Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pseudopod: Were-wolf, President, Clint Eastwood, Nick Cave, Horror!

Just listened to Full Moon Over 1600, by Christopher Michael Cummings and read by Rick Stringer.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story! I didn't think I would at the start, when I realised it was focused on politics. However, I was hooked from the sentence "when a strange sensation crawls down his nose, into his throat"; this first hint that the President's lycanthropy had pushed him into a world of heightened senses. In other werewolf stories, those senses are used for hunting, fighting and generally eating people. In this story, it is what turns the President into a type of hero; and his eating people makes him a rather horrifying hero!

This is why I like "Full Moon Over 1600": in most stories I hear (fiction and non-fiction), presidents and were-wolves aren't usually good guys. In this story, becoming a were-wolf makes the president into a good guy! I enjoyed how Christopher Michael Cummings turned smell and intuition into a moral sense and it was amusing to find the "media spin" angle working for a good guy.

Perhaps most noticeable about this story is that it isn't just President as Were-wolf. Thanks to the voice of Rick Stringer, it was also Clint Eastwood as President and Werewolf!

There are questions in the Pseudopod forums about whether or not this a horror story. Thinking about this question was what led me to write this blog entry (and forum post).

I think it is a horror story. The were-wolf did some typical scary were-wolf things: i.e. eating people - but did so publicly, on camera, and it only increased his popularity! The contrasting figures of werewolf and president in this story were twisted together so that two common images appeared in one character in a disturbing way. This is what a good horror story should do: disturb the audience!

In a broader sense, the question isn't very important to me. Horror is visceral - therefore it is open to interpretation and different people will classify different things as being horrific. Someone thought it fit the genre, and I enjoyed the story with that in mind. Most of the time, that's all it takes for me. Even if I do find a "horror" story that I don't personally think is a horror story, I find value in the story just by wondering why we might be at odds; why that other person found it horrifying, even if I didn't.

A small side story. A friend once made a tape for me of Nick Cave's The Murder Ballads. Now that is one scary album! Each song creeped me out in a different way, with "O' Malley's Bar" being the song that burnt itself most strongly into my mind with a detailed portrayal of a twisted mind. This song was effective because the "detail" I mention came not just from the lyrics. It was Nick Cave's voice and the jarring melody that really gave me a sense of how insane the man was. I digress: the point being that this album was the most horrific music I had ever listened to (and I loved it!).. but at the end of the tape, my friend had included another song, "Into My Arms" from The Boatman's Call - an album of (ostensibly) love songs from Nick Cave that I had not heard about. The first verse:

I don't believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you
Not to touch a hair on your head
To leave you as you are
And if He felt He had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms

After listening to a whole album of songs about twisted, murderous minds, this song fit perfectly! Even though I have the Boatman's Call on CD now and have enjoyed listening to it many times, I still think of "Into My Arms" as one of the most subtle and chilling works of horror ever!

Horror is visceral; if it feels like horror, it is horror; maybe not to other people. "Full Moon Over 1600" felt like a good horror to me.

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