Category Archives: Books

Me and Jasper and the 1980s!

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I’ve been up to my nostrils in 1980s culture while writing Adventures in Terror: 1975-2015 (coming next month). Many of you have probably noticed, assuming at least some of my posts have made their way across your Facebook or Twitter feeds at any point in the last 18 months.

Much of the novel takes place in that decade, which not at all coincidentally happens to be the decade between my 5th and 15th birthdays – my most formative years, I’ve always believed. I’ll share more about the book later, but right now, I wanted to tell you some truths that I’ve come to accept about music, movies and books in the decade of the Reaganistas.

So, here goes:

– First off, the ’80s actually weren’t a complete cultural wastelandI’d long believed they were, but I was wrong.

– Music wasn’t just techno garbage in the beginning of the decade and hair metal at the end. If you’re like me and you forgot that , check out this Spotify playlist compiled by yours truly. You shan’t be disappointed – follow the list if you like because I will be adding to it for a while.

– One thing we don’t talk much about anymore is that the Georgia Satellites rocked in a serious way. They weren’t big players in the decade except for a song or two (certainly the immortal “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”) but by hell, they might have rocked harder than anybody this side of AC/DC and Van Halen. Also, for what it’s worth, “KYHTY” barely makes their top ten.

– Bon Jovi had to have known they were about to become millionaires tens of times over while they were recording Slippery When Wet.

On a side note, somebody smart should have built a panty factory and set up a table backstage at every single Bon Jovi/Poison/Motley Crue/whoever concert. Mega $$$.

– The horror-in-print BOOM. Something else that is not arguable. Clive Barker, John Saul, Dan Simmons, Joe Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson,  Robert McCammon. Peter Straub. Dean Koontz (whose writing I’ve never liked, but hey, he was still part of that boom). Also, some guy named Stephen King, who got a few decent notices in the ’80s after also being somewhat popular in the ’70s.

– Stephen King directed an actual movie. Maximum Overdrive. AC/DC did the soundtrack. The movie itself sucks but who gives a damn? Stephen King directed a horror movie and AC/DC did the entire soundtrack. I am pretty sure my family was appalled when I talked them into taking me to watch it at the drive-in when I was 11.

– Fangoria.

KISS without makeup: an abomination.

– I didn’t watch much TV besides MTV at the time, so I can’t really vouch for the quality of 1980s television. Well, I did watch Diff’rent Strokes and Dukes of Hazzard. I watched those a lot. Like I said, I can’t really vouch for quality in the decade.

– For the general populace, movies in the decade may have been a little sub-par (Raging Bull is the exception), but for horror and science fiction fans, the decade was sheer gold. I would even say that along with the Universal Age of the ’30s and ’40s, the 1980s are the other golden age of movie horror.

John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Wes Craven, George Romero, Tobe Hooper, Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon, and Lucio Fulci at their peaks (with only Romero even arguable). Brian DePalma, too, although he’s had a schizo career from trashy pseudo-horror like CarrieDressed to Kill, and Body Double to the glitzier Mission:Impossible and The Untouchables.

Spielberg’s been great throughout his career but he had many of his highest highs in the Reagan decade as both director (Raiders, E.T., Temple of Doom, Last Crusade) and producer (Poltergeist, Gremlins, Goonies). James Cameron gave us The Terminator and Aliens. John McTiernan gave us Predator and Die Hard. Divine intervention gave us Robocop

I also sort of liked a couple of other movies in those days: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

What I’m saying is, they were heady times.

– At the end of Adventures in Terror: 1975-2015 are a couple of appendices, listing several books and movies that were important in the youth of Jasper and Grady. The movie list is five pages long.

– So I know some of you are saying, “There were plenty of great non-sci fi, non-horror movies in the 80s!” Well, what were they? Top Gun? Weekend at Bernie’s? Amadeus? OK, I’ll give you Amadeus. Raging Bull and Amadeus.

– Don’t forget: Stephen King.

– Madonna had two songs that I actually liked. Cyndi Lauper had three. Wang Chung had four. No joke.

– Michael Jackson had one (“Billie Jean”).

One of my favorite stories about growing up was that on my ninth birthday, I got my first two cassette tapes: Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and Metal Health by Quiet Riot. I listened to Thriller all the way through onceand that was it. I listened to Metal Health until the tape wore out, then I got another one and wore it out, too. Then I did it again. I still listen to that album all the time.

Mostly I lean towards the “rock” side when it comes to music, but there was some decent pop once you got away from that Flock of Seagulls-Culture Club-Kajagoogoo-Wham! crap.

– Also no joke: Poison > Motley Crue. And I’d listen to Sammy Hagar over David Lee Roth any day.

*  *  *  *

Gotta go for now. Adventures in Terror: 1975-2015 sees the light of day in August. It’s about monsters, ghosts, and infnite space and darkness, and not really about the things I’ve been talking about here. But, I don’t think the book would exist without them, either. I know it wouldn’t exist without horror movies and Fangoria magazine.

We’ll talk more – you’ll see.

Aaron

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Closer…

The last week was just impossible. I wasn’t able to get much writing/editing done. Putting the finishing touches on this edition of Adventures in Terror, then on to a few weeks’ worth of editing, cover selection, etc. Hopefully not too many weeks though. Maybe I’ll give this book to myself as a birthday present. It’d be fitting, given the subject matter. You’ll see.

I actually just added this paragraph to the beginning. Explains a lot.

—–

“My name is Grady Strange Claremont VII. That’s right, the seventh. You don’t see that much anymore, the seventh in a line. Hell, you barely see a third. Much as I hate to say it, there’s just nowhere near the same level of respect for tradition with folks these days as there was when I was growin up almost a hundred years ago, in the gauzy old days of the 1980s and ‘90s. Or, as I like to refer to that period, the death rattle of the twentieth century.”

Dogwoods vs. dog shit.

OK, folks. I meant to tell you this earlier. As you may have noticed, Adventures in Terror with Jasper Bohanon: Book One didn’t come out in December, even though it’s actually finished. Here’s why.

As the book came down the homestretch, I began wondering if it was really the best idea to split it into Book I and Book II. After much consideration, I have decided against that. Sometimes it seems important to have a lot of different titles out there, the notion being that there are a lot of bottles floating in the sea and the more bottles that have your name on them, the better chance that you’ll get lucky and somebody will actually pluck one out of the water, like what they find, then go diving for more bottles with your name on them.

But really, this goes against my most basic philosophy, which is that QUALITY RULES ALL. Or how about this: dogwoods are great year ’round, but dog shit sticks around for only a few days before the bugs eat it. Better to write and release one strong piece of work than rush out several mediocre ones just for the sake of having a longer list of search results under “Aaron Saylor.” I have to remember why I am doing this: not to make money, not to get Facebook likes, not to have Twitter followers. I’m doing this for the stories. I think they are worth sharing.

The truth is, Adventures in Terror was originally conceived as one book, then later split to A) allow me to release it sooner because I love it that much, and can’t wait to get it to you, and B) have two separate titles. In hindsight, that was a bad choice. But I’m fixing it.

The story was first plotted as one book, and I know – I guess I’ve always known – that as one book it should remain. Trying to make it something it isn’t will only hurt. It’ll hurt the book, it’ll hurt Grady and Jasper, and worst of all, it’ll hurt me. The publishing world is tough enough as it is, cluttered with mediocrity if not outright garbage, and I’d prefer to put out the very best book I can. If it takes a few more weeks, so be it.

I promise, the world will get Adventures in Terror later this year. If the wait breaks your heart, I’m sorry. I truly am. Just know that that we’ll both be the better for it, okay?

preview ADVENTURES IN TERROR!

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You can now read a preview of Adventures in Terror with Jasper Bohanon, an 11,000-word story called Me and Jasper and the Summer of ’86.” It’s an e-book exclusive, but never fear — if you can read this post, then there’s also a free Kindle app for whatever device you’re using.

The story will give you a good idea of the novel’s nostalgic flavor, which draws heavily on horror, science fiction, and other popular media from the ’80s and ’90s. (For some of you, the cover above is a dead give-away about that.) But don’t just take my word for it – click on the story link and see for yourself. And if you enjoy “Me and Jasper and the Summer of ’86” (like I think you will), feel free to spread the word and leave your review on Amazon and Goodreads!

ADVENTURES IN TERROR… coming soon.

I want to share something with you, just because I’m excited about this book. Here is the complete chapter listing for ADVENTURES IN TERROR WITH JASPER BOHANON, BOOK ONE: 1975-1996. And to quote a refrain from the book, maybe you know what’s comin’, and maybe you don’t.

– Home
– Jasper
– Me and Jasper in the Summer of ’86
– Infinity
– Me and Jasper and the Lady in the Woods
– Me and Jasper Save Evie from the Dead
– Banshee
– Church Ladies
– Me and Jasper and the Satanic Panic
– Darkness
– Midnight
– Me and Jasper and the Big Damn Skeeters
– Graduation Day
– Me and Jasper and the Return of the Hopkinsville Goblins
– Harbingers

A little bit…

I already shared this on Facebook (although I’ve edited a little since then), but not everybody follows me on Facebook (please change that) or Twitter (please change that, too). So, I decided to share a little bit from my new work here on this very blog.

I am sure we will discuss at greater length, but the quick version is that I just decided to write something about all the things I loved when I was in elementary school, and follow that through to all the things I love now, and hopefully will still love when I am Old, which is much less further away now than it used to be. This book has taken over my whole writing life, but quick.

Also — I’ll be giving away 10 e-book copies of Sewerville and publishing a new short story called “Me and Jasper Down at the Meth Shack” (which actually turned out to be a part of the same new book that is excerpted below) as soon as the Facebook page hits 1,000 “like”s. Just a handful away right now – help make a child’s dream come true!

So, here’s the new stuff:

——-

“Where’d you get those?” I gasped, pointin at the Fangorias like they was a sack full of hundred dollar bills.

“One place or another. Places where I get stuff. You know.” Jasper shrugged. As I’d soon find out, he shrugged at most matters in life. He could shrug to put a teenage girl to shame. He was a world renowned shrugger.

I stared at Jasper’s magazines for what felt like three days. Ain’t ashamed to say, I’d have given everything I had and half of what I didn’t to find out where he got them. It looked to my eyes like he might have every issue of Fangoria ever printed. Far as I was concerned, this was something like lookin at a unicorn.

Then… BOOM.

Buried in his collection, with just one dog-eared corner stickin out, was the Fangoria that ruled all other Fangorias. The one I desired like man desired to reach the stars, like Romeo desired Juliet, like Johnny Cash desired June Carter, like Roscoe P. Coletrain and Boss Hogg desired to one day run down them Dukes, them Dukes. At that point, I’d been tryin to get my hands on this particular issue for a good three or four years, or I should say, get my hands on it again.

Issue Number Nine.

Folks, we are talkin about the Ark of the Covenant here. Ask anybody that knows anything about Fangoria and scary flicks and bad ass stuff in general and they’ll back me up on this.

*

Actually you don’t need to ask, because I’m tellin you right now: issue number nine – Issue Number Nine, it needs all capital letters – featured the infamous Motel Hell cover. You probably heard about it: that farmer dude in denim overalls and red flannel shirt, wearin a severed pig head for a helmet, wieldin a bloody chainsaw like it was the mighty Excalibur or somethin. Far as I was concerned, human hands wasn’t capable of creatin a more bad ass cover. Probably they still aren’t.

The sad part is, though, that cover was so bad ass, it didn’t take too long before a few so-called “adult” peckerwoods jumped up on their high horses and got it banned from every drugstore and supermarket in the country. Let me say that again: that cover was so bad ass, the peckerwoods got it declared unfit for human consumption. Pulled from stores. Burnt up on the sacrificial fires of common decency, as some folks say.

So yeah. Apparently a few grannies stumbled across that particular Fangoria down at the Piggly Wiggly or the beauty shop or wherever old grannies stumbled across things, and this indeed caused their plastic panties to get all wadded up in such a manner that I had never experienced (up to that point, anyway). And if you know anything, you know how the story goes whenever grannies get their panties in a wad. Things get escalated. The  righteous grannies pitched a fit to their preacher, a man of great wisdom and humility who immediately got on the line to the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart. Jimmy Swaggart had a few friends in high places – this was back in the days when some people actually gave a rip what Jimmy Swaggart had to say about anything – and the good Reverend called his coonskin-hat buddy Pat Buchanan (look it up), who was workin in the White House up in Washington at the time. Of course back then, the White House was occupied – some would say graced by the presence of – one Ronald Wilson Reagan, otherwise known as the Gipper, otherwise known as He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Soon enough Pat bent the blessed ear of the almighty President Reagan, and then Reagan bent down and kissed the ground and farted and declared that Issue Number Nine of Fangoria was inflictin evil on the minds of innocent little Ronnies all throughout the golden land, and therefore must be yanked off every shelf in the country, if not the world, if not the whole trickle down damn universe.

Well, that’s the story I always heard, at least. I can’t swear to it, but that’s what I heard.

Anyway, despite the Reaganistas’ efforts, a few hundred copies escaped. Somehow one of them ended up at Comic Book Land in Lexington, Kentucky, and miraculous as it may seem, happened to be sittin on the shelf one of the rare Saturdays that I visited the store. I was headed for the back issue bins when I glanced over at the New Arrivals rack and saw it gleamin.

I couldn’t get my hands on it fast enough, let me just tell you. And soon as I did, I took it back to Mom and said, “Mom, this is what I’m gettin. No X-Men. No Captain America. No Spider-man. This was a couple of years before ROM and G.I. Joe came out, but I would have walked away from them that day, too.

All I wanted was that one issue of Fangoria, Issue Number Nine, with the chainsaw dude in overalls and a dead pig mask.

So I said, “Mom, this is what I’m gettin.”

She studied the cover for a few seconds, looked over bloody pig head guy real good, and said, “No sir, you most certainly are not.”

“But mom, he’s got overalls and a dead pig head and his chainsaw’s got blood on it –”

“I said you’re not gettin it.”

“No, Mom, you’re the one not gettin it

Put it back.”

“Come on, Mom –”

“Put it back. Now.”

Good thing I had a backup plan. One rule I always follow  is, never give up hope. If you ain’t got hope you might as well lay down in the street and wait for the ice cream truck to run over your sorry ass. I took that Fangoria and stuck it in the middle of some Wonder Woman back issues, figurin it would be safe there since Wonder Woman sucks and nobody was gonna be lookin in that box any time soon. That would give me a few weeks to convince Mom that I really should get that Fangoria, and when I did convince her I could just pluck it out of the Wonder Womans on the next trip.

But it wasn’t meant to be. The next time I visited Comic Book Land, the Wonder Womans were still there but my Fangoria was long gone. I still ain’t figured out how that happened, but it did. And in the meantime, Jimmy Swaggart and Ronald Reagan ruined the fun for everybody.

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