A Punk Compendium
Chaos is felt in the unraveling as I post about a phase that began seven years ago and is ending this year.
This is the preface to the soon-to-be out of print Anarchy: Strange Tales of Outsiders:
Punk is more than music and angst culture—it is a feeling that one is different. A punk does not need a shaved head, torn clothes, spikes, or chains, for the mark is on the inside. Punk is outside the norm. Punk is a winding road through dark spaces and chaos over a landscape filled with violence and insanity juxtaposed with peaks of sublime ecstasy. Punk is a screw-off to the world. Punk is rebellion without a cause. Punk is anarchy.
Anarchy — Strange Tales of Outsiders is a compendium that includes a novella, short stories, and fragments, all with a common theme—a punk outsider on a dark journey.
The Carny Cage is a prison story that metaphorically crosses the cell of an inmate with the cage of a carnival ride. Dirk is a con whose life is like the ride, the Zipper—locked up and spinning round inside. No chance of breaking free, he hopes the ride will not crash and he will get what he wants. This is a new story written during the summer of 2016 in between projects.
Where the Road Roams is my first novella. Inspired by the writings of William Burroughs, its narrative is fragmented and broken like its protagonist, Dean. In the genre of a road story, it is about a journey to find Dean’s lost brother and piece together the puzzle of the past. One section was done in the cut-up method, where the present story, the past, and a dream poem were printed out, cut up with scissors, and arranged back together to create something new. I have included the original unaltered version from 2009 since it was the first and is unique in its broken, strange, monotone form.
The Wolf, The Drifter, The Gate, and the selections that form Fragments were part of a journal I kept in 2005. I would write snippets that would come to me while walking around the Montrose, a once bohemian Houston neighborhood, thinking of story ideas while observing the denizens of the streets. Watching people can teach you a lot about behavior—watching people on the fringes even more so. The journal was filled with random thoughts, slices of life, and dreams. Each story was a piece: The Wolf is a childhood memory of a time remembered vaguely; The Drifter is an ode to Jean Rollin’s strange and surreal vampire movies; The Gate is based on a dream of dark angels that may come again; and Fragments are some random short pieces on dreams, death, and light, perceived on the journey of that time.
The Deadfall is a different version of a story I wrote when I was nineteen and had caught the bug to make a horror movie. The first version had more supernatural stuff, like a wooden hand puzzle over a grave that unlocked a gooey entrance below and a gates of hell styled hanging. The focus was on visuals and gore. There was no gay content in that draft. The topic was too taboo in my mind to write about at that time. I did not come out until I was twenty-one. I came close to filming this early version in 1990. I had gotten as far as creating a torture room set in an abandoned family-owned house with the help of friends. It was equipped with carved places to chain up characters, as well as an altar—complete with a red, barbed wire-wrapped pentagram. My family was sure I was in a cult—or a devil worshipper—since all that sort of stuff had been on the news a few years before. All I wanted to do was make a great underground horror film.
Unfortunately, fate stepped in, and I was in a car wreck, shattering the bone in my right arm. During the recovery time, it became apparent that I did not have the right connections or resources to film. Months went by until I returned to the set with a metal friend of mine. It was in the heat of August, yet once we were inside, in front of the altar, it was unnaturally cold. My friend, who would later sing for a death metal band, Infernal Butchery, looked at me and said, “Let’s go.” It was a freaky experience. I guess I should not have used real symbols from The Necronomicon, written by the mad Arab. Sometime afterward, I came back and tore down the altar and craven set pieces and burned the whole lot of them in a metal trashcan behind the abandoned house, just to make sure nothing would come back and haunt me. The Deadfall is my call back to the slasher films of the time it was written: the films of the eighties, the foreign terrors of Dario Argento, and the VHS boxes emboldened with the “No One Under Seventeen Admitted” warning. It is a blueprint for a film I wanted to make when I was nineteen. The Deadfall may be fragmented and confused in focus, but it is an interesting relic of a time gone by.
Dark is three passages about goth, black-clad teens who use symbols and incantations to call dark spirits from the depths. The original Latin incantations have now been translated in this version. The scariest thing about horror is the unknown, so I chose not to explain what was coming for them. It was originally called De Profundis, Out of the Depths, a nod to Thomas De Quincy’s Suspiria de Profundis. Dark was part of the Dark Lands anthology, along with The Deadfall, Death Tarp, and some of the journal bits. Dark Lands was the name of a film production company I was part of with my friend, Lee Webster, who passed away in 2008. The name was to correspond with the horror films we wanted to create. We came far enough to write some stories and a script, but that is a tale for another time.
Death Tarp took shape after I saw some graffiti spray painted on the Castro train station in San Francisco in 1998. Right before I exited out into the gay neighborhood was “Burn the AZT Death Tarp” in crude red letters. I wondered who was so bitter at the disease that they would write that cry for help. It caught my imagination, and I filed the story idea away for a few years until an urge to write a hardcore horror piece came upon me. I added the supernatural element of a piece of the AIDS quilt becoming a shroud for a victim and having their soul go into it and reform it into their own image. A character, Daniel—who was bitter at being abandoned by everyone—seeks revenge after death as a wraith made of his own shroud, is the antagonist of this horror tale.
The idea for Under the Moonbow began while I was visiting my best friend, Mark, in Corbin, Kentucky, in 2013. After talking about ghost stories, we drove to Cumberland Falls State Park to see some haunted sites. The falls are one of the rare places to see a moonbow. This natural phenomenon only happens on a clear night when the moon is full. The place was full of mischief and urban legends. A bride had jumped to her death from the waterfall to return to the spot as a ghost. People have disappeared in the woods, never to be seen again. Perhaps most notorious, there was a burnt-out church thought to have been satanic. The church had weird visitors and rumors of rituals. Inside its destroyed interior were occult symbols. The locals superstitiously believed it was the meeting place of a coven of witches. All that remained when we visited was an overgrown, and in places blackened, foundation near a small cemetery. It was creepy as hell. We drove on and saw the moonbow, continuing the weird vibe of that night. On the opposite side of the falls, at the water’s edge, were the ruins of an amusement park and some motels. All if it abandoned, left to rust and rot, like the area was left over in a dystopian future after some terrible war.
The area stuck with me and became a perfect place to end a story about an angelic daemon locked up in an asylum. Maleki, who was trapped by an unspoken bond to his psychiatrist, had to play a game of therapy to be set free and return home. I thought it fitting if the last of his race, the Acutus, lived in a cave behind the moonbow. Many more stories could be mined from such a haunting place, but I am proud of the dark fantasy that came to life that night.
These are tales of outsiders that span the early beginnings to the present of my writing. I have revised some but kept their raw nature intact to show the evolution of my art. Writing is a calling to tell stories. The theory goes that the more one writes, the better at the craft they become. This is a tome of my becoming a writer.
Witness me! Take some journeys with my outsiders in tales that fall outside the normal. Walk with them through their twisted punk worldviews filled with strange characters, sudden violence, and chaos. Feel the anarchy!
DS January 13th, 2017
(original publishing date of Anarchy)
Anarchy took an extra day to go live after submission to CreateSpace (now KDP). It was my first self-published book. Punk Fiction R.I.P.