Rebecca Cantrell's debut novel, A Trace of Smoke, won't be published until May 2009, but she's already a very busy woman. Her screenplay, The Humanitarian, was a finalist at Shriekfest 2008: The Los Angeles Horror/Sci-fi Film Festival , and she'll have a story in MISSING, an anthology which will be released in February 2009.
I'm intrigued by the premise of A Trace of Smoke: A young reporter named Hannah Vogel tries to discover who murdered her younger brother Ernst in 1931 Berlin. It's the first novel in the series. Number two, A Night of Long Knives, is due out in May 2010. But I know you won't want to wait until 2009 to learn more about Rebecca. She has details about her books as well as excerpts on her website.
Thanks, Laura, for a chance to come in and haunt the place! Today I’ll be talking about something that scares me: mindless violence. Life matters. Even fictional life.
A few weeks ago, I attended Shriekfest 2008: The Los Angeles Horror/Sci-Fi Film Festival. My vampire screenplay, The Humanitarian, was a finalist there, so I got free passes to all the movies. Days and days of knife-wielding, blood-splashing horror for free!
Unfortunately, I cringe at gore and get nightmares from psychological horror. Any horror director would be thrilled to have me in the audience, wincing and closing my eyes. I’m the one who always jumps when that door opens, even though I know better. I even have trouble watching scary previews.
But there I was going to Los Angeles to brave it, and all by myself too. I couldn’t bury my face in someone’s chest and let him tell me when it was over. Well, I suppose I could have, but that’s just the way to make all the wrong kinds of friends.
What possessed me to write a vampire screenplay? The challenge. I usually write literary historical mysteries, the kind of thing that gets made into a BBC mini-series like Foyle’s War, not a gorefest like Saw. Sure there’s violence and death in my work, but there’s always a point to it. Nobody dies just because they’re “the young couple having sex in their parents’ bed” or “the lovable jock who abandons his girlfriend at the first roar of a chainsaw.”
My horror screenplay follows that rule too: killing matters. There has to be a point to it. You’d be surprised how controversial that is.
My screenplay is about a vegetarian doctor who lives in his domineering father’s shadow. As his body bleeds out its mortal life on his 30th birthday, he discovers the truth: he is a vampire. But he refuses to kill.
When I first started working on the script, it amazed me to discover that people didn’t think my vampire doctor faced much of a dilemma. Maybe I hang out with a bunch of psychos, but everyone I talked to thought that his answer should be to just kill bad people. Problem solved. Was I the only one who found it wrong to kill people as a prerequisite for living? I’m all for the argument of self defense or defense of others. But that’s different from making a decision that is going to cost someone’s life, and keep costing lives.
Fictionally, heroes killing with impunity is certainly in vogue. Look at Dexter, the lovable serial killer who kills serial killers. People love him (I must at this point confess that I love the show myself). Of all Anne Rice’s vampires, only Louis has qualms about the constant slaughter. Movie heroes kill in vast quantities without even thinking about it. Even David Banner, once a hero wracked with guilt for the deaths he causes, didn’t seem too worried about it in last summer’s Hulk.
I personally haven’t seen any link between this casual disregard for fictional human life and the real life murder rate, but it still bothers me.
Horror is horror, but people thinking killing people doesn’t matter? That scares me. It causes me to think, on this All Hallow’s Eve Eve: What is the cost of killing, even fictionally?
Thanks so much, Rebecca! I'm guilty, guilty, guilty of wanton character murder...You have me thinking now.
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