Why Video Games are Important for Horror

As a horror writer, naturally I have an affinity for literature, as well as movies. But what I talk little about are video games, and the underappreciated value they provide the genre.

Video games have been a significant and important part of my life. Ever since I had a Pong set, then moved to the Atari 2600, and on to the NES, I played and loved every gaming console since. I grew up on them, my kid grew up on them. And we’ve been playing them together since they could pick up a controller.

To me a good game is a work of art, much like a novel or movie. A video game combines a multiple art forms into one piece. Music, story, visuals, and voice acting. What’s compelling about horror games is they put you directly in the action. You control the character, and for first-person view games, you are the character. Suddenly, running from nightmarish monsters can be quite terrifying and if you’re really into the game, it actually gets your heart pumping. You feel the excitement and adrenaline rush of trying to stay alive.

Not all games are created equal. Just because you pick up a horror themed game doesn’t mean it’s going to scare the hell out of you. Games such as the Dead Rising series are great games, lots of fun to play, and even have nods to classic zombie movies, but they aren’t frightening.

I recently played a game called Outlast. Now that’s the kind of game I’m talking about. It’s a first-person view survival game, where you play the part of a journalist sneaking into an abandoned mental asylum for a story. There are no weapons. You can’t fight. You’re armed with only a video camera, luckily equipped with night vision when you need it. But the batteries can run out. When being chased by a psychopath with a machete or a mutated creature from beyond, all you can do is run, hide, and hope they don’t find you. Trying to navigate an enormous labyrinthian mental asylum in this manner was damn hard, and really got my blood pumping.

Alien: Isolation is another that comes to mind. Also a first-person survival game, it’s based on The Ridley Scott Alien movies. If this game, you’re on a ship with a Xenomorph. You do get a few measly weapons. But nothing worthy of actually trying to fight it. They’re mostly meant for distracting the alien so you can run the other way and hope it doesn’t kill you. The game plays a lot like Outlast, but in Alien: Isolation, the Xenomorph is highly sensitive to sound. Make too much noise, you’re dead. Also unlike Outlast the alien appears randomly rather than the specifically placed foes in the mental asylum. This game is so terrifying the virtual reality version of the game was never released as the developers were afraid it could cause a heart attack.

Although Alien Isolation never made it, Virtual Reality is the next great leap in horror gaming. If playing the game on a screen in your living room has allowed some games to incite actual anxiety, I look forward to seeing what the future of horror can do with a game where you really are in the middle of the action.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, follow my blog for more about horror fiction, writing, movies, and more!

∼Lee A. Forman

An Interview with Sirens Call

Today is the release of The Sirens Call eZine’s 34th issue!

I’f first like to thank all the contributors for submitting their work for this wonderful issue! I always enjoy reading their stories and poetry, and working with them is always a pleasure!

Now it’s time for a little shameless self-promotion! As a writer, I’m prone to such outbursts of my ego.

I was featured in an interview by Sirens Call Publications for this issue. You can read and download the magazine for FREE. It’s filled with great stories, poetry, art, and of course, a little insight into the mind of a particular horror writer. (That would be me).

Click the link below to enjoy!

The Sirens Call Issue 34

At Peace – Pen of the Damned

This week on Pen of the Damned, read At Peace by Christopher A. Liccardi

Follow Pen of the Damned on Twitter @penofthedamned And like us on Facebook

Pen of the Damned is a collection of dark tales told by those who freely dive into the maw of damnation and live to tell their stories. Every Tuesday a new story is posted to the site by one of its handful of eclectic writers. And once or twice a cycle, the members write their interpretation of a photo prompt as a group post. The stories are short and not so sweet, with a lingering aftertaste of terror.

A Writer’s Bucket List

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I was inspired by a few authors who recently wrote bucket lists for what they want to achieve as writers. I enjoyed reading about their goals and aspirations, many of which matched my own. So I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do one myself.

  1. Publish my first novel

I’ve had a lot of work published since I decided to take writing seriously. But it’s all been short fiction. I have a novel which is so close to being finished it often surprises me how far I’ve gotten. But I always felt like it was taking too long to complete. The possibility that I might never finish it plagued my thoughts daily. And to make this fit my bucket list even more, I was literally afraid that I would die before it ever saw the light of day. But with it being so close to completion, I feel like I might just live to see it happen!

2. Have a table at a horror or book convention

This comes second, as I need to actually have something to sell at my table. I see authors selling their books at conventions, their table set up nicely with posters and themes that go with their book. I’d imagine myself in that situation, dream of doing that very thing for my own book. I kind of romanticized it in a way. The prospect of doing that for myself seems invigorating and even if I didn’t sell too many books, I’d go home happy just for having been there.

3. Write something amazing

I’m a horror writer. It’s what I’m best at. I’ve been obsessed with the genre for as long as I can remember. And I love writing it. But I hope to produce something that somehow transcends the creatures and gore. And while many of my stories do have a message or serious element behind the story, I want to write something where that aspect stands out and the piece is recognized for that quality.

4. Create a successful writing blog

Yes, I have a website, and I do write a blog post every now and then. My most successful ones are mostly about horror movies and other things about the genre in general. But I’d love to start creating posts about writing, offering tips and advice for new writers. I suppose I worry that I’m not qualified to give advice to new writers. What do I know? I’m not some hot-shot success story. But as I’ve traveled the path of a writer, I’ve come a long way and learned quite a bit. Maybe someday I’ll build the confidence to start giving advice to others.

5. Write an autobiography

I’d love to write about the journey that led me to where I am. The path I’ve followed in life has been arduous to say the least. It’s been full of tragedy and hardship. But I don’t complain. It’s brought me here, typing these very words you’re reading. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. The difficult life I’ve lived more than likely adds a quality to my work that probably wouldn’t be there otherwise. So I’m thankful for the good experiences as well as the bad.

6. Write a book about my family history

I’m a descendant of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. My family history is appalling and tragic, and would make a damn interesting story. I’ve been gathering information about it for years, putting all in a file in the hopes that I’ll eventually get around to putting it together. It’s amazing that I’m even here after the events of the Genocide, considering my ancestors survived by a fine thread.

7. Have a novel in my local library

Doesn’t seem like a huge deal, and it’s probably not. But my love for reading was born in my local library, taking out three books at a time and plowing through them like there was no tomorrow. I’d love to have something of my own on their shelves. I want to be one of the names on the spine of one of those many books. To contribute to the huge number of titles for readers to discover.

9. Write Poetry

I recently had my first piece of poetry published. I’d never written a good poem before, and certainly never tried to have any published. But I was so satisfied with the results, it made me want to write more, and try to get them out into the world.

I guess that’s all for now. Who knows what the future will add or take away from this list. Only the words I produce will tell. I hope you enjoyed this little trip into my mind. If so, please like this post and follow my blog! It’s greatly appreciated!

 

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Why ‘Night of the Creeps’ is One of the Best B-Movies of All Time.

 

Aliens in bad rubber costumes, 1950s throwbacks in black and white, ax-wielding psychopaths, slug monsters, zombies, a detective with a dark past, and a full helping of campy 80s B-movie humor—this is the masterpiece that is Night of the Creeps. The recipe for this cult-classic sounds absurd. What the hell kind of movie has all that in it without being completely ridiculous? Somehow, Night of the Creeps managed to pull it off.

 

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Released in 1986, starring Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, and Tom Atkins, the film starts with a scene that doesn’t fit the rest of the movie at all—aliens on a spacecraft. Yes, aliens. In cheesy rubber costumes. They even went as far as adding subtitles in both English, and for some reason, the alien’s language as well. This is an odd but lovable detail, especially for this kind of movie.

After that it jumps to old-school black and white, representative of scenes that happen in the 50s. Although it’s been done before, the style during these scenes bring a unique quality to this type of 80s horror. And they add a backstory to everything that happens later. Slasher films weren’t common in the 50s, but had their golden era in the 80s. That’s what makes ax-wielding psychopath so special. Night of the Creeps has 80s written all over it, but the killer is in the black and white 50s scenes—a nice twist to the mashup.

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When the story jumps forward to 1986, it’s literally saturated with everything 80s. Frat parties, nerds, jocks, it’s all there. Jason Lively from National Lampoon’s European Vacation just tops it off. Adding to the B-movie humor, the homicide detective is given some of the worst lines of dialogue. But if you love that campy 80s style, it’s perfect. They bring that element to the movie while leaving the rest of the characters with more serious lines.

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Although the ‘zombies’ in Night of the Creeps aren’t really zombies, at least not the Romero variety, they’re damn close. I won’t spoil the movie, but they have something to do with the aliens and slug monsters, and when everything comes together, all the unusual aspects of this film create a masterpiece that still shines over thirty years later.

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Soundscapes and Screams

Some authors prefer silence while creating, others are fueled by melodies that play like the ghostly hands of a muse… In celebration of his new book, Screams the Machine, Sam Mortimer talks about music and how it plays a role in his work as a writer.

Soundscapes and Screams

Sam Mortimer

Every writer is different and has a method of transferring their unique world to page.  Music acts like a transistor in select writers’ stories, modulating the tale’s energy and revealing new angles. It’s interesting to see which bands and artists haunt a writer’s playlist. For instance, I learned about The Raveonettes, “Love in the Trashcan” from Stephen King’s playlist on Itunes years ago. Music connects like the cat’s meow, and right songs enhance the writing process, which hopefully creates an unforgettable reader’s experience. 

Sound or lack thereof, played an integral part in Screams The Machine. Even though music practically hums in my bones, during the first draft, the room stayed as silent as possible.  T’was a rather isolative feeling, but doing so helped preserve the story’s initial soundscape. Nothing interfered with the frequency, if you will. Even the fiction world’s imagery stayed pure and raw in my head, which hopefully allowed me to write better! Also, I wanted to ‘hear’ the breaths of the characters, their voices, and the ambience of the Screams The Machine’s dystopian world. As the story moved forward, an original soundtrack began writing itself in my head. If for some serendipitous reason Screams The Machine lands a movie deal, I’d love to compose a song or two that burned in my mind while writing the novella.

The second draft is where the party began, and least that was the case in Screams The Machine, when writing and music became starry-eyed companions. New energy bounced in and sound’s influence morphed aspects of the tale, hopefully revealing some depth to the world and its characters. Music works in mysterious ways I’d imagine for many writers.

The ambient band Stars of the Lid carried a hefty influence on a majority of Screams The Machine’s second and third drafts, especially during the protagonist’s, Randal Markins, phantasmagoric withdrawal from The All.  Stars of the Lid produce dreamy, intense sounds that give a celestial sensation; they know how to create a potent atmosphere, and that was precisely what Screams The Machine required.  

Randal’s trials and tribulations felt entirely focused while I listened to Stars of the Lid. His pain became clarified in my mind, almost real, and hopefully the reader can experience the same thing. His withdrawal from a presence called The All might’ve been entirely different if Stars of the Lid weren’t in the background.  If you’ve watched Twin Peaks, you’ve likely heard their music.

When Stars of the Lid didn’t play, droning deep-sleep inducing music was moving some particles in the air. Only I didn’t sleep much (still don’t) so the music never put me under—instead, I basically fell into a trance. The experience was gravely interesting, resulting in some of the prose you’ll read in Screams The Machine.

Next book you dig into, consider the soundscape. What surrounded the author as they wrote some of your favorite scenes? Were they jamming to The Rolling Stones, Nine Inch Nails, Even the Slept or Falls Lake? Maybe Tycho?

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Synopsis

Cash carries a disease; one that’s already killed a large majority of the population and something needs to be done. To stop the crisis from escalating, The Solution (a worldwide organization) is formed and rises to great power. They monitor people’s dreams and shape reality to fit their own wants and needs. In an effort to control existence itself, The Solution is searching for what they believe to be the ultimate tool; a person with the ability to master a deep connection with the mysterious, pervasive energy known only as The Ultimate Reality.

Watching her neighborhood decay, her friends and family perish, Elizabeth Reznik needs to find meaning in her life. She discovers her existence is more meaningful than she could ever have imagined. Operatives of The Solution seek her out, take her from her home and perform brutal experiments on her. Their conclusion? Elizabeth is the one they have been searching for; she is the key to gaining complete power.

The stratagem of The Solution is single minded – own the resources and you own the people. And the last resource available is free will. They will own your thoughts, they will orchestrate your dreams; they will dine on your fears. But there is always a cog in the machine… or in this case, a scream.

Available on:

Amazon:

US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India | The Netherlands

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India | The Netherlands

iTunes | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | CreateSpace (Print)

 

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Author Bio:

Sam Mortimer has worked the graveyard shift in law enforcement, attended film school, and has been writing strange stories since age eleven. He loves reading, music, and strives to meet the demands of his five cats.