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Joshua Chaplinsky's picture Posted by Joshua Chaplinsky

Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession

"Called Out of Darkness" by Anne Rice
Joshua Chaplinsky
All ye who enter seeking the crazed Anne Rice of yore- consider yourself warned.

If this path to God is an illusion, then the story is worthless.

-Anne Rice

Oh, Anne. May I call you Anne? Remember when you freaked out on over the negative reviews of Blood Canticle? Or how about the time you brought your special brand of lunacy right here to The Cult? (sadly lost in the great Drupal transfer of the aughts.) Because that's what I was expecting from your memoir, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. To be honest, that's the only reason I read it. I was hoping for a heaping dose of bat-shit crazy, but to your credit, all I got was an even-handed elegy to your archaic religion. *Sigh.

Dennis's picture Posted by Dennis

Dave Cullen, Author of 'Columbine'

A Four Part Video Interview With The Author of 'Columbine'
Kasey Carpenter
Dave Cullen

One of the best non-fiction books I have read in a long time, is Dave Cullen's Columbine.  Released last year, the book went on to become a New York Times bestseller.  But what it also did was clear up a lot of the gray smoke still shrouding the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High.  For years, the media had gotten the story drastically wrong and has depicted Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's motives incorrectly.  Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on the scene that day, but what set him apart was that he was not associated with any media 'pack' (CNN, Fox, etc).  Instead, he was freelancing at the time for   This important detail, and the fact that he spent close to ten years researching and then writing the book, make Columbine the most definitive exploration into the Columbine tragedy that exists.

For our interview, Kasey Carpenter,  longtime Workshop member turned journalist, flew out to Denver, CO to visit with Dave at his writing studio.  Dave, being a burgeoning enthusiast for video, set up his handy HD flip and over the course of four 10-14 min segments talked about everything from the media, to the killers, to even the publishers that released the book.

Below are the four segments of the entire interview.  We had to set up a brand new Vimeo account to house all these, as YouTube won't let you go past 10 mins clips unless you're the Whitehouse.  Enjoy!

Interview W/ "Columbine" Author Dave Cullen, Part 1 (4) - "Why Columbine?"

Posted by Dennis

'Fight Club' Shirts - On Sale For 1 Week Only!

'Fight Club' Tshirts On Sale!

From July 6 - July 13, all of our Fight Club Tshirts are on sale for only $15.  These shirts were designed by top L.A. designer, Kevin Tong.  The make is Next Level Apparel and they are available in all sizes in both Men's and Women's.

The Men's shirts come in Cornflower Blue and Cream.  The Women's come in Cornflower Blue and Pink.

Check out the design in a high-rez close-up.

*Tshirts will ship within 1 week of your order.

Order Your Shirts Here!

Model your Tshirts for us and be featured on the site!

Model For Us! Snap a pic of yourself wearing your Tshirt upon receipt and we'll post it on our site!  Send your pic(s) to and be sure to include your name, as you'd like it credited.

Order Your Shirts Here!

Dennis's picture Posted by Dennis

Talking Heads

by Craig Clevenger

"Talking Heads" by Craig Clevenger


I have two major pet peeves when it comes to dialogue. First, it bugs me when all the characters sound alike. Sure, with regional diction, accents, socioeconomic class, blah blah blah, it may be tough to distinguish between the Valley Dude speak of two high school kids, but not between those kids and their teachers or parents. Secondly, when characters speak with the same eloquence, or at very least the same style, as the narrator, i.e., the author, it rings false for me. One of the most valuable classes I had as an undergrad was a single semester of writing for the stage, during which we wrote two one-act plays. I still intended to write prose fiction, but writing plays forced me to hang the story on characters and dialogue.

To this day, I write all of my dialogue separately. In The Contortionist’s Handbook, I extracted all of the dialogue from the first finished draft, pasted it into a separate document in script format, what I call a “dialogue map.” No dialogue tags, narration, etc. I read through it out loud, re-worked it until I was satisfied, then dropped it back into the subsequent draft of the novel. With Dermaphoria, I wrote the entire first draft with no dialogue at all. Just narrative, with placeholders for the dialogue. Those placeholders had notes as to the nature of the exchange and the particular outcome, as well as any specific key phrases or lines I wanted to use. With each chapter, I wrote a dialogue map from scratch, worked on the dialogue separately from the novel (multiple drafts, etc., as though each map were a short play), then wove it back into the prose and worked on dialogue tags and breaking up the prose to accommodate it. In my current project, I’m writing all of the dialogue first with each chapter, to make certain that the chapter is driven by the voices and actions of the characters.

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but worth it in my opinion. I’m very self-conscious about my dialogue. Will Christopher Baer thinks I’m crazy. He’s probably right. But the feeling is mutual.

Good dialogue is all about the author being invisible and letting the characters take center stage. It’s the difference between watching people on a screen, versus spying on them through the window, versus being in the room with them. Ideally, you want your reader in the room with your characters; experiencing your story as opposed to witnessing it (or simply hearing about it). Crafting realistic dialogue is a matter of time and practice, of listening to people and having an ear (and a love) for accents. While I have a few pointers on those things, they’re really up to the individual writer to work at. However, I have learned some very practical ways for the author to disappear when it comes to writing dialogue, methods that remove the one-way mirror between the reader and the story.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture Posted by Joshua Chaplinsky

Sex Dungeon For Sale

"Sex Dungeon For Sale" by Patrick Wensink
Joshua Chaplinsky
A Bizarro book of shorts showcasing the lighter side of the genre.

I've always been intrigued by the catalog of Eraserhead Press. They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but I remember seeing Carlton Mellick III's Satan Burger and thinking, there could be something betwixt those pallid ass cheeks worth reading about. Then I saw Mellick's grimacing author photo and I hesitated. Gaping buttocks was one thing, but a silly author photo? It just felt like he was trying too hard to be weird. And that seems to be the stigma associated with Bizarro Fiction- that they are purveyors of weirdness for weirdness sake.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture Posted by Joshua Chaplinsky

Bret Easton Ellis

Bret Easton Ellis: 1985-2010
Joshua Chaplinsky
Bret Easton Ellis

After six novels and one book of short stories, the career of Bret Easton Ellis, author, has come to an end. It is survived by a continued involvement in screenwriting and the film industry.

At least that was the rumor. I wasn't sure how trustworthy my source was, and I certainly hoped it wasn't true, but there were signs. The full circle nature of Imperial Bedrooms, for one, not to mention those pesky little dates at the end. It got me thinking- if this information was legit, I had quite the scoop on my hands. I had to know for sure, but didn't want to wait out the years in hopes of getting an answer. This desire was the motivating factor behind my interview.

Posted by vigorous puppy

Master Classes Relaunch with Zen Mind Beginners' Workshop - CLASS NOW SOLD OUT

Dear Unknown Cult Writer,

We understand that you're something more than a Palahniuk fan, that your literary tastes are wide and varied, and you habituate The Cult for the company of equally articulate souls. Sometime curmudgeon, sometime enthusiast, and sometimes both, you entertain with your forum posts and make friends well. Your generosity isn't obscured by the occasional dark turn of mood or minor topical quibbling. Maybe you’ve endeared yourself to the community here with casual posting, or maybe you’ve only lurked and read things and admired or disputed silently against this multiplicity of voices. But you've hesitated to take that additional step toward our Workshop and the many writing intensives and master classes we've offered in recent years, and this is something that gnaws at you a bit. If it doesn't, then go directly to General Discussion and read or post anything. But if I've piqued your curiosity at all, then I'm talking directly to you. This letter is dedicated explicitly to those who've felt the urge but not the readiness to join our Writing Community.

Posted by Dennis Needs An Assistant! (in the Bay Area)

The website needs an Assistant to help out with Merchandise.  Yes, the we have a Store feature.  It's not a big section and we don't make nearly enough to survive off, but it helps the site pay for server fees and whatnot, and it's a great way to promote Chuck's work.  Problem is, it's a ton of work for just one person and presently, that person is Mirka Hodurova, my longtime partner on the site.

So this person we choose for this Assistant position would be working directly with Mirka out of her apartment in Oakland, CA.

Here is what we are looking for in this position:

  • 1 person to be a merchandise assistant.
  • This person must live in or around the Oakland, CA area and be able to drive to Mirka's apartment.
  • This person will help out with folding shirts, organizing merchandise, doing Post Office runs, ordering supplies, packaging orders, and even filing orders with sites like and's 'Click 'N Ship'.
  • This person must be very organized and enthusiastic.

Other details:

  • This is a non-paying job (for now).  So you'd be doing this for your love of the website (you do love us, right??)
  • You are not working for Chuck Palahniuk.  Chuck has nothing to do with this position nor does he administer or work on the website himself.
  • You'd also be added to our Staff page, so this position would help out if you were looking to enhance your resume in anyway.
  • Mirka is notoriously generous too, so expect lots of free shirts, random books and a meal.  (and beer if you are over 21!)

If you'd like to apply for this position, please send us a passionate, awesome, clever email to telling us why you're the right person.  We're looking to fulfill this position by early July sometime.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture Posted by Joshua Chaplinsky

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest

"The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
Joshua Chaplinsky
A trilogy overview disguised as a book review.

Shortly before his untimely death in 2004, Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson surprised his unsuspecting editor with a trilogy of manuscripts. Published posthumously, The Millennium Trilogy would go on to sell over twenty-one million copies and become a world-wide literary sensation. Larsson never got to enjoy the fruits of his labor, and it seems that his long-time partner, Eva Gabrielsson, won't get to, either. Due to a Swedish law that required all married couples to make their home address available to the public, the pair forewent nuptials in order to maintain their privacy.