As you’ve probably already seen if you follow me on any kind of social media, they’re hosting a Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon over at the great Frankenstein ‘blog Frankensteinia. A few years ago I participated in their Boris Karloff Blogathon and head a really good time. Those entries, unfortunately, are lost to the whims of a website hiccup, but they’re still available on my LiveJournal under the Boris Karloff Blogathon tag. Since Peter Cushing is one of two actors (the other being Vincent Price) who regularly compete for my affections as my favorite actor of all time, it wouldn’t have seemed right not to participate in this year’s Peter Cushing Blogathon.

As fate would have it, the month of May has been an extraordinarily busy one for me, and that means that I’ll probably be posting to the blogathon less than I would like, but I do have at least one big post in the works. In the mean time you can click over to Frankensteinia and check out all the other great posts on the blogathon, and in order to tide you over I’ve composed a quick roundup of links to other places that I can remember talking about Peter Cushing movies in the not-too-distant past, specifically as culled from my regular vintage horror column at Innsmouth Free Press, the Vault of Secrets:

Island of Terror (1966)
Night Creatures (1962)
The Gorgon (1964)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Conspicuously absent from that list are any of the Hammer Frankenstein movies, which star Peter Cushing in my favorite of all his roles, that of Baron Frankenstein himself. That’s okay, though, because in honor of the Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon and Frankensteinia, I plan to revisit (in whatever brevity is required) all six of the Peter Cushing-starring Hammer Frankenstein films, in order, and render unto you a verdict as to, not only which one is my favorite, but which one has my favorite portrayal of the Baron, my favorite version of the creature, my favorite lab, and my favorite assistant, among anything else I may think of. So expect that sometime in the next few days, before the culmination of the blogathon.

And don’t forget that the Feast of the Long Shadows is coming up tomorrow night, which is the perfect time to celebrate Peter Cushing’s Centennial!

Everyone reading this already knows that Halloween is my favorite holiday, right? And that the worst day of the year, at least in some respects, is November 1st, because it means the longest possible time until more Halloween. Well, it’s not quite two Halloweens in a year, but there’s apparently an Internet initiative underway to turn May 26-27 (or more specifically, the night in-between the two) into the Feast of the Long Shadows.

The name comes from a 1983 movie called House of the Long Shadows. By all accounts it isn’t very good (though I’ll admit that I’ve yet to see it, myself), but it has the distinction of starring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee. Not just some of the greatest actors ever to be associated chiefly with the Gothic and horror genre, but also some of the genre’s greatest statesmen. We may never see their like again. As it so happens, those three dignitaries are also the reason for the celebration, or at least the reason for the choosing of the date. Vincent Price and Christopher Lee were born on May 27th, while Peter Cushing was born on the 26th. Certainly, it seems like a confluence worth noting.

The initiative, started by Italian author and critic Franco Pezzini and director Max Ferro, aims to make the Feast “a celebration of the creative strength and cultural import of the arts of imagination, of horror and wonder.” That’s definitely an idea that I can get behind. And having another celebration of the mysterious, the monstrous, and the macabre situated roughly opposite All Hallow’s Eve will make the wait for the next Halloween a little more bearable. So from now on, I’ll be celebrating the Feast of the Long Shadows on the evening of May 26th, probably with some movies featuring one or more of those esteemed personages mentioned above. I encourage everyone else to do the same, and spread the word. It’s a holiday worth having, and if enough people get behind it we can make it happen.

(Thanks to excellent author and editor T.E. Grau for introducing me to the notion.)

There are probably people reading this who aren’t terribly familiar with who I am and what I do. This post is for those (possibly imaginary) people. If you’ve been here a while and are already pretty well-versed in what I’m about, or if you could care less and would just like me to get on to the good stuff about goofy old movies or whatever, feel free to skip.

For whoever’s left: My name is Orrin Grey, as you may have gathered. I write stories of the weird, creepy, spooky, supernatural, and occult, and occasionally edit books of same. Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings is my first collection of stories, and it just recently came out from Evileye Books. I also co-edited Fungi with Silvia Moreno-Garcia for Innsmouth Free Press.

When I write, I have two big passions. I want to write about the supernatural as opposed to the paranormal, to bastardize a contemporary parlance. What I mean by that is that I almost always have some kind of supernatural element in my stories, and I try to keep those elements at least a little bit mysterious, not saddled with a lot of well-understood rules. Think Hellboy as opposed to Buffy.

I also want my stories to be, at the end of the day, pretty fun. Which doesn’t mean that I’m writing comedies, or that I shy away from a hard edge here or there. It just means that I’m less interested in scaring people than I am in having a good time. I like the tropes of horror because I have fun with them, and I want my readers to have fun with me. M.R. James once famously described the feeling he was trying to evoke with his stories as “a pleasing terror,” and, as usual, he said it better than I could.

As a reader, I’m drawn to classic ghost stories, and things that remind me of them. Some of my favorite classic writers include H.P. Lovecraft (of course), William Hope Hodgson, the aforementioned M.R. James, E.F. Benson, Fritz Leiber, and others. I’m also a big fan of Dashiell Hammett, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, Roger Zelazny, and way too many contemporary authors to start naming here. If you hang around for long, you’ll learn quickly that Mike Mignola is my biggest hero, and the biggest single influence on the stuff I write.

Outside of writing, my big passion is probably movies, especially horror movies, especially older ones. I write a column on vintage horror cinema (“vintage” here meaning “before 1970”) for Innsmouth Free Press, and I write a lot about other weird and cheesy movies on my website. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes less so, but they’re usually something I love, one way or the other. Again, listing favorites would take too much space, and is better reserved for another post. Hammer films, John Carpenter, Joe Dante, et cetera, et cetera. I love monsters, and I’m likely to watch just about anything that promises to have a monster in it.

I’m sure I left some stuff out of this that I’ll kick myself for five minutes after I post it, but at this point I’ve probably gone on more than long enough, so I’ll wrap this up. Thanks for reading, and we’ll now return you to your regularly scheduled programming!

Today is the first day of the best 31 days of the whole, entire year. And if I’m not quite ready for it, that doesn’t mean that I’m any less excited to see it arrive. My October plans are currently in a state of some flux. I had originally intended to hit some awesome screenings at the relatively new local Alamo Drafthouse, but they’re closed for renovations for the entire month, so that’s out. But I’ll be doing some cool stuff, still.

Plans are also in flux while I wait to hear some final information about release dates for my forthcoming collection from Evileye Books. I should know something on that front literally any day now, and I’ll be sure to post about it here as soon as I do.

I’m participating in the Countdown to Halloween again this year, as I have every year since I first heard about it, because, come on, it’s Halloween, of course I am! I don’t have any specific daily stuff planned, but I’ll try to make some pretty regular posts, and I know a lot of other great ‘blogs that do. I recommend spending some time going through the list of participants, and if you need a place to start, I can’t recommend Belle Dee’s art ‘blog Doo Wacka Doodles highly enough, and I know she’s got a lot of great stuff planned for the season. And while I don’t see them on the list (yet), I pretty much always recommend The Obscure Hollow, which is one of my favorite ‘blogs around any time, and becomes especially apt this time of year.

There’s a lot more seasonally appropriate ghoulishness coming up, but for now I just wanted to drop in and commemorate the beginning of my very favorite month. Stay tuned!

I’m not going to say mean things about books or movies anymore. At least, I’m going to try not to. A lot of reviewers do. I have in the past. And I’m not critiquing anyone’s review style here. I like to read a scathing review that calls someone a war criminal as much as the next guy. It can be fun to read, and it can be fun to write, and if that’s your thing then by all means, keep it up. I’m just going to try not to do it myself.

I’m going to be honest about things, of course. If I don’t like a book or a movie, I’ll say so. I’ll probably even say why, if it comes up, or if I feel like it. And I certainly won’t ever imply that I like something when I don’t. Even though I occasionally write reviews, and even though I do a column on vintage horror movies for Innsmouth Free Press, I don’t really think of myself as a reviewer. I just like to talk about the things I read and watch. But I’m certainly not an expert. Not on much of anything, really. I’m a writer. Hopefully I’m decent at it. I try to be good at it. And I like to think that I like good things. But all I know is that I like the things I like. Sometimes I can tell you why. Other times I’m not so sure.

I definitely recommend the stuff I like to people who tend to like the same stuff as me. And if we agree, awesome. And if we don’t, that’s great too. It takes all kinds, and more than once I’ve had my opinion of something changed by someone who convinced me to look at it from a different angle.

I’m still going to talk about the things I read and watch, whether I liked it or not. I’m just going to try to be nice about it. Being nice seems like a pretty good policy, in general.

Lately, the Internet has been abuzz with people ousting the scandalous secrets of Laird Barron’s sordid life, but there’s one story that no one has yet told (at least, not to my knowledge). It’s possible that I’m the only person who has figured this out, since it hasn’t even shown up on IMDb yet.

You see, sometime before 2006, Laird secretly starred in a low-budget horror film. I can’t say why exactly he would cover this up, except maybe out of shame at the final product. It supposedly played a couple of small-time festival circuits under the unfortunate moniker “Ape Women from Venus,” in spite of containing neither apes nor women nor Venus. I’ve never been able to track down anyone who actually remembers seeing it at a festival, just a few people who remember the name on the programming, or who remember talking to people who had seen it at some 2am screening.

The copy I watched was a DVD screener, bearing the less evocative but perhaps more accurate title of “Monster Cabin” affixed to the outside of an otherwise blank box by a post-it note. This was back when I was still working in a video store, and one of my customers, aware of my penchant for unusual horror films, slipped me the screener one evening just before I closed up for the night.

The DVD inside was blank, the kind you buy at office supply stores, and the picture quality when I popped it into my DVD player was as lousy as you might imagine. As near as I could make out past the miserable camera work and out-of-sync soundtrack, the story concerned some hikers (two couples, so I guess there were some women in it after all) who were kidnapped by a crazy hermit and taken to his mountain cabin. There, he read to them from his latest manuscript, while outside the cabin’s one window lights flashed first red then green then blue, and some stagehands obviously shook the set from side to side. The screener I got was badly damaged, and began to break down near the end, but as near as I could tell the hikers started to change shape as they listened to the hermit’s reading, melting and reforming in claymation-like shapes. My memory tells me that the special effects in this section, while still smacking of stop motion and forced perspectives, were remarkably lifelike and much better than the rest of the film, though they were seen only in shadow and through a shaking camera. But the screener was already beginning to crap out by then, and it’s possible that I just imagined it. I tried to watch the film again, but the player said it couldn’t read the disc, and shortly thereafter I lost track of it, presumably in a move.

It wasn’t until several years later that I met Laird at Readercon and realized that he’d been, unmistakably, the crazy hermit from the mountain cabin. I didn’t press him about it at the time, but one night at the bar I did fish with some comments about low-budget horror films and mountain cabins, which caused Laird to clam up and shoot me a hard, cold look, in spite of the number of beverages I had by then seen him imbibe.

To the best of my knowledge, the film has never been released on DVD under any title, and no mention of it is made on IMDb or anywhere else on the Internet that I’ve been able to find. Clips occasionally surface on YouTube, where they can be found by searching for things like “crazy hermit” or “people turning into claymation,” but the clips seldom stay up for long and always disappear as mysteriously as they arrived.

So, it’s been March for like a week now. So far so good. I’ve written at least a little bit most days, and those days I haven’t I’m pretty OK with.

I’m about two months behind any real New Years resolutions, but I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately, post-February, to stuff like using my space better, both in my real life and online (and maybe in my brain, too). I see a lot of people talk about stuff like being able to write anywhere, anytime. Which I think I manage decently well. But I think there’s something to be said for setting up spaces that are conducive to whatever it is you want to be doing with them, when you can.

Anyway, one of the things I’ll be doing to that end is changing around how I use my ‘blogs and other online presences. I’m not sure how yet, exactly, but I know one thing I’m going to be doing is fiddling with my settings at my actual site, including making the tags a little more functional. (If you’re there right now, you’ll be able to see them along the right sidebar.)

I’ve got some other stuff coming up soon, too, but I’m waiting to hear back on a couple of things before I jump. So this is basically just me twiddling my thumbs. Riveting, I know.