The Birth of ‘Dark Discussions’

The Birth of Dark Discussions

By Philip Perron

If you miss your favorite ESPN show, go get it on a podcast. If you want to hear news from some of the biggest news agencies in the world, you can get it through a podcast and listen to it a day later. Podcasting has been a spectacular if not largely known medium that provides programming for those folks who prefer to listen to their favorite topics when they want and wherever they want.

Though satellite radio has been a great phenomenon where folks are able to listen to an eclectic mix of shows on books, movies, sports, news, finance, and even cooking, niche audiences still may not be fulfilled with what they really want to listen to. What about themes such as video games, gardening, or even something as specific as horror movies? This is where podcasting really has promise. Not only is it free, it requires nothing more than an audio digital device, a laptop, or even a smart phone.

As an avid fan of the arts, specifically books and movies, I was always visiting websites to read about the production of Martin Scorcese’s latest film or the progress of the next Stephen King novel. Then one day I came across an audio review on the film Cloverfield as well as an audio round table discussion about the film No Country for Old Men. Afterwards, I saw that these audio files were also being streamed from Apple’s iTune’s store for free.

Getting programs on my little iPod was a convenient way to listen to programs I wanted to listen to while doing my daily walks in the woods or working out or commuting to work. And with the wide variety of programming available I was able to search for shows discussing upcoming books and movies. And yet even more specifically books and movies within the horror and techno genres.

The interesting thing was that many of the podcasts I listened to were done by amateurs or simply people who did them for fun. Their shows were filled on topics they were passionate about. The discussions were probably the same ones they’d be talking about over a round of beers. They weren’t making any money, they weren’t making any inroads towards a more promising career, they were doing it simply because they loved talking about their focused topic.

Early 2011, I figured I could do it myself. While grabbing burgers with a few guys, I noticed our discussions focused around either sports or genre fiction which included horror, science fiction, fantasy, thriller, techno-thriller, and mystery. And having added a number of genre themed podcasts as part of my weekly listen to-do list, I did my research and started putting together the idea. What resulted was a genre themed topical podcast entitled Dark Discussions Podcast.

Finding two wonderful folks online through various genre themed forums, myself along with Eric Webster, of Ann Arbor, Michigan and Michael Dunleavy, of Port Jervis, New York came together and put together a weekly show on topics that anyone from the New England Horror Writer’s group would be familiar with. Not to be tagged as specifically horror, the tag line “Your place for the discussion of horror film, fiction, and all that’s fantastic” seemed to fit.

The podcast basically focused at first on themed discussions or specific movies. Topics such as a retrospective of the director and screenwriter Frank Darabont as well as the franchise of the Planet of the Apes were some of the early weekly episodes. But also films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and John Huston’s Moby Dick have been a focus. It’s true, we are no experts but our perspectives as fans of genre fiction were as well thought out as some of the genre websites and magazines available. And at the worst, we provide another voice on both obscure works and genre classics.

Some of the inventive ways the podcast has expanded were by being contacted by some folks for reviews and promotion. Horror Realm, a convention every September in Pittsburgh, emailed and offered the podcast passes to their convention. M.J. Preston, the author of The Equinox, asked if we’d be interested in a free copy of his novel to review. However, it was co-host Michael Dunleavy who really got it. While attending Horror Realm 2011 as press, he not only interviewed the film stars of some of horror fans favorite films, but he started interviewing the vendors and independent talent. What resulted was Dark Discussions Podcast helping out folks who need promotion of some really fantastic works that anyone who enjoys horror should know about.

This is where Dark Discussions Podcast in a sense merges with the NEHW group. After Horror Realm 2011, Dark Discussions contacted the folks at both the Rock and Shock and Anthocon conventions and received press passes to attend and promote their events. This is where our podcast became what some would call an unofficial promoter of the folks we met specifically at Anthocon and therefore NEHW. We interviewed such NEHW members as Charles Day, Gregory Norris, and Inanna Arthen. Small presses as Evil Jester Press and By Light Unseen Media, which had tables at Anthocon were also focused on.

So after a year and a half, the podcast keeps going. The listenership grows. And topics as wide ranging as modern novels as Scott Sigler’s Infected and independent cinema as Simon Rumley’s Red, White, and Blue are featured. As an inspiring writer, I know the work folks go through juggling their everyday lives with writing. With Horror Realm come and gone and Rock and Shock and Anthocon coming up, Dark Discussions looks forward to seeing everyone and helping you promote your new and wonderful works. As an inspiring writer, I know the work folks go through juggling their everyday lives with writing.

A Hard Pen is Good to Find

A Hard Pen is Good to Find

by Bracken MacLeod

I indulge a couple of writerly affectations that do nothing to improve the quality or prolificacy of my writing. Still, they stimulate some reptilian aspect of my neurology that compels me to maintain their use. For example, I take abundant notes about random facts and story ideas in a Moleskine notebook. Even though there are cheaper notebooks out there and its entire function is made redundant by smartphone apps like Evernote, I love the feeling of the small leather hardbound book in my hands. I love the (probably contrived) history of it. And I love belonging to the subculture of people who modify and use them. But the sensual experience of the notebook is limited by the quality of the pen one uses to write in it.

My former profession required constant note-taking and I found that writing with cheap pens resulted in hand cramps and near constant frustration at their lack of both comfort and style. As a result, I switched to a semi-expensive fountain pen in the hope that A) the necessity of finesse in its use would result in less white-knuckle writing (and the attendant cramping), and B) its elegance would satisfy that part of me that seeks sensuality in small experiences. It did both. Sadly though, my pen required regular upkeep as the nibs would wear out with the kind of punishing use to which I put them. Despite that inconvenience, I gained an appreciation for writing with a precision pen. The feeling of taking hand-written notes is enhanced by using a pen designed for performance and comfort.

There is a certain amount of anxiety inherent in carrying a fountain pen around in one’s shirt or pants pocket (or even in a bag), however, as they can and do occasionally leak. I’ve been the victim of more than one unintended ink emission and it had convinced me that, despite the pleasure of writing with one, the hazard of a Deeptrouser Horizon spill was too much for me to bear. As luck would have it, the twin burdens of maintenance and betrayal were about to be lifted from my shoulders as the Great God Pen smiled down and blessed me with his inky munificence.

Tombow Ultra rollerball pen

One afternoon, as I was exiting a Barnes & Noble, I noticed a shiny beacon signaling me from a nearby bush. There I found a beautifully unadorned brushed chrome pen. Picking it up, the first thing I noticed was its weight. It had a pleasant heft and solidity that appealed to me. It was heavy–not a disposable thing, but significant–a potential weapon as well as a tool of creation. Not thinking that this was probably a moderately expensive pen that I should turn in to lost and found (thank you, greedy subconscious denial) I slipped my newly acquired Tombow Ultra rollerball pen into my pocket. An hour or so later I found myself presented with the opportunity to try it out. As I passed a horse trailer with a flat tire, a story title occurred to me and I desperately needed to record it before my capricious mental states robbed me of inspiration. I pulled over to the side of the road, opened my notebook, and set about writing down the two brilliant words that, once paired on paper, would open the flood-gates of further creative stimulation.

As ink slipped from pen onto paper, a jolt of exultation hit me like a liter of dopamine splashed in my face. The creative power of my stolen found pen flowed like Omar Khayyám’s proverbial moving finger. As the words took shape on the paper, I trembled in anticipation of their profound meaning awakening the Muse and sending me into a fury of automatic writing that would result in my literary magnum opus. I became one with the pen, feeling snug and comforted inside a brushed-chrome womb, floating in the black amniotic fluid of artistic creation. Drawing a final line beneath the words for emphasis, I slipped out of my trance. Holding my breath, I peered down at the title heralding my inevitable Stoker Award.

Corpse Rodeo

Oh well. It’s still better than writing with a Bic.