so I’m sure to see it.

• Brent McGuffin inquiresLocke & Key almost made it to series. How much heartache and/or relief was involved in that for you?”

The heartache is that so many people cared so much and worked so hard, from Josh Friedman, who wrote an excellent script, to Mark Romanek, who directed the pilot with an icy grace, to our lead actors, Miranda Otto, Nick Stahl, Jesse McCartney, Sarah Bolger, and the amazing Skylar Gaertner, who was such a lovely, big-eyed Bode. It came out really well and it’s a bummer it never got on the air. Not a bummer like losing your job or your pet is a bummer, but still, kind of too bad.

But I’m lucky! Locke & Key won another ride on the television merry-go-round, and the calliope music is just beginning to play. At the time of this writing, I’ve completed the pilot scrip for a new show, and roughed out a series Bible, and we’ve got some great talent on-board. The landscape has changed a lot since 2011, when FOX passed on the earlier pilot, and shows like Stranger Things have helped to establish there’s an audience for a story like Locke & Key. We can hope.

 Alex, on Goodreads, asks“What’s your favorite audiobook?”

True story: when I was in my teens, my favorite novel was Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Which was curious. I’m not a westerner; I’m an easterner. I’ve never driven cattle and don’t want to. I owned a cowboy hat once, but I wore it hoping to look heavy metal, not like a gunslinger. I just loved that world, those characters, their voices, their adventures.

When I was in my twenties, my favorite book was The Fixer by Bernard Malamud. That had even less to do with my life. The heroes of Lonesome Dove are, at least, Americans. The Fixer is the story of a Jewish carpenter in Russia at the end of the 19th century, arrested for the crime of murdering a little Christian boy and drinking his blood. In the weeks and months that follow, this unremarkable and unmemorable man does a wholly remarkable and unforgettable thing… he refuses to confess to the crime, no matter how much psychological pressure his captors put upon him. I’m not Jewish; I’ve never been to Russia. I was once falsely accused of throwing BBs at a movie screen and kicked out and the injustice of it stings still. But this is really not quite the same thing as being thrown in a gulag for child murder. Yet I loved that story. I loved its hero, Yakov, and the way he discovered his soul when his life was ripped away from him.

At some point in my early thirties, I was sorting through a box of clutter, and I found a collection of old audiobooks: books on tape, recorded by a company with the imaginative name of, uh, Books on Tape. They had thrived for a while in the 80s and early 90s by selling unabridged audiobooks. At the time you could never find unabridged audio in your local bookshop, and the Internet and Audible hadn’t been made yet. I discovered my old Lonesome Dove audiobook, and then came across my audiobook of The Fixer, and realized with a throb of shock, that they had been read by the same man, Wolfram Kadinsky.

The lesson here is that a gifted reader can make a good book great… and can take a great book likeLonesome Dove and The Fixer and turn them into an experience that will shake your imagination to its foundation.

I haven’t answered your question, but also, I think I sort of have.

• Leah from the twittersphere queries: “what was the first film you saw that really scared you?”

Sleeping Beauty, when the evil witch rose on a column of green flame, transforming into a dragon as she climbed into the night, and shrieked: “NOW YOU FACE ALL THE POWERS OF HELLLLLLLLL!”

Disney fucked a lot of us American kiddies up, in the same way Doctor Who fucked a lot of English kiddies up.

Thanks for the great questions, guys. The Escape Hatch will open again in just under two weeks. I’ll have a list of my favorite reads from 2016 next time. Who knows: maybe you’ll come across a good Christmas gift suggestion in there.

Yesterday, my youngest boy was horrified to catch me eating fish out of the garbage. But I want to note that it was a great piece of salmon, thoroughly cooked, and resting on a very clean looking paper towel. *licks front paw, swishes tail*.

See you next time, Friends of the Book (FoBs if you’re nasty).