Sunday, February 03, 2008

Of Publications and Cannibals

Just out is Dissecting Hannibal Lecter, a collection of essays on the work of Thomas Harris. It’s edited by Benjamin Szumskyj, with a foreword by Daniel O’Brien. I wrote the afterword, entitled “Mythmaker, ” about the developing “myth” that surrounds the “serial killer.” This is illustrated very well by the three novels featuring Hannibal the Cannibal. Below is the first paragraph of my piece.

“When we think of mythmakers and myths, most of us think of ancient times, of writers like Homer and Gods like Zeus and Apollo. We think of dragons, and the land of Faerie, and stories of Valkyries and Amazons. Yet, myth making didn’t stop with the ancients. It continues into the modern age, around Boy Scout campfires and on the silver screens of Hollywood, from the mouths of everyday folk and from the word processors of writers throughout the world.”

There are quite a few well known writers with essays in the collection, although the best known in the circles I move in is probably S. T. Joshi, who has written a lot of horror-related criticism, particularly concerning H. P. Lovecraft. I’m glad to see the book has come out. I found from my records that I submitted the completed piece in January of 2007, so the book has been a while in the making. I’m looking forward to delving into it.

Nothing much else to post today. The picture at bottom is my car, a Toyota Scion TC. I’ve been very happy with it so far.


Lana Gramlich said...

Congrats on the afterword & such, baby, but the back seat of your car's too small. ;)

Shauna Roberts said...

Congratulations on your afterword's finally getting published!

As you've probably guessed from my posts on the subject, how someone achieves mythological status intrigues me. Are you willing to share some of your conclusions?

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, that's why we have the woods, my dear.

Shauna, I will post more about this next time. It's definitely a fascination phenomenon.

Anndi said...

Congratulations Charles!

Guess you'll celebrate in the woods, hehehe!

Myths, a universe so complex and engaging.

Lisa said...

I remember how taken I was with Thomas Harris when I first read him. For some reason, I was fascinated with serial killers for a few years and read every awful pulpy true story paperback about real serial killers, trying to understand what made them different from the rest of us. I naturally found no answers, but my family said I was beginning to make them uncomfortable -- I guess it had something to do with how many times I mentioned that since the police appeared to be so disorganized and the only way serial killers seemed to get caught was by doing something blatantly stupid that it would be really easy to kill and disappear someone and never get caught :) Somehow I found Red Dragon years ago and I always thought it would make a great movie -- the first one was pretty sad, but I was more impressed with the second.

Erik Donald France said...

Awesome! Congrats. The car looks swanky in silver, too. Admittedly, Hannibal creeps me out more than any Homeric myth precisely b/c of its modern twist.

Sphinx Ink said...

Very cool, Charles! Like Lisa, I am fascinated by serial killers, and have read scads of book--both fiction and nonfiction--featuring them. I'm a big fan of Thomas Harris--Hannibal Lecter is one of the most fascinating characters ever to appear in a novel, and worthy of a book analyzing him. I've already looked at the DISSECTING HANNIBAL LECTER page on Amazon, but will likely postpone purchasing it. (Thirty-five bucks is pricey for a paperback.) Congrats on your contribution to it.

SQT said...

Thank goodness serial killers fascinate us. That means we're interested because we don't understand their need to kill or the blatant disregard they have for human life.

I've consumed my fair share of serial killer fiction and non fiction. I think I'm interested because I want to know what makes them the way they are. I know abuse plays a big factor but there just has to be something else because most abused kids don't end up torturing their pets. Interesting topic.

Steve Malley said...

Oddly, I thought of you while reading on this topic yesterday:

Apparently, there's no real agreement on the differences (if any) between psychopathic and sociopathic personalities, and certain psychiatric bodies favor Antisocial Personality Disorder and Dissocial Personality Disorder. I like to call DPD 'serial killer lite'.

My favorite psychiatric term for this evil? Intraspecies predator!

virtual nexus said...

Yup - love the wheels....remember the (true) anecdote by Anthony Hopkins of how he turned up at a remote motel in the States one night looking for accommodation. It freaked the living daylights out of the guy behind the desk.

Miladysa said...

Congratulations! You must be chuffed :)

I am really interested in myths and folklore.

I have never been interested in the likes of Hannibal and his cronies. I suppose this could have something to do with growing up in the aftermath of the moors murders.

The comment of Steve Malley really sparked my interest though:

"Intraspecies predator!" Whow - LOVE it!

ivan said...

I once tried a very pebbly beach on the endge of a palm grove in Dominica.
Very hard on the libido!

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

I am saddened by what has happened to Thomas Harris and how we have wrung Hannibal Lecter out of his last bit of literary worthiness.

Still, it's fascinating to watch and analyze the response of our society to the likes of Lecter. Or to the likes of Al Pacino's Scarface. I remember picking up the anniversary DVD Scarface and listening to gangbanger after gangbanger talk about how much honor and other admirable qualities the villain possessed.

Charles Gramlich said...

Anndi, thanks. Yes, the process of how myths develop is endlessly fascinating.

Lisa, I have to laugh at how your family felt. We writers do talk and think about the most horrific things. Sometimes gleefully.

Eric, Definitely there is a scary edge to the serial killer story. Because people do try to live up, or down, to myths.

Sphinx Ink, yes, that price tag is kind of high. At that price they'll be lucky to sell to anyone other than some libraries. It would probably make a good reference book for folks working on stuff about serial killers, though.

SQT, I believe there is certainly a biological aspect to the phenomenon. You're right, many serial killers don't show evidence of serious abuse, while "most" abused individuals do not become serial killers.

Steve Malley, part of the reason the APA has changed the names is because of misuse in fiction and movies of the terms. I still use the term sociopath usually. Of course, not all sociopaths are serial killers, but most (if not all) serial killers are sociopaths. A dangerous added quality is that many of them have narcissistic personalities. I think I'm with you. They are predators on their own species.

Julie, I remember Hopkins telling that story and how surreal it seemed, and yet totally human.

Miladysa, I didn't start out with much interest in serial killers, but I read up on them for a story I did years ago and then began studying them because of my interest in horror. Then I got more interested when I found out they have become part of the modern mythology.

Ivan, I like softer surfaces myself.

Stewart, I talk about that quite a bit in my afterword, about how Harris managed to turn a serial killer into a hero by the third book. I really thought Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs were great works, but the last two left me cold. I've heard those comments about Scarface too and it scares me.

RRN said...

I always thought the TC seemed like a smart vehicle and a pretty slick one too. Don't really see to many around here... For whatever reason , people in these parts are still way into the idea that you have to drive a domestic car around here or you are a "traitor" that is "taking away american jobs". I live in a strange place Charles.

RRN said...

By the way... Killer paragraph from the afterword. I was happy to hear about that and must head to the book store to check it out live and in person. Good stuff.

the walking man said...

Harris once said that the character of Hannibal Lecter frightened and disgusted him so much that he was not sure if he could write the prequel to The Silence of the Lambs. It is sort of amazing how we get so involved in the characters we make that they have that emotional aaect on the writer.

The first long piece (85k words) I wrote was a serial killer piece, and i do understand his feeling. The researching the serial killer alone is enough to weird one out. I had to write two more novel length pieces before I would go back and do the second half in which I killed everyone off so I wouldn't have to go back and re-visit that twisted dimension of the human mind.

It does take a loooooong time between acceptance and publication doesn't it? Well they got her done so I guess that's what counts.

One question though. Why do you make Lana ride in the back seat?



the walking man said...

affect affect affect geez I guess i should edit before I post.



Bernita said...

I think myths and legends walk with us all the time.
Congratulations, Charles.

Tyhitia Green said...

Congratulations on your afterword! I like your car. :*)

Charles Gramlich said...

RRN, it's been very reliable for me so far, except for a blown throttle body, which cost me 1200 bucks to fix. but it's got 55,000 miles on it now. Glad you liked the paragraph.

Mark, I've written a couple of serial killer short stories, mainly because the markets were there and paid well. I don't particularly enjoy immersing myself in those characters, though.

Bernita, yes. Much of your work that I've read has an element of myth in it.

Josephine Damian said...

Charles: I hope this means you get some royalties. At least it's a nice credit for the query letter.

We positively have serial killers on the brain in the forensic psych classes I've taken. Anybody curious about what makes them tick should read all the books written about Danny Roling "The Gainesville Ripper" - I did a term paper on him, and yes, all the Intro to Forensic Psych students are required to do a psych eval of Hannibal Lecter.

Anybody curious about perverts, weirdos and sexual predators should read up on a sick puppy named Albert Fish.

What is it with men and outdoor sex? Sounds like a topic for a psycho-sexual-social study project to me.

david mcmahon said...

I'm a journalist, so I always ask the tough, incisive questions - does Lana get to drive your car?

Monique said...

Congratulations on your afterword. A brilliant achievement. Celebrations all round. I will toast you later on tonight.

The anthology 'A Women's Guide To Saving The World' is coming out in March with a small contribution of me. Middle Ditch was born there.

Thank you for your comment on that blog.

Travis Erwin said...

Congrats. That is an engaging lead paragraph.

As a side I ordered the first two books in your Talera series through Hastings here in Amarillo but they have yet to come in. they said ten days but it has been twenty.

Guess the publisher is having trouble keeping up with the demand.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Chalres, congratulations on the afterword! That is awesome! And your book is on my TBR pile, which unfortunately is very large right now and unmoving. But I look forward to reading it someday soon!

Michelle's Spell said...

Congratulations, Charles! I'm interested in both positive and negative myths, how they get perpetuated and what they say about the culture at the time. I happen to love the gangster mythology because it addresses a reality in urban America that is often ignored. Outlaws are fascinating by their nature -- although I've never shared an interest in serial killers except a few (Richard Speck, Ted Bundy), I can see why my students do. It's a scary part of our culture that addresses something primal. Red Dragon scared me to death when I read it when I was about eleven!

Charles Gramlich said...

Josephine, it was actually a one time fee, but it's a pretty decent fee.

David McMahon, she does, though she doesn't do so very often.

Monique, would you rather me link to your regular blog or to Middle-Ditch?

Travis Erwin, it must be the demand thing. I know lots of schools are requiring the Taleran books nowdays. I think Yale and Harvard and Oxford have even developed a new standardized admittance test based upon knowledge of those sacred texts.
(seriously, thanks very much for ordering them. I hope you enjoy.)

Ello, I understand the physics of "to be read" piles. It's a geometric progression in growth rate combined with a logarhythmic decrease in reading time.

Michelle, yes, I made tie-ins in my piece to the heroic outlaw western stories about Billy the Kid and Jesse James.

Jo said...

Congratulations on the afterword being published. Good for you!

Hannibal Lecter is one of the creepiest characters even written. You wonder what goes through the mind of someone who could writer a character like that.

Charles Gramlich said...

Josie, I think it's probably a bit like acting a part. It involves putting yourself into the character's shoes, and sometimes it is very hard.