World Decayed

Posted in horror, poetry, sci fi/fantasy with tags , , on July 14, 2016 by Joseph VanBuren

In this world decayed,

We are the last.

We are the doomed.

Welcome to the age of darkness:

Mankind’s manufactured misery,

A man-made brand of impending doom,

A self-inflicted ominous threat

Of greed and selfishness, slow and painful,

Until out of our Mother Earth’s screaming

Was birthed the immortal midnight.

The past is like a series of haunted dreams.

The present is emptiness.

But in the barren landscapes of wasteland reflections,

Infectious insanity

Dancing in our minds like a creepy weirdo,

Perhaps we can hang onto that fading hope

That the future is more than an apocalyptic sunset.

On Horror

Posted in horror, nonfiction, other with tags , , , , on June 13, 2016 by Joseph VanBuren

Whether referring to the human experience or the genre of various art forms, most definitions of “horror” contain some combination of the following words: fright, terror, shock, disgust, aversion, and abhorrence. All of these words are related to expressing different degrees of the universal feeling we know as fear, an essential emotion with the unfortunate reputation of being a negative feeling. Evolutionarily speaking, fear is largely why we are here today. Our ancestors survived to pass on their genes because their developed human brains found ways for them to deal with their fears, the same ancient phobias that still haunt us today: fear of the dark, of death, of predators and strangers, of uncertainty, of disorder, etc.

In modern American society, we specifically use the word “horror” to describe the most depraved acts committed by human beings. The media dramatically reports about the “horrors of war” or that “house of horrors” where the local serial killer’s victims were finally found. The word is used to refer to the things that we know exist but wish to avoid, often because they showcase the dark side of humanity that we know, deep down, we are capable of ourselves. In so-called modern civilization, we are not so different from our ancient ancestors. We survive by assessing and often avoiding our fears, the greatest of which is sometimes ourselves.

As a genre, therefore, horror can be attributed to the artists and works that showcase these twisted and terrifying truths of the human condition. Over the past two centuries, such dark art has emerged in literature, film, music, video games, and just about any other medium of entertainment one can imagine (Evil Dead: The Musical? Yeah, it was awesome!). For generations, horror has been generating ever-increasing levels of fear, shock, and disgust, causing some to avoid the genre altogether. Once again, people choose to circumvent their fears. True to definition, people often display their aversion and even abhorrence to the horror genre.

For some of us, however, this is not the case at all. Horror fans find the opposite to be true. Rather than aversion, we feel attraction. We are drawn to the dark, demented, and disgusting arts. The reasons why one may be attracted to this genre can be, like a horror plot, shrouded in mystery. Whether one is a fan or an artist, a love of horror is not necessarily a reflection of character. It is as unfair to judge someone based on their taste for dark arts as it is to judge another for their liking of comedy or jazz music or chili dogs. Inevitable exceptions to the rule aside, horror fans know the difference between the genre and real-life horror, and they only enjoy the former.

Some may choose to avoid the genre, but the truth is that horror is around us every day. As previously discussed, fear has been a part of life since the time of our ancestors. In the internet age of (mis)information, however, we are assaulted daily by the panic of possible danger on top of all the things that actually cause healthy fear for us. Barry Glassner first wrote about our “culture of fear” in 2000, a phrase that perfectly describes our society now more than ever. We are bombarded every day by threats from everywhere, from terrorists overseas to murderers right next door. The media uses scare tactics to get your attention and increase their ratings, while their sponsors use your fear and anxiety to influence you to purchase products and convince you to consider medication. Politicians use them to get your support. Societal norms thrive on our fears of rejection. They are all looking at you, and they are all going to laugh at you. They are always watching you; they want your money, your guns, and your firstborn. Everything needs credit and insurance, and then the hackers are just going to steal your identity anyway. Murder, death, kill! News at 11.

The heavy hyperbole that saturates our culture is embarrassingly obvious when one pays attention. Yet fear remains one of the most powerful ways to motivate people to behave or feel a certain way, especially when it taps into those ancient phobias we inherited from our ancestors. Creators of the dark arts are aware of the power of fear and the unknown, and they use it to peer into that primal part of our collective psyche. The imagination of the horror artist uses flights of the fantastic to create fictional stories out of real-life threats, creating a means of escape through entertainment as well as a form of therapy. Through a well-written horror story, fans can connect with characters in perilous situations to learn how to face their own fears and perhaps conquer them. Sometimes we even sympathize with the monsters; we see how they became what they are and realize that we must be careful not to become monsters ourselves. By embracing the fears and evils that haunt us, we learn more about ourselves and the world we live in. By looking monsters in the eyes, we see deeper into the true meaning of being human.

The Dead Are Hungry

Posted in horror, poetry with tags , , on May 13, 2016 by Joseph VanBuren

A free-for-all frenzy.

Rotted hands like shovels,

Digging ditches in flesh.

Handfuls become mouthfuls.

Mass consumption.

A barbaric buffet.




Stretching in every direction.

Skin is pulled,



Screams of agony.

Rain of crimson.

Fresh stains streaked across the floors,

the walls,

the ceilings,

the world.


Nothing remains but remains.

Inside out human husks,

Discarded and shredded

Like candy bar wrappers left behind

By messy, maniacal children.

The Pain is Good as Long as You’re Not Laughing

Posted in poetry with tags , , , , , on March 10, 2016 by Joseph VanBuren

The pain is good, as long as you’re not laughing.

The rain is good, as long as you’re not basking.

To be consumed in violent vengeance,

The children doomed to silent endings.

Insane is good, as long as you’re not masking.

The pain is good, as long as you’re not laughing.


The heart will scream when it is so betrayed

And part from dreams. To darkness go, delayed.

Into the flames are tossed the matches,

Then all the names this anger snatches.

The start, it seems, was somehow old and frayed.

The heart will scream when it is so betrayed.


The mind can be a playground for the demons

Who find that we are wicked or deceiving.

In cases thoughts are found defective,

That which we sought can be reflected.

Behind the evil deeds, we swore a reason.

The mind can be a playground for the demons.


The soul has only to escape the flesh.

Control is lonely. Fickle fate at best.

Take us, oh chariot, so high.

Into the air, the children fly.

The toll, my own has just to pay the rest.

The soul has only to escape the flesh.


The pain is good, as long as you’re not laughing.

That Great Divide

Posted in poetry with tags , on August 13, 2015 by Joseph VanBuren

That great divide                    between his teeth,

It looks like it                         has grown to be

A place for food                     to sit and stay

Until the teeth                        just rot away.

If only he                               would shut his mouth.

He has so much                     to talk about.

Of what he speaks,                I cannot care,

For at this gap                       my eyes just stare.

My thoughts: decay               and entropy;

The limits of                           mortality.

We wish to find                      a sense of worth,

But if we don’t                       help ourselves first,

Our souls just may                 be swallowed by

The darkness of                     that great divide.

From Dungeon Master to Diverse Writer

Posted in other with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2014 by Joseph VanBuren

Slowly, you step into the old throne room of the castle, your footsteps echoing back at you as they bounce off of the arched ceiling twenty feet above. The room extends ahead of you, an abandoned hall covered in a layer of dust, empty save for two rows of massive pillars. The air is cold, stale and still. As you progress forward between the pillars, your torchlight reveals the end of the hall, bringing the throne into your view. The grand seat of stone sits upon a wide pedestal of marble, in front of a tattered wall tapestry, flanked by time-worn statues depicting demonic knights. And then, in the illumination of your torch, you notice it: the king’s remains, a cobweb-covered skeleton sitting upon the throne, his hollow eye sockets somehow staring directly at you.

Perhaps I didn’t describe it quite that well at the time – I was fifteen years old – but I can still recall the magical feeling of excitement that I felt when I ran my first custom dungeon. I had only been playing Dungeon & Dragons (D&D) for a couple of years, but I rapidly took on the responsibility of learning how to be the Dungeon Master (DM) for our group. It took some trial and error, and by the time I mastered it, most of my friends had either moved away or “outgrew” the game. What I didn’t realize at the time was that being a DM was more than just an enjoyable pastime for me; it was actually preparing me to become a writer of several styles and multiple media, molding me into a multi-class wizard of the pen. Before mapping out the explanation for this, I present a little background for the D&D impaired.

D&D is a type of game called a pen-and-paper role playing game (RPG). This is as opposed to the video game genre, RPG, the only kind that most young people have heard of these days. Indeed, the legends of old are true: people used to actually sit around a table together, write on paper, interact face-to-face and even use their imagination to play games! Well, some of us did. Those that did not called us nerds and weirdos, which is, of course, what we were. And most of the time, we secretly preferred being weird and nerdy. D&D was one of the few ways for the social outcasts to get together, be themselves and feel good about their quirky ways for once.

In a game of D&D, everyone around the table plays his/her own character, except for one person. The chosen one is the DM, and he/she acts as a storyteller and referee of the game. The DM describes the story and setting to the players. The players then “role play” the actions of their characters accordingly, the DM determines the results of those actions, and the interactive story continues to unfold in this way. That is the essence of the game, in a nutshell. To be the DM was essentially to be in charge of the whole world in which the game takes place, to know the ins and outs of all the places, people, creatures and events that the players’ characters may encounter.

There was something about being intimate with an entire fictional world that I found (and still find) utterly fascinating. Learning the layout of the land, getting familiar with the characters and how they affect the story, plotting out potential gameplay scenarios – it all intrigued me to the point of obsession. I wanted to learn everything about the world that I would be unraveling, so that I could be the best DM possible and better prepared for how the players might play. This required a lot of reading, not just of the D&D material but also of my own extra research. I was determined to be thorough, and I needed to be clear on all the details of the game, which sometimes used words I hadn’t previously known. D&D is probably the sole reason why I know what an alcove or an acolyte is. To this end, being a DM increased both my vocabulary and my interest in reading.

After running a few D&D games successfully, the inevitable followed: I created my first custom dungeon. I was able to start from scratch, designing everything – the maps, encounters, characters and storyline – from my own imagination. It was the ultimate plateau of nerdy weirdo satisfaction. Being the DM in a game of your own creation and running it with several players is like being a god in a socially awkward universe. Much of that gratification comes from the great amount of work it takes to get to that point. My first dungeon was small, consisting of about thirty pages of notes. Yes, that is small for a D&D game if you’re a thorough DM. It took days of brainstorming, weeks of reading and a month of writing to finish. Eventually, as my obsession with creating and writing grew, I designed an entire kingdom (in game terms, a campaign). My first dungeon became one of numerous locations within the kingdom of my campaign, all of which were tied together by an intricate story scribed by yours truly. I devoted so much time to writing that I flattened out the index finger of my right hand from holding a pen so often.

Constructing my campaign became a personal passion, pleasurable even in the absence of possible players. A good eighty percent of my campaign was seen only by my eyes. This DM would not be deterred. In fact, my obsession oozed into other parts – nay, every part – of my life. The concept of “making it my own” actually changed the way I enjoyed other hobbies. I was no longer satisfied with merely reading a book, listening to music, watching a movie or playing a video game. I wanted to write my own everything!

Over the years, I have done exactly that, acquiring an impressive array of literary achievements since my days as a DM. I have written hundreds of songs that have been recorded and distributed around the world. I am the author of two self-published books, one of short stories and the other of poetry. As a freelancer, I have penned a number of informative articles and editorials. The film screenplay and video game script I wrote just for fun. In addition to all of this is my own fictional world, eighteen years in the making and still a work in progress, currently around three hundred pages of material. To this day, I continue to write on both a personal and a professional level. An obsession with creating and “making it my own” remains with me, driving my passion as a multi-faceted writer, and I owe it all to being a DM in D&D.

Amalgamon – monster character description

Posted in character/story dev with tags , , , , , on November 19, 2012 by Joseph VanBuren

All I was given was this picture… here is the creature description I created for it.Image

Born of an arcane accident, Amalgamon fights with the fury of a Hell it is forced to dwell in. When a necromancer attempted to resurrect a demon’s corpse, something in the ritual went amiss, and the soul of the deceased demon instead entered the necromancer’s body. After a gruesome and painful transformation, the result was Amalgamon: a two-headed monstrosity resembling a Hellish demon with a skeletal Siamese twin.

Due to the curse of being attached to a demonic soul, Amalgamon was dragged to Hell and can never leave. It now serves as a gatekeeper of the underworld. Posted as a sentry between territories, Amalgamon uses its pent up rage to fend off those uninvited guests that would try to get through the gates. It is a creature of little words and even less patience.

Amalgamon’s fighting style is furious and unpredictable. It relies heavily on its ability to fly to dodge oncoming attacks. Amalgamon is quick and tough but lacks a sense of strategy. This is partially due to the duality of existence it faces in being controlled by two different souls, which at times drives Amalgamon towards two different courses of action. In fact, the two heads of Amalgamon can sometimes be found arguing between each other, which is when it is most vulnerable to attack. In most cases, however, the souls work together towards the common goal of defending the gates of Hell.

Normal Attacks
Light damage: Claws
Medium damage: Double Bite
Heavy damage: Wing Slap – this attack sends out a surge of wind as well, which has a chance to stun the victim, causing that player to lose his/her next turn.

Special Abilities
Wing Shield – Enclosing itself within its massive wings, Amalgamon can protect itself from normal attacks and lessen the damage from special attacks.
Fury of Claws – Using all six of its claws, Amalgamon becomes enraged and unleashes a quick succession of claw attacks.
Possession – An ethereal form of Amalgamon’s skeletal head is projected forward, and the ghostly entity enters the opponent’s body momentarily. This attack does no damage, but steals Resources from the player targeted and gives them to the player controlling Amalgamon.

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