June 1 and DWARF STARS. June 30 and Britain’s URBAN FANTASIST. Now July 28th. What do these have in common? Werewolf poems, that’s what.
It seems like, give or take a few days, I’ve had at least one werewolf poem accepted roughly each month since the beginning of summer. For June it was “The Werewolf Explains,” revealing in a mere two lines everything one needs to know about lycanthropes — and, as I understand, probably published just about now; one day early to begin July it was “Beware of the Dog,” bringing a working-class sensibility of what to do should a lupine presence threaten to mar the Saturday pub scene. And now, less than a week from the start of August, Monday’s email has brought the announcement of not one, but two poems accepted by Source Point Press for an upcoming, yet-to-be-named, werewolf themed anthology.
This too was one of those “moments before the deadline” submissions, sent one day before the anthology’s July 7 closing. So sometimes the news gets to me on its own schedule. But two of four poems I sent have been accepted, “Cruella,” concerning a one-time woman wolf hunter, and “Running,” a paean to the joys of the forest, to be published according to the acceptance email in late October or early November.
I’m being purposely obscure in all this because this is a movie one should see for oneself. It’s a wonder of visuals and sound, including Yasmine in the Moroccan nightclub at the end reminding us once more of the love of music, just as the non-Tangier parts of the movie take place in Detroit, “Motown,” even now still a center of music as well as a city on the decline.
Thus begins the conclusion of my review of Jarmusch’s film ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (see June 26). So I’ve now been to Detroit — albeit not for the music scene — and seen some of the squalor though, I suspect, hardly the worst. And then, yesterday, at my writers group we discussed one story (by me, called “The Ring”) in what I would call the “bored vampire” subgenre, of which the film also is an example — the existential crisis the prospect of near-immortality might bring one once the novelty of it has ended.
But what of the music, that which showed Adam in the film that “unlife” was still worth living? Through the wonders of the internet I blundered across a YouTube offering of Lebanese-born singer/songwriter Yasmine Hamdan — Yasmine in the movie — performing the song Adam hears in Tangier. Adam, we should realize, has been himself an underground musician, uploading his own work onto the web back in his now-compromised Detroit hideaway.
But would this be enough to cure a vampire’s funk? You can judge for yourself by pressing here.
Three quick items for Saturday just past, the first being the official release of Nocturnal Press’s premiere anthology TORCHED (see July 10, May 23) including my story, “City on Fire.” The subject of the anthology: fire, in all its aspects. A boon or a bane, a blessing or curse? A bringer of warmth and light, or burning horror? To find out, press here.
Then Marvin P. Vernon’s blog THE NOVEL PURSUIT, “[m]y pursuit for the perfect novel . . . with an occasional detour into nonfiction,” has taken on a short fiction anthology for a change, giving it five stars out of five. The anthology is Lori Michelle’s BLEED (see November 24, September 6,), out last year from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, with profits going to the National Children’s Cancer Society. The review is short (doesn’t even mention my own skin in the game, “King Rat,” but seems perceptive in other matters :-) ) but worth taking a look at, especially if you haven’t yet read BLEED yourself, by pressing here. But then you probably ought to get a copy of the book too, available here.
Finally, courtesy of MESSYNESSY CHIC via Marge Simon, a link to a piece on Parisian nightlife of La Belle Epoque: — for those who might wish to have planned their Bastille Day celebration (cf. July 14, below) in the 1890s, ici, s’il vous plait!
Matisse was in his seventies and in poor health when he began this project; he could no longer draw or paint easily with a pencil or brush. He used scissors to cut out simple forms from brightly colored paper painted to his specifications with gouache, then arranged them on another sheet of gouache-painted paper. Assistants took these assemblages and prepared them for printing. It was a popular practice at the time for noted artists to create limited edition books. The original intention was for Matisse to illustrate poems written by a French author. As Matisse began, he used a large fluid brush to write notes to himself on construction paper about his thoughts as he created the images. The simple visual appearance of the words pleased Matisse, and he suggested using his roughly painted words in juxtaposition with the images, rather than the original poems. The publisher agreed.
Many of the prints in Jazz take their theme from the theatre or circus. [The publisher] Tériade came up with the seemingly inappropriate title. However, Matisse not only went along, but was taken with the idea, sensing a connection of the visual and musical through improvisation on a theme.
None of the original copies were bound, and many of the purchasers arranged with prominent artists like Cocteau (copy in Victoria and Albert Museum) or famous graphic designers to create binders for the pages. Each of the pages is about 24 inches by 12 inches and folded in the center. Some of the pages have Matisse’s text on the left side and an image on the right; other pages, like The Funeral of Pierrot, cover the entire sheet and there is no text. Covers simply press the pages flat and hold them together. The original edition of September 30, 1947 consisted of 250 sets of prints and sold for $120 each.
– From Wikipedia: Jazz (Henri Matisse)
Combined with the final installment in the concert series “Jazz in July,” Friday evening provided a mellow chance to visit the Indiana University Art Museum’s “Matisse’s Jazz and Other Works from IU Collections” exhibit (cf. April 27) one last time, with guided tour (to quote from the brochure) “by Nan Brewer, the Lucienne M. Glaubinger Creator of Works on Paper, on the circus imagery in Henri Matisse’s Jazz.” This was followed by an outdoor concert on the plaza in front of the museum by jazz drummer Steve Houghton and members of the AHA! Quintet (though possibly not all, the other musicians being Steve Allee, piano, Nick Tucker, bass, and Rob Dixon, tenor sax).
Docent Brewer noted of The Funeral of Peirrot that the commedia dell’arte figure of the sad clown was considered to reflect the spirit of the French people especially in he wake of World War II, a sensitive soul and fellow sufferer like the artist. But that the “trusting heart” in the center within the circus wagon/hearse is also the artist and an imagination which will not die. But Brewer warned also that most of the pieces had multiple meanings, with images that sometimes come up in more than one print, as the acrobat/tightrope walker as artist keeping everything in balance (“Sometimes the difficult appeared: lines, volumes, colors were put together and then the whole thing collapsed, one thing destroying another.” — H. Matisse); or the sword swallower’s open mouth which also might represent a scream; or the ringmaster’s whip; or the knife thrower who, with his target, represents the relationship between the artist and his model.
The thing for me, though, is the application of all this as well to the writer or the poet — the idea of balance, for instance, which I in my writers group once analogized to a juggler keeping an increasing number of balls in the air; or the artist/subject dichotomy which (ah, now, here comes the plug!) lies beneath, in my mind, the overall theme of THE TEARS OF ISIS. Or so at least I think. But my interpretations aside, the art itself was well worth seeing one more time before the exhibition is taken down, as well as the music afterwards worth hearing.
So it’s still the “old” cover of THE TEARS OF ISIS but then this was done with John Palisano a few months ago, an interview of me at the World Horror Convention in Portland, at last edited and revealed via YouTube. Or as HWA President Rocky Wood has it on Facebook, “Bram Stoker Award(R) nominee James Dorr talks about successes networking at Worls Horror Convention, the Horror Writers Association, being a poet, author and sculptor, and his work.”
Also I should say I am not a sculptor, though I have been a (not very good) illustrator, cartoonist, and graphic designer (the “sculptor,” specifically, relates to THE TEARS OF ISIS’ opening poem, about Medusa, and its closing title story), but the point I’m making has to do with artists in general and so with sculptors as an example. But I’m not complaining. Also what may seem like me interrupting the off-stage interviewer from time to time is just a byproduct of the editing (of which I like to think it’s simply that I had so much to say that, the editor not wanting to cut too much out, meant he had to cut out his own questions instead). And, yes, I do get nervous about “live” interviews but here I hope it doesn’t show too much (or, ignore the way my hands seem to twitch).
And so, enjoy by (if all goes well) pressing here.
Several days before leaving for Detroit, “The Darker Side of SF & Fantasy” moderator Bernadette Bosky emailed the other four scheduled participants with suggestions of what we might plan to cover. Panelist Christian Klaver responded, followed by me, but then potential disaster struck. A third panelist reported that due to a last minute work obligation he wouldn’t be able to come after all. Then, apparently just to Bernadette, the last participant said she would need to drop out too — leaving just us three, enough to present a panel of sorts, but with a danger of ending up more a question and answer session than the free-wheeling seminar-type discussion we’d hoped to present. Bernadette would let Programming know in hopes they might find a last minute addition, but all would be up to fate.
Fast forward to Saturday in Detroit and the10 a.m. “SFWA Regional Meeting” where they were discussing possibly expanding membership requirements to accommodate successful self-published authors. Holding dual citizenship, as it were, as a member of the Horror Writers Association as well, I pointed out that the HWA has actually put a proposal up for a vote, so SFWA might want to look over their metaphorical (if horrible) shoulders to see if there were ideas that they could use too. A woman a couple of rows in front of me also recommended they look at the HWA’s proposal, allowing she was a “dual citizen” too.
Now by then I knew that a fourth person, Suzanne Church, had been added to the “Darker Side” panel and so, two hours later, was not too surprised to find out that she was the one at the SFWA meeting. So that gave us four, not quite up to our original five, but enough that we had what I thought was a great discussion — and with a reasonably large audience especially considering we were scheduled at lunch time. Topics discussed included genres in general with “horror” perhaps more a mood than a genre, intended to gain a specific reaction, and thus by analogy to comedy usually found combined with sf, or mystery, or fantasy — i.e. humorous sf, etc. — or some other genre rather than standing by itself; whether horror has changed over time or do the same things continue to scare us — in this I noted DRACULA as an example of Victorian “invasion story” with intimations of disease as well (see also July 1, below, “Dracula Fun Facts and Fancy”) in light of news reports on TV where some people genuinely fear the children at the Mexican border are carrying diseases with the government unable or unwilling to keep them out; vampires and zombies with the transition from I AM LEGEND to the movie NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to Fulci’s ZOMBI 2 (which first rechristens Romero’s flesh-eating “ghouls” as “zombies” as well as setting the film’s major part in the Caribbean) as contrasted with the original Haitian idea of le zombi; guilt and the Seven Deadly Sins as subjects for horror; Freudian psychology concerning sex and death — Eros and Thanatos — as driving motivators of horror, noting that in the movie PSYCHO prior to the shower scene everyone recalls, the movie begins with the actress in a hotel with her lover during her lunch and, after she’s been killed, ends as a movie that’s really about an Oedipal situation on wheels; and the suggestion that the ultimate universal fears are (1) the unknown, and (2) possibly knowing what’s causing a situation but helpless to do anything about it.
In all, the panel went over quite well* judging from the audience reaction, which might suggest fantasy/sf con programming directors could take a chance on giving horror panels a more prime time slot. Or maybe even have more than just one panel on darker fiction.
And that I think has covered my official duties. Ex-girlfriends aside, there were some people I knew from before and some that I met. There was food and schmoozing in the ConSuite, grabbing desserts at later night parties followed by the frisson of walking back to my hotel.**
Then a few other things. Something new this year were the Detcon1 Awards for Young Adult and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction, voted on by the convention members a la the Hugos at WorldCon in London later in August. These were announced Saturday Night during the Masquerade with Young Adult going to Maggie Stiefvater for THE DREAM THIEVES (Scholastic Press) and Middle Grade to Merrie Haskell for HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS (Harper Collins). Also the Golden Duck Awards went for Picture Book to VADER’S LITTLE PRINCESS by Jeffrey Brown (Chronicle), the Eleanor Cameron Award for Middle Grade to HELLO NEBULON and JOURNEY TO JUNO by Ray O’Ryan (Little Simon), and the Hal Clement Award for Young Adult to THE PLANET THIEVES by Dan Krokos (Tor Starscape). Or so I read in the program update Sunday morning, I having missed the Masquerade (hey, they ought to have pictures of it in LOCUS), opting instead for that night’s “Film Festival — Horror Shorts #4,”**** which included a premiere of “The Tell Tale Heart,” the first of three stories in TALES OF POE directed by Bart Mastronardi and set to premiere as a whole in Hollywood next month.
(As the Friday afternoon “Poetry Corpse” session continued, I graduated more toward surreal and absurdist treatments)
The Dark King proclaimed,
from his Jovian room,
that honor required
the sun cease to shine.
(In this one I riffed on the title of one of Deanna’s poems)
THE FIERY TENTACLE
an octopus out
of the water, a bright sun –
eight bursts into flame
(In this, the first line is from a title idea of Sean’s, except I’d forgotten the final word so I made up my own)
the first magic comes as a quiet room
wrapped in a white fabric
with well-padded walls
*Not to mention gave a platform to show off THE TEARS OF ISIS, as well, at one point, to plug it in passing as an example of a collection that gives a variety of different kinds of horror and in different levels of intensity.
**While, generally speaking, I met no drug dealers, there was one strange phenomenon*** which seemed to occur at perhaps around 1 or 2 a.m. every night, the revving of motors of what seemed a large number of motorcycles. This was enough to wake me up but it didn’t last long (it might in fact have been cyclists just passing by on a fairly major street outside) but, not wishing to make a show of myself peeping out my second floor window at people who might not want to be peeped at, I just rolled over and went back to sleep.
***Another phenomenon possibly not so strange relates to my disappointment last year at World Horror Con in New Orleans that I heard virtually no French spoken (Creole or Cajun) on the streets even though I was in the French Quarter. In Detroit, however, taking an elevated walkway between the convention hotel and a shopping center across the street, I suddenly noticed several couples and families conversing in French which, thinking about it, no doubt just meant they were tourists from Canada. Nevertheless, I did sense a bit of irony in it. Also I might add that, speaking of French, I picked up ribbons from two con committees pushing for WorldCon in Montreal in 2017 and in New Orleans (but to be in one of two hotels in the CBD, not the French Quarter, due to the size of World SF conventions — and yes, I asked, expressing my preference for the one that would be nearest the River) in 2018.
****Horror was much better represented in film than in panel discussions, for whatever conclusions one might care to draw.
Another sale, this one through Thursday this week, gives discounts for six Kindle titles from Smart Rhino Publications. My hound in this hunt is UNCOMMON ASSASSINATIONS (cf. September 27 2012, et al.) which includes my story “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. More information on this as well as Smart Rhino’s other sale books can be found via Facebook by pressing here.
Also, catching up on things while I was away, the end of last week brought my copy of LIFE OF THE DEAD, the new zombie anthology from Martinus Press (see June 29). My bone in this brisket is called “Girls Gone Dead,” originally published in NEW DAWN FADES (Post Mortem Press, 2011). For more information or ordering, both in Kindle and print, press here.
Untreed Reads has announced a 25 percent off “Christmas in July” sale at DriveThruFiction to last through Monday. The sale covers primarily science fiction, fantasy, and horror titles, so, of my Untreed Reads titles, one can find the near-future novelette PEDS, my Christmas horror short story “I’M DREAMING OF A. . . .” (this one at a bargain basement 38 cents!), and the Untreed Reads New Years anthology YEAR’S END with my lead story “Appointment in Time,” but not my other novelette VANITAS which, albeit with steampunk overtones, would most likely be classed as a mystery.
To take advantage, go to DriveThruFiction by pressing here, then search on “James Dorr” in the box at the top. And then prepare yourself for a surprise: the first book listed is not one of the Untreed Reads titles noted above, but Bards and Sages Publishing’s AMERICA THE HORRIFIC: AN ANTHOLOGY OF HORROR with a tale by me of UFOs and little gray men called “Country Doctor.” Appropriate for the 4th of July, not that long ago, eh? But not to worry, the other three follow, and not only that, to add a little more weirdness to one’s life, there’s even a fifth book at the bottom, THE ADVENTURE MEGAPACK, that has no story of mine in it or any other conceivable connection!
Keeps one on one’s toes, it does.
But while I can’t recommend that final item, the others represent pretty good deals from now through next Monday, July 28.
THE POET CONFESSES
I’m a scientist, er,
a technician I might say,
a scientist of sounds
and words –
always delightful –
to find the equation
that puts these together
in form of a poem.
Pretentious? Or just bad? Well, it may not be great shakes as a poem, but it came out of the other Kaffeeklatsch I attended, although this one with Deanna Sjolander and Sean Davis was actually something rather different. Called “Poetry Corpse” — and the only poetry programming at this year’s NASFiC — the billing explained it as “[l]ike magnetic fridge Poetry. Without the fridge. Or the magnets.” That is, there on the table was a pile of cards, each with a single word printed on it, from which we drew a “hand” and attempted to use this to inspire a poem.* I wrote nine in all, most slight little things with perhaps some mild humor, more of which may be published on this blog (as is the first of them just above, derived from words including “scientist,” “technician,” “delightful,” “equation,” and even “er,” all picked without looking at them as I did it in order to maintain a random selection). But the thing is, it was fun, we had a full table including non-poets, but all of whom created at least some poems and were willing to read them by the time the hour ended.**
Then there was my reading earlier Friday, sharing the hour with two other horror writers, Laura Bickle and Cath Schaff-Stump, for as far as I know the only readings that featured the dark side. I ended up a sort of de facto moderator (I was nearest the clock, for one thing) and we read in the order our names had been listed, Laura with pages from a novel with an Amish setting which was rather interesting, I with a short story from THE TEARS OF ISIS***, and Cath who originally thought she might read from a somewhat dark-humored novel deciding, as a result of my reading’s relative intensity, to take a chance with a more serious passage from a story that included child abuse. The session went well, albeit with an audience of only three people, including one friend of mine, some years back a member of my writing group (but no ex-girlfriend who, as noted in Part 1, either never got to the con or remained uncannily well-concealed).
And I had one Friday panel as well, this one that I think surprised us in how well it went, “Maps in Fantasy” with Shanna Swendson, Stephen Leigh, me, and moderated by Kevin J. Maroney. We talked some of actual fantasy maps (famously the one for LORD OF THE RINGS, but also Eddison’s THE WORM OUROBOROS, etc.), some of fantasy worlds that used maps but that weren’t published with them (Fritz Leiber’s “Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser” stories, e.g.), and the use of maps by authors in creating stories. While maps in a book are prestige items — for the publisher to agree to (or suggest) using one can indicate that an author has “made it” as well as the work itself possessing some “epic” qualities — much of our most interesting conversation went into discussing actual maps and the geographical, historical, and economical features they illustrate (e.g. the distance between towns as that of a day’s journey by oxcart, the location of cities by navigable rivers because that’s how goods can be shipped in bulk). Also discussed, how an author might use features on actual maps, perhaps modified, as inspiration for his or her world building (my example here being my far-future dying-Earth “Tombs” stories****, set on a great river that could be only one of three on the Earth as it exists in the present).
Duties over, Friday also involved settling in, including checking out the Dealers Room and the ConSuite, the latter of which had good roast beef sandwich makings at noon, and potato soup, but was a bit more sparse for dinner. But also, through a set of intricate moves around the 3rd level donut, one could find a down escalator to the 2nd level, which then led to other escalators down to a basement level food court that provided nourishment of a fast-food sort for less than ten dollars. Entirely through my fault, however (well, that and the fact it was sort of tucked behind the dealers), I never did get to see the Art Show.
NEW LISTING ON THE NYSE
the zombie stalks,
its smell not delightful
especially in hot weather,
ready to negotiate
for your brains.
*Technically one could fish for verbs as well as nouns, etc., and assemble the entire poem from words picked, but most (all?) of us interpreted the “rules” more gently, to pick six or eight words and use four or five in a poem that they would suggest. In my case I might even change a word form as the emerging poem might require, as in one example substituting “Jovian” for the word “Jupiter.”
**Deanna, in fact, went even further actually publishing several of hers on Twitter as soon as she wrote them. At the end of the session she defined them as being successful insofar as several had already been re-tweeted.
***The story, the next-to-last in the book, was “River Red” which times to just under 15 minutes, thus giving me a chance to display both the old and new covers of THE TEARS OF ISIS while making sure that everyone knew it had been a Stoker® nominee (that is, the “horror equivalent of the Nebula, or if you’re into mysteries the Edgar”).
****One of which I might add is “River Red,” noted just above, that involves in part a trip up that river.
One session I attended at NASFiC Friday was on “Why the Soviets Lost the Moon Race,” presented by Diane Hall of the Warren Astronomical Society. Then today, back home, via a Science Fiction Poetry Association message by Ann K. Schwader leading us to a poem she wrote for the occasion, came a link from the Smithsonian Institution reminding us that . . . forty-five years ago Sunday we won the Moon Race. Press here and enjoy, then if you also wish check out yesterday’s SFPA Digest as well as Ann’s poem by pressing here.