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.

October has crept up on me, which is, I suppose, in keeping with its themes.

I’ve been planning to participate in the Countdown to Halloween even though I didn’t sign up until just now and don’t have anything specific planned. So while weekends may be a little scarce, most days from here ’til Halloween I’ll have at least a little something for you. Suggestions/requests are welcome.

In the meantime, today is the beginning of Ghost Appreciation Month over at Beyond Fiction, where I’ll be contributing a couple of reviews later in the month.

Also, if you’re on Netflix, they’ve added several great and hard-to-find seasonally appropriate movies to their Watch Instantly selection, including (but by no means limited to) Vampire Circus, The Raven, and Comedy of Terrors. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch any of them yet, but you can bet I will, and that you’ll hear about the results.

Until then, happy October!