Hey, check out “BURIED”

Halloween is closing in, so in celebration of the spooky holiday season, my favorite, I threw this little chapbook together with some of my short horror stories, something for your ‘zine bookshelf or while you’re watching horror movies this excellent October season.

BURIED: Short Stories contains three shorts, one of which has appeared in the newsletter and on here, with the other two being new originals. You can get BURIED with my stories “The Iron Space,” “The Photo,” and “Cigs” for less than $4 in print (with a free digital download) or digital-only for $0.99.


I’m using Magcloud to publish BURIED, so shipping is a little pricey (it’ll be about $3, but that covers the printing/material costs basically).

Anyway, check it out, get a copy, spread the word, enjoy some written horror and support an indie self-publishing writer like myself!

Lo-Fi VHS Dreams

coconuts-music-movies-76452224When I was in high school we had a chain of stores in New York called Coconut’s. It was a pretty typical chain of the model of Virgin records, with bright-eyed young people in polo t-shirts with the company logo and an ID tag on a lanyard around their necks, asking you if you were looking for something in particular. They sold CDs, they sold cassettes and posters, did giveaways and pre-sales of concert tickets, and of course, they sold DVDs. It was a good place to stop in for a bit as a high schooler with twenty bucks to burn, or just browse until one of the managers would ask you if you were actually going to buy something. For the most part the employees were completely fine with teenagers wandering and browsing for an hour straight, then buying ONE used CD a cassette or some disc cleaners to justify  being in there for so long looking like a thief.

For some absolutely bizarre but magical reason, the Coconut’s in my old neighborhood in Queens would have, hidden in random slots alongside with all the “radio rock” and pop music, the most absolutely amazing punk and metal records, just squirreled away. Black Flag. The Bad Brains. Minutemen. The Descendents. A ton of then-obscure thrash and heavy metal like Stormtroopers of Death and the first few Mastodon records. For a young kid whose punk tastes were slowly burgeoning out from just the same three or four skatepunk/obnoxious three-piece acts that littered independent music in the 1990s and had a bit of awareness now of not just the older acts but also the more obscure ones, that place was Heaven.

Even better? They had awesome fucking movies.

Besides the obvious semi-hidden porno display at the very back, and the even-less hidden display of the cartoon pornography (“You know, that anime ‘hentai’ tentacle stuff, man!”), there was a whole one side of the long room that was nothing but movies, just rows upon rows of DVDs, by both genre and alphabetically.

College and a job in a cubicle (with access to the Internet almost all day), combined with an unhealthy obsession with horror movies and trashy pulp led me of course to Hammer, to Troma, and to all the offshoots of those infamous names that were re-packaging and redistributing old grindhouse and bad horror knockoff films. This was the early days of Netflix and after I’d exhausted most of the truly weird and good stuff at the local Blockbuster, which a few years later withered and died into…whatever it is now. When Netflix (and later on the very early version of Hulu) were snatching up the rental/distirbution rights to almost anything they could get their hands on, from obscure anime to old horror movies and stuff that was basically light/fake snuff and softcore pornography disguised as horror and cult/arthouse, it was a boon to someone like me.

This was also right after we got cable for the first time after the 9/11/01 attacks in New York City, and my parents decided we needed Internet and cable to be able to escape the horrific drone of nothing on TV but the news. Hence…TV channels like IFC and later on, horror-exclusive stuff like Chiller, which would spew forth even more names and titles for me to look for and, later on, straight-up hunt for.

Coconut’s had so many movies, at one point (partially through being in collusion with one of the employees there) I got my hands on a non-American version of the Hammer film The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (released in the US as The Seven Brothers and their One Sister Meet Dracula, for some reason). Eventually because I couldn’t keep everything at home due to space, I was buying DVDs and returning them for cash at the buyback counter with something like a 25% loss, resulting in what I look back on in a stupid-but-fond way as a “fucked up rental fee.”

The week that the store was closing (an inevitability as music/movie downloading and cheap movie rentals online started to put huge dents in  with insane deals to just get rid of stuff, I went in with half a paycheck in cash and just went nuts, with everything half-off. Obscure Japanese movies, a few Hammer titles I didn’t have but really wanted to fill in my Dracula collection, and a box set proclaiming itself as “The 30 (or was it 50?) Greatest Lost Classics Of Horror In One Place!”, a box of slim DVDs that was $20 for what turned out to be ten straight hours of awful, two hours of 70’s smut masquerading as slapstick horror, and the rest was maybe salvageable.

I think that box set is still in my parents’ basement.

Most of those movies are gone, as are a lot of other things that got sold/donated later on or lost in a shuffle of several moves after then. I couldn’t tell you the plots to most of the movies I watched in that “era” of my life outside of the big name titles/critically-acclaimed titles, because now with the hindsight of age, I can tell you how awful most of them were. All those remastered and re-released “grindhouse classics” and “spotlights of foreign horror mastery” were, for very good reasons, forgettable.

No one outside of New York (and sometimes New Jersey) really remembers Coconut’s, and I still think about it every time I think about my early weird film education, in those really formative years when I started college and threw myself into pulp and Korean horror and old films that I managed to find as box sets or rereleases in the shelves and sales bins of this store that’s now a bank, one I still walk by and look at every time I’m in the area visiting family.

I work really hard to not allow myself to be so entirely nostalgic, but I will totally be nostalgic for a place like Coconut’s. In its own unmeaning way, a place like that can be a real oasis for a brain like mine that was craving more and more weirdness to keep up with it, which it did, in leaps and bounds limited pretty much only by work, school, sleep, and my wallet. If there was any time and place I’d go back to to, honestly, it’d be then.

Mostly because now that I’m older I’d know better what to get and what to look for.

Body Talk

Robert E Howard's CONAN THE BARBARIAN by Ezra Tucker

Robert E Howard’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN by Ezra Tucker

A quick Twitter exchange got me thinking about (well, continuing to think about) horror genres, and body horror in particular. I’d been listening to an audio horror podcast, and as soon as one of the stories started to turn into body horror, I tuned out.

Clive Barker and the Hellraiser franchise are, as far as I’m concerned, a gold standard in a  genre of horror that’s fairly popular, and for good reason. However, I can’t really bring myself to appreciate and enjoy what we’d call modern “body horror” anymore, primarily because the focus is almost entirely on the “ick factor” elements, rather than the deeper reasons for those feeling of uncomfortableness that gross visuals bring up.*

In comparison, I’ve found myself drawn more and more to the unexplained, not necessarily horror in a conventionally-paranormal ghost sense, but rather abstract existential horror (“Lovecraftian” for a lack of a better term, though Machen is arguably almost superior). What terrifies me, rather than grosses me out, is a sense of realization of the grander chain of things, that I’m not only not at the top of the food chain, but I’m not even at the top of the intelligence chain. Also, the chance that it’s not even a chain or a ladder with a semblance of order, but a wild and ever-changing, unknowable web, makes me fear in a deep part of my gut. I can’t come to a conclusion, I can’t learn anything about it beyond what I experience, and what I experience is so beyond my comprehension at the time I can only hope to survive, or at best, be ignored by it.


Sean T. Collins touched on some of the really interesting bits here how this is applicable to the religion of the Iron Islands in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice And Fire books (the Game of Thrones series)

Because Martin is not just the child of Tolkien. […] 

Martin is the child of Howard.

This is Howard’s world. A world of so many bizarre and terrifying ruins that they can’t possibly be reconciled, a world where there are as many mind-warping remnants of impossible architectures as there are stars in the sky. 

And this is, in many ways as it turns out, the World of Ice and Fire. The world of the Basilisk Isles, of Sothoryos, of Yeen, of Hyrkoon, of Yi Ti, of Leng, of Asshai. As with Howard, the point is not aligning all phenomena in an intelligible system, but in suggesting that the system is beyond intelligence. (It’s not for nothing that Howard and Lovecraft were close friends and correspondents, often riffing on one another’s science-fantasy-horror concepts within their own work.) The world through which Conan wanders, or about which Maester Yandel writes, is in a very important way just a series of trapdoors that drop you directly into nightmare after nightmare. The drop is the point, not the floor that connects them.

The idea of Howard being a major influence (as much as Lovecraft) in the early creation myths of Westerns (moreso than Lovecraft arguably) is such a fascinating idea, and it certainly ties into this idea of something truly horrifying being that which we can’t be codified in any sort of large-scale creation myth or pantheon. Howard, as Collins is touching on, created a world (the world of “Conan the Barbarian”) where dueling creation myths, unexplainable phenomena, and remands of former inhabitants and civilizations exist in some sort of paradoxical state of the world as it is for the character(s). There is no real overlapping reason, Collins argues, because there doesn’t need to be one. That lack of codification of the world for Conan the Barbarian is what makes Howard’s world so intensely dangerous and horrifying.

This is, to Collins, the appeal of the “magical” elements of the world of Westerns in Martin’s books, because while the danger of diving too deep into history and expository work to explain the history and mechanics is that it ultimately strips the story down to explanation. It’s why so many of Howard’s elemental world of barbarians and monsters work. They’re meant to be reminders of


from 1987's "Hellraiser"

from 1987’s “Hellraiser”

Now, this brings us to the ultimate flaw of modern body horror, which is that its focus on exquisite and intensely-intrinsic (physiologically) mutilation and mutation of the form, the root of body horror (the fear of an unknown invasion of the familiar and personal) is changed into something else (the horror of grossness), ultimately turning what I’d consider an interesting subgenre into just another hack-fest.

However, this does lead into something interesting, which is just why I can’t keep up. It’s not that I don’t like gory grossness (I mean, the fact that I advocate for 1980’s trash-bag gloriousness Motel Hell constantly should be evidence of it). However, it’s interesting that I just don’t find it scary. It’s fun and cool and schlocky, it’s just not scary. What’s scary to me is far different. What’s scary to me is what I genuinely don’t know.

I don’t know what’s out there beyond my field of view. I find myself genuinely concerned when I can’t track or predict a story, or when I find stories that deal with that same level of non-understanding. Howard’s Conan fights beasts on instinct, from forgotten folds of history that he can’t think of, because if he does it could destroy his mind. Lovecraft’s fear of the unknown (arguably the intense root of his xenophobia and racism) is in the idea that, at the dawn of a new century, exploration by bolder souls will show us a horrific truth, that we’re not at the top of the food chain.

I’m scared of finding out that no matter what, all of what I know is pointless, especially against the larger strength and knowledge of the void. Some things just happen and I can’t understand them.

Fuck, I hate the void.

*) Of course, there are obvious clashes with this thesis, in particular and idea that came to me while I was doing some deep thinking (scrambling some eggs for lunch). A major one (that I’d hope to eventually be able to dedicate some serious brainpower to) is the idea that are my own feelings about abstract Lovecraftian horror rooted in my male cisgendered heterosexuality, considering the intensely feminist leanings and implications of good body horror, which is more aptly-describable as “body/invasion horror,” which is rooted so deeply in the ultimate threat against women, the violation of space…but that’s another rambling I’ll get to.

My Otakon Weekend Nights…

I wrote about my trip to Baltimore, MD’s Otakon 2016, which happened a few weeks ago, for Medium.com.

The field was overflowing by the time I hit graduate school, and I was beginning to become more and more critical of the fandom, with its cultural fetishism, sexism, and weird obsessions with surefire crowdpleasers like hypersexualitzation, fanservice imagery, Nazi iconography, and of course, casual racism. I’ve since started to slowly float back to the field, and of course the good stuff that floated to the surface has always stayed on my DVD shelves and in my personal mental lists of great TV and movies. It’s hard to stay so attached to something though, when your primary problem is with the idea of that attachment.

The Art Collab

I wrote a little bit about how I got into writing and why I write for the “Professor’s Corner” segment of the Monroe Art Collaborative, the fledgling writing/art club we’re trying to get going at one of the colleges I teach at.

I’m an adjunct faculty member at Monroe College, and this collaborative/club is something I thought about getting going as part of an effort to get .

It’s hard. When I freelanced in college I made very little money doing it, and nowadays, there’s even less money in it. Too often I worked for recommendations, for copies of the magazines I appeared in, for copies of records or books I reviewed. Once I got paid in comic books, and another time an editor dropped me from a publication for questioning why we were being cut to less than minimum wage, again.

You should check the whole thing out (it’s also on Facebook), we’re trying to get the students writing and publishing and getting their work out there (as well as slowly getting writing workshopping, learning about the submission process, and editing basics going on). I’m excited to see where it goes and what students get out of it.


So I decided to revive my serialized PI story, Black Ink, starring Ben Miles, haphazard private eye and part-time bail bondsman. It’s back! And…if you’ve never read it or heard of it before, it’s new!

Manta Books brings in not-that-efficient PI/part-time bondsman Ben Miles to track down a missing piece of art, a seemingly-simple job involving newspaper cartoons and digging through boxes of paper. But nothing is what it seems when it comes to a Ben Miles case, and more than likely, he’s gonna end up getting his ass kicked over a comic book.

If you haven’t read chapter 1, you can start here.

I initially was writing and publishing Black Ink chapter by chapter through 2013 and 2014, but time and teaching obligations meant I had to basically leave it by the wayside, which sucked. Ben Miles is the character I invented for my short story collection RUNNING THE TRAIN…AND OTHER STORIES, and I’ve used him in one or two other stories for other stuff since then.

If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, I’ll be re-posting and re-sharing the chapters of the story (which I know are all up, I know…) from the start, on a regular basis before we get to new chapters to wrap this story up, and see what happens with Ben Miles, his usual motley friends (including the far-more proficient Kalli Kiliaris), and…a comic strip.

In The Cul De Sac


I found out that Richard Thompson died yesterday, from Parkinson’s complications.

I don’t really know what to say or what to write, and I re-did this over and over a few times. Suffice to say, one email, a “thanks!” on the cover of the TCDS “Favorites” ‘zine was as close as I got. He wasn’t a friend, more a friend of a few casual acquaintances. But his work was amazing and wonderful and brilliant and so intensely inspirational. If you’ve never read any of his work, seriously, look some up and just be prepared to waste a whole day marveling at his lines, inks, color usage. I can’t really adequately describe just how amazing his work was to me or how it impacted my writing and my cartooning (when I did draw comics), but it is, and it did.

Being a part of the Team Cul De Sac book was the biggest thing publishing-wise that I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m incredibly grateful I was allowed to participate in the book, the ‘zine, and that my work was not only picked for the book part of the project, but also got auctioned off to raise money for TEAMFOX and Parkinson’s research.

I’m just bummed. We’ll miss you Richard, and we miss Alice.


Old Fears, New Frontiers

Airport novel(s) represent a literary genre that is not so much defined by its plot or cast of stock characters, as much as it is by the social function it serves. An airport novel is typically a fairly long but fast-paced novel of intrigue or adventure that is stereotypically found in the reading fare offered by airport newsstands for travellers to read in the rounds of sitting and waiting that constitute air travel.

Considering the marketing of fiction as a trade, airport novels occupy a niche similar to the one that once was occupied by pulp magazine fiction and other reading materials typically sold at newsstands and kiosks to travellers.

I know I’ve talked about it before, but I have a weird nostalgic soft spot for things that seemingly don’t seem that nostalgia-ready, or nostalgia-inclined, to be more specific. Nerd culture is so geared in the past few years to take advantage of that roughly 20-year cycle that captures and re-packages work for a new younger generation (either rebranding it as something new or revitalizing it in its original entirety) that

I finished up watching the Netflix original series Stranger Things last week. My girlfriend and I broke up watching it over a period of three days, this story of middle-school kids in a 1980s suburb getting caught up in the disappearance of their friend Will, and the sci-fi/supernatural elements of the whole incident as it spreads through the whole town.

The Stephen King homages are all over the place, rom fthe story elements, a variety of little King homages in the background of the story and dialogue, to the similarities to King’s Firestarter (I love whenever anyone mentions MK-ULTRA). It’s capturing a lot of elements that had started to build up in the 1970’s and were fully coming into fruition in the 1980’s about the remnants of military experiments, the height of the Cold War (which is floating in the background of this whole thing), and the beginning of suburban malaise creeping into the perfect middle-class facade being built here, in the shadow of military industry and of degrading lives.

It’s obvious tells, and one that I’m good with, because I really enjoyed Stranger Things. It’s fun and doesn’t allow itself to be overcome with in-jokes or references to the 1980’s, but rather, simply uses it as a background for telling a story. Most of the interesting bits about the story are little things that hint at so much more going on, or have had gone on, that the show doesn’t feel compelled to touch on. It can be easy to be distracted with offshoots and flashbacks, instead of allowing multiple elements like that to enhance a singular narrative.


So much of modern nostalgia is heavily drawing on what is seen as relatable to popular imagery and consumerism nowadays, so nerd stuff is popular now, hence why nerd stuff from 20 to 30 years ago is also popular again. This issue here though, is that whether or not that’s genuinely nostalgia is interesting, because then we get down to the definition of the word itself;

pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again

My girlfriend really likes Dean Koontz novels. For some reason, they’re something from her childhood, something that sticks out as a standard of the library, of the 99-cent shelf at the bookstore. I read Koontz too as a kid, with King, with Grisham, with McBane and who knows how many I’ve forgotten.

I’ve forgotten a lot of them.

However, I’ve never forgotten how they made me feel, and more importantly, why they made me feel the way that they did. They have heavy ties to memories of being a lonely kid obsessed with books, of being an English-speaking kid in another country, and of summers even more isolated from friends and TV, reliant on almost any kind of English-language books I could get my hands on, including cheap “airport paperbacks” from

So much of nostalgia is mischaracterized as some sort of rosy-tinted view of the past, though in fact, a lot of that comes from the commercialization of that concept to be able to present flawed (“problematic,” ugh, I hate that word, but that’s another story) artifacts as aspirational objects and concepts to once again reach for, now fully armed with the resources to “appreciate” them. In fact though, nostalgia should be not finally being able to get that cool NES poster or vocalizing for a so-called simpler time in your childhood, because that’s not actually nostalgia. That’s fantasy.

The Merriam-Webster definition not only states that sadness, as well as pleasure, fall under the auspices of nostalgia, but it also specifies the element of experience, and of wanting to maintain or relive that experience.

That point exactly about the reliving of an experience is, at the heart of it, what worked when it came to STRANGER THINGS.


 A lot of the nostalgia surrounding this show, I think, has to do not necessarily with the era per se or with the elements of the story that are sci-fi and horror related, although they are very much a part of it as well. What I connect to here, and what makes it work, is the idea of young kids participating in an adventure that’s so much bigger than them, but they want to be a part of it so badly.

Overall, the nostalgic effect of STRANGER THINGS isn’t necessarily the setting or the story itself, but rather then sense of the story that we connect to, as kids who were for the most part left alone to our own devices. In that freedom, however limited it was in hindsight (age, experience, range of travel within our communities, etc) we were heroes of our own stories, and we tried to involve ourselves a seriously as we could in them.

The D&D the main characters all play, opening and closing the show, is more than just a set of thematic bookends here. It’s an experience, and ultimately, that experience of heroism brought to life is the heart of STRANGER THINGS. It’s what truly makes people really love this show, because we feel a level of nostalgia for a time not of walkie-talkies and D&D, but of the experiences of youth that are tied into our own personal journeys of becoming the heroes we wanted to to so desperately be. I know I did, a dorky kid into comics and fantasy novels who so badly wanted to be a part of those worlds at times, because I knew that I had the fortitude and demeanor for black-and-white hyper-simplified conflicts that were waved away when the going got too tough for a 12-year old in glasses and a dorky haircut who got picked on.

What I loved about this show was that I felt like that could have been me, thinking that as a kid I could engage in this grand adventure, an adventure that felt so intensely serious and that only I knew the truth of. While mine never got beyond exploring old empty houses and creating a “hidden cave” in a space in my backyard between some trees, the back of a garage, and the shrubbery (which ended up being fucking infested with spiders), Mike, El, Lucas, and Dustin really did have that adventure. Fuck, in some tiny way, I’m jealous of these fiction characters for that, and that is why this show worked.


Being nostalgic for things and overall larger cultural movements and items sort of defeats the purpose of any kind of positive nostalgia, honestly. Be nostalgic for feelings, for personal moments and memories, instead. Be aware of what it is you’re trying to recapture, because if it isn’t in something with an actual connection and backing of context, more often than not it won’t work.

If you’re into Facebook…

…I got a Facebook author page.

You can check it out for older work I’m re-sharing, as well as some newer stuff eventually.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer. There’s stuff to come…