No Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 24, 2016 by stantonmccaffery

light at the end of the tunnelSo here I am, making good on my word. In my last post I said I would try to keep up to posting twice a month. And here I am posting again for the second time in July. It’s an achievement, really.

Shit I’ve gotten published or posted elsewhere

I did an interview with crime writer Charlie Stella for Neon Grisly. I think my questions were a little on the basic side, but man did Charlie give some great answers. I found it inspiring. You’ll have to read it to find out exactly why, but his story of becoming a writer gave me encouragement to stick to it. Charlie’s also got some great reading recommendations, which I’ve already started on.

Shit I’ve read

WhereAllLightTendsToGoPB

This right here is an incredible book. To be honest, I picked it up because of the cover. The bleakness of it just spoke to me as something I’d be in to. I was a little disappointed at first that the story’s told in first person – I don’t know, it just felt like I’d get a better view of the world if it were set in third person – but I got over that pretty quickly.

Much like Dodgers, which I talked about in my last post, this book’s main character is born into a life of crime. Instead of a young black man in Los Angeles – the case in Dodgers – the protagonist here is a young white man in Appalachia. It’s not a life he chose, nor one he’s particularly well suited for. To me, in an age of decreasing social mobility, books and stories about people being stuck are incredibly important.

I’m not going to give a full review here, but I will tell you that the best parts of this book are the protagonist’s reflections on his own life.

Here’s my favorite excerpt:

“There was never a moment in my life when I bought into the idea of light at the end of the tunnel. That old adage rests entirely on the direction being traveled. Out of darkness toward the light, folks might find some sort of hope in moving forward, some sort of anticipation for what awaits them. But my entire life I’d been traveling in the opposite direction, and for those who move further into darkness, the light becomes a thing onto which we can only look back. Looking back slows you down. Looking back destroys focus. Looking back can get you killed.”

I’ve been thinking about that passage a lot since reading it. I’ll talk more later on in this post about that.

Shit I’ve seen

the night of

You’ve probably heard of HBO’s new show, The Night Of. It’s about a naïve college student that makes some bad but kind of typical and understandable bad decisions and ends up getting in trouble with the law. I don’t want to say any more than that about the plot for fear of ruining it before somebody gets a chance to watch it, but I think it gives an accurate depiction of what it’s like to get caught up in the criminal justice system – it’s a freakin’ nightmare.

Riz Ahmed, who plays the protagonist, Nas, is great. His facial expressions alone make you empathize with what the character is going through. It’s just one more thing that adds to the very authentic feeling the shows gives off. The kid looks absolutely terrified. He’s seeing some rough stuff and the way he reacts makes you realize that no, there’s no way this kid is ready for what’s in store for him.

Shit I’ve been thinking about/politics

July 2016 is shaping up to be a real month from Hell. In the U.S. there have been more  incidents of police shooting unarmed black men (Here’s a story of one I find particularly disturbing). Despite this I still see and hear people claim that police violence against African Americans is not a significant problem and that it’s blown out of proportion by the media.

In Nice, France, a man of Tunisian descent drove a truck through a crowd of people during a Bastille Day celebration and killed 84 people. I watched my Facebook feed fill with Trump quotes and all sorts of nonsense about terrorism before anyone knew anything at all about the attacker. It’s not like it’s just the Trump folks that do things like this either. As the group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has pointed out, the New York Times also labeled the incident an act of terror with very little evidence. Meanwhile, a U.S.-led coalition strike against ISIS in Syria killed at least 85 civilians and got next to zero coverage on major new outlets.

There’s so much more I could go on about, but chances are you’ve already heard about it. Anyway, I’m familiar with arguments that we’ve actually witnessed a decrease in violence in the world over the last one hundred years. I’m also aware that there have been great strides in healthcare that can help people live longer and healthier lives. Technology helps us communicate better with one another. And shit, we’ve got Netflix. But, like the protagonist in Where All Light Tends to Go, which I mentioned above, I can’t claim in the midst of all of this that it feels like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It certainly feels like – and here’s some evidence that it’s more than a feeling – that things are in fact getting worse, like we’re moving away from the light and not towards it.

I’d actually go further and say that the notion of progress in general, regardless of what’s going on at the moment, is problematic. The idea of permanent progress, at least. As much as I would like to agree with Martin Luther King Jr. in saying that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice, I just don’t see it. I see some steps forward and then I see some steps backward. In fact, I don’t see any sort of arc leading anywhere at all.

Return of the Blog

Posted in Uncategorized on July 11, 2016 by stantonmccaffery

Return of the Blog

Return of the blog

It’s been about two years since I’ve done anything at all with this blog. I let it sit for so damn long, and really just wanted to take it down because I had no idea what to do with it. The only reason I didn’t was because I was just too lazy.

I didn’t do anything here for so long because I’ve been writing elsewhere. I’ve found some really awesome people to read my writing and help me improve it and I’ve actually gotten a few things published. For a while I used this space as somewhere to put my writing because I couldn’t get it seen by anyone any other way. That’s not the case anymore.

But I still think there’s a point for a writer to have a blog. There should be a central place where you can find all of a writer’s work. So I’m going to keep this going.

Here’s what I’m going to do. Or rather, what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to post here about twice a month. They’re going to be pretty short posts. I’m going to include links to things I’ve gotten published elsewhere. I’ll also include book, movie, and music recommendations as well as my reflections on politics and some personal musings.

I’m going to break it into headings like you’ll see below. So, here it goes.

Shit I’ve gotten published or posted elsewhere:

I’ve been writing some reviews for my buddy over at Neon Grisly. You should check out this site in general. Right now he’s got some great reviews up of some great books. I know he’s got some other things planned, so keep an eye on the space.

I did one review of Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism. This is a really fun book. I went to the book launch for it at the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan too. Hendrix dressed up as a Catholic Cardinal and read from some book written in the 80’s about the dangers of comic books and heavy metal.

I did another review on Neon Grisly of Charlie Stella’s Tommy Red. I read this book twice it was so good. I did an interview with Charlie about his writing for Neon Grisly too that’ll come out in a few days.

Lastly, in terms of shit I’ve got up elsewhere, I got a story published in a new magazine called Between Worlds. The stories called Out of Body Vacation. I tried to have fun writing it. Hopefully you’ll have fun reading it.

Shit I’ve listened too:

gojira-magma

The new Gojira album, Magma is freakin’ awesome. One of their older albums, From Mars to Sirius, is one of my favorite metal albums of all time. I think this one might be just as good. It gets better with every listen. Seriously.

Here’s a song.

Shit I’ve seen:

the_lobster_cadre

Just go see the movie The Lobster, okay? It hilarious and smart and there’s a scene about masturbating involving a toaster that might be one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever laughed at.

Shit I’ve read:

Dodgers

I just finished reading Dodgers by Bill Beverly. Holy Crap. What a book. It’s about crime, mostly, but it’s also about siblings and making decisions when all you’ve got in front of you is shitty choices. It also touches on what trauma does to a person. These are, as you’d know if you’ve read my own stuff, issues close to me.

I also tried to read Joe Hill’s The Fireman. I didn’t finish it because it was a stinker. I normally don’t shit on books, but Joe Hill’s got enough praise he can handle one jerk-off saying he was disappointed. I don’t know what happened here. I’ve loved everything else he’s ever done. I don’t need to elaborate any more. Just go to Amazon and read the one star reviews, those are the ones I agree with.

Shit I’ve been thinking about/politics:

usa-police-protests

Okay, well, here we go. So if you’re in the United States and you have eyes and ears you know about the events in Baton Rouge and Minnesota and Dallas.

I’ve been troubled. I grew up in a predominately white and predominately working-class neighborhood. Many of the kids I grew up with were totally racist – and they got it from their parents. Since my teenage years I’ve made a concerted effort to distance myself from this shit. Actually, I’ve tried to do more than distance myself from it. I’ve tried to fight it.

I also had some negative run-ins with the police when I was a kid. Yeah, when I was a kid. A lot of that was my own fault. Maybe I’ll go into more detail in a future post, not now. But what I’ve realized as an adult is that if I had been a black kid or perhaps anything other than a white boy, I’d be totally fucked. Actually, I think I’d be dead.

I worked for a number of years too as an Emergency Medical Technician, a position that requires a lot of proximity to cops. I saw first-hand, working next to them, how many cops treat some people – y’know, people of certain skin tones – differently than others.

So this is what I’ve been thinking about. As a writer, I try to hold empathy up as my gold standard. No matter how shitty I think a person is, I try to put myself in their shoes. But I’ve come to a point where I’ve realized empathy can only get you so far. Throughout my life I’ve argued with people about police brutality and all the police killings over the years. People always say to me that I need to think about what the cops are going through. That I need to understand that they just want to go home at the end of the day. I’m sure they do. I see the same arguments on social media now and it occurred to me that empathy does you no good when somebody’s got a boot on your neck. I’m a white guy in the northeast, so I can only understand this so much, of course. But I’m beginning to think empathy might not be what we need here. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s justice.

 

The Stuff from Home

Posted in Uncategorized on June 23, 2015 by stantonmccaffery

I know, I know, it’s been a long time. I’ve neglected you. I’m sorry.

But I haven’t stopped writing. In fact, I’ve been writing furiously.

Here’s a link to something I recently had published on Acidic fiction.com: http://acidicfiction.com/2015/06/22/the-stuff-from-home/.

I hope you like it.

SM

Two Camps on Structure

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

I’ve been writing fiction for two years now (Yay, I stuck to something), and it looks like there are two camps or schools of thought when it comes to structure in fiction.

There are those that are more or less married to the idea that all fiction should follow a determined flow. There should be a set up, two plot points, a mid-point, and a resolution. There should be a hero that’s blocked in some way from achieving a goal.

Then, there’s the other camp. This camp is a lot messier. I mean, the tents aren’t even set up. They reject, or at least their writing appears to reject, the notion that things have to lead to something. And I can see the value in this, though at times I notice it’s harder to stay focused on these types of stories. These stories better mirror life. My life doesn’t lead to a particular point. It meanders all over and I bet yours does too.

I tend to write in this camp too. I never intended too. It just feels more genuine to me. It does something for my soul.

If you want to come and check them out, I recommend you start with the work of Raymond Carver. If you don’t need big plot payoffs and you love hunting for subtext and emotionally meaning, this is your guy. I wonder if he peeked into my head while writing these stories of his. I don’t mean that I think I’m that good, I just mean I think his stuff resonates that well. Sadly, Mr. Carver passed away over two decades ago.

One of my favorite stories of his is Distance. It’s a guy recalling a story to his daughter about her early childhood. She was sick. He and his wife were young parents. The guy planned to go hunting with an old pal of his father’s. The old pal is emotionally significant to the guy because he reminds him of his dead father. The guy has to choose between hunting and staying home. That’s it. No chase. No gruesome murder. Just something so every day, but at the same time something so relatable.

I’ve certainly been there. Have you?

-SM

More Decades

Posted in Essays and non-fiction on August 8, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

(Non-Fiction)

I’ve been thinking about death lately. Not in the morbid way that you probably expect from someone that writes horror, but in the softer more personal way. I’ve been thinking about the time I have left in my life and what I hope to do with it. I’m only in my thirties so hopefully I’ve got a few decades to go at least, but one never really knows. I always joke about pianos falling out of windows and perhaps one day one of those jokes will come back to haunt me.

I went to the doctors the other day for strep throat and was told, a little unexpectedly, that it looks like I have chronic high blood pressure. This runs in my family but the doctor said that even considering that I’m too young for this to start. I eat like I’m still a teenager and I don’t really exercise mostly because I view it as an inconvenience. If I have to get up earlier to exercise before going to work I usually decide to get more sleep instead. Hitting the pillow is easier than hitting the concrete or the gym.

If I want to have a few more decades here on earth it looks like I’m going to have to make a compromise. I’ll probably get a gym membership and plan on putting something other than microwavable burritos in my freezer. These have both been immensely difficult conclusions for me to come to.

Aside from the news on my blood pressure I also got a frightening phone call from my father. My mother fell in their yard and broke her knee cap. She’ll need surgery to wire it together. While this is really gangster (I mean, who brakes their knee cap?) and makes me even prouder to have her as my Mom, it’s also scary. I’m reluctant to believe that my parents are at the stage in their lives where falls are something to worry about. Though this isn’t about my own physical health it has gotten me thinking even more about mortality and getting old.

This all leads to what I plan on doing with the time I have. I don’t have a specific life plan. I’m not that organized. I do, however, have a general idea. I’ve said here in a previous post that I was trying to get better at the guitar and I’m going to stick to that. I think though that I’ll be putting more effort into writing. When I think about what I want out of life I think about making an impact, and while many guitar players have certainly had an impact on me, I think I’m more likely to have an impact through writing.

SM

Art Class

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 31, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

(Poem)

I liked art

Before

I took

Your stupid class,

You drunk.

 

Who

The Hell

Would let you near children anyway?

Working and Breathing and Living and Dying

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

(Short Story)

You wake up in a tent and you can see soft puffs of your own breath floating above your sleeping bag.

Standing over you is your former boss just as you remember her, sipping on coffee and asking what you’ll be working on today.

You run out the tent because you can’t stand to be around the cunt for another fucking second, but when you get outside you step into a white void, oblivion. It’s not even curious blackness that you could wander and get lost in. You know too well the loneliness of this nothing.

You go back inside the tent because maybe being around that witch is better than dying alone, but she’s not there anymore because even she has found something else. Instead you’re joined by yet another former boss who tells you that you need to prove yourself if you want that raise you so richly deserve. That bastard, you think, he’s been here two fucking months and I’ve got five years on the job and a master’s degree. He can go to Hell, but then, then you realize he’s not their either. It’s just you and all you’ve got are some shitty memories of how hard you worked but how at the end of the day none of it mattered one iota.

This is terror.

 

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