Interview: Alex Kane

It’s April 3rd, which means it’s time for this month’s Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. For this month’s interview, I’m joined by game critic and video game Jedi (or Sith Lord!?) Alex Kane!

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Welcome Alex! I’m so happy to have you on my website today! Interviews can be a little scary sometimes, so I’ll start with an easy one: tell us a little bit about yourself! What are some of your first video game memories? And have you ever heard of a little thing called ‘Star Wars’?

Super Mario Bros. 3 with my dad was a big one, and Mario 64 not longer after that. I remember many hours of GoldenEye against my sisters growing up, and Halo at friends’ houses. One of my favorite gaming memories, for sure, is the time my brother and I built a portal to the End in Minecraft and slew the Ender Dragon. Crazy as it sounds, that was probably the closest I’ve ever come to having a mystical experience, and it happened in a video game.

There was a period of my life where a lot of big events were coming at me in a hurry, and the games I played in that timeframe will always mean a lot to me. They helped me make sense of things. I became a father just as I was starting to write game reviews, and I played Night in the Woods the same week we brought my son home. Then I played through the Morrowind
expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online with him sort of napping in my lap shortly afterward. I treasure those memories.

Star Wars, like games, is something that’s been a part of my life almost since I was four or five years old, but it really started to become an obsession in ’97, when I saw The Empire Strikes Back during its special-edition run, at the Rivoli Theatre in my hometown. That was when I started begging for the toys, and watching them over and over on VHS and so forth.

You’re the first gaming journalist I’ve interviewed here on my website. I saw that you’ve written for Variety, Polygon, USGamer and others. How did you get into game writing? And, more importantly, what are some of your favorite games of all time?

I’ve been writing for ages, and publishing stuff since college. When I went freelance in 2014, I spent my second big check on a Wii U bundle with Wind Waker, and then Bungie’s Destiny
landed a few months after that. With this newfound freedom of being my own boss, I fell pretty hard for Destiny and the social experience it offered; I spent like two thousand hours in that world over the course of three years. When an editor for Kill Screen — which used to be a really hip publication full of brilliant games journalism — put out a call for freelance news writers in 2016, I jumped at the opportunity, and he took a chance on me. I worked hard to make a good first impression, and that led to gigs with Rolling Stone and some other places. I got very
lucky.

Some of my favorite games — outside of KotOR, obviously — are things like Super Mario
Bros. 3, Skyrim, Halo 2, Night in the Woods, Star Fox 64, Pokémon Red, the new Spider-Man.
Wind Waker was a big one for me, too, when I picked that up in 2014. It sort of helped me mourn my grandparents in the midst of this wild career transition; I loved that Link had a grandma, because I’d just lost mine six months prior. And it’s also probably one of the
three best Zeldas.

Your first book comes out via Boss Fight Books this month. It’s a deep dive into the 2003 RPG classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I just finished reading it and I loved it! This is a game that deserves this kind of exploration. How did this book come to be?

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For one thing, it’s ultimately the result of me learning how books are written. I think I emailed my editor the KotOR pitch in May of 2016, and then he called me up in late October of that year and offered me a contract. That’s a day I’ll never forget. That wasn’t long after I started getting paid to write about games, actually, but I already had a lot of publishing experience
as an editor, and from doing short fiction and acquisitions and various little contract projects.

The truism in writing and publishing is that it’s all about persistence, in some ways, and that was definitely true for me in terms of establishing a relationship with Boss Fight and getting on their radar. Knights of the Old Republic wasn’t the first pitch I sent them,
and I think my editor, Gabe, admired my tenacity a little bit.

Do you think you’ll ever write a book like this again? And if you would, what game or facet of the gaming world might you look at next?

I definitely think there’ll be a book two, and I know what book I want to write next, but it’s gonna take another big stroke of luck to make it happen. I think there’s a good chance that I’ll be writing about either Star Wars or video games, or something very closely related to those, but it’s hard to say exactly when that might materialize. I love the official guidebooks and things like that — the DK Publishing Star Wars line. I’d love to do a bit of Star Wars fiction, if given the chance. I’m doing some behind-the-scenes copywriting for Lucasfilm, so there’s always that sense that maybe if I keep my head down and my fingers crossed, some of those things could happen. One day.

I’ve spent most of the last three years writing about people who make games and other forms of entertainment, and I just love telling those stories. I hope to do it for a really long time.

As a game critic, I’m sure you play lots of games. What games are you currently playing? And what have been some highlights of the year so far?

There’s a ton of games coming out later in the year I’m excited about, like Control and Jedi: Fallen Order and The Outer Worlds, but so far my big hits of 2019 have been Apex
Legends and The Division 2 — neither of which I saw coming. I’m always fiddling around with several games at any given time; right now I’m playing Oblivion,Division 2, Battlefront II, and Anthem.

Lastly: where can people find you online?

I mostly live on Twitter, at @alexjkane.
Or on Xbox! And my publisher, of course, can be found at bossfightbooks.com.


Alex Kane’s book Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is up for preorder! If you liked this interview and want to read more, you can see the Archive here.

Monthly Review (March 2019)

March ended up being a busy month for me. Granted, I found time to do things I love, just writing wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t a complete slouch though! I’m editing several stories and hope to have some more out in April.

Story Submissions:

Submissions: 0

Stories Still Out in the Wild: 2

Acceptances: 0

Rejections: 0

No new submissions this month. But fingers still crossed!

What else have I been doing?

New story publication!

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My story ‘The Matron in the Wood’ is featured in Pete Rawlik’s new anthology! My story is a delicious mythological blend of Lovecraft/Chambers/Clark Ashton Smith. It’s also set in my home state of Michigan! The link to buy is included above.

An interview with horror author (and birder!) Carrie Laben!

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Carrie Laben’s debut novel came out with Word Horde this month! I enjoyed my interview with Carrie, and kind of learned a lot about birds! Her book is near the top of my TBR pile.

April’s interview will be with game critic/author Alex Kane! We’ll be talking about his book outlining the history of the RPG classic Knights of the Old Republic.


That’s it for this month! Thank you for stopping by!

 

New Story: The Chromatic Court

‘A court of partisans crowned out around him, a wrong-angled spread of scattered colors.’

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New story alert! My story ‘The Matron in the Wood’ is featured in this incredible anthology ‘The Chromatic Court’. This anthology is edited by Lovecraftian master Pete Rawlik, who I interviewed last July. Each story is focused on a other-worldly deity from horror fiction. I’m proud to be featured alongside so many authors that I respect and admire.

Enter The Court here! I hope you enjoy the stories featured within.

Curious Fictions: Two Free Stories

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Note: No original article this week. I’m off visiting with family. But have no fear! I have two free stories for everyone!

Curious Fictions is the new hotness for authors like myself. It’s a website that allows us to post free stories and cultivate a followership. The website is clean and very easy to navigate. I’ve joined Curious Fictions to encourage me to write and get stories out into the world. I plan on using the platform to give attention to stories that I love, but may not be right for most markets.

I’ve put up two stories, both of which can be found here.

My first story, ‘The Eldritch Film Club’, is a weird little story written in the 2nd person. I love this thing to death though, so please take a look.

The second is called ‘Manifesto: Abnormality at Z33.1’. This story came about after I spent a couple of days outlining a novella idea. I saw the skeleton of a fun little story and this is what came of it. If this novella ever sees the light of day, this will serve as a perfect little prequel.

Interview: Carrie Laben

It’s the first Wednesday in March, so that means it’s time for another Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This interview is with horror author (and birder!) Carrie Laben.

Carrie Laben Author Photo

Hello Carrie! I’m super excited to be interviewing you on my blog today! I’m going to start off today with the ultimate softball request: tell us a little bit about yourself! What made you want to be a writer?

Thank you! It’s a very exciting time, as I’m sure you can imagine, and I always appreciate the opportunity to get the word out about my work.

As far as wanting to be a writer: My parents had a dairy farm and I’m the oldest of seven children – I wanted a job that I could do indoors, sitting down, and no manure anywhere. But I still wanted to feel that I was producing something real and tangible and satisfying, and that narrowed the field of office jobs down quite a bit. Then there’s the fact that I just plain like writing and find it fun.

While scrolling through your Publications page on your website, I noticed that one of your hobbies happens to be bird-watching, which I think is pretty cool! What does bird-watching entail? And what attracts you to the hobby?

I like to say I’ve been birding since I was a toddler – my mom started teaching me the names of birds at the feeders when I was two or three. It’s the perfect combination of the collector’s impulse with appreciation of nature.

There’s hardly any wrong way to bird-watch, so long as you’re looking at birds (if you look at a butterfly or a frog by mistake, don’t worry, those are legit hobbies too!) Some birders travel all over the world trying to see as many species as possible. Some do ‘patch birding’ – where you try to spot the most species in your own backyard or local park. Others don’t focus on numbers but try to get a better understanding of local patterns – when the birds migrate, which species breed where, etc. If you’re interested, one great place to get more information is the blog 10,000 Birds, where I am a semi-regular guest blogger.

At the end of this month, Word Horde will be putting out your debut novel, A Hawk in the Woods. It sounds like the perfect ‘cosmic horror road-trip’ novel that we all need right now. What can you tell us about your book? How did it come to be?

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A Hawk in the Woods is a combination of aspects of the genre that fascinate me, from folk horror to Lovecraftian cosmic horror to the quiet psychological horror that families inflict on each other down the generations – even when they’re trying to break free of the past. The main characters are twin sisters and as the story opens, one is gravely ill and the other is in jail. The reader gets to ride along as they go on the lam and confront their legacy, and also see how they grew up caught in a power struggle between their grandfather, their mother, and a community that knows there’s something just not right about the whole family.

The first seed of the novel was a folk song called The Cruel Mother, in which a woman is threatened with supernatural vengeance for a wrong she did to her children. There are a number of excellent, haunting versions available but I’m particularly fond of Emily Smith’s rendition, and Fiona Hunter’s.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any general advice for any writers looking to get published?

For young writers in our genre in particular, my best advice is not to let yourself be boxed in. I’ve seen too many people get caught up in the notion that a few markets, editors, and awards are the end-all and be-all, and that the regard of a small handful of people is the key to success. This leads to cliquishness when things go well and despair when they don’t. Make friends, have fun, but remember that any particular corner of the genre is not the world and no one person has the power to make or break your career (not even you!) If you can’t get into some particular market read widely and try to find something that works a bit better with your style – as well as writing and revising like a fiend, of course!

As a corollary, I still tend to see the received wisdom that genre writers need to stick together because the literary establishment despises us. This is much less true than it was in the past. I went to an MFA program myself (at the University of Montana) and while it’s certainly not the best path for everyone, I shared classes with both students and professors who were not only open to genre work but doing it themselves. There was even a workshop completely dedicated to supernatural fiction, where I shared the first few chapters of Hawk and got a lot of valuable advice. So don’t wall yourself off from possibilities out of defensiveness or fear!

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m pretty sure that my TBR pile is longer than my actual expected lifespan at this point, and I’m a fast reader! That said, some recent fiction I’m really looking forward to digging into includes Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, Mothlight by Adam Scovell, and the latest from Marlon James and S.P. Miskowski. I also read a lot of nonfiction and on that front I can’t wait to open up The Secret Lives of Glaciers by my old classmate M. Jackson, which recounts a year in the lives of Icelanders living on the front lines of climate change. That’s going to be the real-life horror that the next generation has to live with, if we don’t act fast.

Where can people find you online?

My website is at http://www.carrielaben.com, which is nice and easy to remember. I also have a Twitter presence, @pinguinus, and a Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/Carrie-Laben-2256476324631738/) if you want up-to-the-minute updates.


Don’t forget to purchase Carrie Laben’s debut novel on the 26th of March! Thank you for joining me for this month’s Interview, and I’ll see everyone again soon!

Monthly Review (February 2019)

Cupid’s arrow has come and gone… It’s the end of February, and that means it’s time for another Monthly Review! It’s the shortest month of the year, so I won’t waste your time. Let’s get down to some (chocolate and roses) brass tax!

Story Submissions:

Submissions: 2

Stories Still Out in the Wild: 4

Acceptances: 0

Rejections: 0

Two more submissions to add to the list! One submission, and one new story. Fingers crossed as always.

What else have I been doing?

An interview with haunted radio jockey/author Matthew M Bartlett!

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Matthew M Bartlett is one of my favorite writers working in horror. The universe that he has created is unique and fascinating. While plenty of writers create creepy small towns, few populate them with such demented characters. I urge you to follow the links in the interview and buy some of his books! His first two collections are quick reads, but they are worth every minute.

Next month’s author interview will be with Carrie Laben, who has a book releasing from Word Horde next month.

My Favorite Horror Films of the 2010s

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Another Twitter trends strikes again! In this article I sum up my favorite horror film from each year (2010-2018). It’s a new feature I’ll be following up on periodically that I’m calling ‘Decades of Horror’. It’s got a good ring to it right? Maybe? I don’t know. I’m doing it anyway.

Two stories up at Curious Fictions!

I’ve been trying my best to follow the ‘write every day’ Golden Rule. I don’t hit most days, but that’s okay. And not everything I create is solid gold, ready to battle it out in slush piles. I’ve joined Curious Fictions to encourage me to write and get stories out into the world. I plan on using the platform to give attention to stories that I love, but may not be right for most markets. My first story, ‘The Eldritch Film Club’, is a weird little story written in the 2nd person. I love this thing to death though, so please take a look. I’ll also be posting a second one this week called,  ‘Manifesto: Abnormality at Z33.1’. This story came about after I spent a couple of days outlining a novella idea. I saw the skeleton of a fun little story and this is what came of it. If this novella ever sees the light of day, this will serve as a perfect little prequel.

If you like the sound of these two stories and may want to see more, I encourage you to follow my Curious Fictions profile and maybe throw a few bucks my way.

One more thing before we go: I’ll be sending out a new newsletter tomorrow! Please subscribe to get original content and more goodness.

That’s it for now! I’ll see everyone next month!

 

My Favorite Horror Films of the 2010s

I fell in love with a  Film Twitter trend back in November. As you’ve seen in the past, I have a certain affinity for these kind of trends.

This particular trend was focused on ‘your favorite films of the 2010s’. I made my list. It took me like 15 minutes, and I had loads of fun. What are your favorite horror films of the 2010s? Think of this piece as a sequel to my tweet. Favorite Films of the 2010s: Electric Boogaloo.

2010:

Insidious

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This movie made James Wan and Blumhouse the household names that they are today. Insidious is still a fantastic horror film, crammed full of brilliant jump scares and some truly chilling settings. The mystery of The Further is still intact. The sequels (each worse than the last) hadn’t sullied it quite yet.

2011:

You’re Next

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or The Cabin in the Woods or Grave Encounters

What a fantastic year! I had to really mull my pick here over. The Cabin in the Woods is meta-brilliance. Grave Encounters is the best found-footage film ever, and it’s not even close. But You’re Next is the 2011 release I find myself re-watching the most. The violence, the music and the premise make a dark comedy sundae with a sprinkle of  some well-executed fight sequences on top. This film was a pleasant surprise in 2011, and it still remains a treasure.

2012:

Sinister

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Hello again, Blumhouse! Welcome back! And… wait… Is that Ethan Hawke there behind you!? If you’re here on my blog reading this article, chances are you like horror. And that means you know exactly what happens to characters that just have to solve mysteries in this genre. Bad things. Bad things involving a vengeful demon, evil children, and some of the most jaw-dropping fictional snuff films this side of the Mississippi. These grainy pieces are the vertebrae that forms the backbone of this film.

2013:

Oculus

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Or The Conjuring or Evil Dead

Last year, we all loved Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House. If you loved that show, you’ll love Mike Flanagan’s film Oculus. The seamless transitions between memories and the present day conjure a nightmare logic that is unmatched. Great performances, great ghost design, and my favorite scene involving a lightbulb of all time.

2014:

The Babadook

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I saw this in an Alamo Drafthouse when I lived in New Mexico. Not only was it one of the nicest theaters I’ve ever been in, but this is one of the greatest horror movies I’d ever seen. Full stop. The horrors of motherhood is a horror film staple, and rarely is it as gripping and harrowing as it is in The Babadook.

2015:

The Invitation

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The worst dinner party ever? That’s a fact. Here’s another fact: this movie is a masterpiece. Well shot, well acted, with just enough visual flair and suspense to last you for it’s entire run time. The Invitation is worth it for the ending alone. Karyn Kasuma struck a cord with this film. And that’s what good horror does. It uses our fears and, more importantly, our expectations to unnerve us. The thing is, we know something is wrong with this dinner party. But it’s all about the journey.

2016:

The Void

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Practical effects with a killer Lovecraftian edge. This is an indie horror darling. While it’s not perfect (the performances are a little shaky), it is certainly a rip-roaring tentacled good time. It feels like a John Carpenter film that time-traveled to the great year of 2016.

2017:

Happy Death Day

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Fun fact: I don’t like horror comedies (save for a select few). The tonal balance usually doesn’t work for me. But Blumhouse has done it again! Happy Death Day is an utter delight. It introduces a fun new slasher villain and treats us to another stellar entry in the Groundhog Day genre.

2018:

Hereditary

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Some horror movies are fun. Hereditary is not that. But it is powerful. My mouth hung open for a majority of this thing’s run time. Toni Collette’s performance is hard to watch, but in a very good way. I think Hereditary will go down as a landmark in this genre in the years to come.

That’s the 2010s! I would like to potentially do some other decades. I think the 1980s would serve as a real challenge. I’m not sure if I could kill my horror darlings so easily…