Jul
14

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.


1 Comment

  1. I have my tennis shoes on…

    Comment by Geiger — July 17, 2014 @ 6:42 am

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