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Deconstructing the Stories, Part 4

BRIAN SAYS:

For this installment, the stories that we’re going to deconstruct are four that can only be found in The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness: Reflux Edition. From here on out, we’ll just refer to it as Reflux. What is Reflux? Other than that burny feeling your insides get when thinking about either Chris or me? It’s the special edition of The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness. This limited print run can only be purchased directly from us at any of our various appearances (check here for where we might be next) or from our website, here. What makes Reflux different from the original edition? Well, we added three stories, rewrote four stories, and after EACH story is a behind the scenes look of what we did or drank to come up with the story. It’s like the special director’s commentary DVD of your favorite movie. Why did we rewrite four of the stories? Well, we’re glad you asked.

One of the stories I decided to rewrite was “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Wendigo.” Chris wrote that story in the original version. He did a fantastic job with it, continuing our adventure from our time in Tijuana chronicled in “Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. La Chupacabra.” However, when we first brought up the idea of our characters facing the wendigo spirit, we each had vastly different takes on the subject. Chris portrayed the spirit much like Algernon Blackwood did in his tale many years ago. It lent itself well for what Chris did with the story, but my favorite versions of the wendigo were always the more Hollywood style – the ravenous creature possessing a person, turning them into an insatiable cannibal. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Algernon Blackwood version of the wendigo. But after we released the original version of Scary Tales, we learned that many people don’t know what a wendigo is, and even fewer have heard of Algernon Blackwood. When we decided to do Reflux, I jumped at the chance to tell a story using one of my favorite spirits not sold in a liquor store. I also took the opportunity to make a few jokes about Canada. Because, you know, Canada.

The other story I rewrote was “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. Zombies.” This concept was actually what started the whole nonsense of us writing ourselves as characters in horror stories. At the time, I was not a fan of zombies. Over the decades, the typical zombie story evolved from inept young people struggling to flee from shambling corpses that can somehow utter the word, “Braaaaaaaaains,” to a more sophisticated study of human nature where survivors could be more dangerous than the zombies themselves. When Chris wrote the original, he did a fantastic job of taking the zombie story to a unique place (the zombies in question were not actually undead, instead they were under the mind control of the nefarious Potato People) as well as tell a compelling story using dialog only, with zero narrative. Even though I enjoyed his vision, I still wanted to see a traditional zombie story filled with traditionally stupid characters. Namely, Chris and me.

Since the characters of Chris and Brian spent so much time in a restaurant thinly veiled in fiction called Melons, I thought it would be funny if Chris and I won a “golden ticket” to visit the headquarters. Little did we know it would be much like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory! Not only did I want to up the fun factor, but I also wanted to add to the body count. Scary Tales is a book about horror stories, and zombies are always eating people, so the zombies in this version of the story eat people. Of course, they deserve to be eaten since they do what the characters do in the zombie stories of yesteryear that I detested – drop weapons right after successfully using them, or sacrificing themselves for the rest of the group when there’s another option that would allow everyone to escape unscathed. Of course, I also decided to have fun with the source of zombie-making contagion. Yes, you guessed it – the goat.


CHRIS SAYS:

…And cut. Ok, that’s a wrap, guys. Good job and we can continue filming tomorrow… Oh, hi! I didn’t hear you back there, you sneaky creepers! Thanks for visiting us on the top secret Fortress lair… oh, wait… it’s top secret… so, what was Brian going on about? Reflux? Yeah, I know a thing or two about that. Come on over here where we can talk.

Four stories from the original collection got a complete makeover in Reflux. Brian wanted to tackle Zombies and The Wendigo because he simply envisioned them as something other than what they were in the original edition of the book. And I’m glad that he did. He took both stories back to their more Hollywood roots and it brought out more of that delightful lunacy that you all know as The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys.

For my part, I wanted to try to work a slightly different angle with “Spider.” The original is classical zaniness and a favorite of ours to do at readings. I’m always a sucker to twist up a good classic into knots, so I wondered what would happen if I made “Spider” follow a traditional European fairy tale format, complete with a stranger and gifts and all of that. As we had begun to work in Jeff Young more as an antagonist, I thought it would be great fun to continue this theme (it wasn’t until Brian and I met after the first round of story re-writing that we found out that we had both taken this tactic). The framework of the story is largely autobiographical as Brian had told me just weeks earlier how he had blown up two mowers in a span of a few days. For someone who only mows twice a year, this is no small task! Brian’s accountant, financial justification for the events of the story… well, that just makes me laugh a little bit on the inside. He’s read it. He still hasn’t denied that he would rationalize it similarly….

“The Blob” was a story for which I had no reference. There is no literary equivalent that I’m aware of and I have never seen the movies pertaining to it. I enjoyed Brian’s take on things (who doesn’t love a good mad scientist?) and I stopped to wonder what semi-autobiographical reference I could use in which we were mad scientists… hmmm… oh, yeah… at one of our Fortress excursions we may have relived the good old college days and some of our less than wise mixologies. At the forefront was some good, old-fashioned, gummy candy. Couldn’t possibly cause any harm, right? So I threw in a little Ghostbuster humor and mixed it with a few fifty piece wing platters and voila! Speaking of gummy candy, I think it’s… ummmm… clean out the pantry day! National holiday, you know. Gotta go! Bye!

Deconstructing the Stories, Part 3

BRIAN SAYS:


Holy wow! It’s been less than a year between postings! Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Tell your Priest! We’re heading to Crazytown and I think I’m the Mayor! Okay, I might have oversold it a bit. Sorry. It’s just another post pulling back the curtain that separates Chris and me from the rest of the world.


So, the last time we deconstructed some stories from our short story collection, The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness (available here and here), Chris and I looked at a couple of our favorites. This time, we’ll take a look at a couple that really stood out for us. Or me, I’d have to say it’s the last story in the book, “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Devil,” for many reasons.


As we were writing the book, we went along our merry way doing some goofy things that led to unanswered questions. Beer Pants. Talking to animals. Dying more than the average human being. Why there’s a goat in a few of the stories. As we were finishing up the rest of the stories, we were running out of opportunities to explain ourselves. It finally dawned us to do one final story where we match wits with the devil. Better yet, we force Jeff to match his wits with the devil. And it worked.


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Deconstructing the Stories: Part 1

BRIAN SAYS:

Welcome back! Chris and I hope you’re enjoying our blog so far. As we mentioned in our very first post, we wanted to do a segment called “Deconstructing the Stories” where we’ll be going behind the scenes of some of our short-stories that we’ve had published. Well, here we go!

For “Deconstructing the Stories” Part 1, let’s take a look at “Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness”. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with this work – it’s a collection of short stories where Chris and I wrote ourselves in as characters of horror stories. If you’d like to familiarize yourselves with this book before we continue, you can order a hardcopy here at the Fortress Site and you can order an eVersion here (Smashwords) or here (Amazon) or here (B&N). Okay, so now that you’ve familiarized yourselves with the book, the first question you might have is how we came up with the idea in the first place.

As with most ideas that Chris and I have, we ultimately found inspiration at the bottom of a beer pitcher. But there were a couple things that happened before that.

As Chris and I were creating Fortress Publishing, Inc., we attended a few conventions to gather intel and generate some ideas. One convention in particular was the Pittsburgh Comicon and one particular comic book that we picked up was “Living With Zombies” where, as you may have guessed, the creators wrote and drew themselves as characters surviving the zombie apocalypse.

A few months later, Chris and I were at our monthly shareholders meeting (yes, Fortress Publishing, Inc. is REALLY a corporation) at Hooters. Much to the chagrin of the waitresses, our meetings would last 6+ hours and would deteriorate into silly debates, often loud and slurred. This one happened to be: Zombies, Pro or Con.

I find zombies little more than moving scenery while Chris believes that they represent man’s inherent fear of blah blah blah blah blah. During a particularly heated part of the debate (and for those of you who don’t know us, “heated” really means we entered the “giggle like a couple of preteen girls” stage of our drunkenness), Chris blurted, “I’m gonna write a zombie story with us as characters!” I replied, all too loudly as well, “Oh yeah? Well, I’m gonna write a vampire story with us as characters! And they’re gonna be the new, hip, sexy kind who wear black leather and listen to techno music!” We then paused in our bickering, ignoring the looks of indignation being cast at us by the waitresses and other patrons, and let the concept of writing ourselves as characters into stories percolate in our alcohol addled minds. We then looked at each other and asked, “Do we really want to do this?”

CHRIS SAYS:

Do we really want to order more beer? Duh! Oh, wait…Do we really want to work on this project that, in a more sober frame of mind, would likely be less appealing than shouting “all in” while holding a deuce and a seven, unsuited? We assessed our current situation as publishers. At that point, to date, we were the proud publishers of a few slick looking magazines and a graphic novel. A few nice beginner projects, but hardly the stuff of publishing legend. Brian and I both love short story anthologies and hoped that eventually the magazine arm of Fortress Publishing, Inc., would lead us down the path to publishing a few of them. From that aspect we were pretty darn amped about giving this project a shot.

As writers, we had a few short stories and some poems published, but we clearly wanted to get some more writing experience. We had no large writing projects looming so as we began to flesh out this project, we decided that this was a great opportunity to attempt to write in a few different styles, work with an outside editor (potentially), work with deadlines (shudder), find an illustrator, practice re-writes, find a printer we liked, and assemble a novel-length piece into a computer file that the printer would accept. All in all, this was a more daunting task than merely writing a few stories, and a few more pitchers later we found that we were pretty excited about the whole project and the experience we would get out of it.

While the creative coals were still hot, Brian and I started throwing out story names and suggestions at each other. Some of them made us cringe. Others made us cackle in a manner worthy of the forcing the employees to ask us to leave. But that didn’t happen. Instead, one of us got the bright idea that we should be capturing these ideas for future reference (the other argued…because, hey, it’s what we do). Fortunately, we not only write down our ideas, but somehow managed to stow the notes in a place where we actually came across them the next day.

Now, in all truth, Brian and I took far different approaches to the potential selection process. We both loved the ideas that made us titter uncontrollably, but Brian really focused on his past movie experiences, while I delved into the literary vault of my mind and dug out some of my favorite Gothic reads. Brian was noting themes and tropes, while I was methodically examining very specific works that focused on a specific atmosphere or style. In the end we wound up with a nice blend of horror that we thought we could poke fun at through unique twists, while maintaining a sense of respect for the original ideas.

Tune in next time when we deconstruct our novel “The Shattered Visage Lies”…