Sunday, October 17, 2010

Splatterpunk and "DRACULAS"

What does "Horror" have to do with "alien romances"? Not much! However, some Horror straddles other genres, such as speculative fiction, particularly if it involves vampires-as-aliens.

Draculas ("a novel of terror") by Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson doesn't involve aliens --although images from the Sigourney Weaver movies are used as comparisons-- but it does offer an interesting and heroic reinterpretation of Vlad The Impaler's motives.

Is an alternative historical fragment of backstory sufficient to reinvent "Splatterpunk", and confer upon it the same respectability that "Steampunk" and "Cyberpunk" enjoy?
Splatterpunk—a term coined in 1986 by David J. Schow at the Twelfth World Fantasy Convention in Providence, Rhode Island—refers to a movement within horror fiction distinguished by its graphic, often gory, depiction of violence and "hyperintensive horror with no limits."[1][2] It is regarded as a revolt against the "traditional, meekly suggestive horror story".[3]

Splatterpunk may also been called "Gross-out" or "Gore" Horror or "Extreme Horror" but not every horror aficionado agrees that the terms are synonymous.

I googled "splatterpunk and Konrath" just to see what I'd find, and found this on The Pontifications of Maurice Broadus:
Maurice asks: What's the difference between splatterpunk and extreme horror (or even gross out), and why is that sort of approach making a comeback?

JA Konrath: If the goal is to cause fear, it's straight horror. If the goal is to make you gag, then it's extreme horror. Or extreme something. It's possible to write a disgusting scene without blood or violence.

The written word is provocative. Always has been. If used properly, it can make people laugh, cry, think, get angry, or get ill.

As a species, we're fascinated by disgusting things. As writers, it's our jobs to make our readers feel something. Put the two together, and some writers are bound to go for the gross out.
 In the front matter of Draculas, JA Konrath warns the gentle reader:
"…And it's going to freak you out.
If you're easily disturbed, have a weak stomach, or are prone to nightmares, stop reading right now. There are no sexy teen heartthrobs herein.
You have been warned…."
  No romance, then. Expect extreme gore. Since Jeff Strand and JA Konrath are involved (Konrath uses his splattery alias, "Jack Kilborn" as a red flag), expect levity also.
I recommend watching this book for two reasons which have nothing whatsoever to do with its literary merit. Horror isn't really my cup of tea, (humor, however, is) and I may have been sent an ARC because I joined a particular GoodReads group. Or, it could have been because I reviewed "Afraid".

FWIW, I joined Horror Aficionados to support my online friend Guido Henkel in a discussion of e-book piracy.

Joe Konrath is well known for being tolerant of e-book piracy and copyright infringement.

One of his collaborators, F. Paul Wilson, is rather less tolerant.

I will be fascinated to see whether and when this book is upped to the pirate sites, and who --if anyone-- writes DMCAs that are posted on Chilling Effects, and who --if anyone-- publicly learns from whom.

The other reason is "Draculas" groundbreaking response to pirates' exhortations that authors should not only write better, faster, cheaper, but should also add plenty of extra content. This ebook does it all. Well, almost all. I didn't see that it was "enhanced" in the sense of containing moving illustrations or sound effects.

Another caveat: I don't know if it is exactly "better" than individual works by Blake Crouch (,  J A Konrath (,  Jeff Strand (, or by F. Paul Wilson  (, but from the timeline and transcripts in the back matter, this book does seem to have been written in about four months, and it is selling at the pirate-recommended price of $2.99 on Kindle.

Approximately half the book is bonus material, with free short stories, interviews, transcripts of the emails exchanged between the four co-authors as they plotted and edited the developing book, deleted scenes, and more. It's fascinating stuff, and I predict that it will one day be added to an academic syllabus somewhere.

As I wrote in my requested review, 

"DRACULAS" is worth its weight in gold for the bonus material alone.
FWIW, below is my review, which was solicited, and was written to satisfy a quid pro quo agreement (free read for review written and posted on amazon, goodreads, facebook, blogs).

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Upping The Ante On Nasty.

In the beginning, Joe wrote these words (among others)
"…And it's going to freak you out.
If you're easily disturbed, have a weak stomach, or are prone to nightmares, stop reading right now. There are no sexy teen heartthrobs herein.
You have been warned…."

I do have a weak stomach, I am prone to nightmares, and I don't enjoy fainting. But I also have a strong contrarian streak, so when Joe Konrath warns me that I'm probably not going to want to look at his collaborative effort with Jeff Stand, Blake Crouch, and F. Paul Wilson, curiosity will impel me to look.

But, I started cautiously at the back. Worth the entire $2.99 by themselves are the bonus stories, one of which begins with the awesome line, " The hardest thing about killing a hitchhiker is finding one to pick up."

“DRACULAS“ is worth its weight in gold for the bonus material alone.

Curiosity, killed cats, and other red herrings aside there's another reason to devour every bit of this exceptionally well-written, highly entertaining and disturbing book.  Joe Konrath hangs ten on the crest of the most powerful waves and this book could be the way authors write faster, add extra value and thrive.

Here's how. Four first rate spec fic and occasionally hilarious authors put their heads together to horrific effect. Each chose their own hero/victim/evil-doer from a cast of characters, and each dashed off a parallel novella of approximately 20,000 words, then they sliced and diced and cobbled each author's bits together into the literary equivalent of a Frankenstein's monster. Only, it's Freddy on steroids. It gives a whole new dimension to sucking face, and not a nice one.

The dedication --"For Bram Stoker, with deepest apologies"-- is a perfect foretaste of what to expect from “DRACULAS“. Irreverence. Dark humor that is so wry, it's twisted. Offensive stuff, and indeed there is a scene involving bowels and a clown who likes to make rather different balloon animals…. Lots of "wet work", and they maybe ought to have offered apologies of some depth to Clint Eastwood, too!

The prologue (not that they call it that) contains the mother of all hooks.  Erroneously, I imagined the conversation those 4 bad boys of grim *might* have had, before I looked at Joe's generous back matter, and learned how it really was. Their conversations make entertaining reading!

"Let's dig up a head."
"Let's make it really old…"
"And evil. It must be evil."
"Let's attach something nasty to it. What?"
"A curse."
"Wicked teeth."
"Maybe we make those teeth like… like Sleeping Beauty's spindle."
"Dracula's deadly prick…"
"We need sex…"
"You can't have sex with a severed head…"
"Oh, yes you can!"
"Look, we'll call the person who gets hold of the head More Cock."
"And we'll give him an incurable disease."

The foregoing is my imagination. This conversation did not happen… but the gentle reader should remember that Joe Konrath aka Jack Kilborn once wrote a Christmas story about an amnesiac werewolf who discovered that his midnight snacking habit was abnormal after he noticed buttons and coins in his poop.

These "Draculas" have the compassion of hornets, the dentition of sharks, the voracious appetites of shrews and no respect for garlic whatsoever. If you can contemplate a rabid, blood thirsty Edward Scissorteeth in a maternity or pediatric ward, using a severed artery as a drinking straw, or lashing out among the blind… go for it, but with your eyes open.

Do not pay $2.99 merely to find out what's in “DRACULAS“ (and don't go looking for it on the pirate sites, either). There's more than enough in the free sample chapters to give you an accurate idea what to expect.

Know before you buy that you're going to be ambushed by some of the grossest, sickest, most disturbed, politically incorrect and indiscriminate bloodlusty slash fest that four insensitive guys can think up.

Disclaimer. This is an author review. 4-stars is as low as I go.  Five Stars!

For those who like promo tips, did you know that you can now cut and embed your GoodReads review wholesale with illustration and links to blogs and websites?

Apparently, you can.

Also good to know is that Amazon now does "teaser" pages before Kindle books go on sale.

Blake Crouch instructed friends:
ON OCTOBER 19, please post your review onto Amazon’s DRACULAS page:

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY THE BOOK TO POST A REVIEW ON AMAZON, you just need an Amazon account. If you want to review the book on Amazon on the 18th, you’ll have to post it to the DRACULAS teaser page, which is here:
Another  promo tactic they are using is to have a special website for the launch:
The website will also feature all reviews, as well as a forum, which is now open….please stop by and say hello! Blake, Paul, Jeff, and Joe will be visiting frequently.
To our knowledge, this type of marketing experiment has never been attempted on this level. What is the power of a couple hundred reviews all appearing on the same day, and on Amazon? Is it enough take DRACULAS viral? To debut high in the Kindle store? That’s our hope.
  They resisted the temptation to make a "make a splash" pun with their splatterpunk novel of terror. So, I just did. Keep an eye out....



  1. Anonymous12:14 PM EDT

    Actually, the final, final version of the book has Hardy-boy style illustrations.