Category Archives: K.D. Alexander

The Bokor’s Daughter

It is said the Bokor serves the Loa with both hands. 

For good or for ill. 

Elise, my father, was many things. None of which were a good man. Once I was gone, the hardest part was in him letting go. 

I remember the long night he cried to Baron Semadi to not dig my grave. It took two days for my body to rot. 

And six days before I walked again.

The term “zombi(e)” has been a part of american pop-culture since the pulp age of literature. Their cultural significance goes back much longer.

George Romero may have invented the zombie, but Haitian Vodoun have known about their existence since the dawn of their civilization. The Zombi is so ingrained in the Haitian culture, that to create one is as much a crime as pre-meditated murder.

I am neither scientist nor philosopher, and I’m certainly not a medical doctor. But there are plenty who are and who were. Sometime around the late-80’s, a guy named Wade Davis had pontificated on the scientific reality of zombies. He focused on the case study of a man by the name of Clairvius Narcisse.

Narcisse was, for lack of a better term, a trouble maker. He defied the common acceptability of Haitian culture. He placed a tin roof on a a hut that should have been thatched, he refused to allow his brother the use of his land to feed his family. And considering social-norms, he was almost a complete and total prick.

It is believed that his brother, feeling the slight from the denial of his land consulted a Bokor, a kind of mercenary magician. The Bokor created a zombie powder, which was used to turn Narcisse essentially into a zombie.

After checking himself in to a hospital for a number of medical complaints,including coughing up blood, Narcisse ended up being pronounced dead by western doctors.

He said that shortly before being pronounced dead, he felt as if his skin was on fire with insects crawling beneath it. He heard his sister weeping as he was pronounced deceased, even felt the sheet being pulled over his face. Although he was unable to move or speak, he remained lucid the entire time. Even as his coffin was nailed shut and buried. He even had a scar on his face from when a nail was driven through his face. He said that while he was underneath the earth, he felt a strange floating sensation as if his consciousness was almost above the coffin. He lay there for an unknown about of time until the Bokor and his henchmen dug him up, where he was immediately beaten into submission, bound, gagged, and spirited off to a plantation where he lived for the next two years while being force fed a single meal a day.

That meal contained Datura, a strong hallucinogenic that is called the zombie cucumber. It causes extreme delirium and total amnesia, among many other symptoms. Narcisse later recalled that his time spent on the plantation was full of days where the world seemed to pass by in an almost slow-motion haze.

Scientific analysis of multiple powders revealed ground up bones, ground up glass, urticating bristles, toads, and all sorts of other witches’ brew ingredients. There was a commonality to the powder though. Tetrodotoxin. The poison inside of a puffer fish that has been known to cause a near catatonic or death-like state.

Keep the myth behind the legend in mind.

Because sometimes, the truth is more terrifying than the fiction.

Zombie Fun!

The first appearance of the concept of the “zombi” was in 1916’s The Magic Island by W.B. Seabrook.

In the Vault published by HP Lovecraft in 1925 has the first appearance of a character being bitten by a zombie. It was rejected by Weird Tales for being too “gruesome”.

White Zombie, starring Bella Lugosi and directed by Victor Halperin is credited as being the first zombie film. It’s based on the same voodoo cult style zombies that appeared in Seabrook’s novel.

Things to Come by H.G. Wells was made into a movie in 1936. It was the first appearance of the zombie plague, seen later in books like Jonathan Maberry’s Dead of Night and the Resident Evil movie and videogame series.

Night of the Living Dead, written/directed by George Romero is often credited as the creation of the modern zombie.

Thriller, Michael Jackson’s 1983 music video, is one of the most famous depictions of zombies. Seriously. Everyone knows Thriller.

Zombies Ate my Neighbors is the first zombie video-game I ever played.

Happy Halloween!

 

Boo!

So, it’s Halloween. I’m actually kind of excited that I ended up with the Halloween post because it’s right up my alley. And I was looking forward to the leaves changing and the crisp chill in the air as laughter and screams fill the otherwise silent night.

But I’ve got a more important topic to talk about. Specifically, college football.

Actually no. We’ll stick with blood, guts, and gore.

I’m not going to lie, I love horror. But not the crap that’s filling our cineplexes nowadays. My favorite kind of horror doesn’t jump out and say BOO! It’s the sneaking, creeping blackness that twists your insides and makes you feel the fear.

My favorite horror movie of all time isn’t a slasher. It’s a little independent film called Session 9. Check it out, it has that redheaded guy from CSI.

The movie starts with a simple premise: A waste removal team goes into an abandoned mental asylum to clean the asbestos out of the building to render it safe for some government office or something. There’s nothing that jumps out at the characters, there’s no creepy little girl ready to eat your face. No, it’s a pure psychotic meltdown in the best kind of horror. As the team works diligently to meet their deadlines and put supper on their family’s tables, they uncover some of the patient’s files. And what happens after is the best education in true horror.

Are monsters scary? Sure. I still sleep with the covers over my head every night because I’m afraid Freddy’s coming to get me in my dreams. Don’t blame me, blame the babysitter. Who lets a 9 year old watch Nightmare on Elm Street anyway!?

What do Session 9 and Nightmare on Elm Street have in common? And what are they doing on a writing blog?

In Session 9, we have a prime example of horror, the CHARACTER.

In Nightmare on Elm Street, we have a prime example of horror, the ACTOR.

But wait, don’t actors play characters? Yeah. Sorta. Anything more would be an elementary lesson in literature. And I don’t have the patience to teach. 🙂

Freddy Krueger terrorizes children in their dreams, slitting their throats, chasing them around, throwing them in furnaces…It’s gratuitous. Do I have a problem with it? Absolutely not. I’m human. Heck, our whole race’s history is mostly based on sex and violence.

Here, the horror of the story isn’t the character of the fear, it’s the actor of the horror. If that makes sense, then you’ve been eating just as much candy as me.

The Elm Street movies rely on the slash/bang shock and awe of what sort of violence is going to befall the next victim. Movies and books like this are a dime a dozen.

In Session 9, we have the creeping characterization of pure horror as the cleaning crew learns what sort of pseudo-science went on behind closed doors. The influence the asylum has on its new occupants is characterized by the shifting tone as the actors interact and go on their own individual story arcs.

It’s a more satisfying horror that sounds boring on paper. But big on screen.

Which is easier to write? Neither. Which is more satisfying to write? Both.

The issue is everyone that reads your book has a completely different concept of what frightens them. You can’t win every battle. And you can’t save everyone. As long as you don’t trip over the corpse sticking out from under your bed though, you just might be okay.

Providing it doesn’t get you first.

Happy Halloween!

Black and White…Gray and Gold

My day job exists in a strange state of flux. There is only black and white, no shades between. I deal in actual fact, method, motive, and circumstance.

But yet, everything is painted over with this strange gray haze. Good guys do bad things, sometimes bad guys do good things. Smart people make dumb decisions, and generally ignorant people end up doing things so off the wall bloody fricken’ genius that it would just make your head spin.

I exist in the here and now, the actual reality of fictional realism. Things that happen defy logic, exist without rhyme or reason. They’re just accepted as existing, simply because they are.

But even in the end of it, we’re all guided by black and white. Yet, while there is only one right way to do things, there’s an infinite number of wrong ways to do the right thing.

And so exist my characters. There is no defined archetype. They exist because they do. And the things they do, they do because they want to. Whether guided by logic, madness, revenge, or even lust. Heck, I’ve been known to find some strange demonic presence skulking about in the corner of a character’s bedroom, guiding their hand in all that is achieved.

I’ve heard the modern era of fiction’s gray bemoaned by the archetypical fiction writers. There’s nothing wrong stylistically.

But, we live in troubled times. And the greatest fiction often mimics society at the time of its writing.

Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Because even in the gray, you might find your gold.