PCR past banners
Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #361  (Vol. 8, No. 8) This edition is for the week of February 19--25, 2007.

"Pan's Lanyrinth"  by Mike Smith
Peter Straub Lecture at USF  by Andy Lalino
Couldn't She Have Entered An Ass-Kicking Contest....Britney and Anna Nicole....Sorry--Kind of....Oops....Movie Notes....DJ....Happy Birthday....Whatever Happened To...? Chapter 8: Gerrit Graham  by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2007
Archives 2006
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR
Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Peter Straub Lecture at USF

What a pleasant surprise finding out that esteemed horror author Peter Straub was to pay a visit to the University of South Florida last night (Thursday, 2/15)! What's even better is that I work on campus - and my suite is a mere 30 seconds from the lecture hall, making for very easy access to the event. See? My 1.5 hour commute every day has finally paid off in some way!

Ad for Peter Straub appearance I was pretty much the first Straub fan on scene, showing up half an hour before he took the podium (7pm). Behind me students shot past like pinballs, handling preparations frantically. A minor glitch: when one of the students revved up what I presume was the central heating system, the room then filled with the thick scent of burning element! An "Oh, shit!" from the back room was a clue that someone dun fuqued up. I grabbed my bag in case I had to make a leap out the 2nd story window! There was one more occurrence of the burnt odor, but before Straub spoke the students seemed to troubleshoot it.

At about a quarter till, people began shambling in en masse - a surprising cross-section of ages, sexes, and interests. In walked three familiar faces: ace horror/comedy writer Jeff Strand; his wife Lynne Hansen, herself a very popular youth horror author (and now delving into sci-fi); and their friend Sally. Accompanying the trio were fellow members of the Florida Horror Writers Association: Aaron, his wife Erica, and Mike. All seemed pretty jazzed about the prospect of hearing Straub speak, though Jeff informed me that he and Lynne met him previously at a horror writers con in Providence, Rhode Island.

The venue began to fill up, and Straub was introduced. He's an intelligent, ordinary-looking man, and dressed impeccably. For those unfamiliar, Straub has authored many bestsellers: "Ghost Story", "Shadowlands", "Koko", "The Black House" (with Stephen King) and many others. His subject: "Horror - Why Would Anyone Read That Stuff?". Initially, his lecture was an exercise in academics, and the search for the core reasons people pay money to be entertained by the "dark, depressing, and boring". After several mentions of Eliot, Frost, Poe, and Auden, Straub shifted gears to the meat and potatoes of his lecture: his career and observations about horror literature in general from the '70s to today. He put into perspective that when both he and Stephen King were beginning their careers in the early '70s, genre writing (mystery, detective novels, sci-fi, westerns, etc.) were generally considered to be fluff by the author intelligentsia. The horror genre was, possibly, the big gest "joke", but he also pointed out that it was a wide open field at the time. The only four horror novels that really made a huge mainstream impact, at the time, were: "Rosemary's Baby", Tom Tyron's "The Other"/"Harvest Home", and William Peter Blatty's "The Exorcist". Straub exploited that opportunity, and like King, established a firm foundation as one of the top horror authors of all time.

Of course, the subject of Hollywood came up, and we all received insider information about the status of his wildy popular (still) collaboration with Stephen King: "The Talisman". There may at long last be some movement with the project, presumably via Steven Spielberg, who has owned the option rights since before the novel was even published(!). Straub mentioned Universal Studios purchased the option for him, and that they were a beast to deal with. Like King's "The Langoliers" and "The Shining", this effort looks like it's going to be a mini-series, which after "The Stand" may not be the worst thing in the world.

Andy Lalino, right, meets Peter Straub Post lecture, Straub fielded questions by a gaggle of aspiring authors. Most were fans, some obsessed by Hollywood adaptations, while others sought sage advice on breaking into the business. Straub was realistic, but never downbeat about a writer's plight. Personally, I think the best thing an aspiring writer (or any type of artist for that matter) can do is ask themselves what they'd look for if someone asked them to publish their work, and then go out and achieve making that happen based on your own conclusions. Sometimes it's just dumb luck, but hard work and marketing yourself effectively can really pay off. Once you've written something, get it out there! Show everyone!

Another unexpected but true-to-life question was posed: If a spouse/boyfriend-girlfriend is an aspiring writer, and I'm the one supporting them financially, what can I do to help instigate success? Well, no one, not even Straub, has a solution to that eternal puzzle! As much as the support system has to have faith that their loved one will succeed in such a vicious arena, the writer must constantly grapple with the fact that being a success takes time, money, and patience, and must be prepared to do without all three should the bell toll.

We all retired to a pleasant little restaurant after the lecture, where Straub joined everyone for a little dessert. The Florida Horror Writers were seated at a large table next to Straub's, which included yours truly. It was as Straub exited that I was able to shake his hand and mention how big a fan I was. He was a very nice person, and appreciated a picture taken with him, courtesy of Lynne Hansen.

I wished The Florida Horror Writers well as they took off to Perkins restaurant, as I had my hellish commute back home to Clearwater, bolstered by the fact I had just spent time with a master horror author!

"Oddservations" is ©2007 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. Photo of Straub and Lalino taken by Lynn Hansen. All other graphics are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.