Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

Richard Chizmar, author of Chasing the Boogeyman.

Back in late 2019, I had the opportunity to interview Richard Chizmar, owner and publisher of Cemetery Dance Publications, as well as the author of several stories (including one or two in collaboration with Stephen King). Well, a lot’s happened since then, and Mr. Chizmar has a new novel called Chasing the Boogeyman that’s just released, Chasing the Boogeyman. In this novel, Chizmar himself plays the protagonist as he returns home post-college to write, prepare for a wedding…and deal with a serial killer that is hunting in his hometown.

I got to sit down with Mr. Chizmar to discuss the new book, the COVID-19 pandemic, and what he’s been reading lately. Here’s what we talked about.

Rami Ungar: Mr. Chizmar, welcome back to the show. Tell us about Chasing the Boogeyman and how the novel came to be.

Richard Chizmar: I always wanted to write a novel set in my hometown of Edgewood, Maryland. I pretty much assumed it would be a big fat coming-of-age horror novel – in the vein of IT or SUMMER OF NIGHT – but that’s not how it worked out. Instead, I couldn’t shake the idea of a small town being held hostage by a monster of the human variety. A town on the verge of losing its innocence and never being able to gain it back. In the summer of 1988, after graduating from college, I got engaged and my fiancée and I decided it would be smart to save rent money until the wedding. So I moved back in with my parents for a period of eight or nine months to work on the first issue of Cemetery Dance and write short stories. It was a strangely wonderful time. There I was standing on the doorstep of full-fledged adulthood, yet I was living in the house I’d grown up in and eating dinner with my mother and father most nights. It was an interesting period in my life, very fertile creatively, and it felt like the perfect setting for a novel about innocence and terror.

RU: You made yourself a character in the novel. Can you tell me how you decided to do that and what writing your character was like? Was it difficult or did you find it easy?

RC: It happened very naturally. When I first started jotting down notes for CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN I quickly realized how much of my true self would be surfacing in the story. I was writing about my past, my family and friends, my hometown, and most importantly, my early life hopes and fears. It just made sense to me, in that moment, that I wouldn’t even pretend to be someone else. Once I got past those normal early feelings of self-doubt, the rest of it was a breeze. It almost felt self-indulgent at times because I was having so much fun.

RU: Speaking of your character, would you say your character is close to what you’re like in real life?

RC: My character in the book is as close to the real me at age twenty-two as I could make him. In real life instances that occurred within the novel, I drew on memory and described them exactly as I remembered. When it came to the make-believe, I asked myself: what do you think you would have done? How do you think you would have acted or reacted? And then I put pen to paper as honestly as I could. That was important to me, and a promise I made to myself when I first started writing the book.  

RU: Going back to the boogeyman in the title, what do you think it is about the boogeyman character that makes it and its equivalents in other cultures enduring figures in our collective imaginations?

RC: Two things: longevity and proximity. The Boogeyman – in its various forms – has been around forever. That dark shape lurking in the woods or the alleyways or the shadowed neighborhood streets has always existed and been feared. And every town has one. Just like every small town has a haunted house located somewhere within its borders, every town also has its Boogeyman.

RU: I’ve been hearing this novel hyped for about a year now. What’s it like having one of the most anticipated novels of 2021?

RC: On the one hand, it’s very exciting when readers are talking about your book so far in advance and there’s a lot of positive press and buzz. On the other hand, it’s also nerve-wracking and can feel like a lot of pressure. I just try to roll with the punches as they come and enjoy the moment. Even eleven months ago when the book was first announced, I knew that publication day would be here before I knew it. From Day One, I’ve been determined to enjoy the process as much as possible. I’ve been in the business now for close to 35 years and CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN is technically my debut novel (GWENDY’S MAGIC FEATHER was billed as a novel, but it’s really a short novella), so it’s natural that it would come with a decent amount of fanfare. I just hope it does well for Simon & Schuster who really believed in the book.

RU: Pivoting to a new subject, you’re still running Cemetery Dance Publications and Cemetery Dance magazine. Have you noticed a change in the fiction you’ve been getting since the COVID-19 pandemic began? If so, what?

RC: That’s an interesting question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an interesting answer. We haven’t been open to public submissions for a while, so I haven’t seen any sort of trends developing. My bet is that we’ll see those trends appearing in published fiction over the next couple years.

RU: I have no doubt about that! Speaking of which, what have you been doing while stuck inside during the pandemic? Has it had an effect on your writing and productivity?

Chasing the Boogeyman. Available now.

RC: I’m pretty much a recluse in even the best of times, so the pandemic didn’t really affect my day-to-day comings and goings as much as it did most folks. In between insanely long bouts of cable news viewing, I managed to write a couple novels and a handful of short stories and essays. I was pretty pleased with that output.

RU: I guess we had a similar pandemic writing experience, then. Now, can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

RC: I’m about to start working on a new novel, which I’m too superstitious to say much about. In February of next year, GWENDY’S FINAL TASK, the third book in the Gwendy Trilogy, will be published. As with the first book, I co-wrote this one with Stephen King and had an absolute blast. Hopefully, after that, there will be a new novel release, as well as a collection of novellas. 

RU: Good luck! And finally, what are some books you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?

RC: I’ve been on a good run of reading lately. One gem after the other. GOBLIN by Josh Malerman. THE BURNING GIRLS by C.J. Tudor. MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW by Stephen Graham Jones. ROAD OF BONES by Chris Golden. THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP by Grady Hendrix. I’ve been spoiled!

RU: Oh, one of those is on my TBR list. Glad to know you recommend it.

If you would like to check out Chasing the Boogeyman, it’s currently out and available wherever fine books are sold (or lent if, like me, you went to your local library). And if you would like to keep up with Richard Chizmar, you can find him on his website, on his Twitter, and on Cemetery Dance’s website and Twitter.

If you would like to check out other author interviews, including my first with Mr. Chizmar, you can find it on my Interviews page.

And if you’re an author with something coming out soon and want to have an interview with me, email me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. If I’m available, we can make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back with a couple of new reviews this week, as well as some other stuff so this blog doesn’t become a review and interview blog (nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what this blog is). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Where is the year going? We’re nearly midway through August! I swear, God was feeling bad that 2020 played on 0.5x speed, so He put this year on 1.5x speed!

Oh well. As you are no doubt aware, I was supposed to be at an event in Chicago back in June, but COVID-19 messed with things and we had to relocate to September.* I’m happy to announce that, in one month, Indie Author Book Expo Aurora, or IABE Aurora, will be happening!

As the above graphic states (and yes, I’m aware Illinois has three L’s. What about it?), IABE Aurora will be held at the Prisco Community Center in Aurora, Illinois on September 11th from 10 AM – 3 PM. In addition to myself, there will be a bunch of other authors there as well, telling all sorts of other stories and selling all sorts of cool wares! And I think there may be food stalls, though I wouldn’t swear to that.

Anyway, if you can make it, please do so. It’s a great opportunity to support lesser-known and indie authors. And events like this have all sorts of hidden surprises, so it’s definitely worth checking out. You can find out more at IABE’s website here.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be in touch again soon, if things progress as planned. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and what’s that crawling up your leg?

*And please, so that nobody else gets sick and no more dates get changed, GET VACCINATED IF YOU’RE ABLE TO, AND WEAR A DAMN MASK!

I’ve been cutting back on announcing finishing the first draft of every single story I finish a first draft of. Not all of them are good, after all, and not all of them will see publication. Even if they are good. But this one, I’m announcing. Why? Because, for one, it’s a pandemic story. So, you know, not related to anything we’re currently experiencing these days! But also because it has some personal significance to me (more on that in a bit).

Natural Predators takes place a few years after the current COVID-19 pandemic has ended. A new virus is spreading rapidly out of Canada and into the US, causing loss of control of patients’ bodies and voices. As campers at a camp in upstate New York grapple with what is becoming of their summer vacation, events occur that will put them at the forefront of a change greater than even COVID-19 had on the world.

So yeah, like I said. This is a pandemic story. But it was not one inspired by our current one, which I’m sure is going to make marketing this story so much harder than it would otherwise be. In fact, the basis for this story germinated (see what I did there?) back in my teens. You see, I went to a summer camp in New York, and during my last year there, we got hit by an epidemic. A twenty-four hour stomach bug that infiltrated the camp and the surrounding communities. I was actually the first in my year to get sick with it, and before I knew it (or the hell that was being unleashed on the community), I’d passed it onto everyone else.

Yeah, it wasn’t pleasant. And if we’d known what was starting that weekend, my counselors would have probably sent me straight to the infirmary, rather than having me stay in Shabbat services and try to get through the day. Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Just wished I hadn’t missed out on the afternoon party that my mom, who worked for the camp, was going to throw for me, my sister, and our respective cabins. I was a guest of honor and I couldn’t even be there!

But I’m digressing. Point is, I knew what an epidemic looked like well before COVID-19. And then, around 2015, I was watching a new episode of Family Guy because it was still funny back then. In that episode, Peter and his friends were discussing writing their own horror film. I was thinking of that episode and what the character Joe Swanson might write his horror film about. Given the character is disabled, I thought he would use personal experience and create a story based around losing control of his body.

From there, I thought a virus might be a good vehicle to show that fear of loss of control over the body. And then I remembered my past camp experiences, and from there the idea bloomed.

So, if that was too much information, let me sum it up: stomach virus at camp + Family Guy episode about horror films = Rami Ungar getting inspired to write a horror story about a pandemic.

Wrote a pandemic story in the middle of a pandemic, and yet it’s not inspired by the pandemic at all. How about that?

Anyway, I think the story has potential. There’s some body horror, a bit of a creature feature, and the familiar paranoia of learning a deadly disease is spreading around the world. There’s an anthology I hope to get it into, but first I’m going to get it critiqued by a beta reader. With any luck, the editors won’t let the pandemic part get in the way and find it an enjoyable read.

And in the meantime, I’m going to take a break to recharge this evening, then start work on a new story tomorrow (this one will be a ghost story). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

When A Quiet Place came out in 2018 (oh, such innocent days), it caused quite a sensation. Hell, even I loved it, giving it a 4.3 out of 5 (you can read my review here). When horror fans heard a sequel was in the works, we were interested. We weren’t sure how they could continue the story, but we were interested. Then the trailer came out, and we were excited. And then the pandemic happened.

Well, it finally came out. And after work, I got in the car and headed to the theater to see if A Quiet Place Part II was both worth the wait and on par with the original.

I can say that it succeeds on both counts.

Taking place right after the end of the first movie, A Quiet Place Part II follows the original film’s family, now with the father dead and the mother just recently giving birth, they try to leave the family farm now that it isn’t safe. They run into an old friend, as well as coming across possible signs of a safe haven not far from their location. But with so many predators around and other dangers aside, it’s a race against time to save not just the family, but perhaps all of humanity.

So, despite noise from the auditorium next door spilling into our theater,* Part II does as great a job as the first film in using sound to do the work of dialogue in storytelling. Every silent space and every noise, from a branch breaking or a breath, helps to get us to emphasize with the characters and put us in their world. Not to mention that the use of sound, as well as a few well-placed jump scares, it really builds an atmosphere.

The story is also well-written. After the opening scenes, which recap the destruction of society and the end of the first film, the writers manage to not only find a new story that feels natural, it also brings up twice the necessary tension to drive the story. And the new character of Emmett, played by Cillian Murphy, is given plenty of development during the film. Usually, you don’t expect that with new characters in a horror sequel, so it’s a nice surprise.

If there are a few things that could have been improved, I would have liked to see more of how humans in this world have adjusted–good or bad–in this new world. There were hints midway in the film, but I would have liked to see more. And Djimon Hounsou (Korath the Pursuer from Guardians of the Galaxy) is in this film, and the guy has way more chops than are shown. I would’ve liked to see more of him.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to give A Quiet Place Part II a 4.4 out of 5, one point over the first film. With a plot that manages to keep the tension and sense of urgency up, as well as the strong characterization, it’s a great sequel. If you enjoyed the first film, then you should totally see the second. Sit down, be quiet, and get ready for a great ride.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have a three-day weekend, so I plan to get plenty done, including a new blog post or two. I hope you have a good weekend as well. And until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

*Don’t worry, I let the staff know. They’ll hopefully figure out a way to avoid having showings of the film next to noisier films.

I only like one kind of cocktail, but I haven’t mixed it in years. Recently, I found all the ingredients at the grocery store and decided to pick them up. You mix vodka, sweet n’ sour mix, and blue curacao. I call it an Electrified Lemonade (though it may have another name I am unaware of). Why do I mention it? Because I mixed it this evening in celebration of finishing the third draft of River of Wrath. Woo-hoo!

So, if you’re unfamiliar with this novel, River of Wrath is a novel I wrote on-and-off between October 2017 and October 2018 (which is hilarious, because the main events of the novel take place during Halloween 1961). The novel follows a young couple who find themselves trapped in a small town in Mississippi when a river full of living, violent corpses floods the town. Turns out the river is actually the River Styx as described in Dante’s Inferno, the fifth circle of Hell and the punishment for the wrathful. Trapped in a church in the town, internal tensions rise as the town’s racial differences are brought to light. And believe me when I say, the danger within has an effect on the trouble within and vice versa.

So yeah, you can guess what sort of themes the novel encompasses. I started coming up with the story back in 2017 after reading the book The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Tyson, about the infamous murder of a young African-American boy from Chicago in the Mississippi Delta, and the trial of his murderers (spoiler alert, they got off and then admitted they murdered him). I had just learned about Dante’s Inferno and was thinking of where various people and groups in the book might have ended up in Hell according to Dante. That was the impetus for the novel, which originally I didn’t think would be more than twenty-thousand words. A year later, and it was over sixty-thousand words, and I was like, “I gotta stop turning short stories and novelettes into novels.”

Yeah, I have not kept that promise to myself at all.

The Fifth Circle of Hell, as illustrated by Stradanus.

Anywho, I usually try to shop my novels around after three drafts (the third draft of Rose was the one that was accepted for publication, after all). And since this is the third draft, I’ve already sent it off to a publisher. I’ll hopefully get an acceptance somewhere, but we’ll see what happens. It’s not perfect, but I’ve gotten a lot of kinks out of the book and I think it’s a good story. Should be enough to interest someone.

If it does get accepted, however, I’m going to ask for a sensitivity reader. Let’s face it, I’m white, and given the subject matter, I don’t want to accidentally cause offense.

Well, River of Wrath is off. What’s next for me? Well, tomorrow I’ll be getting my second COVID-19 shot, so I might not do anything, creative or otherwise, depending on whether or not I suffer any side effects. That being said, my next project will be the third draft of The Pure World Comes, my Victorian horror novel. After that, I’ll try submitting that for publication. And then…well, who knows? Maybe I’ll work on a new story, or I’ll be editing older stories. We’ll see what happens.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m off to bed, because I have a big day tomorrow. Until next time, goodnight and pleasant nightmares.

I actually don’t have anything worthy of devoting a blog post. But if I don’t regularly post, I start to feel like I’m not doing something I should, and that isn’t a pleasant feeling. Thus, I’m giving everyone a quick update on what I’m doing, how certain projects are coming along, and what dark magic I’ve been using lately.

So with that little preamble, let’s get started.

Writing Projects

So, for the past week or so, I’ve been working on a mermaid horror story. Yeah, you read that right. A mermaid horror story. I saw an anthology announcement with a theme of ocean horror, and I thought that it looked good. Especially since the word count actually allowed me to spread my wings and work without feeling like I’m sacrificing story for length. Anyway, I’m about halfway through and hope to be finished with the first draft soon. After that, a quick trip to a beta reader, a quicker edit, and then submission. Hopefully the editor or editors like the anthology.

As for the other writing projects, I’m going to be editing and submitting the Robert Johnson story I wrote, “Window Audience Blues,” in May. Then I’m editing River of Wrath for a submission call in June. And with the last beta reader for The Pure World Comes supposed to be getting back to me soon, I should be able to edit that and start shopping it around soon. And I wrote another article that I submitted to a horror website. After that article on the spider web scene in The Fly, I think I have a good chance of getting it published where I submitted it.

So yeah, lots of editing and submissions in the near future. Hopefully, along with the stories I’ve already submitted here and there, I’ll get at least a few acceptances.

Other Writing-Related Work

Besides my own projects, I’ve been handling a lot of stuff on my plate. Most of it is administrative stuff, like answering emails or planning on various projects. It takes up a good chunk of the time I devote to writing, but it’s necessary to get it all done. And if all these projects I’m working on in secret pan out, who knows? It may lead to more writing time or other benefits.

On a less secretive note, my plans to attend various events in the next couple of months appear to be moving forward. I hope to put out a blog post (and probably a YouTube video) later this week with the latest on those. Not the most exciting thing I could report, but considering how nice it is to have these events and whatnot, I’m excited for them.

Life in General

Between my day job and Passover, I’ve been even busier than usual. Heck, sometimes writing and the administrative stuff I referred to just a moment ago have to take a back seat! Add in that people my age in Ohio are almost eligible for the vaccine, and my dance card is just about full!

I’m not complaining. I know that things could be a whole lot worse and I’m glad they’re not. And if things go as planned, they should get better. I’m actually planning a vacation for the fall that I’m really looking forward to, that’s how optimistic I am about the future. Details, obviously, to be shared when I get a bit closer.

So That’s What I’m Up To Right Now

Life is busy, but it’s good and looking better. I hope this post didn’t bore or disappoint you. If things go as planned this week, I should be able to post something more interesting either Friday or Saturday at the latest. In the meantime, I hope you’ll stick around and continue to support me.

And if you don’t, you’ll find swarms of spiders appearing in your home. That’s the black magic I’m working with today. Check out my work using the links below, read it, and let me know what you think! Or your arachnophobia will go into overdrive this week!

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Last year, I posted about a couple of conventions and book expos I was signed up to attend as an author or vendor. I’m putting out a quick update on that to keep you all updated. And I’m hoping a couple of you will be able to come and see me if you know about them well enough in advance.

First, there’s the Paranormal and Psychic Convention, or ParaPsyCon 2021. This is an annual event held at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. You know, the former prison that was used as the set for the Shawshank Redemption and which is very haunted? Anyway, they released a new poster on Facebook today, which I’ve included below, and has said that, at the present, the convention is still a-go. This makes me very happy, because I love this location and I look forward to seeing all the different vendors there. Not to mention some friends and readers.

If you’re interested in attending, it’s going to be May 22nd-23rd. All you need to do is buy a regular ticket into the prison to attend. The convention is wrapped into the ticket cost! You can find out more details here.

And if you’re a vendor interested in joining in on the fun, I think the convention is still taking applications for vendors. You can look at their vendor application page here.

The other event I’m scheduled to attend is the Indie Author Book Expo in Chicago, or IABE Chicago. Sponsored by the same group who held the event I attended in Des Moines back in July. This one will be held at the Quarry Chi on E. 75th Street in Chicago, Illinois on June 19th. I don’t think the location has ever been haunted or used as a film set, but the photos online show a very nice event space. You can walk around, check out some authors and books, and maybe say hello to me while you’re there.

And that’s the total number of events I’ll be attending this year. So far, anyway. It’s still early in the year, so if something comes up that I can go to, I will. And I’ll post about it too. (Let me know if you know of any I could go to.)

And yes, I know that COVID-19 could interfere at any time. Believe me, it interfered with ParaPsyCon last year. As in canceled it. But with the vaccine rolling out and early results showing promise, I’ve reason to hope. And make plans. And maybe see some Followers of Fear in real life, rather than through a screen.

Well, I just wanted to update you on all that. If anyone needs me, I’ve dinner to make and the first short story of 2021 to write. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a while, you’re likely aware that 2020 ends this week. And by God, are we all glad of that! COVID-19, forest fires, horrific murders leading to massive civil unrest, false claims of election fraud that nevertheless have weakened our democracy, and did I miss anything? Probably, it’s been such a horrible year.

Yeah, on a personal level, things were good. I wrote so much, it kind of became an in-joke among my fellow writers; I got to do a lot of traveling and visit a few haunted places; I started saving for a home; and I was able to grow my audience and have my stories reach more people. Yeah, I was only able to publish one story and I didn’t get any acceptances like I’d hoped for, but I got good feedback on the stories I submitted and think I could get them into other publications or accepted by other presses.

And yeah, some things on the national and global stage were good. Even under the strains of COVID-19, we managed to get some great stuff in the entertainment realm.

But still, this was a hard year. So, unlike previous years, I won’t write a post about how 2021 will be better. And I certainly won’t post another video like I did at the beginning of 2020 speculating on what might happen this year. Yeah, remember that? I remember New Year’s 2020 clearly, which is crazy because usually time just blends together for me, but I remember December 31st, 2019 and January 1st, 2020 as clearly as if they’d just happened. And I remember the hope that I and so many others felt. 2020 was going to be so good! After 2019 was such a shit heap, we couldn’t imagine things being worse.

Boy, were we wrong!

So, I’m not going to say 2021 is going to be better. More than likely, it’s going to be a hard and continuous struggle for the first half to two-thirds of the year. We’ll need that time for the new COVID-19 vaccines to make it among the population and see how effective they are. We’ll also need that time for the new government to get to work and hopefully pass some legislation that helps the American people. And a million other things that need to occur across the world.

Making 2021 better than 2020 is going to feel like a Sisyphean task most of the time, believe me.

So, I won’t say 2021 will be better. I will say there’s room to improve the situation. And hopefully things will improve.

And hopefully some of the things I aim to accomplish this coming year will happen. I’ll hopefully continue to write and edit new stories that excite and scare people. Maybe some of them will get published (perhaps in a few publications or by a couple of presses?). I’ve a couple of other projects in the works that I hope to see pan out, and I hope to continue expanding this wonderful audience known as the Followers of Fear.

Oh, and I might go to a couple of conventions. That’s a thing.

And on a more personal level, I’ve got some things happening that I’m excited about. I’ll be moving into a bigger apartment this year and hopefully getting a cat soon after (I’ve been wanting a kitty of my own for sooo long!). I hope to get lots of reading done, and maybe even do some traveling later in the year. And maybe I’ll get to meet some of you amazing Followers of Fear in person! That certainly would be cool.

But for now, I’m approaching things cautiously. I’m living that old Arab proverb of “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” And while I would like for 2021 to be an improvement, I know it’s going to be hard to make that happen.

We can only struggle and work to make things happen, I guess. And hopefully that will have positive results.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve stories to edit, chores to do and a few other things besides. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Are you hopeful for 2021? What are your plans for New Years? What are you hoping to accomplish next year?

My copy of Remina from the library.

I’ve been looking forward to this book getting an official translation and release here in the US for quite some time. And I was so excited when it arrived at the library, I stopped by yesterday afternoon to pick it up rather than wait till Friday. As you can guess, I stayed up late reading it, hoping the story within would give me some pleasant nightmares.

Known as Hellstar Remina in Japan, Remina kicks off with the discovery of a new planet that seemingly appeared from a wormhole several lightyears away. The discovery is hailed as the greatest development in astrophysics ever, and its discoverer, Dr. Oguro, names the new planet after his beloved, beautiful but shy daughter Remina, causing her own star to rise alongside the planet bearing her name. However, planet Remina is moving through space in ways that defy physics and sense. Planets and stars disappear in its wake. And it soon becomes clear that not only is this planet headed to our solar system, but it spells doom for all on the Earth. Especially the young woman who shares a name with it.

Oh man, I don’t think I’ve loved something from Ito this much since Uzumaki!

First off, the concept is well-executed. Ito takes this idea of a planet flying through space towards us, threatening everything we found our worldviews on as well as our lives and our planet, and turns it into this strange, dread-inducing story that somehow manages to ramp up more and more with every page. The planet itself is rather terrifying. There’s so many unknowns about it, and the more you learn and see of Remina, the more questions you have and the more you learn to fear it. It really puts the “cosmic” into cosmic horror.

I was also impressed with the human characters. Remina Oguro, the planet’s namesake, is easy to like. She’s shy and humble, and really only becomes an entertainer because she’s suddenly famous, so she might as well use it to get through life more easily. Which makes the hardship she goes through later so heart wrenching. As the planet bears down on the Earth and no solution seems to work, people begin to wonder if the Oguros, particularly Remina herself, have some hand in bringing the planet to them. In their terror, many abandon reason and decide the only way to save humanity is to kill Remina Oguro herself.

It’s not only an excellent example of cosmic horror–of humans dealing/reacting to their insignificance in the universe in the only ways they know how–as well as making you feel for Remina, but it feels really relevant to our current predicaments. Whether it be COVID-19 or the national election, you see people embracing the most insane conspiracy theories rather than accept an obvious reality. That is illustrated so well in Remina, and I felt a chill reading that.

This shot encapsulates so much of what makes Remina great.

Other aspects of the story worked as well. Ito’s art is amazing, as always. Earth in this manga is portrayed as being a few decades ahead of us a la The Jetsons, flying cars included, and it’s cool to see Ito give Earth this futuristic look. The characters are well-drawn, with our protagonists given a more realistic look while those driven mad by fear or anger are hyper-exaggerated to best portray their emotions. But the best illustrations are the spreads taking two full pages. They portray that cosmic dread so well, I spent quite a bit of time looking at them.

And as for the science aspect of the story, while more pseudoscientific than based in reality, it seems plausible enough to believe in for the moment.

The one aspect I disliked was just how quickly things escalated in the first chapter. Within about thirty or forty pages, things go from excitement and new promises to gloom-and-doom and psychotic, murderous behavior. I would’ve preferred things to move a bit more gradually before getting to that level.

All in all, Remina by Junji Ito earns itself a splendid 4.5 out of 5. It’s terrifying in both its cosmic and human aspects and will be hard to put down for any reader. Pick it up, settle in for a terrifying ride, and never name anything Remina.

Also, someone please adapt this story into a movie or miniseries! Live action or animated, this would be a great spectacle to see on screens. Just lay off the CGI except when absolutely necessary and it could be awesome.

I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but I do Tarot. And last week, I did a reading to get an idea of what my November would look like. Things were looking bright, but then the Potential card came up as the Nine of Swords, which is one of the worst cards to come up during a reading. To put it simply, it represents oppression, or a sense of anxiety and despair.

The Nine of Swords from both my Tarot decks. As you can see, they both illustrate someone under a great strain or a dark attachment.

Since it came up as the Potential card, it refers what could “possibly” be, depending on circumstances, so I thought of different things that could cause what the Nine of Swords portends. At first, I thought it could be post-election anxiety (that’s a potential) or the anxiety that comes from having to get a story up to scratch after an acceptance (I’m feeling hopeful for my chances). But then something occurred to me. It’s November. It’s going to get even darker and colder.

And many people come down with Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter.

And then there’s what I’ve been Pandemic Isolation Syndrome (copyright pending). You don’t need me to tell you what the symptoms have been. Likely, you’ve felt them or know someone who has over the past year. That’s been a problem since March, but with winter, the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 cases, and SAD too, it’s possible it’ll be a really rough winter for many.

Whether or not you believe Tarot actually works (I maintain that I’m on the fence), it’s obvious this would be something that could be a potential problem.

But it doesn’t have to be. While this winter will surely be difficult, there are ways we can mitigate the mental/emotional damage it can cause. I even talked to the guy at my workplace whose job is to counsel people going through tough times on ways to keep my spirits up.

One is to focus on things you can control. We often focus on things we have little or no control over: the election, the pandemic, social isolation, etc. While it’s difficult, try and do the opposite. Cut back on the news and social media. Think about the things you can control, like diet and exercise, what you do around your house, and the evil entities you can raise through dark sorcery. Then do those things. Show how you can control them.

Hell, maybe do those home renovation projects you’re always putting off. That’ll get your mind off the blues.

Second is to make a list of what you enjoy. What movies and TV shows do you enjoy watching? Do you like to drive? To dance? Are there books you’ve always wanted to read but never had the time? Do you cavort with demons and have a grand old time of it? Write it all down, and then do them. It may seem difficult on harder days, but if you buckle down, it can lift your mood.

Personally, I plan on writing, exercising, cooking, reading, binging shows and movies, and raising an army of monsters to march down Main Street on Krampus Night this December. Should be fun.

A good full-spectrum bulb can be a blessing during the winter. Photo by LED Supermarket on Pexels.com

And finally, you can always grab a full-spectrum lamp. During the winter, we don’t get enough sunlight to produce Vitamin D, and even when we go outside on sunny days, we’re so bundled up, we barely benefit. A full-spectrum lamp can produce all those light rays we need, and you only need to sit under/near it for two hours a day. I plan on buying one for the winter, so it should be helpful.

While there’s no way to predict what will happen this winter or how it will affect us (I’m predicting a meteor shower causing multiple explosions al a Tunguska, Russia), we can find ways to keep our spirits up and smiles on our faces. If we put them into practice, we can arrive in summer that much stronger.

What are your tips for getting through winter and the pandemic? Do you think you’ll try any of the above? Let’s discuss.