Two weeks ago yesterday, my dad passed away peacefully from renal failure. I posted about it to Facebook and social media, but I didn’t say anything here because, at the time, I didn’t really feel up to it, and I don’t have a lot to add about this whole experience, or about my relationship with my dad, that I didn’t already cover. Besides which, in the weeks that have intervened, some other stuff came up that I wanted to talk about.

My dad had been sick for a long time, and on dialysis for over a year. Even if my relationship with him had been perfect, I would have welcomed the end. Caring for him was taking a huge toll on my mom’s health, and about a week before he passed away, she suffered from a mini-stroke, which she fortunately caught before any significant damage was done, and which the doctor’s chalked up pretty much entirely to stress.

I’m grateful that hospice was there to give my mom some respite and to make my dad’s last days as painless as possible–for him and for us. By mutual agreement, there won’t be any funeral or memorial services. My mom is doing well and taking it easy for the first time in a long time. I’m searching for something to say to wrap this up, but there really isn’t anything. I guess I just mean this to be a marker, to say, “This happened.” I don’t have any more insight than that. So there it is. This happened.

I’m very proud to announce that my story “Persistence of Vision” will be appearing in the inimitable Ellen Datlow‘s Best Horror of the Year Volume 7. It is, as I said on Facebook when I first made the announcement, my first time appearing in one of Ellen’s Best of the Year volumes, and I’m sharing the TOC with some of my favorite writers and favorite people in the field, so it’s a singular honor. “Persistence of Vision,” my story of the ghost apocalypse as told through the eyes of a film blogger, was originally published in Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and published by Exile Editions, and it will be collected in my forthcoming second collection from Word Horde.

Here’s the full TOC for Best Horror of the Year Volume 7, with my contribution highlighted, because I am egotistical (actually just excited):

“The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud
“Winter Children” by Angela Slatter
“A Dweller in Amenty” by Genevieve Valentine
“Outside Heavenly” by Rio Youers
“Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix
“Allocthon” by Livia Llewellyn
“Chapter Six” by Stephen Graham Jones
“This is Not for You” by Gemma Files
“Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
“The Culvert” by Dale Bailey
“Past Reno” by Brian Evenson
“The Coat Off His Back” by Keris McDonald
“the worms crawl in” by Laird Barron
“The Dog’s Home” by Alison Littlewood
“Tread Upon the Brittle Shell” by Rhoads Brazos
“Persistence of Vision” by Orrin Grey
“It Flows From the Mouth” by Robert Shearman
“Wingless Beasts” by Lucy Taylor
“Departures” by Carole Johnstone
“Ymir” by John Langan
“Plink” by Kurt Dinan
“Nigredo” by Cody Goodfellow

Ellen has been editing Year’s Best anthologies for almost as long as I’ve been alive, and it’s always been one of my professional goals to someday see my name in one. I’m extremely thrilled and honored to see that particular dream coming true, and if you follow me on social media at all, you can expect to see me documenting every single stage of that happening, culminating when I Instagram, like, thirty pictures of my contributor’s copy when it arrives.

The Oscars are tonight. I don’t really care too much about them any year, and this year is no different, mostly because I haven’t seen the vast majority of the movies that are nominated for anything, so I can’t have much of an opinion either way. About the only category where I have a horse in the race is Best Animated Feature, where I’m hoping Big Hero 6 takes home the statue it so richly deserves, though I’m thinking that How to Train Your Dragon 2 will probably win it as an apology Oscar for snubbing its predecessor back in 2010.

I’m not here to talk about the Oscars, though. I’m here to talk about the year in movie monsters. I’m a little late with what will be my third annual Year in Creatures, but I honestly held off this long because I just kept thinking that there must have been more good monsters in movies in 2014 than I had yet seen, and that any moment I would stumble upon them, but as the Oscars are upon us and we’re now well into 2015, I think I’ve just got to acknowledge that 2014 wasn’t a very good year for movie monsters, and call it a day. (We can’t have a Pacific Rim every year, after all.)

This year followed the established pattern that the majority of screen creatures were not in horror or monster movies at all, but rather in big budget sci-fi, superhero, and fantasy spectacles. There were a few non-ghost monsters in lower budget horror films, but of those, few were especially memorable, and even the fantasy epics this year tended toward generic critters, with some exceptions coming in the form of the aliens from Edge of Tomorrow, the surprisingly decent MUTOs from the otherwise lackluster Godzilla, and, if they can truly count as creatures, the future Sentinels in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The only creature to really give this year’s winner a run for its money, though, was the breakout star of Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot. Who might have been monster of the year had it not been for…

The Babadook 

jennifer-kent-babadook-2014-05-06-004

While the film itself was one of the year’s better horror films, don’t get me wrong, it suffered a bit from overhype and a somewhat weak third act. But the titular monster stole the show, with its combination of silent movie aesthetics and a Pokemon-esque tendency to say its own name. (Particularly effective in a chilling phone call scene.)

Would the Babadook have been able to hold its own in a year with stronger monster representation? Who can say. All I know is, two months into 2015, it’s still my pick for last year’s Movie Monster of the Year.

I’ve been struggling for a week now about writing this post. In the past, I’ve kept my problems and my anxieties mostly off this space, kept them to myself. But one of the things I’m learning is that bottling these experiences up leads to shame and recrimination and self-loathing, and I’ve got plenty of all of that, thanks, so I’ve been trying to be more open, and so far I’ve been met almost unanimously with support, and with a heartbreaking yet also extraordinarily validating number of people saying, “Yes, me too, I’ve had the same experiences.”

I’ve talked before about my dad’s declining health, and I’ve touched upon the fact that he and I have never had a relationship that could be considered either good or uncomplicated. On Tuesday morning, my mom and I met with the hospice people to talk about transitioning my dad off dialysis so that he can (hopefully) die relatively peacefully at home. It’s something that I think is the best scenario for everyone involved, my dad included, but that doesn’t mean that it’s been easy.

The hospice people say they’ll do everything they can to make the transition a smooth and painless one, and I believe them. I hope they’re right, and that “everything they can” turns out to be a lot. Unfortunately, there’s no clear time frame for something like this. It could take days, or it could take months, and in the meantime it’s fraught with landmines of painful minutiae. As just an example, after meeting with the hospice people, my brother and I went back to my parents’ house and painstakingly unloaded and hid every gun that my dad owned, boxed up the ammo and sent it home with my brother. This at the urging of the nurses, who tell us that, in his state, there’s a very real danger that, if my dad got hold of a loaded gun, he might hurt my mom or himself or someone else, possibly without even knowing what he was doing.

And yet, that’s still just the easy-to-explain tip of the vast, complicated, messy, confusing, and very difficult-to-explain iceberg of what I’ve been dealing with for the past few weeks. I’ve said before that my relationship with my dad was never good, and that’s true. As a child, he made me feel worthless, as though nothing I ever did or liked or wanted or cared about mattered at all. He never showed me any affection in any way that I could understand. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to accept how much of the anxieties and the feelings of depression and shame that I struggle with can be traced back to him, and more recently yet that I’ve come to understand the extent to which he did the same things to my mom and my older brothers.

Dealing with all of this has led to panic attacks, at least one of which was severe enough that it probably qualifies as some sort of dissociative state. I’ve never slept well, and the last few weeks it’s been worse. It doesn’t help that the sleeping pills that were helping have recently become prohibitively expensive, so I’ve been trying to switch medications, searching for a reasonable substitute that will do the job adequately.

And even that isn’t anything like the whole story. I’ve also been recovering memories of sexual trauma that I experienced as a very young child, memories that I had very carefully repressed, boxed up, and dutifully ignored for pretty much my entire life, until they became blind spots in my mind, ones that I couldn’t look directly at and that I never told a single person about until a few days ago. I don’t want to go into any details, and I don’t think that doing so would do any good, but suffice it to say that I was sexualized at a much too early age, and not given the tools or support that I needed to cope with those experiences, which led to repeated inappropriate encounters and my being taken advantage of, seldom, if ever, by adults, at least that I can remember now, but usually by older kids.

Recovering these memories has been painful and confusing and terrifying. When I think about them, though they happened decades ago, they are so visceral and immediate that I have the same physical reaction as if they were happening to me again right now, regardless of my actual physical surroundings. And yet, at the same time, remembering them has already begun to help me. They’re the missing piece of a puzzle—really, a lot of puzzles—that have never made much sense to me until now.

While the memories have nothing overtly to do with my father, thematically, they resonate very strongly. Like him, they made me feel worthless, like I deserved to have bad things happen to me, like affection was a commodity that I had to trade something for. They made me feel like anything I wanted was bad, that it would ultimately hurt someone else, or be used by someone else to hurt me. They made me feel alone, and ashamed, and like it was my fault.

This time has been very difficult, and I imagine that the difficult times are not yet behind me, by any means. But I’m seeing a very good therapist, and trying some new anxiety meds that are already doing wonders. I’m learning coping strategies, and little things I can do to take care of myself. I have a supportive and loving wife, and a vast network of incredibly generous friends. I believe that I will come out of the other side of this better able to care for myself than when I went in.

As I’ve said, this is all normally the kind of thing that I would keep to myself, and putting it out here is a very frightening experience, but I’m doing so for a number of reasons. Partly, because trying to explain it again and again is very painful, so I’m hoping to explain it once, and then point any future explanations back here. Mostly, because I think that a lot of us tend to hide these things, keep them secret, and that doing so only contributes to our feelings of shame and worthlessness. I want anyone else who might read this who has ever gone through anything similar, or anything else that made them feel these sorts of ways, to know that they’re not alone, and that they can reach out for help. I want to convince everyone—myself included—that you’re not worthless, and that you don’t deserve to be hurt, and that in spite of what’s happened to you, you can still have the chance at a rich and full and joyous life complete, in my case, with comic books and monster movies and whatever other “silly” things make you happy, even though it may not feel like it right now.

As was the case last year, I worked the Downright Creepy/Rotten Rentals booth at Panic Fest at the lovely and fantastic Screenland Armour over the weekend, once more in the face of some less-than-optimal weather, though much better than last year’s ice storm. Unlike last year, I actually got to see a couple of movies this time, including a double-feature of WolfCop and The Editor which kept me out until 2am on Friday (I guess technically Saturday morning, by the end there).

WolfCop was considerably better–and considerably weirder–than I had expected, in spite of containing more pee gags than is my usual threshold (which is roughly zero). Though the plot also did not go where I would have anticipated just from the synopsis, I think I was maybe most surprised by how good the film looked, especially some particularly nice crane and/or helicopter shots. If you get a chance to check it out, I think it’s probably worth your time.

The Editor I described on Twitter immediately after watching it as “if Anchorman had been a Giallo,” and I pretty much stick by that. If that makes you want to see the movie, then you’ll probably dig it. I struggle with exactly saying that I liked it, but I’m glad I saw it, and it was pretty hilarious, and if I was going to see it, at midnight in a movie theatre full* of excited Panic Fest attendees was the optimal way to do so. For those who haven’t seen it and are not of a prurient bent, be warned, it has more nudity than some pornos. Just a heads up.

*For values of full that include the dozen or so of us dumb enough to stay up til 2 in the morning to watch a movie we could have watched at some more reasonable hour later in the festival.

I’ve got a lot of other stuff going on right now, not all of which is great, some of which I’ll probably post more about later in the week. In the mean time, since I’m talking about Giallo, it seems apropos to point out that today is the birthday of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, which is probably my favorite Giallo film and, as fate would have it, Ross Lockhart will be unveiling the cover and table of contents for Giallo Fantastique sometime tomorrow, so keep an eye out on my various social media streams for that.

And while I’m on the subject, I’ve been obsessing over John Carpenter’s Lost Themes album, which drops in a couple of days and which I’ve already pre-ordered but which I have been (and you can be) listening to in its entirety here. I wish I’d had the “Mystery” track when I wrote my story for Giallo Fantastique, but the only solution to that problem is that I’ll just have to write more Giallo-inspired stories in the future.

Two years ago, I started keeping a notebook where I write down every movie that I watch. Not really any notes about them, just the movie, the year it came out, and an asterisk if I’ve seen it before. This has proved immensely helpful to me in all sorts of ways, not least when it comes to stuff like making end of the year best of lists. It also lets me do things like track how many movies I watched in a year, and so, if anyone is at all interested in that kind of minutia, here are some metrics on the movies I watched in 2014.

In 2014 I watched a grand total of 269 movies. In spite of the fact that I was working from home that entire time, that is actually down 31 movies from 2013. Of those movies, I watched 123 of them for the first time. Of those, 22 came out in 2014. You can still find my top 10 list at Downright Creepy, though in the days that followed its original posting I saw The Babadook, which would have slotted in somewhere around the 6 or 7 mark and pushed Snowpiercer off the bottom. Some of the worst movies I saw include Blood GlacierTusk, and Maleficent, though I watched I, Frankenstein last night, and if I’d actually seen it in 2014, it would totally be on that list.

My biggest month was May, where I managed to watch 35 movies, clocking in somehow at just over a movie a day. September was the smallest number, with only 13 movies total.

In 2015, I’m hoping to read more, which will probably mean watching movies less, but we’ll see. I’m also hoping to institute some kind of monthly Monster Movie Night where I watch some old cheesy monster movie with whatever friends happen to be free that night and inclined to watch lousy B movies about giant crabs or some such. More on that if and as it transpires.

(Was actually a few days ago, I spent it watching The Babadook, but this was already starting when that happened, and came to a head shortly after, and I thought it made a good post title.)

For those who don’t know, my dad has been sick for a long time. When I wasn’t even a year old, the doctors told him that he wouldn’t live five years, and that if he lived one, he’d be bedfast. Which is to say that he’s been on borrowed time my whole life, and for most of that, he was in pretty good health. The last few years, though, his health has deteriorated rapidly, and there’s no real likelihood of him getting anything but gradually worse and worse.

Earlier this week, my mom and one of my brothers took him to the emergency room, and he spent Christmas in the hospital. They’re still running tests, and as of today we don’t know anything more than we did when we took him in. But really, at this point, there’s nothing to learn except how long or short the timeline is, how bumpy the road from here to there.

I’ve never been exactly close to my dad, we didn’t see eye-to-eye much when I was growing up, and that hasn’t changed a lot now that I’m on my own. But I have always been close to my mom, and this is taking its toll on her, and regardless of the whys or the wherefores, all of this has hit me pretty hard, especially this most recent time. Maybe it’s just the futility of all of it, the sheer number of repetitions of this same scenario, the fact that we all know that this train only goes one direction. I’m not really sure, and I don’t really want to analyze it too closely, but it means that the last few days have been rough, and I don’t know how soon the days will stop being rough.

I’m also dealing with a few health issues of my own–nothing life-threatening or even particularly serious, just annoying and draining–and a barrage of unexpected medical bills and increased prices on medications and various other quotidian woes and so on that have all taken their toll. In spite of that, I had a good Christmas. I spent quality time with friends and family that I am close to, received thoughtful gifts, and didn’t give as many in return as I would have liked.

In general, I try to keep this kind of stuff off my web presence. I’m not here to talk about this sort of thing, I’m here to talk about monsters and ghosts and such nonsense. But I felt weird about not mentioning this, like if I didn’t at least put it out there, someone would start to notice something a tiny bit brittle about my usual facade. So here it is.

There’s not really anything for anyone to do, or to say. Just bear with me, as I try to make the best out of whatever I have to work with.

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