Five Monstrous Obstructions: What Have We Learned?

By Joe Blevins and Craig J. Clark

My fellow citizens of the world, I'm sure you're familiar with a stereophonic recording entitled "Turn, Turn, Turn" by the Byrds. It's just one of those songs you'll hear many times during your lifetime without even trying to. You don't have to purposefully seek out "Turn, Turn, Turn" the way you would, say, something by Moby Grape. The Byrds song will find you eventually, if not on an oldies radio station then on a rerun of The Wonder Years or a PBS documentary about hippies. If you haven't heard it in a while, just watch late night cable TV and flip through the channels until you find one of those cheeseball half-hour infomercials where they're trying to sell you 392 All-Time Classics From the Sixties As Performed By The Original Artists. (Call now! Operators are standing by! No COD please!) You'll have to imagine the sorta mopey, Pete Seeger-penned (by way of Ecclesiastes) folk-rock ditty with its jangly guitars and wistful lyrics about the passage of time playing in the background as I weepily reflect on the end of Five Monstrous Obstructions.

I am writing this on Halloween night in the year of Our Lord two-thousand-and-eight. In just a few hours, burnt-umber October will give way to slate-gray November, as it must (turn, turn, turn!), and as the month expires so, too, does our humble little writing project. Now, with the virtual cyber techno ink drying our final stories, it is time for solemn reflection. What have we learned, Dorothy? Has there been, in fact, any educational value whatsoever to writing five monster stories, each with its own absurd, arbitrary "obstruction"? It turns out the answer is: a little bit, yes, but this still doesn't count for college credit or anything. I did end up writing a couple of my longest stories ever, so there's that, but I don't know if that's necessarily a good thing. "The verdict," as Tony Randall said in The King of Comedy, "is always in your hands." Mainly, I just wanted to keep the creative part of my brain from atrophying -- at least not for another month -- so by that count, the Five Monstrous Obstructions has been a complete success.

* * *

It is the morning of November 1, the Day of the Dead (or Dia de los Muertos as it's known in Mexico) as I write this. Two and a half months ago when Joe first suggested this project, I was very enthusiastic about it. With "Project: Fear Itself" forcibly put on hiatus by NBC, I was eager to continue our association and as I was already engaged in writing a story a week for Unloosen, I had no fears about my ability to come up with four (later five) stories in the space of a month. I was also no stranger to the monster story, having previously written some of the zombie, werewolf and goopus genera. So why go back to the well again? Well, never let it be said that I don't enjoy a challenge -- and some of the obstructions that we had thrown in our paths were definitely tricky to get around. (The trickiest one was probably the zombie story, and I was the one who stipulated that it had to be a voodoo zombie.) If I learned only one thing from this experience, though, it is that Joe Blevins sure is a tough act to follow. The man is a writing demon, an inspired tale-spinner and one of the most creative wordsmiths I know. I'm glad that I can call him my friend and I can't wait to do this again. How about it, Joe?


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Craig: Once again, it's been an honor working with you. This is our third collaboration for Unloosen, and I can only imagine that a fourth will happen eventually. My goal is for Craig and I to become the Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer of

I would definitely agree that voodoo zombies were the most difficult theme, so Week 3 was easily the trickiest obstruction. Werewolves? Easy. I think Craig was operating at an advantage all month because he had already written monster stories, but I never had (unless you count my story about Larry King). But it was a valuable learning experience -- I hope -- for both of us.

So would that make you Jason Friedberg and me Aaron Seltzer or is it the other way around?

I'm still reading some of the pieces, but have found myself impressed and astounded by much of what I have read. What will be even cooler is when you guys rewrite the stories in the future, updated to include the newest technology. What'll be extra funny is if swear words become totally acceptable by then, causing you to use a fucking ton of them in the new versions, and then a copy of the new stuff falls through a time hole leading back to now, and us Now Folk read it and/or them and find ourselves shocked yet a wee bit titillated. Damn, that would float my wagon.

Hey, Alex. Thanks for taking the time to read the stories. If/when we revisit them in the distant future as doddering old men, I fear my grasp on technology and other things scientific will be even more tenuous than it is today. As to the subject of which profanities will be acceptable by then, the place to monitor is not Unloosen (a site whose moral compass is and will remain faulty) but instead prime time network television, specifically the shows which air between 8:00 and 9:00pm EST - the family hour. If you can say it there, it's totally okay. The word which has truly surprised me in this respect is "whore," which in the last five years or so has gone completely mainstream to the point that its use is all but mandatory on prime time sitcoms. ["Billy, doesn't your sister look nice?" "Yeah... for a WHORE!" (LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)] "Whore" has totally sold out and gone commercial, losing all its street cred in the process.

Oh, by the way, I would be Seltzer. Obviously.

Oh, yes. Of course. I should have known that.

P.S. - I saw Epic Movie on sale at my local grocery store for $6. Perhaps for our next series we can tackle the Friedberg/Seltzer movies and-- Wait, strike that. I think I value my sanity too much to do that.

I will say this: if you or any of the readers can come up with an interesting project that involves the Friedberg/Seltzer movies, I'd definitely be on board. I don't value my sanity one whit. Just reviewing them doesn't seem like enough, though, especially since I'd soon run out of ways to say "this sucks."

For the record, including movies on which they are credited as screenwriters, the Friedberg/Seltzer canon includes: Spy Hard, Scary Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and Disaster Movie. Interestingly, there's a four-year gap between Spy Hard and Scary Movie. Neither of the two have any credits whatsoever during that period. There's a topic for future film historians: Friedberg & Seltzer - The Missing Years.

Joe, Craig, and anyone else who Joe and Craig wish to involve: I propose creating a mythology (something sort of like the Odyssey) with Friedberg and Seltzer as central characters. I think there's a lot of room for world-building, journeys, and bizarre characters. Maybe it could star all the worst of the worst in Hollywood.

Sadly, my understanding of the Odyssey is limited to O, Brother Where Art Thou? and that one Simpsons episode, "Tales from the Public Domain." I will read the summary of it on Wikipedia, though. Is it possible that there's a summary of the summary?

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Blevins and Craig J. Clark published on November 1, 2008 7:47 AM.

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