Posts tagged horror
Well, yesterday the tutting grandmothers and maiden aunts that work out their sexual frustrations stoking the boilers on the Censorship Engines of Amazon.com saw fit to relegate our new title, Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath, to the unsearchable dustbin that is their ‘mature content’ tag. What did this mean? It meant that until an hour or so ago, you could still find Conqueror Womb, if you knew where to look (ie. the Kindle store, specifically), and it also meant you wouldn’t find it, if you searched for, say, Lovecraft or Shub-Niggurath in the general search terms for Amazon.com itself.
Is this kind of thing a big deal? I mean, don’t most readers come to MMP titles because of something MMP authors say or do or post? Who goes searching for the term “conqueror womb”, anyway? Precious few, I’m sure, and I’m not sure I’d want to know anyone who would. (I’m sure you’re lovely people, but … you understand.)
So, why’d the grannies hit us, and hit us so fast? Conqueror Womb was released on the 10th. Of February. That’s right, a mere three days ago. We were alerted to the fact of our change of status by one of the collections authors, the sharp-as-a-goddamn-tack Jacqueline Sweet. Alarmed that they had moved so quickly, and just before Valentine’s Day, which was, you know, the whole reason for releasing this book this week, Scott immediately got on their case with this letter…
According to their spokes-granny, the cover (by friend-of-the-show and genius Glaswegian illustrator Garry Mac) was deemed to be “mature content”. Ladies and gentlebeasts, the original cover…
Beauty. That’s EIGHT breasts, at least. And, like Scott said, monstrous. And not all that sexual, even. In fact, Garry Mac’s Shubby here is feeding her Dark Young. Amazon, what do you have against breastfeeding mothers? she asks in something nearby to complete seriousness. Well, whatever problems they have with that particular miracle of nature, the upshot is they asked us to change this. Remember, too, that we had to confront them on this issue: if we hadn’t noticed their action, they wouldn’t have mentioned it to us at all. If you’ve never seen one of their your cover is too smutty emails, they look like this.
Well, gosh, Cecilia, thanks for being so up front and honest and understanding about Amazon’s behind-the-scenes manipulation of our product!
So, yeah, we changed the cover. And if you think it was easy for us to move the text elements north to cover up our beautiful, regal Shub-Niggurath, then let me tell you honey, IT WASN’T. (Sorry, Garry! We’re sooo sorry!) Here’s the revised cover…
Not exactly a hatchet job, but we are saddened, still.
Now, here’s the thing: Amazon asks you to choose two categories for a title, and we, in an effort to be honest about the content of Conqueror Womb, chose Horror (obviously!) and Erotica (also obviously)… certainly CW is far more horror than erotica. Even we don’t think it appeals to prurient interests enough for anyone to reasonably get their rocks off, although you’re welcome to try. Scott felt, and I concurred, that we had been penalized for our transparency. And so the Martian Migraine response was a little testy, naturally…At this point, we pretty much threw up our hands. Wiser heads than ours nodded sagely and advised us that once a title had been flagged as mature, it was effectively done, kaput, as good as disappeared. Certainly, this has been my own experience with the first two Blackstone books (Red Monolith Frenzy and Green Fever Dream both got hit about eight months back, and sales of those has dropped noticeably — but hey, there’s the links, go, now, and buy a copy of each, just to rub it in their noses, please) and so we resigned ourselves to obscurity.
Then, this happened…
We fought Amazon.
We fought a rear-guard battle, granted, and we gave up some territory (those lovely mutant mammaries!), but we fought Amazon…
AND WE WON! We won. It can be done.
But, just to spite ’em, remember this, Migraineers: buy DIRECT from MMP and you’ll get the uncensored glory of the original cover AND exclusive website bonus content! Delivery may not be as swift as Amazon’s Whispernet (generally under 12 hours to your inbox) but you get our chummy personalities and sweet extra swag with the transaction, and our gratitude for supporting independent presses. It’s Valentine’s Day! Show your sweetie some weird love and pick up a copy of Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath for a little light pillow reading!
I first heard of Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow from someone on my twitter feed. I’m sure this happens a lot, with the exchange proceeding along the following lines…
Person A tweets: “Beyond the Black Rainbow… #WTF did I just watch?” Persons B through L then offer up their various fevered interpretations of a film that, thankfully, resists and confounds interpretations as much as it invites them.
The best response I ever read went a little something like this: “Beyond the Black Rainbow is your standard Boy meets Girl, Boy enters the Void and returns with knowledge that cannot be contained by a human mind, Boy rips Girl’s throat out with his teeth, Boy obsesses over Girl’s telekinetic daughter in a Black-Ops MK Ultra-esque research facility with psychic androids. You know, same old, same old.”
The film is deliberately, even meticulously, styled after the straight-to-VHS shock-horror films of the early 80s that graced the shelves of your local video rental joint. You could call it an homage, except that Cosmatos has gone far beyond that call and entered into a realm of deeply realized hyper-nostalgia, insisting upon fully analog period-compatible production methods in both his visuals and the soundtrack (brilliantly executed by Jeremy Schmidt of Vancouver BC’s Black Mountain). The film recalls and references 2001: A Space Odyssey, Altered States, Scanners, and THX 1138, among many others. It genuinely feels like it was made in the year the film is set in, 1983; made and then lost to obscurity, buried in some failed video distributors back-catalogue, only to be exhumed and made available again nearly thirty years later.
And, surging below the obvious cinematic influences of Kubrick, John Carpenter, and Michael Mann is the nighted existentialism of our man Lovecraft.
Beyond the Black Rainbow is Lovecraftian to the core. If we live on the shores of a black sea of infinity, then this film is a primer for what happens when we piece together dissociated knowledge and voyage far, against all reason and rationality, upon those seas.
Dr Mercurio Arboria (Scott Hylands) is the founder and head of the Arboria Institute, a quasi-mystical therapeutic facility utilizing a New Age-y mish-mash of techniques such as neuro-psychology and “energy sculpting”, hypnosis and “benign pharmacology” to help people attain “happiness, contentment, inner peace.” A tone-perfect promotional video for the Institute opens the film and immediately we can smell the hubris coming off the screen: this man, and anyone associated with him, is clearly about to venture into dangerous territories.
A note about plot: the same old same old summary above is as succinct as anything I could write here, but if I’m going to claim an HPL influence, some details (which will not spoil the film, guaranteed!) will be necessary. Halfway through the film, we are taken in flashback (using an arresting, visually blown-out photography effect that is migraine-like in its intensity) to the traumatic event that is the source of the later horrors: the young Dr Nyle (Michael Rogers) is Dr Arboria’s test pilot for an experimental drug used in conjunction with a thoroughly unsettling-looking sensory-deprivation tank that is, basically, a circular pool of black muck into which he descends. Dr Arboria, assisted by his young wife, urge Nyle to “bring back the mother lode” and the younger doctor does, in spades.
Using macro-photography techniques, analog smoke and water effects, jarring lighting contrasts and a very effective hollow maquette of the actor’s head, we experience Nyle’s takeover by a hostile, nameless force. The scene is reminiscent of some of the more hallucinatory images from Ken Russel’s Altered States. Scored with a droning, oppressive track that features heavy Mellotron use, the possession is claustrophobic, horrifying, and all the more so for what we imagine is occurring to the victim. Every terrible thing possible pours into his head like sentient smoke and we are sickened as much by the unknowable (by us) terror of it as we are by the aftermath. Nyle emerges from the pool and commits a monstrous act…
The good Dr Arboria, by now at least half-way insane if not fully, seeks to mitigate the awfulness of his loss by baptizing his now motherless infant daughter in the very same pool, believing that she will become the first of a new breed of humanity. She does, after a fashion, but grows to become a captive of the Arboria Institute and the new, power-mad Nyle, who has usurped Dr Arboria as Director, addicting the older man to research-grade opiates. Nyle keeps her powers suppressed with the facilities mysterious machines while he performs his malevolent therapies upon her. The rest of the film is largely Elena’s (Eva Allan) attempts at escape from Arboria.
Something I have always found fascinating about Lovecraft’s characters is their essentially pathetic nature. Despite their hard-won and far-reaching knowledge and their claims to a high level of competence and control over themselves and their world, they find themselves fighting a panicked, rear-guard battle against powerful forces of irrationality that arise just as often from within their own chaotic selves as from their contact with outer realms of being. For the Lovecraftian protagonist, Madness is absolutely certain, even if Death is not. And when Death does arrive, it often does so in a completely banal, pathetic manner: think of Wilbur Whateley’s ignominious passing by, of all things, a guard dog attack.
Nyle here fulfills that type well. By the third act, we learn that his transformation was not only of the mind, but of the body as well. We are witness to a physical transition, which, while understated, is made all the more sickening by our understanding of the twisted mind behind those eyes. Nyle is a man exposed to awful truths from Beyond, a man who has warped and mutated over the years from the constant pressure of hosting those truths within him. Within the stark, well-lit corridors of the Arboria Institute, he could maintain a fetishistic illusion of control over Eva, her father, even himself. But once Eva does escape, and Nyle goes on a violent hunt outside the facility for her, all control is lost, if it was ever there at all. Nyle’s death, when it comes, is sudden, laughable, almost ridiculous. Like many a Lovecraftian protagonist before him, his knowledge, and whatever small but horrific measure of power it gave him over others, has made him a victim.
It should be noted that Beyond the Black Rainbow is a glacially paced film. You have not seen “slow” until you’ve clocked its one hour, forty-five minute run time. Thankfully, it is so well-crafted visually, and the skillful intensity of the actors (who are often subjected to very close-up camera work so that we can see every twitch and anguished micro-expression) makes it a psychedelic slow burn that’s quite enjoyable. And, as mentioned previously, it’s a film that leaves a lot open to interpretation, and provides no easy answers, which as far as I’m concerned is another black feather in it’s Lovecraft cap.
Beyond the Black Rainbow is available from the film’s distributors here (trailer is there as well and worth a look even if you’re not planning to see the film) and it’s streaming on Netflix for the foreseeable future.
(This review written by Martian Migraine Press author S R Jones. It originally appeared on the Lovecraft eZine 12 March 2013)
March 14th will mark the first anniversary of our initial book launch, S R Jones’ subtly disturbing collection of horror shorts SOFT FROM ALL THE BLOOD. In the year since, we’ve released eight more books: the first and second titles in Justine G’s BLACKSTONE Erotica series, as well as a BLACKSTONE Erotica short; her sci-fi gonzo erotica novella ORGY IN THE VALLEY OF THE LUST LARVAE; and her highly experimental steampunk and Victorian erotica mash-up SEAWATER & STARS: The Last Novel of Gideon Stargrave, written in collaboration with S R Jones and Gideon Stargrave (the “fiction suit” of comics writer and all-round Pop Culture uber-sorcerer Grant Morrison). Not to mention the two poetry collections we’ve spawned into the world, namely skawt chonzz’s R’LYEH SUTRA and the eclectic, electrifying ANTHROPOCALYPSE NOW by shayne avec i grec and Johnny Macrae (aka 2 Dope Boys In A Cadillac).
Yes, it’s been a busy year. We’ve sold some books, made some friends, and learned a lot. We’re in a celebratory mood, natch! And passing that mood along to you, the loyal Martian Migraine Press reader, with some nifty and titillating specials!
First off, we’re offering three of our more popular MMP titles FREE FOR FIVE DAYS! Pick up S R Jones’ SOFT FROM ALL THE BLOOD, Justine G’s ORGY IN THE VALLEY OF THE LUST LARVAE, or the disturbing poetic vibrations of skawt chonzz’s R’LYEH SUTRA for absolutely no money at all from Thursday March 14 through to Monday March 18, either from their links on Amazon HERE or from the limited-time links below! Simply click on the covers!
↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ EPUB VERSIONS ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓
↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ PDF VERSIONS ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓
Second, to celebrate our first anniversary as Canada’s weirdest, most niche-market micro-micro e-press, Martian Migraine Press is pleased to present our first GIANT-SIZED ANNUAL, featuring fiction, poetry, and movie and book reviews from our own stable of thoroughly transgressive and intensely interesting authors and a few of their friends besides! Fiction by Kenton Hall, Justine G, S R Jones! Poetry by shayne avec i grec and skawt chonzz! A full MMP Cover Gallery and a passel of insightful book and movie reviews! And yes, the Annual is FREE too, for the same days. After that, it’s only 0.99, which is still a ridiculous steal! Link to its Amazon page HERE for a shockingly instantaneous download to your Kindle or Kindle-enabled device or download other e-reader formats from its MMP page HERE.
And speaking of things that are only 0.99 (hey, it’s like a Macklemore song up in heah!), we’re taking a third, migraine-inducing step towards some kind of celebratory meltdown and dropping every other MMP title to that price not only for the 14th through 18th, but for the rest of March! Madness! But hey, it’s what we’re about. The madness. So, we’re cool. We’re cool with it.
As always, we welcome reviews and stars and any generally awesome behaviour surrounding our authors and their books, so please, don’t be shy! Leave a comment, pepper our publishing firmament with shining stellar matter, and let other readers know what you thought of the MMP reading experience. And again, thanks for reading with Martian Migraine Press!
Martian Migraine Press: the Best Kind of Headache