Written by: Chad Lutzke
“Love is the answer to everything.” Not exactly something you may expect to hear coming from Ray Bradbury, but Michael McCarty manages to dig in and bring out such sides to otherwise seemingly dark individuals. As the subtitle suggests, Modern Mythmakers picks at the brains of thirty-five different contributors to the horror and science fiction genres: Writers, actors, producers, and directors. Many of whom you will undoubtedly be very familiar with, and others, not so much. Nevertheless, I found a great interest—and even encouragement—in most of the interviews within.
The interviews with those I wasn’t familiar with made the reads no less entertaining; Joe McKinney, for example—a name I was unfamiliar with—a well-read police sergeant turned author, with quite a story to tell, had me literally laughing out loud at one point in the interview when answering McCarty’s question: “If you could be a monster, what would you be?”
With those I was familiar with (which includes nearly every name on the roster), I found great satisfaction in hearing tidbits of little-known facts and trivia. There’s something about hearing this type of stuff straight from the horse’s mouth that tickles pink the fans of movies like Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, Blood Feast, and Return of the Living Dead and books like Ghost Story, Logan’s Run, Manitou, Intensity; the list goes on. You’ll hear stories like the filming of Trilogy of Terror’s Zuni fetish doll (if you’re anywhere near my age you know you’ve had a nightmare or two with those giant teeth chasing you) and read the extensive resume of Herschell Gordon Lewis, only to find out he’s got a lot more up his sleeve than just ridiculously bright red blood and bushy eyebrows.
Being not just a reader and a fan of film, but a writer, I found quite a bit of encouragement from the testimonies of so many who have paid their dues and earned their place. Jack Ketchum’s advice on what to do next after a writer has published their first novel I found quite inspirational, if not just plain humorous: “Don’t be afraid of writing the second one. Don’t get worried that you’re a one-hit wonder. That can really mess with your brain—I know it did for me. Chances are that if you gave birth to one decent novel, your hips are wide enough to give birth to another. “
And right when I’m feeling good and inspired about my future in writing, Peter Straub comes along and strikes my spine with some chills: “Ghosts accompany us everywhere, and the longer you live, the more of them are following you around.” Thanks, Mr. Straub.
It’s not so much the questions that are asked, as the responses. Some of the same inquiries are made to many of the interviewees but with obviously varying answers from the minds of those who have fed your nightmares and imaginations for decades. Yet even redundant questions—like asking William F. Nolan what the F in his name stands for—leads to an answer revealing a great bit of trivia concerning part of the creation of his own swan song, Logan’s Run. And, of course, Whitley Strieber. When given the floor, Mr. Strieber doesn’t hesitate in reminding us all that his alien abduction was indeed very real, he’s not lying, and he would appreciate some slack here.
Modern Mythmakers is a healthy-sized bowl of horror-themed Wheaties coated with inspiration that’ll fuel your writing and filmmaking passion. And for the straight up fan boys and girls, it’s full of spoonfuls of trivia regarding classic horror and science fiction film and literature. If I have anything negative to say about Modern Mythmakers, it’s that some of the interviews are dated. So here and there you’ll find things that have long since passed—books that have been out for years, movies that have long since left the theatre, or even video store. By no means does this take away from the meat of the book, and by knowing that going in I think you’ll enjoy it all the more. But if you’re looking for interviews that reflect upcoming recent news on the interviewees, this is the wrong book. If, however, you’re looking for inspiration and trivia on your favorite contributors to the various fields concerning horror and Sci-Fi, then you’ll feel right at home with Modern Mythmakers.