Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

World Horror or Bust!

Hey everybody!

Do you live anywhere near Provo, UT?

If so, I'm going to be at World Horror Convention 2016 from Thursday, April 28, to Sunday, May 1.

WHC is more of a professional convention, but I don't think any fans would be disappointed, especially considering the quantity and quality of genre heavy hitters who will be there.

Oh, yeah, and I'll be there, too.  Want to hear me speak?  Here are the panels I'll be on:

Friday, April 29, 9:00-10:00am - Using Social Media Effectively
Friday, April 29, 4:30-5:30pm - Horror in the Small Press
Friday, April 29, 10:00-11:00pm - Gross-Out Competition
Saturday, April 30, 9:00-10:00am - Self-Published vs. Traditional vs. Hybrid

I won't really be selling books as I'm more of an attendee this time around, but if you have a copy of BRAINEATER on you, I'll of course be happy to sign it.

Hope to see you there! 

And if you miss me at World Horror, my next event is only three weeks and half a continent away, at the Carlisle High School Sci-Fi Day on May 21.  Do you think a high school sci-fi club can't run a decent con?  You'd be wrong.  CHS Sci-Fi Day is (either sadly for the adult con organizers I know or happily for the kids) one of the best run events I've ever attended.  It really is a hidden gem.

But as for me, I'm off to Utah, so see you all next week!

Monday, April 25, 2016

On Sexual Assault

A person whose opinion I trust very much told me once never to get down in the mud.  It might surprise some of you to know that I not only have strong feelings on the various shakeups, kerfluffles, and scandals which seem to monthly or even weekly rock this genre, my genre, the horror genre, but that I've been personally affected by more than one.

And if you don't know me personally, you don't know that.  Because I don't talk about it.  Because talking about it isn't my style, and I don't see what it benefits me.  And fuck anyone who thinks they can get a rise out of me.

Or as the legendary Lieutenant Gene Hunt put it, "Thanks for the gunshot, dinkweed, but I didn't even feel it."

But let's push that aside and talk about some truths.  Some universal truths.

There's a darkness in the human soul.  Poe called it "the imp of the perverse."  Roman Catholics call it "original sin."  However pure your behavior in thoughts, words, and deeds, every one of us stands perpetually on the precipice of the abyss.

"What would I do if there were no consequences?"

It's a thought that haunts us all.  It is why, perhaps, we enjoy stories of corruption as much (if not more) than stories of redemption.

There's nothing wrong with the imp of the perverse.  Not inherently.  As long as you tame it.  And that requires acknowledging it.

In this regard I find horror authors to be way ahead of the curve than the general public.  My colleagues and I exorcise our demons on the page.  And you'll find, perhaps contrary to stereotype, that we're often quite personable and healthy people, because our derangements don't plague us, unaddressed.  Some people swallow and ignore their imps until they become walking, talking derangements, incapable of human empathy.  Better, I think, that you find THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO reprehensible than that I wear a gray suit and scream obscenities at gay couples and migrant children.

Another thing I've never spoken about, publicly or otherwise, is my sexual predilections.  I'm not ashamed, though, to admit that I have desires of a very dark and, frankly, very deranged nature.  Some desires that would quite simply be criminal if I ever played them out in real life. 

And why am I not ashamed to admit that?  Because I am wholly and completely aware of the difference between fantasy and real life.  I am under no confusion about the meaning of the word "consent" and that, regardless of what I may want to do in bed, if my partner doesn't want to, we don't do it.  Whatever it may be.

In the exact same fashion that I can write about juicily dismembering someone without ever carrying out such a heinous deed in real life, I can fantasize about rough sex without ever actually hurting someone.  Thomas Harris is not Hannibal Lecter.  We are not our darkest fantasies made manifest.

So what is the point of this post?  The point of this post is that if you are incapable of keeping your inner darkness in check, if your imp of the perverse drives you to actually harm people, to make that leap from fantasy to reality, then you have no place in this genre.  Quite frankly, you have no place in civil society.  But as we are a rather quirky, rather understanding little bastion of strangeness in the sea of civil society, you particularly have no place with us.

We, the horror community, are a people who quite enjoy indulging our imps in rape, dismemberment, and every form of degradation.  By which I mean, of course, the fictional kind.  The healthy kind.  The kind where ninety minutes of celluloid or three hundred pages of pulp provide you with all the titillation and itch-scratching that you desire.

If, even knowing that this community, if nowhere else, is a safe haven where we can all expose our imps without having to be belittled by the common muggles who think it's better to stuff such impulses down until they explode out unhealthily, if even after all of this, you completely misunderstand the entire point of horror fiction and you do actual horrible things to people, you have no place among us.

If you don't understand what consent is, you need to be ostracized from us.  You probably need to be jailed, too, but you definitely need to be ostracized from us. 

If, after all this, you don't understand the difference between dark fantasy and dark deeds, you need to be ostracized from us.

As has been pointed out many times before by greater men and women than me, horror may be a fractious community, but we are a single community when threatened by foes, whether internal or external.  And predators, sexual predators particularly, are foes.  They are antithetical to everything I have seen the horror community stand for: support, empathy, welcomeness.  And on this point we must also stand as a community.

So, for whatever it's worth, even though I don't usually speak out on these sorts of things, I will join in the chorus of voices saying if you have been sexually harassed or assaulted, I will listen to you.  I will not dismiss you. 

If I am physically present, and you need assistance because someone is threatening or bothering you, do not hesitate to ask me.  I don't care what I'm doing.  It's not as important as the rest of your life.  Because if you are in some way sexually taken advantage of, you may well carry that for the rest of your life.  And nothing I'm doing at a convention or event, not signing books, not blathering about social media or whatever, is more important than your life.

In any group this large there are bound to be bad apples.  But it is my sincere hope that rather than allow them to "spoil the whole bunch" the rest of us can work together to root out these bad actors and make the horror world everything it should be.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Amazicon or Bust!

I will be at Amazicon this weekend!  It will be a con.  And it will be amazing.  (As evidenced by the name.)

What's so great about Amazicon for the Kozeniewski fan and/or well-wisher?

Well, I will have paperback copies of BRAINEATER JONES, THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO, BRAVE NEW GIRLS, and BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS for sale (naturally.)  However, this convention will be your first opportunity ever to purchase my latest release EVERY KINGDOM DIVIDED in person.  Books are $12 for one or $10 apiece for two or more.  And as always, if you took the time to come out to see me, all autographs are free.

Where is it? 

The Doubletree Hotel by Hilton
4727 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803

When is it?

Friday, 15 April 4:00-10:00pm
Saturday, 16 April 10:00am-7:00pm
Sunday, 17 April 11:00am-5:00pm

I am not scheduled for any panels.  That means you will be able to find me in the vendors room the entire con.  (If the vendors room ends up having separate hours from the rest of the con, I'll update this post.)

What if I hate you?

Not to worry!  Fellow author Mary Fan will also be present Saturday and will also be without panels.  It'll just be us and the lines around the block of our adoring public.

Not to mention I will also have a plethora of books from such great authors as Elizabeth Corrigan, Michael Meyerhofer, Melissa MacVicar, Laura M. Kolar, Collin Tobin, and more!

What if I can't make it?

Can't catch me in Wilmington this weekend?  Here are all my other scheduled appearances this year.  Want me to appear somewhere I'm not currently scheduled?  It could happen.  Contact me and we'll talk about it.

Thanks everybody!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

Superman? More like Super...panned!

I finally got around to seeing "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" (God, if that isn't a mouthful of a title) so I'm a little bit behind everyone else on weighing in on this one.  "BvS:DoJ" (that's not much shorter, is it?) had a very strange critical trajectory for a pop culture icon.  Normally things go one of two ways:

a)  critics pan it, then everyone pans it, then it's a big stinky flop like "Battleship"

b)  critics love it, then everyone loves it, then it's a big surprise success like "Mad Max: Fury Road"

"Batman" had a very weird trajectory.  First, all the fans were predicting it was going to be garbage.  Then all the critics panned it.  Then...everyone who actually saw it started poking their heads out of the woodwork to say, "Hey, you know, maybe the critics were wrong."

That's what happened with me.  I thought it was strange that everyone was shitting all over a movie they hadn't seen.  Because why?  Because Ben Affleck isn't Christian Bale?  Well, I have news for you, baby blues, Christian Bale wasn't George Clooney.  And George Clooney wasn't Val Kilmer.  And Val Kilmer wasn't Michael Keaton.  And Michael Keaton wasn't Adam West.  And Adam West wasn't Lewis Wilson.  This is a stupid, albeit perennial argument.

Then I noticed a lot of people just kind of wanted to dump on Zack Snyder.  Except...I've always been a Zack Snyder fan.  I mean, first of all, I've always felt a debt of gratitude to him as part of the New Holy Trinity of Kirkman, Keene, and Snyder for rebooting zombiemania.  The "Dawn of the Dead" remake is the reason I exist today.  I loved "300" and I even loved "Watchmen."  The first five minutes of "Watchmen" is one of the greatest pieces of cinema ever.  I didn't much like "Sucker Punch," but, you know, everyone gets a bolo now and then. 

I mean, the dude can direct.  It's really fashionable, especially right this second in cinematic history, to shit all over Snyder, but he's not Uwe Boll.  He's not fucking M. Night Shyamalan.  He was neither a flash in the pan nor a talentless hack.  I mean, he's not Truffaut, either, but he makes good, stylish movies more often than not.  I always suspected the problem with "Sucker Punch" was that he had a talent for interpreting material, but wasn't much for creating original stories.  And I stand by that until I see otherwise.  "Sucker Punch" was way too precious, and probably because it was way too close to his heart, being the dreams of his childhood sketchbook and all.  Let Zack Snyder keep rebooting and reimagining good shit as long as Hollywood is going to - which is probably forever.  Just don't let him write his own scripts.

And so we come to "Batman v. The Really Long Title."  My confidence in one of my favorite directors was shattered - I remembered deliberately saying, "I'm not so sure about 'Sucker Punch' but I love everything Zack Snyder's ever done" before going into the theater for that one.  And so I was waffling a bit on "Batman" but finally decided I had to see it.

And you know what?  It was pretty great.  Was it "The Dark Knight?"  No.  But then, few movies are, and even with all the same actors and all the same budget, Christopher Nolan couldn't even recreate the genius of "The Dark Knight" four years later.  What "BvS" (there, I'll just settle on that one) was, though, was intelligent.  No, it wasn't a Marvel movie.  But the last Marvel movie I saw - which, I enjoyed, I'll point out - was a string of sex and fart jokes.  High cinema "Deadpool" was not. 

So people have been complaining that "BvS" was too dreary and not enough like Marvel.  Well, fuck you, man!  Who cares if it's like fucking Marvel?  "The King's Speech" wasn't like a Marvel movie, either.  What a stupid fucking argument.  No, "BvS" wasn't like Marvel.  Marvel movies don't have thematic concerns.  Flawed though it may be, "BvS" aspired for something higher.

This wasn't poop joke "Deadpool." This was the Götterdämmerung!  This was a heady meditation on what it means to be a man and what it means to be a god.  Was it Fellini?  No.  But there was clearly a point.  It was clearly meant to make people have a discussion.  What kind of a discussion do you have after "Avengers: Age of Ultron?"  "I'm against evil robots pulling a city into the sky?"  I mean, "Ultron" could have been heady.  It could have posed questions to the audience about what makes a person a person, what's the difference between artificial intelligence and human intelligence, what responsibility does a creator have to his creation, and vice versa.  It could've done all that shit, but it didn't.  Now people are pissed because Zack Snyder had the gall to make them have to think during a comic book movie.  Oh, the nerve of that guy!

I guess at this point I'm just more pissed that no one was willing to give this movie the benefit of the doubt.  No one was willing to go in and see what it was all about before getting all judgey.  Because when I went and actually watched the movie...all the stuff that the nerdosphere was complaining about was pretty fucking integral.

"Oh, Ben Affleck is too old to play Batman and he looks totally worn out."

Right...but, see, he's playing an old, worn-out Batman.

"Batman kills people!  And he brands people!  This isn't Batman!"

Right...but, see, he's playing Batman twenty years in, who's finally become corrupt.  He looked into the abyss and the abyss looked back.  Oh, but guess what?  Batman wasn't beyond redemption, because he's still fucking Batman.  And if that isn't at its core reemphasizing and celebrating the importance of Batman, I don't know what it is.

"Batman and Superman would never fight!"

Right...but, see, this entire movie is about them both being encouraged to fight and each finding the moral courage not to do so.

"Superman's too dreary and pessimistic.  Where's the Superman from that comic where he talked the girl down from the ledge.  It's a complete character derailment!"

(Not even exaggerating, literally every post on Facebook ever for the past three weeks was the fucking girl on the ledge comic.)

Right...but, see, the movie is about the entire question of whether a four-color Superman ethos can exist in the real world - our world.  And despite all the efforts of supervillains and just generally shitty human nature in general, Superman never ceases to believe that doing good is the right thing.  And if that isn't at its core reemphasizing and celebrating the importance of Superman, I don't know what it is.

The other big complaint I kept hearing was how this was neither fish nor fowl, it wasn't a Superman movie or a Batman movie, it was just a great big excuse to skip over all the meticulous, years-long plotting Marvel had done with their shared cinematic universe and jump straight into a Justice League movie.  Well, I won't say it isn't that - clearly DC is trying to skip the crap and jump straight to the team-up - but it wasn't nearly as bad as everyone said.  I could've done without the Aquaman, Cyborg, and Flash cameos.  They added fucking nothing to the movie, which was already testing my patience with a three hour running time.  I even groaned when they first pulled up the file that implied three new characters, the only one whose symbol I immediately recognized was The Flash anyway.  And then they brought it back and watched the videos, just no.

But that was like five minutes of doing the studio's shitwork.  You're telling me you're okay with Thor wandering around in a bunch of hot springs having visions in "Age of Ultron" but not with three relatively concise teasers in "BvS?"  And Wonder Woman, who, though never called that, was actually in the movie and everyone kept saying, "Oh, it's going to be this huge crowded mess and blah blah blah" and you know what?  It was fine.  It was just fine.  Wonder Woman was one of the highlights of the movie.  She basically played a subdued version of the "my love interest has a secret" role from, gee, I dunno, every spy movie ever, not to mention Catwoman in "Batman Returns."  There was plenty of screen time for Batman and Superman and an extended cameo by Wonder Woman.  It wasn't this huge kitchen sink mess everyone was complaining it was going to be.

So, hey, what do I know?  I guess I'm being just as kvetchy as all the straw men I'm (theoretically) arguing against.  But I thought the movie deserved better than the chance people gave it.  I'll tell you one thing I'm sure of, this is a movie that will benefit from rewatching and I suspect that its reputation will improve in subsequent years, possibly in direct opposition to the way "Age of Ultron's" reputation degrades.  In ten years, when people aren't so hot around the collar about it, I think we'll finally know what "BvS's" true value is.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Why Do Some Terms Upset Otherwise Ordinary People?

I've never seen anyone use the term "please and thank you" when they weren't a jackass, douchebag, or dildo, midway through the process of actively being a jackass, douchebag, or dildo.

I don't know what it is about that phrase...although I sort of do.  It's like it simultaneously acknowledges that there is such a thing as manners and civil discourse, and then tosses that concept back in the listener's face.  Like they're saying, "Sure, I could say 'please' and 'thank you' like someone who went to Kindergarten in the Western world and had parents moderately interested in teaching me decorum, but instead go fuck yourself."

I dunno.  It just really grinds my gears.  Perhaps it's because I've never heard it in a genuine context.  I mean, maybe it defies being used genuinely.  It always seems to be something people use in a sarcastic manner.

My roommate in college couldn't stand the word "breath."  I didn't understand that.  I mean, I sort of do.  Breathing is vaguely related to germs and certain kinds of breathing can be sexual.  So, okay, just the idea of breath was bothersome enough to him that the word itself upset him.  "Please and thank you" might be my "breath."  Or you might all agree with me.

What about you?  Any terms or phrases or words that just get your hackles up?  Justified or otherwise?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Three Links

There's a lot going on right now, but rather than rehash it, it might be best if I just redirect you to where the action actually is.  Plus, it couldn't hurt to have you follow me on other social media platforms, right?  That's what they call "synergy," kids.

1.)  I Need Your Vote

No, this isn't an election year come-on.  I am up against two heavyweight opponents in the Long and Short Reviews Book of the Month Contest.  But I have an advantage they don't have: the best fans in the world.  You!  Oh, all right, I know you don't exist and I'm just typing this into an existential void.  You don't need to make me feel bad about it.  But, if by some Schrödinger's cat-like quantum miracle you do exist, feel free to vote for me.

2.)  New AT HELL'S GATES Cover Art!

AT HELL'S GATES IV has been a bit delayed.  Everybody who works on it is human, and some of us are more human than most.  But!  It has not been forgotten and we are making incremental steps towards completion.  Today the new cover art came out, sans lettering because the table of contents isn't completed yet.  Check it out here.

3.)  On a More Personal Note...

Remember how I said on Wednesday that I have a lot of personal issues going on?  Well, for the first time in a long time I can be open and forthright with you, my beloved fans and friends.  There's a reason I've been so out to lunch lately, and it's a she.
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