Saturday, June 27, 2009

Death of an Angel

When the news of Farrah Fawcett's death broke a couple of days ago, it was all the media could talk about - for a few hours. Then we learned Michael Jackson had passed away and Farrah was more or less relegated to secondary status in terms of coverage, miles behind the "King of Pop."

But for me personally, the fact that Farrah Fawcett was dead carried much more weight. While it is undeniable that Michael Jackson being dead at fifty is a tragedy, I've long viewed him as a tragic character anyway. The endless plastic surgeries, the seemingly desperate attempt to hold onto his childhood decades after it ended, the scandalous allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with minor boys, the fade into pop music irrelevence after dominating the charts for years; all these things added up to a figure that was sad and kind of pathetic to me.

Maybe Jackson was on the verge of a huge comeback; we'll certainly never know now. Hopefully he can find the peace in death that he never seemed able to find in life.

So when Michael Jackson died it didn't even really surprise me that much. But Farrah Fawcett, that's a different story. My first thought upon hearing the news was, "How in the hell could she possibly have been 62?" Time really does move faster the older you get.

When I was a kid, I had the famous Farrah Poster hanging on the wall in my bedroom, like probably every other teenage boy at that time. You know the one - a mid-twenties Farrah is sitting in a bright red one-piece swimsuit, smiling into the camera lens with her perfect dazzling teeth, blonde locks tumbling over her bare shoulders. She was everyone's image of the All-American Girl, America's Sweetheart in a one-piece, oozing an innocent sexuality. That poster is still the best-selling poster ever.

She took the world by storm in 1976, starring in the Charlie's Angels TV movie in the spring and then, in the fall, in the series of the same name, along with Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. The show was a huge hit, and even though Fawcett's stint on it lasted just that one season, it is Charlie's Angels that she is most closely associated with, even now, 33 years later.

But to consider Farrah nothing more than a sex symbol is to do her a great injustice. After leaving Charlie's Angels, she went on to star on Broadway and in numerous movies, including a made-for-TV picture titled "The Burning Bed," which I will never forget.

By the time "The Burning Bed" came out, in 1984, I was married, and my wife talked me into watching it with her. I had no desire to see this movie - I figured it was some chick flick without a single car chase or gunfight or anything making it worth my time. But from the first few minutes until the shocking final scene I was transfixed.

Gone was America's Sweetheart, gone was the eye-candy I remembered from her Charlie's Angels days. That relic of an innocent time was replaced by the haggard, harried housewife she played; by a woman suffering from the ravages of spousal abuse, bruised and battered, both spritually and physically. I sat with my wife and watched this broken woman regain control of her life in the most shocking way imaginable. This Farrah Fawcett could act.

I've never really bought into the notion that a beautiful woman can be a "victim" of her good looks. In my opinion the pretty people of the world gain a lot more than they ever lose. But if there was ever a case which might convince me to rethink that theory, Farrah might have been it. She could have played the most serious and in fluential roles available and to many, she would never have been anything more than the chick on the wall to be leered at.

In many ways it's a shame that the one thing Farrah Fawcett will be most remembered for is probably one of the most forgettable things she ever did - pose for a picture in a swimsuit. But she was a multitalented woman who was much more than a picture on a wall; or even a picture on hundreds of thousands of walls.

Rest in peace, Farrah Fawcett.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Giving my Keyboard the Finger

Considering how much time I spend pounding (And believe me, I mean this literally, not figuratively) on a keyboard, you would think my life would be much easier if I could actually use, you know, all of my fingers to type. Instead, I am a two-finger man, relegating the other eight digits on my two hands to the role of useless cheerleaders as I weave my webs of thrillers, suspense and horror.

I actually took a typing class years ago in high school, when home computers were still the stuff of science fiction. We practiced not on laptops or desktop keyboards, not even on word processors, but on old-fashioned typewriters. They were electric typewriters at least, as I recall, but then again my memories may be distorted by all the time that's passed since then.

The point is, though, that at one time I did know how to type correctly, sort of. But in the decades since leaving high school that I spent earning a living and raising a family, what little typing talent I had - and it was very little - completely disappeared from my muscle memory, undoubtedly never to return.

And I'm not even a normal two-finger typist. A few years ago I broke the index finger on my right hand and was forced to compensate by typing with my middle finger. Typing with the index finger of my left hand while using the middle finger of my right was way too confusing for me, so I ended up learning to type with the middle finger of both hands. Eventually my broken finger healed, sort of, but I never went back to using those index fingers when I was writing.

So now I might just be the only person in the world who writes on a regular basis using the fingers most people reserve for flashing at motorists who piss them off when they're driving. I'm pretty good at it too, from all the practice, but it still seems I could save a lot of time or get a lot more done if I really knew how to type properly.

On the bright side, I don't think all that fast anyway, so my relatively slow typing skills almost always keep up with my relatively slow brain when I'm writing a story. I guess I'll just continue muddling along. I hope Mrs. Sanderson, my old typing teacher, is still alive, because if not, I guarantee she's rolling over in her grave.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I'm Baaaad, I'm Nationwiiiide

I walked into Barnes and Noble yesterday on my way to work and picked up the latest issue of one of the coolest up-and-coming dark fiction magazines on the market - Shroud Magazine. This was a big moment for me for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was that this particular issue of this particular magazine has one of MY stories in it!

Big deal, right? I've had short stories published before; I'm happy to say that my short story career seems to be gathering momentum. After having one story published in 2007, and then three in 2008, I have been fortunate to break through this year, with six publishing credits already in the first six months of 2009, with more to come. This one is special to me, though, because yesterday marked the first time I've been able to walk into a bookstore and see work I created sitting on a shelf waiting for people to read. It's an unbelievable thrill!

But enough about me (unless you'd like to hear more about me - if so, feel free to contact me and we can talk about me for hours), back to Shroud. In a down economy, where publishing entities seem to be circling the wagons, with periodicals and publishers folding and downsizing, and opportunities for authors drying up, Shroud has burst onto the scene with a flourish. In just one year, this "Journal of Dark Fiction and Art," as it says under the banner at the top of the glossy cover, has grown from the dream and vision of publisher/editor Tim Deal into a nationally distributed force in the dark fiction world.

Issue #6 of Shroud, the first to be distributed through hundreds of Hastings and Barnes and Noble stores across the country, features over 150 pages of creepy material from authors like Steve Vernon, Dan Keohane, Jeff Strand and L.L. Soares, as well

Previous issues over the past year have included names like Tom Piccirilli, Michael Laimo, Ken Bruen, Kim Paffenroth and many others. Without belaboring the point (unless I already have), this is a quality publication, from the stunning cover artwork right through the heartfelt introduction from publisher/editor Tim Deal to the first story from Natalie Sin which made the hairs on my arms stand up (I don't have any hairs on my head, otherwise they would have stood on end too), right on through all 152 pages.

I'm proud to be a part of this rapidly growing success story and grateful to fellow Granite Stater Tim Deal for deeming "Suspicions" worthy of inclusion in the first nationally distributed issue of his baby. The cost of a single issue is just $6.99, a bargain if you love dark/speculative fiction. Check it out at your local Barnes and Noble, or if you'd rather shop right from where you're sitting, you can follow this link and order a copy of this issue or any of the previous five, direct from Amazon.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do...