Monday, August 4, 2008

My Latest Book: Creature Features

This one was certainly a lot of fun to write!

Creature Features: Nature Turned Nasty in the Movies William Schoell

ISBN 978-0-7864-3556-2 photos, filmography, bibliography, index214pp. hardcover (7 x 10) 2008

$49.95 Not Yet Published, Available Fall/Winter 2008

This can be pre-ordered at, barnes and noble, and at the publisher's web site.

From the catalog:

This work offers a critical, colorful and informative examination of different types of monster movies, spanning the silent period to today. Each chapter focuses on films that share a specific brand of primary monster. The discussion of films within chapters is chronological, though sequels or directly related films are grouped together regardless of release date. Chapter One focuses on dragons, dinosaurs, and other prehistoric or mythological scaly giants from films like 1953’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, an impressive stop-motion production that ushered in a new era of atomic-spawned “giant monster” films. Chapter Two examines “big bug” flicks, featuring outsized insects and arachnids, beginning with 1954’s giant ant–infested Them. Chapter Three focuses on ordinary animals that have grown to improbable proportions through inadvertent scientific tampering or sinister experimentation, such as the huge octopus in 1955’s It Came from Beneath the Sea. Chapters Four, Five, and Six look at several types of film in which nature goes berserk, and otherwise innocuous animals threaten mankind as they flock, swarm, hop or run about on a menacingly massive scale, including 1963’s The Birds and 1972’s Frogs. Finally, Chapter Seven focuses on films featuring blobs and other beasts that defy easy definition, such as 1958’s The Blob and Fiend Without a Face.

William Schoell is the author of many books about the performing arts and pop culture, including The Opera of the Twentieth Century (2006). He lives in New York.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why Writers Lose Their Hair

Years ago I did a number of think pieces for a paper in Philadelphia (even though I was based in New York). These were well-received by readers and editors alike, and a couple were nominated for awards. Then I submitted a piece -- I don't really remember what it was about -- that kept getting bumped from each issue. Each week I was told that there was a lot of hard news and no room for Op-Eds or think pieces. Each week I would notice half a dozen articles that hardly seemed to me like hard news. This went on for several weeks, turning into months.

The editor didn't like the piece or its sentiments and didn't want to run it but didn't have the guts to say so. It would have been so much more professional of him to say "this one didn't work for me" and let me turn in something different than to just keep bumping the piece week after week after week. Meanwhile, I did not do new pieces for the publication -- I mean, there was "no room," right?

Finally I asked for the piece back and sold it to another publication for five times the money. I never wrote for that Philadelphia paper again.

Why wasn't the editor more upfront with me? Perhaps because he knew that there was nothing actually wrong with the piece, he just didn't agree with it, and he knew that was a pretty weak, subjective reason for rejecting a piece from a newspaper that was supposed to explore different points of view. He could have chosen to confront me with his problems with the piece; he could have assigned someone else to write a counter-story (or done one himself). Instead, he did nothing, hoping I would either forget all about it or just ask for it back, which I did. But he lost, if I must say so myself, a damned good writer. I'm a professional and I expect others to be the same.

Now I'm occasionally doing pieces for a New York paper and the exact same situation has developed. I could be wrong this time. The paper's publication schedule has been cut back, and while I've seen a lot of stuff I, again, would hardly call hard news, at least it's of a timely nature, nothing that could be held over for another week, which is not necessarily true of my article. Still the situation is frustrating. It was the editor's idea, he said he liked it, and a number of prominent people spoke to me and gave me good quotes for the article (it's embarrassing when you get quotes from such people but the article never appears in print. You're reluctant to go to those people in the future, afraid they'll think "why should I talk to this guy, this piece probably won't see the light of day either." ) I offered to make changes that would make the piece more palatable to the editor (which I should have done with the editor in Philadelphia, even though he never actually expressed any dissatisfaction with it), but received no suggestions for revisions. Eventually the article will date and my chances for a resale somewhere else will be zero.

Of course, you can always put pieces on one of your blogs -- but that just isn't the same.

Which is one of the reasons why writers lose their hair.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Great Old Movies

GREAT OLD MOVIES is a new blog I've put together devoted to classic and not-so-classic old movies. Continually updating my movie and performing arts web sites was time-consuming, to say the least. A blog is a lot easier to manage. I'll be slowly moving much material from the Quirk's Reviews site to the new blog, as well as posting new reviews on a regular basis. If I had known how much easier it is to put together, update and manage a blog, I never would have bothered with so many friggin' web sites.

If you like old movies, check out GREAT OLD MOVIES! It's a blast, if I say so myself! It's very easy to subscribe to new posts by using the form on the right side of the blog.