A Girl Runs Into The Woods


I’m part of a leadership class for my job and, as I’m sure many of you have done at camp or job training or seminars or whatever, we played a word game meant to establish team building. Only mine took a really dark turn really fast and I found it really interesting.

The game is this – everyone in your group gets in a circle, the facilitator gives you the first few words of a story and everyone then goes around the circle saying one word a piece. It’s meant to establish how different people think in very different way. In my case, the start of the story was “A girl was running in the woods.”

By the time my group was done the girl had died, been eaten by a bear and zombies, had prostethetic legs for some reason and then the zombies had ridden on horses through a lake, I think. It was the end of the day and I was a little punchy but here’s why I bring it up – the story turned to horror almost immediately.

Why? I’ve got some theories (some of which pertain to this particular group but that’s not important) but the main one is that horror stories can be easy. Easier than love stories or human dramas anyway. If the girl is running in the woods, she’s running away from something and while it might be her feelings or her sense of self or something else philosophical or frilly it’s more fun to tell the group she’s running from a bear or a zombie. Or in my case, both.

It was interesting and I would imagine most of this group don’t watch horror films or read horror books on a regular basis which makes it more interesting. When forced to tell a story, even if it’s just one word, everyone picked a horror story because it can be the fastest way to be interesting. Plus, who doesn’t like hearing about a zombie versus a bear? I wrote a short story based on the excercise (I’m already the weirdo of the group) and thought you might get a kick out of it knowing the back story.

Once A Girl Went Running in the Forest

By Mike Bockoven

The bear was confused. The zombie, much more so.

Both creatures, ravenous and desperate but for very different reasons, had stumbled upon the girl in the middle of the forest. Somewhere, deep inside the zombie’s brain in that part where the human had once felt things other than hunger, he felt a pang of something he couldn’t identify but he once knew as sadness. The girl, young and in the prime of her life, had obviously gone running to escape the madness and fires and blood that had consumed the world and had made it into the forest but then things got…weird.

Her legs did not give off the “meat” smell that drove the zombie forward, forward, forward. They weren’t meat. They were something else and even the zombie’s brain, driven only by hunger, stopped for a moment to try to figure out what he was dealing with. The bear, once mighty but now thin and weak, who was near the girls head, was struggling with something entirely different. The girl’s head was tangled up tangle of delicate white fabric. If the bear possessed the words for “wedding dress” it wouldn’t have mattered to him one bit. It was obscuring the best meal he’d seen in weeks.

Several feet behind the zombie was a stump. A sharp stick was protruding from the girls head. A few hundred yards back, a bouquet of flowers had rotted, leaving only stems and a decorative cloth that held them together. If the bear had a little more brain capacity, it would be easy to see what happened, and tragic. 

It had been her wedding day after all. She had wanted to get married before the world ended, before the hoards came shambling down her street. She had loved her boyfriend with all she had and the thought of not being his bride before her life ended filled her with more dread than the end himself. But the slapdash ceremony had been too late, the love of her life had fled leaving her there and she had run into the forest, crying, desperate and clumsy. Her end had been swift and had ended a lot of suffering. 

But the bear didn’t know any of that and, instead, was thinking about was his meal and how whatever was in front of him was not going to take it. The bear knew enough to not eat the zombie and that he was dangerous.

The zombie tried to find something to eat. It was harder than he thought it would be. The prosthetic legs that had failed the girl and led to her death were attached with straps and snaps and harnesses that led up her body covering more of what the zombie wanted. It wasn’t until the bear had grabbed the girl’s head and pulled that the zombie realized this wasn’t a meal. It was a fight. Plus a bear was as good a meal as anything.

Shambling toward the bear, the zombie felt nothing but hunger, the hunger that defined his existence. If he were smart he’d have realized he was no match for the bears but he wasn’t and the fight was over in seconds, the bear’s weak paw still powerful enough to destroy the zombie’s head in one blow. As he had with every victory in his life, the bear let out a sharp, loud growl, letting his fallen enemy know he had made a mistake. 

And as the bear drug the body of the girl back to his cave, seven other zombies who had heard the growl started to their slow, shambling pursuit. 

Old Movies and New Podcasts


It occurred to me that I forgot to post a link to my episode of “This is Rad” with Kyle Clark and Matthew Burnside that dropped Wednesday of last week. So here it is!

Click here to listen to me on This Is Rad

A few thoughts on the experience:

-Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles was not what I was expecting in kind of a glorious way. Instead of a packed to the gills comic shop, like I had pictured, Meltdown struck me more as a creative space with spots for local art and a small show room in the back as seen on TV in a bunch of places. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see a show there because I bet it would be great.

-The way the show works is people pick something they are passionate about to discuss for, basically, as long as they want to. I had sent him a few ideas and he landed on Vincent Price immediately. I’ve been a fan of b-movies for years and always found Vincent Price to be a singular screen presence and the most interesting of his horror movie brethren. I wish I’d said anything as articulate during the podcast.

-Still being relatively new to podcasting (give The Atomic Weight of Cheese a listen! We have fun) it takes me a bit to get into it. As you can hear. I’m hoping to get better about it in the future.

-That being said it’s so much fun when you meet someone who likes to talk that you have a lot in common with and that was me with both the hosts of this show. Of the two and a half hours we recorded, we hung out for easily another hour before and after the recording and I had a great time.

-If you’re interested in the FantasticLand stuff, it’s toward the last third of the podcast. I cannot thank Kyle Clark enough for his championing of FantasticLand and for inviting me on.

The State Of Things


I got mistaken for a TV writer today.

I was on my way out of a meeting with a TV producer by the name of Andrew Dabb. He runs the show Supernatural on the CW and has a lot of ghoulish decorations in his office and is immensely cool. He also, by necessity, talks very fast. And he wants to turn my first novel, “FantasticLand” into a movie.

Let me back up, because it’s easy to get side tracked. About a year ago I was contacted by Mr. Dabb who said he loved “FantasticLand” and wanted to purchase an “option” which means he’d basically rent the rights to try to see if he could turn it into a movie or TV show. Yeah, I’ve been sitting on this for a while. Everything was finalized and, with my family planning a trip to California to go to Disneyland this spring break, I asked him if he’d mind meeting.

Gracious as he is, Andrew Dabb said yes, so I was in the offices of “Supernatural” this afternoon (no Jansen Ackles or Jared Padalecki sitings, sorry Kari) to discuss turning my nasty little thriller into a movie. Having never done anything like this before I don’t know what the odds are of this happening, but Andrew Dabb’s enthusiasm is contagious. I knew my book was in good hands when I walked in and he was wearing as T-shirt from “The Bugle,” a podcast that has made me extraordinarily happy over the years (seriously, John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman were magic together).

Plus, I’ve watched literally hundreds of episodes of Supernatural over the past year in preparation for our meeting and I can safely say I’m a fan of his work, so it was extremely exciting to meet him and a few members of his staff. I will keep everyone updated about what happens in the future, but even if it never goes any further it’s been an amazing ride that has filled me with nothing short of joy. To make matters even better I’m a few hours away from meeting with Kyle Clark from the “This is Rad” podcast and a writer on “The Talking Dead” who is a big fan of the book. We’re cutting a podcast at Nerdmelt Comics in a few hours and I’m excited and nervous and hope I don’t come across as a moron.

I know I’ve said “thank you” a bunch of times to everyone who’s read my work, but I can’t stress how much I mean it. I always wanted a few books on my bookshelf with my name on the. That was the goal and everything that’s happened has been so much more than I dared dream. Thousands of people have read “FantasticLand” and the reviews are good. It might be a movie. I’ve got editors and agents and people who follow what I do. I don’t know how I could ask the Universe for more but more may be coming.

Back to the guy who mistook me for a writer – it was kind of cool to hear but part of my brain started screaming at me “you are a writer. You can write books. You can probably write TV.” And I suppose that part of my brain is right.

So this afternoon I’m sitting in a bar off of Sunset in Los Angeles on my second IPA, and here is the state of affairs – I just met with a guy who wants to turn my first novel into a movie. My second novel comes out in a couple of months. I’ve got various other projects in the works. I get to go to Disneyland tomorrow with my family who has been infinitely patient and supportive of me. I’ve got people excited for me. I’m about to do a podcast with a guy I’ve listened to for years. I’m so full of gratitude I could burst.

Thank you, everyone. Thank you. I’m so excited to see what comes next but if nothing comes next, it’s already been more than enough and if more is happening…well that would be really something, wouldn’t it