April 07, 2017

REVIEWING RC MATHESON'S ZOOPRAXIS

REVIEWING  ZOOPRAXIS 

A Collection by Richard Christian Matheson




Written by Richard Christian Matheson
Published by Gauntlet Press




Whether you’re an established RC Matheson connoisseur or you’ve just discovered his work, Zoopraxis is sure to satiate any fan of raw, visceral literature. Waiting to oblige such cravings are thirteen brand new stories with nine more gathered from various years best anthologies and the like. With introductions from John Shirley and Chet Williamson, Gauntlet Press presents a macabre world full of Twilight Zone inspired chills with plenty of introspective twists worth revisiting.

 Helping to bring us closer to the heart of each tale is cover artist extraordinaire, Harry O’Morris. Harry’s black and white designs provides a cohesive yet subtle visual interpretation to kick off each story. As a bonus, the author includes a personal anecdote coinciding with the origin of each tale.  The additions of Harry’s artwork combined with RC’s introductions tied in well with the overall experience of what this collection clearly sought to do in the first place: to take your senses on a journey along the rugged mental terrain of a true master of terror.

 As with any literary collection, mileage will always vary and while this collection is unlikely to threaten that moniker, you’ll be hard pressed not to be impressed all the same with each entry read. Even those which didn’t quite work for me were so well written and from the heart they still managed to capture my imagination and desire for more.

 Reading through this collection, it felt as though RC wasn’t so much writing to be read as he was writing to explore the many facets of good and evil hiding beneath the surface of a complex, fascinating mind. Even when the author’s narrative hints of hope and goodness in the world he so flawlessly portrays, such underlying good is overshadowed by layers of ‘what ifs’ and ‘why nots,’ all presented as only a master of dark illusion can. Though some entries may come across as more musing than standardized story by way of length and style, each entry helps complete the spectrum of dark poetic to outright terror, in a language that’s as honest as it is captivating.  

 The collection aptly opens with How To Edit, a story disguised as an essay for minimalism. RC reels us in with a velvet rope then forces our eyes wide open as he peels back the skin of his narrator. We soon bear witness to a man so painfully aware of his own existence and the exact space it fills that we can only wonder how far he must go before his image of perfection can be achieved.

 My personal favourite of the bunch, Transfiguration (from 2011 The Best Horror of the Year Volume
3), provides the haunting tale of an ice trucker whose destination proves to be closer to himself than he could ever have envisioned, or feared. This one had a distinct Twilight Zone-esque feel to it, complete with an ending which resonated long after I’d read the last line. Another story, Slaves of Nowhere, offers a story that’s perfectly poised to strike at the heart. Much like the cognac drinking narrator of this dark gem, this one’s written to be savoured and repeated. But don’t expect to enjoy the outcome. Definitely one of the heavier emotional hitters in a collection where every piece is a fine contender. Stories like Last Words and Infomercial! RC
showcases his flare for the macabre while teaching us once again that not everything is as it seems no matter how eloquently dressed up it may be.

 Impactful, point blank and constantly daring, Zoopraxis provides a lasting adventure through RC Matheson’s collection of his inner most thoughts and demons. Suffice to say I can’t wait to see into which dark and fantastic world they take him - and us - next.



April 05, 2017

An Interview With Richard Christian Matheson


*Originally published by our good fiends at Hell Notes.*





The surname, Matheson, was one immediately familiar to me through the extensive, boundary pushing works of legendary Richard Matheson. I had only discovered hi eldest son, Richard Christian’s, work through my review of Stephen King’s Battleground and fast became aware of RC’s talent. Popping his name into Google and IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) I fast became aware of how RC had, despite my previous ignorance, greatly contributed to a sizable chunk of my childhood media culture. The A-Team. 3‘OCLOCK HIGH. Three’s Company. Knight Rider. Tales From The Crypt. The Incredible Hulk. You get the idea. Hell, even his younger brother, Chris Matheson, helped shape my media influence with his BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, which almost never got made, but I digress. You get the idea. The point is much like his father, Richard Matheson, RC Matheson has more than likely influenced your brand of entertainment to some degree as well while carving out his own path towards being referenced among the literary greats of our generation.

Zoopraxis is his latest contribution and RC was kind enough to sit down and discuss the makings and inner concepts with me in between his various film, television and writing projects.

Hell Notes: How did you end up with the current selection of stories that made the final cut for this collection?

RC Matheson:  There are twenty-two stories. I included everything I published after my last collection, Dystopia, plus thirteen brand new ones I wrote for ZOOPRAXIS.


HN: Zoopraxis has a well balanced blend of published stories and never-before published stories. Had you ever considered splitting them up into two separate volumes?

RC: Either would have been too short. I am beginning work on my fourth collection.

HN: How did you arrive at the title of Zoopraxis? What’s the story behind the title?

RC: I fell in love with the word which is arresting and odd. I thought I’d use it somewhere since it refers to a device that has been around for awhile that creates visual movement, via a mirrored, circular design; individual images, rotating, implying  flow -- a hypnotic blend of the static and kinetic given objects not moving appear otherwise. As a title for a story collection, its metaphor suggests we see only what we think we see---that we are the narrative overlay, providing meaning or even life that may not be there. I also used the word in my magic realism novella, THE RITUAL OF ILLUSION. A little bit of a call back. 

HN: While you’ve created a respectable output of short stories, television and movie scripts, is there a reason we haven’t seen a lot of longer literary works from you?

RC: Time. My schedule juggles a prose and tv/film writing and producing career. To give you an idea, a guy who’s writing my biography told me I’ve published eighty-five short stories, three collections, a novel and novella, a cocktail table Stephen King book, written and produced hundreds of television scripts, drama and comedy, four mini-series, thirty pilots and forty movie scripts. I’ve also co-created a series, co-written all episodes and executive produced. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to get fifteen films I wrote or co-wrote produced and currently have one in production. I also just finished a new novel and completed cutting drum tracks on two blues/rock albums. Along with my writing and producing, I run MATHESON ENTERTAINMENT, the production company my father and I started; developing tv/film/stage projects and selling and negotiating deals. I am forever fighting the clock and wish I had more time to write prose.

HN: No tale in Zoopraxis explains your mastery of minimalistic style more so than “How To Edit.” Is this a style that’s always come natural, or have you had to work to polish it over the years to get it to where it is now? 

RC: It comes, in part, from the rigors of writing scripts which demand prescribed page length, so you must compress and stay taut. Like a Hiaku, you only have so much space and must make the most of it.

Beyond that, I’ve also become more sensitive to how little I need to say in order to get ideas across. With a good piece of writing, script or prose, the reader should do half the work. Otherwise, its exposition; a dramatized instruction manual. I believe in providing dots, not connection.

HN: How might your first drafts compare with your eventual final drafts?  Has this changed much since you first began writing seriously?

Here’s an example. I published a story, “VAMPIRE”, where each sentence was one word long. The first draft was about twelve pages long and I felt it was too specific... I wanted something more impressionistic; far shorter. As I thinned it, I wanted to see if it would sustain with just the DNA of the story. In the end, each sentence became one word, assembled in a rhythmic way. Not verse or poetry. Not deliberately offbeat. Just edited to the marrow. I thought it had a strong effect but wasn’t sure it would track for readers. I submitted it to my friend, the marvelous Dennis Etchison, who’d invited me into his new horror anthology, CUTTING EDGE. To my delight, Dennis understood the story instantly, found it powerful and bought it. Perhaps some evidence for minimalism. I have certainly written long stories. But my prose tends to be skeletal, hinging on triggering readers thoughts, not explaining my own.    

HN: As portrayed in your story, How To Edit, even minimalistic tendencies have their limit. How do you decide when your writing is as compact and meaningful as possible or if there might be room for further trimming?

RC: There’s a point where further trimming would stop the heart. Exactly where is intuition.

HN: You’ve mentioned before how cohesive Harry O. Morris’ vision was to your own vision when it came to how his illustrations spoke of the stories they introduced in Zoopraxis. What added impact do you feel Harry’s illustrations gave to each story and to the collection as a whole? 


RC:  I loved Harry’s work the first time I saw it over thirty years ago. We are ironic and indirect, by nature, in the way we like to get ideas across and have always creatively agreed that the literal is more finely expressed via the figurative. Much can be interpreted; like Rorschachs. He has done the art for several of my books, both covers and interior, and we’re also dear friends. Harry’s extraordinary gift always lends further depth.

HN: Now that I’ve enjoyed Zoopraxis and will be looking for more of your work to read, where can I go to get more and what might you have in store for us next?

RC: My film and television DVD’s are available at AMAZON.  Also my books, including my novel “CREATED BY,” novella, “The Ritual Of Illusion”, first short story collection, “SCARS And Other Distinguishing Marks” and second collection “DYSTOPIA”.
As I mentioned, there’s also a cocktail table book I compiled and edited called “Stephen King’s BATTLEGROUND/A Commemoration of the Emmy-Winning Television Adaptation” that’s based on a short story Steve wrote which I adapted for his “NIGHTMARE AND DREAMSCAPES” miniseries. The one-hour episode starred the great William Hurt and has zero dialogue. Not unlike the radical editing of VAMPIRE I mentioned, as I was working on the “BATTLEGROUND” script, I began to think I could eliminate dialogue which didn’t contribute and finally got to the point where I’d cut it all; an effect I found strong. As with VAMPIRE, I wasn’t sure others would agree the effect worked.

I showed it to the network TNT and the producers and all agreed it could work. It was directed by Jim Henson’s son, Brian Henson, a very fine director, and won two Emmys. I found it such an interesting project, on many different levels, that I thought it merited a book about how it was put together. It includes fascinating interviews with William Hurt, the president of TNT, the Special Effects Wizards, the Composer, director Brian Henson and others. Also, has tons of cool set photos you can’t get anywhere else. It’s an intriguing companion piece for anyone who purchases the “NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES” DVD boxed set.

HN: Fantastic. Again, I really appreciate you letting me pick your brain, RC. Anything else you want to throw out there or add?

RC: Readers can keep an eye out for new anthologies I’m in. Every year, there’s a bunch. And a new novel may be on the way. Also those two rock/blues albums I played drums on will be released.



HN: Well, that’s what I like to hear. I’m pretty sure a lot of folks out there, once they get a chance to enjoy this collection they’ll be looking for a lot more of your work. I know I will be.



Be sure to keep an eye out for my review of RC's latest short story collection, Zoopraxis. Remember to stay hungry...And stay dark. 





January 03, 2015

REVIEWING STEPHEN KING'S REVIVAL


     Hell Notes hosts my first review of the year, which I hope you'll check out before doing yourself a favour and grabbing a copy of Revival to read.  I haven't given King a chance since trying to wade through From a Buick 8 way back when, but let's just say I am a happily revived King fan and can't wait to catch up on some of his other recent books to see what else I may have been missing out on.


     As any King fan knows, the man's work switches from the mainstream (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon) to the deliberately horrific (Carrie, Pet Semetary, Cujo). While Revival veers more towards the former with its subtle depictions of madness and underlying fears, the overall impact will no doubt illicit a horrific response that ought to resonate down your spine until it rattles the entire believe system of whichever existential foundation you subscribe to.


     For Jamie Morton, the most important question he had ever asked himself was READ FULL REVIEW HERE



October 05, 2014

reviewing Barry Hoffmann's BLIND VENGEANCE



Barry Hoffmann, owner of Stoker nominated specialty press, Gauntlet Press, knocks another one out of the park with Blind Vengeance, his newest offering in his critically acclaimed 'Eyes series.

See what I thought of his latest book over on Hell Notes with this review.


September 28, 2014

REVIEWING OWEN KING'S DOUBLE FEATURE


If you're asking yourself 'that Owen King?' then yes, 'that' Owen King.  Son of Stephen, brother of Joe.  But don't be expecting a book of terror and cold shivers.  No, Owen King's work will very well be keeping you up at nights for other reasons entirely.  


Check out my review of his debut novel, Double Feature, as showcased over here at Hell Notes:  Double Feature reviewed


And while you're (hopefully) getting a copy for yourself to read, stay tuned for an upcoming interview with the man him self, Owen King.

July 29, 2014

Author Interview with James Newman

I recently had a chance to sit down with author of Midnight Rain, Holey Rollers, Ugly as Sin and several other outstanding works.  And by sit down, I mean the way most conversations take place these days - online.
I think this is about the third time James has allowed me to pick at his grey matter a while and it's always a pleausure to say the least.  This time we discuss things such as his newest edition of Animosity, his direction towards film adaptations and the one snack food he can't live without.
Without further ado, click here for your fly on the wall access as hosted by Hell Notes.


James Newman Interviewed.  


For more about James and the dark musings of his unflinching pen, you can check out his author site here.



February 21, 2014

Interview with Tom Monteleone and F. Paul Wilson

Following my review for their collaborative novel, Definitely Not Kansas, which you can check out HERE if you haven't already, is an interview with authors Tom Monteleone and F. Paul Wilson.  I think Hell Notes did a beautiful job of laying it out and their choice to include those two pics added a  nice touch, I thought.  I hope you enjoy THE INTERVIEW.