Zombie Hellhouse By The Side of Cemetery That Dr Freakstein Got All Weird In

For fuck’s sake.  It’s been a year.

I said I was going to keep up, but I didn’t.  Look, it’s just been fucking chaos.  Some good, all sorts of bad.  Even a fracture.

It hasn’t been easy, but we’re trying to keep the faith.  Today, I offer proof. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written: Sep 10, 2015

Stop Whining, Start Running

So what happened to Afterhell?

Did anyone notice that we were gone?  Or that we were ever here?

Yeah, that’s right.  I’m feeling defensive about the whole thing.

I’ve been putting off this post, figuring that it would be hard to explain the long absence to an invisible audience.  I know three people are out in the ether, following all this.  And they already know most of the details.

But I’m also aware of the trolls, griefers, and spammers out there.    You know, the ones with the knives out.  And beyond them lies a vast, cold indifference.

So is there a point in saying anything?  I wondered.  For a long time.

I took too long.  I know that.  So yeah.  Feeling defensive.  And embarrassed.  Bitter.  Feeling lost at sea.  Most of all, I feel like walking wounded.

Bear with me.  If you want me to answer the question of “where were we,” keep reading.  Follow the white rabbit.

Short version:  Ollin Productions has been a troubled house.  We suffered many personal losses, a few professional ones, and it fell hard.  Now we’re doubling our efforts.

Shorter rude version:  Fuckyou youdontknowwhatIvebeenthrough wherethehellwereyouwhenallthisshitwasgoingon

Sorry, I had to get out of my system.  Let’s do the long version.

A lot of things went wrong.  Not everything.  Just a lot.

For Ollin Productions.  For Afterhell.  For me and Jamie.  In the end, they all mean the same thing.

Or so I thought.  That was the first problem.  The big one.  I’ll save that for the end.

The perfect storm for us was death.  Not the boogeyman we flirt with in horror fiction.  Every few months, for four fucking years, death ran through our extended family like a wave.

First it was my father.  Four of my aunts.  My cousin.  Over six weeks, all of our cats died.  A dead cat every two weeks, like some twisted subscription service.  Then Jamie’s uncle.  To say nothing about all the heroes, icons, and inspirational figures — but those fine people didn’t tuck us in or hug us by the shoulder while saying, “Welcome to the family.”  They were background radiation compared to all this.

After months and months of shellshock and grey days regardless of the sun, Jamie and I were left empty.  We knew.  We’d suffer loss before.  But this felt like war.  We were losing.  And we were trying so hard not to surrender — to find a deep enough bottle and never come out.

Seriously, Death.  I’ve long suspected you were beautiful and well-meaning even before Neil Gaiman stuck his fine nose in.  But seriously, Death, fuck you.

Christ, I’m still crying.

And considering how many times Afterhell had been written off, dismissed, publicly mocked, literally thrown back in my face…  honestly, would you have bothered to keep it going?

Even for a shoestring production, Afterhell is an intimate process.  Friends were brought together and separated by personal concerns, not market forces.  There was no business plan.  No concern about mainstream radio or podcasting (which was bleeding edge tech at the time.)  And no awareness of online communities that might like us, shag us, or throw us over a cliff.

We found out later that most of them would do all three.

Old Time Radio groups glommed onto us, only to disavow us because our horror wasn’t corny and our sound was too digital.

The Horror Writers Association dismissed us out of hand because our work is self-produced and uncommissioned.  Self-published horror comics are okay, but fuck audio.

Audiodrama discussion groups romanced us like codependent partners from hell, openly courting us and avowing their undying friendship, then squelching any difference of opinion.  Quantity over quality and mutual admiration societies.  Otherwise?  Yerrrr out.

Real audiodramatists, professional artists instead of fanfic writers, embraced us until they realized our content wasn’t family friendly or sufficiently highbrow.  “You’re a great writer, but sorry, Afterhell is out.”  BOOT.

And I won’t even get into radio programming directors.

I once called horror audio fiction the crazy aunt locked in the basement.  That’s how Afterhell is treated.  Sometimes it sucks to be right.

So I really didn’t think anyone would notice whether we’d gone away.

I don’t say this to rationalize our non-existent turnout.  We haven’t produced new episodes in years.  Or blogged.  Or tweaked code.  Hell, I’ve gone months without looking at the damn site.

Remember the worst part?  Here it is.  The clincher.  The nail in the coffin.

I was the only member of Ollin Productions who wanted Afterhell to happen.  Jamie was done with it.

It wasn’t just the grief.  Jamie was never really into it.  She gets vampires (old school vamps, none of that Twilight crap) and Lovecraftian horror to some extent.  Between the extreme content and the public disapproval, she walked away from Afterhell.

Before someone gets mad at her, let me tell you something.  I was on the verge of doing the same.

But I’m getting so damn tired of crappy horror.  Sturgeon’s Law probably applies.  It usually does.  But instead of demanding better, horror fans embrace the crap.

No, I mean it.  We applaud the gore and the cheese.  We’re making deliberately shitty meals out of all the gore and cheese.  Not tolerating lackluster production values for the sake of a fun story.  Just eating the shit sandwich.

Zombie stories are everywhere.  A dime a dozen.  Ripping off Max Brooks or George Romero doesn’t cut it.  Stupid people doing stupid things for the sake of the plot is stupid.  And vampires are worse.  Whether it sparkles or splatters, the characters and the story they’re have to be interesting, people.

And making them interesting takes a lot more effort than it seems.  And fewer creators are making the effort.

Look at The Strain.  Or better yet, don’t.

Instead, just read it.  You’ll find intriguing, sympathetic people in a crisis.  The absentee father who chases plagues.  The married couple, lonely and growing apart while passion still gnaws at them.  The grieving vampire hunter, haunted by the depths of true evil.

Watch the premiere episode and you’ll get bored.  And irritated.  It feels like some droning lecture masquerading as a puppet show.  Stuff happens and there’s no one to care about.  Only divas and dimwits.

Where’s the likeable, driven scientist?  We get a pushy, self-important jerk who kisses and pats his son like a puppy.  There’s a vamp hunter and he’s kind of tragic.  He’s sharp enough to scare the crap out of a hardcore thug, but not smart enough to keep his fucking cashbox out of reach.  And of course, the archetypal dying rich guy pulling all the strings.

This isn’t a horror story.  It’s a one-stop cliche superstore.  The grieving parent who lashes out at the hero.  The lab tech that touches scary shit with his bare fucking hands.

But surely, this is a horror story!  There’s blood and goo and dissected people.  Little worms that poke through people’s eyes.  Yea, verily, an ample opportunity for gross-out.  And spooky stuff.  Oh, such spooky I shall give thee.  Nay, I reject thy claim of compact comestible shite–

Look, I don’t care.  Maybe I’ve gotten old or more jaded by life.  But I was never impressed by gore.  Part of my problem is that I’ve already read the book, so I know the gross-outs are coming.

But everyone’s expecting the gross-out.  The promo art.  The worm in the eye.  Everybody knows it’s coming.  So that couldn’t be the only attraction for the audience.  Can it?

Judging from all the tweets and reviews… yup.  Only one negative review so far.  And I usually hate that guy.

We’re talking about Guillermo del Toro, I know.  I get that.  Boy, do I get that.  I’ve been a fan of his movies for years.  He makes movies I wish I had made.  He lingers on shadows and turns them into magical worlds.

So watching The Strain on FX was really, really depressing.  I know pilot eps usually suck, compared to the whole series.  But Cthulhu on a crutch, our pilot ep was better!  And we were learning! We were struggling, praying that we were doing something right.

Guillermo, you let me down, man.  I’m disappointed.  Utterly furious.

And then I see some more horror news come down the pike.  Chris Carter is producing a post-apocalyptic show called…

The After?

The After?!

A violent, unpredictable world called THE AFTER?!

Did someone declare war on me?  Ugh, just walk away.  Find a dumpster and do penalty throws.  No more struggling.  No more nightmare wrangling.

No.  I was here first.  Not my friends.  Not the fans.  Not my allies.  Just me.

I was alone with my nightmares.  I saw things.  People.  Things they did.  They appeared in my dreams and mutated.  Every time I fell asleep, I had nightmares that I still can’t talk about.  They tore at my waking hours.  Kept me from sleeping for weeks.

Weeks.  Days and days of being afraid of your own head, of the crap inside it, terrified of closing your eyes.

Do you know what that’s like?  Fuck Nightmare on Elm Street and that pervy boogeyman bullshit.  Do you know?

One day I started writing them down.  And I was so tired.  Enough to fall asleep.  And the nightmares stopped.  They were on paper, given a place to live, so they let me go.

I went through it.  I lived it.  I’m still here.

And nobody.  Fucking.  Helped.

Despite my reputation, I try not to complain.  I do anyway.  But only because I’ve had enough.  The meter reads full and I have to let it out sometimes.

So I don’t like to share my troubles.  Big or small.  Heartbreaking or stupid shit.  I don’t know.  I just assume everyone has something better to do.

But now I’m telling you.  This is why.

Afterhell disappeared for a while.  Whatever the reasons, I just stopped doing it.

And now it’s time.  Put up or shut up.

Afterhell delivers to live.  There is ample evidence of a need, regardless of whether the need is mine or that of others.  But if you’re smart, you’ll keep up.

I’m going to do my best to give you the best nightmares you’ve ever had.

Start running.

Comments: 1
Written: Jul 14, 2014

Coming Soon: Dicebag Theater!

Ollin Productions is planning a new project we are calling “Dicebag Theater.”  This new show draws on our experience as gamers (we’ve both been playing role-playing games for nearly 30 years) as well as our audio theater experience to bring you a new and unique view of the gaming hobby.

Each episode of “Dicebag Theater” will combine recordings of actual gameplay sessions with dramatizations of the scenes that have been played out in the game.  We hope to thus give listeners a peek inside the gamer’s imagination and foster a greater understanding about a hobby that is frequently misunderstood at best and feared and demonized at worst.  Joe has said that our goal is “to make the show for folks who fear RPGs, to show there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

We will release “Dicebag Theater” on our podcast feed.  It’s our plan to make the show as family-friendly as possible, as we believe that RPGs can — and should — be a hobby the whole family can enjoy.

We’ve gotten permission from several game designers to feature their games on the show, and we’re working now to gather both gamers and actors who are interested in helping us out with this project.  If you fit into either (or both!) of these categories, please get in touch with us!

We’ll keep our fans and friends updated on developments as work on “Dicebag Theater” progresses.  Spread the word!

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Written: Jul 8, 2009

“Bloodbath…” to the printer

Afterhell Vol 3 Cover

Hey everyone, here’s a quick peek at some of the art for the upcoming release of “Bloodbath at the Giallo Hotel” on disk. With some great direction from Joe and Jamie, I think we’ve taken the presentation for this volume to a new level for Afterhell. Just click on the image to view the larger file.

Everything’s at the printer now, so expect to be able to purchase this in time for Halloween!

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Written: Oct 13, 2008

Afterhell Wins Its First Ogle Award

Yup, this is the good news we were alluding to the other day.  We’d said it be a few weeks, but how’s this for service?

Afterhell Volume 3 has received an honorable mention from the 2008 Mark Time & Ogle Awards.

We submitted Volume 3 for the judges’ perusal, absolutely certain they were going reject us out of hand.  Gory, graphic violence.  Rude language.  No kitsch or camp, definitely not safe for the whole family.  Just modern-day nightmare fuel.  Wow, it shows you how much we know!

Now you know the reason for the delay.  We had to figure out where to fit the Ogle award info on the CD artwork.  Simple as that.

We’re planning a release date in August, if not sooner.  It depends on how busy things look this summer, what with WRW’s Writers-on-the-Air Workshop ‘n’ all.

So yeah.  Our first award.  Only the beginning.

Comments: 1
Written: Jun 18, 2008

Don’t Bury Us… We’re Not Dead!

Anyone who recognizes the movie tagline we’re riffing on… wins a tetrodoxotrin Chiclet.

Yup, we’re still around and sporting a new look online. The Afterhell website has gotten a fiery new makeover and a new blog. More than that, Ollin Productions has a website of its own where you’ll find a shingle for all of our projects. Our thanks to Ali for doing all the design and coding in record time!

Unlike the revamped website, updates have been slow in coming. We’ve been overwhelmed, plain and simple — everybody’s day jobs, family emergencies, tons of sound work and writing to do — not enough time to do it all.

Fortunately, causes for delay aren’t all bad. Watch this spiffy new space for good news in a few weeks.

Thanks for sticking with us! We’ll get back to freaking you all out good ‘n’ proper shortly.

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Written: Jun 15, 2008

Giallo Hotel – NO VACANCY

Noble, loyal listeners! You tolerated the long delays and the lame puns. Now the final episode of the “Giallo Hotel” storyline has been podcast.

If you like structure in your horror stories, belly up to the bar. The hotel’s structure is the only thing left standing! Part Nine brings the Giallo Hotel arc to a bizarre, bloodletting close. Boss Giallo and his undead rival Pensari wage one last battle for all the marbles. And victory isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Yes, the “Giallo Hotel” podcast is complete. The final CD release is on the horizon, set for May 2008. We burned the entire story for the perusal of this year’s Mark Time Awards panel, but our official CD will have some creepy new artwork from Alida Saxon…and a few surprises.

Speaking of surprises, keep your radio tuned and watch the skies. The best of the worst is yet to come.

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Written: Feb 29, 2008

Strange whine

Okay, over the weekend I clued some of you folks on some backchannel shenanigans re an upcoming Afterhell episode, “Damning Praise.” I’m giving you some details and a touch of denouement on the QT. Don’t let it go to your head.

For those who came in late, this needs a little set-up.

Now then, “Damning Praise” was one of the first “Afterhell” scripts. It features a variation on a character concept I’d kicked around and played with in several different forms for over 20 years. He was a wise-cracking, dimension-hopping adventurer whose chosen nom de guerre referred to one of his (and one of my) favorite authors. His name is Harlan.

“Damning Praise” is a dark, disturbing, nightmarish vision of fandom. At the climax, this version of the Harlan character does a few disturbing things. But he’s a protagonist, maybe even heroic in a Gothic sense. And he’s appearing in an obscure audiodrama piece that doesn’t exactly rake in bags o’ money. In other words, I didn’t think the real-life namesake of this character, Harlan Ellison, would care about it.

This script has been sitting around for a few years. After so many distractions — cats, family, losing our house to a predatory lender, making that lender go the fuck away, getting to know many other audiodramatists, working on various projects with them, learning from it all, applying that to my own work — I thought it was time to produce that script. I wanted to dust it off, give it a good polish, and record the sucker. With help from some friends in Boston and here in Portland, we got that process started earlier this year. Then more distractions came before I could pursue that further.

(I promised to get into some of that in later postings. And I will. Now shush. Who’s telling this story, me or you?)

Casting and setting up the recording session took the rest of the year… or at least, so it seems. For months, Jamie and I contacted actors, sent out scripts, and talked to them about scheduling. Everybody was busy, which only made sense. These are very talented actors, very much in demand. But the harder we tried to put it all together, the harder it got. Schedules clashed constantly. There were no more than a few days a month, nearly every month, where everyone could meet. And at the last minute, someone had to cancel. It raised the inevitable question, to recast or reschedule? I was paranoid about getting just the right performances for this one, so I chose to reschedule. And it kept on happening. D-Day wasn’t this hard to pull off.

Did I say “a little set-up?” Somebody shoot me now. No, belay that. It gets interesting here.

After oodles of wrangling, September was looking like our month. And it has been. Everything was falling into place, albeit with the grace of a drugged gazelle, but it was happening, dammit. I wouldn’t get a full cast rehearsal, but a chance to rehearse some important scenes. Then everyone would be there a few days for the recording.

But three days before that rehearsal, Jamie and I had to talk with one of our actors. He wanted to do this story. He just didn’t get it. It didn’t have the overtly comedic tones of Volume 2. This was more surreal, darker…

And the script needed a polish. Yeah, I thought it should have one too. It was written hastily, in the sort of white-hot creative burst that Stephen King and J. Michael Straczynski often extol. For them, it’s the crucible of their personal best efforts. But they didn’t say anything about tightening up sloppy dialogue and blah formatting… or when I was going to find the time to fix all that.

But there I was, answering for the slapdash results, explaining the story, plot, character backstories, my inspirations for the piece, what I would’ve fixed if I’d gotten the time, every single creative decision short of the choice of word processor. And somewhere in that whole oral exam, he heard what he needed to hear. He was good to go. We were back on track. Whew. We could relax.

The next morning, he sent us an e-mail. He was having second thoughts. It turns out that he’s a friend and colleague of none other than… Harlan Ellison. He didn’t want it to look as if he was tiptoeing behind Harlan’s back, so he asked if he could talk to Harlan about it.

Ugh, so the HE guy would have to hear about my sloppy scriptwriting and these goofy CD’s I was making. Oh well, the worst that happens is a stern lecture–

Whoa, there was a line in the e-mail that stopped us cold. Legally we were on thin ice? HE’s name is intellectual property?! Crap, I’d forgotten about that.

Before anyone starts going on about huge egos and control freaks, here’s an important fact. So many people have tried to smear, scam, and libel him that he’s had to resort to such tactics to keep all that lunacy down to a dull roar. If there hadn’t been so many attempts, nobody would have to sweat it.

But the devil of it was that our mutual friend, the actor with whom I’d just discussed the script at length, has been aware of that script and that story for the last two years. And he decided to slam the brakes on the whole production just a few days away from our recording date.

But hey, he considers the guy a friend. You don’t screw your friends over, not if you can help it. I told him to go ahead.

What I didn’t tell him was, “Damn it, we were set! We were good to go, you stegosaurus! For fuck‘s sake! Why didn’t this occur to you before, Rip Van Winkle? Why now?! Where the fuck was all this friendship when I first pitched this idea to you on the way back from recording Volume 2?! Son of a bitch! Shit… shitshit!!!”

We were stunned. Dammit, we were so close. I’d just pulled us out of a nose-dive. Were we gonna crash and burn anyway? My intellect was saying one thing, that Harlan probably wouldn’t care, that it was small taters compared to the full-blown legalistic monkey crap-throwing contests he had dealt with in his time. The finished product might even amuse him, I thought. But the door to litigation had been opened. It was possible. And all the pre-production work Jamie and I had done, all the effort to write the damn thing, all the heated debates on the backchannel during that process, might have been for nothing.

So Jamie and I sweated for three more days, through the weekend, straight on till Tuesday morning. The whole time, we were on deathwatch and we knew it. Whether Harlan was a reasonable man wasn’t the issue. The whole situation was out of our hands. If our mutual friend framed it the wrong way, if Ellison was having a shitty day, if the planets were in the wrong alignment, if we pulled out a copy of the I-Ching and threw the fuckin’ magic Pocky sticks the wrong way….

Okay, that’s enough of that. You’re all in the loop, yes? About how the fate of this episode hinged on what Harlan Ellison’s reaction to the news was, right? You’re not going to start whining about spoilers when I spill? Crucifixion? Good.

The answer on Tuesday? Our actor friend called Harlan, and Harlan was cool with it. In fact he reportedly said, “Why are you bothering me with this? It’s not a big deal! It’s teeny! That other thing, I fought that for 29 years. Trust me. To get me into court, it has to be a big deal. This, not so much. Go ahead, do what you want.”

Verbatim, apprarently. And for that, our friend has a good memory.

Harlan asked for only two things in return. A note in the CD’s liner notes will state: The character of “Harlan” appears with the approval of Harlan Ellison. And we’ll send him a copy of the finished product.

So naturally we’re going to bust our asses on Volume 4… just as soon as we recover from the SAN loss for this whole incident.

And even better news! The last of the principal dialogue was recorded last night. And [info]audioboy himself just re-sent some special crowd walla, saving our exhausted bacon. We’re good to go.

Now I can concentrate on the last three parts of “Giallo Hotel.” No rest for the wicked.

Comments: 0
Written: Sep 28, 2007

Expect me when you see– Oh look, it’s me!

Bless me, Father, it’s been 15 weeks since my last confession.

Oh, hey.  Yup, it’s me– sticking my head out of the dark, tarry abyss I’d fallen into.  I’m still working myself out of it, so I can’t give you all the details right away.  With luck, I’ll be able to fill you in on all the details over time.

So…where have I been?  What have I been up to?  And has my snarky, shellshocked demeanor lightened up much?

Take a wild guess.  Anyway….

First, I’ve been chained to my Macbook for a few months, learning by doing sound work on my own.  The results have been the current mixes of Afterhell Vol 3 “Bloodbath at the Giallo Hotel.”  The folks at Transdimensional Media and the Willamette Radio Workshop have helped me a lot, giving me advice and feedback.  It’s still in work.  Watch that space.

Second…  Jamie started her sabbatical away from the day job in late June.  Now, on the surface, this fact flies in the face of common sense.  A sabbatical usually means more free time, not less.

Ah, but most people don’t make the mistake we did.  We told our relatives.  What’s been the real time-sink of late?  Them.

Simple reason why.  Best encapsulation:  “Free time?  Great, then you guys can drop everything and travel hundreds of miles to see us!  All of us!  Every last freakin’ one of us.  Y’know, before we all die.”

So except for a few weeks where we took a break and came home for this year’s WRW Writers-On-the-air Workshop, Jamie and I have been traveling.  Lots.  Driving for hundreds of miles, up and down the west coast of North America, dipping a little bit into Canada as well as the usual scouring of the western US (but not before enduring some bigoted US Customs officers who ought to be pelted with oily anchovies and shoved into large vats of rancid goat’s milk every time they ever say “Oh, one of those,”) schlepping laptops, luggage, and suntan lotion –when we have it — until every other part of our bodies ached like an all-over tetanus shot.

Thus, if any of our relations are reading this, and if you bugged us to go out all that way to see you… you owe us.  Big.  And you will not know the day.  You will not know the hour.

Anyway, I’m hoping to post more details and less snark as time passes.  We even have pictures that might be fun to post for everyone’s perusal.

That brings me to an interesting question for all and sundry.  Is there a decent image editor for OSX that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?

Comments: 0
Written: Aug 22, 2007

A Descent into the Maelstrom

Been a while since I posted.  Afterhell is keeping me busy.

For those I haven’t kept in the loop, I decided to make the big plunge and get a MacBook to do my own sound editing.  I try not to talk about it much.  I don’t want the grief that comes with the user interface wars. I don’t want to hear about how great it is that I’m “leaving the Dark Side” or “making the big switch.”  If I wanted to hear that kind of crap, I’d hang out with neocons.

Meanwhile, for the last week or so, one thought has been haunting me, for want of a better word.  Nothing critical, nothing earth-shattering or cosmically important.  Just a memory.

An episode of the new Battlestar Galactica series brought it back for me.  It’s been a few weeks, so I figured it’s fairly safe to mention it now.

At one point, Starbuck flashbacks on the day she told her mother that she’d become an officer.  Proud, quiet moment.  She’s the first in her family to do it.  She was in the top five of her class (or something to that effect.)

Then her mother says, “Why weren’t you number one?”  Starbuck’s face just collapses.  Crushed.  Confused.

My father once did the same thing to me.

Hard to believe.  After all these years, I’m still going down in flames.

Comments: 0
Written: Mar 12, 2007