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mark mclaughlin


We're extremely proud to include Bram Stoker Award winner Mark McLaughlin's column Four-Letter Word Beginning with `F' as one of the features EXCLUSIVE to HORROR GARAGE!

Mark McLaughlin

Mark McLaughlin's fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in more than 800 magazines, anthologies, newspapers, and websites, including Horror Garage, Doorways, Hungur, Cemetery Dance, Space & Time, The Black Gate, Galaxy, Writer's Digest, FilmFax, Dark Arts, Midnight Premieres, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year's Best Horror Stories. Collections of his fiction include Pickman's Motel, Slime After Slime, Motivational Shrieker, At the Foothills of Frenzy (with Shane Ryan Staley and Brian Knight), and All Things Dark and Hideous (with Michael McCarty). Also, he is the co-author, with Rain Graves and David Niall Wilson, of the poetry collection The Gossamer Eye, which won a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry. His most recent poetry collection, Phantasmapedia, was a finalist for the Stoker Award.

In September 2008, Delirium Books/Corrosion Press released Monster Behind the Wheel, a novel Mark wrote with collaborator Michael McCarty. In that same month, Skull Vines Press released Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster, also co-written with Michael McCarty. These and other books can be ordered at www.horror-mall.com. Be sure to visit Mark online at www.myspace.com/monsterbook and


Welcome to my online chamber of horrors, where the worst of all four-letter words is Fear, and I pin down the phobia du jour and perform a living postmortem exam--for a fear can only be conquered by ripping it to bits and mulling over the pieces. Cause of death? The autopsy.

Today's fear goes by many names. Alienation. Ostracization. Exile, self-imposed or otherwise. When folks hate someone because they are different, that's xenophobia. When the individual can't stand being around lots of others, that's agoraphobia. Basically, it's the fear of being the unwanted one... an outsider. All alone. Unclean. Ring, leper bells, ring.

A classic example from literature is H.P. Lovecraft's aptly titled "The Outsider," in which an erudite loner in a twilight nightmare world encounters a vision of unspeakable horror, only to discover that the revolting presence is, in fact, his own reflection--and he realizes, he shall always be alone.

But let's think about that for a moment. Who does Mr. Lonely Outsider answer to? Himself. Who is proclaiming that he must be alone, forever more? Mr. Lonely Outsider. Sounds like a bad case of low self-esteem, dude.

I mean, sure, he's ugly--but if he'd take a moment to zip down to the video store, he'd soon realize there are loads of different versions of Beauty and the Beast out there. Apparently there are plenty of young lovelies out there ready to jump the pug-ugliest bones in town.

But then, maybe Mr. Lonely Outsider should stay out of the video store--he might realize that for every ugbug who gets some sweet monster-lovin', there are at least thirty others who are so traumatized by their hideousness, they decide all the young pretties must die--usually in some over-the-top, gruesome manner.

It would take a column ten times this size to list all the disgruntled uglies of cinema fame. Freddy from the Nightmare On Elm Street series, Jason from all those Friday the 13th chapters, and Michael Meyers of Halloween fame are the first ones that come to mind. Even the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz could conceivably be counted among those classic villains. But let's not forget some of their more obscure but equally loathsome cousins.

A veritable parade of skulking holiday slashers followed in the wake of Michael and Jason's calendar-oriented killing sprees. There's also the oversized mutant cannibal from Humongous, the mutilated lurker in Castle Freak and even the hydrocephalic, bug-eyed, snaggle-toothed killer babies of the It's Alive series, though they're so completely animal-like, they can hardly be considered human outcasts.

The gigantic, ogre-like creature from Humongous is an especially bizarre figure. The product of a vicious rape, the jumbo offspring seems to represent viciousness incarnate. He lives alone on a secluded island with only his rich mother and her guard dogs for company. When mommy dies, his connection with the outside world--and his food supply--is cut off, leaving him only the dogs to gnaw on. Oh, and any foolhardy folks who might decide to drop by the island.

That particular movie seems to capture the Outsider concept with surprising poignancy. The gigantic cannibal is actually the movie's most tragic victim. He is produced by an act of violence, and hidden from the world by a wildly dysfunctional mother. Perhaps intervention by social services and medical specialists--a.k.a. the authorities--could have stopped him from becoming a grotesque, slavering, raging parody of the human form. That's just the sort of thing the authorities are sworn to prevent.