Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Taste the Blood of Christopher

May 27, 2012

Christopher Lee as Dracula in Horror of Dracula-Resize

The incomparable Sir Christopher Lee is 90 years old today.

Yes, he was Saruman in Peter Jackson’s brilliant Lord of the Rings films — and perfect for the role, maybe partially because he was surely the one member of the acting cast who was most in love with those books, reportedly re-reading them each year. He was also the only one to have ever met J.R.R. Tolkien in the flesh.

And yes, he was a genuine piss-and-vinegar type in World War II, volunteering first for the Finns in the Winter War against the Soviet Union, and thereafter in the RAF and as an intelligence officer for the Long Range Desert Group in North Africa.

But between those two events, Lee was in literally hundreds of film roles. (IMDB lists 276 acting credits in total, from the Kaleidoscope TV series in 1946 to 2013’s The Hobbit: There and Back Again, where he will reprise his role as Saruman.

Most importantly to me, Lee played Dracula in a series from Hammer Studios — among my very favorite horror films of all time. I love them for their spot-on Gothic atmosphere and shameless melodrama; these are not films that apologize for being what they are. They chew the scenery like it was made of peanut brittle.

It was the quality of the acting — Lee and Peter Cushing chief among them — that always sold those movies to me. They might have needed such creative salesmanship because of relatively low budgets and familiar plots — but true professionals like Lee never seemed to work at bringing it home. They made it look not only effortless, but genuinely scary no matter how crazed the maniacal laughter he was called upon to issue in concert with umpteen-twenty violin stabs. Cheesy movies have never scared the ever living hell out of me the way Hammer flicks did — and still do, if I’m drunk enough, despite repeated (and I mean REPEATED) viewing of several of the best of them. If Lee ever phoned it in, then he did so the way Freddy Kruger did, if you know what I mean.

Or maybe Lee didn’t have to phone it in because the familiar — at times, even hackneyed — plots didn’t need any apology. Were they created with love, or as shameless profiteering? Fuck if I know — I suspect a little of both. The Hammer Dracula films unapologetically rehashed the Universal Horror of the ’30s with the gusto of a fanatical Rocky Horror Picture Show cast marooned in the suburbs, but with a moviemaking mojo that, on second or third or fifth viewing, remains to my eyes remarkably credible given their available resources.

If just one studio could turn out the kind of credulously reverent retellings of classic stories that Hammer did in the late ’50s through the early ’70s, I would never say one nasty word about dumbass Hollywood remakes again.

And if just one leading man could scare the living shit out of me the way Lee’s Dracula did when I first saw these flicks on Saturday afternoons, we wouldn’t need found-footage gimmicks to conjure pure terror and bona-fide storytelling.

I stand in awe, and occasionally sheer terror. Bravo, Mr. Lee; bra-MFing-vissimo.


[Night Bazaar] How I Found My Strengths as a Writer

December 9, 2011

From my new column at The Night Bazaar, about finding your strengths and weaknesses as a writer:

I’m far from convinced there’s any such profession as “writer” anymore; we’re all multi-taskers, by definition.

But there is this thing called “writing,” yes, and occasionally I get to do it.

When it comes to writing itself, I like to believe that my strengths are far more numerous than my weaknesses.

But it’s quite possible that I’m kidding myself.

What I do find is that the more I write, the less my strengths matter and the more my weaknesses do. That’s because writing a lot of fiction puts me face-to-face with every possible roadblock in my creative process, and every roadblock is a potential “debunking” of my strengths. It doesn’t matter how great I can write X type of scene, if Y type of scene keeps me from ever finishing my novel.

As a result, all that my strengths do is allow me to get past the weaknesses, or manage them effectively. That’s great news, yeah, but if I take the time to celebrate my strengths, it only slows me down.

Here’s an example.

Read the rest of this post at The Night Bazaar.

The House of Corporate Horrors Guest Post at

November 8, 2011

I did a guest post over at called “The House of Corporate Horrors,” about the writing of my novel The Panama Laugh and what it all means! And also how my zombie novel is one of the extraordinarily few zombie novels (some would say “the only”) directly connected to Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland, like, philosophically speaking.

Here’s an excerpt from “The House of Corporate Horrors”:

The important social observation that inspired The Panama Laugh is simply this, and I’m not the first one to have it: “By limiting the power of the public sector and privatizing things like the military, law enforcement and counter-terrorism, we as a globalized society offer a dangerous amount of power over to multinational corporations that are, at best, benignly amoral. At worst, they careen into soul-crushing evil.”

The premise therefore became, just how evil could they be?

This seems, in retrospect, like a straightforward premise of the sort that’s common in cyberpunk: “Heartless monolithic multinationals do awful things to the little people.”

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not actually 100% anti-corporate. I’m a passionate supporter of small business, and I think when small businesses get big(ish) that’s just dandy. But I believe what we have today is a grotesque conflation of the public sector and the private, where corporations have been allowed to get too big to fail, and therefore have been handed the keys to the kingdom. Public money should not be used to bail out private enterprises — certainly not unless there is some kind of accountability for providing long-term benefit to the people whose money that is, rather than simply the stockholders.

Read the rest at, or buy The Panama Laugh at Amazon, or, better yet, at Biblio.


Thomas Roche Interview at 10ZenMonkeys

November 4, 2011

For Halloween, I was interviewed by Destiny at 10 Zen Monkeys about my writing career and The Panama Laugh as well as politics, crime, and zombies in general. Here’s an excerpt:

10 ZEN MONKEYS: Is there something millenarian in the zeitgeist now — some universal sense of doom, or a desire to laugh and secede from humanity? I’m sorry — every question I’d ask you suddenly seems tainted with a dark obscenity whenever I add the word zombie. “Where do you get your inspiration for your novels…about zombies? Will you be writing a sequel…about zombies? How do you celebrate finishing your first novel…about zombies?”

THOMAS S. ROCHE: Isn’t everything about zombies?

I just go ape-shit over good zombie apocalypses. I love them; they’re one of my favorite genres. I read a lot and watch a lot and just completely groove on all the incredible creativity involved in zombie walks, all the viral zombie websites and social-networking stuff, all the in-jokes for zombie fans…I just love it. It’s a template that takes on so many wonderful forms.

I feel like some of the zombie novels published in the last five years were jumping on a bandwagon. But I’m not going to badmouth them because that’s essentially what I was doing, even though it’s a bandwagon I’ve more or less been on for 20 years ever since I read the first Book of the Dead, which is one of the two best zombie books ever published (the other being Max Brooks’ World War Z). I think Night of the Living Dead is one of the greatest and one of the most important films ever released. I love Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead. And I go nuts over the Resident Evil movies even in the slow parts. I adore Fido. I want to grow up to be Frankenhooker.

There’s plenty more — the whole interview is over 3,200 words, and was a blast to do. Check it out at 10 Zen Monkeys!

Now For Sale in the Kindle Store: Viva Las Vegas, a Zombie Crime Story

October 30, 2011

I’m celebrating Halloween by putting all my old zombie stories up in the Kindle store. “Viva Las Vegas” is Zombie Stories #1.

When the zombocalypse hits, a Mob hit man who made the mistake of working “one last job” and got his fiancee killed must cruise the broken streets of Vegas looking for her.

Buy a copy of “Viva Las Vegas” for 99 cents in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“Viva Las Vegas” was the very first zombie story I ever wrote.

I had been re-reading The Godfather and Goodfellas and reading the books of former FBI agent William F. Roemer, about the Chicago mob. I was totally obsessed with the Sicilian-American Mafia and organized crime in general. My friend Alex S. Johnson told me John Skipp was reading for another Book of the Dead anthology. Some years before, I had read the original Book of the Dead, an anthology of stories based on the world of George R. Romero. I thought it was the most drop-dead amazing horror I had ever read.

So I wrote “Viva Las Vegas,” “A tale about dirty rotten gamblers and the heavily-armed hit man who kills them a second time…sometimes a third.” I made it as tragic and hard-boiled as I could stand, and extra-bloody because you can’t have a zombie novella without cracking a few heads. The original version was 7,700 words, and i trimmed it down to about 7,200 to speed up the action.

After I submitted the story, Skipp called me at home one day. He told me how much he loved the story, but he couldn’t take it…because while it was 100% true to his crime-novel sensibilities, it wasn’t quite true to his Book of the Dead sensibilities. I think those were his words, more or less. I was so blown away by getting a call from John Skipp that I just bleated and glorped. I think I mighta squeed.

Anyway, when my friend Shade Rupe was collecting stories for a second volume of his amazing magazine/anthology Funeral Party, it was at a time when I didn’t really consider myself a nonfiction writer.

So I sent him this. He loved it. It appeared in that amazing tome.

Some years later, it was selected for a volume of James Roy Daley’s Best Zombie Stories anthology series.

It’s one of my favorites. Like all my zombie stories, it cuts to the heart of my mythology, even if it’s a very different mythology than other zombie stories I’ve written. When I came back to the genre with The Panama Laugh, I had this character very much in mind…but this guy isn’t quite Dante, because the time between one work and the other had warped me profoundly, and I had much more to say.

Zombies, like vampires, are a template for thematic improvisation and psychological exploration. While that’s true of all monsters, fictional and nonfictional, it’s with zombies and vamps that I find my own obsessions framing the argument so the agonies seem real.

Doing anything else would be unfair to the characters. Laugh if you want, but I take horror seriously.

Hope you enjoy it. I know I liked writing it.


My Zombie Bibliography

October 29, 2011

Given the stunning, overwhelming, “Tell-Scorsese-he-can-wait” success of my first novel, noir-themed zombie apocalypse The Panama Laugh (of which there are extremely few copies left — extremely few! — so you’d better buy it right now or they might run out), people keep asking me, they say, “Rosanne Rosanna-Danna, what other a-zombie stories have you a-written?” I tell them, well, it’s like this.

My Affairs With the DeadZombie Stories by Thomas S. Roche

“Viva Las Vegas.” A tale about dirty rotten gamblers and the heavily-armed hit man who kills them a second time…sometimes a third. Only incidentally funny. When the zombocalypse hits, a Mob hit man who made the mistake of working “one last job” and got his fiancee killed must cruise the broken streets of Vegas looking for her. (Appeared in Funeral Party 2, edited by Shade Rupe.) Buy a copy of “Viva Las Vegas” for 99 cents in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“The Sound of Weeping.” A short story of terrifying necroschtuppery. Not funny. No LOLZ, really. Charlie Quinn, a morgue attendant in a small Northern California hippie town fights with his gay coworker for teasing him — but inside he’s fighting his own erotic impulses until they break him…and break the laws of living and dying… (Appeared in Queer Fear, edited by Michael Rowe.) Buy a copy of “The Sound of Weeping” for 99 cents in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“Veggie Mountain.” A story of homophobia, with no LOLZ at all. The sequel to “The Sound of Weeping.” On the non-responsive ward in Monteverdi Hospital, also known as “Veggie Mountain,” the now-catat0nic Charles Quinn has been incarcerated after being found incompetent to stand trial for a string of brutal sex-murders. A homophobic attendant who’s been accused of abusing the inmates finds that Charles remains catatonic for a damned good reason, and when he’s threatened, a few “old friends” may show up to visit… (Appeared in Queer Fear 2, edited by Michael Rowe.) Buy a copy of Veggie Mountain for $2.99 in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“Deepwater Miracle.” A novella of the chuckleheaded apocalypse. Only incidentally funny. Set in the world of The Panama Laugh, the novella-length “Deepwater Miracle” follows two seafaring brothers as they try to make landfall in Texas after crossing the oil-choked Gulf following the Laughing Apocalypse. (Appeared in Z: Zombie Stories, edited by J.M. Lassen.)

“St. John of the Throwdown.” A tale of beach-bound frat assholes. Not funny…plenty LOLZ. Set in the world of The Panama Laugh, “St. John of the Throwdown” tells the story of a homeless teen on the run, and her experiences on the beach in San Francisco the morning the world ends with a giggle. Appeared on the podcast Open Source Sex, read by Violet Blue (for whom the story was written). Buy a copy in the Amazon Kindle Store.

“October in Tuscvari.” A gonzo tale of alien mind control. Sadly, I anticipate pushback from any playa hatas who believe that all zombiism comes from the copious manhood of George Romero. There was a whole not-very-good genre of zombie flick well before Georgie was in short pants. Before zombies ever became the walking dead, they were the victims of mad scientist mind-control rays, so I feel I must include “Tuscvari” in the zombie list, even though there’s not a living dead person to be seen. It’s about bigfoot, aliens, and a lawyer with a really hot biracial wife. No, it’s not dirty, except when the two hippies feed each other free-trade organic chocolate. It’s about politics. Published on on Inauguration Day, 2008. Buy a copy of “October in Tuscvari” for $2.99  in the Amazon Kindle Store.


Come See Me @ LitCrawl With Ray Garton & Richard Kadrey, Oct. 15

September 26, 2011

I’ll be reading at Litquake’s LitCrawl in some very good company, October 15 at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. If you’ve never done LitCrawl, it’s not to be missed. Garton and Kadrey are legendary favorites of mine, and I’m looking forward to my first time hearing Naamen Tilahun read. What’s more, if you kick back on the Borderlands Couch for an hour leafing through dog-eared Michael Moorcock paperbacks, you’ll get two, Two, TWO LITCRAWL READINGS IN ONE, since our horror-themed gig is followed by some sf-fantasy-horror crossover folks next door at 8:30, featuring Mira Grant, Kirsten Imani Kasai, Steven R. Boyett, and Tim Pratt.

You can  Find out more about Litquake and LitCrawl here, and about events at Borderlands Books here.

Both events event are free, so come by and see us, bitte schön? Jawohldankeaufwiedersehen.

Litquake’s LitCrawl at Borderlands Books

With Ray Garton, Richard Kadrey, Thomas Roche and Naamen Tilahun

Saturday, October 15th at 7:15 pm

Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia Street (between 19th and 20th), San Francisco

We are delighted to once again take part in one of the most exciting literary events in San Francisco – the LitCrawl! This is a three-hour pub-crawl-style literary event with dozens of venues and hundreds of authors, all taking place right here in the Mission District. Between the bookstore and the cafe, we’ve got 8 fantastic authors in a mere two hours. This is always a super-crowded and immensely entertaining event.

…Also, the cafe next door has a second reading at 8:30, with some more sf-fantasy heavy hitters:

LitCrawl Redux at Borderlands Cafe

With Steven R. Boyett, Mira Grant, Kirsten Imani Kasai and Tim Pratt

Saturday, October 15th at 8:30 pm

Borderlands Cafe, 870 Valencia Street (between 19th and 20th), San Francisco

Free Audio Story — The Panama Laugh: “St. John of the Throwdown”

September 26, 2011

The 5,000-ish word “St. John of the Throwdown” is set in the zombie-infested world of my debut novel The Panama Laugh, and is available only as an audio download — free! — with Violet Blue reading, on Violet’s podcast Open Source Sex. In it, a homeless teen sleeping on the beach in San Francisco wakes up having to face a crowd of frat boys — and maybe get sent up for murder.

I wrote “St. John of the Throwdown” specifically for Violet to read at a promotional event for The Panama Laugh this month. She was the very first reader of the novel and gave me some incredibly helpful feedback that basically helped me put the whole latter half of the book together. I based the viewpoint character on what I know of her as a teen, drawing on some of her experiences being young and homeless on the streets of San Francisco.

After generously (and brilliantly) reading “St. John” at Z-Day 2011, Violet even more generously agreed to read and release it for free on Open Source Sex. Check it out on Violet’s Libsyn feed here, go to the direct download link here, or if you use iTunes, access open source sex here. Here’s what Violet says about it, incidentally:

Open Source Sex 88: (Non-sex) The Panama Laugh – St. John of the Throwdown
Sep 14, 2011

Tonight’s podcast is a non-sex short story about zombies – and me. Author of the (awesome) new zombie novel The Panama Laugh wrote a short story based on his novel’s universe where a young female street punk in San Francisco goes up against a pack of zombie frat boys. The author Thomas Roche based the story on my very real life as a homeless teen here in SF. If you like action, horror and zombies (and you like me), you’ll love it. If you don’t like those things, tune in for the next podcast which I promise will be delightfully naughty and fun.

Z: Zombie Stories, Featuring my Zombie Oil Spill Novella “Deepwater Miracle”

September 26, 2011

Just got a couple copies of Z: Zombie Stories, a YA anthology featuring my 10,000-word novella “Deepwater Miracle,” my first published work of young adult fiction.

“Deepwater Miracle” is Set in the world of my novel The Panama Laugh and features two teen refugees trying to reach Texas from Costa Rica, and encountering plenty of hellfire in their path. It features references to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, including a chocolate mousse deluge of Biblical proportions, as well as anti-immigrant hysteria and “patriotic” pirates in the form of right-wing Texan secessionist Minutemen-style groups.


Z: Zombie Stories, edited by J.M. Lassen

When the zombie apocalypse comes, it’s not just those crusty old folks who will struggle against the undead, it’s also the young people. What happens when you come of age during the zombie apocalypse? Z: Zombie Stories has the answer to that question.

Z: Zombie Stories gathers together some of the hottest zombie fiction of the last two decades, from authors including Kelly Link, Jonathan Maberry, and Catherynne M. Valente. These stories focus on those who will inherit a world overrun with the living dead: a young man who takes up the family business of dealing with the undead, a girl struggling with her abusive father…who has become a zombie, a poet who digs up the wrong grave, and a Viking maiden imprisoned with the living dead…

Featuring stories by Kelly Link, Jonathan Maberry, Thomas S. Roche, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Catherynne M. Valente, Scott Edelman, Darrell Schweitzer, Christine Morgan, David Barr Hirtley, and Scott Nicholson.






Flaming Sin: London’s Grand Guignol

April 14, 2008


Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche

Thrillpeddlers is presenting a three-play evening of Grand Guignol at The Hypnodrome on 10th and Division in San Francisco. Their program includes a “lost” one-act play by Noel Coward. It was written for a London revival of the Grand Guignol in 1920, and has not been performed since — and has never been published. It was discovered by a Welsh professor deep in the files of the Lord Chamberlain in the British Library.

Apparently Coward’s play lacks blood and gore, which is why the Guignolians didn’t so much dig it, but the sanguine elements of the evening are provided by the other two offerings.