Sunday, August 13, 2017

Half A Decade Teaching Horror, Mystery and Suspense!?

The actual and official anniversary of my teaching gig's June 1, though it was in August that I stepped into the classroom for the first time five years ago.  It's hard to believe it's been so long.

It's been an interesting time. In a good way. My former comics editor and friend Roland Mann landed first at Full Sail University teaching in their MFA program for creative writing. Then he called me. I wasn't looking for a teaching job just yet though I'd completed an MFA, but Captain America was on the home page. Full Sail grads had worked on the production. I decided to re-think my timeline a bit. As my friend would put it later, "You're going: `I want to work at the Captain America school."

When I first learned I'd been hired to teach a focus of horror, mystery and suspense in a new creative writing BFA program a few months, I was still working as a corporate communications writer and web content coordinator.

I gave a month's notice and started preparing in my head by keeping Lovecraft stories open in one tab on my computer.

Between completing final tasks and assignments at that day job, I ventured into Antarctica again via At the Mountains of Madness and scoured horror web comics, movie sites and headed to the theater for Cabin in the Woods, The Raven, and The Hunger Games. 

Tom Waits "Walking Spanish" became an earworm, an anthem for short timer's syndrome.

Tomorrow morning there'll be laundry
But he'll be somewhere else to hear the call
Don't say good bye he's just leavin' early
He's walking Spanish down the hall...


When I first settled at my desk in my new gig in Orlando, I realized I had to codify what I'd done instinctively in writing fiction. I poured over things like The Philosophy of Horror by Noel Carroll and revisited Danse Macabre by Stephen King which I'd bought and read when it came out.

I did the same with mystery and thriller fiction and theory reading essays by Dorthy L. Sayers and academic essays on mystery greats. My formative years included Chandler, Ross MacDonald, John D. MacDonald and Hammett as well as Lovecraft, King, Poe, so the course mixture was a good fit for me. My freshman English professor once told me I might someday offer something interesting to the academic world with my specialized knowledge in detective fiction, the focus of most of my papers for his class.

As things cranked up in Orlando, was a grand time those months putting the building blocks together for a course. I had to modify my thinking a bit as I began to meet late teen and early twenties students steeped in gaming an anime. I had to learn to show the influences of Stepehn King on Elfin Lied and Raymond Chandler on Death Note, and break down the tropes in Silent Hill and Left4Dead. But it's been a great ride.

Settling into the job and immersing myself in genre anew opened up a fresh wave of creativity for me also. I've written two new novels now and a host of short stories plus some scripts short and long. I didn't realize how much the corporate world had stifled me.

We had a fun five-year celebration this week just past for all of us who've been on board since 2012, and I got a pin. Full Sail began as a program for sound and music editors, mixers and engineers, so you earn a guitar pick for five and move into other mediums on successive milestones.

It's been a fun half decade. We'll see where things go from here. 

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Excellent, man. so glad you landed there. We just watched "Split" last night and it was a pretty well done horror movie with a little something extra.

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