I don't want to speak too disparagingly of my generation (actually I do, we had a chance to change the world and opted for the Home Shopping Network instead), but there was a view among the student writers I knew at that time that good writing came spontaneously, in an uprush of feeling that had to be caught at once; when you were building that all-important stairway to heaven, you couldn't just stand around with your hammer in your hand.
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The workman cut to the left, still laying on his horn, and roared around the drunkenly weaving limousine. He invited the driver of the limo to perform an illegal sex act on himself. To engage in oral congress with various rodents and birds. He articulated his own proposal that all persons of Negro blood return to their native continent. He expressed his sincere belief in the position the limo driver's soul would occupy in the afterlife. He finished by saying that he believed he had met the limodriver's mother in a New Orleans house of prostitution.
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It had that comfortably sprung, lived-in look that library books with a lively circulation always get; bent page corners, a dab of mustard on page 331, a whiff of some reader's spilled after-dinner whiskey on page 468. Only library books speak with such wordless eloquence of the power good stories hold over us, how good stories abide, unchanged and mutely wise, while we poor humans grow older and slower.
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There were no horror movies or horror books to speak of in the '40s. I picked the '50s because that pretty well spans my life as an appreciator - as somebody who's been involved with this mass cult of horror, from radio and movies and Saturday matinees and books. In the '40s there really wasn't that much. People don't want to read about horrible things in horrible times. So, in the '40s, there was Val Lutin with The Cat People and The Curse of the Cat People and there wasn't much else.
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I realized the shells were talking in a voice I recognized. I should have; it was my own. Had I always known that? I suppose I had. On some level, unless we're mad, I think most of us know the various voices of our own imaginations. And of our memories, of course. They have voices, too. Ask anyone who has ever lost a limb or a child or a long-cherished dream. Ask anyone who blames himself for a bad decision, usually made in a raw instant (an instant that is most commonly red). Our memories have voices, too. Often sad ones that clamor like raised arms in the dark.
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The first is that good writing consists of mastering the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style) and then filling the third level of your toolbox with the right instruments. The second is that while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one
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A scary movie puts a lot of people, a mob, in one place. There are advantages to that because the panic runs through the audience. If it's a good movie, the fear jumps from one person to the next. You can find yourself screaming just because everybody around you is screaming. There's a real atmosphere of terror. It's also visual, which means that you can't look away from this thing - it's happening. You're in the dark. It's like a nightmare. It's like a dream. It's very, very visual. It works on all those levels.
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" Science is beginning to encroach on every level of our volition". And to me, that is a frightening social concept. It doesn't have anything to do with the right to have an abortion verses the right to life. It has to do with the ability of science to keep things alive and the ability of science to really control our lives.
The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease & intimacy with the process of writing... It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn't, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.
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How much courage does it take to fire up your tractor and plow under a crop you spent six or seven years growing? How much courage to go on and do that after you've spent all that time finding out how to prepare the soil and when to plant and how much to water and when to reap? How much to just say, "I have to quit these peas. Peas are no good for me, I better try corn or beans.
And all that weirdness isn't just going on outside. It's in you too, right now, growing in the dark like magic mushrooms. Call it the Thing in the Cellar. Call it the Blow Lunch Factor. Call it the Loony Tunes File. I think of it as my private dinosaur, huge, slimy, and mindless, stumbling around in the stinking swamp of my subconscious, never finding a tar pit big enough to hold it.
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I think we'd all like to believe that after we shuffle off this mortal coil, that there's going to be something on the other side because for most of us, I know for me, life is so rich, so colorful and sensual and full of good things, things to read, things to eat, things to watch, places to go, new experiences, that I don't want to think that you just go to darkness.
I understand that each one of us works at a different speed, and has a slightly different process. I understand that these writers are painstaking, wanting each sentence-each word-to carry weight... I know it's not laziness, but respect for the work, and I understand from my own work that haste makes waste. But I also understand that life is short, and that in the end, none of us is prolific. The creative spark dims, and then death puts it out. William Shakespeare, for instance, hasn't produced a new play for 400 years. That, my friends, is a long dry spell.
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Homesickness is not always a vague, nostalgic, almost beautiful emotion, although that is somehow the way we always seem to picture it in our mind. It can be a terribly keen blade, not just a sickness in metaphor but in fact as well. It can change the way one looks at the world; the faces one sees in the street look not just indifferent but ugly... perhaps even malignant. Homesickness is a real sickness--the ache of the uprooted plant.
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I think of fear as a survival function, and in the stories that I write, the only thing that I've tried to do is provide people with nightmares which are really safe places to put those fears for a while because you can say afterwards that uh, that, that well it was all just make-believe anyway, so I just took my emotions for a walk.
It means that no blue ribbon is forever. Someday - if the world doesn't explode itself in the meantime - someone will run a two-minute mile in the Olympics. It may take a hundred years or a thousand, but it will happen. Because there is no ultimate blue ribbon. There is zero, and there is eternity, and there is mortality, but there is no ultimate.
I'm convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn't need the feather; the magic was in him.
I think we fought Vietnam for the benefits of civilization, and certainly we fought it to oppose authority. To show our authority, to show we weren't weak. Isn't that what Nixon kept saying? "We have to show the world that we're not weak." So of course what we ended up showing the world was that we were, yep, weak. 'Cause we couldn't beat these kids in black pajamas.
The beauty of religious mania is that it has the power to explain everything. Once God (or Satan) is accepted as the first cause of everything which happens in the mortal world, nothing is left to chance ... or change. Once such incantatory phrases as "we see now through a glass darkly" and "mysterious are the ways". He chooses His wonders to perform" are mastered, logic can be happily tossed out the window". Religious mania is one of the few infallible ways of responding to the world's vagaries, because it totally eliminates pure accident. To the true religious maniac, it's all on purpose.
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The good folks mostly win, courage usually triumphs over fear, the family dog hardly ever contracts rabies: these are things I knew at twenty-five, and things I still know now, at the age of 25 x 2. But I know something else as well: there's a place in most of us where the rain is pretty much constant, the shadows are always long, and the woods are full of monsters. It is good to have a voice in which the terrors of such a place can be articulated and its geography partially described, without denying the sunshine and clarity that fill so much of our ordinary lives. (viii)
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The first movie I can remember seeing was The Creature From The Black Lagoon. And, I can remember hearing a radio play of Ray Bradbury's Mars Is Heaven. And when I cut my teeth on comic books, they were not the easy ones of today like Spiderman, Superman and The Hulk. they were Tales Of The Crypt, The Vaultkeeper, and that sort of thing.
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I got letters from people that have had peculiar psychic experiences, experiences with the dead - sometimes fairly tranquil experiences and sometimes very terrifying experiences. I do believe that a lot of them are sincere. I do believe, also, that some of them may be misguided. But, I think the majority of them have experienced something.
I love the movies, and when I go to see a movie that's been made from one of my books, I know that it isn't going to be exactly like my novel because a lot of other people have interpreted it. But I also know it has an idea that I'll like because that idea occurred to me, and I spent a year, or a year and a half of my life working on it.
There were times . . . when it occurred to me that I was repeating my mother's life. Usually this thought struck me as funny. But if I happened to be tired, or if there were extra bills to pay and no money to pay them with, it seemed awful. I'd think 'This isn't the way our lives are supposed to be going.' Then I'd think 'Half the world has the same idea.
One only wishes Wayne LaPierre and his NRA board of directors could be drafted to some of these scenes, where they would be required to put on booties and rubber gloves and help clean up the blood, the brains, and the chunks of intestine still containing the poor wads of half-digested food that were some innocent bystander's last meal.
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There's a Mr. Hyde for every happy Jekyll face, a dark face on the other side of the mirror. The brain behind that face never heard of razors, prayers, or the logic of the universe. You turn the mirror sideways and see your face reflected with a sinister left-hand twist, half mad and half sane.
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There is a story in the book Night Shift, called 'The Mangler,' about a laundry machine that takes on a sort of malignant life. I worked in a laundry for about a year and a half after I got out of college. It was the only job I could find to support my wife and our first child. There was a fellow there that had no hands or forearms. He simply had hooks. This is one of the things that they don't tell you about when you become management. You have to wear a tie. It was this fellow's tie that did him in.
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Human beings have got a lot, of good, noble impulses inside them, and most people want to be good and do more good than they do evil. Hell, we've had nuclear weapons for years and nothing's happened. That in itself seems to be a miracle. If American president pushes the button, or somebody pushes the button in Russia, or somebody pushes it in Costa Rica, they can put a big tombstone in outer space that says, "We gave it a good try." Because we have.
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there are lots of would-be censors out there, and although they may have different agendas, they all want basically the same thing: for you to see the world they see...or to at least shut up about what you do see that's different. they are agents of the status quo. not necessarily bad guys, but dangerous guys if you happen to believe in intellectual freedom.
Best not to look back. Best to believe there will be happily ever afters all the way around - and so there may be; who is to say there will not be such endings? Not all boats which sail away into darkness never find the sun again, or the hand of another child; if life teaches anything at all, it teachers that there are so many happy endings that the man who believes there is no God needs his rationality called into serious question.