Top positive review
How to keep your Soul (and pay the Light Bill); a book on being practical about your Passion
Reviewed in the United States on July 19, 2021
Writing, of almost any kind, is a solitary pursuit. And yet, except for the hardest of hardcore hermits, most writers benefit from sharing thoughts, ideas, experiences, and drinks with other writers at conventions or readings. Invitations to partake in such panels, workshops, and brainstorming sessions are usually limited to a small handful of big names, and even if you're just a fan in the crowd, you have a limited amount of time to ask your favorite writer your most burning questions (if you want to be respectful of their time).
"It's Alive: Bringing your Nightmares to Life" isn't quite as good as meeting Ramsey Campbell for a fireside chat in Liverpool, or hanging out with Horror Master Clive Barker at his home in Beverly Hills, but for those who want inspiration, practical advice, and hell, just the sense of camaraderie that comes with meeting with like minds, "It's Alive" foots the bill. It's not quite as good as the first book in the series, "Where Nightmares come from," but that one was a peerless work on the craft, and a frankly impossible act to follow.
Standouts in this volume include Ramsey Campbell's essay (once again) on conveying horror (a terror-centric variation on the old "show, don't tell theme") as well as F. Paul Wilson's masterful mini-course on characterization in close third person. The big surprise for me was Paul Moore's "Sell your script, Keep your Soul," about how to make a living without sealing a Faustian bargain in order to get your screenplay turned into a movie. I found it by far the most compelling piece in the book, and considering I'm not a screenwriter and have no desire to try my hand at the form, I suppose that's saying something.
That balance between the practical and creative in Moore's "Sell your Script" pretty much encapsulates what's best about "It's Alive." With the market being as glutted as it is, and self-publishing and the on-demand revolutions amping up the level of white noise, it's more important than ever to remember that being professional in one's dealings, and consistent in their craft, is just as important as finding inspiration or following one's passion. All in all "adequate, very adequate," if I may quote Vincent Prince as Matthew Hopkins in "Witchfinder General." With some illustrations.