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."

Friday, August 31, 2018

Re-Animated #19: The Venture Brothers

"We're the Venture Brothers!"

So sayeth Jonas Venture, Jr. to his brother Rusty in the season 2 premiere of today's entry.

It was a weird, goofy "fuck you" to the audience.  But it also wasn't that.  It was also an artistic choice that suggested this offbeat cartoon, which had originated as nothing more than a violent "Jonny Quest" ripoff was going to have stakes.  That it could change.  That it was a cartoon that wasn't just a cartoon.

And change it has.  Mutated.  Evolved.  And taken bold choices.  Too many bold choices, perhaps.  But let's take a step back.

The Venture Bros logo.svg

My earliest memory of "The Venture Brothers" was watching the pilot in a hotel room in Texas when I was in the army.  It was the second time the pilot had shown, alongside a few, stranger [adult swim] entries like "Penguins Behind Bars."  So why do I remember the second time better?

Well, back in those days [adult swim] was putting a lot more pilots on the air, presumably because they didn't have nearly as much content and, having commissioned a pilot, even if it never went to series, the result was likely still weird enough to warrant trying to get their money back with a showing.  One winter the absolutely unwatchable "Boo Boo Runs Wild" ran like clockwork every night at 12:30.  It was the only time of the evening I turned [adult swim] off.

One day I may do an entry on some of the [adult swim] pilots.  But suffice it to say that "The Terrible Secret of Turtle Bay" at first seemed like that.  It was a bit of a one-joke premise.  Dr. Venture is like Benton Quest, except he doesn't give a shit about his kids.  Hank and Dean are as eager and chipper as Jonny and Hadji but they live in a real world of strippers and muggings.  And Brock Samson is as dedicated a bodyguard as Race Bannon, but an ultraviolent lunatic.  Oh, and the accidental homoeroticism of Race and Benton was made all but overt.

And that was about it.  It was mildly clever, mildly amusing, and the animation was charming and hand-drawn (more on that in a moment) but otherwise the [adult swim] suits might have been forgiven for passing on this like any other "Korgoth of Barbaria" or "Cheyenne Cinnamon and the Fantabulous Unicorn of Sugar Town Candy Fudge."

Thankfully, though, they did send "The Venture Brothers" to series, and as I mentioned above, it evolved and evolved and evolved.  Which brings us to the season 1 finale...when the ostensible main characters of the show, Hank and Dean, were killed at the very end.  Cartoons are notably fond of the reset button, but not so "The Venture Brothers."  In fact, they did a send up of the very notion of the reset button when it turned out that Hank and Dean were clones - fifteenth or sixteenth generation clones, in fact.

Which leads us back to the quote I mentioned in the opening.  For the space of a single half hour "The Venture Brothers" hinted that it might be the sort of show to kill off its two teenage leads, and replace them with two middle aged, one of which had been swallowed in utero and only recently escaped from his twin's body.  It never went quite that far.  But in subsequent seasons it never pulled back from marriages, breakups, deaths, and even, at the beginning of season 6, a completely new location.  And because, as I mentioned above, each episode is loving hand-drawn in a retro style, fans can often go several years between seasons without having their cliffhanger itches scratched.  Thus, while "The Venture Brothers" is only now entering its seventh season, it's not officially been on the air longer than any other [adult swim] show, including the eleven-season former champ "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" - at fifteen and a half years.

Jesus Christ, I just depressed myself.  How much of my life have I wasted on waiting for a cartoon?

What's notably interesting about the show being so long-running is that they completely preceded the Marvel fad before it overtook them.  Imagine having a main character on the show be an obvious spoof of Doctor Strange in 2004.  How many people would have even gotten the reference?  Being a superhero show, the creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer leaned heavy into the Marvel deep cuts at a time when the idea of, say, Ant-Man becoming familiar to a mainstream audience was pretty out there.  Now all the Marvel references are so embedded in their mythos it would be hard to extract any of them - and now they're no longer just for superfans.

Well, anyway, "The Venture Brothers" is delightful and kooky.  Most of the time.  As it's written by ├╝bernerds, it has a nerdy tendency to disappear into increasingly obscurer and obscurer pop culture references.  If a particular reference doesn't resonate with you, you might be fine as it might be a throwaway line.  It might also be a running joke through an excruciating, minutes-long debate between two characters (of particular guilt are albino Pete White and hydrocephalic "boy genius" Master Billy Quizboy.)  So "YMMV" might be a general blanket warning for any given episode of the show.

And while I admire their bravery in most instances, there have, naturally, been a few misfires.  Sergeant Hatred, a recurring (he's still in it, in fact) and unrepentant pedophile character, has raised more than a few hackles online. 

The new season is currently airing (hence me once again running Re-Animated a bit out of order) but you're not going to be able to just jump right in.  Trust me on this.  You're going to want to go back to season 1, episode 1, hell, you'll even miss stuff if you don't go back to the pilot, and watch the whole thing through.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

2018 KillerCon Deadite Press Gross-Out Contest: The Winning Entry

WARNING:  The following short story contains graphic depictions of scat play and child abuse.  It is not intended for minors or easily offended adults.

***As I mentioned in Monday's post I am now a back-to-back Gross-Out Contest winner!  After winning the 2016 contest at the World Horror Convention in Provo, Utah with this piece, I managed to win again at KillerCon in Austin, Texas this past weekend.  This year's contest was hosted by Deadite Press and the prize pack was rather handsome, including:

- 4 EC Comics
- "Magic Casket" by The Slow Poisoner CD
- "DC House of Horror" comic signed by Ed Lee, Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, and Wrath James White
- SUNDANCING by Brian Keene 
- Script of Brian Keene's "Ghoul"
- Flashing Mouth Light 
- The Death Nut Challenge box of spicy peanuts
- A collection of "Dinosaurs Attack" trading cards
- An unopened blister pack of Garbage Pail Kids 
- Two Garbage Pail Kids figurines 
- A Buddy System pin (courtesy of Christine Morgan)
- Sex patches
- Cthulhu breath mints

and, perhaps most apropos of all:

- A Godzilla figurine

My thanks go out to the listeners, judges, other contestants, and, of course, the inimitable host Jeff Burk.  Now, if you have a weak stomach or a sense of decency, read no further.  You've been warned.***

“Everybody Poops.  Especially Godzilla.”
by Stephen Kozeniewski

A thick, cheesy brown fog rolled into town that morning.  It seemed that Godzilla had been struck by another bad bout of diarrhea.

No one knows quite why Godzilla chooses to use our rustic town as his personal restroom, but I think it’s just our geography.  We live in a perfectly concave valley, almost a crater, surrounded by mountains.  Basically our small town is shaped exactly like a kaiju’s toilet bowl and now Godzilla’s various bodily excretions have become an integral part of our weather patterns.

I actually don’t mind days like today, when we get a little splash of Godzilla’s colon gravy.  Sometimes my seven-year-old daughter Sophie and I will sit on the deck in our rain slickers, sipping tea, watching the dogs chase each other out on the lawn, turning their coats brown.  Sometimes I joke that we have yellow labs most of the time, but chocolate labs on Taco Tuesdays.  But, no, the diarrhea fog is not nearly as bad as the constipation.

Now I suppose a fancy city doctor might claim the fix for constipation is a spoonful of Metamucil, but out here in the country we know the simple ways are still the best: all you have to do is jam your thumb up in there and wiggle it around, removing each of those little Dippin Dots one at a time.

So, ‘round these parts, instead of filling up the water tower with laxatives and trying to convince Godzilla to drink, we just pay the local kids nickels to coat themselves in Vaseline, shimmy up Godzilla’s leg, and act as his thumb in the asshole, if you know what I mean.

For a while our best asshole spelunker was the epileptic kid who lives over on 7th, Timmy Mason.  You can imagine what a natural advantage he had shaking those bowel movement loose, what with those fits of his.  But then one day Timmy didn’t come back.  Well, the truth is, he did come back, we were just never able to get him out of that giant, calcified lizard shit.  We jackhammered at it for days, but had to give up.  They had an empty casket at his wake, but to this day once a week like clockwork Mrs. Mason leaves a little bouquet of flowers at the foot of that big old log jam where her son still rests.

Anyhoo, that’s why I stopped letting Sophie be a browneye girl for nickels.  Oh, don’t make that noise.  I still let her have fun.  Why, I remember just last May Sophie came tear-assing out of the house, crying “no school tomorrow, no school tomorrow, there’ll no be no school tomorrow ‘cause of jizz!”  And, sure enough a glistening white goo coated the land.  I mean, Godzilla’s still a man, you know.  Before I knew it, Sophie was out in the yard making cum angels on the lawn and trying to catch falling sperm on the tip of her tongue.  We even got into a jizzball fight.  That little rascal hit me right in the eye.  And at the end of day we built a little man with a corncob pipe and a button nose out of chunky globs of radioactive lizard semen.

Lately, though, it seems that Godzilla’s not the only kaiju who’s been getting in on the action.  I thought I’d seen everything in this town, but last week when I went to go fill my swimming pool for the season, I saw that somebody had beaten me to it.  Instead of water and chlorine my pool was full of thick, clotting menstrual blood.  But I’ll tell you more about that in my next reading “Are you there, Godzilla?  It’s me, Mothra.”


Monday, August 27, 2018

KillerCon Austin 2018 Autopsy

Howdy, y'all!

I just got back from Austin, TX, and boy are my arms tired.

Sorry, I know I'm destroying you all with my groundbreaking comedy, but I'm just so giddy after the weekend I just had.  As you know from reading my blog (you do read my blog, right - well, I guess that's a bit of a non sequitur since you're certainly reading it now) I spent last weekend at the resurrected KillerCon.

I'm going to talk a little bit about the convention now but I want to preface this piece by saying that I met and hung out with a lot of really cool people at this convention.  So many, in fact, that this could easily just turn into a list of cool people, which will be terribly boring for the average reader.  So I'm going to try to refrain from naming names as much as possible to keep this blogpost somewhat manageable.  If I don't mention you, it's not because I dislike or forgot about you.

My girlfriend and I started out on Friday morning with a scare as we nearly didn't make it onto our flight from Harrisburg to Washington, D.C.  Security at MDT that day decided that we both needed to be frisked and have our bags searched for some reason, and lines were long considering it was a 6:00 am flight.  But we did make it to the venue after that with relatively little issue.  And a good thing, too, because my first panel was at 1:00 pm local time.

My first (and, come to think of it, only) panel was "What the Hell?" about mythology in horror.  I was the moderator and Wrath James White (also the founder and runner of KillerCon) was on it, as well as Brian Asman, who I met for the first time.  Brian specified that he was not the famous balloon artist Brian Asman, but just some other Brian Asman, which was particularly hilarious because my girlfriend actually is a balloon artist.  So now I suppose we'll be looking up Brian Asman videos, but not the guy we both know from the con.

The person who was not there was Gabino Iglesias, who you may also know as a contributor to my group blog.  However, a few hours later I did finally get to meet Gabino. 

My girlfriend and I spent that evening at the hotel bar, which was where I met so many people that it caused me to write that preface up there.  We laughed and talked well into the evening and had a delightful time. 

The next morning we had to get up early because there was a mass signing at 10:00 am.  I was a bit unsure what to do for this convention.  Normally I drive to conventions so when I don't have a table I tend to bring a trunk full of books, then carry around five or ten in my backpack, and replace them as necessary.  When I have a table, I usually just bring all the boxes in.

So this time I was flying in and I figured I would bring about ten books total and just sell out when I sold out.  Or not.  Whatever. 

So I sat down at the mass signing and within 45 minutes I had sold out of all my books and taken selfies with several fans.  Genuine fans.  My girlfriend was incredibly impressed.

At 3:00 pm, Brian Keene invited me and John Wayne Comunale to do mini-readings during his reading to help fill up the hour.  I did "This Reading is Going to Suck," my new go-to.  John Wayne did an amazing rendition from his new work SCUMMER.  Let me tell you, this is an author to watch, folks.  His prose is strong, his story was fascinating, and his delivery was on point.  Brian finished up with a couple of killer pieces that gave me some ideas for audience interactivity in the future. 

At 8:00 pm came the centerpiece of the event: The Splatterpunk Awards.  I was nominated for one for best novel for THE HEMATOPHAGES.  The award ended up going to WHITE TRASH GOTHIC by Edward Lee, the towering godfather of the genre, thus righting a wrong for someone who has not received an award for his work in 35 years of writing the most extreme horror in the field.

So, I was a little bit disappointed.  A lot of people asked me throughout the day if I was nervous, but the truth is I wasn't.  That's not some kind of "too cool for school" attitude.  I just wasn't terribly.  If I won, I knew what I wanted to say and who I wanted to thank.  But if I didn't win, it wasn't the end of the world.  The way I see it, if I've been nominated for an industry award after just five years of publishing, I must be doing all right.  If it takes me another thirty years to win, then I'll be doing exactly as well as the master of extreme horror, right?

So, all in all, I felt a slight pinch when my name wasn't announced, but no worse than giving blood.  Besides, I figured I'd have a second chance to win an industry award that night when I entered the Deadite Press Gross-Out Contest.  Now, those of you who read my blog (you do read my blog, don't you?) know that I won the 2016 Gross-Out Contest at the last World Horror Convention.  I was a bit worried about entering this year as well.  2016 was a blast, and legends like Jeff Strand and Jack Ketchum entered, and my drunken, wide-eyed acceptance speech will always be one of my greatest memories.

But at KillerCon I was facing down a veritable bevy of bizarros.  Now, what you have to know about bizarro authors is that they take a different attitude towards readings than us straight horror types.  Bizarro readings are more like performance art, and often feature props, dadaism, audience participation, and skits.  In a circumstance like the Gross-Out Contest, all of those things are strong advantages.

However, I don't wear those sorts of things well.  I'm happy to do a little bit of pantomime, but for the most part I just worry about writing a really good, targeted piece and performing it well.  This year's entry was "Everybody Poops.  Especially Godzilla."  (Which, if you're very good little boys and girls, I'll share with you on Wednesday.)

As the contest started, all my fears were realized.  A couple of horror authors presented some strong entries, and the bizarros were even stronger.  Then Michael Allen Rose began reading a gut-busting novelization of "Two Girls, One Cup," culminating in him pulling our old friend John Wayne Comunale on stage and both feeding each other Snickers bars.  I was sure I was toast.  

There was nothing for it but sheer, true grit.  (Yeah, you thought I wouldn't pull that one out, didn't you, John Wayne?)  So I dug down deep and gave my best rendition ever.  And it tore the house down.  Still, I was pretty sure I was just going to get second place.  But I won!

Making me a two-time Gross-Out Contest winner!  The winner and still champion!

But wait!  There's more!

Immediately after the contest, Deadite Press hosted a party.  I got to have a long, great conversation with Bev Vincent, however I think he was much more charmed by my girlfriend than me.  However, both accused me of making their drinks too strong.  So I guess I got Bev drunk.

Then I finally got to tick something off my bucket list.  I met Carlton Mellick III!

I'm pretty sure I made a complete ass of myself, so this will probably be the last picture I get with him, but I'm still gobsmacked it happened.  I got to tell him how much "Lemon Knives and Cockroaches" influenced me (check out THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO if you don't believe me.)

We had to head out pretty early Sunday morning to make it home.  But all in all, KillerCon was an amazing time, intimate and large and definitely an event not to miss.  Hope to see you all there next year!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

KillerCon or Bust!

Hey, everybody!  I'm very excited to announce that I'll be appearing at the rebirth of the legendary KillerCon!  This year, KillerCon will be in Round Rock, TX, a suburb of Austin.  The address is:

Wingate by Wyndham Conference Center
1209 N Interstate 35 Frontage Rd
Round Rock, TX 78664

The convention will be taking place this weekend, August 24-26.  I won't have a table or be participating in a whole ton of programming, so if you're more interested in hanging out and having conversations with me, this will be more your style of event.  And if you want a book signed, you might be better off bringing it yourself.  I'll probably only have a small stack in my carryon, since I'll be flying to this event.

As for the programming I will be participating in,

Friday 1:00 pm - "What the Hell?" (M)
Saturday 10:00 am - Mass Autograph Signing (this is a maybe?  I don't know if you need to be invited.  And, like I said, I won't have a ton of books.)
Saturday 8:00 pm - First Annual Splatterpunk Awards
Saturday 10:00 pm - Deadite Press Presents The Gross-Out Contest

That's right, I will be attempting to (somehow) top my winning entry in the 2016 World Horror Convention Gross-Out Contest, "Dildoey McDildoface: A Poop Dildo's Odyssey."  And, perhaps most stress-inducing of all, I've been nominated for a Splatterpunk Award for my novel THE HEMATOPHAGES.  Fingers crossed, and I hope to see you all this weekend!

Monday, August 20, 2018

"Silverwood: The Door" Promo Code!

Hey, everybody!

If you've been hanging around here at all lately, you've probably heard me talking about a project called "Silverwood: The Door."  I've been working on it all year alongside such horror luminaries as Rich Chizmar, The Sisters of Slaughter, and Brian Keene.  It's a continuation of the "Silverwood" YouTube series, though this one will be serialized in prose and/or audio for your reading and/or listening pleasure.  And if you swung by Dread Central last month you saw the big cover reveal.

Well, if you've managed to wait this long without pre-ordering, I have got a present for you to sweeten the pot.  Serial Box has issued me a 15% off coupon for my fans who pre-order "Silverwood."  You can follow the link here (or click on either of the photos in this post.)

The link should autopopulate with the promo code SILVERWOODSK.  If it doesn't, though, you can just pop it in and bob's your uncle, 15% off.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Fight the Future?

With each day that passes, I grow less optimistic about any meaningful future for mankind.  I'm loath to say so, because it sounds a lot like the sort of "sky is falling" prognostication that can be traced back to every generation since ancient Greece, but probably before then with people whose records haven't survived as well.

But the thing is...I'm hot.  It's late August and I'm impossibly hot.  It's been unbearably hot since April, and it probably will be until October.  Every year is a record-smashing hottest year on record.  I remember ten, fifteen years ago, back when we still had four seasons in this part of the world, when I had the luxury of enduring debates over climate change with who people who I should probably be charitable and describe as "skeptics" but who would more accurately be described as "morons."

There's never been any doubt about anthropogenic climate change.  Not with anyone who knew anything about the subject.  There were vested interests who wanted to deny it, the same way there were vested interests who wanted to deny the dangers of tobacco twenty or thirty years ago.  Nowadays if someone says there are no proven dangers to cigarette smoke, they barely warrant an eyeroll.  They're known to be deceiving themselves.  It seems to me we've reached the same juncture with climate change.  At this point you'd have to be a moron to deny it.  At least fifteen years ago you had to actually pore over the data, look at satellite photos.  I could at least believe in the good faith of people who debated it, if not agree with them.  Now all you have to do is step outside the house any day of the year.

Famine is coming next, I expect.  I suppose as a wealthy American I'll be okay for a while.  I'll probably start to wonder why the price of strawberries is so high.  Then I'll start to notice that cashews or something are just no longer available on store shelves.  I won't starve at first.  Millions upon millions of people in the developing world will do that on my behalf first. 

Then I'll probably start to feel the pinch.  That is, if I'm not beset by catastrophic weather.  The Jersey shore will probably move a few miles inland.  Hundreds of thousands will be left homeless, and people in the wealthiest country in the world will start to die.  There'll be tornadoes, hurricanes, monsoons, weather we don't even get in this part of the country will suddenly start wiping out towns.

My expectation for the turnaround on climate change is one of two things:

1.)  either technology will finally deliver us some kind of savior in the form of an energy source so cheap and plentiful that it won't make any economic sense not to implement it, or

2.)  so many people will die from famine, war, plague, and death that we'll stop having an impact on the environment

You can probably tell I'm not holding out much hope for option 1.  We certainly seem to be beyond the point of having the political will to just be better.  I don't have a whole ton of hope for the future of our society based on political will, either.

Then again, I have seen astonishing changes in our nation's political will in just the twentyish years of my majority.  There was a time when socialism was a third rail.  Then again, there was also a time when actively supporting Nazis was, too. 

I suppose the explanation for my current pessimism isn't anything particularly amazing.  I doubt the world was an amazing, awesome place when I was a kid and it seemed so.  Likely I was just ignorant to how fucked up things were.  And not just ignorant, but probably left impossibly in the dark due to the limitations of knowledge access.  I might have been able to reach my present state of knowledgeable pessimism by spending a month plowing through the library, had I been looking for it, which I likely wouldn't have.  Now, with the internet, we are all aware every day of the multiple outrages to justice and peace and responsibility that take place every second of every day.

What do you think?  Can you change my mind?  Do you have a better hope for the future?  Or is all as lost as it seems?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Scares That Care Autopsy V (Redirect)

Hey everybody!

To check out my annual autopsy on the Scares That Care charity horror convention, make sure to swing by my group blog today!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Scares That Care or Bust!

Hey, everybody!

I'm very excited to announce that I'll be appearing at the annual Scares That Care Charity Weekend this year.  The convention will be Friday through Sunday, August 3-5 at the Double Tree by Hilton in Williamsburg, VA.  The address is:

50 Kingsmill Road
Williamsburg, Virginia, 23185

Image result for scares that care

I'm doubly excited that I'll be appearing in the celebrity room this year, alongside my archnemesis/good friend Jonathan Janz.  (Not sure how I managed to fool them into thinking I'm a celebrity, but it's all good.)  Celebrity room hours are:

Friday 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am - 7:00 pm
Sunday 11:00 am - 4:00 pm

I'll also be appearing on two panels this year:

Saturday 7:30 pm - "Crossing Genres"
Saturday 10:00 pm - Reading (with Somer Canon)

Scares That Care is a great convention, and more like a family reunion than a marketing event.  But, more importantly, it's all for a good cause.  The charity benefits three needy families, and this year I expect we'll come through for them with flying colors.  Hope to see you there!
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