Letters From the Labyrinth 266
My dear friend and long-time pre-reader Tod Clark reminded me this past week that it has been ten years this month since we spent a weekend at the Sundance Film Festival and simultaneous Slamdance Film Festival for the premiere of GHOUL — the movie adaptation of my novel. Here’s a picture of Mary and myself from that weekend, hiking through the snow to find some sushi.
My name is Brian Keene and this is the 266th issue of Letters From the Labyrinth — a weekly newsletter for fans of my work. Previous issues can be found here.
That weekend remains one of my favorite moments from my career, but not for the reasons you might think.
Despite what some pinheads on the internet might think, instant wealth doesn’t come with a movie deal, particularly for a horror film with a budget under $5 million. I’ve received three checks for GHOUL — one for the option, one when it began filming, and one when it came out. Since then, thanks to the wonders of Hollywood accounting, I’ve never seen another dime.
If I had seen wealth, I would have used a portion of it to show gratitude and thanks and love to people I cared about. But, as it turns out, I didn’t need wealth to do that. The production was kind enough to secure a private bungalow for Mary, myself, Tod, his wife Suzin, author Mike Oliveri, author and editor Michael T. Huyck Jr., and other long-time pre-reader Mark ‘Dezm’ Sylva, and provide all of us with full access to both Sundance and sister festival Slamdance. And as a result, six people I care about were able to have an awesome weekend ten years ago this month that all of us still remember fondly.
Hollywood accounting is a very real thing. You can film a movie for… let’s say $10 million. Spend another $10 million on marketing. Release it and watch it make $100 million at the box office and another $200 million overseas and through streaming. And thanks to the miracle of Hollywood accounting, it will still not make a profit, even years later. So, if you can get the studio to give you something else not covered in your contract, do it. Film premieres, lodging, steak dinners, airfare… whatever you can milk from them, ring that rag out until it is dry.
(Plus, I made money on the backend regardless, by writing about our weekend in the metafictional novella SUNDANCING, because sooner or later, I write about everything, especially the things I’m told I can’t write about).
Here are a few more pics from that weekend.
Top row, L to R: Mike Oliveri, Tod Clark, Michael T. Huyck Jr. Bottom row: Mary and myself. Photo by either Suzin Clark or Mark Sylva (I can’t remember which).
Mary. me, Mark, Tod and Suzin. Photo by either Mike or Mikey.
A pic from inside our bungalow. Tod, Mary, me, Mike, Mikey. Photo by Suzin.
Me before a press junket. This was later used by artist David Ho as the basis for his painting to the cover of SUNDANCING. I think Mark took this photo?
Me and director Gregory Wilson. Greg also directed the film adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. They put us out on this balcony, in the cold, to do interviews. Photo by Mary.
And in between interviews, star Nolan Gould (Modern Family) and I pelted our friends, loved ones, the press, and random passerby with snowballs. Photo by Mary.
And then Nolan tried to kill me on the red carpet. He was a great kid, but he’s grown up into a remarkable man.
I’m never sure how many photos are too many for you, so I’ll stop there. If you want to see more, here is a video on my YouTube Channel that contains a bunch of them.
Bottom line, each time Hollywood turns one of your books into a movie, use it as an opportunity to wrangle a free vacation out of them, and then include people that you care about and take them on the vacation with you. That’s the real value in these things. The memories.
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Time is running out to nominate works for the fifth-annual Splatterpunk Awards, which honor superior achievement in the sub-genres of Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror fiction.
The categories are:
BEST NOVEL (for works of more than 50,000 words)
BEST NOVELLA (for works from 15,000 to 50,000 words)
BEST SHORT STORY (for works from 500 to 14,000 words)
BEST COLLECTION (for single-author works over 50,000 words)
BEST ANTHOLOGY (for multiple-author collections over 50,000 words)
To cast your recommendation, email it to email@example.com. Please include the category, title of the work, and the author or editor of the work.
Please Note: THE WORK MUST HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED IN 2021 TO BE ELIGIBLE. Reprints and works published in other years will be disqualified, unless there are special circumstances. Also note: Award founders Brian Keene and Wrath James White are ineligible for awards.
The deadline for recommendations is midnight (Eastern Standard Time) January 16, 2021.
After all recommendations are tallied, a final ballot will be announced.
In addition, Clive Barker will be awarded this year’s J.F. Gonzalez Lifetime Achievement Award, joining previous recipients David J. Schow, David G. Barnett, Edward Lee, and John Skipp.
This year will also mark the launch of the Splatterpunk Hall of Fame. This is an idea Wrath and I have had for a while — a sort of traveling display of the legends in this field. It will be viewable at Killer Con and Scares That Care, to start, and we hope to expand its availability to the public beyond those events. All J.F. Gonzalez Lifetime Achievement Award winners will be automatically inducted, and Richard Laymon and J.F. Gonzalez will be this year’s posthumous inductees (with Jack Ketchum, Charlee Jacob, John Pelan, and Gak to follow in coming years).
The Splatterpunk Awards are very important to Wrath and myself. I hope they are important to you, as well.
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I finally hit the wall with the pandemic earlier this past week. After two years of holding it together and being a rock for my family and my loved ones, after losing people to this virus, after watching fear and uncertainty devolve half our countrymen into the same sort of people who wanted to burn Galileo alive — I finally snapped. I didn’t sit down and cry, because that has never been my way. But I was filled with rage and anger and a desperate, hollow sort of hopelessness that led to me trudging out into the woods and punching a tree around midday. That made me feel better but didn’t make my hands feel very good. That desperate hopelessness lasted for about a day, and then I snapped back out of it.
Meanwhile, work continued on INVISIBLE MONSTERS, PROJECT CASTLE, and the final two new RISING stories (of which there is now only the final draft of one left to do). I also continued with revisions on the final draft of SUBMERGED: THE LABYRINTH Book 2. And with every keystroke, my hands reminded me that I shouldn’t go around punching trees. After all, the trees didn’t cause the virus.
Or did they…?
This past week, I also signed a deal with Czech publisher Dobrovsky for a Czech-language mass-market edition of GHOUL. Look for it sometime later this year.
We also started production on the paperback, e-book and audiobook editions of TERMINAL. This is the Author’s Preferred Edition that was released in hardcover late last year. Our hope is to get the audiobook out the same time as the paperback and e-book.
And I’m told that the audiobook edition of THE SEVEN: THE LABYRINTH Book 1 is finished. Not sure what Crossroad Press has in mind for a release date, but I imagine it will be soon.
Chris Golden and I have vowed to get back to the final episodes of DEFENDERS DIALOGUE this week. It is my hope that I can convince Keith Giffen to join us for one of these last episodes. That’s dependent upon his schedule, of course.
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If you have five minutes this morning, I encourage you to click through to this article Jay Wilburn wrote for LitReactor. It’s titled “Why John Urbancik is the Greatest Short Story Writer of All Time” and I agree with every word. Great piece, Jay!
And if the article convinces you (I mean, I’ve been saying the same thing for the better part of two decades, but Jay’s word counts for something, too), I suggest you sample John’s short stories with one of the following three collections, all of which are great starters:
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Currently Reading: Weird Doom by David J. Schow, The Razorblades in My Head by Donnie Goodman, and Palmetto by Ania Ahlborn
Currently Listening: The Eminem Show, Encore, and Relapse by Eminem
Currently Watching: Midnight Mass and The Mayor of Kingstown
The Mayor of Kingstown has been fantastic so far. The first episode starts slow, but it begins to pick up speed and intensity with each subsequent episode, and I’m digging it. Sort of a cross between The Shield, Oz, and Orange Is The New Black.
I want to like Midnight Mass, and for the most part I do, but I find the character of Bev Keane so insufferable that I have to struggle not to fast forward past her segments. (I tried, and Mary took the remote control away from me). It’s sort of a mash-up of David Niall Wilson’s This Is My Blood and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.
And because people ask…
My Top 10 Favorite Horror Films of All Time*:
1. The Thing (1982)
2. The Exorcist III
3. (Tie): Phantasm & They Live
4. Session 9
5. Event Horizon
6. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
8. Frankenstein's Army
9. Evil Dead II
10. In The Mouth of Madness
* Tie for number 3.
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I helped fill-in on The Ghost Writer’s Podcast with Mary and Somer Canon. You can listen free here.
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This week’s cat pic, because if I don’t include one, many of you will yell at me. Here are Stripe (age nine) and Bubbles (age 6 months) guarding a portion of my comic book collection. The pillow on the side is something I laid across the boxes for them. They did not care for it, apparently.
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And that’s it for this week. I’m off to do some writing, and then deliver a hardcover of TERMINAL to my friend Bill Wahl (to whom the new edition is dedicated). Don’t just be kind to one another. Be kind to a complete stranger this week. This country is dangerously divided on just about everything right now, and the only way to diffuse the powder keg is to start developing some empathy for strangers.
I’ll see you back here next week. As always, I appreciate you reading this.