Month: February 2013

The Deconstruction of Horror Applied to Finnean Nilsen Projects’ Episodic Novel, Outpost Season One

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Finnean Nilsen Projects’ episodic novel reads like a fast paced television series with amped up zombies and panic-stricken civilians running in circles of blood. With the invention of the episodic novel, one has no excuse not to read. Now, an episodic novel is a series of adventures that can go on without meaning or without end (just like a TV series). Series of events tied together with dialogue and character development—a resolution may or may not come at each end of each episode. Episodic literature can be found in The Labours of Hercules, Arabian Nights, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

There is a method behind the madness of horror. It is a noteworthy genre that can be deconstructed. This genre possesses elements in which the reader, upon investigation, can pull from. One tool that can be applied to deconstruct Outpost Season One is the Deconstruction of Horror. There are six elements in the genre of horror: Supernatural/Magical Object and Events, Superhuman Antagonist and/or Monster, Limited Space/Setting, Limited Senses, Limited Options, and Limited Time, in which this book is infected with them all. By applying the elements of horror, one is able to take a better stab at understanding how and why Outpost Season One is an epic horror/thriller of zombie proportions.

Supernatural/Magical Objects and Events:

Zombies are taking over the world, tearing into human flesh, at maximum speed. The final resting ground: Brennick Maximum Security Prison (BMSP). Prisoners are having a hard time believing that these phenomena exist. The BMSP is up against a supernatural event, in which, they must overcome. Lead character Chris is going insane, the Warden Bowers of BMSP is becoming more lethal with his orders (not caring if people die), young gun Phil is having too much fun with carrying out his own executions, and Sam, second in command to Bowers, who is under suspicion for killing his wife, went AWOL. Billions of people are dying within weeks; thousands within days. Outside the prison rests a small town, which is home to the prison guard and staff population. Outside the safety of prison walls, these men and women of Brennick must find a way to collect survivors and ammunition to preserve human existence.

Superhuman Antagonist and/or Monster:

Even though, 1.)They are dead, 2.) They have no logic or reasoning skills, and 3.) They have no distinguishable speech patterns; these garbage disposals, of human life, are still stronger than the general non-zombie population. Their numbers and tenacity make them a bigger threat i.e., superhuman! They are spine rippers, throat gnasher, and can reanimate unless they are bashed and/or shot in the head. (Or plowed down by the Warden Bowers favorite weapon: AK-47.) As these episodes weave together, a zombie master rises; a zombie king who can control other zombies, speak English, and carry out diabolically heinous plans. From uncontrolled chaos to controlled chaos, this episode ends leaving the reader “hanging on” until they can get their hands on Outpost Season Two.

Limited Space/Setting:

When the world is safer being locked away in a prison with blood thirsty criminals, and not on the outside, space becomes very limited. Outside communications with other towns, states, and countries are down; no television or phone/cell phone services. Communication opens space and lack of communication cripples our characters. Without communication they will never know if help is on the way or if there is a doctor alive harboring a cure! Since communications are down, an organized search crew of BMSP goes out on a mission to find survivors and ammunition. On their mission they find about 76 people in hiding compared to the thousands infected. Space becomes more limited because now there are more zombies than living people. How can they fight the invasion without numbers and brute force? In one episode, the men are trapped in a building while thousands of walking-dead bodies act as a barricade creating pressure, and cracking the safety of the walls. As they load up the survivors, there appears to be snow on the ground; and, Mother Nature, inevitably, can be the greatest force in affecting one’s vitality, mobility and sanity.

Limited Senses:

Panic does not produce the greatest judge of character; nor does it produce the most ethical of people. The guards of BMSP are learning fast that to survive they must go against the moral code of “Thou shall not kill”; and, start killing thousands of zombified people, who were once family, friends, and relatives. If characters are not going through psychological distress they run into physical distress which creates limited senses. One guard, Chris, sustains a zombie bite, and is feverishly trying to hide the infection from other prison guards. The zombie bite spreads and Chris is gradually going insane. Many of the guards don’t think Chris is infected since most of them are under duress; experiencing immense adrenalin overload, lack of sleep, while witnessing massive death tolls, and having to kill thousands of zombies. Once back in the safety of BMSP, Chris is undergoing violent hallucinations in which he can no longer sleep i.e., the “Voice” is telling him it is time to take over the prison and to spread his deadly disease onto other unsuspecting prisoners.

Limited Options:

The only way out of a zombie apocalypse is to become a natural born killer. All things living are at the mercy of all things dead! There is nowhere to escape expect behind bars and being behind bars is not going to sustain a man or woman under one week (since the human body will perish within 3 days without water). Prison guards, who are trying to fix the communication wires, become zombie bait. The prison is losing their staff quickly and need more staff to protect the perimeters of the prison—the massive number of zombies are close to infiltrating protective lines. Brennick is running out of ammunition and good men. The solution is to replace those who died in the line of duty with violent offenders to run and protect the prison. Not all options are safe or fool proof. Some options require risk and may be deadly.

Limited Time:

There is a shelf life on all people (esp. people under a zombie invasion). When in horror, derivative of “When in Rome,” you must apply the rule of 3.  This is to say, a person can survive three days without water, three minutes without air, and three weeks without food until their time is up. For as time progresses, Chris is losing himself to the “Voice” that keeps getting stronger and stronger as the infectious bite spreads throughout his body. Sam, prison guard, is now on the run and on his own in a violent zombie world. Brennick is now being attacked from the inside and the guards need to figure out the next plan of action. The untrained civilian/survivors, men, women and children included, who are not fit to fight zombies, will have to learn to fight for their own lives. In time, food will eventual run out for the living (and not for the dead).

Will the survivors of Brennick Maximum Security Prison survive the ever growing zombie population of non-stop violence and bloodshed? Will the infiltrator, Zombie King Chris, be put to rest? Are there enough bullets for all those zombie heads? Is there another way to defeat the horror? Will another supernatural event take place to rid the world of this zombie apocalypse? The horror will continue and I hope you will be waiting with bated breath to see which side wins. For, it has been said “No one survives a zombie apocalypse.” The denouement of most zombie epics ends with humans becoming extinct. But, will our characters find a way out of this ticking time bomb of a horror and break free from their limitations to beat the odds. Will these series of adventures lead up to a resolution of hope, or will this series be an ongoing episode of continued events that never ever ends! Be ready for Finnean Nilsen Projects’ second episodic novel—we may get the answers soon.

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A Lesson On Writing: Who Do You Think You Are

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Who do you think you are? What, in this world, best describes you?

Most essays have a certain fear attached to them since they call upon you to do something unspeakable: Research. In the beginning, writing is self exploratory (i.e. personal narratives). Writers in Beginning English 101 classes are called to express themselves in an intimate way. This is a serious exercise in which some make fun of themselves, some deeply self disclose, and some do it at the last-minute. Whatever writing style you choose, I ask, what inanimate/physical object, material objects you see or use every day, best describes you. From previous experiences with this assignment, I broadened the question to incorporate physical objects, since students were writing about the sun and the stars (which are not inanimate objects). Objects have functionality—they can be seen and/or touched. Objects carry out and are designed for a specific purpose. Though fire sounds like a good pick for your essay, it is not an inanimate/physical object; yet, a physical process or phenomena (i.e., like freezing which is energy and not matter). Think of your five senses (tasting, touching, smelling, hearing, and seeing) when picking your physical object (which can be solid, liquid, gas, and/or plasma). It is quite a fun exercise when you start distinguishing the differences between all types and forms of matter in the world (a Pandora buffet). It may be safer to look up inanimate objects! This is a great exercise since it is relevant to how you perceive yourself.

From this assignment, you learn more about yourself. According to the Johari Window (a communication studies model) there are four selves which are the building blocks of self: Open, Blind, Hidden, and Unknown). Our Open Self consists of information others know about us like our name or where we live or our age. Our Blind Self is information about ourselves in which we are blind to. We may not know we have a drinking problem though everyone around us can see it. Our Hidden Self is our masks, our secrets, and lies (hidden information we withhold intentionally). And finally, our Unknown Self is information we are unaware of (i.e., unlocked potential that hasn’t surfaced yet). Our “selves” are evolutionary—human experiences good or bad change us. We are constantly learning new things about ourselves. And writing is a tool to get us there!

Now, I wanted the students to tap into a creative or eccentric role on how they see themselves; and, the reasons why they compare themselves to the objects they chose. There is a reason why one sees themselves as “A message on the wing of a bird,” “A drug addicting to others,” “A rusty key in search of the right lock.” But, what are you? Are you a quarter with two sides, a pencil with no eraser, a smoldering coal ready to cook things up, or a wad of pink, sticky chewing gum? Whatever you are, you play a significant role and were designed for a significant purpose. John Donne, famous 16th century poet, once wrote, “No man (or woman) is an island […] any man’s death diminishes me.” Today, it’s your turn to explore and write about an inanimate/physical object in which best describes who you think you are.

Below is an example essay:

“A Window with Panes”

I am a six pane glass window of a house that faces a road of many travelers. My wooden slats protect me since I am very fragile. They are the strongest part of me. My wooden framework keeps intruders from coming inside my home. They discover, to their dismay, they must be light as air and modest in matter to enter. The glass is the main and beautiful part of me. The panes allow the light to penetrate through me and out of me. I draw shadows and reflections from the travelers who walk by. I can hold a travelers image in my glass pane. When the light of my house shines out, I become a beacon to a weary traveler. I flash many images and dashing silhouettes. I am easily seen on the inside when the entire world outside is dark. I embrace the warmth of the sun, and console the clouds above by catching their tears on my panes. When it snows, I become frosty all over, inviting the hands of artistry to draw and to create new life. The children love to draw and write on me. They inspire me and make me feel important. Without my panes I would have no soul to hold. Without my panes I would be a hollowed-out, abandoned, unsecured home. You can see right through me. You can see right into me. I am black as night and clear as day. But, if you put a hand to me it will not go through—you will touch me. I am a window with panes.