*This was intended to see post Tuesday. However, a conversation with a friend Monday night made me think on the subject and about my initial reactions and words. Ultimately, I’ve decided to post what I wrote Monday, but with corrected references to the day with regards to tense and an additional piece at the end explaining the take my friend had. While my gut doesn’t fully subscribe to her take on the matter, it does have merit and it unfortunately comes from a perspective that I was not looking at the matter from. Most of you reading this likely know my feelings about the outcome from reading some of my shorter comments here and there in the last few days. If you want to skip the long version and go straight to the newer bit, scroll down and start reading when the font color changes.
So, Monday morning had a bit of a surprise to it; more than one actually.
I logged into Facebook and one of the first things I saw in my news feed was the news out of Georgia that Ed Kramer had pled guilty to the charges of molestation. I have to admit, I honestly didn’t believe it at first. For one thing, I didn’t think that they were even going to get him into court for his December 2nd court date at all. Kramer has spent the last 13 years proving that he could manipulate the Gwinnett courts with ease and often came off looking as though he was easily able to outsmart their entire system. This was something done in large part because of what appeared to be a totally inept system that made one wonder at times how they managed to get anyone tried and convicted. I was sure that the day’s news would be about yet another delay in the long series of delays and a new court date for some time in 2014.
My surprise grew even greater when I clicked the link and read that Kramer had pled guilty before the jury had even been assembled. Now, you, if you’ve not followed this case, have to understand that this just comes across as totally unKramer-like. In the last 13 years, Kramer has gummed up, twisted up, and dragged out the system with every trick he could pull out of his hat. And his ability and desire to engage in annoying shenanigans to infuriate the system hadn’t come across as diminished in any way in the last year as report after report came out of the jails about his filing hundreds upon hundreds of complaints and grievances with the jails, complaints and grievances that they were required to spend time, money, and man hours responding to, and lining up yet more “medical problems” to stall the December trial. I fully expected the man to continue gumming up the works and to continue avoiding justice until the day he stood face to face with the devil himself. And even then I fully expected him to have Old Scratch ripping his hair out for a while. To see a news report that indicated that he pled guilty essentially before the trial had even started, they were docketed for jury selection after all, just seemed unreal. Then I saw two things that made me want to throw my laptop out the window.
1) Kramer’s attorney had worked out a plea deal. And, the most galling aspect of that, Kramer pled guilty without even admitting to wrongdoing. As a matter of fact, he denied any wrongdoing to the very end. See, he entered something known as an Alford plea. For those of you who don’t know the term, I give you the Cornell University Law School definition of an Alford plea.
“Also known as a “best-interests plea,” an Alford plea registers a formal claim neither of guilt nor innocence toward charges brought against a defendant in criminal court. Like anolo contendere plea, an Alford plea arrests the full process of criminal trial because the defendant — typically, only with the court’s permission — accepts all the ramifications of a guilty verdict (i.e. punishment) without first attesting to having committed the crime. The name, Alford plea, is taken from North Carolina v. Alford 400 U.S. 25.”
The most common usage of this plea is claiming innocence while stating that the prosecution has enough evidence to “wrongly” convict. In Kramer’s case, his attorney said that due to breathing problems, a broken neck, and the lingering effects of having undergone numerous surgeries, Kramer “just wasn’t physically able to stand trial.”
The idea with this kind of thing is sometimes to offer to save the court time and money and to then bargain for reduced or dropped charges and sentences in return. In most cases that I know of, the plea also means that you surrender your right to appeal. Both sides hammer out the deal and everything is essentially done. The Fat Lady sings her song and everyone goes home. But at least the punishment, after all of these years of manipulation, games, breaking the terms of his house arrest multiple times, embarrassing the D.A.’s office, and leaving the state to prey on others ON TOP OF the original offenses should be pretty damned stiff, right? Nope. That’s number two.
2) From what I’ve read, Kramer is getting a slap on the wrists. Some charges were either dropped or reduced. What Kramer was finally hit with was this. He will be registered as a sex offender. He was sentenced to five years for each of the three charges, one for each victim, which will be served concurrently with his last two-plus years in jail awaiting trial counted in against the sentence. Basically, he’s set to serve 34 months of time. And it gets better.
Some time back I quoted Danny Porter, the D.A., stating that the elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about was that, even if they ever convicted Kramer, they would never be able to keep him in jail. His complaints and his “medical issues” would make him too expensive to keep and almost impossible to deal with. Apparently, he still felt that way this week. Ed Kramer is getting 34 months on monitored house arrest.
You read that right. After molesting three children, breaking the terms of his bonds over and over again, roaming the country unmonitored while the Gwinnett authorities thought they knew where he was, and seemingly attempting to prey on yet another child, the man gets to spend the next 34 months in his home with a monitor bracelet on.
He also has to pay each of the three victims $100,000 and will, after house arrest be on a “strictly monitored” probation for another 15 years. During this time, he cannot leave the county. One only hopes that the “strictly monitored” probation is handled better and more attentively than his prior times out and about when he went where he pleased and where the embarrassed D.A.’s office actually admitted to not even realizing that Kramer was in some of the places that he was in fact in.
And he never admitted to the crimes. He never admitted wrongdoing. He never even stood trial.
I can’t help but to read the news stories and think that, ultimately, Kramer won. He has played the system like a game for thirteen years, making the rules, pulling their strings, and making them dance to his tune, and he just wore the system down. Three lives permanently damaged, embarrassing the system on a repeated basis, and essentially thumbing his nose at the courts, the jails, and the D.A. for all of this time, and the punishment is less than I’ve seen people get for over getting busted with pot.
I’ve been following this with some level of interest mixed with professional curiosity since late 2005. By that point there was already a huge amount of news stories available in the five year ordeal and reading through it became an exercise in infuriation. While many of the earliest news stories and blog threads didn’t have enough concrete information, just rumor and speculation, to feel strongly enough about guilt or innocence one way or another, there was plenty there to make you want to smack your head with your hand at how poorly the case was being handled. Stories closer to 2005 gave a much greater indication of a guilty man working the system and creating delay after delay, but it also painted that much more of a picture of an ineptly handled legal case by that local system. Reading about someone twisting the legal system in knots like that was, professionally, annoying as hell.
I don’t think there was another major development in the situation until around mid-2008 when they lifted his house arrest. Even that seemed strange when I heard about it in the latter half of the year. If you were at all familiar with the case by that time, you knew how badly he played the system and how many times he had violated the terms of his bond. Hearing the news that they had decided to basically just let the man start roaming free in the area just seemed asinine to me. In 2009 they were back to talking about a court date in the first half of the year. By the time 2010 was upon us, there had been yet another delay. After that, the only real Kramer related news items for a while were the lawsuits he was launching against others.
Then 2011 happened. Kramer was nailed in a Connecticut hotel room with a young boy. He was in violation of the terms of his bond, serious violations as well, and he had publicly embarrassed the D.A.’s office who had to admit that they had no idea that, despite being responsible for keeping up with his whereabouts and activities, Kramer had been traveling so much or even that he was in Connecticut. And there was anger at this point. There was anger not only by the embarrassed D.A.’s office, but by the people in two states who were now reading about this ineptly handled, eleven year old case that had somehow never made it to trial. I actually thought we were going to see something happen at last. Turns out, at least then, I was wrong. 2011 turned into 2012 and that turned into 2013, and still we saw no trial. We saw lots of talk about fast tracking the case to trial and having everything ready to go at last, but we didn’t see a trial. And, of course, we saw Kramer playing games again.
Then the boycott happened. As I outlined in my first post on the matter, my major problem with the boycott was (outside of the inaccuracies, exaggerations, lies, attacks on people’s family members for disagreeing with them, attempts to attack people’s employment for disagreeing with them, declarations of wishing people would die painful deaths for disagreeing with them, gleefully calling women who disagreed with them cunts, etc.) that I felt that the target, the convention that Kramer had had nothing to do with for more than a decade, was the wrong focus of for the energy. Here was a group of people claiming that they wanted justice, yet their target was an organization with zero ability to control, contain, or imprison Kramer or to in any way get the man to trial. The focus, as I stated back then, should have been on the legal system and in letting them know that they were being watched and scrutinized. It should have been about using the army of people that could have been raised to raise awareness rather than spitefully alienating an army to raise a troop.
But despite that, there was a positive aspect of the boycott with regards to the legal system. There was increased media coverage and media coverage in places that hadn’t followed the matter in years if at all. But then the boycott went away and the media spotlight dimmed just a bit. And that’s when, with regards to this matter specifically, I actually worried a little bit that we were going to start seeing a repeat of the prior 13 years of the case starting up all over again. And, truth be told, it was starting to look that way.
And now this happens. After 13 years of running them in circles and wearing the system down, Kramer bargains his way out of even ever standing trial and into what feels like an insignificant slap on the wrists.
It’s an insult to anyone who wanted to see justice done and it should be an embarrassment to the system down there that a man who did so much wrong for so long is getting off with less punishment than the millions of other people in prisons who have done far, far less.
Oh… One word of advice to the other people out there who are as angry about this as I am and have been trying to rationalize this into something positive-
I understand the need to do so. It’s probably better for you in the long run and less expensive than putting your fist through your monitor. But, please, think before you type. I’ve already seen some people trying to find a positive in this with a scenario that looks like you’re hoping for something really bad. Some of you have said that the good thing is that the deal allows him no appeal and no recourse should he violate the terms by reverting to form in the upcoming years. It’s been described by some of you as basically a trap. He’ll revert to form, do it again, and then go to jail for the rest of his life.
Uhm… No. I sympathize with wanting to make silk out of this sows ear, but think about what you’re writing and how that looks. Yes, we would love to see him face justice and go away for a very, very long time, but we do not want that at the expense of another life destroyed. I know what you mean and I know what you’re really saying, but, please, think it through a bit more before your type it.
And with that, I am once and for all truly and finally done writing about Ed Kramer.
Okay, welcome to part two and a few days later. It’s been an interesting few days of thinking not only because of a perspective that I didn’t have before, but because of learning something I didn’t know about someone I know.
I have a friend who is a few years older than I am and a fellow raving geek. She’s become familiar with this case over the last roughly three years and found my link page to be rather useful reading to catch up on the back story with. As such, she’s gotten a fairly good handle on things at this point. I figured that she, also in a job that has her at least affiliated with law enforcement and legal matters, would be kind of pissed about the slap on the wrists. Instead, she said something that hadn’t crossed my mind or even gotten into my thick head by Monday night.
“But is that what the victims wanted?”
I’ll freely admit that I think I looked at her for a moment as if she was speaking a foreign language and I was an idiot trying to decipher it. I asked her to explain. She did, and, oh boy, was it a doozy of an explanation.
Years ago, long before moving here, she was the victim of a nasty assault. A man came at her from out of a dark, bush covered area, grabbed her, threw her down into the bushes and beat her to within an inch of her life. He then prepared to rape her. Fortunately, despite the cliché, someone heard what sounded like a struggle and someone in need of help and actually called the police rather than turning away. The responding units must have been pretty close, because they arrived before he was able to actually rape her.
And then her experience with the courts began. Her case went on for a little over a year. She said one of the worst things was wanting justice, but feeling this giant ball of fear and anxiety in her stomach growing every time a court date was approaching. And what was even worse than even that was when a last minute delay would happen and that anxiety would just explode and she would have it start all over again when the next date was coming up. It was a year she doesn’t like to remember or think about and she was more thankful than she thought she would be when it was over.
And then she said that she has absolutely no idea how hellish it must have been for his three victims. For one thing, they were children when it happened to them. For another, it was a deeper violation than what she experienced. And, lastly, their experience with seeking a trial and closure has lasted over a decade.
When it first started, the set dates turning into delays were fairly close together. Then they spaced out onto months. Then they spaced out into years. I think the longest stretch between discussed dates in court was roughly seven years. As she put it, they were never being given closure, but they were likely being given time to start healing. And then, years later, he would come along and rip the wounds open again. In thirteen years, there has been no closure for these young men and no ability to put it behind them and start trying to heal the scars without fear of him coming back into their lives and ripping it all apart again. Her point of view is that these young men very much wanted justice, but that, at this point, they likely needed closure just as much if not more.
And she may well have been right. In talking about it with her, it jogged something along those lines in my memory. Back in 2006, Kramer had attempted to immigrate to Israel. The deal worked out with Porter was that he would leave the country and never return and that this would essentially pass as a sentence for the crime. I was kind of glad that this immigration attempt failed at the time. Setting a predator lose among new potential prey just because he was a pain to deal with seemed irresponsible. But it was Porter’s comments explaining it that became important in the here and now.
Porter stated that he spoke to the victims about the deal before agreeing to it and they were on-board with it. The reason they agreed to it? They just wanted to finally get it behind them.
And that was seven years ago. It had only been six years at that point. We’re up to year thirteen now.
I don’t think that anyone that ever reads this can know what was in the heads of the victims as this was being settled upon. No one can know what they all felt they wanted or, more importantly, needed at this point. And I mean no one can as there has never been a case involving crimes like this with the games, the delays, the incompetence, and the infuriating longevity of this one anywhere else that I know of. They’ve had thirteen years with no closure for them and no ability to start healing without the fear of it all crashing down around them again.
Maybe this isn’t the level of justice that some of us wanted to see done here and maybe the punishment seems to us to be insignificant when compared to the crimes, but then, maybe, as my friend pointed out, some justice with ultimate closure was what was needed now rather than the risk of another half decade to full decade of this continuing on as it has so far.
Yeah, you and I can point to how ineptly this was handled, point to what look like gross failures by the local legal system, and say that it should never have dragged out this long, but the fact of the matter is that is has dragged out this long and it could have kept on going even longer. And, yeah, in my gut and likely yours that still doesn’t sit well, but it is something to think about and maybe consider when commenting on the matter elsewhere right now.
And now, with that, I am actually once and for all truly and finally done writing about Ed Kramer.
Steve Niles could use some help right now.
According to a report in Bleeding Cool, Steve’s Austin, Texas home was flooded out whenstorms rampaged through the area over the weekend. The good news out of it is that reports so far indicate that everyone in the house, people and animals alike, managed to get to safety through the waste-deep waters. The bad news is that Steve has lost a good deal of what he had, including unique items that likely cannot be replaced, and the worse news is that he didn’t have flood insurance.
Personal issues with comments made about Dragon Con and Dragon Con attendees (and then, as a fallout from that, about me) earlier this year be damned right now. Niles has been a good friend to and supporter of people I know and been a supporter of some things and events that I also support. And more important than that right now, he’s a human being and as a human being Steve Niles could use some help right now.
According to a report in Bleeding Cool, Steve’s Austin, Texas home was flooded out when storms rampaged through the area over the weekend. The good news out of it is that reports so far indicate that everyone in the house, people and animals alike, managed to get to safety through the waste-deep waters. The bad news is that Steve has lost a good deal of what he had, including unique items that likely cannot be replaced, and the worse news is that he didn’t have flood insurance.
Steve Niles commented on the matter with this statement:
Woke up at 6am to water rushing into the house. Already ankle deep by the time we saw it. We got as much as we could off the ground and tried to block but there wasn’t much we could do. The worst was trying to get to Gil. It was waist deep almost and strong enough to throw around logs. I reached him and he was submerged and freaking out. Don’t remember much more then lifting him and carrying him all the way back to the house. Looking back I can see how scary it was.
We are securing the house as much as we can and going through the damage. A scrapbook full of original art I’ve kept for 30 years is gone. A lot more.
Our friends Belinda and Steve are setting up a fund to help. I feel terrible about this but once things settle I’ll have to face up that we need help. I just wish I could catch my breath for 5 minutes and I can make my own money. Austin has had other ideas I guess.
We’ll keep you posted. We’re sort of trapped here for right now. Going to pack and move as much as we can before the next storm hits.
Thank you guys so much.
The fund set up for Steve that he references in the above statement can be donated to through Paypal to: HelpSteveNiles@gmail.com
Bottom line: This is a horrendously bad turn of events for anyone to face without some help. Steve’s given a lot to the horror community over the years. A little bit given back right now might not be such a bad thing.
Well, for one major thing, I’ve been on another blog. I haven’t abandoned my personal blog by any means. No, there will certainly be things that I want to get off of my chest (like this) or talk about that won’t fit there and thus will be placed here.
Oh, where’s “there” exactly?
That would be here.
Little start up that was looking for content and contributors. They needed someone who likes horror and was willing to do a lot of horror content for October and Halloween. Enter me.
I have a few article up with them already. I have more in their pending file. Most of what’s up right now has a little bit of humor about it, but there will be a few things I have planned for submission that are serious in tone as well. I even snagged an interview for an upcoming book about the ghosts that haunt some of downtown Richmond’s most famous buildings.
It’s going to be an interesting October. If they want me around after that? Well, that should be interesting as well, but with a little less content to provide.
The other thing was a trip down to NC. Adrenalin‘s new feature film, Fix it in Post, is underway at last. Spent a fun weekend camping out on the set and filming the movie within the movie. We were doing the fake film Ninjas VS Zombies and the shoot was fun. We were supposed to be acting like we had no clue what we were doing and N VS Z is supposed to be Ed Wood level incompetent film making, so there was a lot of room in there to improvise some ridiculous slapstick. And my son finally got to play an onscreen role, so he had fun with that.
By nightfall, we were filming the scenes that set up the initial kickoff for the main plot of the actual film. Less improve, but just as much fun.
I’m a big fan of Peter David’s work. I’m certainly not the only one.
My first real introduction to Peter David’s writing was his amazing run on The Incredible Hulk for Marvel Comics. To this day I rate his run as up there with the original Hulk stories as my favorite take on the Hulk and still find depictions of the dumber “Hulk Smash” Hulk to be less enjoyable as a result.
That introduction led me to his other comic work, his opinion column in Comic Buyer’s Guide, and his novel work. The vast majority of his novel writing at that time was licensed work. He was a well known for his Star Trek novels, somewhat well known for having written books in the Photon series, and he wrote a series called Psi-Man under the pen name of David Peters. In and around that he also put out original works like Howling Mad and Knight Life, movie adaptations and doing the co-writing on James Doohan’s autobiography. He also wrote the odd TV script and screenplay as well as co-creating Space Cases with Lost in Space and Babylon 5 star Bill Mumy.
One of the hallmarks of his work was the humor in them. However, sometimes the reputation of “humor” in his works overshadowed what else was there. Some of his Trek novels were serious and dark as hell, but a few lighter scenes written here and there and fans talked about them as another Peter David knee slapper.
But slowly, as time wore on, the reputation for the other aspects of his writing grew. He could do dark and serious very well. He was extremely good with characterization and he had an amazing ability for great dialogue. He also had a great gift for being able to plant seeds for long term storytelling and unfolding those stories in an absolutely beautiful manner.
Of course, he also started to hit frustrating roadblocks. At appearance after appearance at stores and conventions he would be met with fans asking him when they would see some original creation novels from him. The problem he faced was that his publishers would constantly tell him that there was simply no demand whatsoever for original works from Peter David. All fans wanted to see, he was told, was more things like his licensed Trek work.
That changed a bit over time, but not all that much. Slowly he was able to get more original properties written as both comic book works and novels, but the various problems with publisher remained. He had stories to tell, but publishers would explain that there was no demand for “X” for whatever, occasionally insane, reasons.
Readers started to resign themselves to the fact that Peter and many other writers who didn’t have the same string pulling power of a Stephen King or J. K. Rowling level player would be at the mercy of the dictates of the machine. If the machine said that no one had any interest in vampire stories unless they were romance based stories written by female authors then that’s what the publishing reality was even if the real reality said differently. And readers resigned themselves to the fact that good writers had great stories to tell that they might never see.
And then a few years ago things started to change on the publishing landscape. New technologies started introducing new formats such as the e-book. Through devices like the Kindle, books could now be treated like music or movies on an iPod or like-device. You could store an entire library of 1,000 or more books on a device not much larger than a billfold wallet.
Major publishers started making electronic versions of their print product. Along the way, things like Amazon opened the ability to create e-books to everyone. You could be a high school kid working on a story and get it published electronically via Amazon or other platforms. The upside was that anyone now had the ability to write whatever stories their muses told them to write. The two downsides were that this meant an electronic glut of new fiction coming out from unknown and untested authors and that in turn meant that e-books were seen by many as the new vanity presses. But slowly a few authors started to look at e-publishing themselves to sidestep the issues of dealing with publishing houses that insisted on restricting an author’s output based on the publisher’s occasionally twisted view of what readers wanted.
Enter 2011 and enter Crazy 8 Press. Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Aaron Rosenberg, and Howard Weinstein, having found selling their original works to mainstream publishers increasingly difficult, launched their own imprint to distribute works on the electronic platform with print on demand options for some works. Peter’s own original work, The Camelot Papers, was used as the initial launch’s centerpiece in much of the promotion for Crazy 8 Press.
The initial buzz from fans in the know was rejoicing. Now we would get to see the stories that the authors we most enjoyed most wanted to tell unfiltered and without roadblocks keeping them tied up in publishing hell for months or even years. Now we would get stories as soon as these authors could put them out.
Since their launch a number of titles have been released. You can find them all here.
Crazy 8 is up and running and putting out some great stuff. I personally love several of their stories, especially Pulling Up Stakes, Peter David’s take on the vampire and the vampire hunter, and have either recommended the extremely affordable e-pub versions to many I know or actually bought the print on demand version of Stakes as gifts. But the problem now is that their works aren’t being seen by many readers at large. As a matter of fact, Peter, one of the founders, is having his next original novel released through Amazon Books.
I don’t believe that the issue is pricing as mentioned by one poster in that piece. The average Crazy 8 Press book is priced way more than affordably; especially when compared to the average major publisher’s e-pubs. I think the issue is promotion.
Despite the fact that all of these guys are established, name authors, they’re pretty much depending on word of mouth here. They’re not multi-millionaires. They’re working for a living with their writings and paying bills and supporting family with those earnings. They’re not exactly in a position to drop the kind of advertising budget on each book that a major publisher can. And, being e-pubs, there are no paperbacks to land on the shelves and be found while browsing or to be placed in the window or on the center isle display as the local bookstore’s new releases. You have to know about the books and you can only know about them by looking for them.
The result is that their works are not being seen by the eyeballs that should be seeing them. The result is that what so many fans of so many authors, not just these guys, have declared that they want for so long now, new stories of the type they want to read and the type the authors want to write, are going by unseen and unknown to the very fans who would love them.
Michael Jan Friedman
Ever read anything by any of them that you really loved? Then support this venture. Subscribe to their sites. Buy some of their e-books. Buy some of the print on demand books if you don’t have an e-reader device. You can find out how to get them all here.
Share the news about Crazy 8 Press. Spread the word. Put word of mouth to good use. It’s not just to help them either. If they succeed the way is paved for others to do the same. There are so many authors out there who don’t have the stroke that a King or Rowling has that want to tell the stories that their fans would love yet cannot do it. By helping them, you help anyone else who goes this route. By helping anyone who goes this route, the fans ultimately help themselves by getting the stories that they want and will enjoy.
It’s really that simple. Share this post. Hell, just take the links I provided and share them with your own spin. I don’t care how you do it, but please go out and share it.
And don’t do it just the one time. When you read a Crazy 8 book that you like, go ahead and mention it on social media the same way so many of us mention that episode of of the TV show of the moment, the hot new movie, that great restaurant, or anything else. You don’t have to write a review, just tell people about it if you liked it.
And if you haven’t read any of the books from Crazy 8, buy one. Start out small. I’d suggest Pulling Up Stakes. $0.99 gets you the first part of the story, 105 pages, on your Kindle, Nook, e-reader device or PC and if you liked it as much as I did you only have to invest another $2.99 in getting the second part of the story. But if vampires and vampire hunters, even a different take on them, isn’t your thing? Look around the site. They have other stories for under $4.00 that you can test the waters with. Give them a try and if you like what you see just let other people know. The “work” of doing so is barely any effort and the rewards are that creators continue to get to create in a way that allows them the unrestricted freedom to create the stories that you love.
There’s nothing like a challenge to kick the brain into working at things from angles you never really looked at before. In this case, it was a simple conversation that ended with a friend of mine questioning how something so well-known and well established could even be argued against.
A friend was discussing possible panel discussion topics about horror and, when zombies came up, another friend suggested a discussion about who created the zombie as we know it. He was blown off with a quick answer as to who did it and how silly the idea of even debating it was. There was, he was told, simply no questioning the fact that George A. Romero created the modern zombie. There are, after all, entire books and documentaries dedicated to just that fact.
My comment in response to this was that, hey, they’re still arguing over whether or not the Wright Brothers were really “First in Flight” in America. If that can be seriously debated by various scholars and newspapers; why not this? I put on my devil’s advocate’s cap and a day later told him that it might actually be easier than he thought. This is the result.
I should note, as if it wasn’t already somewhat apparent from the above, that this is pretty much just an exercise in looking at this from a different POV than the one I usually hold. It’s also maybe an opening for fun debate. I love George and think he doesn’t get enough credit in some areas and I certainly respect his well-earned reputation as the father of the modern zombie. Keep any angry typing and any offended INTERNET SCREAMING to yourself here. We’re likely on the same side of the actual argument. However, friendly geek debating is always welcome.
This is also going to be a bit rough as a read. I’m a bit busy and I’m supposed to be working on other things right now so I’m not working this out or refining it much beyond first think through and first draft. I’ll leave the polishing (or crushing) of the thing to any debate it might invite.
So, without further ado…
Did George A. Romero really create the modern zombie?
The generally accepted answer is usually a resounding “yes” and given faster than one can think. But the answer may not be as cut and dry as that. As a matter of fact, one very authoritative source has repeatedly stated that George A. Romero did not invent zombies back in 1968. That source would be George A. Romero himself.
Romero has, in many interviews over the years, stated that he never intended them to be zombies. Zombies to Romero were the still living Voodoo slaves of such classic films as White Zombie. His film was partially intended to be a riff on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend with updated concepts and contemporary themes thrown in. But Romero didn’t want to use vampires. So after some thought about what to do, the decision was made to make them ghouls.
That’s actually an extremely important point. Romero knew what his creatures were and he named them. They were ghouls. And ghouls, even as portrayed in Night of the Living Dead, were not new or original by any stretch of the imagination.
Ghouls, particularly as seen in NotLD, date back centuries, if not millennia, in legend and lore from all around the world. You can find stories of the ravenous dead in ancient cultures that have been nothing but dust and ruins for longer than anyone reading this has been alive. And in many cases, they were also depicted as the departed friends, family or village-folk that came back mindless and with a taste for the flesh of the living. That’s not a story new to 1968 or even American storytelling. There were even a few of the pre-code horror comic books in the 1950s that at least played with the concept even if they didn’t dance fully into on panel, full gore body devouring.
So George A. Romero himself has for years said that he never intended these things to be “zombies” and didn’t even call them that himself in the early years and yet they still became “zombies” to the movie going and horror loving public. So how and why did that happen?
Romero has answered that one as well. The press basically did it. It was the press, both professional and fanzine, that labeled the ravenous dead of Romero’s film with the “zombie” tag.
But, Jerry, I hear you saying, they were new to film. We had never seen such a sight in films before; certainly not American films at any rate and not films that had any sort of mainstream coverage and release. And to that I answer simply…
Did James Bond not exist as a fully realized creation until the films came along? Yeah, they changed him quite a bit in the transition from page to screen, but it has always been acknowledged that James Bond was based on a book, on pre-existing stories, created by Ian Fleming. The film Beastmaster and Marc Singer’s Dar are nothing like Andre Norton’s books or Hosteen Storm in any way but the most superficial, and changed far, far more of the story and setting than Romero’s ghouls were changed from some of the ghouls of legend, but it’s still widely acknowledge that Beastmaster is Andre Norton’s creation. So how are we not to also acknowledge that Romero’s “zombies” existed so fully and firmly in story and legend that he knew what they were well enough to name them as ghouls himself even if a host of press people felt the need to give them a hipper name?
But, you say, the origin makes them different. The ravenous dead were supernatural. These were brought about by natural, if slightly cosmic and exaggerated, means. That means that they are different based on the “birth” as it were.
No they weren’t and no they’re not.
A lot of people who call themselves big zombie fans and big Romero fans often seem to trip themselves up over that one. They’ll tell you that the zombie plague was created by radiation brought back by a satellite that broke up on re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. This is not true.
The satellite is referenced in NotLD, but it’s never actually established as the cause for the zombie outbreak. Romero himself has even said that the satellite was not the cause and inserted commentary by an expert into the early parts of Shaun of the Dead shooting down that idea. The cause of the zombie plague of Romero’s world is to this day exactly what Romero himself has stated he wanted it to be. It’s an unknown and hotly debated source. And, again, no matter what else is said, we still have this.
GEORGE ROMERO: “They haven’t. When I did the first film, I didn’t call them zombies. When I did Night of the Living Dead, I called them ghouls, flesh eaters. I didn’t think they were. Back then zombies were still those boys in the Caribbean doing the wet work for Lugosi. So I never thought of them as zombies. I thought they were just back from the dead. I ripped off the idea for the first film from a Matheson novel called I Am Legend which is now back with us after a couple of incarnations prior. I thought I Am Legend was about revolution. I mean this is a 60s guy sitting there [pretends to take a toke, laughs] and I said if you’re going to do something about revolution, you should start at the beginning. Richard starts his book with one man left. Everybody in the world has become a vampire and I said, “No man, we gotta start at the beginning and tweak it up a little bit.” And I couldn’t use vampires because he did so I wanted something that would be an earth shaking change, something that was forever, like this awful shit, something that was really at the heart of it. I said what if the dead stop staying dead. Again it’s just an idea that comes to you. And I just never thought of them as zombies in the first place. This film goes back theoretically to that first night. I mean I didn’t use the word until the second film and that’s only because people who were writing about the first film called them zombies and I said maybe they are in a way, but to me zombies were separate in the rainbow. I mean they were not even undead, they were just people that were … You blew this shit up with blowfish powder which would put someone in a state of suspended animation and then you get them to do your chores for you. I just thought it was completely different.”
It’s kind of hard to argue with the man himself when he says that he never intended them to be “zombies” and in fact thought that they were just ghouls. He also addresses the fact here that he only decided to use that word himself because other people were describing his ghouls as zombies in their writings on the first film.
You’ve built a car. A bunch of people who don’t know any better call it a plane. You finally give in and call it a plane. Did you really invent the modern plane?
No. No you did not. And Romero may not have created the modern zombie. He certainly had a hand in it and might be honestly labeled a co-creator who has had the good fortune of having many other co-creators who were far more unknown than he was and, in some cases with the passage of time, mostly forgotten.
But certainly he can be credited with creating the “Romero Zombie” and thus still have the title as the “Creator of the Modern Zombie” that has been bestowed upon him, right? Maybe not. The truth may be that we’ve never really seen a “Romero Zombie” on film.
The closest thing that you can make the claim of being a “Romero Zombie” about would be the first zombies of NotLD, creatures, again, that Romero himself has stated were never zombies, and that after that film we saw the creature drifting away from what it was and into the pop culture created narrative of what the zombie was.
Think about the evolution of the “Romero Zombie” for a moment. The zombies seen in Night and the zombies seen in Dawn could almost be different creatures. Yeah, they both rise from the dead to munch warm, living flesh, but there’s much more about them that’s different.
Other than the two child zombies at the airport in Dawn, the zombies of Night show the ability for faster movement than their counterparts in Dawn. In NotLD, the very first zombie we see jogs at a fairly nice clip after the departing Barbara. He also shows us zombies in Night that are more physically capable and that show more signs of intelligence in the moment. Jogging zombie, upon catching up to Barbara’s car starts rapid-fire pounding on the window like a jackhammer. He then, after figuring out that his knuckles ain’t cutting it, steps back, rapidly looks around the ground, picks up a rock, hauls back, and then smashes the window with the rock. Throughout Night we even see the undead using basic tools (sticks and stones) with regularity. They also seemed a wee bit light sensitive.
By Dawn of the Dead, the concept of the NotLD ghoul being instead a “zombie” has seemingly infected their presentation on screen. They’re slower, they’re more lumbering, they’re more clueless, they seem to have forgotten what tools are, and they resemble the lumbering Voodoo zombie of films gone by insofar as their general actions and movements much more so than their NotLD counterparts did. It was as if the very idea of labeling them zombies in turn affected the way they were written and performed.
The argument could be made that Romero allowed others and their descriptions of and ideas on his creatures to shape the development of his creatures, either consciously or unconsciously, rather than keeping them what they were and expanding on that. They changed in between NotLD and DotD into being closer to something you might see in White Zombie or King of the Zombies.
By Day of the Dead, the transformation of the creatures from being a ghoul to simply being a deader, hungrier version of the Voodoo zombie was more or less complete. We’re even treated to the lone zombie breaking through the haze of its clouded zombie-state mind to start remembering aspects of its previous life and to start displaying facets of its old, pre-zombie personality.
By the time the modern era of the zombie film came around (skipping Land of the Dead even though I actually liked that one more than most) and George Romero reclaimed his cinematic kingdom, we saw him using zombies that were in every way respectful of what many call “Romero’s Rules” for zombies. Surely these zombies are in fact Romero’s zombies, right? Hey, they follow Romero’s Rules for crying out loud.
Actually, if anything, these “Romero’s Rules” zombies from Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead are the least like Romero’s zombies in NotLD than any to come before them and are actually fairly different from even the zombies of Dawn, Day, and Land. These zombies do in fact follow the “Romero’s Rules” as defined by a legion of hardcore zombie purists in pop culture, but the problem is that Romero himself never really followed “Romero’s Rules” all that closely in his first three zombie films. What we see in Dairy and Survival is Romero using the zombie demanded by the purists and what we saw was even the purists ranking these two films as the worst two films of his (so far) six films.
What we have is a man who set out to use ghouls, slowly allowed the pop culture forces of the time to shift his creatures closer to their “zombie” moniker, and, after many years, finally set out to use “his” zombies based on “his” rules when the rules in question were never really his rules in the early days. So where does this all leave Romero insofar as being the “creator” of the modern zombie?
He’s certainly a great filmmaker. He’s made three fantastic films, two pretty damned good ones and one kinda clunker. But the reality of the situation is that he’s a co-creator of the modern zombie at best and, when looking at his first film VS subsequent films, he’s not even the majority co-creator of what is today considered the Romero Zombie.
He laid the groundwork, the well established groundwork, and so many others filled in the blanks. He headed the team, but a lot of other technicians added the fine details. Godfather of the modern zombie he may be, but he is at best only the unintentional co-creator of the modern zombie and not in fact the creator of the modern zombie.
Oh… A little bonus debate starter… Do you want to hear something that’s really insane sounding but very likely true? It’s quite possible that the single biggest thing that created the modern zombie as we know it, even the modern Romero zombie and the zombie craze as we know it right now was a simple mistake with copyright. Yeah, you read that right. You may in fact owe your favorite current creature’s success and relevance on the horror landscape to a screw-up.
It’s A Wonderful Life is a Christmas staple. For years you couldn’t turn the television on in the Christmas season and not channel surf into it on at least two or three channels. Everyone was airing it from your short on funds local PBS station to superstations like WOR, WGN, and WTBS. The thing is, Life was a flop. It was a failure at the box office and it was savaged by most critics at the time. No one cared about it and somewhere along the lines the film fell out of copyright and in to public domain. At that point, just about anyone who wanted to could air the thing day and night without putting the least little dent into their budget. And slowly over the years this “Holiday Classic” was aired so much and so many times that almost everyone had a chance to see it. It actually found an audience on television and it built a bit of a nostalgic following for some as the movie that they always watched in the Christmas Season when growing up.
And then the popularity got it noticed and it slipped back into copyright. Nice DVD versions were released and the cost of airing it went up. Suddenly it’s not on TV as much each December and its popularity has been noticeably slipping.
Night of the Living Dead sort of did the same thing. Night fell out of copyright almost immediately thanks to a fairly large screw-up. As a result, it cost basically nothing to air. Channels that were willing to air it, occasionally “uncut” but slightly edited to avoid bare zombie butts, could do so every Halloween season or on their local horror host’s program on the cheap. Drive-Ins and theaters now called Grindhouse Theaters but not so much known as such then could get prints cheap if they knew where to look and show it on special occasions with a much better profitability bang for their original layout buck.
When VHS came along, every fly-by-night company put out their own print. The same thing happened when DVD came along and put a bullet in the head of VHS. Hell, some of the DVDs were the VHS prints copied over with all of the tape defects intact. You could buy it on DVD for a whopping $1.99 or get it in a collection of ten, twenty-five or fifty films for the cost of any one or two big studio release DVDs.
Night of the Living Dead was everywhere when I was growing up. Everyone that was a horror fan saw it because you almost couldn’t not come across the film on TV or in a friend’s video collection.
It was a good movie to be sure. But the film also had a much better than average chance at finding and building an audience. Would it have been popular if it had never fallen out of copyright? Yeah, I think it would have been. It’s a good film after all. Would it have been as big if it had stayed in copyright? I really don’t think so. It would have been aired less on television and there would have only been higher priced VHS tapes and DVDs on the market with almost no mega collections containing it until the most recent years of DVD distribution.
It would have found an audience, but the audience, just based on the reduced exposure, would have likely been smaller in the early years as well as into the 80s and 90s. Without the larger “cult” following, we don’t see the same rise of the cheap zombie horror that we saw in the 80s. Hell, we may not even have seen Return of the Living Dead. Without these things, we don’t see the same demand for Day, which may still have been made, and Land, which may not have still been made, and the blossoming love affair with all things zombie that we’ve seen from the major studio heads. The zombie genre isn’t as strong as it is now and we maybe don’t see The Walking Dead on TV even if we do maybe see the comic with a less successful run from being released to a less rabid zombie fandom.
The zombie craze we see now can be traced back to Night of the Living Dead. But do we see an in copyright NotLD making the same impact in the two decades after its creation that we saw from the cheaper to air/print/distribute version? Probably not.
Edit 9:50 PM, EST 5/23/2013
Two things -
First a note to the many of Ron’s Twitter followers and fans coming here from the referrals on his Twitter page. If you want to post a counterpoint to anything I post, I have no issue with that whatsoever. I welcome it actually. The few who have posted something intelligent have been approved. However, for the larger chunk of you coming over and posting nothing but string of insults and vulgarities, posting cutesy garbage with fake email addresses like @gofuckyouself.com, @DIAF.com, @ESAD.com, ect… You’re not getting out of the spam filter. Don’t waste your time.
Oh, and to the very special few of you who want to really push it with your comments, don’t forget that, while you may be able to get a post into the system with a fake name and email address… Well, there are other ways to ultimately identify you if you decide to cross a little too far over into the realm of threats.
Second – Ron, you give yourself too much credit. I’m not angry or upset over your little bit of stupidity You’re frankly just not important enough to warrant that level of an emotional response. If anything, as I said in the comments section before you chimed in here, I find you, your hypocrisy and your inability to either see your own hypocrisy or acknowledge it oddly amusing. I now find your inability to comprehend basic English even more so.
“Ron Marz @ronmarz 52m
@marco949 Yeah, I’m a coward by not commenting. So I comment, but no, still a coward.“
VS What I actually said.
“Now, in all honesty I don’t thank that it makes you a coward any more than I think that the guy you accused of being a coward (for acting exactly like you did) is a coward.”
No wonder you prefer Twitter to blogs. More than handful of words and you seem to get confused.
I don’t do Twitter. Never had any interest in trying to have conversations limited to a few words at a time or with wrdz turnd 2 jmbls. Besides, I got talked into Facebook some years ago by friends and that eats enough of my free time up as it is. I was so Twitter illiterate that I only just recently discovered that you don’t actually have to have a twitter account in order to read anyone’s tweets.
One of the things that assisted in my recent familiarization with Twitter was an email sent to me by an acquaintance of mine with a link to Ron Marz’s Twitter page. What I saw was… interesting. At the time though, I basically decided to just ignore it. This by the way was what I saw.
Ron’s definition of “skeevy” seems to be an interesting one. Posting facts with links that correct the incorrect statements of the Boycott Brigade or attempting to discuss the counterpoint in the argument is somehow offensive to Ron’s delicate sensibilities Nice to know. And someone should point out to his Boy Wonder sidekick there that I post as me and only me when I post anything at all. I leave the use of multiple names and email accounts or multiple Twitter accounts under various assumed names to the Boycott Brigade.
But, as I said, I basically decided to ignore it at the time. If Ron wanted to be an asshat, then Ron gets to be an asshat. That’s his right after all. I was a little curious about why he posted the question to Twitter, a place I’m not on and don’t frequent, rather than posting something in one of the various forums I might have actually been and where he saw me discussing the boycott with others, but not curious enough to really give it much thought other than thinking that Ron was maybe a little sketchy for skipping the forums and heading to Twitter to say something about me rather than to me.
Two things recently changed my mind about commenting on this.
The first was an interesting discovery. Having actually looked at Twitter for the first time and discovered that, unlike many Facebook pages, you can read just about every page without an account, I asked a friend on Twitter how to best use any search engine on it. The reason for this was curiosity about a burst of referrals to my blog that came from Twitter back in April. The odd thing about the Twitter referral was that it was to the main page and not any specific post.
So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that the only reference I could find on Twitter for the time in question was just this one.
Granted, I didn’t look long, but this is the only link to my blog that I could find to explain the Twitter referrals from April 21st to April 23rd. And, oh, look, it’s Ron Marz. So Ronny Boy knew who I was before asking who I was two weeks later. And, apparently, Ronny Boy not only skipped commenting directly to me on various forums, but he found my blog, skipped commenting here, ran to the safety of his Twitter account, and gave his own special, overly simplistic spin on my position.
It was also kind of funny that he posted that at all. My last blog post on the matter had been almost a full month earlier. Anyone following his link by then were met with short-film reviews. I actually thought that whoever was linking from Twitter was referencing those since they were the second and third highest hits behind the main page. But, nope, it was Ronny Boy being an asshat and a coward from the safety of his Twitter account.
How can I call him a coward you ask? Oh, well, I’m going by Ronny Boy’s own guidelines on what makes one a coward. You see, that’s the second thing moved me to write a nice little “Pot, Meet Kettle” style post. See, the acquaintance of mine who sent me the first link sent me a second link not long ago with a “You won’t believe what a hypocrite this guy is.” note attached.
Old Ronny Boy apparently got upset with someone who wrote a blog post about something said in one of Ronny’s tweets. The gentleman in question apparently has a Twitter account or at least access to a Twitter account through the professional blog in question, but he apparently decided that addressing what was said in actual sentences and paragraphs was preferable to tweet after tweet after tweet. Now, despite the blog being not only readable to all on the web and on a fairly well trafficked site, Ronny Boy took umbrage to this.
The fact that this guy could have responded on Twitter but chose a different forum, even one that Ronny had knowledge of and access to, made him, by the Ronny Boy Rules of the Web, a coward.
So, Ronny Boy actually came here and, rather than commenting here, skipped off to hide behind his Twitter page and comment, at that time, behind my back. He then later saw me discussing the boycott situation in several forums and, rather than making any comment in them that I can locate, he skipped of to the safety of his Twitter page and talked shit, at that time, behind my back. But when someone else on a blog that Ronny Boy is actually aware of comments on Ronny Boy’s tweets rather than commenting directly to Ronny Boy on his Twitter page, Ronny Boy declares that such an act is an act of cowardice and that the guy was hiding behind his blog.
Hey, Ronny Boy, I don’t have a Twitter account. You found my blog and ran away to hide behind and comment on your Twitter page. You saw me commenting in other forums and ran away to talk shit on and hide behind your twitter page. So, not only are you, Ronny Boy, an asshat, but by your own expressed standards and rules of the web you are a hypocrite and a coward as well.
Good to know.
This goes out to a certain Dimwitted Moron posting from Los Angeles, California, 90027 with an ISP listing of AT&T U-verse.
Dimwitted Moron, to be called DM from here on out for brevity’s sake, please stop embarrassing yourself. All the other people on the web are not as stupid as you are about how these things work.
You’ve made multiple attempts to post comments on this blog’s threads pertaining to the Dragon*Con boycott going all the way back to A Public Service Announcement for my Friends on Facebook. And, DM, had you been interested in honest discussion they would have been approved.
But you’re not interested in that. No, you just want to make stupid or petty little remarks and post them here while using different names and ridiculously stupid emails for each one. You seem to have forgotten one little detail though. And I almost hate to tell you this since it’ll actually get you to use your brain here. No matter how many names and emails you make up, you’re posting them from the same location. Why does that matter? It matters because you then have the same IP address on each post.
Now, DM, it’s obvious that you’re not too swift on the uptake when it comes to such things. No matter though. Any posting coming from that IP address is now banned. Further, any other future posts using different names and emails but originating from the same IP address will likewise be spammed and banned.
You want to know something, DM? I’d have been fine with you posting under your real name and engaging in honest disagreement with anything that I have written. I’d not only have allowed it, but I would have in fact welcomed it just as I have from others.
But you, DM, seem to want to prove through your posts that you aren’t very bright after all and that you, DM, by using an assortment of fake names and emails rather than just using your real name, have even less guts than you have brains.
So you, DM, your IP address and anyone using your real name are, due to your intellectual cowardice, spammed & banned. And the same will happen to any of your Dimwitted Moron net stooges who try to play the game that you did.
Thank you. Have a nice day.
You have to love the comments a blog attracts. I mean, the Dragon*Con posts have gotten me some hilarious posts that I’ve refused to approve and simply deleted because they were little more than a string of profanities.
Oh, quick side note to the idiots like that – When you make certain statements on a blog, you can certainly create a fake email address to enter that will fool some systems. You should keep in mind this one fact though. As the blog admin, I get IP Addresses as well. You might rethink some of the statements.
I love spam. Some of this stuff is practically a demented art form at this point. I have no idea why, but I love this last one. I just think it’s hilarious.
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I mean, that’s practically spambot poetry at this point. It may even be better than some of the stuff I had to read back in school.
Oh joy… Oh rapture…
One of my cousins just shot me an email to warn me that an old annoyance in common (discussed here - http://jjchandler.wordpress.com/2008/05/10/what-the-hell/) is still tapping away at his keyboard, still clogging up internet discussion boards and still screaming about the same things as before; just with a new target. And it seems that my cousin has just ticked him off.
Not normally a major issue to be sure. Except that the troll has started calling my cousin by my name and describing my family situation (wife and two kids.) Wonderful. Thanks loads, cuz.