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(pronounced Ko-Hane)
Dan is the Bram Stoker-nominated author of Plague of Darkness, Solomon’s Grave, and the critically-acclaimed Margaret's Ark. Writing as G. Daniel Gunn, he released Destroyer of Worlds and the novella (written with L.L.Soares) Nightmare in Greasepaint (Samhain Publishing),. His short stories have appeared in Cemetery Dance, Shroud Magazine, Apex Digest and many more. He and his family live in New England.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sad But Painfully True in So Many Ways - but also funny

Had to share this: Just read the link below, as mentioned in writer Nick Kaufmann's blog. Too funny, but rings so true.... :-)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Interview in the Bentley Observer

I keep forgetting to mention this - with the holidays, not to mention the half dozen outlets I've been posting news in.... In the current Winter issue (pictured) of my alumni magazine, The Bentley Observer, there is an interview with me by Gordon Hardy. We talk about how I started writing, and a little about Solomon's Grave. It was a nice article. Thanks to Gordon for the nod, and to fraternity brother Neal Zwicker for hooking us up!

the basement evolution

Early in 2005 I began a project which would take almost five years to complete, and would be both a refuge and bane... no, not true. Working on finishing the basement was never a bane, never a curse or a chore. It was fun, it was completely absorbing, taught me a helluva lot about working with my hands (as opposed to hiring someone else to do it, lol), seeing the big picture in a project, the value of Google video, and of nail guns and levels.

First step was finding the right tools, borrowing my brother-in-law's saw, and learning how to do the wall studs. The picture on the left and lower on the right is how it started, the latter of me and Andrew as he helps with probably one of the most important pieces of inventory: common sense. You sure you want to do it that way? he'd ask in his calm, certain way. I'd nod, then shake my head and ask him what way would be better, and try not to feel stupid because, though it's taken a number of decades, I admit that sometimes basic, common sense isn't my forte. I can learn a task, and excel at it, see the big picture and the details simultaneously, but would spend two hours trying to straighten a nail and continue banging it in instead of just pulling it out and getting a new one. Too much doing without thinking. But I got better.

And slowly, the cellar progressed, stalling when the weather got warmer and I was sent outside to work on the yard. But when I worked down there, with Andrew sometimes, the girls other times, most of the time alone since each distinct task wasn't overly difficult, just time-consuming, hours would roll past (2 hours here, 2 weeks of not doing anything, 3 hours some other day, just didn't want you to think this was some obsessive thing) and I thought of the work only as I did it, had to think of nothing else, needed to focus and measure and measure again, cut, nail. Nothing else mattered, nothing else got in. For a few hours, now and then, the basement project was a refuge. Kind of makes you understand why some guys get a little addicted to these projects at the expense of everything else: kids, family. Didn't happen in this case (if it had, it sure wouldn't have taken 5 years to finish). But as the big room took shape, I felt good about myself, sometimes, at least that this was something I semi-decent at and wouldn't have known if I hadn't tried.

By 2007, the stud framing was done and it was time to put the walls on. So much happened in the meantime, higher up on the main floors and outside in the yard. Down here, though, the basement moved along like a slow river, sometimes nothing changed for months before a wave of progress came through. The house upstairs, our house, rose and fell with its own tide, while the basement came into its own existence as if untouched by the events above it.

As I begin to type this, it's Christmas night 2009. Another week and it'll be 2010. The end of the decade. The kids seemed to enjoy the day, which was our traditional opening of gifts, playing with them for a time then heading east to visit with my side of the family for the day. In another fifty-five minutes as I type, the day will end, and it'll be just another Saturday, more time to play, go look for a new guinea pig (which we got, a cute mellow girl named Santana), help Auntie Ellie paint her condo, and go downstairs and work on the basement.

As the Fall of '07 rolled in, I got blueboard, a book from Home Depot and laid out the upper walls. Then we decided to give the project a boost and brought in Jim Andrews and his gang to finished the lower half and do a good job seeming the walls. Jim's guys Leo and son also fixed up my framing for the entertainment center, so it wouldn't be all lopsided (more pictures, by the way at, but otherwise worked well with what I did. The walls were up, we painted, and as this Christmas comes to an end, the room which had silently stayed out of it all has almost come to life. Amanda had a sleepover down there last weekend. Audrey enjoys watching television in the funky pink chair, and as I finish the trim and wait for the electrician's final visit I'm slowly planning on the overall decorating plan (movie theme, I think).

Speaking of movies, I got Donnie Darko for Christmas, finally get to see this one (and I really know nothing about the movie - no preconceived notions except that everyone in the Business who's seen it and knows me has said, I can't believe you haven't seen this movie, Dan - it's so you...). The new Marc Cohn CD (one of my favorite artists and it didn't disappoint), a couple of movie-related games. It was a movie theme, though I suppose I might have not-so-unconsciously directed things that way. Like the basement will be, I think. We'll see. It's been such a solo project for so long, but now it's almost done and the kids are excited, I need to get them involved. Find out what form it'll take with them down there using it. Seeing for themselves that even after it's done, it can be a refuge, a place to go as an alternative the the floors above.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Time is Here

The kids have asked from time to time, is Christmas really Jesus' birthday, the actual, historical day that He was born? I always answer the same way, which sometimes catches them off guard but, hopefully, will keep them from being sheep, help them understand their faith a little better than, well, sheep who feel anything which deviates from their own self-imposed norm is far too upsetting and threatening to their own faith, tentuous as it probably is if a simple thing like History freaks them out.

No, Christmas is not the historical date upon which God came into the world in human form (to be all formal for a second). Well, it could be: there's a 1 in 365.25 chance of it. Less of a chance, actually. Most historians believe Jesus was born sometime in March - keeps in line with the other historically-proven events surrounding the nativity story: the mass murder of children by Herod (I think it was Herod), the census taken by Rome, etc, which was why Mary & Joseph had to travel to Bethlemen in the first place. So, likely, it was March. Why then, you ask (as have the kids), is Christmas on December 25th? The answer makes perfect sense, even though I can already sense a large number of evangelicals covering their eyes (for NO good reason - have some faith in your faith for once, will you?). The early church was constantly battling for attention with other religions as they spread through the world. December 25th is the festival of Saturnalia, some kind of pagan holiday which I think has gone out of fashion over the past hundred or thousand years. But it's a time, for most if not all religions, to celebrating the fact that - AT LAST - the days are starting to get longer.

December 21st is the shortest day of the year (the Winter Solstice, if you're taking notes). So, the Church decided hey, this would be a good time to formally celebrate the birth of the Messiah, on a day when the world is at its darkest, but the light is beginning to win out again, as it always does. Though the winter is going to get worse, the light is going to grow, and the Light of the World is here. I'm sure the Church used a lot more Latin words in its decision, otherwise people might understand it better. But that's the gist of it, according to Father Jim, who's cool like that. He tells the truth, and doesn't worry if the Truth is dangerous. Truth never is. It can hurt, if you aren't equipped to handle it, but it's never dangerous in the long run.

So, that's the history of Christmas. The concept of Santa Claus came about in 1857 when a spaceship landed in Brussels with one pilot, wearing the now-famous red suit and sporting a beard (which, in truth, was an elaborate set of gills for breathing our atmosphere). Naturally, the villagers who encountered this rare visitor killed him and burned his body, but then felt a twinge remorse and told their children the fable of Santa Claus, and that he wasn't really dead, but instead fire gives him strength to be able to bring shoes to all good girls and boys. In fact, this is how the tradition of lighting fires in the fireplace on Christmas Eve began.

1986. Our first Christmas together. I still remember, 23 years later, sitting silently on the couch, listening to George Winston's beautiful CD December - an album which is a must if you truly want to be in the winter/Christmas spirit. Silence, save the music, and I had a vision, clear as a bell, so clear I've always remembered it. I was suddenly sitting in a living room I didn't recognize (until years later when we bought the house), the front door was open but the outer was closed, an all-glass storm door which allowed full view to outside. We had children, and they were standing so rapt and small in front of the glass, looking out at a foot of freshly-fallen snow in the yard and the porch, and George Winston kept playing, and this warm house was lit up with Christmas lights, there was a tree, and all was well in the world.

Then the vision ended. I sat there and knew I saw something that could be. And it was. Years later in our house in Worcester, I wasn't surprised when I looked up from where I was sitting and little Andrew and Amanda were looking out through the glass door on an almost-Christmas eve watching the snow fall. The scene wasn't exact, perspective changed, the living room was on the left not the right, but it was the same.

It was a good moment, both in reality and the original vision played out to Mr. Winston's timely, repetive piano chords in her tiny apartment. We have these moments, these visions of what could be, and when we follow the path they lay out for us we find them. For life to work, for it to have "meaning" as the philosophers so often say, we need these visions, these views into a future which is good and perfect and know that the specific moment we can see so clearly in the future may be surrounded by painful ones, because life is like that. Up and down, pain and pleasure. But those moments, these gems of sight, looking at your children looking out the door at the freshly-fallen snow, tells us that it's OK, that it will be, that it could be, if we accept them as possible. It'll be a time when we can breathe again, recharge. That wonderful, incredible time and life envisioned, then lived, in 1986 were relished and embraced for as long as possible, and the world itself is not going to simply vanish afterwards, there'll be more to look forward to. There always is.

A year from now it'll be Christmas Eve again, the oldies stations will play nothing but Christmas tunes after Halloween whether anyone wants them to or not, it'll snow again, filling the yard with a soft white comfort set ablaze in red and yellow Christmas lights. In a moment in another future, it'll be a harbinger of contentment again, bring the excited wonder my kids still feel even now every time December 24th rolls around and the anticipation is too much for their open hearts too bear. I envy them their wonder, and we both feed it as much as possible. And, in turn, they never fail to feed mine. Spend time with yours this weekend, soak in the lights and the warmth and ignore everything else. Don't look back, or forward. Just for today and tomorrow spend it looking at the tree and the snow and the fire in the hearth, watch your children or family or friends opening their gifts and know that there are more visions waiting to show themselves, in whatever form the future will be.

Know this, then put the cookies out for Santa, as this is the traditional token of repentence offered for that strange visitor from another world who met his end in a strange land and yet would unwittingly make so much money for retail outlets, and so many mall children cry, in the years to come.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

1984, again

So, as I began to say in the last post, I needed to get caught up on some of the classics I'd successfully avoided all my life - unfortunately - or, perhaps fortunately. I mean, who would appreciate such a brilliant novel like 1984 more: a college sophomore who has to read the entire novel in a month and worry about what kind of grade he'll get on the subsequent paper, or an angst-ridden 46 year-old who finds himself reading this oft-touted and oft-praised (kind of interesting that the first two times I've ever used the somewhat-highbrow prefix "oft-" in my life, I use them in the same sentence..... only kind of interesting, though).

Winston Smith is living in a world completely overrun by socialism, or as it's called in Newspeak (a term the book coins, along with the more oft-used * doublespeak) Ingsoc (English Socialism). The book's good, and quite depressing in many ways - though more fascinating than depressing so it's a very good read (as opposed to the brilliant move starring your friend and mine John Hurt, which is just depressing because you can't soften the blow of the events with your mind - that's the thing about movies, it's in your face....)

Which brings me to my point in a roundabout way. I suppose what one would identify most with in this novel would depend on their situation at the time they read it (have you noticed how very formal I've become in writing this, the Classics seem to warrant this tone....). Me, it was the fact that seemingly everyone in the world lived in some kind of illusionary bubble. Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Bombs hit London, and everyone believes the news that they are coming from the enemy. At some point, Oceania changes loyalties and goes to war with Eastasia (I may be getting the order reversed). They change all historical documents and tell everyone we've always been at war with Eastasia. And everyone chooses to believe it's true.

They choose to believe it's true. They don't believe it; they can't, really. The day before they were at war with an entirely different country. Or could they, really, believe it, if that's what they'd been doing for so long? They've scrubbed certain parts of their brain, metaphorically speaking but, hell, maybe in being metaphoric they really did it and I need to end this sentence.

People live with illusions. Some big, some small. They have to. A writer starting out has to believe she is good, or can become good, otherwise her literary career is dead before it starts. A guy has to believe he's worthy of her affection or he'll never ask her out. He might be, but that doesn't matter. He has to believe it. A pilot of a jet has to believe he can control a curved piece of metal with way-odd shaped stubs for wings going faster than SOUND travels - if he doesn't believe it, he's dead, and so is the nice family living in the house his jet crashes into.

On a smaller, but no less important scale, Santa Claus. Brother Paul (see prev entry) was telling me about his issues with jolly old Saint Nicholas now that his kids are getting older. Do they still believe, or not? There is a time when a child stops believing in Santa Claus, the concept is simply too ridiculous to hold any water in their developing minds, but they want to believe, really, really want to - not because if they don't they'll crash into a house at the speed of sound, i.e. get no presents - no, because when they believed as a young 'un it filled them with wonder, joy to see how much bigger and amazing and mysterious the world was where a guy in a red suit could travel the globe and deliver presents in one night. They want to retain that sense of wonder because as they grow and see the world differently - as no less wondrous and exciting, just differently - they still yearn to capture the past, hold the wonder. It's why parents continue to make such a fuss about Christmas and Santa - they want their children to feel the same feeling they did, and in a genetically rountabout way, relive it themselves. (Granted, you need to get over the fact that you are blatantly lying to your children, which you should never do, but just this once you make an exception.... because it's the key to the past).

They want to be as they were before. They want to believe because believing in something is always a good thing. In their case, the illusion goes away eventually, but not because they wandered downstairs and discovered Santa was actually a pervert attacking their cat with things he pulls out of his magic red bag - that would be a destructive loss of belief, a tragic, painful loss of illusion. No, they simply realize the truth, after a year or two of perhaps pretending that it's not truth, in order to hold on to that magic for a little longer. In the end, they realize Christmas is just as fun even without pretending. They can enjoy wrapping presents, going to church and enjoy the religious meaning of the holiday without feeling that baby Jesus is taking all of Santa's press (never a worry there, anyway).

1984 - remember 1984? this blog entry is about 1984 - was interesting in that the whole world make themselves believe, because they felt there was nothing else than what they had. In the end, perhaps there wasn't. Those who showed signs of free-thought disappeared. Terribly. Sometimes, the world a person lives in is so dark, and has been for so long, they don't believe there could be anything else better. Orwell makes it a point to show how some people remember their worlds as better than it was in the present, and these people cling to the hope it'll be better again. And, these people stagnate. Others, like the lowest rung on the food chain the Proles (proletariate), simply don't care, content to live day to day and simply enjoy each other's company, in a way the happiest lot. And then there are those who accept the world as it is, and know they cannot change it so they simply find ways of bucking the system, making no progress, like the Proles, but finding moments of joy. Julia, Winston's secret lover, is like that. She has no illusions, except that there's nothing that can be done to change things. These people seek pleasure, but are also very much defeatists.

People in the world today fall into one or the other category, changing with circumstances. Sometimes we need illusion to ask her out, to fly the plane, to write that novel, but in the end, we need to prove it. Prove yourself worthy on that first date, keep the plane flying, edit the crap out of the book and make it good. Because illusions only go so far. If we can't prove that they are reality, then they may not be. And reality will fly over and pop the balloon. You're not as funny as you think, you need to shower more, you need to change careers, you need to clean the mirror so you can see better who you are, or clean your glasses so you can see better who others are, and why. ...and this is rambling is taking too long. It's like that, roads, life, figuring things out. Long and rambling and wordy.
I don't think I've made the point I wanted, but blogs are like that, aren't they. With a name like 'blog', they don't necessarily have to make sense.

* 3

Friday, December 18, 2009

1984, or Watching the Tube Slide Down Kane's Throat

I recently decided I simply am not reading enough of the classics. I managed somehow to avoid all, or most, of the literature courses when in school, at least those which made you read books... no seriously, I was a fantastically lazy reader (and Stephen King would probably say fantastically lazy writer, since I just used an adverb, but then he did, just there in the beginning of this parenthetical remark, so I think I'm entitled to adverbise now and then....)... okay, where was - ah!

I was a lazy reader. Loved books as a concept, just couldn't focus on them for long, not when I was younger. Until two things happened... I entered eighth grade and Miss Dawson's English/Reading class at Francis Wyman Middle School where I was introduced to Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft, and a couple years after that, read the novelization to Alien: not high literature but scared the shit out of me, then soon after - Fahrenheit 451 and Ray Bradbury entered my life. A wonderful moment for a reader when he meets Mister Bradbury.

More about Miss Dawson another time. The woman who made reading fun and amazing and... another time. Let's jump ahead in the Life of Dan about 3 years or so... maybe 4...

The novelization for Alien was written by the King Of Novelizations - seriously, he's probably the only person who could have given my fellow Neconer Chris Golden a run for his money in the arena of sheer volume of work - Alan Dean Foster. In retrospect, I don't think anyone yet knew what the alien itself was going to look like - Foster was likely given the screenplay and as he wrote the book H.R. Giger and Ridley Scott were hashing out the monster... the book never described it. (so when, years later, I saw the movie I thought - that's it? My mental version had a hundred arms and it was furry... dunno, the movie one was still frikkin' scary... so where the hell was I....?

I was going to talk about classic literature and 1984, its dystopia, a life of illusionary living and poor Winston Smith, was going to tie in Christmas and... I guess all of it has to wait. I'm too caught up in the Summer of '80, or '81....

Hampton Beach, vacation week at the my parents rented each year and Mom - God bless her, always pointing me, if inadvertently, to the dark side - hands me the novelization she'd just read of Alien. Not sure how many novels I'd read before that... a few, none I remembered much save Great Expectations and Hemingway's work, (all pretty good), the stuff from Miss Dawson's class (later... later...), though the act of reading for school was a chore

Side bar: kiddies, I should explain: I drank WAY too much soda, was constantly wired on caffeine and sugar - having bad grades? Get the Frak off the Mountain Dew, deal with the withdrawals for a couple of days, and watch how the frakking world suddenly becomes available to you TRUST ME...., over-doing the power drinks the caffeine and sugar is not making you smart or alert, you're body is simply carving it and telling your brain - look, cut down at least...).
Back to: Hampton Beach, Mom, sand in between the pages... OK, back on track... I've never forgotten the scene - not in the movie, but the Book(!!!) where Kane goes down into the ship, the face hugger bursts from the egg, latches on, and I cringe as the author goes into detail how the alien melts the faceplate, pushes the tube down the guy's throat... that, boys and girls, wasn't filmed. In this case, the novelization was much better... especially to a 17/18 year old boy.

Hey, Kane was played by the same actor who portrayed Winston in the best adaptation of 1984, a topic I was about to talk about tonight but then put aside for this after-midnight blog post.... (John Hurt, by the way, in case you're wondering - sigh, OK, the wand salesman from the Harry Potter movie). I couldn't put that book down (Alien, I mean, though 30 years later same went for 1984). Read it in a week, a lifetime record back then (and maybe now, though I read like a fish these days... fish read, so shut up). I read at the beach, at home on the front yard in a folding chair.

All the while, brother Paul watches me from his sad, 4.5 years younger-than-me vantage - staring at brother Danny staring so intently into that green paperback book. He inquires. I tell him. Poor 13 year old kid was never the same again... he read it when I was done. Was slapped upside the head - I remember watching him sitting out in the front yard and freaking out while reading it. Books are cool. They do that to you sometimes.

And books became cool for me with that one. I recently re-read it - and yea, it was an early A. D. Foster book, he got better. It wasn't great but for the first time, it didn't matter. The story grabbed me. I was pulled away into some distant, unknown planetary system and everyone around me was friggin' dying and it was wonderful. In a literary sense. I could be elsewhere, escape to new worlds and be back in time for supper. It wasn't a happy story - I mean, more people lived in 1984 than Alien, but it did what it was meant to do, for me, in that summer. Finally bonked me on the head and said look! Books! Read more, visit new and exciting places before you step on your glasses like Burgess Meredith and lose the chance!