Thursday, March 27, 2014

Roundtables, Panels Wanted! Let's Talk Black Women In Horror

Courtesy of finalgirlsupportgroup.wordpress.com
Horror has given me confidence...

That statement was probably the biggest takeaway as I sat on a stage with other brilliant 'women in horror' due to a film screening I put together to celebrate female horror directors. I spoke horror's positive impact on my life into existence. As a Black woman.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Horror Author Faye McCray's Belts: The New Zombie Narrative


My genre literature consumption journey has been downright pathetic. I've always leaned more towards non-fiction and theory which has both paid off and is enjoyable, but very rarely allows me to put down the highlighter and pen. Although sparse, in the past few years I've gained more of an interest in doing the very thing I was too bitter to do in high school with all my disconnect from "canonical" works and way too busy for as an undergrad in college and pick up fiction by authors I truly wanted to support.

Author, professional, mother, wife, and lover Faye McCray's work caught my eye just from her introspective musings on her webpage alone. After noticing that she has a published a zombie short story series still in progress, Dani's Belts, I felt was perfect currently for my time away from my bustle with other work. In short, this series is reminding me of how important leisurely fictional reading is. It expounds your own imagination and sticks with you just as much as your favorite television series.

After reading the second installment in the series Yellow Belt, I wanted to tap into the author's mind to get at how a Black female writer is utilizing one of horror's most popular sub-genre's with, yes believe it, a fresh perspective.

So you went off to become a lawyer despite the writing bug piercing your side. Have you experienced any kind of synergy with the two seemingly opposing professions?

Well, let me just say, I dragged my writer side with me to law school kicking and screaming! Initially, they were extremely at odds.  As a lawyer, you’re trained to see things in a very methodical way.  Get to the point and get there quickly.  As an artist, you have to allow yourself to get lost.  I find my best writing takes place in a thoughtless dream-like state where I allow myself to step into an alternate universe.

As a lawyer, my feet are usually firmly planted on the ground.  Over time, that duality has made for a great self-regulating system.  If I go too far off the deep end with a story, I can usually count on the lawyer in me to hit the focus button and get me back on track.  I’ve also developed a pretty fierce work ethic as an attorney that is awesome at putting any potential writer’s block in check.  George Balanchine once said, “My muse must come to me on union time.”  My lawyer side is all about that quote. 

What zombie narrative has impacted your interest in the subject matter the most?

It is definitely a cross between Shaun of the Dead and The Walking Dead.  When I saw Shaun of the Dead, it was unlike anything I had ever seen.  It had so many layers and the comedic aspect was amazing.  Believe it or not, I don’t like being scared.  I like that it softened the terror with comedy.   Zombieland did that well, too.  Can we have a moment of silence for Bill Murray? Hilarious.

With The Walking Dead, it is such an incredibly human story.  I root for the characters, and I mourn them when they are gone.  Comedy and humanity were very important elements of Dani’s Belts for me. 

Popular media culture is oversaturated with zombie apocalyptic narratives at the moment. When you first sat down to write White Belt, did you think about how you wanted to approach the scenario differently?

I am so glad you asked me this! For me, I wanted to see someone different in a zombie apocalypse.  Everyone who survives a zombie apocalypse is impossibly tough... especially black women.  Think Michonne in The Walking Dead or Selena in 28 Days Later. They barely flinch in the face of a zombie and adapt to the apocalypse like it has been something they were secretly training for their whole lives.  There is no softness to them.  Just a hard exterior and mildly malleable interior.  

Dani is not that girl.  She is mush.  She is the girl who shuts her eyes in a horror movie and is pretty much convinced she would never survive a natural disaster, let alone a zombie apocalypse.  She is weak in the face of love and she cries… a lot.  I thought it would be fun to put that girl at ground zero of the apocalypse and see how she does.  I figured the story would be over really fast or she’d surprise all of us. 


You mentioned once that your characters truly take on a life of their own and they become as real to you as if they're "sitting in the chair across from me". Your main character in the Dani's Belts series, Dani seems to be experiencing the arc that, judging from the ending of Yellow Belt, is swimming in unknown possibilities.  Did what you envision for Dani when you began to write and what has changed over time?  

Absolutely. Each installment of Dani’s Belts is named after another belt in karate. I knew I wanted each installment to be like a graduation. Albeit subtle at times, her personal victories are important. She earns each belt.  However, as things began happening and she reacts to them, I have been surprised by her complexity. It isn’t a steady climb for her.  She regresses.  She is flawed. She makes some pretty big mistakes. I think it makes her more human.

How important for you is it to write female characters of color in your stories?

I grew up in New York City so my cast of characters is typically pretty diverse.  However, as a woman of color, it’s really important to me to write dynamic women of color.  We are so diverse in thought and experience yet our variety is often underrepresented in the media.  I want to contribute to broadening the landscape.

What is next for the Dani's Belts series?

Well, Orange Belt will be out March 17, and the final installment, Black Belt will be available March 31.  I am also currently working with an awesome illustrator to turn the series into a graphic novel which I am insanely excited about! Hopefully, I will have more news about that soon.  Check me out at www.fayemccray.com for updates and on Twitter @fayewrites.  

You can find White BeltYellow Belt, & Orange Belt currently on Amazon!
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

5 Questions with Filmmaker Lary Love Dolley


Actress/writer/model/vocalist/DIY filmmaker Lary Love Dolley, a.k.a. "The Evil I" caught my eye when we connected on Twitter via her micro-blog, Blood of Ganja where she highlights Black women in horror in similar fashion to our Tumblr site. Exciting things are happening for Dolley as one of hardest working emerging scream queens/screenwriters in the horror industry.

Dolley has made appearances in many mediums from Grindcore & Punk bands, independent films, magazines to TV notably HBO's TremeAdditionally, she had a part in The Butcher, a short horror film by Filmbalaya Films and her latest self produced film Ectoplasm has recently been submitted to the Grolsch Film Works Short Festival. The way Lary puts it, "...people need to seriously recognize that black women are not a monolithic group regardless of what the media constantly attempts to perpetuate. That is why we have to tell our own stories."

Great minds think alike!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Black Female Horror Characters In Special Effects Makeup

Jenny Mills in Sleepy Hollow (2014)
I love practical/makeup effects. If I could afford an additionally expensive hobby turned trade, I would go to makeup school and make sliding scale dough working on local micro-budget films and dazzling folks during Halloween. So it's always a treat for me when a horror film and the artists behind it take their time in creating some impressive and/or ghoulish looking characters as a part of the visual experience. I'm a child of the 80's where imaginative effects were at their peak, before CGI (computer generated imagery) virtually took everything over.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sci-Fi Sunday: A Look At The Novel, Divergent


Book: Divergent

Synopsis: A dystopian society is divided into five factions, in which each contributes a part to maintain balance. At the age of 16, you get to choose whether to stay in the faction of your parents or choose your own, but you must past initiation first. The story centers around a girl named Tris who decides to leave her family’s selfless faction to join a more risk taking faction called Dauntless. The new initiates for Dauntless must go through tests to prove their bravery, fighting skills, management of fear, and overcoming their worst nightmares. During the trials, Tris starts to realize something different about herself opposite from her peers.


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Friday, March 14, 2014

Race, Vigilantism, & Zombies In Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs


Horror's true effectiveness is executed when its busy making us uncomfortable in our comforts. The everyday and mundane that lures us into a false sense of security can become the very sight of anxiety. Wes Craven's mission as a storyteller early on was to do exactly this. And I appreciate that. He does so with a certain complexity and I think his sleepers don't get the attention they deserve. And I admit that some of them have taken me awhile to get to and that while like any filmmaker, his body of work suffers in some areas. 1991's The People Under The Stairs is not a film I grew up watching strangely. How this one slipped into the cracks of my mum's VHS collection is some kind of freak accident. So I went into a viewing with no nostalgic childhood memories.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

5 Questions With Horror Fan Cassie

Cassie is an almost 32 year old just-married horror fan living in the Midwest who has loved the genre for as long as she can remember.  She actually got her husband Bryan to become a genuine fan as well, even though he initially said he "loved horror movies" when they first started dating, a lie exposed when they finally sat down to watch a horror movie together and he was cringing and cowering in his seat the entire time. It was Zombieland in case you were wondering. Yup.


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Monday, March 10, 2014

Monster Mania Con 27 Photo Essay

Monster Mania, an east coast horror film/TV convention held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey every March is a concentration in socializing, endurance, laughter, and exhaustion. This past weekend after successfully live-tweeting the event during 'down' moments in massively crowded hotel hall rooms, I decided the long day would be more interestingly recapped with photos and captions like a horror nerd scrapbook.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Tara: True Blood vs. The Sookie Stackhouse Novels


Tara is the sassy and strong minded best friend of Sookie in HBO’s True Blood television series centered on vampires in the south. The True Blood series was derived from The Sookie Stackhouse Novels, but detoured from most of the book’s concepts. There are a lot of elements that differ from the show to the book including the timeline of events and character traits. One of the major differences is Tara.

First off, in the books, Tara is Caucasian with an olive complexion and black hair. The Tara we see being portrayed in the TV show is a dark complexion African American female. In the show, Tara is introduced in the first season, but in the books, she is introduced in the second book, Living Dead in Dallas. In the books, Tara opens up a clothing store called Tara's Togs, but on the show, she worked as Merlotte's restaurant bartender before Pam employs her at Fangtasia, as a bartender and dancer.


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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Black Women Vampires in Film

Luva/Tina (Vonetta McGee) in Blacula

Needless to say, vampires have an infinite history in folklore and the popular imagination. Often metaphors for infection, addiction, opulence, and burgeoning anxieties about the presence of the unfamiliar like many mythical monsters, vampires add an additional lure that embodies something to be desired and/or envied for as many reasons as there are films and books on them.

Black female vampires have been depicted in a variety of ways that map the history of Black women's negotiation with intersectionality. I decided to look at one well-known character from each decade beginning with the 1970s, deciding that each character forms a narrative about how we possibly see Black female identity, even within ourselves.

The 70s: A Promising Beginning

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Monday, March 3, 2014

The Hue of Gloom: True Blood’s Tara & Symbolic Representation


While having a discussion with an ex- co-worker about our laundry list of issues with the treatment of Tara Thorton from HBO's True Blood, I thought about the very touchy subject of colorism and semiotics in popular culture. But for the sake of time, sanity, and attention retention, I'm working with an approach that is hopefully profound, yet (somewhat) brief. Tara, executed strikingly and hypnotically by Rutina Wesley, has arguably had it the roughest on a series whose very lifeforce is over-dramatization with a heavy dose of all things supernatural. With that being said, I think an examination of its religious implications (or lack thereof) would be easier than what I'm about to tackle.

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sci-Fi Sunday: Rigamo Short Film & Comic Book

In the throes of speculative transmedia, two NYU students, Che Grayson and Sharon De La Cruz have joined forces to create an intriguing project titled, Rigamo. Film and comic will merge to tell the story of Kera Moore, "a young superhero whose tears bring people back to life at the cost of instantly advancing in age."



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