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Top 10 Inspirations To Become a Writer


 Guest Post written by Jacob Semahn


As the year winds down and we hit the midpoint with Image Comics' Goners #3 (out 12/17. Plug!), I was invited by HorrorTalk to write a Top 10 article of my choosing. Keywords "My" and "Choosing."


I felt like the opposite of Ray Stantz in Ghostbusters...when told to think of nothing, he could only hone in on one beautiful campfire treat. I was asked to think of one thing and I could think of nothing.


Something that I'm asked often in interviews is my background or what informs my writing in general. That list is long and complicated, but I decided to distill it down to my TOP 10 things. So strap on a pair of Nike Pumps and join me on this journey through my childhood, to get a look at where I come from and who got me to where I am today.


In no particular order...



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10. Clue VCR Mystery Game (VHS Edition!)
All the fun of Clue with actors instead of an old timey board...the future is now! The classic Parker Brothers board game got the technological touch in 1985 with the release of VHS/Beta (pfft...Beta), making this the cherry on top of any slumber party growing up. With the campy class of only the finest High School Theater, Clue VCR cements its place in why I love mysteries. Only little by little, vignette by vignette, were you able to solve the mystery of who killed (the aptly named) Mr. Boddy, and why.


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9. The Genius of Richard Matheson & Rod Serling
Both creators. Both legends in the art form of science fiction and horror. And one smoked enough for the Both of them. Rod Serling and Richard Matheson came together in a perfect storm of amazing with the genre fiction anthology series Twilight Zone. "Imagine if you will..." A classic line from a chain-smoker in a suit instilled wonder and horror for audiences decades to come. Writing nearly two-thirds of the series as a whole, Serling would only be eclipsed by the awesomeness that is Legend of Hell House's Richard Matheson. The two titanic nightmare weavers taught me from week to week about theme, the depths of man's depravity, and the redemptive nature of one's soul.


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8. Frank Miller's Daredevil
We're well acquainted with the grim and gritty of comics nowadays, but they weren't always like this. Enter Frank Miller. Miller brought an edge to Daredevil turning him into more of an antihero than hero. A man without fear and nothing to lose finally finds himself on the brink...all brought on by his ultimate foes, Kingpin and Bullseye. Why the "sightless swashbuckler" sticks out as a touch point for me is that Miller took a common superhero trope and turned it into pulp fiction. An amalgam of two wonderful traditions, melted perfectly into one that stands as a milestone in comics to this day.


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7. Scholastic Club or: How I Learned to Start Reading and Love the Books
The greatest day in any year of elementary school was the day our Scholastic book orders came in. I can still remember circling with the ol' no. 2 what I would want from the booklet and my Mom would list the codes in the order form. This program is where I discovered the treasures of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps, Calvin and Hobbes, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and the awesome Bunnicula series. Growing up I breathed the written word and exhaled their summaries to anyone who would listen to the nonsensical ramblings of a child that started every sentence with, "You know what...?"


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6. The Midnight Society
At night they gathered to twist tales and spin yarns on SNICK's Are You Afraid of the Dark? They were called the Midnight Society and once a week they huddled around a legit fire and attempted to scare the shit out of each other with creative writing. The elegant simplicity of this young adult version of Twilight Zone hit closer to home for me, as it was more relatable to someone my age. It helped me keep track of what triggered an emotional response in me and why. It was innocent without being overly saccharin. A tight rope feat that is not easy to accomplish, and something I strive to do more of with my work involving child characters.


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5. The Films of John Carpenter
What can I say that hasn't been said a million times before? Arguably, Carpenter's catalog of genre fiction is unparalleled by any other filmmaker. Prince of Darkness gave me nightmares for weeks and Halloween is a staple in a ritualistic 31 days of horror. What makes Carpenter's movies so engrossing? Well, the man said it himself at a panel at San Diego Comic Con, "I do the same goddamn thing every time. I just make movies about people trapped in one location and having to escape." With movies like The Thing, The Fog, Escape from New York, Assault of Precinct 13, They Live, and Big Trouble in Little China, it's hard to argue with the simplicity of the situation, but the results are always the same...a thrilling story where people being hunted must find a way out in order to survive.


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4. The Horrific Imagination of Stephen King
I remember my first introduction to Stephen King vividly. It began with a two-night mini-series event on ABC. The movie? Stephen King's IT. I was eight years old and to this day I have never felt as much terror as I had in those two nights. But I came back because the thought of children facing ancient evil in clown form was something I had to see through to the end. Night one? I couldn't sleep. Night two? I could, but only in a fit of nightmares that lasted two months. And like locking a heroin addict in a room to sweat it out, I lost two months of proper sleep, but earned an insatiable appetite for all things horror. After those two nights, I was hooked and there was no going back. I went through the books of King with a voracious hunger that couldn't be sated until I finished each novel. No other writer has evoked that unquestioning loyalty in me like King has.


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3. Alan Moore's Swamp Thing
When Alan Moore came on the Vertigo scene with Swamp Thing, he was given free reign to reinvent the character how he saw fit by then editor, Karen Berger. Moore decided to ground Swamp Thing in more of an eco-horror slant and detach him from Alec Holland by turning Swamp Thing into a true "monster" and not simply a man-turned-monster. By giving Swamp Thing a lineage to hold onto as a protector of "The Green," it transformed the tragic tale of a man that lost his humanity into a creature standing as the first line of defense against those that would harm what he was created to protect.


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2. Monster Squad (i.e. The Goonies with Universal Monsters)
"Whoa...Werewolf's got nards." Tell me where else are you going to see a child say that in disbelief after kicking a Werewolf straight in the balls? Monster Squad was just something else entirely. Something in that amorphous area of pre-teen sensibilities. Monster Squad came at a time in my life when I would stalk the horror section of my Music Plus for cool box art. Something...anything...that grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go until it was rented. Plopping down a $99 deposit, my mother rented Monster Squad and my child-mind melted down. It was glorious! Kids against the biggest bads this side of literature, film, and iconography! Many label it as Goonies meets Universal Monsters, and while that's not a wholly incorrect diagnosis, it really does stand on its own as something unique and of its time. They just don't make movies like this anymore unfortunately.


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1. The Amblin Man
I defy anyone to name a more skilled master of the adventure genre than Steven Spielberg. Arriving on the scene with Rod Serling's Night Gallery and quickly moving on to Richard Matheson's TV movie, Duel, Spielberg quickly established himself as a man whose sweat is "literally" (put it in quotes and it now means figuratively!) made up of 98.9% excitement. Whether writing, producing, or directing, Spielberg's name was synonymous with "blockbuster." A few of the hallmarks for children of the '80s and '90s include Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., The Goonies, Poltergeist, Back to the Future, Gremlins, and Jurassic Park. The mere flash of the Amblin Entertainment production tag would elicit goosebumps and thrills as my body zombified. My mouth agape, pupils dilated, head tilted back...the only thing missing was the "guuuh..." building from the pit of my stomach and out my slack-jawed maw. That's how hard my brain's imagination worked to dissect every scene...every camera move...to the point where it no longer had room to control my limbs. And while some may consider magic to be fiction, I consider the fiction of Spielberg to be magic.


Jacob Semahn can be found online on Twitter and Facebook.  The first two issues of Goners are available now with issue #3 debuting on December 17th, 2014. 


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